September 14, 2014

Unlike Sen. John McCain, who has been on Meet the Press sixty nine times and counting, this was Sen. Bernie Sanders first appearance on the show, so naturally host Chuck Todd wanted to spend the better part of it trying to get Sanders to attack President Obama and his potential 2016 presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

Todd asked Sanders about his potential 2016 run and he explained why it might not be practical for him to run as an independent: Sanders: I may run as a Dem, but 'the issue is not Hillary':

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) said Sunday he may run for president as a Democrat, but denied that his interest is fueled by discontent with Hillary Clinton, the current frontrunner in the potential Democratic field.

“The issue is not Hillary — I’ve known Hillary Clinton for many years. I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The issue, Sanders said, is that “the American people want change. They want Congress, they want candidates to stand up to the big money interests.”

“There is a profound anger at understanding that the middle class is disappearing,” Sanders later added.

Sanders has expressed interest in a 2016 run as a platform for him to shape the presidential debate around issues he sees as most significant — increasing income inequality and the decline of the middle class, primarily.

They’re issues that ignite the progressive base in the Democratic Party, a wing of the party that’s expressed reservations at Clinton’s potential run for president.

Progressives have criticized Clinton as too close to Wall Street and not outspoken enough in her defense of entitlement programs, and have been looking for an alternative to Clinton in the race, though she leads every Democratic primary poll by huge margins.

But Sanders notably avoided criticizing Clinton, when asked whether he’d be contemplating a run if she were sufficiently addressing the issues he felt were most important.

“[I’ll] let Hillary speak for herself. I know where I’m coming from,” he said. [...]

Sanders said, however, the two could be in for a primary fight — but his decision to run as a Democrat would be based on purely practical considerations.

“I am thinking about running for president. And the issue of whether you run as an independent, with the necessity of setting up a 50-state infrastructure, running as a Democrat — that’s something that I’m looking at right now,” he said.

Todd pushed Sanders on whether he was disappointed with President Obama and how he's governed and Sanders made no secret of that fact that he has had disagreements with the president, but he made sure to place the blame for the way things have gone since he was elected back squarely in the lap of the obstructionist Republicans in Congress and the Koch brothers and their ilk and how toxic they've been to our politics:

Chuck Todd asked Sanders if he was okay with left supporting billionaires participating in the process or if his issue was with the entire process.

Sen. Sanders said, “Chuck, I think Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever. I think it is opening up the road to oligarchy in the United States of America, where the billionaires like the Koch brothers….left or right, but it’s mostly right let’s be clear.”

Sanders continued, “The Koch brothers are going to spend $400 million. Do you know what their agenda is? Do you know what they believe in? Let me tell you what they believe in. This is what they told us. They want to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. More tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. Nobody in America wants that except the billionaire class, and yet they are now able to put hundreds of billions of dollars into the political process. This is a real danger to American democracy.”

Sen. Sanders talked about the profound anger in the country among Democrats and Republicans, and the fact that the candidate who can talk about middle-class issues will do pretty well.

I think Jason Easley gave Todd and his producers way too much credit for having him on there and what it might mean for the show, but it was still a breath of fresh air to have him invited as a guest.

Sanders has already said that his agenda if he runs would be to push the other presidential candidates to the left, which he's already doing now with his focus on issues that affect the working class and those living in poverty. Todd and his ilk want to make it all about the horse race.


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