Bernie Sanders photo

Interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball"

October 13, 2015

MATTHEWS: I've got a great guest here tonight. I've got Senator Bernie Sanders joining us now from the debate. We're in the so-called spin room, which is sort of a postmodern reference to anything.

Thank you very much.

You know, I was watching you tonight and I thought you -- I was telling everybody I thought you won. It all these guys are arguing with me. I thought you had a constant theme tonight, which was the role of huge money in American politics corrupting the system and the need for some kind of redressing and the whole thing. It was a constant thing. Can that win the election? That theme?

SANDERS: Well, the fact that the wealthy are getting richer, the fact that almost all new income and wealth in this country is going to the top 1 percent, the fact that now as a result of Citizens United that the winners and millionaires are spending huge amounts of monies to elect the candidates of their choice, that is the issue.

How do we create an economic system which works for the middle class, not billionaires? How do you create a political system where everybody can participate equally and the Koch brothers can't spend 900 million bucks?

MATTHEWS: What about the way the politicians go along. I know the game they play and you're not playing it, is they don't know about PACs, the super PACs just happened to be there with their brother in law running or something, and they don't know anything about it. Do you think they are part of the corruption? The ones that allow super PAC did become their shadow candidate -- campaign. Hillary has got one.

SANDERS: Well, more than one actually.

MATTHEWS: Is that corrupt?

SANDERS: I think the system is absolutely corrupt.

MATTHEWS: Is she corrupt?

SANDERS: No. I think she is doing what she can within the system.

MATTHEWS: But you're not. But you're not.

SANDERS: I have chosen to put, in a sense, my money where my mouth is. I have said no. I do not represent the billionaire class. I don't represent corporate America. I'm not going to take their money. And super PACs are distorting American democracy, undermining American democracy.

MATTHEWS: Didn't Obama start this when he refused the federal money back in '08, said, I'm going with the money because I got more?

SANDERS: Look, you know, everything leads to everything else, you know, blah, blah, blah.

But the point is that right now the system is corrupt. We have to overturn Citizens United. And I'll tell you something, in my view, we've got to move to public funding of elections. That's my view.

MATTHEWS: Everything you stand for is what I have believed for in the '60s, OK, and it's familiar.

SANDERS: Don't get old and cynical on me.

MATTHEWS: I'm not getting cynical.

Look, if this elections were being held four years ago, everything you said would be called class politics. You can't engage in class politics. I was just down in one of your rooms here, a bunch of kids him a people our age. Not as old, gung ho, loving what he said about billionaires.

What has changed in the last couple cycles that now it's fair game? People think there is something wrong with the billionaires calling the shots?

[crosstalk]

SANDERS: What has changed?

MATTHEWS: There are more billionaires.

SANDERS: What has changed is the reality of American life. And that is just seeing the proliferation of millionaires and billionaires. You know, you can remember, somebody is a billionaire, wow.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SANDERS: Now, they're dining with us and they are all over the place. Meanwhile, the average worker is working longer hours for lower wages. We have more kids, a higher percentage of childhood poverty than any other country on earth. So people are saying enough is enough. We need a system, a political system, economic model that works for all of us and not just very top.

MATTHEWS: Why don't more people get -- Adelson out here at the Venetian out there, he's making billions in Macau and everywhere else.

SANDERS: Right.

MATTHEWS: And he's got this little bird chirping for him, Marco Rubio.

SANDERS: That's right.

MATTHEWS: Who will sing his symphony every night to get his sweet money.

SANDERS: Chris, why are these people outrage --

MATTHEWS: He offends people as a sock puppet. Doesn't that bother people?

SANDERS: Well, it should. The Koch brothers even more. One family spending more money than the Democratic -- [crosstalk]

MATTHEWS: How many Democrats you know in New York are making tons of money as equity people, tons of money, were giving them to the Democrats? Is that one of the reasons why Hillary is a reformer rather than a revolutionary?

SANDERS: It's one of the reasons --

MATTHEWS: You said that Wall Street regulates Congress. I thought that was your best line.

SANDERS: Well, thank you.

MATTHEWS: Everybody else likes the sweetness of you helping Hillary on Benghazi. I thought your most powerful line tonight was: Congress doesn't regulate Wall Street. Most people believe that.

SANDERS: Of course. It's true. There's no doubt about it.

MATTHEWS: Why are you not leading the race?

SANDERS: Hey, if I was sitting here with you five months ago, you would have said, you are a nice guy, but you are a fringe candidate. Admit it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SANDERS: OK.

MATTHEWS: I would have said half of it.

SANDERS: No, I'm not a fringe candidate. We are winning in a few states. We're gaining. I think we are doing better and I think we've got a real shot to win this.

MATTHEWS: You used some great language in rousing your people. And that's a right word. You used revolution.

You know, are you for structural change in America like we used the term?

SANDERS: Yes, look.

MATTHEWS: That used to scare -- in other words, we are not going from a pure market system where money rules to something different.

SANDERS: Yes, absolutely. Look, I think we see some models out there. Yes, it is --

MATTHEWS: You cannot say Denmark again.

SANDERS: I'm not going to say Denmark.

MATTHEWS: Denmark it's going to give you trouble.

SANDERS: Honorary citizenship or something, I don't know --

MATTHEWS: It's a beautiful, by the way, they celebrate the Fourth of July over there. It's one country that really likes us.

SANDERS: Look, but I think everybody knows, it's not complicated. Everybody understands there is something wrong when we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world and very few people know that because they are working longer hours for lower wages and they can't afford to send their kids to college, can't afford childcare.

The people of this country, in my view him understand that we have to take on the big-money interests. That we need millions of people to begin to stand up and fight back. That is what my campaign is about.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to one thing because I think after all this Obamacare, I think we're going to end up with a single-payer system at some point. It's simple and most efficient.

SANDERS: That's right.

MATTHEWS: Where does the financing -- you are probably a paperboy, you start as a paperboy and have your first job at a drugstore. By the time you are 65 or 70, you have worked 50 years for your Medicare, for may be the last 10 years in life, your mail is fewer, OK? How do you do it if you have health care for everybody their whole lives? Where does that money come from?

SANDERS: First of all, it comes from you not having to pay any private health insurance. You know, what has been very dishonest --

MATTHEWS: That works financially? That covers our health care.

SANDERS: We are spending our dysfunctional system is the most expensive per capita in the entire world.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

SANDERS: Perfect. I should probably go out.

MATTHEWS: You got to go. By the way, this is part of the spin move. Thank you for coming.

SANDERS: Thank you, Chris.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/323467

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