Democracy Now! co-host and columnist with the New York Daily News.
co-founder of #cut50, a national bipartisan initiative to reduce the U.S.'s incarcerated population by 50 percent over the next 10 years. He was President Barack Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009 and founded Green for All. He is also a CNN political commentator.
editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin-based magazine The Progressive.
Much of the corporate media has been openly criticizing Bernie Sanders’ performance during an interview with the New York Daily News editorial board. The Washington Post ran an article titled "9 Things Bernie Sanders Should’ve Known About But Didn’t in That Daily News Interview." Former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted: "The Transcript of Sanders’ meeting with the Daily News Ed Board is almost as damning as Trump’s with the WaPo." We get a different perspective from someone who was actually there: Daily News columnist Juan González.
AMY GOODMAN: So, right now the race comes to New York.
VAN JONES: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: April 19th. And immediately, there was this New York Daily News meeting. Juan, you were at it. It’s being—the transcript has been released. Hillary Clinton has sent it to her supporters. What did Ryan Grim write in The Huffington Post? "A notion is rapidly crystallizing among the national media that Bernie Sanders majorly bungled an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News." CNN just said, "Several times during the interview, Sanders expressed uncertainty over facts, said he couldn’t give a proper answer to a question because he didn’t have all the relevant information, or simply stated, 'I don't know.’" CNN said, "In one exchange, Sanders acknowledged that he wasn’t sure exactly how he intended to break up the big banks, a proposal that has been a centerpiece of his Wall Street reform agenda." A Washington Post says, "This New York Daily News interview was pretty close to a disaster for Bernie Sanders."
But not everyone agrees. Juan, you raced out of here on Friday, because you were racing back to the New York Daily News to attend and question Bernie Sanders at this New York Daily News editorial board meeting.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, well, I certainly didn’t get that impression, tell you the truth. The editorial board is notorious, especially our editorial page editor, Arthur Browne, for his laser-like one question after another, and he bombarded, as several others of us also asked questions. I, overall, thought that Bernie Sanders handled the exchange very well. And I think that there were a few places where he stumbled, and—but I was amazed at his ability to parry the questions that were thrown at him and to, basically, for instance, bluntly say, when he was asked about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, that Israel needed to withdraw from the illegal settlements in Palestinian territory, which I was astounded that he was quite frank and clear on his position, while at the same time saying he would do everything possible as president to negotiate peace and security for Israel in an overall settlement. And I think there—he did stumble a little bit when he was pressed on how he would break up some of the too-big-to-fail banks. He clearly did not have that down pat.
AMY GOODMAN: Who would have the jurisdiction.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oh, right, who would have the jurisdiction, and—but, overall, I thought his performance was excellent.
VAN JONES: Can I say a couple things here? New York City is the war to settle the score inside the Democratic Party. The Clinton forces understand there is a rebellion in this party. Under ordinary circumstances, it would already be over, because the big donors would have taken the checks back. There are no big checks. This is a people’s movement. They are going to have to bury this movement in New York City, and they know it. You’re going to see a vetting of Bernie Sanders like you’ve never seen. You’re going to see the mainstream media go after him. Now there’s blood in the water on specifics. They’re going to go after him on specifics, you know, way beyond anything any candidate has had to address. And people are going to have to—I mean, he’s going to have to step up his game, because you can’t, you know, write excuses for people. He’s got to be able to answer those tough questions.
But also, if you want for this Democratic Party to take progressive causes seriously, now is the time to speak out and get engaged. And for African Americans in particular, I want to say something. We are the only part of the so-called Obama coalition that has to give not 50 percent of our vote, not 60, not 70, not 80, not 90, but 92 percent of our vote in every presidential election, in order for Democrats to win. So, we are beyond a base vote. We are the decisive vote. If we give 85 percent of our vote to the Democrats, Republicans win. And so, we deserve to have a full hearing on all the issues that affect us, and hear from both candidates. And all of the history needs to be on the table to be vetted, for both candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting. I went up to that South Bronx rally that Bernie Sanders had last week, first time a presidential candidate had been there in a very long time. It was electric.
VAN JONES: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Sixteen [thousand], 18 [thousand], 20,000 people were there. When he raises money, he’s speaking directly to the camera or to the people and just saying, "Hey, send me $3," whatever—his average is $27. When Hillary Clinton raises money, she has to come off the campaign trail. Like last night, the big Wisconsin primary, she was at a fundraiser. And that’s done behind closed doors.
VAN JONES: Yeah. And part of the opportunity that we have—up until now, you could say to any candidate, "Why are you taking money from big people?" "Well, everybody does it. If I don’t take money from the big people, I’ll be obliterated. I have to do this." Guess what. You now have an example of somebody who didn’t do it and who’s been able to show real strength and resolve.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ruth Conniff, you’re in Madison, Wisconsin; you’re in Paul Ryan territory in Wisconsin. It’s being discussed, the possibility that he would be the candidate, the consensus candidate, that would come out of a brokered or an open convention, the congressman who is the House speaker.
RUTH CONNIFF: Yeah, it’s wild. I mean, you know, I don’t see how the Republicans can really go to their convention and make the case that they need a candidate who didn’t even run. I mean, they’re—I think Donald Trump is right, that they’re going to have a real problem making that case. Paul Ryan has said he’s not interested in being that candidate. Of course, he said that before they made him House speaker.
You know, when you saw Donald Trump in his rally in Janesville attacking Paul Ryan, attacking Scott Walker, and getting a huge response, you really saw something about the crackup. And it’s similar to the crackup that Van Jones is describing on the Democratic side, where we now actually have a candidate who represents the progressive end of the spectrum and is speaking to people who have really been hurt by pro-corporate policies by both major parties. Trump is also tapping in to discontent among lower-class, working-class Republican voters who really have not been beneficiaries of Republican policies and are really noticing and angry. And yes, the racism, the white nationalist groups that came into Wisconsin to campaign for Trump are absolutely part of that package. But there is also this rebellion against people like Paul Ryan, who has supported corporate trade deals in Janesville, which is a Rust Belt area, has seen the GM plant leave there—which he blamed on Obama, although it happened before Obama was even in office—has really hurt his own constituents and, thanks to redistricting, has been able to hold onto his seat, even though he loses his hometown of Janesville over and over again. So, for Paul Ryan to be the alternative, that’s a really—that’s a pro-corporate Republican Party establishment dream. But there is going to be hell to pay with regular voters. And that is a huge dilemma for the Republican Party this year.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. We want to thank Ruth Conniff, editor-in-chief of The Progressive magazine, and Van Jones, president and founder of the Dream Corps.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, what happened early this morning in Puerto Rico? Stay with us.