DES MOINES, Iowa — With just a week to go before the critical Iowa Caucuses, Bernie Sanders Monday night acknowledged in the most clear terms yet that his single-payer health care plan would raise taxes.
"We will raise taxes, yes we will," Sanders said to moderator Chris Cuomo of CNN at a Democratic forum on the campus of Drake University.
It’s the kind of blunt, un-politician-like talk that has endeared Sanders to his fans, but it’s also a comment ready-made for a political attack ad.
Sanders went on to say that a focus on taxes entirely misses the point, because his plan would reduce health insurance premiums by even more than it would raise taxes. The campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has attacked her opponent’s health plan for tax hikes, a charge Sanders Monday night called "unfair criticism" because his plan would ultimately save people money.
Sanders also said he misspoke when he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week that Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign are part of the political "establishment." "I did not say it well," he said. What he meant to say is that "sometimes the base of the organization looks at the world a little bit differently than the leadership," suggesting that leaders are supporting frontrunner Clinton over the objections of their membership.
Cuomo also pressed Sanders on whether he had the experience to do the "whole job" of being president, including being Commander in Chief. At one point, Sanders abruptly stood up to address the question. "This calls for a standing up response," he said while defending his judgement and noting that Dick Cheney, who is universally reviled by Democrats, had plenty of experience.
Sanders was loose during the interview. Sitting down as he first came out on the stage, he quipped, "My wife told me to button my coat, but I think I’m too fat, so…"
Later, when Cuomo said Sanders was 75 years old, the senator raised his voice to correct the record — "74!" he said with a smile. He added that he was going to be 75 one day, but so, too, was Cuomo.
Sanders summed up his pitch by saying that though he believed Clinton or Martin O’Malley are good candidates, the country needs more. "It just seems to me that the problems we have," Sanders said, "are so serious that we have got to go beyond establishment politics and establishment economics."