Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News' "Meet the Press"
TODD: Bernie Sanders is spending the weekend campaigning in Maryland ahead of Tuesday's primaries. It's been a tough week for Sanders, whose chances of beating Hillary Clinton received a near-fatal blow after he was convincingly beaten in the New York primary.
Sanders has vowed to fight on but he needs to win the remaining contests by some big margins to have any chance of catching Clinton at the Philadelphia convention. I sat down with him in Baltimore yesterday and I started by asking him about his differences that still remain with Hillary Clinton.
TODD: Hillary Clinton, the other night in her victory speech after New York, said this:
[begin video clip]
HILLARY CLINTON: And to all the people who supported Senator Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us.
[end video clip]
TODD: Do you agree with her on that?
SANDERS: I think there is a lot that unites us. I think there's a lot that divides us. I think the fact that all of us are in agreement that Donald Trump would be a disaster for this country if he became president unites us.
The fact that we understand, for example, that climate change is real while Republican opponents ignore that reality unites us.
But on the other hand, I think what divides us is the understanding on the part of millions of people who are supporting my candidacy that it really is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.
We have to deal in a very substantive way with income and wealth inequality. We need to understand why we're the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people, not to have paid family and medical leave and that we have to deal aggressively with a corrupt campaign finance system, which allows big money interests to buy elections.
Those are areas, I think, of difference.
TODD: Well, it's interesting you say they're differences. If she were here, she would say I agree with you on campaign finance. I agree with you on Medicare. I agree with you on --
SANDERS: No, no, but that's not --
TODD: She would say she agrees with those goals.
SANDERS: -- well, we all agree with goals. I mean, I suppose everybody has general understanding, you know, that we don't want to see a nuclear war and so forth.
But I think that I believe in a Medicare for all, single-pay or program that guarantees health care to all people. I have not only shown by talk but by walking the walk that you can run a campaign, a strong, winning national campaign, getting millions of individuals to make small campaign contributions.
That has not been Secretary Clinton's approach. We have not been dependent on big money interests. And that is perhaps the most important thing because I'm not quite sure that you're ever going to change this country, ever going to take on the billionaire class, ever going to create a government that works for the middle class so long as you're dependent on Wall Street money and big money interests.
TODD: You wake up the day after the convention and you're not the nominee.
Do you look in the mirror and say this was a successful campaign?
SANDERS: Well, obviously, our goal now is, while we have a narrow path to victory, we're going to fight for the -- through that path. We hope to win. But I think the fact that we have shown that there is massive dissatisfaction in this country with the status quo, that people want to think bigger, that people understand that when you have 20 people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom 150 million people, that people are showing in this campaign the desire to stand up and fight back, the fact that we have brought millions of young people, who, I think many of the pundits had thought were kind of apathetic, not interested in politics, well, you know what?
These young people know they're the future of this country. They want to shape the future. And I'm very proud that we have been able to bring them into the political process.
TODD: You just described it as a narrow path.
So what it is?
Explain it to me.
SANDERS: Well, we're going to have to do -- obviously win big in the number of the primaries and caucuses that yet remain. A poll came out yesterday that had us within striking distance in California, our largest lead. I think we could do very well in California.
TODD: But it starts with winning some states here, winning a Pennsylvania, winning --
SANDERS: Well, bottom line, the arithmetic is you have to win delegates. That's what it means. We have won --
TODD: Well, in this case, it means big primary wins.
SANDERS: Right. We have won 1,200 delegates. And, by the way, when we talk about the campaign, you know, we started this campaign 60, 65 points behind Secretary Clinton in national polls; now many of these polls have us even, a few points ahead, perhaps. Many of the polls now show us -- and this is an important point, Chuck.
When Democrats look out into the horizon, what unites us is the understanding that Trump would be a disastrous president. Look at the polls. Bernie Sanders runs better against Trump in almost all of these polls than does Hillary Clinton.
TODD: But she runs well, too.
SANDERS: She runs well, too. [crosstalk]
TODD: Does that hurt your cause a little bit?
It's like, yes, you do better. But she runs pretty well, too.
SANDERS: Well, I think the answer is, depending on the polls -- and polls are polls. I don't want to go crazy on polls.
But I think many Democrats are convinced that what is most important is defeating Donald Trump. And I believe the objective evidence is that I'm the stronger candidate.
