Michael Bloomberg played the part of a billionaire piñata at last night’s Democratic debate. Every candidate took their turn, battering him senseless until there were Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Ranchers all over the stage. Everyone, that is, except Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator and frontrunner for the nomination took a swing at the piñata but somehow ended up getting whacked in the process. Bloomberg’s single strong moment of the night came at the expense of Sanders, who, Bloomberg rightly observed, is “the best known socialist in the country” despite being “a millionaire who owns three houses.”
The only surprising thing about this line from Bloomberg is that it’s the first time any of his opponents have brought it up. Leave it to the billionaire to be the one to point out that Sanders is a millionaire. You could tell it was the first time it’s been brought up because Sanders was utterly unprepared to respond to the charge. He sputtered something about his third house being a mere “summer camp” in Vermont. For the record, that “camp” is a 600 thousand dollar waterfront property on Lake Champlain. When I go camping, I use a tent and a sleeping bag. Sanders needs a house three times more expensive than the median home price.
Of course, none of this would be pertinent if not for the fact that Bernie Sanders has made a career out of throwing mud at the “greedy” and “the rich.” He believes himself qualified to decide who has too much money, and where that line is drawn, and what should happen with all of the extra money that people have but, according to him, don’t need. The fact that he is himself a wealthy man — seated firmly in the top 5 percent and destined to make a run at the top 1 percent after his next book deal — is relevant because it speaks to his moral credibility on the issue of wealth and greed.
A socialist who has three homes and $2.5 million in the bank is just as much of a hypocrite as a “family values” conservative who gets caught doing the Larry Craig tap dance in a men’s bathroom. Liberals would, and do, say of the latter that the homosexual activity isn’t itself the problem. Rather, the problem is that the man who’s engaged in that activity is a fraud who condemns others for doing exactly what he himself does. The same is the case for Bernie Sanders. I have no objection, in principle, to people owning multiple homes and amassing fortunes for themselves. I do have a problem with a socialist and class warrior doing it, though.
Perhaps the fraudulence of Bernie Sanders can be summed up in this one detail. Up until a few years ago, Sanders could be heard ranting about “millionaires and billionaires” nearly every time he was in front of a microphone. It was always the same phrase. “Millionaires and billionaires.” But in the last couple of years, that mantra has been amended. Sanders rarely talks about millionaires anymore. He’s narrowed the enemy down. Millionaires aren’t the problem, he’s decided. Just billionaires are. “Millionaires and billionaires!” became “billionaires!” And we all know why he stopped screaming about millionaires: he became one. Indeed, he became a millionaire by attacking millionaires. This makes him the very definition of an opportunist and a hypocrite.