Bernie Sanders took part in a town hall on CNN tonight, and he fielded a multitude of difficult questions. Wolf Blitzer moderated, and at one point Sanders quipped, “In three minutes, Wolf is going to ask how we’re going to pay for this.” Read on to see some of Sanders’ best quotes from the night.
First, here’s a full video of the town hall.
He Promised To Support the Democratic Nominee
One of his first questions asked how he would defeat President Donald Trump if he were the nominee.
“I hope and believe that every Democratic candidate will come together after the nominee is selected,” he said. “If I’m not the nominee I will work with that nominee.”
Sanders pointed out that Trump had promised not to cut Social Security and Medicare, but ultimately did. “This President is the first President in the modern history of our country who is trying to divide our people up … Our job is to bring our people together, not to divide them up.”
He Reiterated the Need for Universal Health Care
“The United States is the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people…” Sanders said. “I believe health care is a human right, not a privilege… If we’re going to do that in a cost-effective way … is a Medicare For All single payer program. That’s what I believe and that’s what I will fight for.”
He said a bill is being introduced in the House this week with 100 co-sponsors that he supports.
Then Blitzer asked about people with private health insurance who like their plans — will they be able to keep their plans? First, he said the new plan will be even better.
“What will change in their plans is the color of their card. Instead of having a Blue Cross Blue Shield card…they’re going to have a Medicare card,” he said.
Sanders added that they’ll be able to go to any doctor or hospital they want, and won’t need to pay private insurance premiums. Seniors will also have access to dental care, hearing aids, and the like. The plans will ultimately be better than what they have now. The issue, he said, is that people like their doctors and hospitals more than their health care, and Medicare for All will still allow them to go to the doctors and hospitals they prefer. The bill will cover everything.
He added that private insurance will be an option for extras like plastic surgery.
“Yes of course they can get private insurance,” he said if people want something like cosmetic surgery. So yes, you can buy expanded insurance for what’s not covered by Medicare for All, he explained.
Sanders Will Close Many Corporate Tax Loopholes To Pay for These Policies
Sanders said that three people in the U.S. have more wealth than the bottom half of America. This, he said, points to the fact that closing tax loopholes for corporations can help pay for many of these policies.
“Amazon, owned by the wealthiest guy in the world, made $5 billion last year in profits…” Then he asked the audience how much in taxes Amazon paid — the answer was $0. It will be sources like this that will fund the policies, he said.
But how will he ensure the wealthy pay their taxes?
They stash billions … in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, and we have veterans sleeping out on the streets… We are going to do away with those outrageous loopholes… We’re going to end their ability to put their money in the Cayman Islands.”
Sanders Said He Has Policies Now To Stop Sexual Harassment in His Campaign & It Will Not Happen Again
Diversity is the key to any campaign succeeding, Sanders said.
I’m enormously proud of the fact that we have the most diverse progressive freshman class in the history of the United States Congress… I ran all over this country to try to make that happen… We’re not going to be able to implement a progressive agenda unless millions more get involved in the political process.”
But, he added, he was deeply pained by the sexual harassment allegations. He already instituted policies to stop that from happening again when he ran for Senate in Vermont, and will institute those policies in his presidential campaign too. He also added that the quote saying he was busy running around the country during the 2016 campaign was taken out of context.
I was very upset to learn what I learned [about sexual assault allegations.] When I ran for re-election in Vermont we instituted maybe the strongest protocols against harassment… Every employee of mine will get significant amounts of training… Anybody who feels harassed will have an independent entity to speak to outside the campaign… We take this issue very seriously.”
He said learning about the harassment was very painful “and it will not happen again.”
The DNC Was Not Evenhanded with His Campaign
Sanders said that although he’s an independent in Vermont, based on decisions and situations from a long time ago, he serves as a Democrat in the SEnate.
“I’m a member of the Democratic leadership of the United States,” he said. “I’ve been a member of the Democratic caucus of the Senate for the last 13 years…”
But, he said, the DNC was not quite fair during the primary. They’ve made a lot of changes since then.
The DNC was not quite evenhanded. I think we have come a long way since then and I fully expect to be treated quite as well as anyone else.”
Sanders Supports Addressing Inequality from Slavery
Bernie Sanders was asked for his opinion on reparations.
