Sorry, bros, I’m not feeling “the Bern.”
I’m not in panic mode — like Establishment Democrats and the professional hand-wringers at MSNBC — but I just can’t buy Bernie as President of the United States. My sister-in-law said he “looks” presidential. All I see is Statler from the balcony of “The Muppet Show.”
I see Trump Lite. Bernie is obviously a better person, but his shouty, obnoxious, populist schtick is the bread and butter of demagogs. He makes promises he can’t pay for and would need supermajorities in the Senate and House to make happen. He dodges questions about his health that any presidential candidate must answer fully, particularly a 78-year-old who had a heart attack last year.
Bernie’s heart is in the right place, but his mouth often goes places I can’t follow. He’s taking heat today for Sunday’s “60 Minutes” interview, in which he praised the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Bernie said. “You know? 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?”
Praising Castro’s literacy programs was tone-deaf enough, but it was, “When Fidel Castro came into office…” that curdled in my ear.
Castro didn’t “come into office.” He took a country by force. He ruled that country as a Communist dictator, not a Democratic Socialist. Castro was a monster. No one cares how many Cubans learned to read while he and his kleptocratic government oppressed them. Ask any Cuban American registered to vote in Florida.
There are reams of past statements Bernie has made in apparent defense of Communism. Every one of them will be weaponized by the wannabe dictator in the White House and his kleptocratic Republican servants in the Senate. Bernie is not a communist, but he will be forced to carry the weight of his words in a way Trump sidesteps with ease.
Bernie has also failed to adequately police supporters who behave like the cyberbullies in Cult 45. I get the “fight fire with fire” argument, but preaching from the gutter won’t build your flock. Bernie must look straight into a camera and tell these jerks to stop. No vagueries. Just stop. Now.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not wild about any of the Democratic candidates, but I confess a growing crush on Mayor Pete. He’s cool, collected and quick on his feet — everything Trump is not. If you can’t see the magic in pitting a gay, married war veteran who quotes Scripture like Jed Bartlett against a draft-dodging serial philanderer who thinks 2 Corinthians is a parable about a pair of tanners who crafted fine leather for Ricardo Montalban, I pity you.
(If you don’t get the hilarious cultural reference in the previous paragraph, I forgive you.)
If Bernie ends up winning the nomination, I will vote for him. I wouldn’t vote for Trump if Mike Bloomberg paid me $10 billion and drove me to the polls in a Bentley. The Mad King must go. Huge swaths of the electorate agree, but selling a 78-year-old Democratic Socialist to voters who hear “Communist” every time the label is read won’t be easy, and failure means another four years of Castro without all the reading.
A lot of us aren’t feeling the Bern. It’s Bernie’s job to change that. Fast.