- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont is launching a full-scale assault on Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, though doing it politely.

In the past week, Mr. Sanders‘ team has gone on the offense in multiple speeches, statements and conference calls accusing the former secretary of state of being weak on Wall Street reform and lacking the kind of energy needed to run against Republicans in the general election.

The criticism marks a reversal for Mr. Sanders, who shied away from direct attacks for months and even leapt to Mrs. Clinton’s defense when Republicans accused her of mishandling classified information in her State Department emails.

Mr. Sanders himself has spearheaded the attacks. He delivered a speech in New York last week calling for dismantling major banks and saying Mrs. Clinton was too soft. Three days later, he said Mrs. Clinton hasn’t supported a paid family and medical leave proposal that Democrats are trying to win on Capitol Hill.

But the fiercest barbs have been over Mrs. Clinton’s electability. Sanders campaign manager told reporters that Mrs. Clinton doesn’t generate the kind of energy or enthusiasm on the ground that Mr. Sanders does and warned reporters that low voter turnout in the general election could endanger Democrats’ chances.

Mr. Sanders himself drew the comparison when he addressed Nevada Democrats on Wednesday: “The only way that Democrats win elections is when we have a large voter turnout,” he said. “What we need in this campaign is energy, we need youth, we need working people, we need a Democratic Party that makes it clear to every worker in this country that we are on their side and we’re prepared to take on the billionaire class.”

Although Mr. Sanders has said he would run a clean campaign and not personally attack Mrs. Clinton, he has started to draw deeper contrasts over policy and to question whether the former first lady, who lost the nomination that pundits said had been hers for the taking in 2008, is up for another battle.

Polling is starting to reflect Mr. Sanders‘ message.

After trailing Mrs. Clinton by 24 percentage points in November in Iowa, according to the RealClearPolitics.com average of polls, Mr. Sanders narrowed her lead to 12.5 points. In New Hampshire, he led in September, fell behind Mrs. Clinton in November and once again took the lead.

Mrs. Clinton maintains her lead in national polling, however, and her campaign team has begun counterattacks.

The day before Mr. Sanders‘ speech on Wall Street, the Clinton campaign issued a statement from Gary Gensler, a former head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and financial chairman of the campaign, saying Mr. Sanders wasn’t doing enough to rein in the “shadow banking” system of hedge funds and credit swaps. Mr. Gensler said Mrs. Clinton’s financial plan was more comprehensive.

Mr. Sanders‘ campaign hit back, and hard. Mr. Sanders isn’t a friend of Mr. Gensler. The senator voted against confirming him to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, faulting his role in advising President Clinton on deregulation of the financial markets.

Going one step further, Mr. Sanders said in his speech that unlike Mrs. Clinton, his administration would not hire anybody from Wall Street to work on regulations for the federal government.

“Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks will not be represented in my administration,” Mr. Sanders said in the speech Tuesday.

He took another jab at Mrs. Clinton by saying, “Yes, Wall Street makes huge campaign contributions, and they provide very generous speaking fees to those who go before them.”

He was referencing the millions of dollars paid to the Clintons for speeches to these institutions and the Wall Street money donated to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The day after Mr. Sanders gave the speech, Sen. Elizabeth Warren — a liberal icon and the only female Democrat serving in the Senate who has not endorsed Mrs. Clinton’s presidential bid — gave rave reviews to Mr. Sanders.

“I’m glad @BernieSanders is out there fighting to hold big banks accountable, make our economy safer, & stop the GOP from rigging the system,” the senator from Massachusetts tweeted.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders have also fought over family leave. The former first lady attempted a preemptive strike to an upcoming speech by Mr. Sanders by saying she has been on the “front lines” of the issue for years. She said her disagreement is over how to pay for the policy and opposes Mr. Sanders‘ plan to raise taxes.

Mr. Sanders, in a statement, said Americans will gladly pay additional payroll taxes to earn three months of paid family and medical leave.

“It is an insurance program, like Social Security and like Medicare,” Mr. Sanders said of his proposal. “If President Franklin Roosevelt had taken the same position that a small payroll tax is unacceptable we would not have Social Security. If President Johnson had taken the same position as Secretary Clinton that a small payroll tax was unacceptable, then we would not have Medicare,” he said.

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