Bernie Sanders has been saying similar things on CNN for years

Story highlights

  • Bernie Sanders appeared on CNN's "Crossfire" several times
  • Some of his 2016 campaign trail statements are different than in those television shows

(CNN)Bernie Sanders has proved to be a durable Democratic presidential candidate based on his vision of democratic socialism. But while the Vermont senator's ideas may be new to many, he's actually been articulating them for decades -- including as a frequent guest on CNN's former debate show "Crossfire."

Show transcripts from 1998 to 2014 show he's been remarkably consistent. Much of Sanders' language could be taken straight out his 2016 stump speech. Though on some issues, such as health care, foreign policy, and the VA scandal, his views have shifted slightly in the midst of his run for the highest office in the land.
    One key change has been on the Affordable Care Act. While Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is a longtime backer of Obamacare, Sanders hopes to replace it with a single payer "Medicare-for-all" program. Speaking on "Crossfire" in 2013 and 2014, during the show's second run, Sanders called President Barack Obama's signature legislation a "Republican Romney-type program" and a "Republican plan."
    On the 2016 campaign trail, though, Sanders has avoided openly criticizing the President's plan, even going so far as to say that he helped write the law and that it was an "important step forward" and had "done a lot of good things."
    Sanders has tried to differentiate himself from Clinton on foreign policy, as well. He has long touted his 2002 vote against the Iraq war as a sign of his wisdom in foreign affairs. He was vocal in criticizing the war from the very beginning. Speaking on "Crossfire" in the lead-up to the war, he said "we are going to undermine the United Nations, undermine international law, (and) plunge this world into international anarchy."
    Fast forward to 2016 and Sanders has aimed to broaden his foreign policy portfolio while continuing to hammer Clinton for her pro-Iraq war vote. While Sanders has often called for international coalitions, he has tried to keep his military options as commander in chief far more flexible. Sanders stresses his votes to authorize military engagement in Kosovo and Afghanistan. When asked on ABC News if there were any "circumstances where a President Sanders would authorize unilateral action to use force," Sanders tactfully avoided the question, saying, "I don't want to get into hypotheticals. I didn't say in all circumstances."
    Sanders did get specific on foreign policy when answering a question about which nation he thought was America's greatest security threat: North Korea. "I worry very much about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs," Sanders said just three days before North Korea launched a long range missile test. "I do feel that a nation with nuclear weapons, they have got to be dealt with. Dealt with effectively."
    But when he appeared on "Crossfire" opposite South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham in 1999 -- then a House member with Sanders and now also a senator -- Sanders minimalized the threat from North Korea in the midst of similar missile tests.
    "Do you think that more senior citizens will die next year because they lack the prescription drugs they need to keep them alive or do you think they're going to die by getting hit by a missile from North Korea?" he asked. "We have children who are hungry, we have people who can't afford a college education, people have no prescription drugs, now North Korea is the major enemy facing us."
    In 2014, Sanders, then chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, appeared on "Crossfire" to defend attacks about health care at the VA in the wake of a CNN story that showed serious problems and long wait times at VA health facilities across the country, particularly in Arizona.
    Sanders defended the Obama administration, saying, "there were allegations made about Phoenix. They're allegations ...we need facts. We need facts."
    Sanders emphasized what he said was good work done by the VA and urged that policymakers not "throw the baby out with the water." Yet, on the campaign trail, Sanders has backed off his defense a bit. Speaking with CNN's Anderson Cooper at a Democratic town hall in New Hampshire last month, Sanders admitted that "we should have done better." And speaking in front of the crowd of undecided voters, Sanders explained that "we should've acted sooner. We should've known what was going on... those long waiting lines and the lies that some administrators were telling us."