Bernie Sanders on media, Medicare, middle class, Iraq War, Keystone Pipeline…

(Yesterday Chuck Todd, moderator of NBC “Meet the Press,” interviewed, among others, presidential contender Bernie Sanders and the exchange follows. The transcript of the entire program is here. – Admin.)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the other side of the aisle, the Democratic presidential candidate, number two in the polls these days. Independent Senator from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator, welcome back to Meet the Press. And let me quickly ask you about this Ben Carson stuff, because you have seen some people leak out stuff you wrote 30 and 40 years ago. Is this fair game?

BERNIE SANDERS:

No. And look, I listened to the interviews with Dr. Carson. And it’s interesting. But you know what, Chuck? The American people want to know why the middle class of this country is disappearing. Why we are 47 million people living in poverty. Why we have massive income and wealth inequality. When you look at Dr. Carson, to the best of my knowledge, this man does not believe that climate change is caused by human activity.

This man wants to abolish Medicare, impacting tens of millions of seniors, and this man wants to give huge tax breaks to the rich. I think it might be a better idea, I know it’s a crazy idea, but maybe we focus on the issues impacting the American people and what candidates are saying rather than just spending so much time exploring their lives of 30 or 40 years ago. And I think the reason that so many people are turned off to the political process has a lot to do with the fact that we’re not talking about the real issues impacting real people.

CHUCK TODD:

And you know you have been very consistent about this. And I think it’s been a very admirable part of your campaign. In fact, you had made it clear you didn’t want to go after Hillary Clinton. Let me play the many times you’ve said that.

(BEGIN TAPE)

BERNIE SANDERS:

I am not going to get into the media game, Andrea, of attacking, making personal attacks against Hillary Clinton. I just am not going to do that. I don’t think that’s what the American people want. If I were to start viciously attacking Hillary Clinton, it would be all over the front pages of the paper. But I don’t do that. I mean, I happen to respect and like Hillary Clinton. So I don’t get into personal attacks. You know that.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

But Senator, something seemed to change this week. A Boston Globe interview you said, “I disagree with Hillary Clinton on virtually everything.” The Wall Street Journal, you said, “Consistency on such issues does speak to the character of a person.” And then you even talked about the emails, which at the debate, you said you’re tired of her damn emails, but then you said, “Let the investigation proceed unimpeded.” Are you backtracking here? Do you want to target Hillary Clinton personally?

BERNIE SANDERS:

Not at all. Chuck, this is exactly media stuff. My views on Hillary Clinton’s emails are exactly what I said in the debate and right after the debate. The American people are sick and tired of seeing on the front pages emails. They want a real discussion on real issues. There is an investigation ongoing. I have nothing to do with it. That’s that.

But my views on that have not changed. In terms of disagreeing with Hillary Clinton, yeah, I do, on many, many issues. You know, what I understand politics and elections to be about is to discuss differences of opinion. I intend to do that and do that vigorously. That does not mean that I’m making personal attacks against somebody I respect. I disagree with Hillary Clinton on whether or not we should break up the large financial institutions in this country. I don’t have a super PAC. She does have a super PAC. We have many different points of view and I will discuss those vigorously.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, one of the things you’ve said, pointed out as consistency, you believe that matters, what’s wrong with evolving on issues? What’s wrong with that?

BERNIE SANDERS:

There’s nothing wrong. Everybody evolves on issues. Nothing wrong with that. But I think if you look at the important issues facing this country, going back to 2002, who made the analysis, who looked at what Bush and Cheney were saying on the war in Iraq? It’s one thing to evolve and say, “Well, I made a mistake.” It’s another thing other analyze the information and say, “You know what? I think that that war is a terrible mistake.”

In terms of trade, look, I am glad that in recent months Hillary Clinton has moved to my position on the Keystone Pipeline, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. She’s now making a step forward on marijuana. Not far enough in terms of getting the federal government, seeing it as illegal. But what people want to know is who has leadership.

Who was there in 1996 in terms of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. So what I think the issue is, who is prepared under difficult circumstances, when it’s not necessarily popular, to make decisions which are the right decisions rather than 20 years later say, “Well, maybe I was wrong.” Or, “Maybe, I’ve got to rethink that.”

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I had a lot more I wanted to discuss. We’re compacted today. But Senator Sanders, it’s always a pleasure to have you on, sir. Be safe on the trail.

BERNIE SANDERS:

Okay.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks very much.


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