"We should simply have the establishment bringing forth a candidate?!" Bernie Sanders sits for testy NPR interview

The 2016 candidate tackles race, guns, foreign policy, and his role in the race

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published June 25, 2015 8:40PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Bernie Sanders sat for an at-times testy interview with NPR’s "Morning Edition," during which he was questioned on areas of burgeoning criticism facing his rising 2016 candidacy.

Here are some highlights from Sen. Sanders’ conversation with NPR’s David Greene:

On 2016

After Greene ticked off a list of past underdog candidates who went on to foil their party’s shot at the White House, the straightforward Senator pushed back hard against the premise of the question:

Is your point being that people should not contest elections, that we should simply have the establishment bringing forth a candidate?


So the implication is I guess somebody should decide who the candidate is and we should all go to sleep. Well that's a good idea, that's what really democracy is about, right?

That's an absurd point. The point is that we need serious debate about serious issues in this country.

Sanders went on to remind Greene that he has never run a negative political ad and reaffirmed his personal admiration for his main political rival, Hillary Clinton, while promising “an intelligent campaign on serious issues.”

And when Greene asked, “If you don't end up with a nomination but you feel like there was that kind of serious conversation would you point to it as a success,” Sanders ignored the hypothetical, vowing instead to “win this campaign by running on the issues that the American people feel strongly.”

On Guns

Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s Super PAC is out today with an early negative ad targeting Sen. Sanders on his record on gun control.

Greene asked Sanders about his “mixed record” on gun control, noting that at times Sanders has “stood up for the rights of gun owners in his state.”

"If anyone thinks that gun control itself is going to solve the problem of violence in this country, you're terribly mistaken,” retorted Sanders, pointing to his “D” and “F” ratings from the NRA.

Sanders explained that the issue of guns in Vermont is very different from the issue in cities like Chicago where gun-related homicides are out of control. Sanders called hunting “a lifestyle that should not be condemned.”

“Urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99 percent of the people in my state who hunt are law abiding people,” Sanders said.

On Race

Greene searched for room between Sanders and Clinton on race and Ferguson, asking the Senator about the controversy that arose after Clinton’s usage of “all lives matters” rather than the phrase “black lives matter” when visiting the Ferguson, MO area earlier this week. Greene asked Sanders, “are you ready to go to Ferguson and say black lives matter”:

Am I ready to go to Ferguson? What do you think I've been saying on the floor? When the lives matter, it means we are not going to accept police brutality or illegal behavior against young African Americans OR anybody else. But when you talk about "lives matter," sometimes what we forget is when 51 percent of young African American kids are unemployed. Are those lives that matter?

Greene continued to push the point, asking more directly, “would have been ready to say that phrase if you were there?”

Phraseology, of course I'd use that phrase. Black lives matter, white lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. But these are also not only police matters, they're not only gun control matters, they are significantly economic matters.


Because it's too easy for “liberals” to be saying 'well let's use this phrase.' Well, what are we going to do about 51-percent of young African Americans unemployed? We need a massive jobs program to put black kids to work and white kids to work and Hispanic kids to work. So my point is, is that it's sometimes easy to say - worry about what phrase you're going to use. It's a lot harder to stand up to the billionaire class and say, you know what? You're going to have to pay some taxes. You can't get away with putting your money in tax havens, because we need that money to create millions of jobs for black kids, for white kids, for Hispanic kids.

On Foreign Policy

Sanders admitted he had “no magic solution” on how to deal with a resurgent Russia but he was quick to assert that “the United States cannot be the only country in the world in the world intervening in so many countries.”

Sanders said he learned many lessons from the wars of the last decade before turning to third person to address Republicans who are quick to rush to war against Russia and no shortage of other countries:

Bernie Sanders gets very, very nervous when he hears Republicans who apparently just can't get enough of war — whether it's going to war in Syria, going to war in Iraq, going to war in Iran, going to war with Russia.

Sanders said that as the former chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee he understood “what the cost of war really is.”

"I have concerns that we are already spending more money on the military than the next nine countries that our Department of Defense can't even sustain and independently audit. We're wasting a huge amounts of money on defense" Sanders said.

When Greene asserted that it sounded like Sanders “would intervene less than this president has,” Sanders pushed back, yet again:

No, I didn't say that. You've got to look at each particular case, obviously. But uh, I am concerned about Russia, we're very concerned about ISIS, but once again, the United States cannot be the only country in the world intervening in so many countries. I think we've got to learn that lesson.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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2016 Elections Bernie Sanders Gun Control Npr Race