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Biden campaign co-chair brushes off Sanders’ comparison of campus chaos to Vietnam: ‘Over-exaggeration’

President Biden’s co-chair for the 2024 campaign brushed off Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ comparison of the rampant anti-Israel protests on college campuses to the 1968 election, arguing Biden could be handling his own Vietnam situation. 

The national co-chair of Biden’s campaign shut down Sanders’ comparison in comment to CNN on Sunday, calling it an “over-exaggeration.” 

“This is a very different circumstance,” Mitch Landrieu told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “I think that people who actually lived through that very difficult time, they would say that this isn’t comparable. However, that is not to say that this is not a very serious matter.”

Last week, Sanders joined CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and reflected on the 1960s, when President Lydon B. Johnson did not run for re-election in 1968, and made a comparison between Biden’s handling of college protests to Johnson’s lack of support for the Vietnam War ahead of the general election.  

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“I am thinking back and other people are making this reference that this may be Biden’s Vietnam,” Sanders said. 

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“[Former President] Lyndon Johnson in many respects was a very, very good president. Domestically he brought forth some major pieces of legislation. He chose not to run in ’68 because of opposition to his views on Vietnam, and I worry very much that President Biden is putting himself in a position where he has alienated, not just young people, but a lot of the Democratic base, in terms of his views on Israel and this war,” Sanders continued. 

College protesters and outside agitators have descended on college campuses from coast to coast since last month, establishing encampments, such as the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” that was on Columbia’s campus before police removed it, where they demand schools cut all financial ties to Israel. Amid the college chaos, agitators and radicals have also called for the deaths of Israel, the U.S., and pledged support for Hamas’ attacks on Israel. 

Biden has condemned the violence and antisemitism on campus, but took days to publicly address the nation last week as campus protests intensified. 

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“There should be no place on any campus, no place in America for antisemitism or threats of violence against Jewish students. There is no place for hate speech or violence of any kind, whether it’s antisemitism, Islamophobia, or discrimination against Arab-Americans or Palestinian Americans. It’s simply wrong. There’s no place for racism in America. It’s all wrong. It’s un-American,” Biden said last week. 

His comment was ripped for denouncing Islamophobia and antisemitism in the same breath, with critics comparing it to former President Donald Trump’s comments denouncing the Charlottesville riots in 2017, when the 45th president said there were “very fine people on both sides.” 

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Landrieu continued in his comments that Biden has shown “very strong” leadership amid the protests. 

“First of all, the First Amendment is critically important. The president has always believed that people want to have the opportunity to redress their grievances against the government. This is not something new,” Landrieu said. 

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“The president has been very strong about this from the beginning, and the president came out the other day, and as he said, as he has always said, he understands that people have a right to protest, but they have to do so peacefully,” he continued. “But when it turns violent, that’s when things have to end.” 

Critics of the president’s handling, however, have condemned Biden for taking nine days to address the anti-Israel campus agitators on camera. The White House had condemned the hate and violence in various comments to the media, but the president did not address the nation on-camera until Thursday last week. 

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“Very passionate opinions on both sides of this issue,” Landrieu continued. “The president has been handling it very, very well and he’s going to continue to do so.”

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