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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN's Town Hall with Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders(I-VT). Aired 8-8:55p ET
Aired February 06, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And live from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, this is a CNN town hall event.
I'm Anderson Cooper. Welcome.
The results from Iowa are still not final, two candidates on stage tonight both claiming victory, and the first-in-the-nation primary here is just five days away.
Tonight, New Hampshire Democrats and independents, many of whom are still undecided, will be posing their questions to candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.
You're going the hear from Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Deval Patrick.
We begin, though, right now with the senator from Vermont.
Please welcome Senator Bernie Sanders.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COOPER: Hey, Senator, how you?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you?
COOPER: Nice to see you. Welcome.
SANDERS: Good to see you.
COOPER: So, we're going get to audience questions in just a second.
I just want to quickly ask you a couple of questions.
January was the best fund-raising month of your entire campaign. You obviously had a great night in Iowa this week, though it's still -- results are not yet final.
Do you now consider yourself the front-runner of the Democratic Party?
SANDERS: No. I think we have an excellent chance to win here in New Hampshire. We
did very well. We won in Iowa. I think we are the strongest campaign to defeat the most dangerous president in modern American history, and we intend to do that.
But we're up against some stiff competition in the Democratic primary.
And I want to say something about the fund-raising, which I am enormously proud of. You're right. We have raised a lot of money. But we have done it differently than any candidate around.
What we have done is raise more campaign contributions from more Americans averaging $18 apiece than any candidate in the history of American politics.
That is new. In other words, we are funding our campaign not by going to rich people's homes. We don't have a super PAC. We're not asking billionaires for support. Our campaign in many ways is a campaign of the working class of this country by the working class and for the working class. I'm enormously proud of that.
COOPER: Given what happened in Iowa, and that the results still are not in, the DNC has now said they should recanvass.
Do you want -- are you going to call on the...
SANDERS: I think we should -- we have got enough of Iowa.
SANDERS: I think we should move on to New Hampshire.
The people -- it really did distress me, because I went all over the state of Iowa, and the people there are really great people who take their responsibility of the first caucus in the country very, very seriously.
And it is really sad that the Democratic Party of Iowa, if I may say so, screwed up the counting process quite so badly.
But, at the end of the day, where we are in Iowa is, with only about 180,000 people voting, eight strong candidates, we ended up getting the -- we ended up winning the popular vote by 6,000.
They have a realignment process, as you know, in Iowa. We won that by 2,500. And I suspect that, at the end of the day, Mr. Buttigieg and I will have an equal number of delegates to the national convention.
COOPER: Final question, just before we get to the audience.
President Trump today...
SANDERS: Oh, what did he do today?
COOPER: Called his impeachment today evil, corrupt, said it was -- quote -- "dirty cops, leakers, and liars."
He said the Russia investigation was all B.S., though he used the actual word in the East Room of the White House.
Some Republicans, Joni Ernst, Lamar Alexander, have said they think he has learned a lesson from impeachment.
Based on today, what do you think the lesson he learned is?
SANDERS: Oh, I think he did learn a lesson.
He learned a lesson that he can get away with corruption. He can get away with continuing to lie. He can get away with being a president who considers himself above the law.
And, Anderson, if you ask me about the acquittal yesterday, the worst part of it is, it sets a precedent for future presidents in this country. That will not be me. I will not operate that way.
But for future presidents, who say, you know what? I can tell a governor, we're distributing infrastructure money, road construction money, you know what, if you don't support me in my reelection, guess what? You're not going to get your fair share.
And I can tell a country, China, hey, I want you to do an investigation on my political opponent. That's OK. That's legal. That's kosher.
That is not what the Constitution of this country is about. That's not what America is about. And his contempt for Congress -- Congress is an equal branch of government. Everybody in the third grade knows that we have equal branches of government.
We have a judiciary, we have a president, an executive branch, we have a Congress.
The United States Congress has the right of oversight. And when the president does something they think wrong, they have the right and the obligation to investigate that.
And Trump says, no, I'm not going cooperate. And the precedent said -- precedent said -- sent -- said last night -- last night -- set last night is that, hey, presidents don't have to cooperate with Congress. We will do whatever we want. You don't like it, Congress, tough luck. We are not cooperating.
So that is a very dangerous precedent for the future of this country, and it bothers me very much.
COOPER: Do you think there is anything to stop President Trump from calling up Zelensky again right now and say, let's launch that investigation?
SANDERS: Apparently not. With the exception of one Republican, my Republican colleagues thought that that was just fine.
