Bernie Sanders photo

Interview with Ed Schultz of MSNBC Regarding Statement of Presidential Candidacy

April 30, 2015

Schultz: A gentleman who has appeared on the program quite often joins us tonight, backing up a big announcement.

Earlier today, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders officially announced he will run as a Democrat for the President of the United States. This makes Senator Sanders the first Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton.

Many will view this as a good day for democracy and the backdrop of all of this today is activism in numerous cities across America. You're looking live at a march in Philadelphia today after marches and protests in New York City last night; this seems to have taken on a life of its own.

There will be marches later on today in Baltimore, but this is the scene in Philadelphia. And we start our interview tonight with Senator Sanders on this topic.

Senator, good to have you with us.

Sanders: Great to be with you.

Schultz: Congratulations on this announcement. Certainly, it is a big challenge for you, but I want to go right to today's news, Senator. You're now President of the United States. You see what's unfolding on American streets.

What's the problem as you see it, what's the solution?

Sanders: Well, the problem is that for many years, police brutality and the killing of innocent people has not been dealt with. That's a fact. The good news is that the American people, not just the African American community, are saying enough is enough, you can't hold people in custody and suddenly find out they're dead. You can't shoot people in the back

You know, in South Carolina, a conservative Southern state, a police officer was charged with murder. I'm a former mayor. I know that being a cop is not an easy job. But when police officers misbehave, they've got to be held accountable.

The other good news is that all over this country, when people are beginning to stand up and say enough is enough, change is taking about.

You ask me what I would do as president? Number one, we would fight hard for police reform, for body cameras, for the training that police officers need to know how to treat people who are in captivity with respect.

But the underlying issue in terms of Freddie Gray's community, as I understand it, do you know what the unemployment rate is there?

Schultz: It's extremely high. [crosstalk] — and they've lost so many manufacturing jobs over the last 15 years, the city, the community has not found a way to deal with it.

Sanders: And you can have every police officer in America being a Harvard Law School graduate and you're not going to address this issue unless we give people some hope, unless we give people some opportunity. That means jobs, education, you can't turn your back on neglected parts of America.

Schultz: What would you do if you're president when it comes to revitalizing communities like this that are having socioeconomic problems?

Sanders: We've already introduced legislation, for a start we would invest a trillion dollars in our infrastructure. Putting 13 million — creating 13 million new jobs, rebuilding our roads and bridges, water systems, wastewater plants to create a whole lot of jobs.

I've introduce with Congressman John Conyers of Michigan a $5.5 billion job training, job creating program for young people. Youth unemployment in America is 17 percent. African American youth unemployment is totally off the charts. We've got to put young people to work. We've got to give them an education rather than putting them in jail.

Schultz: What did you think of the riots the other night?

I want to know, has the social structure gotten to the point where this is the only outlet these people had at that particular time?

I've heard of a lot of officials say, well, this is in Baltimore, they're peaceful for a week until the cameras showed up. But it did happen. The riots did happen and it was in Baltimore.

So what's the solution?

Sanders: This is what I think. I think there's a massive amount of anger and discontent. I think it has more than just what happened to Freddie Gray. I think it is people are saying, how come we are living in the richest country in the history of the world, our kids can't go to college, we don't have child care for our kids, we don't have any jobs. I think that's significantly what it's about.

Schultz: All right. Senator, why are you running, doing this?

Sanders: I tell you why I'm doing it. This is my first day out there, and I'm feeling good about it. This country today, Ed, faces more crises than we have faced since the Great Depression and if you throw in climate change, which the scientists are telling us is the major global crisis that we face, is probably worse off than we were in the Great Depression.

I don't see people talking about this issue. I don't see politicians working on this issue. And I think it's time that we address it. And getting back to your point. The only way that change takes place in my view is when millions of people stand up and say, enough is enough. And it's not just with police brutality. Enough is enough when the great middle class of this country is disappearing.

