Bernie Sanders says he isn’t running for president to push Hillary Clinton further to the left nor to become a candidate for vice president on a potential Clinton ticket.
“No,” Sanders told Yahoo News’ Katie Couric on Monday. “My goal is to win this election.”
In a wide-ranging interview, the Vermont independent senator and Democratic presidential hopeful said he is running because someone needs to stand up for the middle class.
“There are millions and millions of people who are tired of the establishment politics and corporate greed who are going to lead the mass movement in this country,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he realizes Clinton has a huge fundraising advantage, especially considering he refuses to take money from super PACs.
“We’re going to do the best we can,” he said. “I don’t have a super PAC, I don’t want it super PAC, and that is that.”
The bigger question, Sanders said, whether “any candidate that isn’t tied in with the billionaires” run for office and win.
“I’m going to be honest with you, it may be too late,” he said. “The billionaires may be too powerful.”
More than 5,000 people attended Bernie Sanders’ campaign kickoff. (Photo: Dylan Stableford/Yahoo News)
As he did last week at his campaign launch in Burlington, Vt., Sanders said a “political revolution” is necessary to take on the billionaire class and tackle income inequality, the decline of the middle class, education reform and climate change.
“People are having enough with the status quo,” he said. “They see the rich getting richer and other people hurting.”
Sanders said he won’t nominate a Supreme Court justice unless the nominee makes it clear they will vote to overturn the Citizens United decision that removed limits to independent campaign contributions.
“I believe Citizens United is an absolute disaster,” Sanders said.
On the issue of government surveillance, the socialist candidate said he mostly agrees with Rand Paul, the Senate’s most vocal critic of the National Security Agency’s controversial spy program.
Sanders, who opposed the Patriot Act and its reauthorization, said he plans to vote against the less-wide-ranging USA Freedom Act, passed last month by the House, which would allow some counterterrorism tools — including the NSA’s controversial bulk data collection — to remain in place.
“It doesn’t go far enough in protecting our privacy rights,” he said. “We are moving toward an Orwellian society where Big Brother in the corporate world and the government have too much personal information about innocent people.”
He touched on several issues not necessarily part of his platform, including police violence and marijuana legalization.
As the longtime mayor of Burlington, Sanders said he understands how difficult a job law enforcement has in urban areas, but he also realizes the plight of minorities in communities like Ferguson, Mo.
“We’ve got to demilitarize the police — we don’t need tanks, you don’t need heavy military equipment in the communities of the United States,” he said. “We gotta pay attention to the African American communities, to poverty so these kids get the education and job training they need.”
The Brooklyn-born senator, who began his political career in Vermont in the early 1970s, said he tried marijuana twice, but didn’t like it.
“Because I coughed a lot, I don’t know,” he said. “I smoked marijuana twice — didn’t quite work for me.”
While he stopped short of endorsing legalization, Sanders said the drug is probably not as harmful as alcohol and should be largely decriminalized like it was when he was a Vermont mayor.
“I want to take a look at how that’s going before I make a final opinion,” he said.
Sanders also addressed a graphic article he wrote — published in an alternative Vermont newspaper in the 1970s and recently unearthed by Mother Jones — that included a rape fantasy he compared to “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Of course I regret writing it,” he said. “It was a terribly-written article, but very few members of Congress have the voting record that I do on behalf of women’s rights.”
The 73-year-old dismissed concerns about his age.
“Knock on wood — I was a long distance runner as a kid, I am strong and I am healthy,” Sanders said, “I would not be running if for a second I thought I couldn’t do this job.”
Later, Sanders was asked if he would ever consider being Clinton’s vice president.
“Would she be interested in being my vice president?” he replied. “We may be outspent, but I think we’ve got a good shot to win this thing.”