Independent Bernie Sanders is a part of the growing ranks of U.S. senators flirting with a White House run in 2016. But in an address at the National Press Club Monday Sanders explained the massive hurdles in front of him.
The National Press Club is a grandiose building just a stone’s throw from the White House. Many in the contemporary press corps view it as a relic of a long forgotten age when lawmakers and reporters alike would sip scotch, light each other’s cigarettes and chat about the politics of the day. While the Press Club remains reporters' turf, in these times of dwindling newsrooms it’s also used to raise money. Hence, Senator Sanders spoke to a room of supporters who doled out almost forty bucks a plate to attend. Their support was evident in the applause that resounded each time he decried foreign wars or those fat cats bankers.
But reporters were watching in the wings. Scribes from all sorts of magazines and publications came out. The big cable networks sent camera crews in case Vermont’s junior senator decided to announce a White House run, which he didn’t.
But the President of the Press Club, John Hughes of Bloomberg – who asks questions on behalf of the audience and reporters alike – started the Q & A with the question on everyone’s mind in Washington.
"Senator, when will you declare your intentions for 2016, regardless of what they are?” Hughes asked.
Sanders knew that one was coming, and did not answer definitively.
“But the reason I am thinking about running for president is that at a time when the middle class of this country is disappearing and so many people are giving up on the political process – last election 63 percent of the people didn’t even bother to vote – so I think we need an agenda. We need candidates who are willing to stand up for the working class of this country. So that’s what I’m thinking to do," Sanders said.
The intrigue continued. Sanders was also asked whether he’d switch to the Democratic Party if he hops in the race.
“It is awfully hard to run as an Independent if you’re not a billionaire – I am not a billionaire. How do you put together a political infrastructure outside of the two party system? How do you get invited to debates?” he asked.
After the cameras were flipped off, the press corps was more interested in Senator Sanders than with any potential presidential candidate Sanders. Most of the media don't see him yet as a serious presidential contender. He was pressed by one reporter on his support for basing the F-35 fighter jet in Vermont.
“I mean this, this plane costs so much money," the reporter said.
"That’s not the issue. You’re right...but the plane is here today. So the only question that comes to me is...is what do you do when you have to make it? Does it go to Florida, does it go to South Carolina or does it go to Vermont?” Sanders replied.
Reporters also pressed Sanders for his reaction to Senate Republicans sending Iranian leaders a letter warning them any nuclear deal they strike with President Obama won’t last after he leaves office. While
many members of the Democratic caucus were outraged by the letter, Sanders was unaware.
“Honestly, I’ve been working on this speech this morning I haven’t seen it. If you wanna give me a ring, give me a little time to read it," Sanders said.
Sanders response received this dejected response from Sam Stein – the White House reporter for the Huffington Post.
“Just trying to ask substantive questions.”
“Give me a ring and we’ll do it," Sanders said.
With a press corps growing increasingly upset at an administration many see as falling woefully short when it comes to transparency and straightforwardness, Sanders is sounding more presidential every day.