Bernie Sanders

Interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC Regarding Statement of Presidential Candidacy

April 30, 2015

Sanders (from video clip): I believe that in a democracy, what elections are about a serious debate over serious issues, not political gossip, not making campaigns into soap operas. This is not the Red Sox versus the Yankees. This is the debate over major issues the American people. Honest people.

Mitchell: Senator Bernie Sanders making his first speech as a presidential candidate only moments ago at a news conference outside Capitol Hill. The Independent senator will run in the Democrat field in 2016.

Yesterday I caught up with the senator before his big announce to the talk about why.

[videorecording of interview begins]

Mitchell: What is inspiring you to challenge Hillary Clinton, who is of course the front runner by everyone's accounts?

Sanders: Well, it's not taking on Hillary Clinton that's interesting. It's addressing the very, very serious crises facing our country, crises that have to be addressed. Look, for the last forty years, the American middle class has been disappearing. We have people working longer hours for lower wages. And at the same time we have seen huge increase in income and wealth inequality, such that the top 1 percent are now earning 99 percent of all new income generated in this country, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

That is not what an American economy should be about. And that spills over to, Andrea, campaign finance, where billionaires, as a result of Citizens United Supreme Court decision, are literally buying candidates and buying elections. And that's not what American democracy is supposed to be about.

Mitchell: But Hillary Clinton says that she is the champion of everyday Americans. Why isn't she the best standard bearer for the party?

Sanders: Well, we'll let the American people make that decision. I have been working the last 25, 30 years on behalf of working families. I have stood up and fought against disastrous trade agreements, for example, which have shut down plants in America and moved our jobs to China and other low wage countries. I've been leader on the issue of climate change, against the Keystone pipeline. I have introduced legislation which breaks up the largest Wall Street banks, which today have so much economic and political power over the nation.

So I'm out there to talk about real issues, to defend my record. And I'm sure that Secretary Clinton will do her best to make her case. And let the American people make their decisions.

Mitchell: Her campaign is supposedly going to raise $1.5 billion. Yet she says she wants campaign finance reform and a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending. Is that authentic?

Sanders: Well, let me be — you'll be the first to know we're not going to raise $1.5 billion. I think we can generate a reasonable amount of money through small donations. In the past, I have received a higher percentage of small donations than any other member of the United States Senate. But my Senate ought to be millionaires; are not going to be billionaires. And we will be heavily outspent.

Mitchell: What about the money her campaign relies on from the same people who contributed to the Clinton Foundation? Do you have concerns about failures to disclose about foreign money going into the Foundation, the family foundation, while she was Secretary of State?

Sanders: Well, Andrea, I do. But I have a broader concern about the unbelievably horrendous role that big money is playing on all of the campaigns. I think raising questions about Secretary Clinton's funding is legitimate. But I think we have ask what motives are of the Koch brothers and Republican billionaires who frankly want to end Social Security, end Medicare, end Medicaid, and give more tax breaks to billionaires.

Mitchell: She has come out very strongly against the wage disparity, where CEOs and hedge fund executives are making such extraordinary amounts of money. Yet she was obviously the senator from New York, the senator from Wall Street. Does she have a problem here in being credible?

Sanders: Well, look, this is an issue that I have been talking about for years. In the United States, CEOs make 300 times what their workers make. And I think that is simply immoral and it's an issue that has to be dealt with, and it's an issue that we have been part of legislation dealing with.

Mitchell: Now, you're an Independent in the Senate. You're running as a Democrat. How do you justify running as a Democrat when you are an Independent?

Sanders: Well, that's fair question. I've always been elected in Vermont as an Independent, but I will be running, in a sense, as an independent Democrat within the Democrat primary process. And the reason is pretty simple. I am not a billionaire. To run outside of the two party system would require enormous sums of money and a great expenditure of energy and time just to get on the ballot.

So I think right now the best path forward to win this election, to raise the important issues that the American people are deeply concerned about — the need to create jobs, the need for health care for all, the need to deal with climate change — I can do that best running within the Democratic primary process.

Mitchell: Will you support her if she does turn out to be the Democratic nominee?

Sanders: Well, that's a little bit premature and we will see what happens. But I will most certainly not be supporting any of these right wing Republican candidates. That's for sure.

Mitchell: Senator Sanders, good luck out there on the campaign trail. Thank you so much, sir.

Sanders: Thank you, Andrea.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC Regarding Statement of Presidential Candidacy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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