Through much of the 2016 campaign, the press maintained a glaring double standard. Since then-candidate Donald Trump was, well Trump, he was rarely grilled on his policy notions (where’s your fabulous health-care plan? why should we believe you have one?), confronted with his outright lies or quizzed face to face on his finances. If a reporter had the audacity to ask a question, Trump would shy away and no follow-ups would be forthcoming.
The same pattern now repeats itself with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. He is indulged, allowed to skip by details, avoid probing and evade hard policy questions. We’d like to hear him pinned down, not permitted to move to the next topic without answering queries such as these:
• You promised over a month ago to release your tax returns. Why haven’t you? You say you just need to fix a few things, but aren’t past tax returns completed? Why does it take over a month to get them posted online? What things do you need to fix?
• You shut down a foundation recently. What percentage of donations were used to pay your son and other family members? How much did you take in? What was spent on programs? Who were your major donors?
• Most of your major initiatives (e.g., Medicare-for-all) have never passed or gotten even majority support from Democrats. Are they all corrupt? How will you get plans through when many Democrats don’t support your plans and when the Senate filibuster remains?
• What are your top legislative accomplishments in the Senate?
• What did you fail to do on the 2016 campaign that allowed female staffers to be harassed? How could you not have known what was going on? If you couldn’t run an harassment-free campaign, why should voters think you can run an administration free from harassment?
• Isn’t it time for the Democratic Party to nominate a woman for president? Why don’t you support one of them?
• When will we see your medical records? You will be 79 years old on Election Day 2020. Isn’t there a legitimate concern you’ll be too old to serve and/or complete your term?
• Explain what AI is and how it will affect our economy, please.
• Should we increase legal immigration? Farmers need seasonal labor now. Do you support increasing guest-worker visas?
• Should we enact a ban on assault-style weapons?
• You voted for the 1994 crime bill that resulted in mass incarceration, disproportionately of African American men. Why?
• Is Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro a dictator? Is Raúl Castro?
• What specific provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership do you think justified rejecting the entire deal?
• Do you support trade tariffs? Who pays the cost of tariffs?
• Is capitalism inherently corrupt? Do you acknowledge that worldwide capitalism has lifted billions of people out of poverty?
• You oppose reparations. How, then, would you address the wealth gap between African Americans and whites?
In the debates and interviews, Sanders should be pressed on these and other topics. Right now he is among the front-runners in the Democratic primaries, yet candidates with a fraction of his support get tougher questions. The media should reflect on whether Sanders gets a softer touch because he’s Sanders, and, if so, remedy that.