CHICAGO — Sen. Bernie Sanders parried pointed questions from Chris Matthews at MSNBC’s individual Town Hall at the University of Chicago Thursday night while also offering a rare glimpse into his personal faith.
The biggest question the "Hardball" host wanted answered was "How?" How would Sanders push through a Supreme Court nominee that a Republican Senate would not confirm? How would Sanders put free tuition for public colleges and universities on the docket for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and expect it to pass through Congress?
“The difference that you and I have is you’re looking at politics in the way it is today,” the Vermont senator said. “What I am trying to do is not just pass legislation. I’m trying to change the face of American politics."
Sanders insisted that, even though he is an “outside the beltway guy,” the “inside the beltway guys” like McConnell would listen to the people of the “political revolution.”
When pushed, Sanders cited examples such as the LGBT movement to prove his point. “If you and I were sitting here 10 years ago, and I said to you, you know Chris, I think in 2015, gay marriage would be legal in every state in this country, what would you have told me?”
“I can’t see the future,” conceded Matthews. “But you’re right, it moved very quickly. The country moved very quickly.”
The candidate was also pressed on foreign policy, an area on which his critics say he is weak.
Matthews asked Sanders if he could imagine himself “sitting in the situation room, calling in a lethal drone strike,” for example.
"Absolutely, absolutely,” Sanders responded before falling back on his primary foreign policy talking points of having “good judgment” when it came to the Iraq War and overthrowing dictators in the Middle East.
“I am a fairly tough guy,” he added, saying that he is prepared to “take on Putin and everybody else” by letting them know we have the “strongest military in the world.”
Sanders then took aim at rival Hillary Clinton, elevating his criticism of one of her “mentors” — former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger.
“I do not see Henry Kissinger as a mentor of mine. I think he was one of the worst secretaries of state in the history of this country,” he said.
Sanders indicated that he “would not throw the book” at NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden, saying the fugitive “deserves his day in court."
He also opened up on his views on Jewish faith. Asked about his relationship with Judaism, the senator said he is “very proud of his heritage.”
“What comes to my mind so strongly is a kid growing up in Brooklyn and seeing people with numbers on their wrists,” Sanders said, referring to tattoos used by the Nazis to mark prisoners during the Holocaust.
“And knowing that my, a good part of my father’s family was killed by the Nazis … I learned as a very young person that politics is serious business.”