Bernie Sanders on Colbert: The Nice Thing He Said About Trump and Why He Understands Hillary Clinton’s Blaming Him for Election Loss

Bernie Sanders on Colbert
Bernie Sanders talking with Stephen Colbert on September 7. CBS/YouTube

Senator Bernie Sanders took the hot seat on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Thursday night, talking about his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, responding to Hillary Clinton’s criticism of him in her new book, What Happened, and even saying something nice about President Donald Trump.

Let’s start with the latter. Asked to pay a compliment to the commander in chief, Sanders, after a long “uh” and an even longer pause, commended Trump for his promises to take on Big Pharma and make prescription medication more affordable for all.

“Let’s say this. He has talked about taking on the pharmaceutical industry and lowering the cost of prescription drugs in this country,” said Sanders. “And he is right to make the point that drug companies are ripping us off in a terrible, terrible way.”

Sanders added, “So, President Trump, that’s what you said during the campaign. Let’s go forward and do that together.”

Host Stephen Colbert also asked Sanders about the “Medicare for all” bill he will present to Senate next Wednesday. The Vermont senator said he wants to extend the free health care currently offered to seniors to everyone in the United States.

“As a nation, we have to finally decide whether health care is a human right or it is not,” he said. The senator said it is time to decide whether the U.S. is going to “continue to have a [health care] system run by the insurance companies and drug companies, where the major goal is to make huge profits.”

He continued, “I think the time is now for the United States to join every other major country on Earth—Canada, U.K., France, Germany—that guarantees health care to all people.

“What a ‘Medicare for all’ system is about is saying we’ve got a good program now for seniors—it’s called Medicare—and let’s make that program available to every man, woman and child in this country.” 

Colbert also pressed Sanders for a reaction to Clinton’s apparent blaming of him for her election loss. In her book, she has implied that he enticed “progressives” away from the rest of the party, and from supporting her, by speaking about her close relationships with Wall Street millionaires and billionaires.

“Because we agreed on so much, Bernie couldn’t make an argument against me in this area on policy, so he had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character,” Clinton wrote. “When I finally challenged Bernie during a debate to name a single time I changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution, he couldn’t come up with anything. Nonetheless, his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.”

Sanders responded by telling Colbert that progressive movement and grassroots activism is “stronger than it’s been in many, many years.”

“As a result of our campaign,” he said referring to his own bid for the presidency, “millions of young people began to vote for the first time, became engaged in the political process.

“I think there is a level of understanding that we have got to stand together against Trump’s efforts to divide us up, take on the billionaire class and make that political revolution so we have a government that works for all of us and not just the 1 percent.”

Sanders added, “Secretary Clinton ran against the most unpopular candidate in the history of this country and she lost. She’s upset about it. I understand that.”

The senator also gave his most politician-like response when Colbert asked if he was planning to run for president again in 2020. He replied that the focus should be on uniting and reforming the country instead of discussing another grueling campaign for president.

Chuckling slightly, he said, “What the people want the Senate and the House to do is start addressing the real issues—health care, making educational opportunity available to all, raising the minimum wage. They do not like never-ending campaigns.

“We just came from election eight or nine months ago. Let’s focus on the issues that American people care about, and the politics will follow that.”