And, by the way, I give Mitt Romney a lot of credit.
But it also disturbs me. And I can tell you. I am a senator. I know these guys. There are Republicans who know exactly what is going on, and they simply are intimidated and afraid of this president. That's just the simple and sad reality of the Republican Party right now.
COOPER: Let's go to the audience.
I want you to meet Alicia Laminu. She's a registered nurse from Merrimack. She's also a student at Southern New Hampshire University. She is undecided.
ALICIA LAMINU, REGISTERED NURSE: Hello, Senator Sanders.
I'm drawn to your plan for universal health care, but I'm skeptical, since I have been hearing about universal health care from every political candidate I have voted for.
What makes your plan different and able to become a reality?
SANDERS: Thank you very much, Alicia.
And you're right. You have been hearing about that. And you have been hearing about it -- or Americans have been hearing about it for a lot longer than you have been alive.
Teddy Roosevelt, way back when, over 100 years ago, talked about universal health care. FDR talked about it in the '30s and '40s. Truman talked about it. Johnson did something about it, talked about it. Obama talked about it, Jimmy Carter. Richard Nixon even talked about it.
All right, but what has been the problem all of this time? The problem is, at the end of the day, if we want universal health care, if we want to do what every other major country on Earth does -- this is not a radical idea.
I live in Burlington, Vermont, 50 miles away from the Canadian border. They do it. Everybody has health care. You don't take out your wallet or your credit card when you go to the doctor or the hospital. They spend one-half as much per capita as we spend.
So, Alicia, the question is, why hasn't it happened? And the answer is, we have not had the courage, as a people, to take on the greed and the corruption of the health care industry, the insurance companies and the drug companies.
Why do you think we are paying, in some cases, 10 times more for the same exact medicine sold in Canada or in Europe, 10 times more? And it has everything to do with the fact that the pharmaceutical industry over the last several decades has spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions.
They buy Congress. Alicia, the drug companies and the insurance companies will not buy me. I don't take their money. I don't need their money.
We are going to take them on in America. We will not pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and we will, in fact, move to a Medicare-for-all single-payer system, quality, comprehensive care for all.
And it will cost the average American substantially less than their family is paying today.
COOPER: Let me ask you.
The end of her question said, how does it become reality? Earlier this week, Vice President Biden said -- and I quote -- "The speaker of the House isn't for it. Most Democrats in Congress are not for it. So how it is going to pass?" -- talking about your plan. "How's it going to move? How does it get done?"
SANDERS: Well, actually, most members of Congress, I believe, are. I think the majority are on board for Medicare for all in the House, not the Senate.
This is how you do it. And this is the answer I'm going to give tonight, time and time again.
What our campaign is about -- and I admitted, it is a different type of campaign, because I'm not here to tell you, vote for me and I'm going to do all these great things. Ain't going to happen that way. It never happens that way.
Real change never takes place from the top on down, no matter who the president may be.
We need to involve millions of people in the political process. And when millions of people stand up, and they say to Mitch McConnell or any Democrat, we're sick and tired of paying, as is the case right now, for the average family, $12,000 a year, we're sick and tired of the deductibles, we're sick and tired of the co-payments, we're sick and tired of paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, we are going to take on, as a nation, the greed and the corruption of the pharmaceutical industry.
That's when it happens. And that's what our campaign is about. That's why we call our campaign us, not me, because I'm not here to tell you I can do it alone. I can't do it alone. We need to all stand up to take on the power of the health care industry.
COOPER: I want you to meet David Guerra. He's a physics professor here at Saint Anselm College. He's currently undecided. David?
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, welcome to Saint Anselm College. SANDERS: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is there a plan to dramatically increase the number of seats in the public university system to account for all the students that will want to go for college for free? And if there is no plan, will the currently available seats go to the students that have the highest high school achievement? Or will it go to those who have the most financial need?
SANDERS: Let me answer your question by saying this. We have a higher educational system which is in crisis right now. And by that, I mean we have hundreds of thousands of bright young people who cannot afford to go to college. And think about the potential that is being wasted in this country.
And then for those who leave school, graduate or drop out, you've got 45 million people who are in student debt, and I have talked to young people who are struggling with $50,000, $100,000 in student debt, talked to doctors, talked to dentists, leave school $300,000, $400,000 in debt. So first point that I want to make, David, I believe that in the year 2020, we must make public colleges and universities tuition- free.
