CHARLESTON, SC —Senator Bernie Sanders, the current Democratic front-runner for the presidential nomination, has not shied away from controversy in recent days despite his growing chances of securing the position.
Sanders, already facing scrutiny for his decision not to attend the annual AIPAC conference this year, also faced a barrage of attacks from Democratic rivals and hawkish questions from moderators during Tuesday’s debate here.
The senator from Vermont took the opportunity to speak out on the United States’ need to face up to its long record of toppling democratically elected governments overseas.
“Excuse me, occasionally it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy,” Sanders said as two of his rivals, former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, attempted to take him to task over his comments on Cuba’s education and healthcare systems, and to falsely accuse him of being sympathetic to authoritarianism.
“That includes,” Sanders continued, “the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran.”
Reaction to Sanders’ comments was mixed, with some political pundits not pleased with his remarks. Some progressives applauded his willingness to speak candidly about the United States’ sordid history in other countries, however.
“A golden rule of Beltway orthodoxy is that candidates should never criticize U.S. foreign policy even when the criticisms are both factual and correct,” tweeted Jacobin staff writer Luke Savage in response to CNN commentator David Axelrod’s criticism of the senator’s comments.
“One of Bernie’s strengths is his unwillingness to concede to this sort of elite taboo.”
Sanders’ track record of speaking without filter was also widely noted across social media in response to the debate.
“Nobody on the debate stage except Bernie has the guts to say the truth about the legacy of U.S. foreign policy,” said Nikhil Goyal, a PhD candidate at Cambridge University.
With the stakes high and nominations for the party looming, others questioned the senator’s strategy.
Republican Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin tweeted that Sanders was “digging his grave” by “blaming America” for overthrowing governments. Progressive foreign policy analyst Elizabeth Beavers replied, “Imagine thinking ‘blaming America for overthrowing governments’ is anything other than historical fact.
“Guatemala, Iran, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Honduras, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Iraq and many, many others would like a word,” she added.