May 5, 2019

BERNIE IS DONALD:

Inside Sanders' trip to the USSR: 1988 honeymoon laid the groundwork for presidential bid (MICHAEL KRANISH, May 04, 2019, The Washington Post)

Bernie Sanders was bare-chested, towel-draped, sitting at a table lined with vodka bottles, as he sang This Land Is Your Land to his hosts in the Soviet Union in the spring of 1988.

The just-married socialist mayor from Vermont was on what he called "a very strange honeymoon," an official 10-day visit to the communist country, and he was enthralled with the hospitality and the lessons that could be brought home.

"Let's take the strengths of both systems," he said upon completing the trip. "Let's learn from each other." [...]

An examination by The Washington Post of the trip -- based on interviews with five people who accompanied Sanders, as well as audio and video of it -- provides a fresh look at this formative time for Sanders, foreshadowing much of what animates his presidential bid.

As he campaigns for president a second time, Sanders, an independent who is running in the Democratic primaries, takes credit for moving the party to the left, and he now finds himself competing with candidates who advocate for the kind of activist government positions Sanders touted during his Soviet trip, such as government-sponsored health care for all.

As he stood on Soviet soil, Sanders, then 46 years old, criticized the cost of housing and health care in the United States, while lauding the lower prices -- but not the quality -- of that available in the Soviet Union. Then, at a banquet attended by about 100 people, Sanders blasted the way the United States had intervened in other countries, stunning one of those who had accompanied him.

"I got really upset and walked out," said David F. Kelley, who had helped arrange the trip and was the only Republican in Sanders' entourage. "When you are a critic of your country, you can say anything you want on home soil. At that point, the Cold War wasn't over, the arms race wasn't over, and I just wasn't comfortable with it."

Sanders declined to be interviewed for this article. Jeff Weaver, his senior adviser, said the trip fits into Sanders' effort to form partnerships between people who may seem at odds with each other.

"Just like his politics in the U.S. are animated by bringing ordinary people together," Weaver said, the trip to the Soviet Union "was an example of that, if you can get people from everyday walks of life together, you can break through some of the animosity that exists on a governmental level."

Sanders often has stressed the difference between his views as a democratic socialist and communist dogma, noting that he supports democratic elections and business enterprises that were inimical to the Soviet system. Sanders, who in 1988 had been mayor of Burlington for seven years, took the trip at a time when he was trying to put himself on the national stage. He wrote that Burlington, a city of about 40,000, had a foreign policy because "I saw no magic line separating local, state, national and international issues. ... How could issues of war and peace not be a local issue?"

He already was known as a firebrand on foreign affairs, finding much to like in socialist and communist countries.

Sanders had visited Nicaragua in 1985 and hailed the revolution led by Daniel Ortega, which President Ronald Reagan opposed. "I was impressed," Sanders said then of Ortega, while allowing that "I will be attacked by every editorial writer for being a dumb dope." At the same time, Sanders voiced admiration for the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro, whom Reagan and many others in both parties routinely denounced.

Sanders, in turn, said Americans dismissed socialist and communist regimes because they didn't understand the poverty faced by many in Third World countries. "The American people, many of us, are intellectually lazy," Sanders said in a 1985 interview with a Burlington television station.

Russia Says Trump Initiated Friday's 1.5-Hour Call With Putin (Justin Sink, May 4, 2019, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump initiated a lengthy call with his Russian counterpart on Friday, in which Vladimir Putin urged sanctions relief for North Korea and warned against interference in Venezuela, the Russian embassy in Washington said.

The leaders' call lasted for 1.5 hours, according to a post on the embassy's Facebook page, and the pair discussed a "shared commitment to step up dialogue in various areas, including on issues of strategic stability." White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday the leaders spoke for more than an hour.

Trump tweeted about the chat for a second time on Saturday, saying there was "tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia." [...]

On Friday, Trump told reporters at the White House that Putin had assured him Moscow isn't seeking to "get involved" in the crisis in Venezuela, despite assertions by the U.S. president's top national security advisers that the Kremlin is offering critical support to Nicolas Maduro's regime.

"He is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela," Trump said of Putin. "And I feel the same way." [...]

Trump said Saturday on Twitter he was confident Kim "does not want to break his promise to me."

Posted by at May 5, 2019 8:17 AM

  

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