Bernie Sanders

Remarks with Chris Matthews at the MSNBC "Hardball" College Tour at the University of Chicago

February 25, 2016

MATTHEWS: Well, I didn't know I was going to do this, Senator. Thank you for doing this.

But I have to ask you the meaning of those lyrics to you, Woody Guthrie?

SANDERS: Just turns out yesterday we were in Oklahoma.

Woody Guthrie means a lot to me. He was one of the great song writers in modern American history. There's a museum in Oklahoma, Tulsa, for him.

We use his song, "This Land is Your Land" at many of our rallies. I think what he did is capture the spirit of working Americans, of poor people. In an extraordinary way, he brought together people like Ledbetter, Pete Seeger and Woody -- and others to create a whole moment for folk music in this country. An extraordinary man.

MATTHEWS: I know that you did an album --

SANDERS: Oh, God, please. [laughter] You're using Woody Guthrie's name and my name in an album, not a good idea, no. [laughter]

MATTHEWS: Well, this could be serious business. The presidency of the United States, the American presidency, has four hats the way I can figure.

The first hat, of course, is chief executive, responsibility of the entire federal government and its efficiency and honesty. Secondly, head of state. You represent the American people to the world and to themselves. Head of government through your legislative program.

And the one I want to talk about first is commander-in-chief.

SANDERS: Well, you forgot one important thing, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Go for it.

SANDERS: To represent the American people.


SANDERS: Represent working people and poor people and elderly. People who are being shafted today who need in the wealthiest country in the history of the world the right to have a decent standard of living and the right know that their government is not controlled by billionaires in a corrupt campaign finance system.

So, one of the reasons I'm running for president, everything you said is true, is to transform American society to take on a corrupt campaign finance system, a rigged economy and a broken criminal justice system. So, when I look at what my agenda is, it's everything that you said --


SANDERS: -- but it's more than that.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the role of commander-in-chief however. Can you see yourself -- I've heard -- your speeches are resounding and you have a powerful message and an agenda probably clear than most candidates have ever had. When it comes to the job, it brings certainly responsibilities you may not look for, but you're going to get.

SANDERS: Of course.

MATTHEWS: Sitting in the Situation Room, calling in a lethal drone strike. Can you see yourself in that position now?

SANDERS: Absolutely, absolutely.

Look, I am very proud of my achievement in terms of foreign. I've been all over the world, talked to a whole lot of people.

Chris, as you well know, the most important decision that Congress made in many, many years in terms of foreign policy was the war in Iraq.

Now, it's not just that I voted against the war, which is the right vote. It's not that I led the opposition, helped lead the opposition against the war.

Check out what I said on the floor of the House. Check out what I feared would happen the day after Saddam Hussein, a vicious dictator, was overthrown. Pretty good judgment. And I think when you talk about my views now and how we destroy ISIS through a coalition, through Muslim troops on the ground, I think my positions are pretty clear and in fact right.

MATTHEWS: How do we -- you as the president convince potential adversaries and current ones that we're not a country and you're not a person to be messed with? How do you establish that -- remember, Kennedy got in trouble because of the Bay of Pigs then came the Cuban missile crisis. Once you look weak, then they come at you.

SANDERS: Well --

MATTHEWS: How do you deal with that?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, I don't know that I accept your basic assumptions here. Obviously, anyone who knows my political history, I've taken on every special interest in this country. I am fairly tough guy. When I was mayor of Burlington, I take on everybody.


SANDERS: I am prepared to take on Putin and everybody else. But let's --

MATTHEWS: How do you let them know that?

SANDERS: You let them know that we have the strongest military in the world. We have a great military and we are prepared to use that when necessary.

But let me also say, that I think the kind of regime change the United States has brought forth over many, many years has been counterproductive, all right? It's not the war in Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, that was a terrible mistake, leading to where we are today.

You go way back and you talk about the overthrowing of Mossadegh. You remember Mossadegh in Iran?

MATTHEWS: We were wrong about it.

SANDERS: Oh, he was -- he wanted to nationalize oil there. The British were upset. The Eisenhower administration worked with him. And you know we ended up with Khomeini? All right?

We overthrew Salvador Allende in Chile, who was elected democratically. And you know what we ended up with? A lot of anti-American sentiment in Latin America.

So, what foreign policy is about is not just power. It is judgment. I think we got to be a little bit careful about regime change.

Hillary Clinton sees as a mentor of hers, Henry Kissinger.

So, let me be very clear: I do not see Henry Kissinger as a mentor of mine. I think he was one of the worst secretaries of state in the history of this country.

MATTHEWS: Well, let's add to the list, Arbenz down in Guatemala.

SANDERS: That's right, exactly.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about that.

Let's talk about Trujillo. We had something to do with that baby.

SANDERS: That's right.

MATTHEWS: And something to do probably with Patrice Lumumba. We had a long history of -- but now we have something as you say regime change. So, instead of unofficial or official assassination policy, we now have a regime change policy.

You know I'm looking at Libya, what did you think of that?

SANDERS: Not much.

MATTHEWS: We ended up killing the leaders anyway. We got rid of Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein --

SANDERS: And what happened? What happened the day after?

Look, you know, Saddam Hussein, a brutal murdering thug, no question about it. A Gadhafi equal, bad guy.

So, Hillary Clinton and other people worked hard. They got rid of him. He was killed.