And second of all, I believe that through a modest tax on Wall Street speculation -- we bailed out the crooks on Wall Street, now we're going give them, ask them to pay a modest tax -- we can cancel all student debt in America.
Now, I don't know how many new people, how many more hundreds of thousands will come in. But as a nation, we should be proud of saying, wow, this is great, we've got more kids coming into colleges. That is great, because that will make us to a more competitive nation economically and more competitive democratically as we have a better educational system.
COOPER: His question specifically was, how do you grow the number of seats available? Is that possible?
SANDERS: Well, I'll tell you how you do that. Maybe instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, we adequately fund higher education in America.
COOPER: And then how do you prioritize who gets those seats?
SANDERS: I don't know that that is going to be a problem. I don't think that we lack the ability to accommodate new people coming into the system.
COOPER: This is Ron Janowitz. He's a retiree from Manchester. He's currently undecided. He's leaning towards supporting Senator Klobuchar. Ron, welcome.
SANDERS: Hey, Ron.
QUESTION: Hello, Senator. Are you willing to compromise on your position on Medicare for all, free college, and eliminating student debt in order to pass meaningful legislation?
SANDERS: Well, Medicare for all, the proposal that we have, Ron, is in a sense a compromise because we don't do it all at once. We do it over a four-year period. And the first year, what we do is we expand Medicare.
Medicare is a strong program right now. It's the most popular health insurance program out there. But it is not as good as it should be. So what we do in the first year, Ron, is we expand it to cover dental care, which last I heard oral health was a health care issue, hearing aids, eyeglasses, and home health care. And in year one of a four- year transition period, we lower the eligibility age from 65 down to 55. Year two, 45, year three, 35. Year four, everybody's in. So that's kind of a compromise. There are some people who say, hey, let's do it. You know, other countries have done it all instantaneously. We do a four-year period.
In terms of higher education, look, I think that in a competitive global economy, it is terribly important for our young people, regardless of their income, to be able to get a higher education. I think that is what the American people want. And I think we can do that.
COOPER: Let me just ask, though, if there isn't the groundswell of people, the revolution that you have talked about, of people insisting on these changes, are there compromises you're willing to make with Republicans to get close to what you want?
SANDERS: Well, I mean, you got to look at it at a case by case moment. I think, for example, Ron, you go out to the American -- you go to Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky, which is a state where a lot of people are struggling, and you say to those people, OK, this is my proposal. We're going to lower the age of Medicare from 65 to 55, and we're expanding it to cover, as I mentioned, dental care and home health care and eyeglasses and hearing AIDS, what percentage of the people do you think in Kentucky would support that proposal? My guess is 70 percent, 80 percent of the people.
And my job then as president is to rally those people and tell their senators to support it. I think we can do that.
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have more from Senator Bernie Sanders right after this.
COOPER: And welcome back. We are live with Senator Bernie Sanders from Saint Anselm College here in New Hampshire.
Let's go back to our audience. I want to bring in Loren Selig. She's a realtor from Durham. She previously supported Senator Cory Booker. She's now leaning towards supporting Senator Warren. Loren?
SANDERS: Hey, Loren. QUESTION: Hi, hello. Thank you for being here. How do you think your Jewish heritage impacts your vision of the world and politics? And do you think it is a help or a hindrance to your role as a candidate?
SANDERS: It impacts me very profoundly. You know, when I try to think about how I came to the views that I hold, there are two major factors, I think. Although one never knows, but I think there are two factors.
Number one, I grew up in a family that didn't have a whole lot of money, and we struggled economically. And that made me aware that there are tens of millions of people who are in that same boat.
And the second one is being Jewish. And I remember as a kid looking at these big picture books of World War II, and tears would roll down my cheeks when I saw what happened to the Jewish people.
Six million people were killed by Hitler.
And I think, at a very early age, even before my political thoughts were developed, I was aware of the horrible things that human beings can do to other people in the name of racism or white nationalism or, in this case, Nazism. And in the community that I lived in, there were people --when you go downtown and you shop, people had their tattoos from the concentration camps on their arm.
A few years ago, my wife and I and my brother and his wife went back to the town in Poland where my father was born. And we were shown -- people were very, very nice, and we were shown an area where the Nazis had put some 300 people and just mowed them down in a ditch.
So that had -- you know, how horrible people can be to other people in the names of racial superiority or et cetera certainly has been with me for my entire life. And that is why I will do everything I can to end the kind of divisiveness that Trump is fomenting in this country.
