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70 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 012 - Former NFL Punter Chris Kluwe
In Episode 012 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Former NFL Punter Chris Kluwe about activism in sports, how he got involved, and how it may have cost his job. We also talk about post-football life, writing a sci-fi novel, creating a board/card game, and still being outspoken. As always, if you enjoy the show hit the links below. Twitter: https://goo.gl/roRQMU Itunes: https://apple.co/2Q8SUIQ Google Play: https://goo.gl/MoJ2Fq More info: http://www.originstoriespodcast.com
68 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 011 - Heidi Harris - Conservative Talk Radio Host
In Episode 011 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Las Vegas Conservative Talk Radio Host Heidi Harris about growing up in Vegas, recently losing her job due to a controversial post on social media, and the state of politics today. (This was recorded in October, so there is a bit on the Kavanaugh hearings.) As always, if you enjoy the show hit the links below. Twitter: https://goo.gl/roRQMU Itunes: https://apple.co/2Q8SUIQ Google Play: https://goo.gl/MoJ2Fq More info: http://www.originstoriespodcast.com
49 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 010 - Our Revolution President - Nina Turner
In Episode 010 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, who is now the President of Our Revolution, about our good friend Ed Schultz, her life growing up as the oldest of seven siblings, her political career, and how she still has one good run in her. Show Notes: Brent starts by telling some stories about his relationship with Sen. Turner. Nina Talks about her relationship with the late great Ed Schultz. Sen. Turner talks about going beyond the soundbites and people finding out more about their lawmakers and television personalities. Sen. Turner talks about growing up in Cleveland and being the oldest of 7 siblings. She talks about the influence of her grandparents on her life and how moving around alot during her upbringing affected her. Nina Talks about how she speaks with her Brother, who is a conservative, every morning. (We go into how we can’t get so caught up in politics that we lose relationships.) Sen. Turner talks about how she may have one good run left in her. We talk about her husband and son serving as police officers. We talk about her work holding law enforcement accountable in the state of Ohio following the shooting of Tamir Rice. (She was able to work with Republican Governor John Kasich on the issues.) As always, if you enjoy the show hit the links below. Twitter: https://goo.gl/roRQMU Itunes: https://apple.co/2Q8SUIQ Google Play: https://goo.gl/MoJ2Fq More info: http://www.originstoriespodcast.com
57 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 009 - Rick Ungar - Host of the Pod Complex
In Episode 009 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Rick Ungar, host of the Pod Complex about transitioning from working in entertainment to the world of politics. As always, if you enjoy the show hit the links below. Twitter: https://goo.gl/roRQMU Itunes: https://apple.co/2Q8SUIQ Google Play: https://goo.gl/MoJ2Fq More info: http://www.originstoriespodcast.com We discuss Rick’s background in entertainment and running the Marvel animation studios in the 1990s. Rick talks about how he started as a lawyer in the entertainment industry, and eventually wrote and created Biker Mice from Mars. We talk about his transition from Entertainment executive to being involved in politics. We discuss his podcast the Pod Complex, which is described as “Charlie Rose for politics,” and the need for discourse between parties. We discuss the malfunction in Washington concerning the lack of bipartisan cooperation. In that discussion, we talk about Washington’s lack of willingness to try new things. Rick talks about his interest in American healthcare policy helped to facilitate that transition from the entertainment industry to politics. We take that discussion into what Rick’s ideal health care system would be. We discuss the theory that no matter how much you like your congressperson, you should fire them. We talk about term limits, and while the idea sounds good on the surface, there are some serious issues with it. We discuss the fact that third parties don’t want to start from the ground up in establishing leadership. We discuss the fact that while it is important to identify the problem, we need to work more on the solutions.
65 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 008 - Former Rep. Jack Kingston - R-GA
In Episode 008 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Former Rep. Jack Kingston - R-GA about the life experiences that brought him to a life of politics and punditry. We discuss how growing up during the Vietnam War, Desegregation and how the debate over Roe V Wade helped him learn to be engaged in Politics. We also go deep into celebrities and athletes getting involved in the political discussion. As always, if you enjoy the show hit the links below. Twitter: https://goo.gl/roRQMU Itunes: https://apple.co/2Q8SUIQ Google Play: https://goo.gl/MoJ2Fq More info: http://www.originstoriespodcast.com
60 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 007 - Lori Wallach - Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
In Episode 007 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch about the life experiences that brought her to the forefront of the trade debate. Lori and Brent discuss growing up in Wisconsin, how Ralph Nader influenced her, and just what exactly Public Citizen does. As always, if you enjoy the show hit the links below. Twitter: https://goo.gl/roRQMU Itunes: https://apple.co/2Q8SUIQ Google Play: https://goo.gl/MoJ2Fq More info: http://www.originstoriespodcast.com Show Notes: We discuss what Public Citizen does and how Ralph Nader created the organization. We also go into the specifics of what Global Trade Watch does under the Public Citizen umbrella. We take a deep dive into Trade policy under the Trump Administration including his work against NAFTA and the TPP. We also talk about why Democrats are so split on the issue. We touch on the trade deficit with China. We talk about how the WTO works and how Lori got her start working on trade policy. (Hang in there folks, it’s about to get really fun.) Lori talks about how she grew up fighting for what was right and how being one of the only Jewish families in her area. Lori talks about how she and Nader were on the same page when it came to the shadow war over fast-track trade authority.
72 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 006 - Ned Ryun - CEO - American Majority
Subscribe to the podcast onItunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker, TuneIN, or wherever you consume Podcasts. Again, if you like the project share it with your friends, follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour and/or like the page on Facebook. In Episode 006 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks Ned Ryun, CEO of American Majority, about how he got into politics, being the son of a former Congressman who also once held the World Record in the Mile, and the state of politics today. ***Correction during the intro: I say Ned's father Jim was a marathon runner, he held the world record in the Mile.*** Show Notes: What makes a Conservative or Liberal Pundit and how you get into these television debates. We talk about Ned taking five years off between High School and College, and how he would suggest his children to do the same. We talk about Ned’s father, Rep. Jim Ryun, a world record holder in the Mile, and how he got into politics. We talk the need for media to be open and honest about their political bias. We go into great depth into healthcare policy and Ned’s issues with a non-profit healthcare system. We spend quite a bit of time talking about the and his father’s running career and the opportunities it presented. (Including some cool conversations about prolific miler Steve Prefontaine.) We talk about how curiosity fueled his passion for traveling and learning as much as possible. We talk about some of the nationalistic tendencies of Trump and his supporters and where that can be good and bad. We talk about his job as a presidential writer during the Bush Administration. (We also talk about his experience working in the White House on 9/11.) We talk about Ned’s experiences with President George W. Bush through his father. We also talk about his organizations work building conservative leaders from local government up. We also talk about how the removal of superdelegates in the Democratic party will help the grassroots movement in the problem. We fight over who loses more Republicans and Democrats.
60 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 005 - Mitch Ceasar - Former Florida Democratic Party Chair
Subscribe to the podcast onItunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker, TuneIN, or wherever you consume Podcasts. Again, if you like the project share it with your friends, follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour and/or like the page on Facebook. In Episode 005 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with former Florida Democratic Party chair Mitch Ceasar about his relationship with the Clintons, becoming the youngest party official in the state party’s history, and how Democrats can win moving forward.
40 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 004 - Rep. Kevin Cramer - R-ND
Subscribe to the podcast onItunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker, TuneIN, or wherever you consume Podcasts. Again, if you like the project share it with your friends, follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour and/or like the page on Facebook. In Episode 004 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-ND, about growing up in North Dakota, being an early supporter of Donald Trump (and previously Rudy Giuliani), and what really frustrates him about working in Congress. We also discuss the tightly contested race between himself and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
65 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 003 - Brad Woodhouse - Executive Director - Protect Our Care
In Episode 003 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks Protect Our Care Executive Director Brad Woodhouse about going from being a theatre major in college to working as Communications Director for the Democratic National Committee. Woodhouse also discusses the interesting situation of having a brother who is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party. Subscribe to the podcast onItunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker, TuneIN, or wherever you consume Podcasts. Again, if you like the project share it with your friends, follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour and/or like the page on Facebook. Transcript: This is episode three of Origin Stories: A Podcast about politics and People. My name Brent Jabbour and this week we speak with Brad Woodhouse. He is the executive director at Protect Our Care. He is the former DNC Communications Director, he was an Obama surrogate in 08 and 2012. He's what I would consider a Democratic operative, that is just a buzzword, it doesn't really mean anything in particular. It's like a Democratic strategist. It just means what's going on. He knows the inner-workings of what is going on with the party. And, we had a pretty good discussion. I always found Brad pretty interesting because his brother is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party and he is entering his second cycle there. So, he is this key Democratic operative his brother high ranking Republican in the North Carolina party. They've actually played that up, you've seen them appear on Fox together, on CSpan, there is a famous viral clip of them going at it and their mom giving a call into the program. He's a really personable guy, we've had him on the Ed Schultz Radio show and the Ed Show on MSNBC quite a bit. So I have spoken with him many times and he was always friendly. He was just a guy I thought has a lot of personality and I would love to sit him down and talk about what's going on right now in politics in the United States. So, we touched on that. We talked about his Origin Story, if you will, he started out thinking he could be a big movie star because he was a theatre major in college. Then he saw Bill Clinton accept the Democratic nomination in 1992. And, it just clicked for him. And he decided to go into politics as his family had in the past. We talk about a lot of things. We obviously re-litigate the 2016 election because you can't sit down with anyone today without doing that. But we also talk about what is important for Democrats to win in 2018 and then moving into 2020. He is very critical of President Donald Trump so we will talk a lot about that. I think it was a really enjoyable conversation. Just a little bit of a heads up. Next week, I have already recorded it, but I sat down with my first sitting United States Congressman, that's an elected official, that's a big deal for me. I go to go into Congress and actually sit down with somebody. I sat down with Kevin Cramer of North Dakota who is in a big Senate race and I speak a lot about that race. In fact, we talk about that in this particular episode of the podcast. Looking forward to that. If you like what you hear, remember to subscribe on Itunes or wherever you get your podcasts so you can get it delivered right to your ears. Would love for that to be the case for you every Thursday when we release new episodes. You can follow on Facebook. Facebook.com/podcastoriginstories or follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour. Here we go. I'm not going to waste too much more time. It's Brad Woodhouse, Democratic Operative from Protect Our care. Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, Episode three, here we go! Brent Jabbour: I don't know why, but you were in my building one time and I rode the elevator up with you. And, I have this little anxiety issue, where I can never remember somebody's name when I see them. It happens to me... Brad Woodhouse: That happens to a lot of people. Brent Jabbour: I don't want to be like: "Hey there big guy, I know you." Because I am sure you get that regularly, being somebody television. But, I also, I should know. I immediately got off the elevator and I said: "It was Brad Woodhouse. Damnit!" Brad Woodhouse: Man, that happens to everybody. That being on the spot. And you have that classic brain fart, they call it. Brent Jabbour: I also have this new thing where I've realized that you see somebody and you say hello to them and then you realize: "Oh, now I have to have a conversation with this person." Not that I want to be rude or anything. But, I just wanted to say hello. Brad Woodhouse: It's also that question of whether you make eye contact or not. If you make eye contact it's like: "Hey, hello, how are you?" And sometimes it's just better to not make eye contact. Brent Jabbour: So, you grew up in North Carolina. Your brother is the RNC chair of North Carolina? Brad Woodhouse: So, he's the Executive Director of the North Caroline Republican Party. I guess this is his second full cycle doing that. So, he's been there awhile. Brent Jabbour: Let's how you guys got to be. How did you become a key Democratic operative and he becomes a face of the Republican party in your home state? Brad Woodhouse: Well, the long-ago story for both of us, the origin story, is our parents. They were both very involved politically. They went into politics right out of college. They both worked in state government, in state politics. My father went on, he had a myriad of interests. He was Democratic operative back in the sixties and then he went later to work for Jesse Helms, so complete opposite of how he started. And, just as a citizen, he supported Ross Perot for president in 1992. So, he was kind of all over the map. But, he was very engaged politically. My mom was engaged politically. And, another thing was, they really forced us to be engaged politically and to pay a lot of attention to the news. I knew at a very early age who Walter Cronkite was, who Frank Reynolds was, Eric Sevareid, all of these anchors. The anchors for our local television, we took two newspapers a day, back when there was an afternoon newspaper delivered in Raleigh. So, it was a combination of politics and news. So, I think it was inevitable. My brother, originally he got a degree in journalism. Originally he was a television reporter doing all the types of things television reporters do. And eventually went on to become the public affairs director for the NBC affiliate in Raleigh. And, had the local version of Meet the Press. And, then from that, he left and went directly into politics. Ya know, when I graduated from college I didn't think I was going to go into politics. My first job was with Marriott as a management trainee. It was always in the back of my mind. I had majored in political science. I was watching the Democratic national convention in 1992, I was in Birmingham, AL, I was working for Marriott. And, I saw Bill Clinton's speech and I basically quit the next day and moved back to North Carolina and volunteered for a congressional campaign. Brent Jabbour: I think that is what the interesting thing about the world of politics is. If you're interested in it. You don't have to be a professional in the business in any way. I mean, you grew up in that realm, so you had that background. But, you can be interested in it and something like that can just inspire you to say i might give up the next six months of my life to go knock on doors, sleep in an office where you eat pizza 6 nights a week. So, was your brother always leaning conservative and you were always leaning (liberal)? Brad Woodhouse: That's what's interesting. When I was in college, Dallas was still in High School in North Carolina. Frankly, we weren't particularly close. You know, he did some of the same things in High School that I did. He acted, he did musicals, he was in show choir, and he had an interest in being out there and being a performer. And, that is one reason... I did a lot of that in high school and college. I was a theatre major in college originally. And, politics gives you an outlet for people who are not actually that talented in performing arts to be on the public stage in another venue. So, I wasn't really sure what his political leanings were when he was in high school and early in college. Then, when he got out of college, he was a television reporter, so he played it kind of straight. And, when he took over, he was the host of NBC 17's version of meet the press every sunday, and you began to see his political leanings started to come out. You could see he had this antipathy towards governent and government programs, and people who recieve government assistance, and one thing led to another. But, he was probably in his mid-twenties before I realized he was moving in that direction. And then it became stronger and stronger and stronger. And incidently, the same thing happened to me. I didn't feel real ideoligically inclined when I was in college. I didn't volunteer for campaigns, I wasn't involved politically. I was just as likely to be inspired by George H.W. Bush giving a speech as somebody else. It's kind of incredible, that speech I watched Bill Clinton give, just turned me on. I said I want to do politics, I want to do government, I want to do that type of work. And then all my families connections in North Carolina were on the Democratic side. So, I moved home, and the rest is kind of history. Brent Jabbour: I have a couple of things I want to hit on here. First, on the theatre major thing, what really drew you to theatre? Brad Woodhouse: Well look, I had at an early age had an interest in acting. Probably when I was in Junior High school, I asked my mom to sign me up for acting classes. I did improvisation training. And then, whenever there was a little thing to do, we had a 6th-grade sing-a-long, and they needed someone to play Rudolf and I say: "I want to do that." I just was drawn to it. Like a lot of kids, I thought I was going to be a movie actor. Then I became a Springsteen freak and I wanted to sing Springsteen at a school show. Now, I can't carry a tune. So, that was another reason I couldn't continue as a performance artist. I can't sing. So, I never got the chance to play Bruce Springsteen in High School. But, I was really drawn to it. I had some leading roles in theatre in High School and even in Raleigh Little Theatre, Peace College, I did some work. And, you know I had the opportunity to go to the University of South Carolina as a theatre major. I went to the University of South Carolina the day after I graduated from High School and immediatly started in a summer musical. So, I thought I was going to be an actor. Brent Jabbour: And, I think the question I was really going