How does it happen that we have more technology and increased productivity and people are working longer hours for low wages and we have more people living in poverty than almost anytime in the history of America?

How does that happen?

How does it happen that 99 percent of all new income in this country goes to the top 1 percent?

How does it happen that the top tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent?

These are the central issues facing this country and on top of that as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, we are at a moment where billionaires are about to buy the United States government and undermine American democracy.

Schultz: So why would you be a better president, a better nominee than Hillary Clinton?

Sanders: Well I'll let Hillary Clinton speak for herself.

Schultz: Let's talk about how she's handled a big issue, and that is trade. Today, her communications team or at least an excerpt from her book saying that she stands with Elizabeth Warren when it comes to trade and did an excerpt.

I think the American people are looking more for a direct answer, which you have been very direct on this. You are against Trade Promotional Authority and you are against the TPP. Because the TPA would lead to a bad trade deal.

So where do you stand on this?

And right after President Obama, after the midterms took place and the Republicans took over the Senate, this is the first thing that Mitch McConnell talked about the day after press conference, saying there's areas that they can work on with the president, one of them is trade. That was supposed to be a slam dunk.

We're now almost at May 1st and they don't have the votes in the House.

Does that give you any confidence [inaudible] help you?

[crosstalk]

Sanders: Absolutely. I've been going around the country, talking about the trade issue. I don't have to talk about it. People increasingly know about it. And they are saying, look, NAFTA was a disaster. CAFTA was a disaster. Permanent noble trade relations with China was a disaster.

Why do we want to continue down a path where the previous agreements have led to the loss of millions of decent paying jobs?

So if you're asking me should the American worker be forced to compete against somebody in Vietnam who has a minimum wage of 56 cents an hour, you know what the answer is?

No. We've got to demand that corporate America start reinvesting in the United States of America, not China. It is a huge issue. I voted against all of these agreements. I will help lead the opposition against the TPP.

Schultz: What about the money, can you raise enough money to run a competitive campaign?

Sanders: One of the hesitancies I had about going forward was just that. Clearly, I'm not going to have anywhere near the same amount of money as the other candidates who are going to be probably raising over a billion dollars, but you know what?

I think that we can raise a lot of small donations today. We opened up our website. We announced candidacy, berniesanders.com. I believe in the first hours, we've raised over half a million dollars. So I think there is a lot of potential out there from people who say, Bernie, I can't give you a million dollars or a thousand dollars, I can give you $50. I think we can raise the money we need to run a strong campaign.

Schultz: So to run a campaign, there's an admission here you certainly won't have the television presence that Hillary Clinton's campaign will have, and I have to keep bringing up Hillary Clinton because she's the only one in the race besides you. And it might turn out to be that's just it.

So what do you think it takes to run a competitive campaign to organize?

Sanders: I'll tell you what it takes. What it requires is and what I have always done in Vermont is run strong grassroots campaigns. Last campaign I ran, I didn't put a nickel, not a nickel on TV ads. We put all of our money into grassroots organizations. I got 71 percent of the vote.

So I think what we have to do is go out there, get good organizers, build a strong volunteer base, work with the labor movement, work with the environmental community, work with the women's community and mobilize people in all across this country to stand up and fight back to the billionaires.

Schultz: Do you expect the support of labor?

Sanders: I think we will have certainly some labor, absolutely.

Schultz: Some?

Sanders: It's hard to say at this point. I have talked to some of the unions. Some of them are sympathetic. Some of them may not be. We will see.

Schultz: But they're all against the TPP.

Sanders: Without exception.

Schultz: All of them?

Sanders: Every single union.

Schultz: This is their issue.

Sanders: Rich Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO recently reported and said, again, this is a key issue for the AFL-CIO.

Schultz: How would President Bernie Sanders be different from President Obama?

