Interview with Thomas Roberts of MSNBC
ROBERTS: Joining me now from the capital is presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. Sir, thanks for your time today and I want to get right to this because I need to point out that this week's NBC news polling still has you trailing in Iowa by three points. But say you win in Iowa and you get a lock in New Hampshire, do you have the campaign infrastructure and the support from the DNC to take this all the way?
SANDERS: Well, maybe not the support from the DNC, but we have the support from the American people. Thomas, as you know, we have raised more individual campaign contributions than any candidate in the history of the United States of America. 2.5 million contributions averaging $27 a piece.
So we are getting small contributions from the middle class, from working families. Not only do we have enough money to wage a very strong campaign in Iowa and in New Hampshire, we are working hard in Nevada, in South Carolina, and in many other states as well.
So to answer your question, I think the American people are tired of establishment politics, establishment economics. They want to see leadership stand up to the billionaire class. Our message is resonating all across this country. And yes, we have the energy, we have the funding to take this to the convention.
ROBERTS: I want to talk about the legal battle with the DNC coming up in a moment, but first the next Democratic debate is this Sunday on NBC News and recently Hillary Clinton hit you on the issue of guns and health care. I want to play you what she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie about those points. Take a look.
[begin video clip]
HILLARY CLINTON: One of the big ones, as you're aware, is on gun safety where Senator Sanders has been a pretty reliable vote for the gun lobby and I have been standing against them for a long time.
We have a difference on health care. I want to build on the Affordable Care Act. We have to make some changes because we have to improve it. He's been talking very generally about a single payer system. He's introduced legislation nine times that have laid out a very specific plan to take everybody's health care and roll it into great big bundle and hand it to the states.
[end video clip]
ROBERTS: So, let's start with guns on this issue...
SANDERS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let me just start off by saying that Secretary Clinton is really quite inaccurate on both of those charges. I have a D-minus - D-minus...[crosstalk]
SANDERS: ... voting record from the NRA.
SANDERS: In 1988 I probably lost a congressional election because I said maybe we should not have assault weapons being sold in America. So, to say that I'm kind of a supporter of the NRA is really a mean spirited, and unfair and inaccurate statement.
ROBERTS: Then do you regret or apologize for voting to give gun manufacturers immunity protection from lawsuits?
SANDERS: There were things in that bill that I supported, there are things in that bill that do not make sense and are wrong. And as I have said for the last several months, I am willing to absolutely take a look at the onerous parts of that bill.
But let me also say, you know, I have asked Secretary Clinton, and let me repeat it right now, in 2008 when she was running against Senator Barack Obama, he proposed expanding -- extending the life of Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income. We've taken that idea. And we say that we should expand benefits so that people in this country who are trying to get by on $12,000, $13,000 a year, elderly people, disabled vets, should see an increase in their Social Security benefits by lifting the cap above people making $250,000 a year or more.
I am waiting to hear whether Secretary Clinton has changed her views from 2008 and whether or not she will support an expansion of Social Security benefits for millions of elderly people who just cannot make it on $12,000 OR $13,000 a year.
ROBERTS: Senator Sanders, let me ask you, though, about the issue with the ACA, and Obamacare and the fact that you'd like to rip that up and get back to the beginning.
SANDERS: Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa.
ROBERTS: A single payer public health care system, correct?
SANDERS: Well, you know what, yes. Medicare for all single payer system. You know, it's funny, Thomas. Again in 2008, you may recall that then Senator Clinton was attacking then Senator Barack Obama because she supported universal health care, health care for everybody.
Well, I support that as well. And I believe that the most effective way to provide health care to every man, woman, and child in a cost effective way is through a Medicare for all singer payer system. Now she's attacking me because I support universal health care. In 2008 she was attacking Obama because Obama was attacking her because she supported universal health care.
