In an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, Bernie Sanders unwittingly revealed a surprising lack of policy and process knowledge on his flagship campaign theme.


One of the negative frames routinely deployed against Hillary Clinton—inextricably linked to the zombie frame of Hillary’s alleged enthusiasm gap—is that she isn’t inspiring. Doesn’t think big enough; too wonkish; constantly gets mired in policy details; bo-ring!

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is portrayed as a revolutionary who stands in contrast to Hillary’s perceived incrementalism.

But in an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, Bernie exposed the limits of being a big picture candidate who doesn’t concern himself with policy details.

Pressed to provide specifics on his oft-repeated proposal to break up the banks, Bernie was asked: “How do you go about doing it?”

Sanders: How you go about doing it is having legislation passed, or giving the authority to the secretary of treasury to determine, under Dodd-Frank, that these banks are a danger to the economy over the problem of too-big-to-fail.

Daily News: But do you think that the Fed, now, has that authority?

Sanders: Well, I don’t know if the Fed has it. But I think the administration can have it.

Daily News: How? How does a President turn to JPMorgan Chase, or have the Treasury turn to any of those banks and say, “Now you must do X, Y and Z?”

Sanders: Well, you do have authority under the Dodd-Frank legislation to do that, make that determination.

Daily News: You do, just by Federal Reserve fiat, you do?

Sanders: Yeah. Well, I believe you do.

The exchange went on, until the Daily News interviewer confessed: “I’m a little bit confused, because just a few minutes ago you said the U.S. President would have the authority to order—” At which point, Bernie interrupted:

Sanders: No, I did not say we would order. I did not say that we would order. The President is not a dictator.

Daily News: Okay. You would then leave it to JPMorgan Chase or the others to figure out how to break it, themselves up. I’m not quite…

Sanders: You would determine is that, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. And then you have the secretary of treasury and some people who know a lot about this, making that determination. If the determination is that Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail, yes, they will be broken up.

Daily News: Okay. You saw, I guess, what happened with Metropolitan Life. There was an attempt to bring them under the financial regulatory scheme, and the court said no. And what does that presage for your program?

Sanders: It’s something I have not studied, honestly, the legal implications of that.

This is, to be blunt, is an incredible admission. Bernie has built his entire campaign around being the only guy with both the courage and the capacity to enact a revolution that starts with breaking up the financial institutions that have too much power.

Yet he has not studied the relevant legal implications in a crucial regulatory test case, and he cannot provide concrete details of how his flagship plan would be enacted.

It’s a serious fumble, and, to be perfectly frank, Hillary’s supposedly uninspiring wonkishness looks even more inspiring than it did before.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)