Age Isn't Everything, Says Bernie Sanders. 'It Is What You Stand For'
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
And now to NPR's Scott Detrow, host of the NPR Politics Podcast. He spoke with Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders as he campaigned in Nashua, N.H., yesterday. And he joins us now, fresh off the plane, in the studio.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. I don't know if fresh is the right word, but good to be here. Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter). All right, the age gap between candidates was a big part of this week's debates. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders are both in their 70s, as you know. And several candidates are saying, hey, it's time for a new generation of leaders. What was Bernie Sanders' response?
DETROW: This has become an increasingly prevalent part of the conversation in the campaign. And Sanders got pretty animated during the debate when Congressman Eric Swalwell made that pass-the-torch comment. Even though it was directed at Biden, Sanders really wanted to respond in that moment. Nobody called on him. So I asked him what he was so eager to say.
BERNIE SANDERS: I think age is certainly something that people should look at. They should look at everything. Look at the totality of the person. Do you trust that person? Is that person honest? Do you agree with that person? What is the record of that person? But just to say, you know, I'm going to vote for somebody 'cause they're 35 or 40, and I'm not going to vote for somebody who's in their 70s, I think that's a pretty superficial answer.
DETROW: Of course, Sanders and Biden, both in their 70s, like you said. Either one of them would be the oldest president at the time of the election, which is of course a record that was just set by President Trump, also in his 70s. But in the wake of Trump especially, a lot of Democratic voters are telling us they want a younger candidate, a more diverse candidate.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, Sanders has been increasingly critical of Biden lately. But despite expectations, he didn't go after him on the debate stage. What did he say about Biden in your interview?
DETROW: I asked him directly. And he at first declined to make a direct comparison. But then, just a minute later he went on to warn that Democrats will win by increasing the turnout of younger voters, people who have missed previous elections. And he warned that a more moderate candidate might not do that. And it was pretty clear who he was talking about.
SANDERS: If we can have a 70% voter turnout in the next election, not only will we defeat Trump; we'll defeat him very badly. But you're not going to have that turnout unless the candidate has issues that excite people and energize people. That means you have to be talking about "Medicare for All." You have to be talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour.
DETROW: Biden does support a $15 minimum wage. But on health care, student loan forgiveness, a lot of other policies, he just doesn't go as far as Sanders and a lot of the rest of the field.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, and there is something that happened after your interview. Sanders and other candidates all rushed to Senator Kamala Harris' defense after Donald Trump Jr. tweeted and then deleted a post questioning whether she was authentically black. Explain what happened.
DETROW: Yeah, Harris is the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants. And the tweet in question insinuated that this somehow undermines her black credentials. Harris' campaign said this is a racist attack in the exact same vein as President Trump's birther campaign. But what was remarkable here is how basically the entire Democratic field rushed to her defense, including Joe Biden, who Harris memorably went after pretty hard on the debate stage, all saying this is ridiculous and racist.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Scott Detrow, host of the NPR Politics Podcast. And you can hear the full interview with Bernie Sanders in the podcast feed on Monday.
DETROW: Thank you.
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