to ask here... Because I think I felt the same way, which was initially the reason I got into radio initially too, because I thought there could be some... I wanted people to hear my voice. Like you said, it's easy to go into the political or punditry world. Not that you don't need talent. People, by the way, underestimate the amount of talent that people like you have. The people you see on television everyday. Believe me, there are a lot of people who show up one time and don't make it because they don't know how to articulate a thought, they don't have any exuberance. You can see Brad Woodhouse on television for three minutes, and you get a pretty good understanding of who you are, your personality. You have that southern, North Carolina draw, that kind of draws you in a little bit. Also, the reason I came up with this idea is because I think there are a lot of people who see you for three minutes and they make an immediate snap judgement on you and they don't really get an idea of who you are, besides, sometimes I see this blowhard on television, not that you are a blowhard. So, you were inspired by Bill Clinton in 1992, and I think a lot of people in my generation, I'm 34, we got inspired by Obama probably in the same way to get politically active. And I think you can see the paralells between those two, because they motivated people to get out, they motivated people who you see getting involved now because they saw Obama give that speech or Bill Clinton accepting the nomination in 1992. Who is going to be the next person in the Democratic party to inspire the masses to get out and do something. Look, I have spent a lot of time re-litigating the 2016 campaign. Brent Jabbour: I've said it a million times, Hillary Clinton was probably the most qualified person to ever run for the office, but she just didn't know how to connect with the people that way. And, we as a Democratic party clearly need that because we can't seem to motivate people on good policy. Brad Woodhouse: Right, yeah. Well, look it's a good question. I don't think we have seen that moment yet, where we know who that next person is. Politics is all about timing. It could be that the next Democrat who wins the nomination and hopefully becomes president and hopefully denies Trump a second term, may not be that person. It may be the person who is just the best person to defeat Donald Trump. And that might be what inspires the masses in the country, on our side, and among right-thinking independents might be OK, we have to defeat Trump. This is the best person to defeat Trump. It could be that we have that. But, sometimes it skips a generation. You don't have a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama type politician in every election cycle. So, it remains to be seen. Look, I think some of the potential that we have on the bench... People like to say Democrats don't have a bench, you look at the number of really talented people thinking about running for office, either in politics or not in politics. It's really impressive. The bigger problem we have is we may have 20 people on stage at some point. But, Barack Obama we knew after that 2004 speech. It was almost inevitable that... maybe not inevitable that he was going to be President. But, inevitable that he was going to lead a cohort of Americans down some type of path towards change. Because he was so inspiring. He captured so many people's attention. And, the interesting thing about Obama of course, is that all of the lucky, I don't want to say luck he is a talented politician. But all of the breaks he got. He had a primary that fell his way when divorce records came out. He had a general election when more divorce records came out. Remember they had to import Alan Keyes from Maryland to even run against him in the Senate race in 2004. But that speech that he gave in 2004 you knew... He wasn't in Senate a day before people started to speculating when he would run for president. There are other people who have that same speculation around them. Senators who are in their first term for example. But we'll see. No one right now has quite captured that imagination. Brent Jabbour: I think that in that particular situation as well. You talk about these first-term Senators, Kamala Harris is who you are mostly referring to. Maybe Elizabeth Warren, but she is in her second term. Not that I want to downplay those women's roles, but the fact is, they don't have that Pizzaz that Obama had. Obama/Biden is the most charismatic two politicians that I can think of ever been near each other. I don't know if they really did... but they looked... Look, I'm a big optics guy. While I perceive the reality of what things are, I also spend a lot of time understanding most people just see things on the surface level. And, Presidential races are popularity contests. They aren't about who has the best policies, they are about who can whip up the most votes in America. And, I think that those two Senators I love them both very dearly, I love their politics, I just don't think they move the dial in a national election in the middle of the Country. You would think that Obama/Biden wouldn't, but Biden speaks directly to your heart so that helps. And, Obama said all the right things. He may not have been the best in acting as a president to some people on the left, however, he, in my opinion, he knew what to say at all times. I spend a lot of time, I was just thinking about this-this morning. I spend a lot of time pretending with other people on the left that I don't just love Obama and every moment of the 8 years he was president of the United States. Sure, there were some issues I didn't really care for, but the fact is, I can wipe all that away because he was charismatic, he won, and I think most of the time he did the right thing. Brad Woodhouse: Well, I think, he accomplished a lot. He inspired millions of people in this country. His election, obviously, in 2008 was as historic anything that has ever happened in this country politically. And almost anything that has happened in the country period. And he is such a popular ex-president. I think this charisma that he had with Biden, and the relationship they have it's real, it's true. I mean you think about the fact that they still do things together. When Bill Clinton and Al Gore left the White House, it may have been years before they spoke or did anything together. Cheney and Bush, these are business relationships in the White House generally. I think it was a real friendship, there was a real kinship there. I do think that Biden is an inspiring figure for a lot of reasons. His life story. The travails he's gone through. His son, his family. And bringing himself up by the bootstraps. But, I think we are blessed a number of great candidates and we just don't know until we see them. There are so many tests. Their announcement speech. Did they move the dial? Did they move the needle? Did they move people to cheer and tear up? And maybe we take too much stock in that. Look, I think the country might be better off if the person with the best policies did win. But that's not realistic. Policies get you through editorial board meetings. They don't get you elected. Getting elected is a combination of smart policies, but really articulation of the American people are and where you want them to go. A really forward vision. And, I think Barack Obama had that. And it may have been an idealistic vision. It may have been an almost unreasonable vision that the country could come together. Washington could clean up its act. But It's what people wanted at the time. And, it was a reaction to people's antipathy towards both big government and big business. And, he had an opportunity, in the campaign, to fuse those strands of populism and idealism together. Democrats will find that person again. Is it the 2020 cycle? It might be. The true test is not some persons performance at a hearing on Capitol Hill or one appearance on Meet the Press or CNN. It's going to be when they are out there on the hustings. Are they connecting with the American People? Are they meeting the American people where they are and where the American people want to go? I think we are going to have it in 2020. Is it Obama redux or Clinton redux? It might not be. But given where we see this president, where we see his numbers, we see where he is taking the country down this path of divisiveness and everything. I am not sure we are going to have to have Obama 2.0 to win in 2020. Brent Jabbour: The more you talk about this, the more I think if Joe wants to run, he has my full support. Because he does have the charisma. We'll get to see a lot of Obama. Which I always appreciate. But, also, he speaks to the heart of people in the middle of the country. And, I know we've talked about all of this so much since the election. And there are a lot of people on the left who say: "Stop calling them working-class Americans, what you mean is white people who are racists in the middle of the country." No that's not what I mean, I mean people who work for a living. It's easy for people in Washington D.C., who are Democratic operatives, to say: "Oh, you guys are just mad because it was a woman who ran." No, while I think there was a little of that, I actually had a union leader tell me: "Look, I'm around these guys every day, some of them just aren't going to vote for a woman." But we will grow out of that. I mean ten years ago, everybody would have said: "Look, nobody's gonna vote for a black guy." And he became the President of the United States. Look, Hillary Clinton had so much baggage from the Bill Clinton years. When I was a kid during the Bill Clinton years, I didn't know much about it. All I really knew was Hillary was a ball buster. That's not actually true, it's just the impression that you are given. And, sometimes perception is reality... Brad Woodhouse: The Clintons were interesting. Because there was this vicious cycle where they distrusted the press. The press distrusted them. It fed more and more distrust. And then when you put on top of it all of the made up scandals. Travelgate, made up. Whitewater, made up. All of these kinds of made up scandals. And there was no reservoir of goodwill for the Clintons to go to the press because of their distrust for the press and the press' distrust for them. And to get the fairest of hearings. And, I get the resentment that the Clintons have about that. If you look at one of their chief antagonists, who came around to them, David Brock later on. Think about how many things David Brock, funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and those folks, fed into the American distrust of the Clintons that was all phony. It was all made up. Troopergate, Whitewater, all this stuff. And then the President ultimately stumbles into the Monica Lewinsky thing, which is on him. But, there is no reservoir of goodwill with the press to help him out of that, even though he won in the end. And ended his presidency very popular. Hillary had to live with all of that mud, so to speak. Brent Jabbour: Did Obama get away from the whole distrust for the press and everything because he had African American press to go to. I mean, you would always see him on the Joe Madison show, or several other... Brad Woodhouse: There was a healthy bit of (distrust) between the Obama White House and the press. I think that is true of all White Houses. It is a balancing act. Reporters want access. Presidents want unfettered ability to deliver their message. And to be covered. And, you will have a lot of reporters who felt like there was a little bit of heavy-handed tactics from the campaign and the White House. And, they think they should have gotten more access. But, I think given the state of affairs in the Trump presidency, it's been like 20 days since Sara Sanders held an on-camera television briefing. The pendulum has swung so far. In retrospect... And look, I don't think the press ever really had any antipathy toward the President. I think they occasionally felt like his spokespeople, or others, or when I was at the DNC and I was vociferously defending the President and his policies. And occasionally I went over the line in taking on journalists that I felt like were being unfair. So, I think there is a little bit of that that goes on. I think by-and-large the press looks back now on the Obama years and feels like that they had it pretty good. Ya know, Josh Earnest and Jay Carney, all of those people who stood at that podium tried to be fair and represent the President they worked for, but also tried to help the press. And, you don't have that. There is no feeling that Sean Spicer before or Sara Sanders now is trying to help the American people or help the press understand what the President is thinking and what the President is trying to accomplish. They are trying to bully the press into not being critical of this president and not reporting accurately on this president. Brent Jabbour: I'll tell you what. The White House Press Briefings are an hour long campaign ad for Donald Trump. Which, technically any press briefing is such a thing. Like you said, she just attacks the press and all that does is feed into the base and those people who love Trump and say: "See, he's not going to be pushed around by the Washington elite, they're not going to let them lie to me." And they win. The Trump Administration, they win on a lot of different fronts. And right now, I'm concerned about the Democrats, and as we talked about that whole thing about who will pick up that mantle. Who is going to be the next candidate to really move the dial. I think we are going to have a hard time running against Trump. Because, he is going to be able to talk to those establishment Republicans who maybe they don't really care for the Stormy Daniels payoff and everything. But he is going to be able to say several things to them that is going to really work to his base and those people who really voted for him. Number one, he nominated two Supreme Court Justices. Brad Woodhouse: It's the holy grail for a lot of Republicans. Brent Jabbour: Any other president who does that. You could start four wars and your going back... Brad Woodhouse: The truth is, the Evangelicals they could live with Donald Trump sleeping with and paying off 25 porn stars as long as they get Supreme Court Justices that will overturn a woman's right to choose. They could care less about the President's morality. Brent Jabbour: And we are in trouble because I hope RBG can hold on. Because he could literally go on stage when he's running in 2020 and say: "She's not going to make it 4 years, so you better re-elect me." He's got that. You can hate tariffs and all the things he is doing on trade all you want, but working-class Americans, not just white Americans, I mean people who work for a living they see that and say whether it works or not, he tried. Something that the Obama administration never did, Clinton put in a bad trade deal. So it's easy for him to say that. Job numbers are still going up, which is a lot of work the Obama Administration did. And, he may inadvertently negotiate peace on the Korean Peninsula. Brad Woodhouse: Yeah, well that I think is a big if. The backdrop of all that is the Mueller Investigation. The backdrop of all that is still Manafort is getting ready to go on trial again. Some backdrop of all that 2020 discussion is what happens in 2018. Do the Democrats take back the house? Do they maybe take back the Senate? How do they handle that? Do they push for partisan impeachment? Do they just investigate, investigate, investigate and let Mueller finish what he is doing? I think the most interesting thing that I see that could be... Look, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had horrific midterms. So, we shouldn't overread what happens in November. But, if you look at the polls that are coming out now, Trump's approval rating is down into the mid-to-high thirties. He's even losing his base in that regard. And, his approval rating in some of the reddest states is at 50 percent or below. Now, those are not states that we are going to go and grab those electoral votes in 2020. But, if he's having to chase reliably red states to guarantee those electoral votes in 2020 there is something going to be left on the sideline. Maybe it's Michigan, maybe it's Wisconsin, maybe it's Pennsylvania. Brent Jabbour: Oh Brad, let me tell you why you are over analyzing this. Because we did the exact same thing in 2016. We looked at the same exact situation, we said: "He's not doing enough in Florida that's going to be a Democratic win, he's not doing enough here, he's not doing enough there." Meanwhile, we didn't go to Michigan and Wisconsin. We lost those states and he still won Florida. Brad Woodhouse: I agree one hundred percent. I'm not in the camp that believes Demographics is destiny and we should just follow that path. Or, that the entire solution is in the white working class. It's crazy, it's nuts, Obama didn't build a single coalition to win in 2008 or 2012. Bill Clinton didn't either. You've got to build a coalition of people that see in their self-interest and their inspiration and in their forward-looking vision for the country something in a President that will inspire a Latina woman to vote in Tucson and a factory worker to vote in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. And, that's what we need. And, this either/or is the craziest discussion. It's also this either the Bernie side or the Clinton side. There is no Bernie side or Clinton side. Right now Clinton isn't running for president, Bernie's not running for President yet. If allow that inner seam warfare to continue then Donald Trump could get elected to a second term. Brent Jabbour: I think what you talk about with that Bernie/Hillary divide. And, I think there is a Bernie Sanders wing of the party, and there is a little wing of the party that is even further left than Bernie. And, i think the problem is... And, I'm going to call you an establishment type, I hope that doesn't offend you. Because I would say I'm a little left of establishment although there were many times when I lived in North Dakota running Ed's radio show for many years and I thought I was as progressive as you get then I moved to D.C. and I realized I may be center-left. But, I think that the people on the establishment side are doing as much damage as the people on the far left Bernie-side are to this conversation. Because, those establishment people are saying: "We're not going to let you run our party." Which means: "We're not going to let you be part of our party. We aren't going to appease you in any way." And there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes at the DNC which I don't want to talk about right now. It's just some nuanced nonsense. But, I just think there is a mutual hatred on both sides of this party for those people. I don't know what the solution in 2018 and 2020 is to kind of bring those two sides together. Brad Woodhouse: Well, first thing in 2018 is to focus on the Republicans. It is not to have an all-out war between various factions of the Democratic party. We've had primaries, and there have been a number of Democratic primaries where single payer was the issue. And single payer advocates won. And there have been other primaries where the single-payer advocate lost. And there are other issues like that that have played out in Primaries. We are almost done with Primary season. What we need to focus on is Republicans, they're in charge. And we need to focus on Republicans. And I say Republicans to the exclusion of Trump. Trump is going to be covered every single day. Trump is making negative news for himself and Republicans every single day. On Twitter, Bob Mueller is driving Trump news, Stormy Daniels is driving Trump news. Democrats need to focus on their Republican opponents and Republican Governance. If you look, people don't like the way Republicans have governed in Congress. They don't like what they did on healthcare. The tax bill is unpopular. Can you imagine? How fucked up are you as a party if you pass a tax bill, a tax cut and it's unpopular. I mean, Republicans couldn't sell Kool-Aid to children if they can't sell a tax cut to the American people. I think those are the things we need to focus on. Inevitably after this election, probably days after this election, we're going to start having a conversation as a party about what our priorities are. And you know what? Good. We'll have that fight. We'll have that argument. It will play out in the 2020 primary for President and maybe it will create a divide that we can't bridge but maybe we will have that person who can talk to both sides. This is not a choice between people who supported Hillary Clinton or people supported Bernie Sanders. In 2020 it's going to be about who can best deny Donald Trump a second term. Brent Jabbour: You made me think because I don't believe there is a "Blue Wave." I don't buy it for a couple of reasons. One, there aren't enough Senate seats up. I think Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota