Bernie Sanders

Interview with Chris Hayes of MSNBC's "All In"

March 21, 2016

HAYES: All right. Senator Sanders, let me start with this. It was another example of some real upsetting violence at a Trump rally. A Trump supporter beating up a protester. He was arrested. This comes in the wake of a lot of protests, the roadblock.

There are some commentators who were saying, as responsible is Donald Trump is for what is happening at his rallies, that the protest efforts now at those rallies, the disruptions are essentially playing into his hand. What do you think of that?

SANDERS: Well, look, I think, you know, that Trump has been incredibly divisive. I think he's insulted almost every group in America. I think his policies are outrageous, but in America, people have a right to hold rallies.

So, I think my own feeling is it's absolutely appropriate for thousands of people to protest at a Trump rally, but I am not a great fan of disrupting rallies. So, people want to be outside. They want to talk about attacks on Mexicans. His outrageous attacks on Muslims and African-Americans, that is absolutely appropriate.

But I think in some ways you're right. I think it plays into Trump's hands. It's counterproductive. Protests yes, disruptions, no.

HAYES: That is not the answer I would have expected from you.

SANDERS: Why not? I don't believe -- you know, people have a right to give a speech. People have a right to protest. I'm not great fan of disrupting people's speeches.

HAYES: There was an article, I believe it was in "Politico", about Democratic senators talking about you and Hillary Clinton and your campaigns, and basically I think urging you to enter a phase of your campaign not to stop campaigning, but essentially to target Donald Trump as opposed to Hillary Clinton because they believe or claim that you don't have a clear path to nomination and you were damaging or potentially damaging Hillary Clinton.

I wanted to get your response to that.

SANDERS: Well, let me -- let me respond in a couple of ways. We do have a path to victory. You know, Secretary Clinton has done very, very well in the Deep South and in states that have had elections there.

We're now out of the Deep South. We're heading West. We think we have an excellent chance to win in Washington state, in the state of California, in Oregon. We think we'll do well this week in Utah. We think we're going to do well in Arizona, we're right now here in Boise, Idaho. We have 6,000 people next door. We had 14,000 people out a few days ago in Salt Lake City.

Most importantly to me, Chris, in almost all the exit polls, we are winning the people 45 or 50 and younger. The future of the Democratic Party is with us. People are tired of establishment politics and establishment economics.

People want to United States to join the rest of the industrialized world with a national health program, Medicare for all. People believe fervently that in the year 2016, we should make public colleges and universities tuition free. We got to impose tax on Wall Street speculation.

These are the ideas that are generating enthusiasm. So, of course, I'm taking on Donald Trump. I'm very proud in almost every national poll, we are running much stronger against Trump than Clinton is. Last NBC poll I think had us 18 points up. Clinton was 13 points up.

If you can believe it in the state of Utah, which is not elected, voted for a Democrat in 50 years, we were beating Trump by 11 points. Hillary Clinton by two points. One of the points many people are saying all over this country is Bernie Sanders is, in fact, the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.

HAYES: You gave an interview to Rachel Maddow the other night when she talked with you about Merrick Garland, has been nominated by the president to fill Scalia seat on the Supreme Court. And you said you would, if you were elected, it was a lame duck session, you would ask for him to withdraw and name your own Supreme Court justice. And you've talked about Citizens United as a kind of litmus test for you.


HAYES: I wonder your views about Heller which is the opinion in 2007 by the Supreme Court, 2008, finding that basically the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. Do you think that was properly decided? Would you look for a justice who would overturn it?

SANDERS: Chris, Chris, Chris -- Chris, I'm not going to go through every Supreme Court decision. But this is what I will tell you. I don't go around coming up with litmus tests every other day. I'm obviously pro-choice, 100 percent voting record for women's rights, for the environment and so forth and so on, and to hold a lot of criteria out there.

But I worry, very much, about the future of American democracy. The degree to which we are going to have a vibrant democracy if Citizens United continues to stand. So, this, to me, is a very fundamental issue underlying the whole nature of American society.

And I will not appoint or nominate anybody to the Supreme Court who is not loud and clear, making it very public that not only will they vote to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court but they will push it to come up as soon as possible, to be heard by the Supreme Court.

HAYES: One of the things Citizens United gave rise to, right, of course, are super PACs. And I'm really curious. Have you -- I will say that I have actually genuinely been surprised by what a disaster they have been in a strict tactical sense in this campaign. I mean, literally hundreds of millions of dollars lit on fire, $145 million to get Jeb Bush, four delegates.

Are you surprised how seemingly ineffectual that kind of big money has been thus far?

SANDERS: I think that's a wrong characterization of the situation.

Look, the political world is changing rapidly. What the establishment has learned, what the Democratic accomplishment, the Republican establishment, the media establishment is the world is not quite what they thought it was.

With the middle class disappearing, with people working longer hours for low wages, people working for the future of their children, what you are seeing a lot of discontent at the grass roots level all over this country. And that's what's going on right now.

Trump is tapping that anger in a very destructive way, scapegoating Mexicans and Muslim.