We are one people. And I don't care if you're black, you're white, you're Latino, Native American, Asian American, you're gay, you're straight, that's not what it's about. What it's about is that we are human beings and we share common dreams and aspirations.
So, you know, the pain that my family, my father's family suffered in Poland is something that has impacted my life, absolutely.
COOPER: President Trump actually spoke about faith today at a national prayer breakfast this morning. He said he, quote, doesn't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong, but he also doesn't, quote, like people who say "I pray for you" when they know that's not so.
I wonder when you heard that, what went through your mind?
SANDERS: I'm tired of commenting on Trump's remarks. I really am. I think he lies all the time. And it's very hard for me to understand where he is coming from. He is a bully. He says terrible things. I suppose that he is attacking Mitt Romney. Is that the gist of this thing?
COOPER: Right, and Pelosi.
SANDERS: And Pelosi. So, you know, I know Nancy Pelosi pretty well. She is, you know, a strong Catholic. I don't know Mitt Romney terribly well. I know him, but he is a man of faith. He's a Mormon. And to attack people because they stand up to him is what this person's mind is about.
He thinks he is above the law. He thinks he's God's gift to the human race, and anybody who disagrees with him is some terrible human being and he will deal with those people, in sometimes the most savage ways, destroy people's lives. So, you know, that's all.
I think Mitt Romney showed a great deal of courage. And I wish that there were other Republicans who had the same sense of decency that he did.
You know, and I think back to somebody who I knew fairly well, John McCain. Of course you knew John. A decent person. Again, somebody I disagree with all over the place. And to see Trump attack McCain when he was alive and even when he was dead because McCain stood up to him is not what any decent human being would do, let alone a president of the United States.
COOPER: I want you to meet Samantha Riley. She's a student here at Saint Anselm. She's currently interning for a government relations firm. She's currently undecided. Samantha, welcome.
QUESTION: Hello, Senator. Lots of nations have been switching out and eliminating single-use plastics. China recently declared it would crack down on their single-use plastics by 2025. As president, how would you tackle the single plastics issue?
SANDERS: Well, it's one of many issues that we have to deal with in terms of the environment. I don't have to tell you. You've seen the pictures of our oceans where there are tons and tons and tons of plastics, where whales wash up onshore and they have all this horrible plastic in it.
So this is one of the many environmental crises that we are facing. And of the many crises that we're facing -- and I hope we get a chance, Anderson, to discuss this later -- is the crisis of climate change. And if we don't get a handle on that crisis, the planet that we're going to be leaving to our children and future generations will be increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable.
But there is an enormous amount of pollution of all kinds that's now taking place in America. Before I ran for president, I got to tell you, I didn't know. You go out to California, there are tens of thousands of people turn on the faucet, they cannot drink the water. It's not just Flint, Michigan. There are hundreds of communities, including communities right here in New Hampshire, where people cannot get clean drinking water.
So we've got a major environmental crisis. And then we've got a president who has converted the Environmental Protection Agency into the environmental -- into the Non-Environmental Protection Agency. He's doing exactly the wrong thing, deregulating polluters. So this is a major issue that we have got to deal with. And as president, I certainly will.
COOPER: So how would you direct your EPA chief if you were president of the United States?
SANDERS: Look, what we need to do is sweeping changes. We need to tell those manufacturers, those companies who are polluting our air, our water, and our land that they cannot continue to do that.
You know, I just came back from Iowa. They have factory farming there which has resulted in so many phosphates in the water that cities are spending a fortune just to have drinkable water. So we've got to have a moratorium on factory farming.
If there are fossil fuel plants that are polluting the environment, you know, we got to tell them they cannot do that. So we have a major environmental crisis in this country. We certainly have an existential threat in terms of climate change. And my administration will do everything we can to deal with those issues.
COOPER: If you're standing on a debate stage with President Trump, you know what he will say is those are all business-busting regulations, and that's what he's done away with.
SANDERS: Well, in fact, our policies will create a lot more jobs than his will. When you talk about transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy through a Green New Deal principle, you're talking about creating up to 20 million good-paying jobs.
And in terms of climate change, Anderson, the debate is really over. Nobody can say with a straight face, well, it's about jobs, when we are talking about the future of the planet, when we're talking about whether or not cities in America and around the world will be underwater, whether we're going see more and more drought. Everybody knows what's going on in Australia right now. If we don't get our act together, that is the future of the world. We are seeing a prelude to that in California with their terrible forest fires.
I was in Paradise, California, the beginning of the campaign. What I saw there was terrible. A small town, 26,000 people, lost 86 people, 86 people killed by a wildfire.
