Debate Erupts in Chaos as Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar Hammer Bernie Over Cuba Remarks
The Democratic presidential primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina got heated as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attempted to defend his prior remarks about Cuba and his competitors shouted over each other to attack him.
As Mediaite previously reported, Sanders drew bipartisan criticism for comments about Cuba that he made on a 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper that aired on Sunday. In response to Cooper’s question about a video clip from the 1980s wherein Sanders defended Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, saying that he had provided education and health care reforms, Sanders again sought to highlight what he viewed as positive aspects of the Castro regime:
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?
Sanders got a loud and spirited response from both sides of the aisle, with many critics noting any “literacy program” would have been part of the communist dictator’s efforts to indoctrinate citizens, plus the long-established record of oppression of free speech and other civil rights abuses. The story has made headlines across Florida media for the past few days, with the large population of Cuban-Americans and a number of Florida Democrats openly expressing concerns about Sanders’ viability in the Sunshine State.
Sanders’ fellow Democrats on stage with him Tuesday in Charleston smelled blood in the water when Sanders was asked about Cuba and swarmed.
Former Vice President Joe Biden sought to contrast Sanders’ comments with former President Barack Obama, noting that Obama “did not in any way suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government.”
“He acknowledged they did increase life expectancy but he went on and condemned the dictatorship,” said Biden. “The fact of the matter is he, in fact, does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime and does not now.”
Sanders angrily insisted that what Biden was saying was “untrue, categorically untrue,” and he had in fact “condemned authoritarianism.”
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg struck next, saying that Sanders’ positions meant that he would face unique challenges defeating President Donald Trump.
“I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the ‘50s and Bernie Sanders with a nostalgia for the revolution politics of the ‘60s,” said Buttigieg. “We’re not going to win these critical House and Senate races if people in those races have to explain why the nominee of the Democratic Party is telling people to look at the bright side of the Castro regime.”
Sanders responded to Buttigieg by saying that health care for all, raising the minimum wage, and building affordable housing were not “some kind of radical communist idea[s],” but was cut off as the candidates began to shout over one another once again.
The moderators gave the nod to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“Donald Trump’s worst nightmare is having someone that the people in the middle who are tired of the insults and the extremes in our politics have someone to vote for,” said Klobuchar.
She then added that she had traveled with Obama to visit Cuba, and supported lifting the embargo, seeing reason for hope in the Cuban people.
“I’ve seen firsthand how the Cuban people are way in front. They want to be entrepreneurs. The way we embrace them is by opening up Cuba and starting to do business with them.”
Klobuchar ended her remarks noting that next week, the Super Tuesday primary states would be when “one-third of America will vote” and “we just have a huge choice” before the moderators cut her off.
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