“There is legislation that I like introduced … called the 10-20-30 which focuses federal resources in a very significant way under distressed communities — communities that are a high level of poverty. … As I just indicated, I think we have to do everything that we can to end institutional racism in this country. It is not acceptable to me that the rate of childhood poverty among the African American community is over 30 percent in this country. That is beyond belief that African Americans die of cancer at higher rates than whites. So we’re going to do everything we can to put resources into distressed communities and improve lives for those people who have been hurt by the legacy of slavery.”
So Wolf Blitzer asked for Sanders’ specific viewpoint on reparations. Sanders asked, “What does that mean? … What I’ve just said is that I think we must do everything that we can to address the massive levels of disparity that exist in this country.”
Blitzer quoted Elizabeth Warren saying they need systematic structural changes to address black communities that have had steeper hills to climb. And he said Julian Castro said the country would be better if they found a way to do that.
Sanders added, “I agree with what Elizabeth said.” And essentially yes, what Sanders had said was similar to what Blitzer quoted Warren as saying.
So Blitzer asked if he would support reparations, like Warren did. And Sanders said that Warren’s response was basically what his response was.
“In other words, as a result of the legacy of slavery, you have massive levels of inequality. It has to be addressed and it has to be addressed now.”
Bernie Will Release His Tax Returns ‘Soon’
Sanders said he will release the last 10 years of his tax returns soon. He couldn’t give a specific date because they don’t have accountants at home. (His wife Jane does their taxes.)
“Our tax returns will bore you to death, nothing special about it. It was just a mechanical issue.” He said they’ll be available soon, but couldn’t give an exact date. “Sooner than later, ” he promised.
Sanders added that he didn’t release them all in 2016 because he didn’t win the Democratic nomination.
He Said He’ll Tax Wall Street Speculation to Make Colleges Tuition Free
Bernie Sanders talked about making colleges and universities tuition free and substantially lowering student debt.
“Wolf is going to ask me in three minutes, how are we going to pay for that? We are going to pay for that by a tax on Wall Street speculation.”
He Explained that Democratic Socialism Involves Economic Rights In Addition to Political Rights
Sanders defined democratic socialism in answer to a question.
“Right now we have a nation which prides itself on a lot of political rights… Thank God we have freedom of speech… The media can do its thing even though it’s called the enemy of the people.,” he said. “You know what we don’t have? We don’t have guarantees regarding economic rights.”
Sanders said that in 1944, FDR talked about human freedoms and rights including economic needs.
When we talk about human freedoms and rights, we’ve got to understand that everybody needs a decent paying job, that people need health care, that people need an education… These are not radical ideas. So what democratic socialism means to me is having in a civilized society with the understanding that we can make sure that all of our people live in security and in dignity… I talk about human rights and economic rights.”
He added that one of these rights is health care.
“If I am elected President we will have a nation where all people will have health care as a right, whether Trump likes it or not… We are going to raise the minimum wage to a living wage of at least $15 a dollar… It also means that our kids and grandchildren have the human right to grow up on a planet that is healthy and habitable.”
Sanders later discussed the pharmaceutical industry, saying it’s the greediest industry in the U.S. His plan has Medicare negotiating prices with the pharmaceutical industry. He said our current prices are high because drug companies can charge whatever they want. Instead, he wants us to be able to purchase pharmaceuticals from Canada, and we should come up with prices based on the average of prices worldwide.
“The drug companies have as much wealth and so much power that they aren’t going to be easy to defeat,” he warned.
He also talked about climate change and said that it is the major national security issue facing the country.
“We are going to have to not only take on Trump and his deniers, but we’re going to have to take on the power of the fossil fuel industry,” he said.
Sanders added that we need to transform the energy system away from fossil fuels. The technology is there, and doing so will open up many new jobs, he said.
Another right, he said, is helping parents be able to provide childcare for their children.
“The most important years of human development are 0 to 4…” he said. “And yet we have a system which is basically dysfunctional. You have workers who are underpaid, who have parents … who cannot afford the care that they need, and many kids are not getting the kind of nourishment that they need.”
All the studies tell us that when you invest in pre-K education, kids are much less likely to drop out or end up in jail years down the line, he said. This kind of investment will pay off in the long run.
He’ll Bring a Lie Detector If He’s Debating Trump
If he’s on the debate stage with Trump how will he engage him?