So Trump does not believe in climate change. And in not believing in the reality of climate change, what he is doing is threatening the very well-being of kids and future generations, and that is unacceptable. But from an economic point of view, he's also wrong. We can create --
yes, there will be some job loss. I acknowledge that. But what we can do is create a heck of a lot more jobs as we retrofit our older buildings, as we move to wind, solar, geothermal, and other sustainable energies.
And by the way, because climate change is not an American issue, it's a global issue, we can create jobs by leading the world, working with China and Russia and India and Pakistan and Brazil, countries all over the world, helping them with the technology they need to make the transformation -- energy transformation that we need to save the planet.
COOPER: I want you to introduce you to Thalia Floras. She's a retail district manager, lives in Merrimack. She supported Senator Cory Booker. She's now undecided. Thalia?
QUESTION: Welcome, Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Let me just say, Cory is a good friend of mine. His office is down the hall. He is a great guy.
QUESTION: Good to know. Thank you. We all agree that we need to commit to supporting the Democratic nominee. I was in Durham, New Hampshire, the day you threw your support behind Secretary Clinton. It was a really exciting day.
But there was division in the room. And I worried that day. I worry now that this race will become more contentious as we head towards the convention. All of the candidates aspire to unite the country, but how will you work with your fellow candidates to unite the party first?
SANDERS: Thank you, Thalia. Look, I know, obviously, all of the candidates. I certainly know the senators. I've known Elizabeth Warren for over 20 years. I've known Amy Klobuchar for 16 years. And the others to varying degrees, but I know them.
And I don't want to speak for other people, but I know what I'm telling you is the truth. All of us understand what a threat Donald Trump is to our country and to the world. And I think I can speak for all of the candidates in saying that no matter who wins the nomination, needless to say, I hope it's me, but no matter who wins the nomination, we're all going to work together to defeat Donald Trump. That I think you can take to the bank.
COOPER: How hard do you think unifying the party is going to be? I mean, it's obviously going to get more contentious.
SANDERS: It's not just unifying the party. And I think we can do that. And I'll tell you why. You know, as you know, you, Anderson, have been involved in many campaigns. You know, campaigns can become contentious. You know, and people will say things about others.
I've known Joe Biden for so many years. Joe is a friend of mine. He's a very decent human being.
You know, so people are going to say things during the heat of a campaign, I want somebody's vote, you know, I'll say something, somebody else says something.
But at the end of the day, because of the threat that Trump poses to the future of this country, because of his ugliness, because of his racism and his sexism and his homophobia and his xenophobia, and his religious bigotry, because he is trying to divide our people up, I have zero doubt that we will bring the party together.
But what is equally important is bringing the American people together, even those who are independents who are not in the party, and some Republicans. You got Republicans out there who are disgusted by the behavior and the temperament of Donald Trump. They do not want a liar and a corrupt individual to be president of the United States. And I got to figure out how we bring them together.
And I kind of think, because it's an important question, there is so much division in the country. That's true. And I kind of think that the way we do that is by coming up with an agenda that makes sense to -- I can't say everybody, but makes sense to the majority of the people in this country.
So when I talk about the need to raise the minimum wage in this country to a living wage of $15 bucks an hour, you know what? Huge numbers of Republicans agree with Democrats that we have to do that.
When we talk about moving forward on ending a racist and broken criminal justice system, you know, some very conservative Republicans have been involved in that. They understand that it makes no sense that we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth, disproportionately African American and Latino and Native American. We can bring people together.
Gun violence, we can bring people together. Whether you're a Republican or you're a Democrat or a progressive or a conservative, you are disgusted, you're horrified when we see these depictions of mass shootings in this country. People want gun safety legislation written by the American people, not the NRA.
So I think when you bring forth an agenda that speaks to the needs of the American people, people may say, well, maybe I don't agree with Bernie Sanders on everything, but, yeah, let's go forward together.
COOPER: This is Janine Woodworth, a retired customer service analyst from Manchester. She's also undecided. Janine, welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator Sanders, for being here. Will you name a running mate before the convention? And will it be a woman? Because why not? I'm not available, though.
SANDERS: Oh, I was just going to ask you, Janine.
I figure that's one way to get your vote. That is a good question, and we may very well do it. And, look, let me just say this. This is my promise to you, is that my administration, my cabinet will look more like America in terms of gender equality, in terms of racial equality, than any administration in American history. I am very proud that our campaign right now is enormously diverse, and that's what our administration will look like.
