In a live video interview earlier today, Washington Post reporter Robert Costa attempted to own presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders with his record on school busing. It didn’t work out the way he hoped.
In the clip, Costa asks Sanders to respond to a quote of his from 1974, in which Sanders said that “busing policies are well meaning in theory, but sometimes result in racial hostility.”
“What else did I say in that?” Sanders responds.
“Tell me,” Costa says.
“You’ve got it. You’ve got it there. Read the rest of the quote,” Sanders presses.
“I don’t have it,” Costa insists.
“The whole quote is, ‘The federal government doesn’t give a shit about African Americans,’” Sanders recounts, to laughter and cheers in the room.
Sanders goes on.
“My point was, that I don’t think anybody thinks busing is the solution. What is the solution, and what I meant by that quote, is that we need to enforce fair housing legislation,” he told Costa. “I think everybody, whether you’re white, you’re black, want your kids to go to a great community school, not to be bused an hour away. That is the goal that we should be striving for.
Costa’s use of the quote—well, part of it, anyway—was clearly an attempt to compare Sanders’ record to that of former Vice President Joe Biden, who has recently discussed working with segregationist legislators on anti-busing legislation in the ‘70s.
Just yesterday, a New York Times piece about Biden’s history with busing was published with some revealing quotes that don’t look great for the candidate.
“The new integration plans being offered are really just quota-systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school,” Biden apparently told a TV reporter in 1975.
“That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with,” Biden added. “What it says is, in order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son. That’s racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?”
Biden has frequently touted his relationship with the black community and history of supporting civil rights. But these quotes—and his support of policies like Bill Clinton’s crime bill as late as the ‘90s—show there’s little comparison between him and Sanders.
Biden didn’t support busing because he seemingly fundamentally misunderstood the purpose of integration. He was too busy appealing to terrified white families who didn’t want their kids to go to school with brown kids. Whereas, as we see in this quote, Sanders got to the root of the problem, way back in ‘74, by talking about systemic inequalities that wouldn’t be fixed by simply busing kids into a wealthier, whiter area. Busing was a quick fix to a much deeper problem. And sadly, it didn’t work.