What we are doing is trying to bring people together to create an economy that works for all of us, not just Wall Street. But to underestimate the long term impact of Citizens United, of the Koch brothers, of Sheldon Adelson, would be a very, very serious mistake.

That is one of the worst decisions in the history of Supreme Court decisions. It's got to be overturned.

HAYES: This connects to something else about your career in politics that I wanted to ask you. You're nothing, if not consistent. You've been remarkably consistent on a whole set of principles since you really entered public life, particularly since you entered Congress.

I think that consistency is a large part of your appeal. People don't think you're making up this position about banks or, you know, money in politics just because you think it will work. You really believe it.

Are there things that you've changed your mind on about politics since you got into Congress or even since you started campaign? Are there things that you had a conversion or thought to yourself, you know, I was wrong about that, in your time as a politician?

SANDERS: Well -- well, let me say this, you know, to be honest with you, I almost, what I fervently wish is we had more time. Right now, I'm speaking to you and I can hear in the background a crowd of 5,000 or 6,000 people in Boise, Idaho. We have 14,000 people out in Salt Lake City.

What I think I underestimated is the degree we can, in fact, bring people together around a strong economic message. People will disagree. I am pro-choice. I am pro-gay marriage. I have -- you know, feel fervently about climate change.

But I think there's even more opportunity than I had previously believed to bring people together around basic economic issues ending this disastrous these trade policies that have cost us millions of jobs, raising the minimum wage to 15 an hour. I do believe that a majority of American people want health care.

If I had to do it over again, I would have put more emphasis on bringing working class people together to fight for a government that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors.

HAYES: That's not saying -- so when you said more time, I thought you were talking about you and I or before you -- you're saying the runway for the Bernie Sanders plane, that you wish it was longer. That you think you found something here that if it was longer, you would be in a better position to take advantage of?

SANDERS: Look, I think, two things, number one, the Democrats need a 50-state strategy. I think with intelligent planning, cultivating good leadership in the South and there is some right there bringing blacks and whites together, Democrats can make huge advances in the South.

I think in other parts of this country, whether it's Kansas or Utah or Idaho, I think it's insane for the Democrats to abdicate those states in that entire region. And I think if elected president and becoming leader of the Democratic Party, we're going to put resources in there.

And I think we can bring people together. You say you may disagree with me on gay marriage, OK? But you do need to see your kid go to college. You need to have a decent minimum wage. I think we can bring a lot of people together on those issues.

[commercial break]

HAYES: More now in my conversation with Senator Bernie Sanders on a day of massive political headlines Israel and Cuba. I asked the presidential hopeful about both those topics and pressed him on how his worldview differs from his Democratic rivals.

SANDERS: She is obviously much more hawkish than I am. I think she has apologized for her vote against the war in Iraq. But I don't think that that was a mistake on her part, that is the type of aggressiveness and hawkishness that is what she is part of.

I think the role that she played in Libya in the overthrow of Qadhafi without fully understanding the long-term implications of regime change there, and the vacuum it created for ISIS to come in is also a mistake. The fact that she would go in with a debate, debate with me and talk about the praise that she received from Henry Kissinger, Henry Kissinger, one of the most destructive secretaries of state in American history, she was proud to get his praise. I mean, that tells you where she is coming from.

We have a very different outlook.

HAYES: You just characterized her views. But I'm curious, you say she's more hawkish. Characterize your own views. Do you think of yourself as dovish, do you think of yourself as a internationalist? How would you characterize your own views in contrast to her?

SANDERS: In 12 seconds or less, look it's not -- I voted against the war in Iraq. I voted against the first Gulf war. I think war is the last option of a great military power like us. I think we need to focus on building coalitions.

Yes, ISIS must be destroyed, but it should be destroyed by a coalition of Muslim nations on the ground with the support of the United States and the other major powers in the air and in training the troops there.

I think also, when you talk about what goes on in the Middle East, look, I absolutely -- I spent many months on a kibbutz in Israel. So, I know something about Israel. Israel has got to be defended, has a right to exist. But you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people.

Yes, I am more than aware of what Iran is doing in supporting terrorism. But I am also aware that the government of Saudi Arabia is no great model of Jeffersonian democracy, that money from Saudi Arabia has gone in to terrorist extremists, that also that when you look at the Middle East, we have to play with a much more level -- even-handed approach than I think we have had.

So, it is not just, you know, long term, I think we want to make sure that we do everything that we can to stop the support of terrorism from Iran. But long-term, and I think the agreement of the Obama administration reached in stopping the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is a step forward. I want to see that continued.

I want to see pressure being put on Saudi Arabia not only to stop funding terrorists, but instead of being in Yemen to play a more active role again ISIS . In other words, what we have got to do, we are all aware of the centuries old division between Shiites and Sunnis. But you know what, they're going to have to sit at the table.

We can play a role in trying to resolve some of the differences so they work with us against ISIS and terrorism in general.

HAYES: You use the phrase even-handed in terms of our sort of navigating the difficulty geopolitics in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton today when she was speaking to AIPAC mocked Donald Trump, seemed to mock Donald Trump, who talked about being neutral between Israel and Palestinian negotiations in achieving some kind of two-state solution and peace deal.

