It's as if Novak is working from a checklist.
His big theme is a very familiar--and very tired--one: Sanders is a do-nothing. More than a year after Sanders presidential bid, Novak asserts, "so far, he's still all talk." While boldly consigning most of Sanders' activities in the past year to a Memory Hole and downplaying the rest (back to that in a moment), Novak writes that "Democrats need Sanders to do more than rant." And, being a good Concern Troll, he adds, "And [Sanders] needs to more than that as well, if he wants a legitimate political future." Of Sanders' attacks on Republicans, "America is filled with people" who do that. Sanders has "an ability to attract previously apathetic or disillusioned Americans and encourage them to vote and even work for a campaign... yet he's been sitting on the sidelines since the 2016 election ended."
Sitting on the sidelines. Hold that thought.
Robot mode: "Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Sanders has been in Congress since 1991, but has barely had a legislative impact in Washington during that 27 year period."
Robot mode: "Maybe he has renewed reasons not to get more involved like his advancing age; he is 76 after all."
Maybe, Robot Novak writes, Sanders do-nothing-ism is motivated by "a potential headache brewing at home" and he drops a reference to--you guessed it--the FBI investigation of Burlington College, which both Clinton cultists and the rightist Republicans who initiated it have long hoped will somehow ensnare Sanders' wife Jane. Novak devotes an entire paragraph to it.
Now here's a little reality check. Since he ended his presidential campaign, Mr. "Sitting On The Sidelines" Sanders has, in fact, been an indefatigable workhorse in advancing the progressive agenda. Some of the highlights: He and Amy Klobuchar offered an amendment that would have gotten the Senate to take up the question of legally allowing importation of much cheaper prescription drugs from abroad. Sanders managed to convince 13 Republicans to support the amendment, an extraordinary accomplishment, only to see his work torpedoed by Cory Booker's Dirty Dozen--"Democrats" financed by Big Pharma. Sanders has introduced legislation to strip pharmaceutical companies of their patents on medications developed on the public dime if said companies price-gouge the public, to make drug companies pay rebates to Medicaid when they increase the prices of generic drugs at a rate higher than inflation, to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. He's teamed with James Clyburn to introduce legislation to more than double federal funding to community health centers around the U.S.. He's crafted a bill aimed at cracking down on corporate tax-dodging, another at expanding Social Security benefits and extending the life of the program. He's introduced his latest plan for providing tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities, advanced a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, teamed with Jeff Merkley and Edward Markey to introduce legislation to "to build a 100 percent renewable energy economy by 2050," rolled out the latest iteration of Medicare-for-all healthcare reform and has so far gotten a third of the Democratic caucus in the Senate to sign on to it. He and Elizabeth Warren have introduced a $146 billion "Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico" aimed at rebuilding the destroyed island using, among other things, renewable energy sources. In all, Sanders has, in the past 12 months, sponsored 39 bills and co-sponsored 181 others.
In between all of this, Sanders, who is the head of Democratic outreach in the Senate, has also spent the entire year touring on behalf of progressive causes--the "Unity" tour, a tour on behalf of healthcare, a "jobs, healthcare and the economy" tour, a tour in opposition to the recent Republican tax bill, as well as a plethora of other stops for other causes along the way (including endorsing a raft of Democratic candidates around the U.S.). He’s been a strong voice for progressive opposition to Trumpism in four primetime CNN debates, seriously mopping the floor with his Republican opponents in three of them. While the Democratic National Committee is facing a fundraising crisis this past year as a consequence of blowback from its conspiring with the Clinton campaign to screw over Sanders in 2016, Sanders, who is Not Even A Democrat, donated $100,000 to the committee.
Given that Republicans presently control all branches of government and refuse to work with Democrats on much of anything or allow them any substantive role in governance, what does Novak think Sanders should be doing that Sanders isn't?
Well, Novak is one of those unthoughtful journalists who, seemingly oblivious to the present political reality established by the ruling party, evaluates a lefty politician's seriousness by how willing that pol is to entirely abandon his own principles up front in the name of "compromise." He writes that, "unlike the tax bill, the current budget and immigration issues will require at least some Democratic votes to resolve, handing [Democrats] a golden opportunity." And to tackle it, Novak thinks Bernie ought "to get involved and push for some real compromise." A real leader, as Novak sees it, isn't someone who fights for what he believes; instead, "real political leaders have to make compromises." Sanders recently wrote an editorial in which he insisted there be no end to DACA protections, better protection for Social Security and Medicare, etc.; instead of seeing these as baseline markers, Novak snips, "those are more like demands than opening offers..." He hits Sanders for being "a no-show at that big publicly televised meeting at the White House Tuesday on the budget and immigration issues," as if Sanders can simply invite himself to a tightly-controlled White House event with the "president." Concern Troll thinks Sanders is about ego: "At some point, he may realize that making deals is the better choice if he wants to carve out a real legacy for himself."
It's pretty clear Sanders would think a much better legacy would be to see finally adopted the policies for which he has fought his entire life. Sanders has lain the groundwork for this but Novak is having none of it. In evaluating Sanders' extensive legislative agenda, Novak simply erases all but two items as if the rest never existed. Then, he dismisses both. And anything else Sanders might offer:
"Sanders did craft a bill calling for the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices for the entire country like it currently does for Medicare. But the bill went nowhere and there's no evidence that Sanders made any effort to negotiate the plan with the White House.Most of Sanders' proposals can't, in fact, pass at present but with them, Sanders has endeavored to provide an ambitious, affirmative--and extremely popular--legislative agenda around which Democrats can rally, one that gives voters something to support, something more than, "hey, at least we're not the Republicans." This is exactly what Democrats will need to battle Republicans this year and in 2020. With Novak, though, this counts for nothing. A pointless waste of political capital--Bernie should, instead, be at the White House tv show with Trump selling out the "Dreamers" to Republicans (who won't give him anything in return). Like a real leader.
"He has another bill to provide single-payer style health coverage for all Americans that has more than a dozen Democrat co-signers, but that bill isn't going anywhere.
"Proposing bills that have no chance of passing in a majority Republican Congress isn't the best way Bernie can use whatever political capital he earned from the election."
Or maybe not.
 A fact that puts Novak's complaints about all Sanders' talking on rather shaky ground. Not that Novak ever acknowledges this. He is aware of Sanders' position though--he even mentions it.
 Our Revolution and Brand New Congress, founded by former members of Sanders' campaign, are working on behalf of an astonishing number of crowd-funded, Bernie-inspired progressive candidates who have sprang up all over the U.S..
 Or should even bother, even if asked. Trump's big televised "summit" was nothing more than a PR stunt intended to counter recent reports that questioned his mental health. Trump put on a show of being utterly reasonable, agreed with everything everyone suggested, even Democrats, then immediately after the meeting was over, started walking back his agreeable words toward Democrats, just as he always does in these circumstances. The White House even published a transcript of the event from which it omitted a key line in which Trump agreed there should be a clean DACA bill. Novak thinks a willingness to participate in such a farce makes a pol serious and a leader.