And, you know, between you and me, don't tell anybody, all right? Please, keep it just between me and you. Yeah, my inclination, if at all possible. You know, what I want from a vice president is somebody whose worldview is similar to mine. And there are a lot of, you know, brilliant women out there who hold that view. So we will be looking at that.
COOPER: So can you commit to saying you would have -- you would want to have a woman vice president?
SANDERS: I would want to. But, I, you know...
COOPER: Or a person of color?
SANDERS: Yeah, I don't want to commit, you know, it's always -- I don't want to commit. But, you know, my inclination is to say yes.
COOPER: All right.
SANDERS: Now that doesn't satisfy you all the way, I know. But, you know...
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more from Senator Bernie Sanders right after this.
COOPER: And welcome back to a presidential town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders. We are live from Saint Anselm College here in New Hampshire.
I want to ask you, before we go back to the audience, about the coronavirus. This is obviously something, if you were president, you would have to be facing, having to deal with it. The total number of deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus, it's now surpassed the SARS outbreak from 2002-2003. There's 12 confirmed cases in the U.S. As president, how would you handle something like that?
SANDERS: Well, for start, I would not do what Trump has done and cut funding for those federal agencies which deal with infectious crises. We would put more money into research to make sure that we are best prepared to what I fear may be happening more and more frequently. And we've got to go to the best experts that we can.
And the other thing that we have got to do -- and that is, you know, not only in terms of infectious diseases, like the coronavirus, but in general -- this is one world. And Trump likes to build walls, likes to separate us from other people, but we need a global response to this global crisis. And we need to bring, obviously, the best science, the best medical people together around the world to work together to solve this.
COOPER: Is cutting off access with China, is that wise?
SANDERS: I don't think you want to cut off access. I think you want to put up protocols to do our best to make sure that we take a look at anybody who is coming into this country, I suspect. But I don't know you have to stop travel from China.
COOPER: I want to introduce you to Peter Charalambous.
QUESTION: Yeah, you got it.
COOPER: OK, sorry about that, Peter.
SANDERS: Good job.
COOPER: He's a student at Dartmouth College. He's the managing editor of the Dartmouth newspaper. He's undecided. Peter, welcome.
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Sanders.
QUESTION: If you're the nominee, you're expected to face criticism such as President Trump stating, quote, "America will never be a socialist country," end quote. For Americans who hold this concern, whether well-founded or not, how do you successfully overcome that kind of labelling to convince them to vote for you?
SANDERS: Good. Well, in two ways. In many ways, Donald Trump is a socialist himself. He is a socialist who believes in massive help to large corporations and the rich.
When Trump was a private businessman -- he was a real estate developer -- he himself received some $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury condominiums. That's called socialism for the very, very rich.
When we give tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars so they can produce a product which is destroying the planet, this is called socialism for large corporations, corporate socialism.
Now, my definition of socialism, needless to say, is a little bit different. And I think if you look at countries around the world, look at countries in Scandinavia -- Finland, Sweden, Denmark -- what do they have? Everybody in those countries has health care as a human right. They vary a little bit, but by and large, it is a right. You don't have to take out your wallet. It is available to all people. In those countries, Germany, other countries, higher education is
basically free. In those countries, you have strong childcare systems so Mom and Dad can go to work and know that their kids are going to be in high-quality affordable childcare.
Their housing programs are strong. In other words, they have run governments which have policies designed to help the working families and the middle class.
So I know that Trump will distort anything and everything I believe, and by the way, he'll call any Democrat a socialist. So, you know, that will happen. But we will discuss what democratic socialism means as opposed to the corporate socialism that Trump believes in.
COOPER: I want to follow-up on Peter's question, because I think it's an important one. On a debate stage, I'm not sure if you -- I mean, you've debated a lot of people. I'm not sure any candidate has ever debated somebody like Donald Trump until they have actually done it.
There were, what, 16 Republican candidates who were experienced and qualified. One by one, they were eliminated. They all thought they could figure out how to deal with him. They didn't know how to deal with him. When you're on a debate stage -- and if he's, you know, saying things which aren't true, going after you, do you know how to debate with him in a way that you don't get sucked into it?
SANDERS: Look, Trump is a bully. And anybody who knows anything about bullies knows that they are very insecure human beings. And I do not get intimidated by bullies. Trust me, I don't.
I've been taking on powerful people and special interests my entire political life. So I don't get intimidated easily. Trump is not going intimidate me.
