“As a mayor, I did my best to stop American foreign policy.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., angrily defended his record of siding with the United States’s socialist adversaries in an interview Saturday with The New York Times.
According to reporter Syndey Ember, Sanders demanded to talk after declining to comment for an article about his foreign policy record that was published Friday. The Democratic presidential candidate was apparently unhappy with the depiction of his foreign policy positions as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, which Ember described as “fervently anti-imperialist.”
Sanders started out by characterizing his worldview as more about avoiding war than supporting socialism, though he acknowledged that he had knowingly acted against the declared interests of the United States.
“Let me just say this: I plead guilty to, throughout my adult life, doing everything that I can to prevent war and destruction,” he said. “As a mayor, I did my best to stop American foreign policy, which for years was overthrowing governments in Latin America and installing puppet regimes.”
While he batted away questions about his past support and praise for Latin American regimes and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Sanders directly answered when asked if even one of his beliefs about those countries had changed.
“No. The Soviet Union was an authoritarian dictatorship, and that’s what I believed then and that’s what I believe the case to be today. That’s what they were,” he said. “On the other hand, I was going to do everything that I could to prevent a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.”
After Sanders declared in February that he was running for president again, TV clips from his time as mayor resurfaced in which he is seen praising the the accomplishments of the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua.
One video, from 1984, shows Sanders recounting how he had recently visited the Nicaraguan government, made up of socialist revolutionaries, and advised them on how to “manipulate” Americans through the media.
In another, from 1988, Sanders discusses a recent trip to Moscow, saying he was impressed with their public transportation, which he calls “very very effective,” and their youth programs, which he says “go far beyond what we do in this country.”
The democratic socialist also goes on at length about an “absolutely beautiful” theater he visited in Russia, marveling that it had a “puppeteer area” and tickets only cost the equivalent of $1.50.
Just a few years later, the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its stagnant political and economic systems.
While Sanders no longer openly endorses authoritarian communist regimes, he does like to hold up Sweden and its Scandinavian neighbors as examples of a big welfare state supposedly done right.
“I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden, and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people,” Sanders said during a 2016 presidential debate against Hillary Clinton.
Last month, as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ruthlessly suppressed a popular uprising against his failing regime, Sanders again stayed silent– as did most of his new disciples in Congress.
However, he did tweet what could be read as an admonishment of the Trump administration not to help topple Maduro, saying that the United States has for “far too long” favored “militarism over diplomacy.”
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