is in trouble. I think Kevin Cramer can win that seat. I've talked about that a lot, I don't know why. It's the one that really strikes me as the one that will probably go Republican. But I think we will get the Nevada seat. Brad Woodhouse: I'll say this. We've done a lot of work with her and her office. And, she is making healthcare the number one issue in that race. She's a cancer survivor. Pre-existing conditions has exploded as an issue on the campaign trail because the Trump administration decided to weigh-in in favor of this lawsuit in Texas that would get rid of all those protections for people. I'll predict on this podcast that she does win. And, I think she'll win because Kevin Cramer can't explain what he would do to make people's lives better, particularly on health care. And I think she can. But, I'm with you in this respect. A blue wave in the Senate is going to be hard because of the map. The truth is we could very well find ourselves with about the same math as we have now. They could knock a Democrat or two. I think the numbers are showing that is going to be increasingly difficult. The President is going to be a drag, even in some of these red states. But, they could knock off a Democrat or two. But, I think there is a good chance that we win Nevada. And that we win either Arizona or Tennessee. But, the map is daunting. We are defending far more seats. But, I think it will be your definition of a wave. If we sweep out 50 Republicans in the House or 40 Republicans in the House and take some state legislative seats, chambers that we don't have, in advance of redistricting. I mean, I feel pretty good about that. Brent Jabbour: Do Democrats not realize that when they talk about the Blue Wave in the House, do they not understand what Gerrymandering is and what has been done to the map in most states. And I'm glad you mentioned House seats. Becaue, I was going to mention that as well. You know, I have strangely spoke with more Republicans than I have Liberals as I have been recording this thing, more scheduling issues than anything. And, a lot of them say, we are really working in the State Houses because we saw the Democrats doing that. And now we're doing better. Democrats aren't focused on those State Houses. We're not winning those State Houses. You've seen what happened, especially since 2010. We're not doing enough. We need to win those legislatures becuase we need to redraw those lines. Brad Woodhouse: There has been a cascading effect of Gerrymandering. People think of Gerrymandering as the U.S. House of Representatives. Remember, Legislative seats, State Senate seats, and it all ladders up. It is not just about winning. We need to win the House. We need to have Democrats in the House be a check on this President, investigate this President, push strong Democratic policies, even if we have a Republican Senate and a Republican President that won't adopt them. We do need to have an agenda going into 2020. Democrats are never going to maintain power in Congress for long if we don't get a hold of these state legislative chambers. Remember, we have a very undemocratic United States Senate. We've got states, where two Republican Senators represent about as many people as a member of Congress does in a Congressional district. Yet, they have as much power in the Senate as two Democrats who represent 40 million people in California. That's the constitution, that's how the Senate is going to be elected, and how it's going to be portioned. So we can do that in the House. We can do that by winning State Legislative chambers and fighting every bit of redistricting legally, legislatively, administratively, anyway we can to make sure we get a better result in this next reapportionment. Brent Jabbour: I just feel... I'm getting jaded even in the middle of my own... Brad Woodhouse: Well look, there is less going on than we'd like, but there is more going on than has been. We have the Holder/Obama group that is doing legislative redistricting. They have a legal strategy, they have a legislative strategy, they have an electoral strategy. That group, along with the DLCC, along with the work that we're doing. Remember, if we win the House of Representatives a lot of those victories are going to sweep in a lot of people below them. Because the turnout machines for some of these congressional races will far exceed anything that a state legislative or State Senate candidate can do. So, we can't count on that. We have to run races all the way down, down to the ZooKeeper level. We need to elect up and down the ballot. But, there is more going to affect the outcome of State Legislative chambers than we've seen in the past. Brent Jabbour: I just think that we need to get to talk about that. I feel like we try to trick people into doing what we need to do. When, if we simply just said: Hey Democrats in Georgia, in North Carolina, in any state that has a purple opportunity. We can say, hey Democrats there, just so you understand we need you to vote, not just because you love this candidate or you love that candidate. We need you to vote because we need to win, and we need to win this State House so we can make this work for everybody. We say "turn out the vote" and almost try to shame people into voting. Not just we, everybody does. There is no explanation of what's going on most of the time. And, normal people do not have an understanding, normal people, but people who are out there... Brad Woodhouse: They're Busy... People running their lives, they don't pay attention to this every day. And, the thing that you're suggesting is exactly right. We need to constantly have a civics lesson with the American people, particularly those we want to come vote for us, about political power. And, I think for too long Democrats across the country felt like political power resided in the presidency. Ask Bill Clinton after 1994 or Barack Obama after 2010. There is a whole lot of political power that resides in Congress, and those things bubble up from redistricting. From districts that are now more favorable to Republicans. You're right. One of the biggest headwinds against Democrats is the actual districts that we're running in. There are those districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. There are enough of them, if you turned every single one of them, to win a bare majority. You want a governing majority. But, you're right, we need a civics lesson to the American people. It is as important for Democrats to control the state legislature in Georgia as it is to control the House of Representatives in Washington. Because they all flow one to the other. Brent Jabbour: Also, the Democrats need to understand 51 Senators ain't going to win you anything. Number one, Republicans will obstruct, we saw that during the Obama administration. Essentially, Mitch McConnell should have been elected President of the United States because he is the one that did the most for Republicans over the last 8 years of his presidency. And, also, we can't always count on Democrats. It's funny, Republicans are now starting to face that now in the House with the Freedom Caucus and they can hold them hostage. Democrats don't do it as heavy-handed. But there are, it's a wide swath of a party, they don't fall in line all the time. So you're going to have people in red states, you know in the Senate it is the Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Donnelly, Tester, that you will always have to worry about because they have to worry constituents who are constituents in a red state for the most part. Brad Woodhouse: That's exactly right. Now, look, let's be clear, I'll take 51 Democrats in the Senate over 51 Republican Seats in the Senate any day. The biggest impediment to progress in the event we take back the House and the Senate is obviously a Republican administration. This is looking way ahead. But, if you assume we took back the House and the Senate. You know, Trump's a deal maker. There are a lot of Democrats that will dilute themselves into the notion that they can go make deals with Trump. And, I think Trump is an immoral, illegitimate President. And fuck making deals with that guy. We would not need to help him get re-elected by cutting deals that may be in our favor in the short term and risk that long-term. Obviously, if you take back the House and the Senate you do have to cut some deals because you have to fund the military and keep the government open. Brent Jabbour: While I agree with you to a certain extent about screw that guy why would I want to help him, actually I'm sorry, I can say it. Fuck that guy, I don't want to help him. I don't want you to get the idea that I'm not with you here. But, I think there has to be some sort of governance. Brad Woodhouse: No doubt. But we should just impose our will on him instead of the other way around. Brent Jabbour: Right. The Democrats can give themselves trapped into giving him the wall or something. Brad Woodhouse: Right, give him the wall in exchange for something else. And, I mean that's not the approach we should take. Brent Jabbour: I'd like to go back to you for just a little bit before we wrap up for the hour. So, when you left your job at Marriott and were inspired by President Clinton. What was that road like from knocking on doors to... Brad Woodhouse: I was really fortunate because my parents had been involved in politics and state government since they were in college. I was fortunate, they had some really good people for me to lean on in getting a foot in the door. Look, anybody can make it in politics if they are willing to really gut it out. It helps to know people. The first thing that I did actually. I don't remember my parents having any influence on this. I volunteered for a congressional campaign. David Price was running for re-election in 1992. I got home, it was too late to get involved in the Presidential race, so I volunteered for David Price. He was already in Congress, he had a staff. He didn't have anything for me when it was all over with. So, that same year, Jim Hunt was elected again to his third term, non-consecutive, as governor of North Carolina. My parents knew Hunt, they had been in campaigns with Hunt, but also they knew a very influential State Senator who had a lot of influence over the Governor-elect's inauguration and transition. And, one thing led to another, and I worked in his administration. And, after he had served that first term, and was re-elected for a second, I had a chance to come to Washington and work for Congressman Bob Ethridge who spent seven terms here. Went back in 2001 to work in a Senate race. Erskin Boles ran for United States Senate against Liddy Dole, he lost, but I had the opportunity to succeed a friend of mine who had been Bob Ethridge's press secretary at the DSCC, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Robert Gibbs had been in Ethridge's office, he'd gone on to work on Senate campaigns. Eventually, he made it to the DSCC. He recruited me to do my stint in North Carolina in 02. And then in 03-04 I succeeded him at the DSCC and went on from there. Brent Jabbour: What's it like being seen as a surrogate for the sitting President. Brad Woodhouse: It was a rush. So, I came kind of late in 08 to the presidential game. My wife was pregnant in 2007 when Obama started to run. Gibbs was always trying to get me to go to the campaign. He tried to get me to go to Iowa. Tried to get me to come to Chicago. And, I was running an organization, Americans United For Change at the time. A liberal organization. Biggest claim to fame early on was stopping the President's effort to privatize Social Security. So, I was running this. I was the President of it. It was a multi-million dollar thing. We were neutral, obviously, in the primary. My wife was pregnant. I could never get on the campaign. If I had had an opportunity to go work on the Presidential campaign during the primary itself, I would have worked for Obama. And, after he got the nomination, they asked me to come run the rapid response communications efforts over at the DNC on behalf of the campaign during the general election against John McCain. I got over there and I was nuts and bolts. I was hiring people, getting people out in the field, organizing bus tours, crafting web videos, doing all of the rapid response thing that the DNC is involved in, in a really robust way. And then, somebody asked me one day to go on television. And I was like, What? And, for all I know it could have been Ed Schultz's show, I'm sure it was probably MSNBC. So, it was such a rush. And you start doing it and you don't screw it up. I remember some of the moments. It was 2008, I was on MSNBC, probably with Alex Witt on Sunday morning. And the news broke that Colin Powel was going to endorse Obama. Of course, he was going on Meet the Press to announce it. But, I was just by happenstance the first Obama campaign surrogate on TV to react to it and that was a rush. And then at the end, I didn't know this until later. This is an interesting story, I've never even relayed. I believe it's true, but I heard it second hand. But, the Obama campaign stopped putting any of its surrogates on Fox. And, all of a sudden, I noticed I was doing Fox a lot. Karen Finney, who was Communications Director at the DNC at the time, we were like going down to the studio at the DNC doing Fox and Friends, Shep Smith, we were doing all of the Fox shows. Like, why are we doing so much Fox? We found out after the election, that the Obama campaign just made a decision that they were being so unfairly portrayed on Fox that they just weren't going to do it those last few weeks. That was a whole other thing where you got to be out there and have that kind of platform to yourself as a surrogate. So, there is the rush part of it, which is probably why I was in Theatre, to begin with. The kind of rush you get from being in front of an audience getting kind of instant feedback. And, the other part of it, and this kind of went on as I was in the DNC, and later working for the re-elect in 2012 is you take a lot of crap. I mean, you take a lot of crap. It's also very stressful too. It's very stressful to go on television and know that one misspoken word, one mangled word-salad could hurt the President or hurt the President's chances. Fortunately, I don't think I ever screwed up that badly. But, you do get a lot of incoming. Especially, I got on Twitter in 2010 and just getting killed by these conservatives, Obama haters. Brent Jabbour: It's funny because I have friends who go on Fox and go on a lot of other networks too. But, they go on Fox and they will say I go on MS, I go on CNN, they do some international news here and there. And Honestly, I get positive reaction. And, they are Democrats. And they will go do a Fox hit with Tucker Carleson and they say their voicemail will explode, their office email will get destroyed, their Twitter is just the nastiest, most disgusting things. And just because I am a liberal. And they have told me, I don't mind, Tucker treats me well on the air, but I get hammered by these crazies who are just followers of his. Brad Woodhouse: And you get it. During the height of the election season. I saw less of this in 08 because I wasn't on the campaign trail. But in 2012 and then in 2016 I was running Correct the Record which was a Super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. I was appearing, basically, as a surrogate, or talker on her behalf. And, that went off the rails. Because all of a sudden, it was nothing like the period where I was at the DNC for Obama's first term, or during the re-elect. I mean, the level of nastiness... And then you know supporters of Trump on 4Chan put all of our addresses out from the FEC report. Our home addresses, our phone numbers. Of course, my phone number was in Wikileaks. And then, you start to really get blown up. So, then, you have these moments where you ask: Is it all worth it? Fuck yeah, it's worth it. I mean I've had death threats on my voicemail. "I wish you would die, and you should crawl off and die." That type of thing. It kind of shakes you up at first. But then you are like fuck this. It's a voicemail. Brent Jabbour: When do you start taking that death threat seriously? I mean, I know people call and they say... They will word it vaguely like: "You should die." Brad Woodhouse: I think you always want to take that type of stuff seriously. Where I think people got a little shook up in 2016 in particular... Never in 2012, I never felt like... I had nasty people on Twitter and voicemail, but never felt unsafe. In 2016, at Correct the Record, we had people doing things to just shake up the staff, because we were so vociferously supporting Hillary Clinton. They would send... You know you can order from the U.S. Postal Service boxes to be delivered to your house and then you paid for them. Well, we had people just getting massive delivery of these boxes to their home. And, it was all meant to freak them out. We had people getting Pizza deliveries to their house. We had a woman who lived out in Maryland who had a nasty note left on her doorstoop. So, some crazy ass person came to her house and left a note. I don't know what the tradition was. I don't know why everytime someone got paid in a campaign their home address had to be on the FEC report, so we just paid people at the office. Of course, it was out there by then. And we took people's names off the FEC report. We took people's names off the website unless it had to be on there. We tried not to release people's cell phone numbers widely to the press unless it was a spokesperson who had to be out there. And we at Correct the Record, at the building on Massachusetts, we hired extra security during the election. We put up extra firewalls for internet security. We know that during that period of time the hacking was going on at the DNC and of John Podesta's emails that there were attempted hackings over there. We don't know the source. But, we can assume, if all this other stuff was going on, that those hackings were coming from the same source. 2016 did more to shake me up, so to speak than 2008 or 2012. The level of nastiness, intrusion, and personal attacks... And then these tactics of things coming to your physical home. Never to mind. This is interesting... This strategy was even discussed on 4Chan, go after the junior people. The senior people have been through this, they know how to handle this. Go after the junior people, freak them out, make them not come into work, disrupt their activity. It was really insidious. Brent Jabbour: Do you expect that to continue. Not just with Trump, but as we move on. I mean, now that people have seen these dirty tactics. Look, probably not the first people in political history to order a bunch of pizzas to a campaign headquarters. Brad Woodhouse: These were going to people's homes. So the signal there is that hey, we have your home address. But, I don't see any end to the level of nastiness of the extremes on both sides. I don't see any end of the nastiness coming from the sitting President of the United States. He got elected dividing the country against itself. He got elected playing the race card, the sex card, everything. So, I have no doubt that that's going to continue. I'm not going to bullshit you and say "oh, I think it will get better." I just don't. I just think we are in a period here where we are essentially in political warfare and it's over the future of... It's not over the future of the country like the direction we will take, whether we have tax cuts or not. It's kind of over the future of our democratic institutions. I mean you have a President who is saying the FBI should investigate someone who submitted a fucking OpEd to the New York Times. It's a police state he wants. And, the people who support him... If the police state defends their interest, particularly what they believe is their birthright for the country to be more like them, and more like the way they look and the way they talk, than the diverse nation that we really are. Then they are going to live with that. And, it's going to be an existential fight. So, I think it's going to stay as nasty as it is. The hope on our side is... I like to believe that when they go low, we aim high. Michele Obama's famous phrase. I would like to believe we can do that and win. I do think, whoever is our candidate in 2020, should not try to out-Trump Trump. We need to be tough on Trump, but we can not divide and win. We have to put together a coalition and win. We can't divide and win. Brent Jabbour: I think we will wrap it right there. I always try to wrap on a solid moment and that one was dire and scary so, we will keep it there. Brad, did you have fun? Brad Woodhouse: Yeah, this was great. And, I'm thrilled. This might be my first podcast. Brent Jabbour: I don't know why I ask everyone if they had fun. Because that is the most important thing. Brad Woodhouse: No, it's great. I enjoy it. I look forward to hearing it and sharing it and lifting it up. Brent Jabbour: Thank you so much, Brad Woodhouse.
