To be sure, Sanders’ signature idea — Medicare for All — has been dissected and debated. And the staggering total cost and severe political liabilities of Sanders’ full agenda is now beginning to be examined, as my CNN colleague Ronald Brownstein wrote recently.
However, there has been far too little discussion of Sanders’ 50-year record, nor have we seen a real view of how he would defend that record against a Republican onslaught.
He’s been lucky to avoid such an inquiry, because, for whatever reason, the media has discounted his ability to win the nomination. Press scrutiny moves on a sliding scale — the closer you get to the nomination, the more intense the spotlight becomes. And opponents of Sanders have been reluctant to take him on given the intensity of support from his voters and their knowledge of how important those voters will be in the fall.
…Sanders’ support for Fidel Castro came up during a 2016 presidential debate when Hillary Clinton questioned him about remarks he made in a 1984 video in which he said, “Everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world…They forgot that he educated …kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society.” Although Sanders agreed that Cuba was undemocratic and authoritarian, he seemed to refuse to take back his comments. The 1984 video and his refusal to disavow his comments could be a vulnerability for Sanders in 2020.
In the 1970’s, Sanders called for the abolition of the CIA, reducing the military, and returning to local militias, and the Coast Guard, to defend the homeland. Once in Congress, he called for spending cuts of 50% in the Pentagon’s budget.
Sanders has also made statements that will cause problems with key Democratic constituencies. The allegations of sexual harassment by members of his 2016 campaign team were covered (Sanders said he didn’t know about the allegations during his campaign but apologized), but little attention was paid to an article he wrote in 1969, exploring studies on stress and wondering if there could be a link between what parents taught their daughters about sexual mores and their child’s likelihood of developing breast cancer.
…It’s well-known that Sanders has flipped his position on guns. He now says he supports gun safety, but in Congress, he initially voted against the Brady Bill, which requires prospective handgun buyers to wait up to five business days while a background check is conducted before completing a purchase, and later supported legislation immunizing the gun industry from several types of lawsuits.
Few are aware that before he got to Congress, he was even more radical. In 1972, he backed a political platform’s call for the abolition of all laws that interfere with the constitutional right of citizens to bear arms.