Bernie’s 1970 Statements About Vietnam, George Wallace Come Back to Haunt Him

Bernie Sanders

As Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont continues to surge in the polls, Democratic establishment types have started to get very nervous. They believe that Sanders would lead the Democratic Party to a landslide defeat in November should he win the nomination.

Hence, opposition research is revving up to find dirt in the Democratic socialist, the better to dissuade voters from harkening to his siren call. Some of this research has started to find its way into the media.

The Washington Free Beacon, for example, looks back to 1972 and a statement that Bernie made about America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

“Speaking to a class of ninth-graders during his 1972 gubernatorial run in Vermont, Sanders accused the United States of committing atrocities the students would not believe and defended the communist North Vietnamese fighters, according to reporting in the Rutland Herald, a Vermont newspaper. Sanders compared U.S. actions in Vietnam to those of Adolf Hitler, who murdered some six million Jews.”

Why Sanders was addressing a class of school students who could not vote during a gubernatorial campaign is not easy to understand. The account did mention that the students objected to Sanders’ evaluation of American actions in Vietnam.

The American intervention in Southeast Asia was controversial, to put the matter mildly. Sanders was not the only person on the left to use the Nazi comparison. However, in so doing, he violated Godwin’s Law, which states that the first person who uses Hitler or the Nazis to justify his or her argument has lost the argument. The reason is that Nazi atrocities were so horrendous that anything else pales in comparison.

Even John Kerry, who around the same time Bernie was ranting to a class of 14 and 15-year-old children, was leading a group called Vietnam Veterans Against The War, largely avoided the Hitler analogy. He compared the actions of American soldiers in Vietnam to that of the Golden Horde of Genghis Khan at a now-infamous testimony before a committee of the United States Senate.

Kerry’s testimony came back to haunt him during his 2004 presidential run. It can, therefore, be surmised that many voters will not react well to Bernie’s similar statements. No matter how unpopular foreign wars can be, demonizing American veterans is no longer done as it was in the seventies.

Around the same time Bernie was haranguing children about alleged American misdeeds in Vietnam, he bizarrely praised George Wallace, then the former governor of Alabama and twice a presidential candidate. The Washington Examiner explains.

“Seven years after Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to George Wallace as “perhaps the most dangerous racist in America today, a young Bernie Sanders praised the segregationist Alabama governor. In an interview with the Brattleboro Reformer in 1972, Sanders, then 31, said Wallace advocates some outrageous approaches to our problems, but at least he is sensitive to what people feel they need.”

Wallace, as Dr. King Notes, was a virulent opponent on civil rights. He was elected to the office of governor of Alabama in 1962 on a hard-line, segregationist platform. He stood in the schoolhouse doorway in an attempt to stop the racial integration of the University of Alabama. Wallace ran on a third-party ticket in 1968 and won the electoral votes of several southern states, but not enough to cost Richard Nixon the presidency.

Wallace ran for president again in 1972. His run was cut short when an insane person named Arthur Bremmer shot him, paralyzing him for life. By the late 1970s, Wallace claimed that he had undergone a religious conversion and had renounced his racist views.

The news that a young Bernie Sanders had praised an infamous racist like George Wallace may hurt his election chances as well. Former Vice President Joe Biden caught some heat from Kamala Harris when he had revealed that he had made alliances with segregationist southern senators when he had been a young senator in the mid-1970s.

Bernie Sanders had made his remarks about both Vietnam and George Wallace when he was running for governor of Vermont on the socialist Liberty Union Party. Then 1972 run was the first of a string of electoral defeats that lasted until Sanders was elected to be mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981.

The election was a start of a political rise that has seen Sanders serve in the House, then the Senate, until becoming a twice candidate for president of the United States.