66 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 002 - Michael Steele - Former RNC Chair
In Episode 002 of the Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele about growing up in Washington D.C (and spending time in the south) during the civil rights era. He also talks about his time in seminary school and his transition into politics. Subscribe to the podcast onItunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker, TuneIN, or wherever you consume Podcasts. Again, if you like the project share it with your friends, follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour and/or like the page on Facebook. Transcript: (Intro) Brent Jabbour: This is episode two of Origin Stories: A Podcast about Politics and People. My name is Brent Jabbour your gracious host, I guess if that is what you want to call me. Today we are going to have a conversation with former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele. Now, the reason I chose Michael Steele, is because, in the lead up to President Trump being elected, he was very very critical of the man. And, I thought made him reasonable guy. It made him a guy who didn't necessarily walk the party line to get ahead, to get that Supreme Court seat, which we actually talk about. But, also, when I was doing research into him, I found him fascinating. He went to seminary school, he was planning to become a Catholic Priest. He kind of fell into the world of politics. Also, we spoke about Civil Rights and racism in America. What it was like growing up in Washington D.C. during the 1968 riots. He lived not too far away from U Street in Washington D.C. where much of it was burned after Dr. King was shot and killed. So, it was a really, really, interesting conversation. He was running a little late so I had a lot of time to think about things and prepare for that particular conversation. I prepare, but a lot of times I just want to have a flowing conversation. I just want to speak with people. So I don't want it to feel like an interview with a bunch of prepared questions. It's more so a conversation about where that person came from and how they came to be, so we can all relate to them. There is a little bit of a funny scenario that happened. As I do this, I don't actually have a location. I don't have a studio or anything. So, generally what I will do is pack up my bag full of gear and I will take it to the office of the person I am interviewing. Now, Michael works remotely very often. Kind of here, there, and everywhere. And, so while I was arranging it, and I really wanted to get him in, he could do it while he was in Bowie, MD, which I believe is also where he lives. But, since I didn't have a space to do it, I had to essentially figure something out. So, what I did is, I rented a hotel room, and I didn't want the full rate, because I guess I was just being cheap. So, I actually made an arrangement where I came in in the morning and rented a room by the hour. And, as an anxiety-ridden young man I kept thinking the whole time, people are going to think something is going on. There is a certain connotation about a man who rents a hotel room by the hour first thing in the morning. But, nobody really thinks those things, it's just all in my head. It's irrational anxiety as I like to call it. Once Michael Steele came in, it was just a pleasure to talk to him. He had kind of a family deal going on so he tried to make it quick, but I held him for about an hour. And, I think we had a really, really good conversation. He had similar experiences to me because I grew up going to an all-boys Catholic High School as did he. So we kind of have these mutual situations that went on in our lives. So, I think you will really, really enjoy this. Thank you so much for listening to the previous two episodes. If you really like it, go ahead and share it with your friends. Because I would love everybody to get in on these conversations. And thanks for following me on Twitter @BrentJabbour and remember to subscribe on iTunes so it gets delivered right to your phone every Thursday when we release new episodes. So, here it is Episode number two, Michael Steele, Former Republican National Committee Chair, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Here we go: (Music) Brent: So, you brought up family to start and I won't get into depth into that portion of the conversation. You grew up in D.C. correct? In Petworth? And one of the things I realized is you would be have been nine-ten years old during the riots of 68... Michael Steele: The 68 riots, I turned ten that October. Yeah. Brent: And what was that like. Were you cognizant of what was going on at the time? Michael: Yeah. Very much so. In fact, that April, when Dr. King was killed, my mother and I were in downtown DC. We had gone to Julius Lanzburg which was a big department store, a furniture store at the time. And we were on our way back up Georgia Avenue. And, someone jumped on the bus and yelled: "They killed King!" And there was a huge gasp on the bus and it was the weirdest thing because for the rest of the ride home it was dead silent. I mean, buses are usually quiet, but you hear some little chatter here and there. But you could hear a pin drop on this bus. And, It was one of those moments when we got home, and my mother was very upset, and sort of explaining what had happened. My dad comes in, having navigated his way uptown and actually came through areas where they had already started to burn buildings and started to turn over cars and he was very bothered and said: "Folks out here are crazy. They're burning up everything." But, it was really at that moment that you began to understand the impact, that King had had. My mother referred to him as a friend of the family. And so, her explanation to me was that a friend of the family has died. So, that put into context for me what Dr. King meant, not just to the black community at large, but specifically to my narrow slice of it, ya know, my family. So, it was a very impactful day. Brent: Just so I can clear everything up, so I have the full Michael Steele story. You were adopted correct? Michael: I was adopted yes. My sister and I adopted. Brent: And I imagine (by) an African American family based on the reaction (to King)? Michael: There weren't too many white folks adopting black kids back in the day. Brent: It's still D.C. Michael: They were progressive, they weren't that progressive. Brent: When you are in school and everything at that time, are you learning about Dr. King? Did you already know who he is? Michael: No, not really. Dr. King was not on the curricular because it was a real-time experience. Today, he is in the history books. He's an entire class in some courses. Back then, a lot of people forget, Dr. King was anathema to a lot of folks. A lot of folks were not appreciative of the marches and sit-ins and his approach. There was a reason why he wrote the letter to the pastors from the Birmingham jail. Because those pastors were ticked off at him and he wanted to clarify for them that they were the ones who were standing on the wrong side of history. So, that gives you some understanding and appreciation. The same with these towering figures of the day. Malcolm X who was another one who I would grow to understand and appreciate and really get his philosophy. These were, back then, the way we look at political and activist figures today. They're an annoyance. They're loud. They're taking up time on my news. And so, you had that perspective, that tension, that pull and push by what was going on at the time. And I think for a lot of people, particularly for young folks like myself. We were much more concerned about watching Batman, as opposed to paying attention to the politics of the day. Brent: And, did you start to learn and understand the Civil Rights movement after that day. Michael: Well yeah, well again, I'm ten years old. So, from an academic perspective, the answer is no because there really was no context to that until I got into high school. That was a short three or four years later, but still, it wasn't a real-time experience where you would sit down and say, ok, this makes sense. Where a lot of that education would come would be from my parents in their limited way. They weren't towers of political activism or journalism. They weren't writing the narrative. Or even following the narrative that way. But they did put it in the context of what it meant to be a black person in Washington D.C. in the 1960s. It did put it in the context of being a black family from the south. My mother is from Orangeburg. So, we would spend our summers in Orangeburg. I remember even going visiting my great aunt in 1982. And taking her to work, because she worked at a country club. And taking her to work, and I dropped her off at the front. And she said: "Baby, I can't go in the front door." I was like "Why not?" And she pointed to the top of the mantle, and it said: "For Whites Only." This is 1982, they are still displaying the sign. It was family that contextualized the racism and challenges that black folks had to deal with every single day. It wasn't something that you got in a classroom setting. It wasn't something you got in the workplace. It wasn't something you got on the playground. It was really that learning and understanding came from how your family presented that narrative to you. Brent: And, now you've become, a spokesperson, a public figure at this point. And when you are in High School. You're getting into high school, maybe you are 16 years old, and this is in the 1970s. And there is still a long way to go. There is still a lot of racism. And D.C. is probably one of the most African American cities at the time. Do you start to get involved then? Do you start to speak up? Michael: No. No. I was not an activist type. I have never been an activist type. As pro-life as I am, I've only been to one pro-life March and that was by accident. And it's not because I don't support the cause, that's just not my thing. That's not how I express my activism. I'd rather personalize it so you pay attention. I don't want to necessarily get lost in the groupthink. I want you to understand where I'm coming from. For me... I went to a Catholic high school. Archbishop Carroll High School. It was a place where a lot of the... It was an all-boys Catholic high school. So it was a place where a lot of the children, the sons, of political figures, they sent their kids there. So, I had this wonderful cross-current of class, race, as well as other intangibles that you kind of find in a place like that at that time. And Carroll was unique in that it was, they had achieved that balance between black and white. So, it was fifty percent black, fifty percent white school. And you had an opportunity to interact with kids from the suburbs. I was a city kid. So, we had a very different view of the boys from Bowie. So, it was a lot of that. It was the experiential, it was the in the moment for me that kind of taught me how to best do and be and exist. And from that learn how to express my views. So, being surrounded by these kids, and getting to know their parents. I took a liking to politics. And, really thought about doing that at some time. But, my core was focused on becoming a priest. So, while the politics was fun, my calling was to be a priest in the Catholic church. So my thinking was geared toward that. And I would later move into that. Brent: It's weird because I have a similar experience, although not wanting to become a priest. But, I went to an all boys Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio. But, unfortunately, that made it more segregated. Because it's a city of 20 percent African American. I grew up, my stepfather is black, so I had been used to that. By the way that is one of the hardest things to tell people. Because I, as a liberal, semi-social justice warrior type person, I don't ever want anyone to think that I'm just telling you I know black folks. I don't want that. But I got lucky in the way to have those experiences, so I have family that is black. But in my high school, because it is a private Catholic High School, and even went to a private Catholic Grade School, but that was coed. There were 4-5 black kids in our school. It was mostly upper-Middle class kids, some very wealthy, and I think a lot of the black kids that was, unfortunately, just checking a couple of boxes. And, also at the same time, they were helping the community. And, of course, the school was not in the best neighborhood. It was by the University, but 2-3 blocks away from the most dangerous parts of Toledo Ohio. And, so it was one of those things, where I felt like, I wish I had the opportunity to go to a public school. Michael: Well, the experiences are there. But even in that limited space, what you had, was the experience of home. And that contrasted with 3 or 4 black students who went to your school. It still contrasted with the majority of the experiences you would have at the school because, on any given day, your encounter with those 4 black individuals was probably very limited, unless you became close friends with 1 or 2 of them. Outside of that, and I always believe this, because, from my own experience, home life is outcome determinative. So, I know people who have had very limited exposure to African Americans but have a heightened sensitivity and understanding and appreciation of the black community in a very respectful way. Not in a condescending, oh let us help you poor thing, kind of way. And that is because of how they were raised. They were raised with the sensitivity of understanding that that community and our community, while they look different, we are the same because we are Americans because we live in this area, you find all of these reasons to connect to that community. And, I'll give you a good example of what I mean by the outcome determinative nature of those personal experiences. I had a friend of mine, this was in the early 1990s, she was in Dupont Circle here in D.C. with her little boy. She is African American. He is African American. And he was playing. So, this other little boy, as boys tend to do, came up and started playing with him. and he was a white kid, and they were just playing and having a good time. Well, this white kid's mother comes over and snatches up her son. And told her son: "what did I tell you about playing with them?" Now, this is the 1990s. This is a young mother. This is not a woman who is "grandma." This is someone who is in their late 20s, maybe early 30s, who is clearly instilling in her child racism. Looking at someone who is not white as other. And that is going to have an outcome-determinative effect on this kids expression and appreciation and view of black people. Now, the long story short, my friend who heard this exchange, went up to this woman, picked up her son, and proceeded to smack the crap out of the mother. And said: "How dare you teach your child to be a racist." And walked away. She literally smacked her. But, that's my friend. I can understand. If you knew her, you would say: "Yeah, I see that." So, when you take that experience in 1992, and you relate it back to King's death in 1968, you can see how even though it's a connection, that all of those steps of achievement in between that there are gaps. There are gaps. There are gaps that come from ignorance. There are gaps that come from a sense of disconnection. There are gaps that come because you come from a line of racists. I mean, there are all these things that still push forward this negative narrative. So the family piece, for me, is a critical part to beginning to address a lot of these issues around race. Because race is not an innate experience, it is a learned one. Brent: Right, and I think that is part of the reason I started this project. A lot of it has to do with the idea that... I am talking to young people, my friends, they are in their 30s and in their late 20s, and they have kind of shut themselves down now. Because, they see somebody with that learned racism, with that learned take on whatever issue we face today, and they say: "I don't want to talk to that person. I can't relate to that person, I don't want to be around that person." Okay, I can not relate to a lot of people, but number one, we all have shared human experiences. But, also, you can't... Michael: You can't walk away from that. They have to... Look, the only way you are going to start to change that cycle is to engage. Imagine if King decided: You know what? I just can't relate to Boss Hogg, I can't relate to what's happening in Mississippi, or what's happening in Arkansas, what's happening in places like... You know, everyone thinks about the south, but the greatest experiences of racism I have had have been in the north. Brent: You can actually look at cities like Boston. I mean Boston is probably the most racist city in... I don't want to crap on Boston, but the fact is... Michael: Their history is more profound than... One of the things I learned growing up, spending a lot of time... Again, I grew up in the south, I grew up in D.C. D.C. is a southern jurisdiction. It's below the Mason Dixon Line. But, I spent a lot of time in my parents' backyard in South Carolina and in Virginia. The one thing you could always appreciate is they just let you know right out front: "Naw, I'm not feeling you." And in the north, people put their arms around you, they pretend, then they do all those other things that aren't so Christian. Brent: I think the point that I was trying to make is: You have to understand these peoples' experiences to understand why they got there. And as you said, when it comes to racism, that poor white kid... Well hopefully, there are two scenarios that could come out of it. One, he is going to continue to be racist because his mom is going to continue to reinforce that. Plus, to be fair, he also saw a black woman slap his mother, with a being a young boy not having any context to understand why. Michael: Well yeah, I hadn't thought about that side of it, but yea. Brent: But, you are also going to have the possibility where she learned a lesson that day. Or, maybe he learned that lesson to say that these people aren't so different and that what she was saying was wrong. That's hard because it is hard to look at your mom and at 5 years old say: "Oh, she's wrong." In something that is a big grand scheme of things understanding. So, that was really, almost the full reason why we are doing this. Why are there people who are like this? Well, they grew up that way. They learned bad habits. Whether that's true or not, you get to decide that yourself. So, Michael, you said you wanted to be a priest. I was also going to bring this up, when I was in high school I wanted to be the Pope. However, I didn't want to be a priest. There were loopholes. Michael: Yeah, you can be pope without being a priest. But you gotta have connections to do that. Brent: But, you went to school to become a priest, correct? Michael: Yeah, I joined, after graduating from Johns Hopkins, I entered the Augustinian Seminary at Villanova. And, I started the journey of discernment and expression of vocation, which was probably the most profoundly important thing I have ever done. And I would highly recommend it to anyone. Seriously, because what it did, was it taught me, and I was in for about 2 and a half years, it taught me the limits of my own understanding. It taught me the unrelenting love that God has for us. In our most banal, gross, just total craziness, God still says: "Lord I love you. Yeah, I love you, baby. Come on, you'll work through it, I love you." So, that is a very powerful moment of understanding. Then, the next level of that is turning that into an expression of understanding towards others. So, I look at people very differently. I see people very differently. I hear them very differently than I did before. It's because, in everyone's voice, you can hear pain, joy, fear, resentment, anxiety, all of these things we try to mask. And, it's one of the beautiful parts of vocation, for those who are called to that understanding, and that expression is that one of the gifts, one of the graces you receive, I believe, and it makes sense, that your senses are heightened. Think about a priest in a confessional for 5 hours listening to folks come in and just unload all kinds of humanity on them. Think about the grace it takes to sit there and for every one of those persons, to individualize that moment. We make jokes about, yes, go say three Hail Marys and an Our Father and that's the joke. But that is a very individualized moment. Those three Hail Marys and Our Father are specific to that person. So, that priest has to have an understanding of what that person is saying. He has to be able to listen in a way that God requires him to listen. That for me was just a wonderful wonderful time. In fact, it has defined most of what I have done publicly since. I bring that aspect of my seminary life into my expression as RNC Chairman, so that is very high profile, political. Or, as Lieutenant Governor, an elected official, responsible for service to the people of the state of Maryland. And as a husband, as a father, you try to figure out ways in which you do that. And my mother summed it up for me. And again, I believe in arcs, and how one moment in time connects to another moment in time. So as a young boy, my mother always used to tell me: "You need to shut up and listen." You need to shut up and listen. So, I understood as a young adult, connecting that moment in time from when I was a young kid to this moment in time as a Seminarian and future moments in time as an elected official, as a political leader that the core of that is to shut up and listen. Brent: That is something so hard, especially for my generation, for this rapid information culture. Because, you get stuck in this position, where you are having a conversation, like you and I are, and you get to this position you said something five minutes ago that I wanted to respond to. And, all I'm doing now is thinking about what I'm going to say. I'm better than that because I do this... But it happens to a lot of people. There are a lot of times where I am having a conversation with somebody about something very important and I can tell that they are not listening to me, instead, they are just waiting to talk again. I have the patience to deal with it, it's just what it is. I was going to bring up one more point about the Catholic upbringing. I'm no longer a practicing Catholic. Maybe an atheist, I'm not one hundred sure these days. Michael: Well, that's a leap. Brent: Well, that was a truncated version clearly. It wasn't... Michael: You woke up one morning, and: "I'm done with that." It's all good. God still loves you. Brent: I had a moment like you said the arcs when I was in high school. I think we were on a retreat. And, I was doing a confessional style thing with a priest. and I was just talking to him about something, and I was talking about my faith. Not that at that time, I was still full faith, but I didn't know that I loved the Catholic church but I was at that point. I asked him about something personal to me, I think my mother, and she was divorced and remarried. And at the time when that happened, she was divorced in the mid-eighties, the church was still much in the camp of... Michael: And they are still there. This Pope is pulling the church in a different direction on this issue of divorce. And there are a lot of folks inside the church who are very troubled by that. And I know such rules seem arbitrary and not really fixed to anything. There are Gospel underpinnings that support this idea of the indissolubility of marriage. But, you do then have to... Again, with the arc... Put it up against situations. Because life at the end of the day is situational. So, I remember asking a priest friend of mine as I was going through my processes and trying to contextualize and understand. So, if a woman is in a marriage in which she is beaten every day. Should she stay married to that individual? Or should she divorce? Now the accepted answer is she stays married, she just separates from that individual. She doesn't stay in the house where she is beaten every day. But, she is still married. So, then the next question logically goes: OK so two years later she's now living apart from her husband so she is now "estranged" they're separated. So, she is now in this limbo. She wants to move on with her life. Yet, she is tied by this marriage to an individual that if she goes back to will resume beating her. But, she can't move forward and find someone who will love her and do all the things that are set forth in the vowes: love, honor, yes and even obey on both the man and the woman's part. So what does she do? He didn't have an answer for that. And that's the moment we are now in the church. Where Pope Francis is Divining not defining but Divining an answer. Because he understands the scriptural context. And people relate back to the marriage at Cana they find all these connections. He's also got to make it relevant to what people are actually experiencing today because you don't want through church dogma and so forth to alienate people from God. So it's a very interesting track and it's one of those things that I think a lot of people are willing to jump to particular conclusions. And the one thing, having certainly been inside the church, you come to understand there is a reason it has been around for 2000 years. It's nothing if not patient. Brent: And I