And what happened right now? ISIS now has a foothold in Libya, which can be a testing ground, an operational strength, stronghold for them in terrorist attacks.

So, here's the point. All of us agree you have a lot of bad, bad people running countries around the world. But it's not good enough to say Assad is a terrible guy. He is.

What happens the day after Assad is gone? What is the best way to transition to democracy?

So, on this area, I would say Hillary Clinton and I have a difference. It's not just the war in Iraq which she supported, I opposed. It is -- I'm a little more cautious in terms of regime change.

MATTHEWS: So, you're sitting in the White House and you're reading the op-ed page in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal", and they start the drum beat for another regime change. You know what happened last time, page after page --

SANDERS: You got it, man.

MATTHEWS: -- day after day, they start pounding the door. They said, "We got to get rid of Bashar Assad." What do you do?

SANDERS: You stand up to them.

Look, you're absolutely right. The war drums for the war in Iraq, I remember like it was yesterday.


SANDERS: Initially, the American people were very nervous about that war. You remember that?

MATTHEWS: I remember it all.

SANDERS: And the media kept pounding, well, you've got to be tough and he's a terrible guy and they have weapons of mass destruction.

The trick is not just to understand that we've got a lot of bad people around the world. The trick is to understand what happens the day after you get rid of those people. This is a lesson I think I have learned not just from Iraq. It's a lesson I knew a long, long time ago.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about an alternative world if you were president after 9/11. 9/11 happened, let's go back, I know there's really good arguments to be made that if you're secretary of state, you came in, and said, al Qaeda is about to attack United States, you probably would have done something.



SANDERS: Of course.

MATTHEWS: OK, let's talk about afterwards. The president had the country united. He stood down there at Ground Zero. He had the firefighter right next to him. Everybody was with him. He went to Afghanistan.

Would you have done that? Would you have done that?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, what you want is -- and what I believe also very importantly, if what the lesson of Iraq is, very simply, United States of America cannot and should not be doing it alone. You can't do it alone.

You need coalition. You need coalition. And especially when you're dealing with countries and Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria, you need people on the ground.

And this is -- I understand, this is tough stuff.


SANDERS: President Obama --

MATTHEWS: What happens when nobody joins your posse?

SANDERS: Well --

MATTHEWS: Korea, they joined us. We had the Turks on our side. We had South Koreans fighting on our side.

SANDERS: We are not the policeman of world. We've got people sleeping out on the street a few blocks away from here. You've got 29 people who have no health insurance.


SANDERS: We are spending more money than the following bottom that the next nine countries of this world on the military. So, yes, we have got to be strong. We have got to protect our allies around the world. We have to protect ourselves from the dangers of terrorisms. No ifs, buts and maybes.

My foreign policy would be a little different I think than Secretary Clintons.

MATTHEWS: So, if we don't have allies, we don't go?

SANDERS: Look, you're asking me a hypothetical. But in general --

MATTHEWS: No, we have a situation now where nobody is going to help with ISIS.

SANDERS: Look, what I am telling you --

MATTHEWS: It's not hypothetical, Senator. Nobody is joining us in fighting ISIS. There's nobody over there on the ground fighting.

SANDERS: Well, they damn well better start working with us.

MATTHEWS: Nobody from our side.

SANDERS: That's not quite true. That's not quite true.

MATTHEWS: Well, we have --

SANDERS: It's not quite true. You have King Abdullah of Jordan that's making it very clear the way you destroy ISIS is with Muslim troops on the ground. We have got to provide air supports and other types of supports.

MATTHEWS: But are they there? Are the Jordanians fighting?

SANDERS: We have to build that -- we are making, as you know, thank God, a little bit of progress.

Now, nobody here believes that the Iraqi army has been an effective fighting force. But the truth is, finally, with American help, they were able to retake Ramadi, as you know. ISIS has lost 40 percent of the territory it controlled in Iraq over the last year. So, maybe, knock on wood, we are making progress.

MATTHEWS: Why did we tear apart the Iraqi army?

SANDERS: Well, don't ask me. I mean, ask the Bush administration.

You're right. You know, so what we said to the Baath people, "Well, you're terrible, awful people. You're not going to lose your jobs. You're going to lose your money." Right? "Your income, you're not going to be able the take care of your family."

Aren't we shocked?

MATTHEWS: And they all joined ISIS.


MATTHEWS: What a shock that was.

SANDERS: OK. Let's talk about. This is a tough one and I don't have the answer that's why I'm giving you the question, all right?

Gitmo. There are people in Gitmo -- we can argue about the numbers. There's numbers of men down there, men, who we're scared of. We think they are true terrorists. We know they're going to get us the minute we let them go, but we can't bring them to court for lack of evidence, because they may not have committed a crime by our laws.

What do we do with them?

Well, you shut down -- I think the president is right. You shut down Gitmo.

MATTHEWS: But what do you do with these people?

SANDERS: Well, you --

MATTHEWS: Dangerous people you can't convict.

SANDERS: Well, you put them in American jails and you do the best -- look --

MATTHEWS: What happens though when the ACLU, good organization, comes forward and says, these people deserve a trial, you have to release them? I know it happens because they're on U.S. territory. Isn't that we have on Gitmo, so they're not in U.S. territory?