Who's right about that? Should the U.S. be neutral or not?

SANDERS: No, it's not a question of being neutral and it's not a question of Donald Trump.

I mean, you know, Donald Trump is an embarrassment even to the Republican Party. What I mean is that when you look at somebody like a Netanyahu, to simply not understand that this is a right wing politician, a guy who kind of crashed the United States congress to give his speech there, ignoring President Obama, not even consulting with him, using it for political purposes back home, a guy who has supported the growth of settlements, I think the overreaction and the destruction of Gaza went too, too far. Israel should not be bombing schools or homes, just terrible damage there.

So, point being, Israel has an absolute right to exist, not only to exist, but to exist in way that they're not under threat of terrorism. And I support that 100 percent.

But you have also got to reach out to the Palestinian people and to the Arab communities, that is the only hope, I think, for lasting peace in the Mideast.

Is this going to be easy? Of course it's not. Wonderful people have tried for decades without success. But we keep doing it. We just cannot be 100 percent supportive of people like Netanyahu and ignore the rest of the region.

HAYES: Clinton also -- and then I'm going to move to Cuba. But Clinton also today talked about the boycott, divest, sanction movement, which is an international movement. Some of the people who advocate those tactics believe that Israel should be a binational state. They don't believe in Zionism. Some are Zionists, but they want to see Israel support a two-state solution more strenuously, move away from the settlements. She linked to it racism, to anti-Semitism basically. She said -- she connected BDS to anti-Semiticism. Do you think that's a fair linkage?

SANDERS: I think there is some of that, absolutely. Look, Israel has done some bad things. So has every other country on Earth. I think if people want to attack Israel for their policies, I think that is fair game but not to appreciate that there is some level of anti-Semitism around the world involved in that I think would be a mistake.

HAYES: You are the first Jewish individual to get this far, to come this close to the presidency in American history. How much does that shape how you think about your role should you become president with respect to Israel, a place where you did live at a certain point?

SANDERS: My role if elected president -- I've got to look at foreign policy and look at the United States approach to every country on Earth. Clearly the Middle East has been a cauldron. It has been so volatile, so horrible in so many years that it's an area you have got to pay attention to. But you have got to pay attention to China. You have got to pay attention to Latin America.

I would say that being Jewish, what has been most significant in my life is understanding what a Hitler, what horrible politics can mean to people. And I think that's been one of the motivating factors in my life in fighting against racism and bigotry of all kinds, because when it gets out of hands as we have seen and we are -- it obviously it has unbelievable repercussions.

HAYES: Today the president is in Cuba and it's a remarkable thing for a lot of people to witness given the decades of American policy there. It's something you have oppose. You opposed the embargo for a long time.

Do you have a message today if there are Cuban dissidents, some of whom were protesting today, some of whom were arrested during protests. To those folks or to people in Miami who feel like even if they didn't support the embargo also feel negatively about the Castro regime?

SANDERS: Well, you know, there's a lot to feel negatively about. But I think in terms of the nature of the continuation of the Cold War, which has gone on so long between Cuba and the United States, I applaud the president for aggressively trying to end it. And I hope we will not only full diplomatic relations but that the trade embargo will end. I think that will be good for the people of Cuba. And I think it's a little bit absurd that here in the United States we can get on plane, we can go to China, we can go to Saudi Arabia, we can go anyplace we want, countries that are not democratic, but for some reason we can't go to Cuba, businesses in America can't do business in Cuba. I think that that is stupid.

So, I hope very much and applaud the president for his efforts in that direction and hope that in the not too distant future -- and if I have anything to say about it as president, we will work aggressively to develop normal relations in every respect with the people of Cuba.

HAYES: Final question here, senator. You've been very critical of the media's role in this campaign. And some of those critiques I find pretty compelling, I have to say. Is there a question that you wished you got asked more that you don't get asked?

SANDERS: Look, it's not just a question. For the media, 90 percent of the coverage is process is soap opera is polls, is raising money. Go to the rallies that I have and listen to the people coming up to me. Yesterday, a woman comes up to me with tears her eyes, Bernie I am working 60 hours a week. I'm not making any money. I don't have time to spend with my daughter.

Listen to the kids who leave school 50,000 or 60,000 a year in debt. Talk to the people who have no health insurance and what that means to their life.

I'm running for president of the United States because we have a disappearing middle class, we got 47 million people living in poverty. The amount of time that the media pays to those issues is minimal.

And I think that is my critique, Chris, that the media has got to look at the pain in America today and then look at how the candidates are responding to that pain. Campaigns and elections are not a game. They're not a game. They're about trying to change America. We're the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We should not be having Flint, Michigans or African-American communities all over this country where schools are failing.

Those are the issues we got to pay attention to and not look at this as some kind of silly game. And that is the critique that bothers me. That's what bothers me about media coverage.

HAYES: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for president of the Democratic Party, senator from Vermont. Thanks for all your time. Really appreciate it.

SANDERS: Thank you, Chris.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Chris Hayes of MSNBC's "All In" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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