“Well, I’ll bring a lie detector along,” Sanders said. “I have conservative friends, they’re honest friends, they believe what they believe and I believe what I believe… That’s democracy.”
He said they will hold Trump accountable to his promises that he’s broken about health care, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. “Holding him accountable would be a good start in that debate.”
Bernie: ‘Russia Cannot Sabotage the Election’
Sanders was asked how he would ensure that his campaign isn’t infiltrated by Russia. And how would he eliminate this threat as President?
“Clearly we’ve got to make it clear to Russia that they cannot sabotage elections in the U.S. or around the world,” Sanders said. “We are spending a lot of money trying to protect our computers, etc. But ultimately the word has got to go out that cyberware, the attempt to destroy American democracy, is a very very serious offense that will not be taken lightly.”
Bernie Sanders Warned Against Regime Change by the U.S. Government, Including in Venezuela
Sanders was asked about his position on Venezuela and he explained it clearly.
There are a lot of awful things happening in the world. What’s going on in Venezuela is terrible… I strongly believe there has to be an international humanitarian effort to improve lives… The evidence is pretty clear that the last election in Venezuela was not a free and fair election… But, I’m old enough to remember the war in Vietnam. … I tried to keep the United States from going to war with Iraq… and I am very fearful of the United States’ continuing to do what it’s done in the past.
At this point, Sanders talked about the disastrous results when the U.S. worked to overthrow governments in Brazil, Guatemala, and Chile.
Sometimes you have unintended consequences when a powerful nation goes in and tells people who their government will be. Whether it is Saudi Arabia, which is a despotic regime, or Venezuela, we’ve got to do everything we can to create a democratic climate. But I do not agree in U.S. military intervention in those countries.”
Sanders said he’s calling for internationally supervised free elections. He added that it’s interesting that Trump’s so concerned about Venezuela but not Saudi Arabia.
Then he said that if Trump can succeed in face-to-face meetings with Kim Jong Un, that’s a good thing. The idea of meeting face-to-face with your adversaries is good, he said. He said he’d like to bring the Palestinians and Israelis together, Saudi Arabia and Iran together.
The Wall Isn’t Going To Be Built
Sanders said he doesn’t believe Trump will get the wall, when asked if he would work on taking the wall down once he’s President. He said the national emergency declaration speaks to Trump’s authoritarian goals.
Sanders: I ‘Knocked My Brains Out’ Supporting Clinton
Sanders was asked about people who said he didn’t support Hillary Clinton enough after she became the nominee.
“I reject the first premise… I knocked my brains out, in fact I just saw a letter today from Hillary Clinton that said, ‘Thank you Bernie for working so hard in my election…’ I do not accept for one moment that I did not do everything that I could. …
He Emphasized His Support for $15/Hour
Bernie then reiterated his supporter for at least a $15/hour minimum wage, adding that it will be phased in, not instituted all at once.
If we raise that minimum wage to 15 an hour, workers will have more money to spend in their community and create jobs doing that… I think it’s good economics and I’m very delighted to see the kind of progress we’re making… I believe the House of Representatives will pass a $15/hour minimum wage, and we’re going to fight as hard as we can to see that passed in the United States Senate. We shouldn’t have… people working two or three jobs just to pay the bills.”
Sanders Will Bridge the Divide with Trump Supporters
Sanders said we’re not all as divided as might think, but politicians are more beholden to billionaires and lobbyists, not the people.
“I honestly believe we can bring the Amerian people together around an agenda that works for working families rather than just the one percent.”
How would he reach out to Trump supporters as President?
In Erie, Pennsylvania, there is a company that makes locomotives… A new company came in and took it over… As soon as they came in…they said to their workers, ‘We’re going to have mandatory overtime…and we’re going to substantially lower the pay for new workers…’ Meanwhile they gave tens of millions of dollars in bonuses to CEOS and high-ranking officials. That’s what’s going on in this country… You go to Trump country and ask people there whether they think that makes sense.”
He reiterated that he does not believe most Trump supporters are racist or sexist. Just like his supporters, they’re worried about their children’s standard of living, life expectancies going down in some areas, and similar concerns.
He also said we need to be prepared for when workers lose jobs because of artificial intelligence and robotics. His supporters can find common ground with Trump supporters in many areas.
“We have got to reach out to those people and we’ve got to stand with them for decent jobs, decent health care… and I think we can win them over.”