SANDERS: Well, I actually visited Gitmo. You know, I was there. And all I can tell you is that Gitmo is -- sends a signal to the entire Muslim world, the much of the world, the United States talks a good game about democracy, but take a look at Gitmo. You know, they're running a prison camp. So --

MATTHEWS: But what do you do with these guys?

SANDERS: I don't -- I don't have all the answers but I do believe we should shut down Gitmo.

MATTHEWS: But if we let them go under your watch then you're responsible for their conduct.

SANDERS: They're not going to go and I'm not going to let them go and start, you know, waging terrorist attacks against the United States.

Let me get to one point.

MATTHEWS: Sure, good.

SANDERS: All those issues are important. Let me get to an issue that's more important, if I might, all right? And that issue is we're going to change nothing in the United States unless we address a corrupt campaign finance system.

And I'll tell you something very interesting, Chris. You know, I go all over the country as I campaign. You know what I find, it's not just progressives. It is conservatives.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

SANDERS: OK? Who are saying, what is going on in America when you have billionaires now spending unlimited sums of money buying elections?

And what this campaign is about is trying to bring about a political revolution.


SANDERS: Because I acknowledge at every speech that I give is that no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else can do it alone.

And you know why? Because Wall Street and corporate America and the big campaign donors and the corporate media, by the way, are so powerful that we are not going to change America unless millions of people stand up and fight back. That is the most important issue.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about that when we come back.

I want to focus on you would get a Supreme Court associate justice nominee, at least given respect by the Republican-dominated Senate.

SANDERS: That's right.

MATTHEWS: Because without doing that, you can't change the court, you can't get rid of Citizens United.

We'll be right back with Senator Bernie Sanders. [applause]

We're live at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics with "Hardball" college tour.

[commercial break]


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to the "Hardball" tour with Senator Bernie Sanders in University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

We were talking about Citizens United. And it's a big issue for you and the country, I agree. The question is, how do we replace the Supreme Court seat left by Antonin Scalia? How do you get the Republican leadership led by Mitch McConnell who's one of your colleagues, even to give a hearing? The president doesn't seem to be able to move these people.

SANDERS: Look, Chris, what we have and, you know, I'm in the Senate and have been throughout Obama's tenure, we have a level of obstructionism which I believe is unprecedented in the history of the United States.

And what happened, as you know, literally on the day that Obama was sworn in, these guys got together and they said, all right, how do we make sure that Obama is as ineffective as possible? How do we stall, stall, stall?

I'm there and I've seen them. We can't get an assistant, you know, sanitation worker approved without going through all kinds of processes.

So, this is just a continuation of that. And you asked me the question of what do we do about it?

First of all, let me be very clear, I will do everything that I can to see that the president does make a nomination and that the United States Senate holds the hearings to either approve or disapprove. That's what the Constitution mandates. There's no debate about that, is there?


SANDERS: And the idea --

MATTHEWS: Article 2 says name a nominee.

SANDERS: That's right.

MATTHEWS: It's his job, the president.

SANDERS: It is as clear as the nose on our faces, and yet these people are so obstructionist they don't even want to give this president the right to fulfill his constitutional duty.

So, I will do everything that I can to make it happen. But you raised a broader question. You asked, well, what do we do about it?

And I'll tell you, this is what the campaign is about. I know it's outside of mainstream thinking. Are you ready for this one, Chris?


SANDERS: All right.

MATTHEWS: I think I can take it.

SANDERS: All right. Take it. I don't want anyone collapsing on me here.

It is to revitalize American democracy on issue after issue. And it's not just Republican obstructionism on this issue. You have a Congress that does the bidding of the billionaire class, of the campaign dollars.

You know. You're there all the time. Half the members of Congress are spending their life raising money, right? And it's getting worse and worse and worse.

So, this is what you got to do. What you need to do is rally the American people. Give you an example -- raising the minimum wage, overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage. Congress does not want to do it.

Pay equity for women workers. Congress doesn't want to do it.

MATTHEWS: Obama can't do this, but you can. How?

SANDERS: I'll tell you. What you need and what I say is you need a political revolution. And that is you need these young people to understand and working people and low income people, if they are not involved actively in the political process, it will be the billionaire class who makes decisions for them and not necessarily in their interest.

MATTHEWS: But you get elected. Let's say you get elected, you take off next January 20th. And you walk up to the Senate and you meet with the leadership and say, I have a program here. I want to have free -- I mean, government-funded tuition for public universities. There's things I want done on Social Security to increase benefits and things I want done on health care, so it can become like Medicare for life.

You've got very strong positions.


MATTHEWS: And Mitch McConnell looks at you the way he looked at President Obama and says, "Forget about it".

SANDERS: And then you know what I say? I'd say, "Hey, Mitch, take a look out the window. There's a million young people out there who don't want to be in debt for half their life for the crime of going to college. If you want to antagonize those million people and lose your job, Mitch, if you don't want to lose your job, you better start listening to what we have to say." That's the point. That's how change takes place.

MATTHEWS: But how do you squeeze a guy like him?

SANDERS: It's not him. Mitch is --

MATTHEWS: All the Republicans.

SANDERS: I know Mitch McConnell. These are smart --

MATTHEWS: How do you squeeze 60 senators? You need 60 senators. You need 60 senators.

