DES MOINES — The students at Roosevelt High School excited about seeing Bernie Sanders on Thursday had no idea that the Washington Post editorial board had just excoriated the Vermont senator’s quest for the presidency in the morning paper as “a campaign full of fiction.”
The subhead on the print edition was as devastating as the headline: “Sen. Sanders is not a brave truth-teller. He’s just telling progressives what they want to hear.”
Rather, for the students — most of whom will not be old enough to participate in Monday’s first-in-the-nation presidential vote — seeing Sanders up close was a school activity, albeit one that was kind of a cool change of pace.
Actor Justin Long introduced Sanders, first doing some impersonations of Larry David, but the kids didn’t seem to get it. Perhaps Larry David’s fame from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” didn’t trickle down. Larry David, you may recall, does spot-on takes of Bernie Sanders on “Saturday Night Live.”
Sanders, a native New Yorker who shares a New York cultural thing with David, what with the waving of his hands when he talks — which New Yorker Donald Trump does too — in turn has done his own Larry David impersonation.
But I digress . . .
That the auditorium was packed was not a gauge of the exploding youthful enthusiasm for the Sanders candidacy. Rather, the students at the home of the Riders — the school is named for Theodore, not Franklin — were there instead of going to classes.
Sanders encouraged them to be engaged in politics, noting that sometimes young people don’t think it’s “hip” or “cool.” The students applauded him when he criticized GOP front-runner Trump’s “racist and bigoted” attacks against a “whole group of people.”
Sanders took questions from students, entering into unscripted territory when a 16-year old girl won a burst of applause from her peers when she asked Sanders, 74, about sex education.
“Sex education in American schools is abysmal,” the girl asserted. “My question is, if you are elected president, what will you do to get rid of government-funded abstinence-only education and replace it with comprehensive sex ed?”
“Excellent question!” Sanders said. Back in the 1960s, he wrote about sex for a Vermont publication, and Mother Jones dug up one article in which Sanders wrote about sexual fantasies and other intimate stuff I just can’t quote here.
“Sexuality makes people uncomfortable, right? It’s not an issue everybody talks about,” Sanders said. “Let me tell you something. It is a reality of human life. . . . Either we can ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist and we can live in ignorance with regard to sexuality, or we can look at it scientifically and seriously,” he said.
Concluded Sanders: “Frankly, an abstinence-only [approach] is certainly not the only answer.”
By the way, Sanders didn’t say a word about rival Hillary Clinton. He let a new ad do the talking. In a spot about the Wall Street meltdown, Sanders takes aim at Clinton — not by name — saying Wall Street “gets away with it” because of pols who take “millions in contributions and speaking fees” from Wall Street interests.
Polls in the closing days of the Iowa contest show Sanders and Clinton deadlocked.
Sanders on Thursday released a letter from his doctor — the attending physician of the United States Congress (nice perk!) finding him to be in “very good health.”
Sanders’ last exam was on Nov. 18, and his doctor found no problems at that time, though Sanders was treated for gout, hypothyroidism and a removal of superficial skin tumors.
After the event, I asked Roosevelt senior Makayla Morris, 18, whom she was for. She was on the fence, but after hearing him speak she said, “I am going to caucus for Bernie.”
“She’s not really my kind of person.”