Bernie Sanders

Interview with Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday"

February 14, 2016

WALLACE: Senator Sanders, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

SANDERS: My pleasure.

WALLACE: There is already a fierce argument after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, Democrats say the president should name and the Senate should confirm his successor. Republicans say that should be left to the next president. Where do you stand, sir?

SANDERS: No, I think we want a full contingent on the United States Supreme Court. We are dealing with enormously important issues. The Constitution is pretty clear. The president makes the appointment, Senate confirms, let's get on with that business.

WALLACE: You disagreed with Justice Scalia on a judicial basis, not a personal basis, on almost every issue. What do you think his legacy is, sir?

SANDERS: Well, clearly, he was a brilliant man. A very colorful man. Aa very outspoken man. And I happen to respect people who are willing to come under public scrutiny and serve their country. So you're right, Chris, he and I had very different points of view, but I respect people who are willing and prepared to serve their country.

WALLACE: Senator Sanders, let's turn to politics. The Clinton campaign strategy now is that they have a firewall as the campaign turns west and south in states with much larger minority voters. She's beating you by 10 points according to the latest polls in Nevada, 30 points in South Carolina. Just how strong is the Clinton firewall?

SANDERS: Well, you know, when we began this campaign, Chris, we were at 3 percent in the polls nationally. We were 50 points behind in Iowa, 30 points behind in New Hampshire. But clearly the results in both of those states turned out to be very different than when we were -- where we were when we started.

I think we're going to surprise people in Nevada. I think we're going to surprise people in South Carolina. I am talking to you right now from Denver, Colorado, where we just had 18,000 people coming out to a rally. I think we're looking really good with a whole lot of momentum for Super Tuesday as well.

WALLACE: But when you were talking about those polls, that was six months before the voting actually took place. We're talking a week or two before the voting takes place in South Carolina and Nevada. And, also, the Clintons have such long, deep ties to the African- American community. Why should a black voter choose you over Hillary Clinton?

SANDERS: Well, I think because if you look at my life's work, if you look at the agenda and -- that we are bringing forth in terms of economics and criminal justice, this is an agenda that works for all Americans, but especially for those who are hardest hurt, hardest hit economically. We're talking about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next several years. We're talking about pay equity for women. We're talking about creating millions of decent paying jobs, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. We are talking about focusing on the outrageously high rate of youth unemployment in the African- American community. We are talking about having the United States join the rest of the industrialized world guaranteeing health care to all, making tuition at public colleges and universities free so all of our kids, regardless of income, can get the higher education that they need. And we're also tackling, in a very aggressive way, a broken criminal justice system in which we have, Chris, as a nation, more people in jail than any other major country on earth, disproportionately African-American and Latino. We need a whole lot of work to make sure that we are providing education and jobs for our kids, rather than jails and incarceration.

WALLACE: Senator, Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that is supporting Hillary Clinton, has just announced that it is going to spend $5 million now to help her instead of waiting until the general election. When you brought up that super PAC during the debate this week, she denied there was much of a relationship. Watch.

[begin video clip]

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you had a super PAC, like President Obama had, which now says it wants to support me. It's not my PAC. If you take donations from Wall Street, you can't be independent.

[end video clip]

WALLACE: Senator, how close are Clinton's ties to that super PAC and, straight out, do you believe that the millions of dollars she's gotten in campaign donations and also in speaking fees from Wall Street, do you believe that they have bought influence with Secretary Clinton?

SANDERS: Well, Chris, obviously -- I mean I don't think there is any debate, but that this super PAC is one in which the secretary has worked very, very hard to raise a whole lot money. If my memory is correct, in the last reporting period, they raised $25 million, $15 million of it coming from Wall Street.

Now, she's obviously not the only candidate out there. Many Republicans are raising huge amounts of money from Wall Street as well. You know, every candidate says, hey, all of that money coming in from Wall Street, fossil fuel industry, it doesn't impact me. Every candidate says that. Well, the question that we ask are -- is Wall Street and all of these others billionaires and wealthy individuals, are they really so dumb? Why are they contributing so much money? I'll let the American people make that decision.

WALLACE: Senator, one of the central points in your campaign, you say it over and over again, is that the American economic system is, in your words, rigged. But I want to go over some numbers with you. In 1981, the top 1 percent paid 17 percent of all income taxes. Now the top 1 percent pays 37 percent. Question, sir, if the wealthy have rigged the system, why have they done such a lousy job of it?

SANDERS: Oh, Chris, I think you are missing the major point here. And that is, what we have seen in recent years is a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 0.1 percent, whose percentage of wealth in America has doubled. We're talking about trillions of dollars going from the middle class to the top 0.1 percent.

WALLACE: But, sir, isn't a lot of that because of the economic policies of President Obama and of the Federal Reserve, which put interest rates at basically zero?

SANDERS: No. These are policies that have gone on for a long, long time on the Republican administrations and Democratic administration. Now, are we better off today than we were when President Bush left office and we were losing 800,000 jobs a month? Of course we are. But for the last 40 years, what we have been seeing is a middle class disappearing, people working longer hours for low wages and today, as it happens, 58 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. That's a rigged economy to my mind, Chris.

WALLACE: Senator, you and Hillary Clinton got into it in this last debate over universal health care, Medicare for all as you call it. You say that it's a good deal for the American people.

[begin video clip]

SANDERS: The family right in the middle of the economy would pay $500 more in taxes and get a reduction in their health care costs of $5,000.

[end video clip]

WALLACE: But, senator, Kenneth Thorpe (ph), who's a health care expert, who, in fact, helped devise the single payer plan in Vermont, says that you're wrong. That, in fact, your plan comes up about $1 trillion a year short and that 71 percent of families would be worse off under your plan than they are under the current system.

SANDERS: Well, Kenneth Thorpe can say whatever he wants to say. A lot of the assumptions that he made in his analysis are absolutely incorrect. Chris, here's where we are as a nation. This is not debatable. We have 29 million people without any health insurance. We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Millions of our people have huge deductibles and co-payments. And, yet, per capita, we are spending almost three times more than the British, who cover all their people, 50 percent more than the French, and far more than the Canadians.

WALLACE: Kenneth Thorpe says that it's exactly -- the problems with your plan are exactly the reason that you're own state of Vermont had to drop single payer.

SANDERS: Kenneth Thorpe, I mean, you know, you've quote one guy. I think there was just a piece in one of the newspapers today by some of the most -- foremost experts on single payer systems who really denounced Kenneth Thorpe and his analysis. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Thorpe.

WALLACE: Finally, sir, the Republicans have held debates on all the networks, but the Democrats, so far, have refused to hold a debate on Fox. You are coming on here tonight. We're very grateful. I hope you feel that you haven't been mistreated. Would you be willing to participate in a Democratic debate on Fox News?

SANDERS: If we went -- were clear to understand what the game -- the guidelines were and what the rules were and to make sure that they were fair and the DNC was in favor of it, I would have no objection.

WALLACE: Well, you -- I assume you've seen this interview we just did. I hope you've seen the interviews we've done with the Republicans.

SANDERS: Well, I have seen this interview -- Chris, I have seen this interview, but I have also seen other interviews. So if I could have a guarantee and knew who the questioners were and if the framework for the debate was fair, I would have no objection.

WALLACE: Well, I'll take that as a definite maybe. Senator Sanders, we want to thank you so much for coming on. Please come back, sir.

SANDERS: OK. Thank you very much, Chris.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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