It wasn’t exactly Washington’s version of The King’s Speech, but independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 8½-hour blast in December at President Obama’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts is getting star treatment. Nation Books is printing it in its entirety in The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class. The senator’s passionate address, which runs over 255 pages in the book, was a rare oratorical tour de force: It attracted so many online viewers it crashed the Senate television website. Some say Obama was so miffed by the speech that he held an impromptu press conference with former President Clinton to divert attention. As for Sanders, he says he didn’t know how long he’d talk. “You would be amazed at how unprepared we were,” he tells us.
After his usual morning oatmeal and coffee, Sanders headed to the Senate floor, where colleagues urged him on in a bid to stop the Obama-GOP deal. He started at 10:30 a.m. and after a while he was hoarse, his legs cramping from standing. But this wasn’t a frivolous filibuster like some others, with senators reading the Yellow Pages. “I didn’t want to just waste time,” Sanders says. Instead he addressed the plight of the middle class and how the tax cuts hurt them and the nation. The reaction proved to him that it was worth the cramps, thirst, and hunger. “There is a message out there that people have not been hearing,” he says, “and it created a lot of enthusiasm.”