It’s been a lot easier to #FeelTheBern this week.
Bernie Sanders sat down for two lengthy interviews: The first with the New York Daily News editorial board, and the second with self-proclaimed Sanders supporter Spike Lee in The Hollywood Reporter. In both, he discussed everything from how he plans to break up the big banks on Wall Street to his worst case scenario in the general election.
Here’s what we learned about the presidential hopeful.
1. To an extent, he agrees with Donald Trump about trade.
Both Sanders and Trump have been vocal about their distaste for currently-in-place trade deals, unlike Hillary Clinton, who Sanders says agree with what’s in place. When the Daily News pointed out this similarity with Trump, he said: “Well, if he thinks they’re bad trade deals, I agree with him. They are bad trade deals. But we have some specificity and it isn t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade.”
When it comes to the sort of trade he does believe in, it’s moving away from relocating manufacturing to “a country where wages are abysmal.” To do that, he says he will renegotiate “all of the trade agreements we have.”
2. He has a "good relationship" with President Obama – but "suspects" Hillary Clinton is closer to him.Sanders told Lee that he gets along with Obama – and they go way back. Obama came to Vermont to campaign for him in 2006, and Sanders did the same for the president in 2008 and 2012. “We have a very positive and, I think, friendly relationship,” he said. However, he did admit that he believes Clinton is closer to Obama, saying “She was his secretary of state for four years.”
3. He thinks his administration could have the power to break up the big banks.
It’s Sanders’ pillar issue in his campaign, and the Daily News asked him plenty about it. He responded that the key to breaking up the big banks is creating new legislation and “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.”
As for giving that authority, Sanders says, “I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.” And while he hopes his administration will instigate the break up of these banks – he names Citibank, J.P.Morgan Chase as examples – it will be the banks themselves who will find the new normal. “That is their decision as to what they want to do and how they want to reconfigure themselves. That’s not my decision.”
4. He thinks the United States needs to work with Palestine and Israel
The Daily News asked Sanders what he thinks of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and it seems compromise is his answer. “I think the United States has got to help work with the Palestinian people as well,” he said. “I think that is the path toward peace.”
But when the Daily News asked him what he would have done in the 2014 conflict, Sanders said “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.”
5. He doesn’t "know" if Obama’s change in policy was the best move for fighting ISIS – and doesn’t want to go to war.
Just like he was back in 2004, Sanders is against using U.S. troops deal with ISIS. He says he agrees with King Abdullah of Jordan that, “the war against ISIS is a war over the soul of Islam.” He’s all for the United States lending their support, but not get on the ground themselves. “And the war must be won by Muslim troops on the ground with the support of the United States and other major powers,” he said. “That is what I believe.”
But at the core of the issue for him is saving the lives of innocent people. When asked if Obama’s switch of authority over drone attacks from the CIA to the military was the right call, Sanders said: “I don’t know the answer to that. Whatever the mechanism, whoever is in control of that policy, it has to be refined so that we are killing the people we want to kill and not innocent collateral damage.”
6. He believes he can do for the country as president what he did for Burlington as mayor.
Back when Sanders was the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he came in with a lot of opposition, but through the influence of grassroots organizations, he was able to create real change. “You’ve got Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or whatever it is,” he told the Daily News. “Are they going to do the things you want? And the answer is no. But the way change happened in Burlington is we had tremendous opposition.” He credits the people and their increasingly-strong feelings about the government for helping to change the tide for this in charge.
7. He says he feels the same about gun control that Obama does.
Like the president, Sanders wants to expand background checks, get rid of the gun show loophole and the straw man provision (which lets someone buy a gun legally, and then sell to someone who hasn’t gone through a background check), and focus more on mental health, too. “I think that’s the president’s vision, that’s my position.”
What he is getting some flack for, however, is his declaration that the victims of gun violence should not be able to sue the manufacturer, which is currently happening in Connecticut with the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. He does believe that if the gun is sold to someone that a seller or manufacturer should have known wasn’t fit to have a gun, the rules change. “But I do believe that gun manufacturers and gun dealers should be able to be sued when they should know that guns are going into the hands of wrong people,” he said. “I think there are grounds for those suits, but not if you sell me a legal product.”
At the end of the day, Sanders says he’s against assault weapons, period. “I do not believe that those guns should be sold in America. They’re designed for killing people.”
He reiterated his opinion while speaking with Lee: “My view is that right now we have got to deal with this.”
8. He thinks frustration with establishment politics have led to Trump’s rise in popularity.
How can Donald Trump say he’d shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and still not lose any supporters? According to Sanders, the establishment grossly underestimated how fed up the American public is with the political status quo. “One of the reasons for these 50-year-old, 60-year-old white guys voting for Trump is in many cases they are working longer hours for lower wages, they are seeing their jobs go to China, they are seeing their jobs go to Mexico,” Sanders told Lee. “They are scared to death about the future of their kids, and they don’t see anybody doing anything about it. And Trump comes along and says, “I got the solution, we’re going to scapegoat Mexicans and we’re going to build a wall a mile high.” People are angry, what do you do? You don’t get to the real issues as to why people are hurting, you scapegoat.”
9. His idea of a "disaster" for the country is seeing a Republican in the Oval Office.
While some of his supporters have famously said they’d abstain from voting for Hillary Clinton in the general election if Sanders was to lose the nomination, Sanders says that that while Clinton is “of course” an establishment candidate, she’s not an “evil person.” “What I am concerned about, what I think would be a disaster for the United States of America, is to see a Donald Trump or some right wing Republican become President of the United States,” he said. “I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening.”