And Trump, by the way, is also a fraud. Not only is he a pathological liar, he is a fraud. And the biggest fraud -- biggest fraudulent ideas that he has expressed is that he cares about working families.
You know, I get a kick out of the fact that he is trying to ask us to hate the undocumented people in this country. Meanwhile, as many of you know, when he was a private businessman, he hired hundreds and hundreds of undocumented people in his resorts at low wages and in building projects that he undertook.
Trump rants and raves about outsourcing, oh, my god, how terrible corporations are, shutting down in America, they're going to low wage countries abroad, says Trump. What do you think he did as a businessman? He manufactured his products in China, in Mexico, in Bangladesh, in Turkey, hiring people at very, very low wages.
So I think, boy, and I so much look forward to that opportunity, not just to debating him, but taking on this fraud, this liar, this person who's betrayed the working class of this country.
Trump got up on the State of the Union, said, oh, the economy is doing, oh, so great. Really? Well, for the billionaire class in the last three years, their wealth has increased by $800 billion, a 37 percent increase in wealth for the billionaires. Anybody here know what wages -- how wages went up last year for the average American worker? Anybody happen to know what kind of wage increase the average American worker saw in inflation-accounted for wages? Anybody know?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thirteen cents.
SANDERS: That's right. No, it was 17 cents. One percent. So this is the booming economy. Half of our people living paycheck to paycheck. Half a million people sleeping out on the street, including 30,000 veterans, and in this great, booming economy, the billionaires over three years see a 37 percent increase in their wealth. Average worker, 1 percent increase in his or her income. He is a fraud.
COOPER: I want to stay on this topic of compensation. This is Patricia McCrone. She's a student here at Saint Anselm studying sociology. She's undecided. Patricia?
QUESTION: Hello, Senator Sanders. Over the past year, we have seen many teachers striking
in hopes of receiving higher salaries. How do you plan to support skilled teachers in their role of educating the next generation?
SANDERS: Patricia, thank you so much for that question. And let me tell you that, of the many people who have contributed to our campaign, I think we got a million and a half people, do you know what profession has more contributors than any other? It is teachers.
And I'm very proud that we have the support of major teachers unions in Los Angeles, in Las Vegas, and in other parts around the country. Why is that? Because I think we need a revolution in education. OK. And I think as the wealthiest country in the history of the world, we really should be ashamed.
We should be ashamed of having a childcare system which is dysfunctional. Every psychologist in the world tells us that zero through four are the most important years of human development intellectually and emotionally, and yet for millions of working-class families around this country, they cannot find high-quality affordable childcare, and many of the staff in the childcare centers are grossly underpaid.
As president of the United States, we have introduced what we call the Thurgood Marshall Educational Proposal, among other things, among many other things, triples funding for Title I low income schools, because in America, public schools should provide quality education to all, not just to those who live in wealthy communities and have a strong property tax base.
Number two, my goal -- it's a radical goal, but this is what I believe -- my goal is to make sure that within a few years, every teacher in America earns at least $60,000 a year. Now I met with educators here in New Hampshire a couple of months ago,
and, Anderson, this is what they told me. Really quite unbelievable. They said, in this state, which is not a poor state, in this state, there are teachers starting off in certain districts making less than $29,000 a year. And I can tell you, having visited South Carolina on many occasions, you got great teachers there who have been in the profession 20 or 30 years. They are leaving the profession because they can't make an income. You have young people going into teaching with student debt of $50,000, $100,000 a year.
So here is my vision for education in America. I want the best and the brightest college students to say with pride, man, when I graduate, I am going to become a teacher, because it's one of the best and most important jobs available. I am going to be impacting the lives in my career of hundreds, if not thousands of young people. What can be more important than that?
But bottom line is, we have got to change our attitude toward education. We live in a country which can provide literally hundreds of millions of dollars to great basketball players and football players and baseball players. And yet we have teachers who have to take money out of their own pockets to buy school supplies and who are leaving the profession because of inadequate salaries.
So if we believe in the future of this country, if we believe in our children, we have got to believe in our educators. And I certainly will make education a major priority in this country.
COOPER: Let me follow up on that. You want to freeze federal funding for all new charter schools?
SANDERS: Because I think that charter schools often do not -- are able to do things that public schools can't. They can pick and choose the students that they get. Their teachers are not able to become union members.
They are -- they don't have the accountability that public schools do. And we have seen many, many problems in charter schools. And they are taking money away from public education. So I think public money should go to public schools, and we're going to freeze all private charter schools funding.
