Sen. Bernie Sanders returned to NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, answering foreign policy questions that he has avoided in his traditional stump speech.
Sanders, who leads Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and now Iowa as well, according to recent polls, declined to tell host Chuck Todd how many Syrian refugees the U.S. should accept as they flee their war-torn country.
“I think it’s impossible to give a number until we understand the dimensions of the problem. What I do believe is that Europe, the United States, countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, must address this humanitarian crisis. People are leaving Iraq, they’re leaving Syria, with just the clothes on their backs. The world has got to respond. The world should be part of that response,” he said.
Sanders, the 74-year-old democratic socialist, also declined to assign fault for the Mid East turmoil and instability in Syria, noting simply that he voted against the war in Iraq during the administration of former President George W. Bush because he believed it would result in chaos.
“The issue now is not who is at fault. The issue is what do we do?” he said.
Sanders suggested that the U.S. and Europe, as well as Saudi Arabia and “other countries are going to have to get their hands dirty, going to have to get on the ground in taking on ISIS.”
Sanders was clear on one point — he does not want the U.S. engaged in warfare in the Middle East.
“I disagree that the United States should have combat troops in that area. I fear very much that we will be in perpetual warfare in that region. I do not want to see that occur,” Sanders said.
Sanders, who has had trouble attracting African American support for his White House bid, returned to South Carolina this past weekend with Cornel West by his side. The professor and civil rights leader spoke out strongly in favor of Sanders’ candidacy.
“What I love about Brother Bernie is he’s a brother of integrity and honesty and decency,” West said at Benedict College, a historically black college. “He’s not just on the move. He’s going to win.”
West said Sanders’ campaign will unite Americans to address the issues the country faces and urged the crowd of about 1,000 to get on board.
“You’ve got to get in on the love train. That’s what Bernie Sanders’ campaign is. It’s a love train. Do you love working people? Do you love poor people? Do you love the declining middle class?” West said at Benedict College. “We love rich folks, too, but we taste their greed.”
New York Times columnist Charles. M. Blow rained a bit on the Sanders and West parade through South Carolina. Blow, in a column published by the Times on Saturday, noted that Sanders addressed “a half empty gymnasium” at Benedict, and the crowd “appeared to be largely white.”
“This underscores the severe challenge facing the Sanders campaign: African-American voters have yet to fully connect to the man and the message,” Blow wrote.
He noted that Sanders must attract many of the African American voters that flocked to President Barack Obama in 2008, rather than Clinton, who Sanders is now hoping to defeat in 2016. While West may bring some black voters on board, his blistering critique of Obama’s presidency could turn some black voters away from Sanders.
“West’s critique of the president has been so blistering and unyielding — he has called Obama “counterfeit,” the “black face of the American empire,” a verb-ed neologism of the n-word — that it has bordered on petulance and self-parody,” Blow wrote.
Watch Sanders’ appearance on Meet the Press below: