The Bernie Sanders campaign took a hit this week — and this time the setback came from the candidate himself. The Democratic Socialist Senator from Vermont, who has amazed and stunned the political world by emerging from obscurity to pose a serious challenge for the Democratic nomination to frontrunner Hillary Clinton, stunned politics-watchers in a different way in an extensive interview with the New York Daily News editorial board published late Monday.
In the interview, Sanders struggled to answer basic policy questions, often admitting that he simply doesn’t have the knowledge to answer. More shockingly, the questions were not about peripheral issues or obscure “gotcha”-style facts. Instead, they concerned issues that Sanders himself has made the cornerstones of his “political revolution.”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s something I have not studied.”
“I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”
That’s a revolution? https://t.co/AljN9Pwm2p
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) April 5, 2016
After reading the Bernie Sanders interview, Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza called it “pretty close to a disaster,” while the Atlantic described Sanders as “tentative, unprepared, or unaware” of key information. The liberal political site Talking Points Memo said that Sanders “struggled” while the media-watching site MediaIte deemed the interview a “bomb.”
The full transcript of the New York Daily News editorial board interview with Bernie Sanders can be read at this link.
Watch a recent Bernie Sanders stump speech, delivered last weekend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the video below.
The foundation of the Bernie Sanders campaign has been the 74-year-old’s relentless attack on Wall Street and the financial industry, calling repeatedly to break up the Wall Street banks that during the 2008 financial crisis were deemed “too big to fail.”
But when the Daily News editors asked him 10 times about exactly how a President Bernie Sanders planned to accomplish his pledge to break up the big banks, Sanders floundered, failing to come up with more than a vague response — at one point admitting that he “had not studied” a key legal case that could raise a major obstacle to Sanders bank-breakup goals.
“Daily News: How do you go about [breaking up the banks]?
“Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.
“Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?
“Sanders: Well, I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.”
Asked if he believed as president he would have the authority to break up banks by “Federal Reserve fiat,” Sanders said, “I believe you do.”
In fact, under Section 121 of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform bill, the seven-member Federal Reserve Board of Governors must vote by a two-thirds majority to take action against any financial institution with assets more than $50 billion. The members — of which there are currently five, with two vacant seats — are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate for 14-year-terms.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) April 5, 2016
Asked by the Daily News editors what would happen to the more than 200,000 employees of J.P.Morgan Chase — a firm that Sanders singled out as a breakup target — if the firm were disbanded by the government, Sanders avoided the question.
“What I foresee is a stronger national economy. And, in fact, a stronger economy in New York State, as well. What I foresee is a financial system which actually makes affordable loans to small and medium-size businesses.”
The editors also asked Sanders about a recent court decision in which one large financial institution, Metropolitan Life, challenged a “too big to fail” ruling in court — and won.
“It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that,” Sanders replied.
He was also asked about his campaign promise to prosecute financial executives as criminals. Sanders said “I suspect” that laws are on the books to enable such prosecutions, adding “Do I have them in front of me, now, legal statutes? No, I don’t.”
When one of the interviewers said, “I’m only pressing because you’ve made it such a central part of your campaign,” Sanders again pivoted, simply repeating his frequent campaign-trail assertion that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud.”
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The interview also covered foreign policy questions, an area where Sanders also struggled. Asked about how he felt Israel should have handled the 2014 crisis in Gaza, Sanders demurred, saying, “You’re asking me now to make not only decisions for the Israeli government but for the Israeli military, and I don’t quite think I’m qualified to make decisions.”
Sanders was also asked whether he would imprison captured high-level ISIS terrorists inside the United States, the candidate replied, “Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”
Sanders even swung and missed at a trivial question about how to ride the New York City Subway.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) April 2, 2016
“You get a token and you get in,” Sanders said. But apparently unknown to Bernie Sanders, a New York City native who moved to Vermont in the mid 1960s, the city’s transit system eliminated the subway token in 2003, replacing it with a prepaid card form of payment.
[Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images]