SANDERS: All right. Let me tell you this. Absolutely, positively, 100 percent, if we rally young people in this country to say, you know what, Germany, Scandinavia, other countries, they have free tuition in public college and universities. I have been all over this country, Chris. I talked to kids $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $100,000 in debt paying a huge percentage of their income, OK?

Young people stand up and say we are sick and tired of it. We don't want to go in debt for our whole lives because we got a college education. You know what? We'll win that fight immediately.

But the trick is not to appeal to Mitch McConnell. It's to say, Mitch, take a look at your e-mails.

MATTHEWS: OK. What evidence do you have this has worked for you? Have you increased the turnout in these elections?

SANDERS: Look --

MATTHEWS: You know, have you as a senator been able to get 60 votes for anything? Have you ever been able to do this, what you're talking about doing? When you say I can get 60 senators -- [crosstalk]

SANDERS: Well, I am not the president of --


SANDERS: What I am saying to you, Chris --

MATTHEWS: What evidence do you have you can do it?

SANDERS: What evidence do I have?

MATTHEWS: That you can do it.

SANDERS: The evidence that I have is that's the only way change is about --

MATTHEWS: Right, I agree with you.

SANDERS: -- in this country. That's what the civil rights movement was about. That's what the women's movement, gay movement.

MATTHEWS: It's necessary, but is it sufficient?

SANDERS: That's called, that's the way --

MATTHEWS: Is it sufficient to get it done? They're running their own states with their own conservative constituencies that will say, fine, Bernie Sanders is a liberal president.

SANDERS: Let me give you an example.

MATTHEWS: He's a progressive. I'm not one -- [crosstalk]

SANDERS: Let me give you an example. Let me give you an example.

MATTHEWS: How do you know you can do it?

SANDERS: How do I know? I don't know anything. I think that we do the best that we can do. We try.

But let me give you an example, all right? If you and I were sitting here 10 years ago, and I said to you, you know, Chris, I think in 2015, gay marriage will be legal --


SANDERS: -- in every state in this country, what would you have told me? You would have told me I'd be crazy, right? Honestly?

That's what you would have told me. Are you thinking about it? [laughter]

MATTHEWS: I can't see the future.

SANDERS: All right.

MATTHEWS: But you're right it moved very quickly. The country moved very quickly.

SANDERS: It moved quickly because people in the gay community and their straight allies said, people in this country have a right.


SANDERS: The law, whoever they want. And then, suddenly, do you see any Republicans --

MATTHEWS: How does this relate? How does this relate to Citizens United?

SANDERS: Chris, let me answer your question.

MATTHEWS: I don't see the connection. [crosstalk]

SANDERS: I see all the connection.


SANDERS: You're asking me how we make change. [applause]

And I'm tell you, you make change not by sitting down with Mitch McConnell. You make change when millions of people in this country demand change. That's the way change has always been. [cheers and applause]

Chris, it's not just -- I use gay rights, which is a good example, contemporary example for these young people to understand. Take the [inaudible] gay rights what's the big deal? Trust me 10 years ago, 20 years ago, when I voted against DOMA in 1996, that was a very difficult vote.

But what about the civil rights movement? What about the women's movement? It always happened when millions of people demand change? And right now, where we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality, when the top 1/10th percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, you know what, we do need -- [crosstalk]

MATTHEWS: It seems to me that the reason we got gay marriage, same sex marriage, is when to Prop 8 in California, they couldn't find anybody, Ted Olson knows this, there was nobody on the other side. California didn't have a case. There was no damage done by gay marriage.

And that's what happened. There were no losers.

Now, when you're offering --

SANDERS: Whoa, whoa.

MATTHEWS: Well, they couldn't make a case against it. Now, what you're offering --

SANDERS: Hold it. I don't agree with it. No, I don't agree with that.

MATTHEWS: OK, go ahead.

SANDERS: You have all of these fundamentalists.

MATTHEWS: But they didn't lose.

SANDERS: All of these people --

MATTHEWS: They disagree but they didn't lose.

SANDERS: I think they lost.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you about money. If we get tuition money, it has to come from someone. Those will be the people who lose.

If you have larger Social Security benefits, the higher income people during their working lives will be the ones who lose. We get arithmetic here. So, there will be tremendous forces against everything you've advocated here.

SANDERS: That's right.

MATTHEWS: It's not like saying, nobody is staying up all night worrying about gay marriage, because --

SANDERS: OK, good point.

MATTHEWS: But this thing they are losing money.


MATTHEWS: The interests at work here, the very interests you've talked about are still going to be the day after you're inaugurated.

SANDERS: That's right.

MATTHEWS: So, what do you with that? [crosstalk]

SANDERS: Let me rephrase it. What you're saying, correct me if I'm wrong, is you've got a very powerful billionaire class who wants it all and will resist any change.

MATTHEWS: Anyone with substantial wealth or in 401(k), or mutual fund will want to hold on their money. [crosstalk]

SANDERS: What you're talking about is the Koch brothers and corporate America --

MATTHEWS: And everyone in the stock market.

SANDERS: And people who will have -- who are very, very wealthy. So, let me just --

MATTHEWS: Anyone in the stock market.

SANDERS: Chris, let me just say this -- not anyone, all right? [crosstalk] Let me just say this if I might, all right?

In the last 30 years, you know what's happened? There's been a massive redistribution of wealth. You know that?

MATTHEWS: I agree completely.

