The campaign to re-elect President Trump is going to sleep a little easier tonight.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has cemented his position as the 2020 Democratic primary front-runner, is still defending Fidel Castro, claiming as recently as this weekend that the late communist tyrant was not all that bad. After all, the Vermont senator explained during a Sunday appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes, the murderous Castro regime had literacy programs.
And just like that, Sanders has made winning Florida and its 29 electoral votes a whole lot more difficult for the Democratic Party. Anyone who knows anything about Florida politics knows you never, ever defend the regime responsible for why there are so many Cubans in the Sunshine State in the first place. Yet, here is Bernie Sanders, the man with the clearest path to the Democratic nomination, doing exactly that.
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The most damaging moment from Sanders’s appearance on 60 Minutes comes when his interviewer, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, brings up the senator’s past praise for Castro. CBS segues into this portion of the interview by playing archival footage of the senator parroting Cuban propaganda. Sanders can be seen and heard in these old tapes arguing that Castro was welcomed and defended by the Cuban people because “he educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know.”
Fast-forward to the present, and Sanders is still saying the same things.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” the senator told Cooper, “but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?”
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Sanders added, “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?”
There are a lot of “dissidents imprisoned in Cuba,” Cooper noted.
A couple of things.
First, “came into office” is just a remarkable euphemism. Castro did not “come into office” so much as he slaughtered his way to power, which he then held onto with a murderous, tyrannical grip until his death in 2016. Castro was an indisputably evil man, whose long, oppressive reign was bloody and terrible from the very start, which makes Sanders either ignorant or himself evil for defending it.
Second, it is hard to imagine that a U.S. senator who is this close to winning his party’s nomination, who has also been in the U.S. Congress for 30 years, would be so stupid as to defend a dictator who is so universally and uniquely despised in the crucial swing state of Florida. Let me remind you that in July 2019, back when Bill de Blasio was still running in the 2020 Democratic primary, the New York City Mayor caught all hell from members of his own party after he chanted a phrase popularized by Castro’s right-hand man, Che Guevara, at a labor protest in Miami.
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“Quoting a murderer responsible for death & oppression in communist Cuba and throughout Latin America is not acceptable. Please apologize,” said Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodríguez.
Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo, added elsewhere, “This is the problem that we run into all the time … The Left has people that are just clueless as hell.”
Local residents were also none-too-pleased, including Bay of Pigs veteran Félix Rodríguez, who told the Miami Herald: “Does [de Blasio] really know who Che Guevara was? I don’t think so. If he does, he’s a f—ing asshole.”
Remember: These reactions were over de Blasio merely quoting a catchphrase commonly attributed to Castro’s chief henchman. Imagine how these and other Florida residents are going to react when they learn that the likely 2020 Democratic nominee said it is “unfair to simply say everything is bad” about the Castro regime because it had literacy programs.
If Sanders manages to clinch the nomination, and he holds fast to defending the men whose political purges and persecutions drove more than one million Cubans to flee by any means necessary to the United States, Democrats may need to have a serious conversation about whether it is even worth the money and effort to compete in Florida.