think, I was what I was going to say, he eventually said, some things are some things and some... He didn't really have an answer. But it helped me develop that pragmatic view that I kind of realize this man who is a priest. He was saying: "Well, There are no absolutes." Things can change... Michael: Well, there are absolutes. We have ten absolutes by God himself. We call them the Ten Commandments. And then everything else after that is not up for grabs, but... in other words. God has given us what he wants and what his expectations are of these frail things he calls humans. And he has done it in a way in which he fully respects the one gift he's given us. Which when you stop and think about the wisdom of God, you would say why'd he do that. This Idea of free will. And he says: "OK, you have free will but here are ten things I need you to do." And just ask yourselves: How hard are they? And yet, every day we find a way to break one or two of them. And, it speaks to why God loving us, is the core piece because it is the only way it works. Because otherwise, he would be too pissed off at us. Brent: When it comes to the whole "I may be an atheist" conversation. By the way my mother, I mentioned it to her one time she... I was like, I'm 34 years old, I'm allowed to have a crisis of faith every now and again. Michael: Yeah... Not in front of your mother. Brent: I think it was a lot of, I understand exactly what you are saying when you say God himself handed these ten rules. Michael: Everything else is man made. Brent: But it's hard for me because I look at the nature of man. And you can look at the Catholic church, but you can look at any church, any organized religion as it is. It feels to me like so many of the rules, they have a reason for them. They made these rules because... A lot of that, let's look at procreation, that was all to grow the churches. Michael: Of course, you can't take away from the practical truth of why certain things came into being. Look, we all know, staying with the Catholic Church, we used to have a married priesthood. We had a married priesthood for about 400 years in the 2000 year history of the church. And the reason they stopped having a married priesthood is because when a priest would die, the property of that priest would go to family members and not the church. So they wanted to correct that. This is that greedy period in the Church's history. Where you had a lot of man interest as opposed to what is in the interest of God. And so, I understand that. Which is why some of these rules that we adhere to today, they don't make sense if you know the history. Because, you can't sit there and say, we have a celibate priesthood because Christ was celibate. Well, then how do you explain the 400 years when we didn't. Christ was still a celibate back in his days. I get that and understand it. But for me, the institution is a human institution and all that it means. But, the faith that is born out of that institution comes from God. And either you buy into that or you don't. And, a lot of times, I think what happens is we allow ourselves to be distracted by the clothes we wear or the buildings we're in. As opposed to what God has given us innately. Which is a love for him and a love for each other. And the rest of it... Look, if I'm alright by loving you, then it doesn't matter whether or not there is a structure in which I have to go and do that every week like a church. Or, any other type of behavioral restrictions, that should not, in an ideal world, interfere with that. But we know it does. Brent: Well, and that is what I was going to say. You say there are the Ten Commandments and everything else is man-made. And I will give you the pro-life argument because we don't need to argue it. But the fact is, you see many elected officials using specific lines in the bible to go against gay marriage. Michael: No elected official should ever use the Bible for anything other than Sunday school and church services. They need to... You live that out, you don't dictate it to others. So, if you are pro-life Catholic, like myself, then you live that out. I don't need to judge you because God has made it very clear he doesn't like it when we judge each other. That's not my job, that's his job. You can look at the Bible as a source for the theology, as a source for the tradition, capital T, and that's fine. You can accept that or not accept that. You can make the case or not make the case. I choose to look at Deuteronomy where you are very clearly commanded to choose life. And I use that as a way to underpin not just my support for the unborn but my opposition to the death penalty. Because I'm not empowered to distinguish between the life of a child and the life of an adult who happens to be in prison. The church now, with the Pope, is coming around to that latter position. The Pope having recently changed the church's teaching on the death penalty to make it consistent with the idea that we are pro-life. We want to support a culture of life, it doesn't take away from punishment. Yeah, you a bad boy, you are going to get punished. But, there are limits to that punishment. And I think for political leaders, and what we have seen since the 1980s and the rise of the moral majority. The inculcation of that into a political system, thereby weaponizing religion via politics is one of the signs of end times. That to me is one of those signs that you've turned a corner now where you are using religion... And I think this is why you find so many people turned off more and more by religion because it has become more and more of a political theatre in which I get to sit in judgment of your behavior and your thinking and your philosophy. As opposed to as a political actor being more concerned about your welfare and the fairness of the governmental system and all of the things political leaders should be concerned about. Brent: And I think, just to wrap on this religious discussion, although I could do this for hours, I just think, and I basically think what we're saying here is, just live your best life. When it comes to things like that... see, I think the death penalty and abortion are two very separate issues actually because the government is not saying that you should get an abortion or that you have to get an abortion. They are giving you your right to choose. You may disagree with that, that's perfectly fine, but you don't have to do it. Nobody is going to force that. The death penalty is something that is put down by the government. Michael: But it's still an option. You have options... it's not required. Brent: A government official, a judge, or whoever is doing the sentencing, makes that decision; who is technically a government official. Michael: I would argue that the government has already decided in the first instance by writing the law that allows it; so the government has made a decision. Now, has been supported by the people when they, if by referendum they support that, or by the courts in representing the judicial approach, but there is government action on both ends. So, it's just a matter of how you view that. The government passed a law, so it dictated the terms of engagement on that issue, on abortion. On the back end, again, the government is acted. Yes. You're talking about the action of committing the death penalty, but there was a law that was put in place to allow that action to occur just as there's a law in place, to allow the action of an abortion to take place. So, the government is, in both scenarios in my view, a main actor. That's fine. Which is why my core argument around both of these issues is communities need to decide for themselves. No federal government role is required here because you're going to find, as we have found, that not just on issues like abortion and the death penalty, but on a whole host of issues, gay marriage, and the like, most communities want to come to their own, and should be allowed to come to their own conclusion as to what best represents the values of this community. Now if you don't like those values, typically most people don't live in that community. They go someplace where those values do work and if they can't do that; we do live in a society in which we have this little thing called 'majority gets to.' You can go out there and make your case and if your case wins, great. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Brent: Michael, you're kind of telling me, 'if you don't like it, get the hell out.' Michael: No, I'm not telling you that. I'm not telling you that. I'm just... look, look. If you and I disagree on something, what do we do? How do we resolve that? So, a third person comes into this conversation. It's going to take one of two sides. So guess what? That third person, the one who is on the short end of that stick, has got to live with the decision of the other two. So, what do you do otherwise? At that point, I can either get up from the mic and leave the room or I get to say, 'okay, we can finish the conversation although I hate this decision.' That's how this is supposed to work. That applies to everything, not just the very sensitive topics of abortion and gay marriage and all that. That's how this is supposed to work. That's why we're a pluralistic society. Brent: You got into politics, I assume now, having spoken with you in the beginning here, because you got the interest in politics while you were in high school because you were friends with people, who I assume, were sons of politicians. You went to school to be a priest and then you said, 'you know, I think it's time to do some civic duty?' Michael: Yeah. I'm sort of the accidental elected official; accidental party official. I never set out to be county chairman, state chairman, national chairman. Never set out to be an elected official. I liked politics. I liked being engaged in politics, but I was still, even at that time, very much involved in my church. I was a Master of Ceremonies in my parish assisting the priest. I trained the altar servers in the parish. So, I was much more still focused on a lot of those things, but these opportunities kind of came up and I found myself saying, 'okay, yeah, I'll do that, sure.' I remember the first time I ran for office in 1998, for Comptroller. I wasn't thinking about becoming Comptroller of Maryland, but Ellen Sabre and her team came to me said, 'we'd like to have you on the ticket.' My background was as a corporate finance lawyer. Very familiar with tax law and all that good stuff; so it's not like I didn't have the cred to actually do the job, but it wasn't something that I was thinking about. 'Oh, yeah, I want to be an elected official.' For me at that time my expression of service was different. It manifested itself differently. My approach to these things is, you know, God finds a way to put in front you, people who he wants there for a reason; for a particular time and a particular purpose and he knows you don't necessarily see what he sees, but, hey, you know, do it. Now, again, free will. You know, you just say, 'no, I don't want to run,' but it did trigger in my brain another aspect of service. How do I carry out... because I think, for me, a lot of that after I left the Seminary, was how do I carry out this innate desire to serve people. I want to be as helpful as I can. I hate seeing people living in certain conditions in which I think are unnecessary, particularly given the vast amount of opportunities and wealth and things like that, that are available. Why are you somehow isolated from all of that. So, for me, this public service piece was that bridge to connect or to answer the question: Why are you isolated from all of these opportunities? Let's look at that and let's fix it. That really kind of motivated me. Brent: You mentioned being the RNC chair, the Maryland party chair and you were the first black... I'm going to say you're the first black conservative? Michael: Well, it's the first African American state chairman in the country. I was the first one on the Republican side and national chairman, was the second black, but the first in the Republican party, because Ron Brown was the first African American elected to a National party chair. It's pretty good company. Brent: Let's be honest here. You can see it right now with a lot of Trump supporters. Do you face a lot of racism as a... Michael: You didn't face it. You know its there. Look, not everyone's going to love you, and they love you for different reasons. Some people don't like you because you threaten their interests. Some people don't like you because of the color of your skin. You know, I had people say some very stupid things to me when I was chairman and you take it for what it is. You appreciate it for what it is. You know that it's going to be something that you've got to address, but here's the thing; a lot of people sort of think that this is the purvue of Republicans only. Trust me, it isn't. Democrats come off like this holier-than-thou, like there's not a racist bone in their body, you know. I'm like, you understand where the KKK came from. It's your roots. It's there. Everybody has some connection and it animates itself at some point in time and history. It just does, but that, for me at least, is not the main part of the story. The main part of the story is: how do you press through that? Now you can sit back and you can become a victim of it and just sort of cower in the corner or be mad and angry - or - you can confront it and just call it out for what it is when it is and press on to do what you need to get done. You can't let those things, and I use King as the example, you can't let them handicap you. Brent: Of course, I wasn't blaming all Republicans and the point I was making about, today that you see, is the refusal by this administration to fully say that the 'alt-right' or whatever they are, are bad people and we're giving them a voice. I think that's not just what's happening now because of the politics and things, I think it's the 24-hour news culture. They know that they can say something stupid and MS, CNN... all these people are going to put them on. They're going to give them a voice and I feel like they're such a small sect of America. Michael: But they're not. Let me address that. Let's understand how we are where we are. We're here because for good, bad, and I think largely for bad, the current President, then candidate, pricked open a scab and marinated that wound. It gave license to people to openly express what they secretly harbor and think and feel and he used their fear as a weapon against themselves. I think that when you have the situation with Charlotte, you have the policies that are expressed, the Muslim bans and things like that, that is as much against those communities as it is a clarion call to those underbelly feelings that people have about those communities, and now you can go out and you can say it because I'm standing here and I'm giving you the green light. That, to me, is a very dangerous space to be in. Brent: I agree with that and I think that that scab, the wound was initially opened, I mean not initially opened, but this recent wound was opened during the Obama administration and a lot of them were saying that under their breath. I feel like, people like John McCain and people like Mitt Romney, they didn't say those things, so those people didn't feel emboldened and like you said, this President did on the campaign trail. That's an issue. I brought up my iPad because I wanted to bring some facts in here just to put a wrap on the RNC issue. You raised $198 million during the 2010 congressional cycle when you were on 'fire Pelosi bandwagon. You won 63 House seats; biggest pick-up since 1938, where you took the House. They were the most successful elections on House races, over 600 seats, since 1928. Why weren't you reelected as the RNC chair? Michael: ...because no good deed goes unpunished. That's why. Brent: In my head, I had for a long time I had this thing where I was like, 'Michael Steele must have been a terrible RNC chair,' but that's not the case. Michael: That's the narrative though, so let me tell you what the backstory to that is. The back story is, when I was running for chairman, members from around the country, what we call the 168, they're comprised of the national committeeman and national committeewoman and the state chairman of each state and territory. The number comes to about 168. That's the composition of the RNC. You go and you campaign for the job and I think I'm the only chairman who was a county chairman, a state chairman, and an elected official at the time he became chairman and so a lot of the members of the committee knew me from back when I was a county chairman in the 1990s. They knew me when I was state chairman in the early 2000s before I got elected to Lieutenant Governor. So they knew that I'm a grassroots guy and they knew that I resented the way the RNC did business with them, with that State parties. They wanted a champion and this so much explains Donald Trump in that, they wanted someone who would come in and break up the cabal that had festered inside the RNC. The special contracts. The no-bid contracts. The cozy arrangements. The consultant class that had taken over the management of the building, the operation of the building. The dictates that said, alright, if you want money from the RNC you have got to take our vendors. You've got to use our vendors. Even though those vendors didn't have a damn clue about your state or your jurisdiction or your candidates, but you had to pay a premium in order for the RNC to do business with you. They wanted an end to that. I was the guy to do that because I was willing to go in and break those eggs and in the process of doing that, pissed off a lot of people. I got rid of the no-bid process. I canceled about $20 million worth of contracts when I came in the door. You know that's going to piss off a lot of people and it did, and so you started hearing, literally within the first 30 days. I think the first call for my being fired happened three weeks after I got on the job. How the hell does that happen? Well, it happens because you're in there, I fired the entire building when I came in. I said 'no' to a lot of contracts that were already supposed to be paid for. Now the election of 2008 is over. Campaign's over. Why do I have all these people working at the RNC and why am I still writing checks from a campaign that was over? That disrupted the process and I made a lot of enemies. I will admit, I probably could have been a little smarter in dealing with some of that, but there is this sense that being smarter may, may not necessarily be the best thing. Following your instincts and your gut and once you start down that road you just do. I mean, I totally get it, so you have this situation and RNC was a microcosm of what would play out six-years later in that the body wanted someone to come in and clean it up. Clean up the swamp. To drain the swamp inside the RNC. Oh, guess what? Six-years later that's now a national message that those members and their constituents, the voters and their respective states and jurisdictions are saying, we want someone to clean up the swamp. I can see that arc; that connection there. Brent: So, what you're telling me is, you were the proto Donald Trump. Michael: In a little sense, yeah. Without all the crazy, yeah. Look, I said to, I've known Donald Trump a while, and I said to him that I love that Maverick style. This idea of shaking up the system. I didn't have a problem with Donald Trump calling out NATO, alright, because it needed to be called out. It had become a moribund institution. You know, no one had paid attention to it in about seventy-years and so, yeah, let's reevaluate, not necessarily the relationship, which is where Trump went, but let's reevaluate how we're doing business with each other and whether or not this is... we're modernized, so we're all on the same page... I got that. It was the same principle I applied at the RNC. Going in and shaking up the institution from within, but see my goal was to expand the party, so we did a lot of things to... the way we were able to win and how we elected Hispanic governors and African American State Legislators and Judges on the Texas Supreme Court was expanding the breadth of the party, it's reach and it's conversation with communities that didn't look white and over 65. That was the strength. What we're seeing now is a contraction away from that and they're using that contraction as a strength, but I think it's a great weakness to its own detriment. Brent: I have an issue because I understand. I understand the NATO things, the UN things, a lot of the dumb shit that Trump says. I understand it, however, I don't understand how Republicans, voters, that is to say. I get the white working class of voters. I understand them thoroughly. They voted for Donald Trump because he doesn't talk too different than they do. He said he's going to do something for their jobs and frankly, you know what, my Stepdad, worked as a UAW worker who faced a lot of racism from stupid people over the years. So the fact is, is that that doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is men and women in your position who supported him. Who voted for him and they said, you know what, a Supreme Court seat is more important... Michael: That's politics. Brent: Right, I understand, but that's more important than being morally right? Michael: Look, I did not support the President's election in 2016 and I didn't for... along the moral grounds. The Access Hollywood tape, the whole thing, that is like... this is... there's more to the office than just putting a man or a woman in it. There's got to be something tethered to something that's morally sound, but you're talking about looking at the broad electorate. You have to ask yourself a question. If all of that is true and there is this, you know, there should be this distinction between your moral behavior and, a very clear distinction, that if you're morally off track, that that should be disqualifying, or whatever. Ask yourself then, why, after everything he's said and we know about Donald Trump and his relationship with women and the Access Hollywood tape, 52% of white educated women voted for him? He won the majority of the white female vote. He won 30% of the Hispanic vote after 'all Mexicans are rapists' and so forth. He won 10% of the Black vote. Remember, that was 0% at one point in the campaign. He grew it to 10% and the only thing he says is, 'what have you got to lose?' and all of a sudden all of those Black folks say, 'oh, okay.' What I tell people is, take the blinders off. Take the blinders of anger and just 'I hate Donald Trump' and all of that and try to understand the answer to the questions. Why these constituent groups voted for the man who is clearly antithetical to everything that they at least espouse to be about. When you begin to do that, then you begin to see America as it is because regardless of your station, regardless of your class, your race, there is a thread that he's able to pull on and he pulled on it well. Well enough to win a Presidency and folks need to fundamentally understand that because it says more about us then it does about Donald Trump. Brent: Absolutely and I've had the conversation a million times since the 2016 election with my progressive friends and I .... [interupted for time]... The reason I invited you here was because I thought you were as reasonable of a guy as you have been and it's been a great conversation and like I mentioned in my e-mail to you, I worked for Ed Schultz for about eight years and I remember seeing you on Bill Maher's show with him and you guys screamed at each other and it was such a great argument and you guys were having a good time and then the best part about it to me was you were willing to come on the Ed Show sometime the next week and you sat down with him and now you're an MSNBC contributor. So you can say you got my man Big Eddie to thank for that right? Michael: Yes, indeed. I loved Ed. He was a Maverick. He was a guy who pushed against convention and made the conversation real. He was not afraid to tell you what he thought; what he felt. That got him into trouble at times. I can identify with that. Those types of voices, you know, people like to try to put in a box and say, well he was this flaming Liberal or he was this flaming Progressive. Well, Ed was complicated. Ed was a lot of things. If you sat and talked to him you realized that he had some nice conservative positions as well. You understand his history, you know where he came from. That all makes sense, but what you can't lose sight of is that he was authentic and he was the same guy on TV as he was off camera. He was the same guy in the airport as he was in the studio and I think that that level of authenticity is what generated the audience that he had and I think that the kind of support, even when his time was up at MSNBC, that carried with him and stayed with him and that was reflected in his love for his family and the work that he did. So, yeah, I have a lot to thank Ed for. We had great conversations whenever I was on his program and we would go after it on that Liberal/Conservative thing, but it really wasn't about Liberal/Conservatives, it was really about having a conversation. Brent: That's why we're doing what we're doing today. I had a blast. I hope you had fun. Michael: It was a lot of fun and I do appreciate it, bro. Brent: Can we do this again? Michael: Absolutely. Anytime.