SANDERS: It's gone from the middle class and working families to the top 1/10th of 1 percent. I didn't hear the establishment moaning about how radical and crazy it was when trillions of dollars left the pockets of middle class. Now, when I'm talking about giving the middle class a break, all these guys --

MATTHEWS: No, you're giving a normative argument, I agree with it. The question, how do you get it done, with all these powers arrayed against you?

SANDERS: Then, let me --

MATTHEWS: The finance committee [inaudible], how do we have to raise taxes on Wall Street? [crosstalk]

If you go to 50 cent tax on $100, we have to get that tax passed. Then, somewhere [inaudible] you have to be dedicated to paying for tuition bills. These are hard things to get done.

SANDERS: What are you saying? Let's be clear, OK? Let me be very clear. I believe in the year 2016, a college degree today is about the equivalent of a high school degree 50, 60 years.

MATTHEWS: I agree with that.

SANDERS: All right. So, I believe that when we talk about public education, it shouldn't be first grade through 12th. It should be through college, OK?

I believe that public colleges and universities, not the University of Chicago, sorry guys -- but public colleges and universities should be tuition free, so that every kid in this country -- look, I grew up in family that didn't have a lot of money. My parents never went to college.

I want every kid who has the ability to do so, to go to college. Now, I also want to deal with an issue you guys are worried about is student debt, is that true?


SANDERS: All right. We got millions of people really being crushed with student debt. My idea is to merge the two, OK? Now, you're asking me how to pay for it. I'll tell you --

MATTHEWS: I haven't asked you that. I've asked you, how do you pass it through the Senate? How do you get 60 votes for any of this?

SANDERS: We're going to pay for it through tax on Wall Street.

MATTHEWS: Who's going to pass that tax?

SANDERS: The American --

MATTHEWS: The Senate's going to pass that.

SANDERS: Chris, you and I look at the world differently. You look at it inside the beltway. I'm not an inside the beltway guy. I'm an outside the beltway guy.

MATTHEWS: But the people that vote on taxes are inside the beltway.

SANDERS: And those people are going to vote the right way when millions of people demand they vote the right way on this issue. I have no doubt that as president of the United States I can rally young people and their parents to say that if Germany does it, Scandinavia does it, countries around the world do it, we can do it. And yes, we bailed out Wall Street. It's Wall Street's time to help the middle class. [applause]

MATTHEWS: The next Senate leader, Democratic leader is probably Chuck Schumer of New York. Can you deliver his votes tonight? Can you tell me one senator who's going to follow you for these proposals? They are all good, decent proposals. In fact, the moral proposals.

Tell me the votes. Who's going to vote with you?

SANDERS: Yes, I know Chuck very, very well.

MATTHEWS: Is he going to vote with you?

SANDERS: Well, call him up. I don't know. [laughter]

MATTHEWS: You gave us one vote.

You say I will give you 60 votes and pass it, and you can't give me one vote. Your vote, but you won't be in the Senate anymore.

SANDERS: Chris, I didn't say I can give you one vote.

Look, what you're not catching -- I have to say this respectfully, all right? You're a nice guy. You're missing the point. All right? You're missing the point.

If you look at politics today as a zero sum total --


SANDERS: If you're looking at 63 percent of the American people not voting, 80 percent of the young people not voting. Billionaires buying elections, you're right. I'm not looking at that world.

MATTHEWS: How is that going to change the day you're in office? You won't have a Supreme Court on your side, do you? How are you going to get -- [crosstalk]

SANDERS: What I will have is millions of people demanding --

MATTHEWS: You need 60 votes to get a Supreme Court nominee.

SANDERS: We're going around in circles here.

MATTHEWS: No, we're starting at the very point of, can you do what you say you will do?

SANDERS: Yes, damn right, I can do what I say. [crosstalk]

MATTHEWS: How you do it?

SANDERS: Because when I get elected --

MATTHEWS: Have you ever done anything like this? Have you ever got 60 votes for anything in the Senate?

SANDERS: Yes, actually we have.

MATTHEWS: Yes, what was it?

SANDERS: My veterans bill.


SANDERS: A comprehensive veterans bill, strongest veterans bill passed in many, many years.

But that as a senator. Now, I'm hopefully the president of the United States and we have the bully pulpit.

So, the difference that you and I have --

MATTHEWS: So is Obama.

SANDERS: The difference that you and I have is you're looking at politics in the way it is today.


SANDERS: But I am trying to do is not just pass legislation. I'm trying to change the pace of American politics, getting working people to stand up and fight for their rights. I think when we talk about issues like creating millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

MATTHEWS: I know. I'm with that. [crosstalk]


MATTHEWS: Suppose you propose, all this legislation and nothing happens, you just sit in office for four year years?

SANDERS: I suspect not.

MATTHEWS: Well, what would you do? Suppose they say no?

SANDERS: Look, first of all --

MATTHEWS: You assume everything is going to change. A million people will not stand stay outside your window for four years. They're not going to be out the window. They may come once.

SANDERS: Well, you are assuming and this is the difference between our views. You are assuming that the American people are not going to be engaged in the political process. But I think by definition --

MATTHEWS: No, I'm watching the turn out figure this is year and they're not going up.

SANDERS: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

MATTHEWS: Not on the Democratic side.

SANDERS: Let's -- first of all, let's jump into that. Barack Obama in 2008 ran, in my view, one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States of America. You and nobody else heard me say that, you know, we're going to run a better than he did. It was a brilliant campaign.

