Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made his first major goof of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign by praising Cuban Dictator Fidel Castros literacy programs, according to Republican campaign pros interviewed by The Epoch Times.
Sanders comments came Sunday on CBS News “60 Minutes” when he said, “were very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but, you know, its very unfair to say everything was bad. When Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program.”
Castro imposed a totalitarian Soviet-style communist regime on the Caribbean nation in 1959 and killed thousands of political opponents in the decades following. He gave up power in 2011 to his brother, Raul, and died in 2016.
Sanders praise of Castro caused an immediate uproar among Republicans, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who tweeted that “the likely Dem nominee praised the supposed achievements of Castro regime. And hes wrong about why people didnt overthrow Castro. Its not because he educated their kids, gave them health care, its because his opponents were jailed, murdered or exiled.”
Florida Democrats were similarly outraged, with, for example, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell tweeting that Sanders comments were “completely unacceptable” because Castro “murdered and jailed dissidents, and caused unspeakable harm to too many South Florida families. To this day, it remains an authoritarian regime that oppresses its people, subverts the free press, and stifles a free society.”
Sanders did only a little better among Democratic campaign strategists interviewed Monday by The Epoch Times.
“It doesnt matter who the Democrats put up as the nominee. The GOP will paint them as socialists no matter what,” said Jimmy Williams, former senior economic adviser to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). “The only problem is Sanders is an actual Socialist, an admitted anti-capitalist and, if hes the nominee, the ads will be true.”
Christy Setzger, founder and president of New Heights Communications, was more optimistic, noting that “theres no reason to do Republicans opposition work for them. That said, you dont need to do a terribly intense Google search to find all the times [President Donald] Trump praised and continues to praise a variety of dictators. So, I feel pretty confident this is recoverable.”
Others werent so sure. Christian Hanley of Defiance Strategies and the “Keep It In Perspective” podcast, warned that Sanders “would do well to explain his comments and put them in context immediately. The attack ads write themselves.”
Similarly, Robin Biro, a regional director for President Barack Obamas 2008 campaign, said he expects “to be hearing about this comment through the general election and am already bracing myself for the inevitability that GOP pundits will use this against me during our debates. I would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot.”
A former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger, Biro served two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
A Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist agreed that Sanders comment will especially hurt his prospects in Florida.
“This will no doubt alienate Latino voters in Florida, a state that will be crucial to his election chances. These are the types of comments that will continue to give more moderate Dems anxiety about Bernie winning the nomination,” said strategist and attorney