Chuck Todd: Senator Sanders, welcome back to Meet the Press. And let me start with an issue you are going to be dealing with in a few hours, I know you will be flying back from Minneapolis to Washington for the special Senate session: the NSA, the Patriot Act, Section 215. I assume you are a supporter of the USA Freedom Act. Are you? Is that where you will be voting?
Bernie Sanders: I may well be voting for it. It doesn’t go as far as I would like it to go. I voted against the original Patriot Act. I voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
Look, we have got to be vigorous in fighting terrorism and protecting the American people, but we have to do it in a way that protects the constitutional rights of the American people. And I am very, very worried about the invasions of privacy right that we are seeing not only from the NSA and the government but from corporate America as well.
We are losing our privacy rights. It is a huge issue.
Chuck Todd: And the government is going to be asking corporate America to keep this data under the USA Freedom Act. You’re comfortable with that?
Bernie Sanders: No, I am not. But we have to look at the best of bad situations. The question is whether the NSA keeps it. The question is whether it is transferred to the phone companies who by the way already keep records for an extended period of time.
Chuck Todd: You’ve served under two Democratic Presidents: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama which one has been a better progressive champion in your view?
Bernie Sanders: Well, neither one of them have gone as far as I would have liked them to go and that’s one of the reasons what we’re seeing the disappearance of the middle class in this country and a huge increase in income and wealth inequality.
That is why we are not dealing with the fact we have 45 million people living in poverty and why we are still the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people.
Look, I have a lot of respect for President Obama. I consider him a friend. I disagree with him on issues like that TPP or the extension of tax breaks that Bush initiated. But I think history will judge President Obama a lot better than many other of his contemporaries, given the fact that he came into office at a time when this country was in terrible, terrible shape.
Chuck Todd: You singled out President Obama for praise but not President Clinton. Why?
Bernie Sanders: Look I think Bill Clinton did a very good job as well. I disagree with him strongly on NAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China. I’m a strong opponent of these disastrous trade agreements which have cost us millions of decent paying jobs. I am helping to lead the opposition against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
I also very strongly disagreed with President Clinton on the deregulation on Wall Street. I opposed that strenuously and I think the results prove that when you allow the greed and recklessness of Wall Street to go unchecked, you’re going to end up where we are today and where we were eight years ago.
Chuck Todd: You know it’s interesting when you watch chief primary opponent right now, Secretary Hillary Clinton, on some key issues she has changed her position to amore progressive view on same-sex marriage, on immigration (that is, over the last 10 years), on NAFTA, on trade, on the Iraq war, on Cuba. She has moved from a position basically in disagreement with you to a position that comes closer to your view.
So I guess is, do you take her at her word and do you think that rhetorically that’s enough?
And what I hope, Chuck, is that the media will allow us to have a serious debate in this campaign on the enormous issues facing the American people, which is why for the last forty years our middle class has been disappearing, why 99% of all new income generated today is going to the top 1%, and why we have this grotesque level of income and wealth inequality.
I have been–I know a lot of people criticize me in Vermont: they say, oh, Bernie, you have been saying the same thing for thirty years.
Well, it is kind of true. And maybe, you know, it is a badge of honor.
But I have been there. I think we need a political revolution in this country. I think we need to take on the greed of the billionaire class, a disastrous campaign finance system.
Chuck Todd: Do you trust these changes that Hillary Clinton has made or do you think she has been doing it just for primary politics.
Bernie Sanders: I think that is for the American people to decide. I know where I have been on trade agreements, I know where I have been on Walk Street, I know where I have been on the Keystone Pipeline, and Secretary Clinton will obviously explain her position to the American people.
Chuck Todd: This week you have found what it is like to become a nationally recognized candidate for President and potentially a threat to somebody. A leaking of an essay you wrote in the 1970s for an alternative weekly. Your campaign has described it as satire: I’ll be honest with you, Senator Sanders, it’s uncomfortable to read. The only excerpt I am going to put up is you wrote this in February 1972, it was sort of a fantasy of men and women. You said “A woman enjoys intercourse with her man–as she fantasizes being raped by three men simultaneously.” Your campaign described it as satire. Can you explain this essay?
Bernie Sanders: Sure. Look, this is a piece of fiction that I wrote in 1972, that was forty-three years ago. It was very poorly written. And if you read it, what it was dealing with gender stereotypes: why some men like to oppress women; why other women like to be submissive. You know, something like fifty shades of grey. Very poorly written, forty-three years ago.
What I am focusing on right now are the issues impacting the American people today. And that’s what I will continue to focus on and what I think the American people will want to hear.
And by the way, on broader issues, what I think when we talk about issues, Chuck, we need a lot more debates in this campaign. I hope very much that we can begin with the Democratic candidates debates as early as July and have some Republicans in those debates as well.
Chuck Todd: All right, there you go. Senator Sanders calling for July debates. We will go to Secretary Clinton. We are ready to host them right here on Meet the Press. Senator Sanders, stay safe on the trail, we’ll see you back in Washington.