But this is what I will tell you, Chris, when I started this campaign I was at 3 percent in the polls. In the last ten days there have been four national polls that I've seen, three of them had me in the lead, one, two points down.

We have come a long, long way. In terms of voter turnout, no. The voter turnout was not what Obama did in 2008. And by the way, though, in that election to talk about little politics, you had John Edwards, you had other candidates

in there bringing in vote. The voter turn out actually in Iowa was strong, in New Hampshire, very strong. In Nevada not strong, which is why we lost.

So, our job is, in fact, to make sure that these young people come out, working class people come out to vote.

MATTHEWS: Is everybody here going to vote? [applause]

MATTHEWS: We'll be back with questions from the audience right here at University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. The Hardball college tour with Senator Bernie Sanders continues after this.

[commercial break]

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to the Hardball College Tour.

By the way, look at that picture. That's Chamberlain House, one of the dorms here at the University of Chicago, where Senator Bernie Sanders lived when he was a student here. We'll have more on his career here in the excitement of those days that involved a lot of activities by this guy here.

Anyway, we want to get our first question from the students. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for all you're doing.

Earlier in the campaign you notably decided not to focus on Hillary's emails. Now, as the campaign has increased in intensity, do you believe it's time to bring up the millions of dollars that the Clinton Foundation received from foreign government when she was secretary of state?

SANDERS: Look, what I have tried to do as somebody who has never run a negative campaign, a negative ad in my entire life, is to try to focus on the issues I think are impacting the American people.

You raise an important issue. I understand that. And I have talked about the fact that illary Clinton has received many millions of dollars from Wall Street for her campaign and her super PACs. She's received very large speakers fees from Goldman Sachs, I think those are important issues.

And by the way I agree with The New York Times editorial. I don't know if anyone saw it today where they urged Secretary Clinton to release the transcripts of the speeches that she gave behind closed doors to Wall Street.

So, those are issues that I am going to focus on.

But right now my focus is to contrast my views on how we can improve life for the middle class and working families of this country. But thanks very much for that question.

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Senator Sanders. Welcome back. My name is Igala Obe (ph).

Your opponent's new line is that she is the one who can break down barriers that all people face. However, the reality is that many of the barriers in place especially for low income individuals and people of color were created by the policies put in place during the Clinton administration.

Given this reality, do you feel that this claim of breaking down barriers is a little ironic and how are you in a better position to do so?

SANDERS: Thank you very much. Very good question. And I think you make a good point. As I mentioned the other day we had a press conference on this.

In 1996, the Clinton administration, then First Lady Clinton was very active in so called welfare reform. You familiar with what that was? And welfare reform really picked up on the Republican agenda. And it said that one of the basic problems in America is that poor people and, by the way, African-Americans, were ripping off the welfare system.

Well, everybody believes in welfare reform if it means helping people get the education, the child care and the jobs they need to improve their lives. That's not what that bill did. That bill ended up increasing very significantly, extreme poverty in America. It caused a lot of suffering for some of the most poorest and most vulnerable in this country.

So, I think your point is exactly correct. And I think that's an issue we will be talking about a whole lot. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You're up next. This is fast.

QUESTION: Senator Sanders. Thank you for being here. My name is Patrick Quinn. My question is the recent firing of Chicago Police Superintendent McCarthy highlights the fact that even intended reformers can fail in the face of institutional power.

As president, how would you reform our criminal justice system?

MATTHEWS: Great question. And it's an issue that is very, very high on my agenda.

We have a broken criminal justice system. Everybody in this room and everybody in this country should be ashamed that we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people, more than China, largely African-American and Latino.

So, let me tell you some of the things that I would do. First of all, what we do is try to prevent people from getting into the criminal justice system.

What does that mean? Today, if you're an African-American kid between 17 and 20 and you graduated high school, you didn't go to college, do you know what your unemployment and underemployment rate is? Unemployment and underemployment rate it? It is 51 percent. 51 percent.

So, my view is we will invest in jobs and education for those kids rather than jails and incarceration.

Second of all, we have to create, and the federal government can play an important role dealing with local municipalities, creating a model program for police departments.

For example, lethal force should be the last resort, not the first resort.

Second of all, if a individual is killed by a police officer or dies in police custody, that should automatically trigger a Department of Justice investigation.

Thirdly, we want to make police departments look like the communities they serve in terms of their diversity. [applause]

SANDERS: Fourthly, we want to demilitarize police departments.

Fifthly, we want to take a hard look at the so-called war on drugs. Million of people in this country have police records, and disproportionally African-American by the way, because of possession of marijuana. I find it interesting in criminal justice that people on Wall Street who's illegal behavior destroyed our economy, they don't get a police record. Some kid in Chicago gets picked up with marijuana, he or she gets a police record. That's not right. [applause]

QUESTION: Hi, Senator Sanders. My name is Sid Jayne. Thank you for being here, first of all. So, my question is, I was hoping you could elaborate more on the Apple privacy debate and what your broader plans are, once elected, to tackle the issue of government surveillance?

SANDERS: That's a huge issue. And it's a very, very important issue. You're looking at a guy who voted against the USA PATRIOT Act. And that was a hard vote. You know, sometimes it becomes easier -- this is after 9/11, it wasn't such an easy vote.