TODD: I was just going to say, at the end of the day, you feel like you were given a fair shot at this nomination?
SANDERS: Yes. We took advantage of the opportunities in front of us. We are in the race, we're not writing our obituary. We're in this race until California and we're proud of the campaign we ran.
TODD: Quite some interesting numbers here. So 17 of the 25 states with the highest levels of income inequality have held primaries; 16 of those 17 states have been won by Hillary Clinton, not by you.
SANDERS: Well, because poor people don't vote. I mean, that's just a fact. That's a sad reality of American society. And that's what we have to transform.
We have what, as you know, one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country on Earth. We have done a good job bringing young people in. I think we have done -- had some success with lower income people.
But in America today, in the last ,election in 2014, 80 percent of poor people did not vote.
TODD: You feel as if you could find a way to get people that are fighting at that poverty line, either just below it or just above it, if they were getting engaged in the process, you would do better?
SANDERS: If we could significantly increase voter turnout so that low income people and working people and young people particular in the political process, that if we could have a voter turnout of 75 percent, this country would be radically transformed.
TODD: President Obama is getting a little bit of criticism in the U.K. for speaking out against -- he doesn't want to see British citizens vote to take the U.K. out of the E.U.
First of all, where are you on that?
And second of all, would you insert yourself into the campaign?
SANDERS: Well, I'll let the British people make their own decisions on that.
TODD: So you don't think the president should be commenting on this?
SANDERS: The president has every right to comment on what he wants. Though I'm a candidate for president right now, I'm not going to --
TODD: So as president, you would not have --
SANDERS: I didn't say that. He is the president.
Do you have a view?
SANDERS: -- candidate for president.
TODD: Do you have a view on this?
SANDERS: Not a significant one. I'll let the people -- you know, I think the U.K. -- the European Union obviously is a very, very important institution. But ultimately, you know, people of Britain have got to make their own decisions. I would hope that they stay in but that's their decision.
TODD: Why are you against the consumption tax, the soda tax in Philadelphia that would pay for pre-K?
TODD: Hillary Clinton is for it.
SANDERS: Yes. I'll tell you why, because it is a totally regressive tax. And right now, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the wealthy are getting wealthier, many of them pay an effective tax rate lower than working people. You have large multinational corporations not paying a nickel in federal taxes.
That's where you get the money. Somebody who's making $20,000 a year and they buy a bottle of soda, I don't think you charge them 30 cents more for that bottle of soda. Now the goal of universal health care, universal child care, absolutely something that I strongly agree on and I applaud the mayor there for coming forward.
But raise the money in a way that is progressive, not on the backs of low-income or working people.
TODD: So you must be against cigarette taxes, too, then?
SANDERS: No, I'm not. Cigarette taxes are -- there's a difference between cigarettes and soda. I'm aware of the obesity problem in this country.
TODD: I don't think Michael Bloomberg would agree with you on that one.
SANDERS: Well, that's fine. He can have his -- a point of view. But cigarettes are causing cancer, obviously, and a dozen other diseases and, you know, there's almost a question as to why it remains a legal product in this country.
TODD: Let me wrap it up, a question this way.
Do you feel as if, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and you're not but Donald Trump is the opponent, do you have a responsibility to do what it takes to get your voters to support Hillary Clinton?
SANDERS: I will do everything that I can to make certain that Donald Trump is not elected president.
But the -- if that's scenario plays out, the major responsibility will be on Secretary Clinton to convince all people, not just my supporters, that she is the kind of president this country needs to represent working people in this country, to take on the big money interests, who have so much power, to fight for what the American people want.
TODD: Your supporters are, for the most part, whenever I -- very skeptical of Hillary Clinton. Very, very skeptical. Tougher on her, frankly, than you ever are. People talk about all this back and forth.
What do you think -- what is your advice to her on winning your voters over?
SANDERS: Well, I think she's going to have to be very explicit about supporting a program which stands up for the needs of the middle class and working families, which, most importantly, makes it clear that she is prepared to take on Wall Street in a very clear way, take on the billionaire class, come up with a program that makes health care for all in this country a right within the next several years.
I think those are some of the issues she's going to have to bring forth.
Bernie Sanders, Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News' "Meet the Press" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/323490