Debates 2020

Bloomberg and Bernie Fight Over Which Communist Dictatorship Is the Least Evil

But Sanders is also right that America has made some terrible foreign policy mistakes in the past.

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Democratic presidential hopefuls Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders clashed Tuesday night over which authoritarian communist regimes are worth praising. Both fumbled what should have been straight-forward responses.

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, was asked about his past praise of Chinese President Xi Jinping. In a 2019 interview, Bloomberg said, "Xi Jinping is not a dictator; he has to satisfy his constituents or he's not going to survive." Given a second chance, Bloomberg did find the courage to criticize China's lack of press freedoms and what he called an "abominable" record on human rights—but then he pivoted, weirdly, to argue that Xi is not a dictator because he "serves at the behest of the Politburo" of the Communist Party of China, the 25-member political committee that runs the country.

That is hardly the same thing as being democratically accountable, of course. It is roughly equivalent to arguing that National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is accountable to the American people because he is elected to his post by the owners of the league's 32 teams.

Sanders pounced on the mistake. "The Chinese government is responsive to the politburo, but who the hell is the politburo?" he asked. Yes, that's a self-described socialist criticizing a government run by a politburo—a thing that is a feature almost exclusively of socialist governments.

But Sanders quickly stumbled over a chance to correct his own record of praising authoritarian regimes. His past praise of longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castor and his own literal honeymoon in the Soviet Union figure to be fodder for negative ads if he wins the Democratic nomination, and Sanders only made that situation worse for himself on Tuesday by arguing that "when dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans, do something good, you acknowledge that."

In praising authoritarian foreign governments that refuse to recognize basic human freedoms, both Bloomberg and Sanders have something in common with the man they ultimately hope to unseat from the presidency. President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he "loves" Xi, cheered Turkish authoritarian thug Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as "a hell of a leader," commended Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte for the extrajudicial murder of drug offenders, and just this week partied with nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It should be fairly easy to answer these questions, especially for the Democrats who are trying to defeat Trump. Don't praise dictators. It's literally that easy.

Sanders' insistence on finding a silver lining in Castro's bloody reign over Cuba reads as especially churlish considering he insisted tonight that America has not fully owned its history of propping up dictators around the world. "Occasionally, it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy," he said, mentioning American-backed coups in Iran and Guatemala during the Cold War. That is a very good idea.

If Sanders can't find a silver lining in U.S.-backed coups, fair enough. But he should stop proclaiming the upsides of a dictatorship with so many victims that the world's foremost experts cannot count them all.

NEXT: Biden Suggests Bernie Sanders Partially Responsible for 150 Million Gun Deaths, Argues for Renewed Assault Weapons Ban

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  1. “His past praise of longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castor”

    Oh, Lord, either another typo or a tasteless Castor Oil joke.

    1. It’s clearly both a typo and a Caster Sugar joke

      1. Hey, JFree, tell us again how the Corona virus is gonna explode and how it’s the tipping point!
        Always fun to laugh at you!

    2. It’s getting tiresome:
      Who’s/whose, its/it’s, and far more
      Welsh does not work for a for-profit organization. As the ‘customers’, we can refuse to support it.
      I sent $100 this year; suck on it Welsh. Or grow up and run a libertarian organization.

  2. Who called that unreason would start doing articles backing up old Commie Sanders.

    1. The fun thing is that Trump May accomplish something massively libertarian if he can flip one more SCOTUS justice to originalism. There is a growing belief that there is a plan to bring cases arguing non delegation theory. Which would, if successful, immediately destroy the unilateral regulatory powers unconstitutionally employed by the various federal agencies. Forcing congress and the executive branch to actually pass all proposed rules as law. Period.

      This would force congress to actually do their job, and prevent most new regulations from being enacted. It might even impact previous unconstitutional actions. One can only hope.
      .

      1. “The fun thing is that Trump May accomplish something massively libertarian if he can flip one more SCOTUS justice to originalism. There is a growing belief that there is a plan to bring cases arguing non delegation theory. Which would, if successful, immediately destroy the unilateral regulatory powers unconstitutionally employed by the various federal agencies. Forcing congress and the executive branch to actually pass all proposed rules as law. Period.”
        Not creaming my jeans, but that seems VERY impressive.
        But there’s no link; do I need to subscribe to your newsletter?

