For much of the Democratic presidential debate season, former first lady, Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 MORE has touted her national security and foreign policy credentials. Many pundits have climbed on board, and expressed serious concern about opponent Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Manchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor MORE's lack of foreign policy experience. To be sure, Clinton's background makes her perhaps the most qualified presidential candidate in recent memory.
However, I have come to believe that perhaps her experience is, in fact, a detriment. Like a student taught to the test, Clinton very clearly has a strong grasp on the facts of the questions she knows she will be asked. However, she no longer seems to have the answers to the big questions facing the nation and world.
There are two existential threats about which Sen. Sanders's (Vt.) views are clearer than Clinton's. During the debate in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sanders's explanation of the dire global threat of climate change is much more in tune with scientific fact than Clinton's. Sanders very clearly understands that climate change is altering the world as we know it — now. Clinton, who is more politically schooled and therefore more politically conservative, acknowledged that climate change is real, but didn't seem to understand that the environment is on, or perhaps has already fallen over, the precipice.
In talking about the emissions deal brokered at the 2015 Paris environmental summit, Clinton stated that she "was surprised and disappointed when Senator Sanders attacked the agreement, said it was not enough, it didn't go far enough." This is surprising to me, as many climate activists, scientists and politicians have precisely the same concerns as Sanders. Environmental policy expert Richard Chatterton noted after the summit that "The deal reached in Paris is weak, containing no concrete increase in the level of ambition to address climate change, and simply urges countries to do more over time," The Guardian reported. Sanders's recognition that global climate change means that "[w]e have an enemy out there, and that enemy is going to cause drought and floods and extreme weather disturbances," is the factual reality. Clinton's willingness to accept incremental change is unlikely to prevent catastrophic global events.
Secondly, Sanders is absolutely correct about the wealth disparities domestically and internationally. The Panama Papers have served a clarion call about the vast differences between the haves and the have-nots, and the relationship between power and wealth. He couches the need to address this disparity in morality, noting at the Vatican that "In the year 2016, the top 1 percent of the people on this planet own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent, while the wealthiest 60 people — 60 people — own more than the bottom half – 3 1/2 billion people. At a time when so few have so much, and so many have so little, we must reject the foundations of this contemporary economy as immoral and unsustainable."
Sanders's focus on the chasm between the rich and the poor illustrates that he understands the political realities of this gap. Because revolutions are often borne of vast economic inequalities, I believe he should identify the security implications of economic disparity in the United States and globally. And, of the remaining presidential candidates of either party, Sanders is the only one who seems willing to address this crisis before it boils over domestically and, perhaps, in nations the world over.
Despite her many years among policymakers and as a policymaker, Hillary Clinton seems woefully unable to learn the lessons of experience. Clinton failed to understand the domestic realities of healthcare as first lady, the long-term complexities of the Middle East after the invasion of Iraq as senator and the unintended consequences of a leaderless Libya as secretary of State. Clinton's informed decision-making clearly is not the same thing as good decision-making.
Gibson is associate professor of Political Science and Security Studies at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. He has proved informal advice to the Sanders campaign regarding national security issues. The opinions in this piece are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Sanders campaign.