67 minutes | 2 years ago
Origin Stories - 001 - Senator Byron Dorgan - D-ND
In Episode 001 of Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour speaks with Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan - D-ND about how he went from growing up in a town of 300 people in North Dakota to become a member of Senate Leadership. Brent and the Senator discuss how tragedy shaped his career, their mutual admiration for Liberal talk show host Ed Schultz, the biggest highlights of what he did while in the Senate and the regret over his vote for the Iraq war. Dorgan also gives his insight to the state of politics today and the highly contested Senate election in his home state. Transcript Brent Jabbour: This is Episode number One of Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People. My name is Brent Jabbour. If you listened to Episode zero, the pilot of this particular podcast, you know that this is a podcast about discourse. About realizing that people are people and we can have that conversation. I want to thank everyone for so much support on the first episode that I put up. And it all really worked out well because we were able to get up on all the aggregator sites like we had planned. Apple ITunes, the Google Play Store, Stitcher, Spreaker, you can get the podcast there now. So, I'm really happy that you can share this, the first episode of Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People. I'm going to make the intro really really short, so we can get right to the substance. Today, we speak with Byron Dorgan. He is a former Senator from the state of North Dakota, a former U.S. Senator, he was a member of Democratic leadership during the 90s and into the 2000s during the Obama administration. And, he's always been a really really nice guy to me, he's a genuine person from the middle of the country, so he can see things on both sides. And what we've done in this particular podcast is we relitigated the 2016 election just a little bit. We talked about what we can do moving forward. We talked about the highly contested Senate race coming up in November in North Dakota between Heidi Heitkamp and Kevin Cramer. And, we also talked about my good friend Ed Schultz. The Reason I had put Byron Dorgan at the top of the list of people to speak with is that not only because I knew he had been there and done it. But, also because I knew he was always a good friend of my buddy Ed. And, he was always a great friend of the show, but they also had a personal relationship. So, we talked about him. I would say, we spent a good ten minutes talking about him and how tragedy in his personal life had directed him into the world of politics. And I just kind of related that back to the fact that this is why I am doing this because I was inspired following the passing of my good friend Ed. And so that is why we are here. There was something I wanted to get to but I didn't actually record it on the episode because I was a little nervous. And I will explain that nervousness right now. Well before I ever thought about doing politics or working in political talk radio I was a disk jockey on Y94 in Fargo, North Dakota. And, every year they would do the Care for Kids Radiothon which is a fundraiser for a children's hospital. We would record all of these pieces and you would get these heartfelt pieces from families that were affected or helped at the children's hospital in Fargo, North Dakota. And you would get these actualities as well from famous people, newsmakers, people from the area. And, one time I was doing my shift and I got a call from the boss and said: "Hey Senator Byron Dorgan's going to call in and send a little message to those who want to support the Care for Kids Radiothon." And I remember being so nervous to speak with a sitting United States Senator and have him call and speak with me. I remember being very professional. Yes Sir, No Sir. Please say that, Please do that. Thank you so much. And of course, he was a gentleman, as he always was. And I wanted to bring that up with him, but I mentioned it to him, but was still trying figure out the kinks in recording as we started recording that particular episode. Because that was the first one that we recorded. I just had a lot of memory with Byron Dorgan. He was very important in my head when I started this project. I'm not going to spend too much time wasting away here. So let's get to the Business. This is Episode one of Origin Stories: A Podcast About Politics and People with Byron Dorgan. I want to get in a quick thank you to my friend John Kneip and his Band NASAWives for providing the intro music here. And my friend Noel "Scotch" Anderson for providing all of the very cool imagery that you see on the website, on Facebook, and Twitter. I've received a lot of positive feedback on that. Without further ado. Episode one. Byron Dorgan. Here we go! Brent Jabbour: Number one, I guess the first question I would have is how does somebody who is a senator from North Dakota become a member of Democratic Leadership? And you know, it is not the most progressive state in the country, and you were one of the top Senators going at it while you were in the Senate. Senator Byron Dorgan - D-ND: Well, part of that background was that I was a good friend of Thom Daschle. Thom was from South Dakota. We've been best friends for a long long time, both when we were in the U.S. House together; the U.S. Senate together. And, when Thom was elected Democratic Leader, he asked me to be part of his leadership team, and asked me to be the assistant Democratic Floor Leader, and then subsequently the chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee as well. Brent: Was that a big deal for you, being from the middle of the country? To be able to espouse, along with Senator Daschle as well... You guys had a good leadership body, that was not the California/New York leadership that you see now. Senator Dorgan: No, that's True. Now what we see in the Congress. Just to give you a statistic, in the U.S. House, thirty percent of the Democratic Caucus come from just two states, New York and California. We've become far too much of a coastal Party. And, Good for New York and California. There is an old campaign guru who used to always say "You pick cherries where cherries is." What he meant by that, you know you go where the votes are and get em out. It is also the case that you have to plant more cherry trees, right. Good for California and New York, but we need to have a more robust effort in the heartland of the country. Brent: I think we've all talked about it, that is probably why Trump won. Because he was able to connect with those people. Now, North Dakota is probably not going to vote for a Democrat in many scenarios. Obviously, they have the Senators or Senator with Sen. Heitkamp, and you and Sen. Conrad were there. At one Time there were three Democrats representing the state of North Dakota. Sen. Dorgan: For eighteen straight years, in Fact. Brent: But What is it going to take for Democrats to start to understand those people? Sen. Dorgan: Well, I don't think it is a case of Democrats not understanding people. I ran eleven statewide elections in North Dakota as a Democrat and was very successful. So, it is about retail politics. People want to know: Do they get to see you and know you? Do they trust you? Do they like you? And if they know, see, trust and like you, they don't care what party you are from. They want to send somebody to Congress that they trust and they like. So, I think what has happened in North Dakota and much of the heartland is there has not been a national Democratic message to say, here's what our party's about. Our Party is about helping family farmers have a bridge over difficult times. Our party's about working men and women, who are working hard at their jobs and want job security and want opportunities for promotion and so on. Our party is about the people that know about seconds. Second shift, second job, second hand. That is who our party is about. I think our party doctrine has always been, at least for me, is when everybody does well, everybody does well. It's like a wagon train, a wagon train in the old west used to only go as fast as the slowest wagon. So, you don't leave people behind. Brent: I Think what you are saying, I completely agree with. However, the Democrats have left those people behind. Every voting block that you just discussed farmers, workers. Those people voted for Donald Trump because he spoke to them. That is where I'm saying we're not messaging properly to Democrats. If that makes sense to you. Sen. Dorgan: Look, I don't think Democratic presidential candidates who really should be carrying the message, they should have the message of what do we stand for as a Democratic Party. I don't think they even campaign in much of the country. They just give up before the campaign starts and say well that's a red state and we're not going to a red state. People in large swaths of the heartland of America never hear much about the message from the megaphone that comes from a national Democratic candidate. Boy, I am a strong believer in saying if you want to run for President, you don't give up any state. You run everywhere, and you push hard to get that message out. Because I still think people respond to that message no matter where they live. Brent: So I told you when we started this, it is going to be a little bit about you. So I want to talk about young Byron Dorgan. What was it like growing up in North Dakota? Sen. Dorgan: Well, I grew up in a town of 300 people. That was my first 18 years. It was a farm community. We raised some horses and cattle. My Dad ran a gas station in town. But we also raised horses and cattle. I graduated in a high school senior class of nine students. You're never far away from the top or the bottom of those classes. But, I knew everyone in town. Everyone knew me. It's just a town of 300 people. It's where I think I learned character. It's where I developed my values system. It comes from my parents and the community I grew up in about what is right and what is wrong. How do you make judgments about that? I have always been enormously proud of growing up in a tiny little town in southwestern North Dakota. Brent: Do you think that helped you communicate better? Like you said everybody in this town of 300 people knew each other. So it sets you up in a way for being in Congress because there are four hundred and some odd Representatives, while one hundred Senators. But, it gives you that opportunity to communicate with everybody because you are used to that type of tight-knit community. Sen. Dorgan: Absolutely, In a town of three hundred people, you have a microcosm of America. You have a few people who would drink too much and get drunk. We had some old retired guys who would play pinochle at the bar all day. We had some people who were debating should we put pavement on our main street as opposed to having a gravel main street. And, while some people were pushing to do that, other people were pushing saying we didn't want to spend the money. It's a microcosm of our country and the decisions our country makes. But it's also an ability to understand how you get along with people because you have to get along. If you are in a town of three hundred people and you don't get along with a handful of them, that's pretty sad. So you learn to get along. I just learned a lot from that town. Brent: I think that makes sense too, in the way that you can't ostracize anybody in a town that small because there are only 300 people, and where are they going to find anything else. Sen. Dorgan: And to me, when I look at that town, the progressives in that town were the ones saying alright let's build, let's progress, let's change. And the others were saying, nope, and were against all of it. But, nonetheless, they come to some conclusion. I know this a silly story, but it's a lesson that I sit here and remember vividly. So, my job was to clean the barn on Saturday's so, we had a pickup truck and shoveling manure into the pickup truck. We were fairly close to town, so they had a dump grounds in town. And, I was to take that manure to the dump grounds. My dad drove the gas truck, as well, for the service station. and, he saw that I had dumped the manure outside the fence of the dump grounds. And, he came back that night and said, "I saw you did not dump that inside the dump grounds, you dumped it outside the fence." I said I did that because I thought I was going to get stuck, it had just rained, so I was afraid I would get stuck. He said, "Well, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, and you dumped it in the wrong place. You go out and you put it back on the pickup truck, and haul it in the dump grounds and dump it there." So, the next day, I'm out there shoveling that manure for the second time, and I'm swearing and upset, but you know what it's a lesson that I remember sitting here today. Do things the right way. No shortcuts. Brent: And the it's better to do it once right than to do it twice. Sen. Dorgan: I remember that lesson. And I told my dad some decades later. You know what, I didn't like the lesson, but I learned it really well, and have never forgotten it. Brent: Where did you to college again? I know you went to the University of Denver later for graduate school... Sen. Dorgan: I went to the University of North Dakota. It was 365 miles from regent to the University. I worked on cars. My dad had a gas station, so I had a hoist. I would put my car on the hoist and work on it. And I was a big fan of working on cars. And, I did everything to it. I had an old Ford, I put a Mercury grill on it, I cut out with a welder cut out the old grill, and put a mercury grill on it. I put Plymouth continental kit on it. And then, ultimately I drove off the first time to go to college, and I was picked up for speeding on my first trip. And the highway patrolman took me back to his car and he is giving me the ticket. And he looked at my car, and he looked it over, and he said "son, what was that car before you started butchering it?" And I haven't forgotten that either. Brent: You know this is another interesting thing we talk about with people who grew up on farms. When was the first time you drove a vehicle? Probably on the farm when you were a young teenager, right? Sen. Dorgan: Oh, eleven or twelve. Because we had a pickup truck. And, you know, when we are out on the pasture, hauling hay and stuff. I was supposed to be in that pickup truck, doing stuff. But, you just learn really early, I could barely see over the steering wheel. Now, I wasn't off a highway at age twelve. But, my dad always expected me to move the pick up truck just a bit. So, you'd get in, get the shift going and the clutch. Brent: You could drive the tractor down the highway... Sen. Dorgan: We had an old tractor, which we called a co-op tractor, which farmers would know. Somehow, it went much faster than any other tractor. I just remember being in that seat of that co-op tractor, driving down the road and going to beat the band. Brent: So, when you were in college at the University of North Dakota. What did you do in your free time? When you weren't studying, probably working a little bit. What were you doing in your free time? Sen. Dorgan: Well, I worked... I did a lot of jobs when I was in College. I was a bank teller. I sold shoes at J.C. Penny's. I had a lot of part-time jobs. So, that's what I did. I was very interested in athletics. I loved basketball, football, all those things. I didn't play varsity in college. I have always enjoyed athletics as well. Brent: What do you do now in your free time? You technically retired, but I'm sitting here in your office, it doesn't quite look like you've retired. Sen. Dorgan: No, no, I haven't retired. I've been teaching for some years at Georgetown University. I am on 4 boards of directors and boards of advisors on companies. Three of them in California, one in Chicago. I'm writing my fifth book right now, I just submitted the first manuscript to the publisher. I am a Senior Fellow at the bipartisan policy center. I'm doing a lot of things. Brent: It sounds like a lot of work. What are you doing to relax? Sen. Dorgan: Well, I like to work. But, I like to play tennis. I have played tennis all my life. I like to play golf. I like to travel, I just came back from France. I was on a cycling trip. I rode probably about 180 miles in southern France with a bunch of people on a bicycle. So I do a lot of things, and I enjoy it all. Brent: There are a lot of successful businessmen, I don't know why, when you said, "I'm teaching at Georgetown." In my brain, I'm thinking a kid from a town of 300 people in North Dakota is teaching at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, maybe in the world. I mean, I know they come from all over. But, I lived in North Dakota for about 10 years, and I noticed you would look people up, and realize, this guy was born in Bismarck, ND. It's just a strange place because a lot of people look at it as a backwoods state. It's the middle of the country, nobody cares. There are a lot of plains, a lot of farms, it's cold, is that what gives people... Sen. Dorgan: I Don't know. It's really interesting. My career was very unusual politically. I didn't plan on being a politician. I have a masters degree in business, an MBA degree. I thought I would be a businessman all my life. and things happen. So at age 26, I was appointed to fill a vacancy by Governor Guy in a constitutional office, because someone who had just been elected died. And, he chose me. I was as surprised as anybody in North Dakota at age 26. Brent: What were you doing then? That was the North Dakota tax commissioner? That was the position you were in? Sen. Dorgan: That was born of tragedy. The origin of other people's lives can be profoundly affected by tragedy. So, I was in the Aerospace industry, had gone to work in the aerospace industry directly out of graduate school in Colorado. And I came back to a funeral, my grandfather's funeral. And somebody told me you should talk to this guy who just was elected to office in North Dakota. His name was Ed Sjaastad. He had come from a town called Tagus, North Dakota, 80 people. And graduated from Harvard Law School. And, he had just won election to State Tax Commissioner. And, I said no... I'm not... and they said, no he wants to hire a young MBA, go talk to him. I said, but I'm in Denver, I'm in the aerospace industry. But, I did go up and talk to him, and I was so inspired by him. I just thought, man, what an inspiring guy, 36-37 years old. So I decided to go back to North Dakota and work for him. And I did, I worked there a year and a half. And, he was a mentor and a friend, and a boss. And, I walked into his office one morning at 8 o'clock in the morning and found him dead. He had taken his own life. I can't even begin to describe the drama and the trauma. I was 26 years old, and I had lost a friend and mentor. What a great, great tragedy because he was such an extraordinary human. And, so six weeks later. The governor called me down to his office and said I want to appoint you to his unexpired term. I mean, I was the most surprised guy in the world. And so, from that, I ran for office and ran for office again. Ran for the House, and again, and again, and again, six times. Then ran for the Senate again and again and again. And you know, I had a career for many many many decades in North Dakota serving in public office. I was enormously grateful for the opportunity. It was a great privilege. And yet, I came to the end, and then the question is, the next choice is seven years. Run for election this year, win and serve six more. And those seven-year choices become much more difficult because I wanted to do more things. I wanted to, having been in Congress for 30 years, and the Senate for 18 years. I wanted to write more books, which I'm doing, I have written 3 since I left. And, I wanted to teach, I'm teaching at Georgetown University. I wanted to serve on some boards, and so on... So that is kind of a synopsis of how all of this happened. It's like every other piece of the decision tree of life. It's always binary, It's always yes or no. And when you say yes or no, it profoundly changes the branch on that decision tree. And, I have just been very fortunate and have loved everything I've done. Brent: And, you know, your story of tragedy, of your friend. That is kind of where I am right now. That's why we are recording this and speaking with you. Ed Schultz was my friend. He was my mentor. He was a great boss. He took me all over. And, when he unexpectedly passed. A lot, of people, asked me, especially over that time, who is going to carry that mantle. And, I don't think by any means I'm going to carry that mantle. I don't have any intention to be the next Ed Schultz. But I thought I would be doing a disservice if I didn't talk to a lot of people, you were close friends with him, talk to a lot of those people. I thought also, It's something possibly I wanted to do anyway. Which is get the background on people, talk about the issues that affect people, and how things are going. And, I never wanted to step on his toes. Not that I ever think that he would have ever been unhappy with me. He would always be very happy that I want to grow. But I said at the time you know what, that's Ed's thing right now, and we let him do that. And, when this unexpected turn happened, I said, you know what, maybe it's my time to do a little bit of something. And try to do something that would make him proud. So, I thoroughly understand what you were saying there. Sen. Dorgan: Look, all of us suffer loss. It's part