        1. Just google ‘non delegation theory’. Wikipedia even has an entry for it. Apparently the progs are becoming very concerned over this for obvious reasons. I first heard about it over the last month listening to Andrew Wilkow’s show.

          1. Not a winner.
            Got a link? Let’s see it.
            Wiki? Really?

            1. Bit on Kavanaugh’s interest in the non-delegation doctrine at the Jurist blog. Article is by a law professor at Toledo U School of Law.: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2019/12/evan-zoldan-the-fifth/

              1. Thanks. There actually are some legit articles out there on the subject.

            2. I replied last night with multiple links. My comment is still ‘awaiting moderation’. So here is one link…….

              https://m.facebook.com/AndrewWilkowBlazeTV/videos/226798278454008/

    2. You really think this article is praising Sanders? The whole point is to criticize those who praise dictators. Especially Sanders.

      Yes, Trump is guilty of that too. Should we not criticize everyone who does this?

      If every Reason article started with the caveat that Trump is better than anyone in the Democratic field, then would it be okay to criticize Trump too? Or should Trump always get a pass because… I’m not sure why.

      I want all politicians criticized when they deserve it, regardless of who is the most bad.

      Do you not want that?

      1. A dictator may or may not be worthy of praise. If he increases personal liberty or economic liberty – in comparison to the alternatives – he can be praiseworthy. There’s a Chavez, and there’s a Lee Kuan Yew…

        1. Cue the C.S. Lewis quote about the evil of benign dictatorships.

          1. You place too much emphasis on how one gets to power – rather than what one does with the power.

            1. How do you come to this conclusion?

        2. Yes, and even if not of praise, worthy of flattery in some cases.

        3. For example, I think we can agree that Pinochet wasn’t that great of a guy, but most of us would also agree that he gave communists the best helicopter rides.

        4. BINGO!!!! Like back in the day, you could get a good King or a bad one!

    3. I’m a bit perplexed that you can read this article and see it as somehow approving of Sanders.

  3. Bloomberg and Sanders could praise Hitler tomorrow and Reason would quickly pivot to a discussion about how Trump is just as bad because all three have previously farted in elevators.

    Nobody should fart in elevators.

    1. If you do, don’t blame it on a gypsy.

      1. Unless your lifelong wish is to be a B rate superhero who joins a band of similarily questionably gifted superheroes.

    2. Kinda surprised they didn’t try it. “Castro created a literacy program.”
      And Hitler improved the economy and created both jobs and a youth program. But for some reason we allow selective memory when it comes to fucking commies.

  4. “when dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans, do something good, you acknowledge that.”

    Hence Stalin. No small part of the Soviet 1930s famines that wiped out millions was due to mindless lackeys praising Stalin’s collectivization and 5 year programs.

    “Great job, Joe. We lost half of the Caucasus, but your central planning is through the roof. “

    1. Yep, his daughter got the hell out of there!

      1. Comrade Bernie’s praises for the statists and authoritarians is old-school sales: sell the sizzle.

        It’s the art of deflection. This sales device tries to camouflage the pains that underscore the true nature of these regimes. Of course, most “praiseworthy” actions are or will be done to maintain control and retain power.

        Sorry, Bernie. Sometimes a wolf comes in a wolf’s clothing.

  5. “But Sanders is also right that America has made some terrible foreign policy mistakes in the past.”

    Uh was this the war of 1812? Or whut?

  6. ‘“Occasionally, it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy,” he said, mentioning American-backed coups in Iran and Guatemala during the Cold War. That is a very good idea.’

    Ok, Bernie: now praise America.

    1. If Trump’s diplomacy in India pays off we will have a strong counterweight to China and Pakistan (and Iran) in the region that is far more Democratic then any of those Powers. It also happens to be one of the fastest growing markets, a huge importer of American agricultural goods and the second most populous country in the world. Sometimes you don’t look to close at the teeth of a gifted equine.

      1. True, although they do have some issues with their current leadership and religion. But India would still be an improvement over China

      2. Apu approves. Thank you Mr. Soldiermedic, and come again!

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  8. This article states: “..a government run by a politburo—a thing that is a feature almost exclusively of socialist governments.” One wonders about the author’s definition of socialist. China today is not a socialist government.