And my concern then and my concern now is that the NSA and the government, they're keeping records on all of your phone calls, on many of your phone calls. They have the ability, and occasionally use it, to go into the websites you visit and check out your emails.

But you know what, it is not just the government, it is corporate America as well who knows a whole lot about your purchasing habits, maybe your banking records, maybe your medical records as well. So, the bottom line here...

MATTHEWS: Explain how they use that.

SANDERS: Well, I don't know.

Well, if I know the products that you buy, then I know how to advertise and get to you.

But the bottom line here is there has been a revolution in technology in the last 20 years. Public policy has in no way kept pace with the transformation of our society.

Now, to answer your question, this is a tough issue. On one hand, do we want to keep tabs on ISIS recruiting efforts? Yeah, you're damn right we do. On the other hand, do we want to open the door so that the federal government now knows much too much about you more than they should. How do you achieve that balance is not easy. That's the issue that we have got to answer.

MATTHEWS: Where are you on Snowden?

SANDERS: You know, I think Snowden broke the law. That's true. And I think he deserves his day in court to make his case.

On the other hand, there would not be a whole lot of discussion that we're hearing today if Snowden did not come forward and tell us what the NSA was doing.

MATTHEWS: So, you wouldn't throw the book at him?

SANDERS: No, I would not throw the book at him.

MATTHEWS: OK. We're going to come right back. We're going talk about to the senator what he was like when he was the age of you guys here at this school. There are some amazing stories I want him to talk about.

Much more from Senator Sanders when we come back. You're watching the Hardball College Tour live from the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

[commercial break]

MATTHEWS: OK, that's the Red Dirt (ph) brass band. They're all students at the University of Chicago. Those guys are heading to New Orleans, as you can tell.

Anyway, it's great having them.

We're back with the Hardball college tour. Live from the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

Let me get to some of these things about you.

SANDERS: About me. I'd rather talk about you.

MATTHEWS: We don't want to fight anymore. I can't fight it. I've done my fighting.

Let me ask you about the '60s. And I always try to tell -- I'm only a few years behind you. And I always tell people -- my kids love to talk about the -- my grandkids, if I live long enough -- they love the '60s. What did it feel like? What was the zeitgeist like in the 60s here when you were here?

SANDERS: Well, you know, to be honest with you, I don't say that just because I'm on TV, I was not much into drugs. My hair was a little bit long, not that long.

MATTHEWS: We've got pictures. We'll show one up.

SANDERS: For me, coming here to the University of Chicago I think in 61 or 62, what was mind blowing for me was beginning to get involved with a whole lot of people who are very different from the people I grew up with this Brooklyn.

And I became involved in the civil rights movement. I think one of the first jobs that I ever had here in Chicago was with what was called the Packing House Workers of America. And this used to be of major...

MATTHEWS: Mostly African-Americans.

SANDERS: Often African-Americans, right, that's right. And, you know, that's all gone now.

But I learned about the trade union movement here. I learned about the civil rights movement. I learned about foreign policy and the peace movement.

MATTHEWS: What was it like to get involved in it to the extent for you to be arrested?

SANDERS: Here's what it was, the hard work and the dangerous work was being done in the south, that's where people were getting killed.

MATTHEWS: Chaney (ph) and Goodman.

SANDERS: Exactly. And their heads bashed off or getting killed.

This is what we did here. We said we are going to provide -- you know, I didn't have any money, but, you know, we're going to provide some financial support for our friends in the south. But we have got to look at what's going on here in Chicago as well.

And I want to say this to the young people here at the University of Chicago, back in the early 1960s -- the University of Chicago, as you know, owns a lot of property, owns a lot of apartments. In those days, many of those apartments were segregated. They were segregated.

And what we did, Chris, is we would send a black couple, husband and wife, to an apartment. And they'd say, do you have any apartments available? And the guy there would say, well, no, we're sorry we don't. An hour later, we would send the white couple. They say, oh, what would you like to see? We have all kinds of apartments available.

And then we got focused on -- so, the demand was that the University of Chicago end the segregated housing that it owned.

Then, I got involved in a broader issue at that point. The schools in the Chicago were pretty segregated. And I got involved in that. And that's where I got arrested.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about what you've done some recent things that -- let's take a look where you stood up against a guy who showed bigotry about gay people. Let's watch this from the Senate floor, the House floor.

[begin video clip]

REP. DUKE CUNNINGHAM, (R) CALIFORNIA: Is there any shocking doubt the same people that would vote to cut defense $177 billion, the same ones that would put homos in the military, the same ones that would not fund BRAC, the same ones that would not...


CUNNINGHAM: No, I will not. Sit down you socialist.

SANDERS: My ears may have been playing a trick on me, but I thought I heard the gentleman a moment ago say something quote, unquote about homos in the military. Was I right in hearing that expression?

CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. Putting homosexuals in the military.

SANDERS: You said something about homos in the military. Was the gentlemen referring to the many thousands and thousands of gay people who have put their lives on the line in countless wars defending this country? Was that the the group of people that the gentlemen was referring to?

CUNNINGHAM: I am talking about the military people in the military do not support...

SANDERS: That's not what you were talking about. You used the word homos in the mlitary. You have insulted thousands of men and women who have put their lives on the line...

CUNNINGHAM: I'm talk about you and liberals like you.

[end video clip]

MATTHEWS: Wow. What year was that?