COOPER: This is Robin Clark. She is a retired minister from Merrimack. She's currently undecided.
SANDERS: Hi, Robin.
QUESTION: Good evening. I was wondering, why do you care so fervently about economic inequities?
SANDERS: Well, maybe it starts with the family that I -- my family. It starts with the fact that my father came to this country without a nickel in his pocket, couldn't speak a word of English, had no education, never made any money. We grew up in a three-and-a-half room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York.
And my mother's dream was to own her own home. That was her dream. She died at the age of 46 and never fulfilled that dream.
And, you know, we struggled economically.
And I saw what it did to my family, the tension, the arguments about lack of money. And I was made more than aware as a young person that certainly that was certainly not my family alone, there were millions of families in the same boat.
And as somebody who is a United States senator from the great state of Vermont, and I hear what people have to say, the stress in families, the fact that people are working in some cases two or three jobs, the fact that moms and dads have to tell their kids they can't afford to go to college, it's unnecessary.
And, look, if we were a poor country, we would not say, hey, everybody can have health care, everybody can have a quality education, we're a poor country. We are not a poor country. It is not acceptable to me, it really is not, from a moral or an economic point of view that there are three people in America who own more wealth than the bottom half of the people in this country, that 49 percent of all new income is going to the 1 percent when so many of our people are struggling economically.
So to answer your question, it is -- in the richest country in the history of the world, it is not all that hard to say that all of our people can have a decent standard of living. Yes, if you work 40 hours a week, you can make at least 15 bucks an hour. Yes, your kids, regardless of your income, can go to college. Yes, of course, health care is a human right. Yes, of course, you don't have to spend half of your income for housing because we're going to build affordable housing. This is not utopian stuff. This is stuff we can do.
But it means they don't give tax breaks to billionaires. We don't spend more on the military than the next 10 nations combined. We don't have all kinds of corporate welfare in this country. We invest in our people.
So maybe -- my views maybe come from where I grew up as a kid, and maybe because I see what I see in my own state and all over this country.
COOPER: What do you think the young Bernie Sanders in Brooklyn in the 1940s would say if he could see where you are now?
SANDERS: You know, I think about that, Anderson, and I think about my parents. The idea -- you know, there are some people who get into politics whose families have a whole lot of money, maybe their dads were a governor or a senator, you know. And it becomes normal for them, that's the expectation. You know, they say to the 8-year-old kid, some day you're going to be a governor, you're going to be a United States senator.
If my parents were alive today, and they both died young, it would have been incomprehensible for them, incomprehensible the idea that their son, coming from where we came from, to become a United States senator or a mayor of Burlington, or a candidate for president of the United States, it would have been unthinkable. Unthinkable.
COOPER: This is the second time you're running for president. Is there anything that has surprised you this time that is different than the last time?
SANDERS: Yes, there is. I mean, I would say a couple of things. And I want to thank the people of New Hampshire for making this possible. As you well know, Anderson, you follow this stuff closely, I mean, when I ran last time, and I came to New Hampshire, and I talked about raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour and health care as a human right and climate change, a lot of the establishment, the political establishment and the media establishment, hey, Bernie's a nice guy but he's crazy.
SANDERS: Nice guy, but, you know, his ideas are so far removed from reality, ain't nobody going to support that. And we came to New Hampshire, after tying in Iowa, we came to New Hampshire and we won here, won the state by a good margin. And the importance of that is not just for me, I don't mean it didn't help me politically, it did.
But more importantly, what the people of New Hampshire said, these are not radical ideas. These are ideas that makes sense to working families throughout the country. So that's issue number one where I think there is a change, ideas that four years ago seemed radical are now part of the mainstream, and many of my opponents are kind of in one way or another echoing what I said four years ago.
Issue number two, I'll tell you what is very different, four years ago I talked about climate change, people said, yes, well, he's right, it's a serious problem. Right now what I see all over this country when I talk about climate change people say, yes, we've got a real crisis here, we have got to do something, you know, we've got to respond.
And I'm so proud of the young people in this country. We're proud of the fact that we have the endorsement of the Sunrise Movement of young people in this country and people all over the world, young people who are saying, you know what, hey, adults, hey, big leaders of the world, we want to live in a planet that is healthy and habitable, and we want that for our children as well. That is a major difference. Consciousness about climate change, much, much greater today than it was four years ago.
COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you very much.
COOPER: Coming up, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg joins Chris Cuomo. Stay right here.
Senator, thank you.