Bernie Sanders, fresh off his victory over Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, began his campaign to win the April 19 New York primary by airing an interview with director Spike Lee.
Sanders, the Vermont senator and self-avowed socialist, has now won six primaries in a row against former secretary of state Clinton.
The interview was conducted by Lee for The Hollywood Reporter. It began with Sanders, 73, walking towards Lee and embracing him while asking, “How ya doin’, my man?”
Lee began the interview by asking Sanders, who grew up in New York, what makes the state so special. Sanders credited public education with creating a “vibrant community.”
“It was a great place to grow up for me,” said Sanders.
Even though Sanders is from New York, he represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate. So Lee asked Sanders, “How do you go from Brooklyn to Vermont?”
“By car,” Sanders quipped. “Mostly by car.”
Expanding Sanders’ Base
Though Sanders has much appeal with younger crowds, he has not done as well with older people and African-Americans, two key Democratic constituencies. Lee asked him how he could reach out to them.
Sanders mentioned his support for expanding Social Security and prescription drug benefits, as well as his efforts to “take on” the pharmaceutical industry.
Sanders’ and Clinton’s Relationship With President Obama
Spike Lee then asked Sen. Sanders if Clinton benefited from her relationship with President Barack Obama, for whom she served as secretary of state and who remains popular with most Democrats.
Sanders stressed that he had a “good” relationship with Obama.
“Let me be very straight about this: this president will go down in history as one of the smartest presidents…And especially the more they hear from Republicans, the smarter they think he is.”
He added that Obama came and campaigned for him in Vermont in 2006 and that Sanders returned the favor in 2008 and 2012, when Obama ran for president.
When Did Sanders Decide to Run for President?
Lee asked Sanders when it hit him that he should run for president.
After joking that “the definition of a senator” is someone who looks in the mirror and sees the next U.S. president staring back, Sanders got serious.
“With all due respect to Secretary Clinton and everybody else, it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics to solve the problems facing this country now, that are so serious and so deep that the ‘same-‘ol-same-‘ol’ ain’t gonna do it. And what we need to do is create a political movement–what I call a political revolution–where millions of people come together, stand up…and bringing people together to tell the billionaire class that they cannot have it all. And that’s the case right now. People don’t appreciate how much power Wall Street has, corporate America, the corporate media, and we’ve got to take them on.”
Lee Takes On Sanders Over Guns
Not all of the interview was congenial, however, as Lee confronted Sanders’ position on guns, which is at odds with most progressives.
Sanders acknowledged that when people discuss guns in a rural state like Vermont, “they’re talking about hunting.”
“I do know that guns mean something very different around urban America. And what we have got to do is get a handle on this horrific gun violence.”
Sanders went on to tout his D-rating from the National Rifle Association and spoke of his advocacy for background checks and affordable mental health care.
Sanders recently garnered controversy when, in an interview with the New York Daily News, he stated that families of the victims of gun violence should not be allowed to sue gun manufacturers.
Sanders also called for “rethinking the war on drugs” and “free tuition at public colleges and universities.”
Sanders Wants to Win New York Primary
When asked how he thought he would do in New York, Sanders said, “It will be a tough fight; she was the U.S. senator here for eight years, but I think we’re going to win.”
Clinton leads Sanders in an April 1 CBS News poll, 53-43 percent.
Lee endorsed Sanders in February and cut ads for him for the South Carolina primary.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]