America woke up Wednesday freshly reminded that Univsion anchor Jorge Ramos can deliver biting questions laced with advocacy for Latinos comfortably in two languages.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, proved once again that her native tongue is wonk, spoken with a strong accent of nuance and the occasional hint of condescension.
And Bernie Sanders speaks fluent Lefty.
The Tuesday night debate in Miami, hosted in part by a Spanish-language network, gave the two Democrats their most thorough public grilling about that knotty issue of U.S.-Cuban relations.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Both said they backed how the Obama White House has moved to normalize relations with Havana and talk more openly with the Castro brothers.
Then moderator Maria Elena Salinas ran a 1985 clip of Sanders from a Vermont public access cable channel. He’s seen saying seemingly flattering things about the communist regime — the strong arm guys who’ve brutalized dissent for more than half a century.
“Everyone was convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world. All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed their society,” 1985 Bernie said.
At the debate, the clip ended there. Run it a little longer, and his flattery of Castro tones down — a tad.
“Not to say that Fidel Castro or Cuba are perfect. They are certainly not. But just to because Ronald Reagan dislikes these people does not mean to say that the people in their own nations feel the same way.”
You might expect the 2016 Sanders, the one running for president, to offer up something about how times were different then. After all, delegate-rich Florida votes next Tuesday. Its Cuban ex-pats have spiked a few candidacies over the years of folks who didn’t strike a hard enough line against the Castros. (Granted, that faction has seen some fading of its political clout in recent years.)
Instead, the old Bernie basically embraced the young Bernie who’d honeymooned in the Soviet Union:
“I hope very much, as soon as possible, it becomes a democratic country, but on the other hand, it would be wrong not to state that in Cuba, they’ve made some good advances in healthcare,” Sanders said. “They’ve made some progress in education.”
That left a broad opening for Clinton to appeal both to the more conservative November electorate and to Democrats concerned about a generation of human rights abuses in the island nation.
“The values (of the Cuban government) are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people, even kill people,” the former of secretary of state said.
Things also got a little, um, awkward for Clinton.
Asked whether she’d drop out of the race if indicted over the investigation into the private email server she used during her time as secretary of state, she rejected the premise.
“Oh, for goodness — that is not gonna happen,” Clinton said. “I’m not even answering that question.”
Little about the debate was cuddly. The candidates sparred and dug at one another seemingly at every opportunity. They tried filibustering each other, talking well past the moderators’ time warnings and at times talked for length at the same time.
If Clinton made a point that Sanders took issue with, he’d raise a finger as if reminding a teacher it was his turn to talk next. Dude, you’re the only other person up there. Yes, they’ll call on you next.
Both candidates said they stop the deportation of children in the country illegally, suggesting a dig at President Barack Obama and his reputation in some Latino circles as the “deporter in chief.” Both said they’d improve the lives of struggling Hispanic citizens mostly with a high-tide-raises-all-boats economic agenda. Clinton pointedly declined to make Latino-centric quality-of-life promises.
At one point, Clinton got that “ouch” question. Why, Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty wondered, do barely a third of Americans think you’re honest and trustworthy?
Clinton acknowledged she’s never likely to have a Sally Field-at-the-Oscars moment.
“I am not a natural politician, in case you haven’t noticed, like my husband or President Obama,” Clinton said. “So I have a view that I just have to do the best I can, get the results I can, make a difference in people’s lives and hope that people see that I’m fighting for them and that I can improve conditions economically and other ways that will benefit them and their families.”
And who dressed Sanders? That brown suit. What the …?
USA Today noted that the suit quickly had its own twitter account.
It evoked America’s last profound national debate. What color was that dress?