of our lives, it just is. And no matter what you're doing or where you are, the question is, not whether you will suffer loss, it's how you will get through it. I remember, my mother was killed in a manslaughter incident in 1986 driving on the streets of Bismarck North Dakota. Coming home from a hospital visit. My daughter died during heart surgery when I was in the Senate. It is unbelievably hard to get through a loss, and some people never do, and some people can. My Mother, and my daughter, and my friend Ed Sjaastad, the fact is they are with me. Their part of my memory bank. I call on them a lot. The key for all of us to understand, life is about success, and it's about failure, it's about building and creating, and losing sometimes. It's always picking yourself up and brushing your hat off and moving straight on ahead and moving forward. Ed Schultz, just to end this part of the discussion, Ed Schultz was such a big personality. And, generous, he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was a remarkable person. But, because he was such a big personality and a force of personality, all of us who were friends of Ed's, were stunned by the loss of Ed in our lives. He was quite a remarkable guy. Brent: I know, one of the biggest things that people who were close to him say, is we are going to miss that phone call of him saying. "What's going on?" And he didn't always mean that as a what's going on with you. But, he did care, but he also wanted to know what you thought about what was going on. And, that, I always thought, he always cared what everyone else thought. He may not agree with you. But he wanted to absorb that information and have that conversation. Sen. Dorgan: The hallmark of Ed was confidence. He was unbelievably confident, and you could see it, and smell it, and feel it. I've seen Ed come into rooms... Just a quick story. Senator (Debbie) Stabenow and I were going to invite radio talkers from around the country who were, progressive or Democratic talkers to come into our nation's capital and have a discussion together. It never happened before. So Debbie and I brought them in. There were about twenty or thirty of them in this room in the Hart Building. And, I swear to you, Ed took over the room instantly. He gave a little presentation and wow. And there was an agent there and of course, that agent signed Ed to a radio a contract. And that set Ed on a remarkable career, on national radio and national television. It's a remarkable thing. I think it all stems from unbelievable confidence. It's about being a football quarterback, it's about all the things that made Ed Schultz. He was quite remarkable. Brent: I think, even when I sent you an email asking if you would do this. I discussed the confidence he instilled in me. There was no question. I don't think I ever heard him say he didn't know if this is right or not. Not only did he always think he was right, but he also made relatively good decisions. You may disagree with his takes on certain things, but he always did it from the right place. From a place where he could explain to you, this is why I think this way. It wasn't just a blanket statement because I don't feel like arguing it. It was a statement and this is why I feel that way. I always appreciated that so much. Alright, on to books. You have written a couple of books. There was one called Take this Job and Ship it correct? But you also wrote Gridlock and Blowout, which are thrillers, if you will. I think that is the correct description. Why fiction, why did you think that was a thing to get into? Sen. Dorgan: The interesting thing is, I had done two books about economic issues. And, the publisher, a New York publisher, and I had an agent in New York. And, my agent called me and said, how would you like to do a couple of novels? And I said. You know, I've not written fiction before. And he said, How about co-authoring a couple of them? I said I'd be interested in talking about it. So we talked about it, and I decided, you know what, it's something I've not done, it's something I'd like to do. So, I did it. And it was very interesting. I may do it again, we'll see. The book I'm writing now, it's my fifth book, is a book that is a true story. But, who knows, I may go back to fiction. You know, if you wrote fiction, and wrote what was going on today in our country and in Washington D.C. people would say that's way beyond fiction. Brent: And I was going to say. I had wondered about those books. You coming from a policy perspective, and those are about oil and ecological issues. And I thought, maybe, you got involved because this is a way to get those messages out about these important issues that will give people an entertaining read without me beating them over the head with it. Without me feeling like I'm lecturing you about... Sen. Dorgan: Yeah, that is some of it. Absolutely. In fact, I'll tell you the ideas for both books. The idea for the first book, the first novel, came from something I read in the Wall Street Journal. And it was a news story, a small one, about five years before, and it said there is a persistent rumor that either the Chinese or the Russians had put a virus in the American electric grid system that would allow them to turn off the electric grid if we were in a war. The news story just kept talking about persistent rumors, but nobody every verified it. And I just thought, that would be fascinating to write about. How would a foreign power turn off the electric grid system and cause chaos in our country? The other one was a piece I read about, and I had met a guy who did this, Craig Venter, who is a remarkable genius. He did part of the Human Genome project with Dr. Francis Collins and so on. But, he contracted with Exxon and they were working to put microbes in a coal seam under the earth, microbes are bacteria, have them develop a language for bacteria that would say to them, eat your way through the coal seam and leave methane in its wake. So you would actually turn coal into methane underground. And I thought that's fascinating. So that became the idea for the second novel. Brent: I think you are a much better novelist than you think. Because I think that's pretty much how alot of these guys come up with their ideas. I've seen Stephen King wrote 10 o'clock people, or something of that nature is one of his novels. He basically, wrote it because he would drive down the street, and he would see outside of this office everyday smoking cigarettes. And it was all of them at the same time smoking cigarettes, and he came up with this idea of who are these people? So that is the way good fiction works, kind of a what if. I think you are doing a heck of a job there. Sen. Dorgan: On the book about a virus shutting down the electric grid. I have a Russian agent that has the virus that he's stolen, an Iranian secret agent purchase it from him. And then the Iranian secret agents, they hire a drug-addled hacker living in a commune in Amsterdam to begin shutting down the electric grid in America. It's kind of a fanciful story, but it was a fun one to write. Brent: Do you read a lot of, I guess that is the Tom Clancy style novel, is that something you are interested in? Sen. Dorgan: I don't read as much fiction. I read a lot of non-fiction, but I don't read as much fiction. Brent: When you read non-fiction are you reading more biographies? Sen. Dorgan: Yeah, I just finished a book called "Bad Blood in Silicon Valley," about the Theranos Fraud. I mean those are the things I read a lot about. Brent: When you were in your time in public service, or in your professional life, we will use professional outside of personal. What are you most proud of that you have done? Sen. Dorgan: There is a lot. Just a lot of things. In terms of policy, in fact, I'm still working on it today. I helped, I was one of the authors of the Renewable Fuel Standard. We keep putting these steel straws into the planet earth and sucking oil out, which is good, and natural gas and such, and I'm for that. I supported oil and gas development in our state. But, we need to do more than that. Because we can produce fuels from renewable fuels. Which diversify our fuel source. And it also means less carbon into the airshed. So I wrote the Renewable Fuel Standard, the RFS. And we've built a huge ethanol industry and a huge biodiesel industry as a result of it. I helped prompt the start of a wind energy revolution in the country. So, I've done a lot of things I'm really proud of. And some of it is things just dealing with individuals. I got a letter last week from a woman in Devils Lake, ND. And she said, Senator Dorgan, she said, about fifteen years ago, you got involved for my father who had a form of cancer and needed a certain type of treatment, and he was turned down for reimbursement for that treatment. And you got involved with the V.A. and others and got him the treatment he needed. She said, he just died last week, but we got 15 years of life with my dad thanks to you. And, I thought, what a remarkable woman to send me a note 15 years later to say thanks for what you did for my dad. Those are the things that I really care much about. The things you can do for people that make a difference in their lives. Brent: As far as policy goes, is there one thing you wish you could take back? Sen. Dorgan: Oh sure. The vote authorizing George W. Bush to take military action in the Gulf war. Now, the vote required him to do a number of other things, which he did not do. But, when Colin Powell and Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and others were giving us top-secret briefings, day after day after day, they made the case they knew there biological weapons and nuclear weapons and so on that threaten our country. And it turns out they were wrong. And it also turns out, now, that I know, I know for a fact that some of what was told to us in top-secret briefings misrepresented the facts, and some of it deliberately misrepresented the facts. And was told to us by people at the highest levels of government in a way that wasn't just not accurate, but was false. And demonstrably false. And they knew at the time it was demonstrably false. And that really bothers me. Because no one ever really did the investigation that should have been done following that. Brent: Yeah, I was going to bring that up. I feel like many in the far left community had always been saying arrest Bush and Cheney, they're war criminals. And, I know that is not a stretch, some could make that case. But the fact is, is that what you just told me there, that in top-secret briefings, people knowingly misrepresented the facts. I mean there is no recourse, none of those people were punished for that. I mean, with the exception of Colin Powell having to eventually admit, that he lied. Or he says that he was... Sen. Dorgan: He says he was duped. But he was the gold standard as far as I'm concerned. I mean I think Colin Powell is widely respected. And, he went on live television at the United Nations and said, look here is what the Iraqis have. And mobile chemical weapons laboratories, he went right through the whole thing. Turns out, it was all a crock because they were using testimony by a known fabricator from Iraq, who used to drive a taxi cab in Bagdad. He was in the custody of the Germans and the Germans told the Americans "we think he is a fabricator." And yet, they used a substantial amount of that, not just that but more as well, for Colin Powel's presentation. And, it was a devastating thing to do for this country because we got involved in a very long war that cost a lot of lives. It's a war in my judgment that we shouldn't have fought. Brent: Kent Conrad voted against the war in Iraq, correct? Sen. Dorgan: He Did. Brent: Did you guys have conversations about that? I mean, as far as while that vote was coming up... He's a colleague of yours for many many years. Sen. Dorgan: Yea, We seldom ever split our vote on those kinds of things. We split our vote on a Supreme Court nominee at one point, I think on Alito. We split our vote on that as well. The Authorization for the President to use force. And, I just came out in a different place. Had I known, what I know now, I never ever would have voted for it. But, you know, it's too late to correct all those things. I regret casting that vote, I believed in the presentations that were made to members of Congress by people who had very solid reputations, who turned out to not have such solid reputations. Brent: Do you think it's hard for people, lawmakers especially, to admit they were wrong? Sen. Dorgan: Sure... Yeah... And the reason for that is, I think there is a punishment by the voters from time to time, to take a look at somebody, and let's say the person running against this person that changed their mind, says well this is a flip-flopper. They're a weather vein. They change their mind based on how the wind is blowing. And I think people buy that argument so they don't want members of Congress to change their mind. On the other hand, it's really important if members of Congress see new information or have a change of heart, they ought to change their mind. Because I think, the voters want to look at somebody and say, that's somebody I think is authentic. They care about things, researches things, and come out with the right approach. Brent: I was recently having a conversation with a friend of mine about (Senator) Heidi Heitkamp and (Congressman) Kevin Cramer running in the state of North Dakota. Kevin has always been polite to me, Heidi, not so much, but that's neither here nor there. But I had to draw the distinction of the play Hamilton, where I said, I'm not a North Dakota voter anymore, so I can't make this decision. But given the choice between Heidi and Kevin going to the Senate, I would almost give Kevin Cramer that vote. And I will tell you why. I disagree with him wholeheartedly on almost everything, but I feel like he stands for something. He stands for things, and I feel like Heidi is in a position where she is just trying to make voters happy in North Dakota, and so she is kind of everywhere. And she's not helping the Democratic voters at all, and she is not helping her constituents either. I'm not asking you to bag on Heidi, by any means... Sen. Dorgan: Let me tell ya. Look, Heidi is in a state, that is more conservative than it was. And, she's trying to navigate through some difficult circumstances. You can't keep everybody happy. And, if you try, you fail. And she is trying to demonstrate and has done so effectively, to North Dakotans that she is independent. She's not going to just swallow the party line every time they say something. That is contrary to what Kevin Cramer does. Look, Kevin Cramer is fine as far as I'm concerned, but I would never vote for someone who says well whatever Trump wants that fine with me. Especially at a time when Pres. Trump is slapping on lots of tariffs ad-hoc, ad hominem and injuring the price of hogs and soybean and corn. And Kramer says, well that's okay. Whatever Trump wants Trump gets. I would never be in a situation to subscribe to that. I respect your views and I think both people are people of good character, but they believe very different things. So, when I grew up in North Dakota, you would sooner cut off your hand at the wrist then talk about religion. I mean, I went to the little Lutheran Church in Region North Dakota and religion was private. You didn't go talk about your religion, but you went to church and prayed and you went every Sunday because you should, and wanted to. These days, we have people wearing religion on their sleeves. Kevin is one of them and boy, I don't know. I worry about a lot of people that wear religion on their sleeves and use it politically and tell other people what to do with respect to their religious beliefs and so on. Brent: Well, I have this big theory on politics. That, it's basically sport now. The reason people want to use religion, it because its the easiest argument to have with somebody, that "God would be unhappy if you did this." How am I going to argue with that? How do I make an argument against that? Obviously, there are social issues at face, but its almost become just an Evangelical Christians, they're Republicans who don't want to go against God. God is a Republican, clearly, in their mind and I think that's just become part of this larger game that people are playing. There is very little reality in the political spectrum I feel like anymore, especially in the Federal system. Sen. Dorgan: Yeah, but you know, look, I get these things. So a president has his attorney pay $130,000 to a porn star to shut her up, right? Or a Pres. says, I'm gonna separate thousands of kids at the border from their parents and we won't even keep track of where they all came from and so it's going to be hard putting them all back. That's not Christian. These aren't Christian values you're talking about right? So, that's what bothers me. We're kind of in uncharted territory when anybody uses religion as some sort of a test in terms of their own personal view of religion. So, I don't know. The key, I think, politically, for Heidi, and I'm a fan of Heidi's. I think she's authentic. I like her a lot, and I think she is a good Senator and will make a good Senator the next term as well. But, the key is, you can't please everybody, but you chart a course that you think is best for our state and our country and you take the President on when you should. You support him when you think it's reasonable. I understand what Heidi's doing. Support it. Think she's the right choice. So we'll see. The fact is, it's going to be a contested election and probably pretty close. In the end, I think Heidi will win. Brent: Democrats keep talking about this blue wave in 2018, now that we're kind of on the election here. Is that a reality, because I don't see it. Number one, I'll tell you why we have no blue wave. Gerrymandering in the house is out of control Democrats are going to need a big, big push to be able to win in the house and we don't have enough seats in the Senate available to us. I think eight Republicans are up? Eight or ten. I can't think off hand. Sen. Dorgan: I think it's eight. Brent: So, you're looking at the this and there are Democrats out there, I mean, I get the e-mails every day from all kinds of candidates who are basically telling Democrats that they're ready to take this back. Do we have to be realistic here or do the good vibes help to push this forward? Sen. Dorgan: My thought is that there's going to be, I don't know whether it's a blue wave, but there's going to be a wave of people who show up at the polls. Who are pretty incented to try to send Donald Trump a message. The old Claude Pepper, the oldest man in the U.S. House when I showed up there. He used to say, "The Constitution gives the American people this miracle. Every second year, they get to grab the steering wheel. Every second year, the American people grab that steering wheel and decide which way do they steer America. I think given what's happening in the White House more recently, the last couple years, I think they want to do that. Now, I think they wanted to do it with Trump as well. I mean, i think Trump's message was pretty clear. He said things that were disqualifying to me. I mean, he'd stand up on the trail and say, "I support torture." Well, somebody supports torture and my judgment should not be elected? He said, "I think we should consider allowing Japan and the Saudies and South Korea to have nuclear weapons." In my judgment, that just disqualifies him because he doesn't think through these things. Having said all that, the American people elected him and he did get three-million fewer votes than Hillary, but they elected him and they did it because I think they looked at him and went, "you know what? If he goes to the White House, he's going to break some glass and kick some you-know-what and I kind of want to see someone kick them all around." So, I think that's why people voted for him. Brent: I have this theory too. Which is that possibly the country will never be the same after this. I don't mean that in a good way, but I also don't necessarily mean it in a bad way. The way I see it, Trump is doing well enough, and he's appeased his base enough; the people who voted for him. Whether steel and aluminum tariffs, whether they actually do good, it will end up costing us more money in the future. It will end up doing all these issues. That doesn't matter to steelworkers. That doesn't matter to autoworkers. Doesn't matter to them, because all they see is that the President did something for "us." Whether it works or not, they did something for "us:" And they probably won't see a problem in their pocketbook and so I think he's appeased that portion of the base. What I'm concerned about, a little bit, is that they're going to see that. Things don't go too bad for Republicans in 2018. he could get re-elected in 2020, despite indefinite detention of children and despite all the other things he has done. Despite the fact that we're looking at how many different scandals he's been involved in and yet, in 1994, was it? We thought that was the biggest thing that could ever happen to a President of the United States and here we're ignoring the fact that, like you said, he paid off a porn star. Actually, looks like paid off two porn stars. Sen. Dorgan: Probably three. I don't know. Look, you might be right. My own view is that I think he probably won't be re-elected. I want him to keep us out of wars between now and then. I want him to stop doing stuff that would open up ANWR to oil development in Alaska. Stop changing the rules so that you can dump as much methane into the air as you like; and that people won't be able to drink clean water and breathe clean... I'd like him to be somewhat thoughtful about the policies we need. I understand that we have too many regulations; let's get rid of some that aren't worthy, but let's keep some that are really important for human health and other things. So, we'll see. I think it is not enough for Democrats just to be against Trump. Democrats need to have a vision and a set of values about who they're fighting for and what they want America to be in the future; with respect to people who need jobs and people who need health care and so-on. So, we need to do much more than we're now doing as Democrats. Brent: I think you're absolutely right on that, and I think one of the things that; not... I think that social issues are super important. I think they are a thing that affects so many people. However, I also feel like, the majority of Americans are already on board with all of that, and I feel like that's where the Democrats also failed in 2016. They spent a lot of time kind of pushing these social issues, like transgender bathrooms, and all those things. While they were important, no doubt, these people should not be discriminated against; that is not an issue that ninety-nine percent of Americans care about. I think that's certainly a problem. Number one; they didn't talk to working-class Americans. Hillary Clinton, again, I'm not going to "bag" on anybody, but I will say this, is the most qualified candidate to probably ever run for the office. Also, at the same time, not a likable person to the American people. I don't want to say it. I know there's a lot of connotation there. I voted for her. I think, she would have made a great President, but this is a personality contest now and we need to understand that. Sen. Dorgan: I don't disagree with that at all. I think she was not the best candidate in a lot of ways. However she was speaking it wasn't to the people; the guts of people. You know, that message somewhere between the brain and the belly that gives people a sense of, "this is something I care about. This is someone that's going to do something about it." So, I agree with that. I think she... I admire her. I think she's unbelievably talented. Would have made a good President if the Republicans would have allowed her to be a good President, but the fact is, she didn't' do a ... very good... you know, it's almost malpractice not campaign in Wisconsin as a Democrat. Brent: And in Michigan. You're missing out on... there's no situation... Sen. Dorgan: But, having said all that, she still won the election by three-and-a-half million votes, but lost the electoral college. So, she's not President. Brent: We can have that argument. I know a lot of people want to always make that, she won by three-million more votes. That's fine... Sen. Dorgan: ... but if she lost the Presidency... Brent: The electoral college; number one, when Bush won in... 2000... Sen. Dorgan: ... 