Sanders: I'll tell you. First of all, I have a lot of respect for President Obama. He's a friend. I have disagreed with him on tax policy. I was on the floor of the Senate a few years ago for 8.5 hours, arguing that he should not continue some of Bush's tax breaks for the rich.

And obviously, we have strong disagreements on the TPP. Where I think the president has made his biggest mistake is that after his historic and brilliant 2008 presidential campaign, in which he rallied the American people, brought young people into the political process, what he did after he was elected is kind of say, hey, thanks a lot. I appreciate it. You're gone.

And now I'm going to sit down and argue and try to negotiate with John Boehner. I think that was a terrible mistake because here's the truth, Ed. And I'm the only candidate maybe will ever say this. No president, not the smartest, best human being in the world can do it alone.

You cannot take on this, the power that is in Washington, the billionaires and their lobbyists and the military industrial complex, all this money and power, you can't do it. You need a mass movement of Americans who are looking in Congress and will say directly, if you don't make college education affordable, you're out of here. Because we know it's going on.

If you don't end these huge tax breaks for the rich, you're out of here. So what we have got to do — and I call it a political revolution — is raise political consciousness in this country. Make people aware of what's going on in Washington, the importance of politics, get them involved in the political process and have them stand up to the big money and trust them today have so much power.

Schultz: If you're President of the United States, what would be your policy in dealing with ISIS?

Sanders: This is what I think. ISIS is obviously a barbaric organization that has to be defeated, but I will do everything that I can to prevent the United States getting involved in another war in that country. Two wars is enough. We —

Schultz: Can they be defeated without a ground war?

Sanders: No, but I think the people who have to wage the ground war are not troops from the United States of America. You have Saudi Arabia sitting right in that area, which has — nobody knows this — the third largest military budget in the world. Third largest. You have other very wealthy and powerful countries sitting in that region.

They have got to wage the fight for the soul of Islam. We should be supportive along with other European countries. Give them support. I support airstrikes, special missions, but at the end of the day, it's going to be — have to be the Muslim nations themselves who are leading the fight with our support.

Schultz: You say you support airstrikes.

What about the use of drones and the way they're handled in the Obama administration?

Can they do that?

Sanders: Well, I don't think it's a yes or no. Clearly, it has been counterproductive when we kill innocent people, including Americans. But they are one tool that I think is in the arsenal but clearly, in many instances, they have backfired on us.

Schultz: So drone strikes would continue then if you were president?

Sanders: In a very selective way.

Schultz: Would the policy change, would there be a different vetting process on how to get to that?

Sanders: Look, we have had some success with drones and we have had a lot of failures with drones. I think we have to reanalyze what we're doing there.

Schultz: Senator Sanders, you have been really the fighter out front and the leader when it comes to the conversation of income inequality in America. Wall Street.

Would you be in favor of reinstating or advocating for the reimplementation of Glass-Steagall, was that the beginning of our problems, the break-up of the commercial and investment banks?

Sanders: Well, Ed, if you want to go to YouTube, you can see a dialogue I had when I was in the House with Alan Greenspan and taking him on, he was talking about all of the wonderful benefits of the deregulation of Wall Street. I told him he was dead wrong then and he was.

I was, as a member of the House, one of the leaders in opposition of this deregulation, I think it was a tragic mistake. But this is what I'll tell you. I would go further than just reinstating Glass-Steagall. I think what we've got to appreciate is when we have six financial institutions that have assets equivalent to about 60 percent of the GDP of America, you know what? Let's be honest. You can't regulate that.

Schultz: You'd break up the banks.

Sanders: Absolutely. Absolutely. If they're too big to fail, they're too big to exist. They are issuing 50 percent of the mortgages and two-thirds of the credit cards in this country.

If Teddy Roosevelt were the president, what do you think he'd do?

Schultz: Well, he's probably do that.

Sanders: That's right.

Schultz: OK.

Senator Sanders, stay with us.

