2 GUYS From BROOKLYN: SPIKE LEE INTERVIEWS BERNIE SANDERS For THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER!!!
Filmmaker SPIKE LEE and 2016 PRESIDENTIAL Candidate BERNIE SANDERS (D:VT) are both natives of BROOKLYN, NY, and the good folks at THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER thought that it would be a great idea to have 2 GUYS FROM BROOKLYN: SPIKE LEE INTERVIEWS BERNIE SANDERS together for THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: The NEW YORK ISSUE!!! Here are some interview interludes:
EE I just want to start off by reading you some of Brooklyn's finest: [Lee proceeds to list more than 100 figures who hail from the borough, including Barbara Stanwyck, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Pat Benatar, Jerry Seinfeld, Fab Five Freddy, Sandy Koufax and David Geffen.] That's it. And you!
SANDERS And you!
What is so special about the borough, the republic of Brooklyn, New York? It can't be coincidence. At one point, we had three United States senators that came from my high school, James Madison High School, in Brooklyn, New York. You've got great athletes, you got great intellectuals, you got great entertainers, artists. It's a fantastic collection of people.
But why is that?
Who knows? But I think it's a lot to do with a very vibrant community of people who in many cases did not have a lot of money — some immigrants, some born here.
People who can't afford to live in Manhattan.
There you go, that's right. And who struggled and whose parents wanted them to do something. Education was very important in all this, you know? And people bouncing off of each other. Good minds bouncing. And a lot of great teachers, by the way. Let's not forget. That speaks a lot about public education. My guess is 90 percent of those people you named went to public schools in New York City. It was a great place to grow up for me. It is and was a very vibrant community with a lot of great people.
What do you have to do to get the older generation of African-American votes? You're like the new guy on the block. You've got the young Hispanic, African-American, you got it. But the older generation, black folks, they know the Clintons 20-some years.
We're doing phenomenally well with all of the young people — white, black, Latino, you name it, Asian-American. And we're getting killed, frankly, not just with older African-Americans but also older whites, older Latinos. It's the weirdest thing in the world. And what really bothers me is I spent half my life in Congress helping to lead the effort for senior citizens: We led the effort against cuts to Social Security — we want to expand Social Security; we took on the drug companies who are doing terrible things to elderly people. You know seniors are cutting their prescription drugs in half. So we have a lot of work to do in terms of reaching out to seniors, not just African-Americans, but seniors all across the board. We're figuring out how you get the message out there.
Do you think that Mrs. Hillary Clinton has an advantage with her relationship with President Obama? I mean, what is your relationship with the president?
It's a good relationship. But let me be very straight about this: This president will go down in history as one of the smartest presidents. Brilliant guy. And especially the more people hear from the Republicans, the smarter they think he is. (Laughter.) But he is also incredibly disciplined and focused. You're around the media every single day, and you have the opportunity to say dumb things — he does it very, very rarely. He is very focused. He came to Vermont to campaign for me way back in 2006. I worked on his elections in 2008 and 2012 and just was in the Oval Office a couple of months ago. So we have a very positive and, I think, friendly relationship. Is he closer to Hillary Clinton? I suspect. She was his secretary of state for four years.
Bernie, 99 Americans die every day in this country due to gun violence, a third of those by suicide. I know Vermont is different from Bed-Stuy, do or die; the boogie-down Bronx; Chi-raq; Killadelphia; Bodymore, Murderland [Baltimore, Maryland]. So can you explain to me what your views are about guns in this country? It's killin' us, and that's not a pun.
Your first statement is right. Vermont and rural America, people talk about guns, you know what they're talking about? They're talking about hunting. And it is something that my state, tens and tens of thousands of people do. They take their kids into the woods, there's target practice, there are antique gun shows, and that's what guns are. I do know that guns mean something very different around urban America. And what we have got to do is get a handle on this horrific gun violence. There's no question about that. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA. D-minus voting record. And I have stood up to them for years. In 1988, Spike, I ran for the United States Congress in the state of Vermont. I lost that election because I was the only candidate who said, "You know what, maybe we should not be selling and distributing military-style assault weapons in this country, weapons designed just to kill people?" I lost by three points, and perhaps that was the reason.
Bernie, what does Black Lives Matter mean to you?
What it means is that we are all sick and tired of seeing unarmed people shot by police officers. That young people in African-American communities are harassed by police officers, where police departments are not there to be supportive but are in many cases oppressive, and that's an issue that has to be addressed.
Trump. Have you seen the film A Face in the Crowd, directed by Elia Kazan? Do you see a correlation between Lonesome Rhodes [a character who rises to fame in the early days of TV], played by Andy Griffith, and Donald Trump?
He is an entertainer by and large. He did very well on television; he knows the media very, very well. Don't underestimate him. And God knows who he is really, but we see what he personifies on TV every night. He knows how to manipulate the media very effectively, he knows how to do what he does with people. But let me just reassure you: Donald Trump is not going to become president of the United States. That I can say.
Would you agree that he is possibly the Frankenstein that the GOP has created? They got a monster on their hands and don't know what to do with it.
There's no question. The establishment Republicans are going nuts. And this could lead to a real dissolution of the Republican Party as we know it.
Who are the people who are voting for Donald Trump? When a guy says I can stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody — even saying that, knowing that 99 Americans die every day — and you're going to shoot somebody and no one's going to not vote for you? That's insane to me.
Well, virtually every day he says something that's crazier than the day before, right? So what can you say? But here is what I think is going on. I think that the establishment has underestimated the contempt and the frustration that the American people have, a segment of the American people have, with politics as usual.
With Washington, D.C., right?
Yeah, yeah. So when he says, "Look, I'm not them," they say, "OK, that's good enough for me." You know? "That's all that I need." And there is a lot of anger out there and a lot of reasons for the anger. One of the reasons for these 50-year-old, 60-year-old white guys voting for Trump is in many cases they are working longer hours for lower wages, they are seeing their jobs go to China, they are seeing their jobs go to Mexico. They are scared to death about the future of their kids, and they don't see anybody doing anything about it. And Trump comes along and says, "I got the solution, we're going to scapegoat Mexicans and we're going to build a wall a mile high." People are angry, what do you do? You don't get to the real issues as to why people are hurting, you scapegoat. You scapegoat blacks, Latinos, gays, anybody, Jews, Muslims, any minority out there, that's what you do. That is nothing new. That's what demagogues have always done, and that's what Trump is doing. What we are trying to do in our campaign is bring people together to look at the real problems facing this country, which in my view is the greed of corporate America, of Wall Street, the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality. Let's attack those issues. Let's not scapegoat people.
And let's be honest, President Clinton was responsible for sending a whole lot of people of color to prison [for minor drug offenses], which he apologized for. But if I spent 10 years in prison, an apology is not going to be enough.
Right now, I don't know if you know this, under the Federal Controlled Substance Act, marijuana is a schedule one drug right alongside heroin. Isn't that pretty crazy? I have introduced legislation to take marijuana out of it. It should not be a federal crime. States can legalize it if they want. And we need to deal with local police departments as well in terms of holding police officers accountable, demilitarizing police departments, making police departments look like the diversity of the communities that they are serving. So I think that there is an enormous amount that we can do. And I think, by the way, the American people are fairly united on this. And you know why conservatives want it? Because we're spending $80 billion a year locking up people, and nobody thinks that that makes sense.