I would hope that Secretary Clinton will tell the American people does she support universal health care. Is she prepared to end the absurdity of the American people paying far, far more per capita on health care...[crosstalk]
ROBERTS: We know that she's on the stump talking about the fact that you'd like to rip up Obamacare, which would...
SANDERS: It's not rip it up.
ROBERTS: ... make one assume that she supports it and would let the ACA stand if she were elected.
SANDERS: But the ACA...
ROBERTS: How would you pay for it?
SANDERS: First of all, we would pay for it obviously through increased premiums. Right now the American people are spending $3 trillion a year on health care, and a lot of that money is going into the private insurance companies and the drug companies which is why we pay far more per capita than do the people of any other country.
When you get rid of the private insurance companies, when you force the drug companies to lower their prices, you can provide health care for a middle class family and save thousands and thousands of dollars compared to the outrageous cost of health care today.
So, yes, we will take away and do away with private health insurance premiums and move that to public health insurance premiums. Health care is not free, but we can do a lot better in lowering the cost of health care for a middle class family than is currently the case.
ROBERTS: Sir, I want to talk to you, though, when it comes to money, we had the vice president recently praise your efforts regarding income inequality. But he also said that Clinton was, quote, "relatively new to that fight." Do you take that as a bit of an endorsement for your style on that issue from the vice president?
SANDERS: Well, you know, I have known Joe Biden for many, many years. He comes from a working class background as I do. And both of us understand that it is totally absurd that the top one-tenth of 1 percent today in America own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
That is disgraceful. I have been a leader in the fight to end income and wealth inequality. Joe Biden has been strong on that issue and I'm very, very glad that he has noticed that this is an issue that I have been leading on for many, many years.
ROBERTS: When we look at the race on the right, and we just had Donald Trump on. He sends you his warmest regards.
SANDERS: I'm sure that he does.
ROBERTS: He does. But if it were a match up between the two of you, and the fact that he's gotten very asymmetrical with his campaign attacks to Hillary Clinton over her husband's past indiscretions, is it any sign to you that you're not being attacked...
SANDERS: Well, let me just say this...
ROBERTS: ... by an asymmetrical way and that they think you could be a weaker contender in the general?
SANDERS: Well, I would suggest that Mr. Trump take a look at all of the recent polling that's been out there, not just the polling in New Hampshire and the polling in Iowa, which in match ups between Trump and myself I defeat him and defeat him very handily.
I think, Thomas, that the last New Hampshire poll had me defeating him by 19 points in New Hampshire. The last national Quinnipiac poll had me beating him 13 points nationally. I would love to run, frankly, against Donald Trump. His views on so many issues and his attitude toward minorities in this country is so different than mine. It would give me great joy not only to run against him, I think we would beat him by a pretty significant margin.
ROBERTS: You bring up New Hampshire. Yesterday Chelsea Clinton made her debut there campaigning for her mom. She was on the attack about you. Do you think that she's a powerful voice among her mother's campaign?
SANDERS: Well, you know, all I will say, I can't give a statement on that, I don't know. But I think what she said was wrong. And one of the points that she made is that a Medicare for all single payer system, which would guarantee health care to all people, her point was, well, in states where we have Republican governors, that plan would not be implemented. That is factually incorrect. And I hope the Clinton campaign stops saying that.
The way the legislation that we have introduced in the past was written, and obviously is what we believe in, is that if a Republican governor doesn't want it, it will be implemented by the federal government. This is a plan for 50 states. Bottom line here is, we are the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee health care to all people. 29 million people still have no health insurance. We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and we end up spending far, far, far more per capita on health care than do the people of any other country. That's got to change and I do believe strongly in universal health care through a Medicare for all single payer system.
ROBERTS: Senator Bernie Sanders, sir, I'm going to let you get back to work because I know you have a busy day ahead of you, but I do appreciate your time and I hope to speak to you again soon. Thank you.
SANDERS: Thank you very much, Thomas.
Bernie Sanders, Interview with Thomas Roberts of MSNBC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/323461