Back in 2001, BuzzFlash Interviewed Bernie Sanders When No Other Media Would Give Him the Time of Day

BuzzFlash is not endorsing any candidate in the Democratic primaries. We will let our readers decide. Nevertheless, BuzzFlash’s interest in Bernie Sanders goes back to its founding in May of 2000. In 2001, we interviewed Sanders for the first time when he was still an independent congressman. He was virtually ignored by the mainstream media and even the progressive press, such as there was, at the time. Sanders told BuzzFlash in subsequent meetings and a 2008 interview that he was a regular reader of BF at the time. The information at the end is left intact for historical context, even though it is obviously long ago outdated.

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BuzzFlash Interview

"You raise a good issue," Sanders responded to BuzzFlash. "What we should be aware of is that Corporate America controls the media. Rupert Murdoch's Fox News is just an outlet for the right wing of the Republican party. All of the major networks are owned and operated by multi-national corporations, and they release only the information that they're comfortable with. Where is the message that the United States is the only industrialized nation without universal health care?”

February, 2001

A BUZZFLASH EXCLUSIVE: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMERICA'S INDEPENDENT CONGRESSMAN, BERNIE SANDERS OF VERMONT

These days, you don't hear many fighting words coming from the Congressional Democratic leadership, but Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Congressman who is a lone Independent, doesn't mince words.

Ask him about how the Republicans are constantly hounding the Democrats in a one sided assault on "ethics and morality," Sanders responds, "What about the immorality of our public policies? I think that it is grossly immoral to propose a tax cut, as Bush is doing, where a mother of two who earns $22,000 a year would not benefit at all from a tax cut tailor made for the wealthiest in our society. Meanwhile, the millionaire would get $40,000 in tax relief. That's immoral. This issue of morals should not just be about matters of personal conduct but about matters of public policy that affect the welfare of our country."

In a February 12 interview, we asked the Congressman what he thought about the BuzzFlash theory that the right wing has defined the political debate for the last 8 years through accusations against and investigations of Democrats. Their goal has been to use the media to tarnish and defame their opposition at every juncture.

"You raise a good issue," Sanders responded to BuzzFlash. "What we should be aware of is that Corporate America controls the media. Rupert Murdoch's Fox News is just an outlet for the right wing of the Republican party. All of the major networks are owned and operated by multi-national corporations, and they release only the information that they're comfortable with. Where is the message that the United States is the only industrialized nation without universal health care? That we have the largest gap between the rich and poor, or that we have the lowest paid workers by comparison? We need to redefine the debate about morality to include public policy. When you refuse to provide health care for those who need it, it is immoral. When you deny individuals equal access to a good education, it is immoral. Those kind of policies are not only irresponsible and ineffective, but yes they are also immoral."

"How many television programs," Sanders asked, "address the failure to provide national health care, the unfair distribution of income in our country, and our low wages?"

But during our interview, Sanders was clearly preoccupied with the imminent debate on the tax cut: "The Republicans are hypocrites. They have stated over and over that we need to live within our means, that we should not go into a deficit -- and yet they are now going to offer a $1.6 trillion tax break over 10 years without knowing what the economy will produce over the next decade. The idea that you would give a 1.6 trillion dollar tax break without a trigger is outrageous. We are looking at indicators that even as we speak the economy is slowing. I hope that honest conservatives will stand up to oppose Bush's tax proposal. It is simply irresponsible. This is more of an indication of our campaign finance system than anything else. The president's wealthy contributors are looking to have their money returned to them. It is fiscally ineffective and irresponsible. It is outrageous, unfair and hypocritical."

Asked what frustrated and angry Buzzflash readers can do to change the sharp rightward course of the country, Sanders referred to his experience in his home state. "I think that as progressives we have a tendency to talk to ourselves," Sanders said. "In the state of Vermont, we have, with success, talked to our neighbors. Not talk at them, but to them about what we believe. We believe that we should be living in a society where people have universal health care, a fairer distribution of income, affordable college education, and environmental protection, and we need to talk to people about those issues in a respectful way. If we continue to talk to ourselves, we will continue to find an ever-decreasing liberal agenda. But talking to people in plain, common sense terms about our goals is effective. It's worked in Vermont, and I believe that it will work across the country."

And the Congressman adds that "We believe that Bush's tax plan is so unfair and hypocritical that it should give progressives reason to organize." So he and the 53 members of the Congressional progressive caucus are doing their part to put a stake through the heart of the Bush "welfare for the rich" tax proposal. He urges likeminded progressives to do the same.

With fighting words like BuzzFlash heard from Bernie Sanders, maybe it's time that an Independent led the Democrats. But Sanders just might not want that job (not that it would be offered to America's rebel Independent Congressman). Bernie Sanders is too busy fighting for economic and social justice to spend his time breaking up brawls among the Democratic factions.

Let Congressman Sanders know that you support his strong voice for social and economic justice. Here is his contact information:

Congressman Bernie Sanders
2202 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-4501
Phone: (202) 225-4115
Fax: (202) 225-6790
Email: bernie@mail.house.gov
URL: http://www.house.gov/bernie/

You can look up the progressive caucus at http://progressive.house.gov.

BuzzFlash Interview

Mark KarlinComment