In a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders had a “Fidel made the trains run on time” moment, justifying six decades of murder and socialist oppression with dubious claims of literacy gains. As Henry pointed out yesterday, Cuba already had relatively high literacy rates before socialism and the gains that came after were no different than gains realized by similar countries that weren’t socialist.
As it has been the case throughout his political career, Bernie Sanders continues to admire and defend Cuba’s murderous and brutally repressive dictatorship. It is obvious he has no problem with imprisoning dissidents, murdering political opponents, and oppressing an entire nation in the name of social justice.
Given the opportunity to denounce the totalitarian Castro regime, Sanders instead doubled down on his support for the dictatorship (via Giancarlo Sopo in The Blaze):
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders doubled down on comments he made in the 1980s where he praised late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. When asked about his current stance on Castro, the Democratic front-runner said he continues supporting aspects of his totalitarian regime.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” Sanders told host Anderson Cooper before pivoting to defending Castro. “But it’s unfair to say that everything is bad.”
He then began parroting talking points often cited by the country’s communist government. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing even though Fidel Castro did it?”
While it is true that Castro implemented a reading program on the island after seizing power in a bloody revolution in 1959, Cuba’s literacy rate was already high for a Latin American nation at the time and its educational gains have been comparable to those of its peers in the years since.
How bad and damaging was Sander’s praise of a murderous communist dictatorship? Both Republican and Democrat lawmakers from Florida jumped up to denounce it (via Politico):
The Democratic frontrunner for president was already viewed with a deal of skepticism by many Florida Democrats worried his brand of democratic socialism would not do well here in the general election. But his comments on Cuba and Fidel Castro on “60 Minutes”during an interview that aired Sunday managed an unusual achievement: Bipartisan condemnation.
Look on the bright side… of Fidel? — Sanders, when asked about his past positive statements on communist regimes, told Anderson Cooper that “We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
Fallout — The reaction was swift from Florida politicians and activists. Sen. Rick Scott called it “shameful ignorance.” Sen. Marco Rubio said, “And he’s wrong about why people didn’t overthrow Castro. It’s not because ‘he educated their kids, gave them health care’ It‘s because his opponents were jailed, murdered or exiled.’”
With friends like this — Sure, Scott and Rubio are Republicans. But Rep. Donna Shalala, a Democrat from Cuban-heavy South Florida, ripped into Sanders: “I’m hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro.” That doesn’t sound like a Democrat very enthused at the prospect of Sanders being the nominee. Expect more Florida Democrats to turn up the heat on the Vermont senator for these comments.
One thing is clear: If the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders as their presidential candidate, they better find a way to win the White House without Florida’s 29 electoral votes.