U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders phoned The Breakfast Club this morning (February 26) and during a 15-minute conversation the presidential candidate spoke on a number of issues, including his opinion of Donald Trump, his thoughts on President Obama and whether his vote for a 1994 bill hurt the African-American community.
It was a serious conversation without many laughs. He was candid at times (he admitted he doesn’t know much about hip-hop, but admires Killer Mike’s ability to communicate to young people). At other times, he answered without saying much, particularly when Charlamagne Tha God asked how he would get some of his proposed plans to pass in Congress.
Listen to the conversation below and check out some of the highlights here.
On His Opinion Of Donald Trump
First it seemed like a joke, but now its not funny. He’s tapping into a lot of anger and frustration. And he’s doing it a way demagogues have always done it. They play one group off against the other. They tap people’s angers. They say, it’s the Muslims’ fault. We’re gonna prevent Muslims from coming into America and we’re gonna make America great. All Latinos are rapist and criminals and we’re gonna throw them out. That’s crap. We have serious problems in this country that need serious solutions. What he’s doing is tapping the worst and most base instincts in people. We have to stand up to him and fight back.
On The Violent Crime Control And Law Enforcement Act of 1994 And Should He Have Culpability In Voting For Legislation That Hurt African-Americans
Yup. The answer is yes. But here’s the other answer. Sometimes, as you know, there is legislation, it’s a very big piece of legislation that had some good stuff. For example, in that legislation there was a provision called violence against women. Domestic violence, as you know, is a very serious problem in this country. That provision was in that bill. Another provision, ban assault weapons. Well I, for a long time, believe that we should not sell military-style assault weapons that could kill dozens of people in a few minutes. That was in that bill as well. What happens sometimes, you got a bill that has some good stuff and some bad stuff. But let me say this, we have more people in jail today than any country on earth. More than China. 2.2 million people, largely African-American, largely Latino. That has got to change. The criminal justice is broken and I will do everything that I can to reform that broken system.
On Improving Police And Community Relations
Number one, if a person dies while being apprehended or arrested by a police officer, that should trigger a Department of Justice federal investigation. Number two, if police officers break the law, and we’ve seen that time and time again, they have got to be held accountable. Number three, we have to de-militarize these local police departments that look like occupying armies. We have to make police departments look like the diversity of the communities they serve.
In my view we have to get marijuana out of the federal control substance act, because African-Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than whites despite the fact that both communities smoke marijuana at the same levels. There’s a lot that needs to be done, but we need major, major police reform in this country.
On Whether He’s Too Old To Be President
Well, I think if you wanna follow me around for a few days… [Laughs]. I was a pretty good long-distance runner when I grew up in Brooklyn, one of the better runners in the city. And thank God. I’m healthy and thank God I have very good endurance. I would not have gotten into this unless I was healthy and strong. And I’m feeling just great.
On Why Black People And Women Should Vote For Him
I think if you check my record, you’re looking at a guy that stood up to big money, stood up to special interests and the establishment my whole political life. In 1988, Jessie Jackson ran for president of the United States. My state is 95 percent white. I endorsed Jackson in 1988. One of the very few. I think there was three white public officials; I was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Why did I do that? I did that not because he was black. I did it because the program he was outlining of economic and social and racial justice was one that I believed in.
When I was a kid back at the University of Chicago, I was all of 22 years of age. I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, got arrested. Check my record in Congress fighting for civil rights. Look at my record right now. The program that we’re bringing forth right now in dealing with a broken criminal justice system. On the need to create millions of good-paying jobs.
You know what, right now, and we don’t talk about it, I talk about it every damn speech I give, it doesn’t get a whole lot of media attention. I asked some economists to do a study for me, and what real unemployment among black kids 17-20 who graduated high school, you know what it is today? 51 percent. If we ask why it is that we have so many people in jails, that’s one of the reason. We have to create jobs. We have to have educational opportunities for these kids and not just arresting them and sending them to jail.
On Barack Obama
I think he’s done an extraordinary job. If you remember where we were as a country when Bush left office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month, we have a 1.4 trillion-dollar deficit and, by the way, the world’s financial system was on the verge of collapse. We’ve come a long way in the last 7 years despite the horrendous republican obstructionism, which continues today when they try to deny him the right to appoint his Supreme Court justice. I think he’s done a very good job.
Have I disagreed with him on some issues? Absolutely I have. I’m a United States senator and that’s what democracy is about. But I have stood with him time and time again in the fight against republican obstructionism.