Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Sanders' Travels to Totalitarian Regimes Haunt His Campaign

Sanders in Russia.
In addition to, in my view, an over weaning ego, Bernie Sanders shares another trait with Donald Trump: he never admits that he is wrong or that there are other legitimate perspectives. In his recent 60 Minutes interview, Sanders had an opportunity to disavow his past flirtations with and laudatory comments about brutal communist regimes in Russia, Cuba and Nicaragua, but, being Sanders, he did not do so.  Now, his opponents for the Democrat primary are focusing on this aspect of Sanders past that could prove radioactive in a general election - especially in crucial Mid-West states - and which the Trump campaign will laser focus upon.  To me it is yet another reason that a Sanders nomination could see Trump, even hated as he is by so many, being reelected and the nation sliding more and more toward fascism - something Sanders and his base claim to oppose.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this very damaging baggage that Sanders carries.  Here are article highlights:

The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.
The country’s Soviet-backed government — forged via armed rebellion — was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”
Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.
And a year after that, he returned from Cuba having tapped into a revolutionary spirit “far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be.”
With Sanders now surging to the top of the Democratic presidential field, those three-decade-old impressions introduced a volatile new element in the race Monday as rivals reacted to Sanders’s decision to defend his remarks, not disclaim them.
Asked about his favorable reviews of Fidel Castro’s Cuba in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired on CBS on Sunday night, Sanders said the communist leader deserved criticism for “the authoritarian nature” of his government — as well as praise where it was due, including for “a massive literacy program.”
The comments offered instant fodder for opponents who had already been sharing the old clips and highlighted the risk to a candidate with a track record of sympathy for communist and socialist governments that is unlike any other recent Democratic nominee.
Rivals seized on the brand-new video to portray the senator from Vermont as naive — a possible preview of attack lines in Tuesday night’s debate and of the barrage Sanders is likely to endure in the general election if he makes it that far.
“Fidel Castro left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people,” former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg tweeted. “But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program.”
Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg compared Sanders to President Trump, tweeting that after four years of giving dictators a pass, the United States needs “a president who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad.”
Sanders has promised to remake the party in his far-left image as a “democratic socialist,” and he argues that his vision for a political revolution is best exemplified by thriving democratic, first-world societies like Denmark.
Yet in the 1980s, during the dying days of the Cold War, Sanders indulged a fascination with far more disruptive and divisive strains of a socialist ideology he has embraced throughout his adult life.
Returning home from visits to some of the United States’ most avowed enemies, Sanders offered some criticism but also plenty of praise in Vermont community television recordings.
Now, Sanders’s comments are coming back to life as opponents say his warm feelings toward his hosts decades ago make him vulnerable to attack and reveal a soft spot for left-wing despots.
“If people are going to vote for socialist candidate Bernie Sanders, they need to understand what socialism means historically. And it’s not Scandinavia,” said Marion Smith, executive director of the congressionally authorized Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Smith recently tweeted a clip from a 1988 news conference in which Sanders lauds the Soviet Union for its chandelier-filled transit stations and its “palaces of culture.” Smith demanded an apology for what went unmentioned.
“He turned a blind eye to what was known about the ongoing systematic human rights abuses, the suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, the jailing of dissidents,” Smith said. “He was very clearly joining the ranks of the useful idiots who believed in the propaganda of the Soviet Union and carried it to the West.”
Sanders’s infatuation with revolutionary left-wing movements, particularly those in Latin America, was long-standing, and it became a key feature of his first stint in elected office.
Sanders has recalled feeling “very excited” by Castro’s 1959 revolution, which played out during his teens. “It just seemed right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against rather ugly rich people,” he said in 1986.
Watching the video decades later, Latin America scholar Richard Feinberg said Sanders appeared to have had “a rather simplistic” view of the developing world, as well as an overly rosy assessment of Nicaragua’s leaders. But the reason for Sanders’s attraction, he said, was clear.
“In Nicaragua, he found his equivalents to his view of the United States . . . allegedly a small group of wealthy people at the top versus the struggling, noble poor,” said Feinberg, . . .

Trump and the GOP must be salivating at the prospect of a Sanders nomination.

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