Sunday, September 14, 2014

Chuck Todd Presses Bernie Sanders on "Meet the Press"

File:Chuck Todd2.jpg
Chuck Todd
This morning,  newly minted Meet the Press host Chuck Todd interviewed first-time guest Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist who caucuses with the Democratic Party in the US Senate.
Citing that Sanders could run to Hillary Clinton's left and upset her chances for nomination and election in 2016 (if Hillary chooses to run), Todd asked him the practical, political question: will you switch parties and become a Democrat?

Well, I am the longest serving Independent serving in the history of the United States Congress. That's how I have always won in the state of Vermont.

For background, Todd had informed voters that Sanders had served as mayor of Burlington Vermont, followed by eight terms in the House of Representatives, then his election to the US Senate in 2006.

US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sanders continued:

I am thinking about running for President, and the issue is if you run as an Independent, with the necessity of setting up a fifty-state infrastructure, running as a Democrat, that is something I'm looking at right now.

When Todd pressed him on whether he had ruled out running as an Independent, Sanders clearly affirm that he has not made up his mind on that issue yet.

The reason I am going to Iowa is to get a sense of how people feel about it. The truth is, profound anger at both political parties, more people  are becoming Independent. . . the negative is, how do you set up a fifty-state infrastructure and run as an Independent.

Referencing his former mayoralty's city paper, Todd read out the frustrations of progressives looking for a Presidential candidate who stand up to Wall Street, tackle poverty, and also block cuts to federal entitlement programs (Social Security).

Alluding the rift on in the Democratic Party emerging between the progressives and Wall Street affiliates, Todd offered that Sanders would run because Clinton would not fulfill the progressive wish list.

Sanders countered cautiously, like any politician mulling a Presidential run:

Well, A, I don't know if Hillary Clinton is running. B, I don't know what she's running, but this is what I do know. I know that the middle class in this country is collapsing. I know that the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is widening. There is profound anger at the greed of Wall Street and Corporate America. anger at the political establishment, and by the way, at the Media establishment.

Then Sanders echoed the same sentiments which anger partisans had heard in 2008

The American people want real change, and I've been taking on the big money interest, the special interest all my political life.

Still pressing Sanders on whether he thinks that Hillary is left-wing enough, the Senator demurred:

The issue is not Hillary. I've known Hillary Clinton for many years. I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton. The question is, at a time when so many people have seen a decline in their standard of living, when the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well, the American people want change. The want Congress, they want candidates to stand up to the big money interests. So, let Hillary speak for herself, I know where I'm coming from.

Refusing to call her out directly, Sanders put himself as the new leader on the populist Left against Hillary Clinton and her party (which may become his party if he chooses to run)

Listing all the frustrations of the American People, Todd surmises that Sanders is upset with President Obama.

President Obama has done some very good things. I think the level of obstructionism he is having to face is unprecedented in American History, and in some areas I clearly disagree with him. I think he should have understood from day one that the Republicans were not going to cooperate with him. I think he should have gone to the people in a more aggressive way and said" You know what, the American people want to raise the minimum wage. We need millions of people to come to Washington and demand us do that. You just can't sit in a room and negotiate with people who choose not to negotiate.

Trying to buoy his searing criticism for the President, Sanders retreated:

I think he has been right on some of his ideas. I was on the floor of the Senate for eight and a half hours because I disagreed with his continuing tax breaks for the rich. But the bottom line is he has not tapped the anger and frustration that the American people feel on many, many issues. The only way we bring about change is when the American people become mobilized.

Now this coming election, 60% of the American people are not gonna vote. The Koch Brothers and the other billionaires are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That is not a way you bring about change. You mobilize the American People.

Without fanfare, Todd oblique Sanders' anti-Koch rant with allusions to the left-wing billionaires (mentioning Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg) in this country. Would the Independent Senator take their money?

I think Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst US Supreme Court  decisions ever. It is opening up the road to oligarchy in the United States of America, where the billionaires like the Koch Brothers . . .

Todd asked for clarification -- left or right?

Left or right, but it's mostly right. let's be clear.

Tom Steyer
Sanders' assertion that the right-wing, or rather libertarian-leaning Koch Brothers are buying elections is suspect, based on the heavy spending from the billionaires like gun-control advocate Michael Bloomberg and environmental activist Tom Steyer. Left-wing billionaire George Soros has spent massive sums in political activism as well.

The Koch Brothers are going to spend four hundred million dollars. You know what they believe in? Let me tell you what they believe in. This is what they told us. They want to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. They want  more tax breaks for the rich, large corporations. Nobody in America wants that except the billionaire class, and  now they are able to put hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process. This is a real danger to American democracy.

Todd then asked if the Democratic Party was open to a progressive like Sanders (suggesting that he would switch parties to run an effective Presidential campaign with an infrastructure already in place):

Let me shock you by saying this. I don't think it's just the Democratic Party. I think whether the people are Democrats, moderates, or conservatives, there is a profound anger at understanding that the middle class is disappearing. Millions of people are working longer hours for low wages, that 95% of all new income has gone to the top 1%. That's not just a Democratic issue. In Vermont, I got a lot of Republican votes.

Still trying to find our whether the Democratic Party stands today, closer to him or closer to Clinton, Sanders ducked the question:

I think anybody who speaks for the needs of the working class, the middle class in this country, and shows the courage to take on the billionaire class, that candidate will do pretty well.

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