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Meet the Bernie Sanders Supporter Who Debated Bill Clinton for 30 Minutes at a New Mexico Restaurant

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We end the show today in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where what was supposed to be a routine campaign stop for former President Bill Clinton turned into a 30-minute debate with a Bernie Sanders supporter. Clinton was campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, when he stopped at a Santa Fe restaurant last week. There he met 24-year-old Josh Brody, who questioned Clinton about his presidential record on issues including welfare reform, Wall Street and government spending. For more, we go to Santa Fe, where we are joined by Josh Brody, a graduate of The New School.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re turning now to our last segment. We go to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where former President Bill Clinton found himself in an unlikely 30-minute debate with a 24-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter last week. Bill Clinton was campaigning for Hillary Clinton, of course, when he stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe. There he met Josh Brody, who questioned him about his presidential record, from welfare reform to the deregulation of Wall Street to government spending. To find out what happened, we’re joined by Josh Brody, graduate of The New School here in New York, who questioned Bill Clinton in Santa Fe.

What happened? What did you ask? And were you satisfied with President Clinton’s responses, Josh?

JOSH BRODY: Hi, Amy. Thank you so much for having me. Well, no, I wasn’t satisfied with the responses. What I had asked about was Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the Commodities Future Modernization Act and Gramm-Leach-Bliley, in addition to his overall government spending.

AMY GOODMAN: Can I ask you, how did you—

JOSH BRODY: And so, the reason I was—

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you—Josh, can I ask how you ended up being in the restaurant with President Clinton?

JOSH BRODY: Sure. Well, I’m just home visiting my parents for the week, and this is a restaurant five minutes from my house. He made an unannounced campaign stop. And I actually didn’t notice him in the restaurant until, oh, maybe 30 seconds before he approached my table.

AMY GOODMAN: So, continue with the issues that you raised and his responses.

JOSH BRODY: Well, so, one of the reasons I wasn’t satisfied with his answers is because he rooted a lot of them in economic data. He would talk about how the African-American unemployment rate reached its lowest point under his administration and how median household wages peaked in 1999. But there’s two problems with that. First is, both of the statistics are misleading. Wages peaked in part because people were working more hours. In fact, the average median hourly wage has been basically flat since the '70s. And then, in terms of another often-cited statistic that both he and Hillary Clinton have used on the campaign trail is that African-American unemployment was at record lows. But as authors such as Michelle Alexander show, that's because African Americans were being arrested in record high numbers. And if you look at the unemployment rate including the prison population, it actually wasn’t all that low.

The other thing I found shocking, though, if I may, about this was, what I had asked him about originally was Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which was our welfare legislation at the federal level, that he basically gutted. And when I asked him about it—and I shouldn’t have been so surprised, because the bill was called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, “personal responsibility” being the operative phrase. He kept invoking a “culture of dependency” argument, similar to what you will hear anyone from Ronald Reagan talk about, when he discusses the mythical welfare queen, to Paul Ryan, when he talks about dependency in our inner cities. It’s a racially coded argument, and he was blowing into that dog whistle very hard.

And his essential argument—and I was really surprised to hear this; I would have thought he’d change the rhetoric over the last 20 years—but his essential argument was that poor people are lazy, and if you give them welfare, they’ll be dependent on the government, and that he was told this by people on welfare, and therefore it needed to be cut and turned into block grants for the states. There used to be 68 out of every person below the poverty line—out of every hundred people below the poverty line on welfare. We’re now at 26. And I had responded that maybe the reason people don’t have jobs isn’t because they’re lazy, but because there simply aren’t jobs, and his administration had moved away from the notions of the government interfering in the economy to improve the lives of the people, such as the federal jobs programs that came under FDR. Bill Clinton essentially ripped the heart out of the Democratic Party and abandoned that notion that the government can make the lives of its people better and should invest in a robust social safety net. So that’s how the discussion started. It went many other places.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh Brody, as we wrap up right now, you were talking to President Clinton about his policies. How do you feel about Hillary Clinton?

JOSH BRODY: I mean, she’s in many ways responsible. I think it’s a little hypocritical for people to say that it was his administration and not hers, given that she was known for the transformative role of the first lady, where she was more involved than any other first lady. So, I do not deny her agency. I think she’s culpable for all of the policies we discussed, whether it’s shrinking the government, getting rid of welfare, allowing corporations to have more power to offshore jobs through NAFTA, the deregulation of Wall Street, which, by the way, deregulating derivatives occurred just a few months before her Senate campaign. She then received a lot of Wall Street donations. And then I also object to her record in the Senate, where she again would deregulate Wall Street and was actually more hawkish in her votes in terms of foreign policy than the Clinton administration, although I would disagree with his foreign policy, as well.

So, overall, I’m very disappointed. And if—and I plan to vote for Jill Stein, because I believe New Mexico will win by double digits; however, if the race does seem close, unfortunately, I will have to vote for her, which is not something I’m happy about.

AMY GOODMAN: Josh Brody, I want to thank you for being with us. Sounds like a very interesting half-hour you had when you went to have a meal at the Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe. I thank you for being with us.

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