[commercial break]

Schultz: From the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, to the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders has taken a very interesting and clear path to this very day. The senator joins me again this evening here on THE ED SHOW.

Senator, we never talk about you that much. We're always talking about issues.

Why did you get into politics?

Why are you doing this for a living?

Sanders: You know, Ed, I grew up in a lower middle class family. My dad came to this country from Poland without a nickel in his pocket and he never made much money. We lived in a 3.5-room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn before I moved to Vermont.

It was clear to me as a kid, the impact that money had on my family, the stress, the arguments that my parents had, seeing other kids having benefits that certain other kids didn't have. And so from my earliest years I understood the importance of income security, the need for people to have at least a minimum standard of living to enjoy the kind of life that they're entitled to. That's kind of what's motivated me.

Schultz: That's motivated you throughout the years.

Sanders: I never forgot those experiences.

Schultz: Hey, it's interesting. Some of the sound bites that you had back in yesteryear matched to your philosophy today.

Has it always been that way?

Sanders: Yes, the people of Vermont will tell you, oh, god, not again, he's saying the same thing for 30 years, but here's what —

Schultz: Your focus on issues is the same —

Sanders: — but the other thing that I think the report indicated, more and more people are catching on. I was talking about these issues 20 years ago before it was popular but this issue of income and wealth inequality, Ed, it's not only an economic issue or a political issue, it's a moral issue. It is a moral issue.

And by the way, you know the guy who speaks about that most forcefully in this world? It's the pope, Pope Francis. He raises this as a moral issue.

Are we content to have the highest rate in this country of childhood poverty and at the same time have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires? That is a moral issue and I think the American people say, no, that's not who we are as a people.

Schultz: When you go to Iowa and you say that, what's your reaction?

What's the reaction of the folks?

Sanders: I got to tell you, it may be self-serving and it's people who come out to our meetings. But the response has been really extraordinary. Not only in Iowa, all over this country. People are saying enough is enough. Think about all the things we can do as a nation.

Why we can't we guarantee health care to all people, when every other major country does it?

In Germany, many other countries, college tuition is free.

Why isn't it free in America?

Why do we have the highest rate of childhood poverty when other countries have rates much lower than we have?

Why don't we have pay equity for women workers?

Why aren't we leading the world in transforming our energy system in terms of climate change? We could do that.

Are we dumb? Are we lazy? Not the case.

Schultz: I want to focus on college. It is expensive. It's exorbitant at this point. Students get out, strapped with debt. The American dream escapes them early on if they're ever going to own their own home and have any kind of financial independence.

What would you do differently?

Sanders: I'll tell you what I would do exactly and we're going to introduce legislation to do it. It will cost us about $70 billion a year of federal money or money in general to provide free tuition in every public college and university in America, $70 billion a year.

The Republicans want to give $269 billion in tax breaks to the richest 5,000 families by eliminating the estate tax. We lose $110 billion every year because corporations stash their money in the Cayman Islands and pay nothing in federal taxes.

I happen to believe if we're going to be competitive in the global economy, we need the best educated workforce, we need to encourage kids to go to college, graduate school, regardless of their income. We can come up with that money and that's what I'll be fighting for.

Schultz: What's on your schedule the next week?

Sanders: We're going to be speaking to the AFL-CIO on Saturday in New Hampshire. We have a brunch in Manchester, New Hampshire on Sunday. We'll be doing a national TV show.

We'll be working very hard in the United States Senate on the ranking member of the Budget Committee. This Republican budget is beyond belief. Tax breaks for billionaires, cuts for working families, throwing 27 million people off of health insurance. We'll raise hell about that issue as well.

Schultz: All right. Senator Bernie Sanders, obviously we'll visit again. Great to have you with us tonight. Thank you so much.

Sanders: Great to be with you.

Bernie Sanders, Interview with Ed Schultz of MSNBC Regarding Statement of Presidential Candidacy Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/310833

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