“I wonder, in a system where we are so interested in getting young people to vote, how it really works to be hashing out debates over people who most people under 40 have never heard of. ‘Really existing socialism’ doesn’t really exist anymore, and it’s very strange to see. In my own profession of political cartooning, Russia is still portrayed with hammers and sickles, as if 30 years had never happened. It’s very odd, and last night’s debate was an amazing example of that,” Rall told Loud and Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker Wednesday.
During Tuesday’s debate, the presidential nominees ganged up on Sanders for his recent defense of social programs established by the government of Cuban communist revolutionary Fidel Castro, such as health care and education programs that helped the formerly colonized island nation rapidly close the gap with industrialized countries in the mid-20th century.
"We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad," Sanders said in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday. "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?"
"That's right. And we condemn that," Sanders added, referring to Castro's authoritarianism. "Unlike Donald Trump, let's be clear, I do not think that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un is a good friend. I don't trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.”
When Sanders defended his comments during Tuesday’s debate, adding that then-US President Barack Obama also praised the Castro regime in 2016 for its education and health care efforts, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former US Vice President Joe Biden quickly shot back.
"Barack Obama was abroad; he was in a town meeting. He did not in any way suggest there was anything positive about the Cuban government. He acknowledged that they did increase life expectancy, but he went on to condemn the dictatorship. ... He does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime, and does not now,” Biden responded, while Buttigieg bemoaned the fact that they were discussing Cold War-era policies.
“The morals of it are obvious. It’s well known in debates and in politics in general that when you’re playing defense, you’re losing, and when you’re playing the other party’s game - defending yourself against charges that you’re trying to turn the US into the new USSR - you are losing. So this is not a tactic that is going to defeat Donald Trump this fall. What you want to do is own who you are and what you are about. Bernie Sanders needs to own the democratic socialist label and explain it to the American people,” Rall argued.
Rall noted that while Sanders’ critics bemoan his supposed inability to win an election, the Vermonter has been winning them for 40 years.
“He keeps winning, and he’s now going to be the Democratic nominee for the president of the US. He’s not really screwing up, and the democratic socialist thing hasn’t really kept him back yet. So I think the proof of this being a liability, almost 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, more than 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, is something I would like to hear those who promulgate it show some data for it, because there’s nothing other than supposition,” Rall explained.
Sanders most recently won the Democratic primary in Nevada on Saturday after tying with Buttigieg in the Iowa caucuses and winning the New Hampshire primary. Although Biden is hoping for a big win in South Carolina, he is only polling at 35% support so far, according to a recent survey.
“Joe Biden, for all of this praise in the media, is losing. He was supposed to be the presumptive nominee at this point. He was supposed to be sitting pretty instead of Bernie Sanders, and he’s about to lose on [Super] Tuesday to Bernie Sanders,” Rall added.