Hillary Clinton had agreed to a nationally televised debate with Bernie Sanders ahead of the California Democratic primary. Now that Clinton is enjoying a commanding lead, however, she’s chosen to renege on her promise, forcing Brooklyn-born Sanders to court Queens-born Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.
Well, Sanders did just that Wednesday night when he issued the debate challenge to Trump via written query on the late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live. And Trump, ever the showman, accepted, saying, “Yes, I am. How much is he going to pay me? Because if I debated him, we would have such high ratings and I think I should take that money and give it to some worthy charity. If he paid a nice sum for a charity I would love to do that.”
The guest on Thursday night’s edition of Kimmel was none other than Sanders, who complimented the titular host before launching into an attack on his Democratic opponent.
“You made it possible for us to have a very interesting debate about two guys who look at the world very, very differently,” Sanders told Kimmel, claiming that ABC had contacted him.“[Me and Clinton] had reached an agreement for a number of debates, including in California,” said Sanders, before calling Clinton’s California debate exit “insulting to people in the largest state in the United States of America.”
Kimmel then threw to a recent CNN interview clip of a confident Clinton saying, “I will be the nominee… that is already done, in effect. There is no way I won’t be.”
This irked Sanders, who adjusted in his chair and said, “Just a bit of arrogance there,” before adding that he will win the California primary and that “the people of California will have a message for Secretary Clinton.”
Sanders acknowledged that he was “behind” Clinton in pledged delegates, but pointed to the fact that 400 superdelegates had pledged their support to Clinton before he’d even staked his claim as her opponent, branding the system “tacitly absurd and undemocratic.”
While the “world’s most famous 74-year-old” (Kimmel’s words) wouldn’t say whether or not he’d run as an independent if he lost out on the Democratic nomination to Clinton, Sanders did reiterate that, as some polling predicts, he’d do better in the general against Trump than Clinton.
“If the Democrats want the candidate who is most likely to defeat Trump—and beat him badly—I think you’re lookin’ at him,” offered Sanders.
As for whether the Trump-Sanders debate will happen is anybody’s guess.
After Trump’s Kimmel boast aired, Bernie tweeted back “game on,” and it appeared as though we were all going to be treated to two New Yorkers who are coping with senility in very different ways engaged in a shouting match of epic proportions. The socialist senator from Vermont poured some gas on the fire when he told supporters in California today that he hoped Trump wouldn’t “chicken out.” And Trump, ever the self-serving egotist, said that he’d be happy to debate Bernie if he was paid $10-15 million for his time—money that he claims he’d then donate to an unnamed “women’s health” charity (how long that will take, and if he actually follows through, is anyone’s guess).
Meanwhile, on Thursday morning, Clinton phoned in to CNN and had a good laugh over all the Trump-Sanders debate fanfic.
“I don’t think it’s serious,” she said. “It’s not going to happen!”
Here’s hoping Hillary’s wrong.