(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Tuesday that he has opposed authoritarianism all over the world, but he sees nothing wrong with acknowledging when dictators do something good.
During the CBS Democratic presidential debate Sanders was asked, “You've praised the Chinese communist party for lifting more people out of extreme poverty than any other country. You also have a track record of expressing sympathy for socialist governments in Cuba and in Nicaragua. Can Americans trust that a Democratic socialist president will not give authoritarians a free pass?”
Sanders was booed by the audience when he said that former President Barack Obama said that Cuba has made progress on education.
Sanders: I have opposed authoritarianism all over the world. Now I was really amazed at what Mayor Bloomberg said a moment ago. He said that the Chinese government is responsive to the pilot bureau, but who are they responsive to? Who elects the bureau? You got a real dictatorship there. Of course you have a dictatorship in Cuba. What I said was what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba, that Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think -- ( booing ) Really? Really? What Barack Obama said was they made great progress on education and health care. That was Barack Obama.
Occasionally, it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy, and that includes the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran, and when dictatorships, whether the Chinese or the Cubans, do something good you acknowledge that.
Biden: But you don't have to trade love letters with them. Barack Obama was abroad in a town meeting, he 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. H went on and condemned the people who, in fact, had run the committee.
He also made sure to make it clear -- and by the way, I called to make sure that I was prepared -- I never say anything about my private conversations with him, but the fact of the matter is he, in fact, does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime and does not now. This man said that, in fact, he thought it was -- he did not condemn what they did.
Sanders: That is untrue categorically untrue.
Biden: What did you tell him?
Sanders: I have condemned authoritarianism whether the people in Saudi Arabia that the United States government --
Biden: How about Cuba and Nicaragua?
Sanders: Cuba, Nicaragua authoritarianism of any stripe is bad, but that is different than saying governments occasionally do things that are good.
Buttigieg: The only thing we'll restore American credibility -- the only way you can do this is to actually win the presidency, and I am not looking forward to a scenario where it comes down to Donald Trump with his nostalgia for the social order of the 1950s and Bernie Sanders with a nostalgia for the revolutionary politics of the 1960s.
This is not about what was happening in the 1970s or '80s. This is about the future. This is about 2020. We are not going to survive or succeed, and we’re certainly not going to win by reliving the cold war, and 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. We've got to be a lot smarter about this.
Sanders asked Buttigieg whether health care for all is “some kind of radical communist idea” or raising the minimum wage to a living wage, building affordable housing, or raising taxes on billionaires.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said that President 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.”
“And I was going to comment on Cuba policy, because I actually lead the bill to lift the embargo. I went with Barack Obama when he went to Cuba, and I've seen firsthand how the Cuban people are way in front of their leaders. They like America. They want to be entrepreneurs, and the way that we embrace them and not the regime is by opening up Cuba and starting to do business with them,” she said.