In a wide-ranging and elegiac interview with C-SPAN set to air Wednesday, Bernie Sanders said in the strongest terms yet that he will not be the Democratic nominee for president. Asked by host Steve Scully whether he would speak at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Sanders said he did not know.
“It doesn’t appear that I’m going to be the nominee, so I’m not going to determine the scope of the convention," Sanders said. "I've given a few speeches in my life. It would be nice to speak at the Democratic National Convention. If for whatever reason they don't want me to speak, then whatever. But I do think I'll speak at the convention."
Again and again, over the course of an hour, Sanders criticized "corporate media" for asking him so many questions about the political process instead of his policies. With the primaries over, he was less focused on the convention itself than on what he and his delegates could get the Democratic Party to add to its platform, and what progressive policies Hillary Clinton could be encouraged to run on.
"We are negotiating almost every day with the Clinton people and we want Secretary Clinton to stake out the strongest positions she can on campaign finance reform, on health care, on education — especially higher education — on the economy, on the minimum wage," said Sanders. "She has clearly had to fight her way through a lot of sexism and unfair attacks over the years — which are based on sexism. But we have disagreements. She is clearly an establishment Democrat."
Sanders said he was not being vetted for vice president, but suggested that Clinton should pick a "progressive" running mate. “It would be a terrible mistake for her to pick a candidate who is backed by Wall Street," he added, naming no names. He offered no advice for how Clinton should fund her campaign, but suggested that she should help Democrats stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership from passing in this year's lame duck session of Congress. (A tough electoral map for Republicans might mean the next Senate is more Democratic, and even less likely to pass it.)
That answer, like most of Sanders's comments, was predicated on the campaign being over, and him returning to the Senate. He suggested that he would run again for Senate in 2018, and that the Budget Committee — which he is in line to run if the Democrats retake the Senate — might not be the best fit for his leadership.
"Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is one of the important committees in the Senate," Sanders said. "The Democrats on the committee are pretty progressive. And it deals with the issues I work on."
Although Democrats have to win an election before parceling out gavels, the HELP committee is seen as the place where Sanders could advocate for progressive policies without differing too greatly from a possible Clinton administration. Sanders also derided the idea that Donald Trump could win his voters by describing the Democratic primary as rigged.
"I suspect he ain't gonna get too many of those people," Sanders said, describing Trump as a bigot who favored anti-worker policies.
Scully gave Sanders multiple chances to reflect on his campaign. When he played the first version of the "America" TV spot that broke through in Iowa, the senator appeared to get teary-eyed. He spoke with awe about an early speech in Minnesota, where he assumed a crowd queuing up outside an arena was for a concert and learned that it was for him.
Sanders also defended his decision to tell Hillary Clinton at the first Democratic debate that voters were "sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails," a position he stuck to even as pundits — who Sanders frequently mocked for their misunderstandings of politics — told him to go negative.
"It was the right thing to do," Sanders said. Describing the ongoing FBI probe of the emails, he shrugged. "It will do what it will do. I don't know what the outcome will be."
Scully ended the interview by showing Sanders a clip from the season finale of "Saturday Night Live," in which Larry David, playing the senator, loudly refuses to leave a bar. Sanders, who appeared on the show during the New Hampshire primary, laughed and reminisced about becoming a pop culture figure.
"In any speech that I gave, if I used the word 'yuuuuge,' it had an impact," he said.