    1. China has become a corporatist state, which is the real world mature form of communism, not the theoretical one.

    2. This article states: “..a government run by a politburo—a thing that is a feature almost exclusively of socialist governments.” One wonders about the author’s definition of socialist. China today is not a socialist government.

      What’s that yer sayin’ there, boy? Tha’ the scotsman’s no true? Ach–say it’s no so!

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  10. Thank you for sending me the information about it I learned a lot from it. I appreciate you the detail you went into it. I am grateful for the amount of time and effort you put into this helping us. Your insights and summary are beneficial.

  11. “when dictatorships, whether it is the Chinese or the Cubans, do something good, you acknowledge that.”

    Unless that ‘dictator’ is Trump and the good thing is the US economy?

    1. Oh you acknowledge it, you just don’t give him credit for it… But…but it’s Obama’s economy is their new tag line.

  12. Sanders seems to be pretty selective about this “acknowledging the good things” stuff.

  13. The difference with Trump’s praise of foreign leaders is that he’s playing political tit-for-tat. He says they are wonderful and then if they respond with positive actions, he keeps going with the positive feedback.

    If they go negative, he goes negative.

    He’s as simple a game theory example as there is.

    I can’t believe the democrats have been so stupid during his presidency. Instead of doing this insane jihad to undo the 2016 election, they should have embraced Trump and praised his wonderful leadership. He would have passed any legislation they asked him to if they had played it that way. He’s obvious and transparent. Pelosi could have gone in and said “Trump is the best!” and walked out with medicaid expansion, immigration reforms, college loan forgiveness programs…. literally anything they wanted was there for the taking.

    But they had to say “Trump is a Nazi white supremacist” instead. Look at where that got them.

    The dude is so predictable he’s essentially a video game NPC, and nobody in US politics has figured this out? What a bunch of idiots.

    1. I don’t think he’s quite that much of a sheep, but I do agree with the underlying principle that if the Dems had acted politely, they would have gotten quite a bit. The guy’s a salesman, he understands give and take.

  14. Hitler made the first government effort to stamp out smoking. He promoted vegetarian diets. In order to create a stronger citizenry he supported government health and exercise programs.
    Still, I doubt Sanders would say something good about the mass murderer.
    Most Progressives view Communists as slightly too enthusiastic socialists, so excuse most excesses.

    1. He and his Italian compatriot also made the trains run on time. We just won’t mention where those trains were running too.

    2. Don’t forget his youth program. How can you be against helping children?

  15. Putin and Russia do respect basic human rights, and under Putin Russia continues to make progress . Contrary to Reason pundits, Russia is a classical liberal Western country, similar to US and Western Europe, according to its own unique culture. The US basically wrote the Russian constitution when we controlled Russia after fall of communism. Russia has as much or more free speech as European countries have. Holocaust denial is not a crime. Yes, it is a decade behind in gay rights, and because of influence of Orthodox religion may not progress quickly. Reason writers, like the Dems might freak out over that, but to insinuate that Putin is some kind of dictator like the MSM does is absurd.

    1. You’re using the wrong measuring stick regarding free speech. Russia appears to have freer speech than Western Europe does because the latter has formal content controls, while Russia has informal — nonexplicit — ones, which is worse. It’s like in the movie Z.

    2. You’re joking, right? Putin’s had 21 journalists killed since taking power in 2000, and that’s fucking Wikipedia speaking. I’m sure if you start digging around you can find more bodies.

  16. It should be fairly easy to answer these questions, especially for the Democrats who are trying to defeat Trump. Don’t praise dictators. It’s literally that easy.

    It should be easy, but the lifelong dream of each of these candidates is to be a dictator, so the admiration comes naturally.

  17. <It should be fairly easy to answer these questions, especially for the Democrats who are trying to defeat Trump. Don't praise dictators. It's literally that easy.

    Reminds me of a line from a Star Trek episode, Mirror, Mirror.

    “It was far easier for you, as civilized men, to behave like barbarians than it was for them, as barbarians, to behave like civilized men.”

    The current crop of Dem candidates just can’t hide who they really are

  18. I’ve read that, in 1979, Sanders praised the Ayatolers for their hostage-taking, and claimed the hostages were CIA agents. That should make him unelectable. I guess the GOP hasn’t mentioned it yet because they want him to get the nomination.

  19. Hitler sold a vast majority of German citizens on Nazism.
    Will Bernie sell a vast majority of American citizens on Nazism?

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