In 2013 economics writer Jonathan Tasini interviewed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for Playboy. Sanders will announce that he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. The 73-year-old socialist democrat will be the second candidate for the Democratic nomination, following Hillary Clinton, whose own campaign thus far has mainly consisted of driving around Iowa in a van and unveiling a strange logo.
Tasini spent numerous hours with Sanders, and our writer struck a doubtful tone that Sanders would run in the 2016 election.
“I came to understand why he resists suggestions from his followers that 2016 might be the right time for him to make a run for the White House. It’s not that he worries about losing. Although he wants to influence the debate, his hunger for power isn’t so insatiable that he would debase himself in the arena of what poses as serious political debate in America.”
Yet here he is.
To his great credit, Sanders is probably the only presidential candidate who links to Playboy.com from his government website, which we happen to think is very cool of him. The link on his page takes you to his full Playboy interview, the choicest quotes from which we’ve published here.
SANDERS WAS TALKING ABOUT CLINTON FOUNDATION CASH IN 2013
Well, (Bill) Clinton was and is a very smart guy, but he is the guy who signed NAFTA. I like Bill Clinton, I like Hillary Clinton, but they live in a world surrounded by a lot of money. It’s not an accident that Clinton is doing a fantastic job with his foundation. Where do you think that money is coming from? The point being that Clinton was a moderate Democrat who was heavily influenced by Wall Street and big-money interests, and Obama is governing in that same way.
CLASS WARFARE WILL BE A MAJOR THEME
We are in the midst of intense class warfare, where the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are at war with the middle class and working families of this country, and it is obvious the big-money interests are winning that war.
THE 1 PERCENT WILL NOT BE BANKROLLING HIS ELECTION
When we were growing up and read about oligarchic countries in Latin America and elsewhere, did you ever think that in the United States one percent would own 38 percent of the wealth and the bottom 60 percent only 2.3 percent?
HAWKS WON’T LIKE HIS FOREIGN POLICY
We should do everything we can to avoid a hugely expensive cold war with China similar to what we had with the Soviet Union. We should also do our best, in a respectful way, to support those elements in China fighting for a democratic society.
SERIOUSLY, THEY’LL HATE IT
If you want to talk about nation building, I know a great nation that needs to be rebuilt. It’s called the United States of America. I would rather invest in this country than in Iraq or Afghanistan. Our roads and bridges and railroads and water systems and schools need rebuilding. We have been at war now for more than a decade. Our troops have done a tremendous job, but it is time for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for their country and for waging the war against the Taliban. And in Iraq, I think it’s clear that nation building didn’t work very well.
HE’LL BE THE RARE CANDIDATE DISCUSSING CIVIL LIBERTIES
The way the drone program has been handled is a major reason I voted against the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA. Of course we must defend ourselves against terrorism, but I am not convinced Brennan is adequately sensitive to the important balancing act required to make protecting our civil liberties an integral part of ensuring our national security. Drone attacks that kill innocent people are immoral and create an enormous amount of anti-Americanism.
AND THE PATRIOT ACT
I think we can fight terrorism without undermining the Constitution. That is why I voted against the so-called Patriot Act. In my view, that surveillance law gives the government far too much power to spy on innocent U.S. citizens and provides for very little oversight or disclosure.
THE SENATOR IS NOT A FAN OF CAPITALISM
People have lost sight of America as a society where everyone has at least a minimal standard of living and is entitled to certain basic rights, a nation in which every child has a good-quality education, has access to health care and lives in an environmentally clean community, not as an opportunity for billionaires to make even more money and avoid taxes by stashing their money in the Cayman Islands. Can you argue that the era of unfettered capitalism should be over? Absolutely. Does this system of hypercapitalism, this incredibly unequal distribution of wealth and income, need fundamental reform? Absolutely it does. You have the entire scientific community saying we have to be very aggressive in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Yet you’re seeing the heads of coal companies and oil companies willing to sacrifice the well-being of the entire planet for their short-term profits. And these folks are funding phony organizations to try to create doubt about the reality of global warming.
FINALLY, THE LAST FIVE QUESTIONS FROM OUR INTERVIEW, VERBATIM
Many of your hardcore supporters are urging you to run for president in 2016. Are you considering it?
Well, the answer is that to run a serious campaign, you need to raise hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s number one, and I don’t think——
Barack Obama proved candidates can raise money.
Obama went to his friends on Wall Street the first time around.
That’s true, but he still raised a fair amount of money in small donations.
Yeah, but I’m not Barack Obama. That’s the point. I do not take corporate money. I think people are hungering for a voice out there. It would be tempting to try to raise issues and demand discussion on issues that are not being talked about: inequality in wealth and trade policy, protecting the social safety net, moving aggressively on global warming. Those issues are not being talked about, and it would be tempting, but….
Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee. Does that offer an alternative to the country?
No, it does not.
Are you absolutely ruling out running for president, 100 percent?
Absolutely? 100 percent? Cross my heart? Is there a stack of Bibles somewhere? Look, maybe it’s only 99 percent. I care a lot about working families. I care a lot about the collapse of the American middle class. I care a lot about the enormous wealth and income disparity in our country. I care a lot that poverty in America is near an all-time high but hardly anyone talks about it. I realize running for president would be a way to shine a spotlight on these issues that are too often in the shadows today. [pauses] But I am at least 99 percent sure I won’t.
Full interview here.