SANDERS: Who knows.

MATTHEWS: How long -- '85. That was '95.

SANDERS: And by the way, you know who that was, that was Duke Cunningham.

MATTHEWS: He's busy now, isn't he?

SANDERS: Yes. I don't know if he's still in jail or not, but he's -- he was sent to jail for bribery.

MATTHEWS: Have you sent any cards or anything?

SANDERS: No, I have not.

And here's an example of somebody on the floor of the House making grossly homophobic statements that had to be dealt with. And I dealt with them.

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about your ideology, because I've never quite figured it out in -- back here when you were a student, you were not only involved in the civil rights. You joined a group called the Young People Socialist League.

A lot of people grew up, I'm not that younger than you, a few years, a couple. Socialism was a hard thing to grab onto. How did you grab on to it? How did you feel comfortable enough to get involved. Because a lot of kids here -- how many people are comfortable calling themselves socialist?

Well, that was -- the hand was enough. That's right. How many again, let me see the signal.

It's some. It's not a huge number.

I'd say...

SANDERS: More over there, I think.

MATTHEWS: Maybe if it was back then it would be harder to even get your hand up.

SANDERS: Look, what it was to me was trying to connect the dots, to try to understand what money and power was about, the impact it had on society. Why it was that we had so much -- and it's worse today than we then income and wealth inequality.

But Chris, what I talk about...

MATTHEWS: It's worse now, right?

SANDERS: Yes, it is worse now.

But when I talk about democratic socialism, what I talk about today is looking at countries around the world who have had labor governments or social democratic government who have brought health care to all of their people as a right, who have made public colleges and universities tuition free, who have managed to make sure that when elderly people retire they can live in dignity, who have much higher voter turnouts than we do, a more vibrant democracy. That's kind of what I'm talking about.

MATTHEWS: Can we -- do we have to make some other changes? We spend all our money defending the world with our military, right? We're paying national debt through the roof. It seems -- you know, you're into the budget. So much if it doesn't go to helping people today, it goes to either paying off debt or paying for a military that's a World War II/Cold War budget. You know, Sweden doesn't have that problem.

SANDERS: We're not Sweden.

MATTHEWS: I mean, smaller socialist countries. They don't have the burden we have.

SANDERS: But they don't have the resources we have as well. They don't have the collective wealth that we have as well.

Look, bottom line is we need a strong military. Do I think it is bloated? Absolutely.

Do you know how many administrators we have in the military? It's not the men and women in uniform, we have I think one and a half people to administer every man and woman who is in uniform.

Right, you have huge cost overruns in the military. You have got a lot of fraud that goes on there. The U.S. Department of Defense cannot sustain independent order, one of few agencies of government.

But also, I think you have to address the level of income and wealth inequality and the transfer of trillions of dollars from the middle class to the top one-tenth of one percent.

MATTHEWS: We're getting back to the big picture when we come back. I think you're going to like this segment.

More questions from the audience when we come back at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics. Back with Senator Bernie Sanders.

[commercial break]

MATTHEWS: We're back with Senator Bernie Sanders on the Hadrball College Tour. I have one question fell off my list in our tussle there in the second block. Black Lives Matter. What's your reaction to the whole movement? It's real movement.

SANDERS: It's real movement, and these people are raising an enormously important issue that I think the white community is not familiar with.

African-Americans worry about when they let their kids out on the streets. They worry when they get in their car. African-Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites despite the fact that both groups smoke it about the same. Their sentences are longer when they are put in jail. I think the Black Lives Matter have raised this issue. And that tells me, and what I believe very strongly, is we need major, major criminal justice and police reform in this country.

MATTHEWS: What do you think when you see a picture officer shooting a guy as he's running away or you see a big, heavyset guy being choked to death right on camera?

SANDERS: Well, let's -- Eric Garner who you are talking about. His daughter is very active in our campaign.

It is indefensible. It is horrible. And the American people, and it's not just the African-American community, are sick and tired of this. And the bottom line here is we need radical reforms in our police departments and -- I was mayor. I worked with cops all the time. Most of them are working hard, doing a good job. But when a police officer breaks the law like any other public official, that officer must be held accountable. [applause]

MATTHEWS: Let's get a question in.

QUESTION: Thank you, Senator Sanders. My name is Chelsea Fine.

We have talked a bit about your background here at the University of Chicago. But one thing you haven't discussed as much on the campaign trial is the fact that you're Jewish.

As a Jewish student, I would like to know what is your relationship as your faith and what would it mean to you to become the first Jewish president.

MATTHEWS: We have about a minute.

SANDERS: OK. Obviously being Jewish is very, very important to me. I'm very proud of my heritage.

What comes to my mind so strongly is a kid growing up in Brooklyn and seeing people with numbers on their wrists. You probably have not seen that. But those were the people who came out of concentration camps. And knowing that my -- a good part of my father's family was killed by the Nazis.

And that lesson that I learned as a very young person is politics is serious business. And when you have a lunatic like Hitler gaining power, 50 million people died in World War II.

So, I'm very proud to be Jewish and I"m proud of my heritage.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, senator. Thank you.

Senator Bernie Sanders.

And thank you all at the University of Chicago for having us here at the Institute of Policy.

Bernie Sanders, Remarks with Chris Matthews at the MSNBC "Hardball" College Tour at the University of Chicago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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