Time for Bernie Sanders to do his homework

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is on a bit of a roll, with a series of wins in Western caucus states and the Wisconsin primary. He’s closed some of the delegate gap with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential race, although getting enough votes to overcome her lead in the remaining primaries still is a huge and likely insurmountable hurdle.

But this “Bernie-mentum” didn’t help him with an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board — an interview in which he showed a frightening lack of understanding about the details of what it would take to launch his “political revolution.”

For most of this election cycle, Sanders has pretty much gotten a pass from most media outlets, which is unfair whether you’re a Republican, you’re a Clinton supporter, or you’re feeling the Bern. He’s received less coverage, likely because most in the media didn’t think he had a viable path to the Democratic nomination. The Sandernistas who have attended huge rallies in cities and college towns across the country have long complained about the lack of attention to their candidate. But that also means he hasn’t received the kind of close scrutiny Clinton has faced her entire political career.

That changed when Sanders sat down with members of the Daily News editorial board, which published the entire transcript, as newspapers are doing with other candidates. The reviews of Sanders knowledge (and lack of it) have been devastating.

“Pretty close to a disaster” was the reaction of Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. “Sanders feeling media heat after new interview” was the CNN headline. “How Much Does Bernie Sanders Know About Policy?” asked a story in The Atlantic. Story after story described Sanders’ performance as a “rough” interview, as he stumbled and struggled to explain how he would “break up big banks” — a constant refrain in his unchanging stump speeches — and showed that he didn’t understand the basics of how policy worked. “Even on bread-and-butter matters like breaking up the big banks, the Democratic presidential hopeful came across as tentative, unprepared, or unaware,” the Atlantic story said.

Daily News: Okay. Well, let’s assume that you’re correct on that point. How do you go about doing it?

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Daily News: How? How does a President turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the Treasury turn to any of those banks and say, “Now you must do X, Y and Z?”

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

Sanders: Yeah. Well, I believe you do.

Mark Halperin, the Bloomberg television host and co-author of Game Change (and who is far from being a Clinton fan) tweeted, “If Hillary [Clinton] gave answers like this to [an editorial] board, she would be crucified.”

Clinton lost no time in launching criticisms against Sanders on his lack of policy chops. A fund-raising email sent to supporters included a transcript of the disastrous interview.

“I think what he has been saying about the core issue of his whole campaign doesn’t seem to be rooted in an understanding of either the law or the practical ways you get something done,” Clinton said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “The core of his campaign has been breaking up the banks, and it didn’t seem in reading his answers that he would understand exactly how that would work under Dodd-Frank.

“You can’t really help people if you don’t know how to do what you are campaigning [for] and saying you want to do,” she added. “I think he hasn’t done his homework.”

Sounds like it’s time to crack the books, Sen. Sanders.

 

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