2000. Brent: Yeah. We knew that that was an issue. Nobody did anything. Nobody tried to... I don't remember any Senators pushing for a Constitutional amendment to fix the electoral college. We knew that was an issue and we allowed it, because we said, " it probably won't be a problem later. We'll be fine." Sen. Dorgan: It wouldn't have needed to be an issue if Al Gore had selected Bob Graham as his running mate in Florida. He would have won Florida easily. Bob was wildly popular in Florida and there wouldn't have been a recount in Florida. So that's Al Gore's fault. Brent: We can also have the conversation about Tim Kain being chosen as... Tim, great guy. Doesn't move the dial at all. Sen. Dorgan: I like him a lot, and he played the role the campaign gave him, so that wasn't... but I understand your point. Brent: I'm just... in my adult life, it's mostly been Obama-Biden. Two of the most charismatic people to ever be in an administration; and I look at it and I say, Democrats did not realize that they were the ones that won that re-election because of their personality. I mean, their policy was great, but they won it because of their personalities, because of their charisma, because they would speak directly to your heart; and you felt it. I've been in the room while they both of them spoke and I was inspired. We don't do that and that's the problem. You say you don't think Donald Trump would be re-elected in 2020. Well, we're getting close to 2018's election. Who is the leader of the Democratic party right now? Who is the person who you're going to want on that ticket? I mean, it might be Joe Biden, but I think it might be a little late for Joe. Sen. Dorgan: Well, there will be a lot of people running. Gil Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, or Delaney the Congress. I bet there will be twelve or fourteen people announced for President. We'll see. I agree with you, I think that there's some political cholesterol blocking the emergence of new leaders, because many of the people, Bernie, and so many others, are in their late seventies in the Democratic leadership; but I think we will see new leaders emerge in the Democratic party. Look, what we need in both political parties... I would like to see strong new leaders in the Republican party come out and eclipse the Trump doctrine of Republicanism, and I'd like to see strong leaders in the Democratic party develop a real agenda for the country. Then, let's see where we go. Given America the choice of what kind of a country they want. Where do they want to head? What do they want to strengthen in this country's future? Brent: You know what I miss? You know what person I miss? This is going to sound weird too. John Boehner. That guy, I felt like he would have stood up to Trump when Trump needed to be stood up to. Sen. Dorgan: Sure we would have, but they threw him out. I mean, John, I mean he quit, but he quit because he couldn't govern his caucus and his caucus wouldn't... Look, I like John a lot. John and his wife and in the old days, my wife and I, we met John and his wife and knew them and liked them. In the old days, people met each other and you had relationships and so on. John Boehner was a good speaker, honestly, but he finally just said, I quit, because I can't get done what I need to get done through this caucus. Brent: I think that's probably what Paul Ryan is facing right now. I don't think Paul Ryan is a man of as much integrity. Sen. Dorgan: He doesn't have the strength that John Boehner had. Not at all. Brent: No. I also think that Paul Ryan has political aspirations and that's why he's doing this, in my head, because either he's eventually going to run for Governor of Wisconsin and then President, or he's just going to try to go straight for President once Trump's done. So, he's going to spend some time with his family. Help raise his kids for a couple of years and then he's going to try and go for higher office. That's my personal opinion, but I think you're right that he doesn't have the strength to control that caucus and he doesn't have that... Sen. Dorgan: Well, the fact was that he had a very strong reputation early on. That reputation has been injured a fair amount, I think, and we'll see what his future is; but I think what's happened is that while he's pushed back a little bit, but the phrase of choice these days is to say, "well, I wouldn't have said it that way," right? That's not enough. I think he's injured his reputation a bit, but he's a young man and we'll see what happens to his future. Brent: How often do you speak with President Clinton? Sen. Dorgan: Um, maybe two/three months ago. He and I talked. Brent: What's is like being friends with a President? Any President really? Sen. Dorgan: Well, we used to golf together. There's a picture of him and I golfing on the wall. He's a really interesting, smart... has a really facile mind. He's an interesting guy. You would, I think most anybody would like to spend some time with him talking. It's kind of like if you like economics, and I like economics, and I've had an opportunity to spend time visiting with Warren Buffett. In fact, on the way in this morning to work, I was thinking about this, because Warren had sent me an e-mail a while back and he said, 'If you get to Omaha anytime soon, call me and we'll have a hamburger.' I was thinking on the way in, I should just go to Omaha and have a hamburger because I haven't seen him for a long while, although we've been exchanging some emails. If you want to know about the economy, you want to talk to Warren Buffett, right? If you want to know about politics; pretty good to talk to Bill Clinton. He's an encyclopedia. Brent: This is a hard turn. Are we beyond the time of the bipartisanship? Are we ever going to be in a position where real bipartisanship exists anymore? Sen. Dorgan: It depends on... if voters can find a way to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. I think bipartisanship will come back, but we have a circumstance these days where talk radio and cable television admonish those who come to the center to reach a compromise, because the question is, 'do you stand for your values or principles or do you compromise'? If you compromise, it's a dirty word. Compromise is what brings people together from different parties with different views. At the moment, there is not much compromise on anything. It may happen. It may change and I think the voters will have a lot to say about whether it changes. Brent: I've had this theory post Tea Party, I know that things weren't great even during the Clinton Administration. Speaker Gingrich was very standoffish, and there were some issues there. However, they were able, you guys were able to come to a lot of agreement and do things, and it was able to work. But, I've had this theory that following theTea Party movement in 2010. I feel like the Republicans, especially at the time, they embraced this movement because they knew they could get the votes. Which they do a lot. They embrace movements so they the voters. But what they didn't realize is that emboldened those people and then got a lot of Tea Partiers elected. And we got that far-right elected, the Louis Gohmert's of the world. That started to happen because they emboldened those voters. They didn't really fell like they were going to give them the voice that they said they were going to, and then they became members of Congress and started doing that. Sen. Dorgan: Yeah, I think that's right. It's also the case, from my perspective, that Democrats are by and large a party that believes in governance. Believes in the possibilities and the potential of good government. The Republicans are more often than not are a party that has been attacking government, saying government is the problem. You remember Ronald Reagan's speech. Government's not the solution, it's the problem. The fact is, Government is really us. we create it, and we determine who runs it and so on. So, after a couple, two or three decades, of really denigrating government over and over and over again, it's not surprising that people have less confidence in and less affection for their institutions, including government. It's not just government, but government is one of those institutions that has been under attack for a long while. And I think our government is really important. In self-government. You know, a country, the most successful democracy in the history of humankind exists in this country. It's not the only democracy. But it's the longest surviving representative government in world history. It's really important that we nurture that, and take care of it. Because there's no ultimate guarantee that the destiny of our country is to always be what we are. A country, that has substantial liberty and freedom and opportunity, it requires us, as Americans, to take care of and nurture this process called democracy. Brent: Not to be too dire here, but the worry I have is that we're not going to, and we are going to let it fail... Sen. Dorgan: Maybe. Maybe, but sometimes you just avoid an accident at the last minute when you're on the road. You know what I mean? So, clearly, we careen, and we have before, we careen off into different directions and it looks pretty problematic. And then we find a way to create a correction, or a charismatic leader, maybe Republican or Democrat. Maybe a Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or a Teddy Roosevelt, you know, whomever, and brings us back to where we need to be. Brent: I thoroughly agree that there needs to be someone, who will bring us back. And, on the government point, I've had people who said "How can you support the government, when you see so much waste?" I say, "I don't think that it works great right now, but the idea of government is great. The Idea of these things. A collective society, doing things for other people. That works for me." I love it, I love the idea of it. Is there a lot of waste? Sure there is. But nothing is perfect. Sen. Dorgan: Isn't it interesting that when citizens face the greatest difficulties. I'll give you an example. When Houston's under siege in a hurricane that is coming dead center to Houston. And it's gonna cause tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. And, when that passes through. Guess what is the most important element in the recovery? It is the combination of a government saying to them "you're not alone, we're here to help." And then the resilience of the human spirit of people who live there. That combination together is the way you begin to get well from these kinds of devastating circumstances. So, government is really, there are times when government is absolutely essential. And there are times when government goes too far and does things that make you kind of angry. And has rules and regulations that you think are not very smart. But, by and large, I think this country's government has served the country quite well. There is no place like this. We have the strongest economy in the world. I think we're more open and free society with liberty and freedom. This is a really remarkable place. Despite all of our imperfections. And what all of us say day to day about how we wish things were different. The fact is, every second year we get to grab the steering wheel, the American people get to decide. "Where do we head?"And we'll do that, and we do that every couple of years and somehow we find our way out of disappointment. And we find our way towards success. Brent: I'm just going to leave that there. I think that's perfect. Sen. Dorgan: Alright, good well thank you very much. Brent: Did I do OK? Sen. Dorgan: You did great. You have a good affinity for this. Number one you got a great voice, and second I think, having studied with Ed for many years, you know the issues really well. Sen. Dorgan: Thank you. I appreciate that. Like the nervousness of that first call with Byron Dorgan, I was very nervous. Thank you so much.
15 minutes | 3 years ago
Episode 000 - The Pilot - An Introduction to Origin Stories: A Podcast about Politics and people
In Episode 000 of the Origin Stories Podcast, longtime talk radio producer Brent Jabbour explains the inspiration behind “The Podcast about Politics and People.” From working with Ed Schultz to the lack of discourse in politics there is a hole that needs to be filled. We play clips from upcoming episodes that include conversations with Sen. Byron Dorgan - D-ND, Michael Steele - Former RNC Chairman, Scottie Nell Hughes - Grassroots Republican Strategist, Ned Ryun - CEO of American Majority, and Former Representative Jack Kingston, R-GA. (Worry not lefties, we have scheduled a conversation with many folks involved with the progressive movement coming up after Labor Day.) Transcript: Brent Jabbour: Welcome to episode zero of the Origin Stories Podcast. It's a podcast about politics and people. My name is Brent Jabbour, and I wanted to give you a pilot episode for multiple reasons. One, which is technical because I want to get it up and get it on all the aggregator sites like Itunes, Google Play, stitcher, all of the places you might get podcasts. But also because I wanted I wanted to give you an explanation on why I am doing this. For a long time, about eight or nine years, I was a producer with Ed Schultz. I started on his national radio show as a call screener, and then I went on to book guests for the daily radio show, when he stopped doing the radio show in 2014 I stayed and I ran his podcast and his website. And then I came to Washington D.C. to work on the News with Ed Schultz on RT America to book guests for that program as well. As many of you who are fans of Ed Schultz know, he unexpectedly passed early in July. And so I got to this point where I was a little sad, I was a little lost, I didn't know what I was going to be doing following that as he had always been such an inspiration, he always gave me direction on what I wanted to do. And I realized over the last month and half, maybe two months by the time this is released, that one of the things I miss most about my friend Ed is that I would talk to him every day, I would go and sit in his office and he would share personal stories and relate those to why he felt certain ways on policy. Sometimes they weren't necessarily policy related, it was a just a good story about why he was the way he was. And it gave me insight into him. And, many people didn't fully understand who he was. They would think he was a loudmouth or he was angry. Which he may have been, but the fact is that he was a kind and generous person who had a lot of cool experiences going back to his childhood all the way moving forward into his life as a political pundit, talking head, host of the Ed Show on MSNBC. I can't tell you the amount of stories and things that we talked about that were as simple as the time he was in the film The Campaign, with Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell. He just had a little part, where he was basically doing the Ed Show talking about this race that was the subject of the movie. And, he would talk about how goofy that whole situation was and also getting the residual checks for two or three dollars when it would show on Comedy Central or TNT. And he would say he would look forward to the times during campaign season because he knew the film would air. Those kinds of little stories. What I wanted to do is bring those types of stories to the people you see every day, whether it is on television, on the Hill, doing things. The reason we called it Origin Stories is to play on the fact that no matter who these people are, you may see them as a hero or a villain, they could be either one depending on where you stand. But I want you to understand where they came from, maybe you can have a little empathy, maybe you have a little sympathy for the people involved in these movements. There is also this situation with people, especially those who are my age, I am in my mid-thirties, who are starting to become very active. And that is perfectly fine. However, what it has created is they are also starting to shut themselves down to people who are different from them. So they say, I can't be friends with that person, I can't understand that person, I refuse to compromise my position because they think so differently. Well, one of the things I realized is, I felt that way for a long time as well. And, when I moved to Washington D.C., which would be very strange because it is a progressive city, because Washington D.C. is the nation's capital, and now we have a Republican in the White House, I have run into a lot of conservatives, I have run into a lot of libertarians, a lot of Republican-Republicans, I would call them establishment folks. And I realized that they are very nice, they are normal people. Yes, I disagree with them on most every bit of policy that they might espouse. But, the fact is, they are nice people. People I enjoy being around. So, I wanted to bring their stories, not just the Conservatives, but the Liberals as well because those are people I really communicate with, I really understand. I've also had this very pragmatic view on things, where I don't really agree with the other side, however, I do understand how they have come to be. So that is what we are going to try to accomplish in the Origin Stories Podcast: A Podcast about politics and people, a little bit about personality as well. There are a lot of Ps and alliteration there as well. I think that comes from my old Top 40 radio days, having to come up with names for morning show stunts and the like. But the people you are going to hear from are probably people you know from the Ed Schultz days. But, some you may not know from that, people I just find interesting. The first two episodes and I am going to play some clips here at the end of this, are of Senator Byron Dorgan, a member of Senate leadership in the 90s and into the 2000s into the Obama administration, who a Senator from North Dakota, but just a good guy. And has always been nothing but polite to me, he is a Democrat. And, we really spoke about what the state of the country is, and the state of the party because I can talk about a left and right divide all day. But, the left and the left are very, very, very divided. And we are going to talk about that, and we are going to talk about what can be done to correct that. But, we are also going to talk about the people involved. I've known Senator Dorgan for six or seven years. But, I don't know him all that well. I have shared a few personal conversations with him. But, we learn quite a bit about his upbringing and how he molded his policy and what he thinks about what's going on in Washington today. In the second episode, we are going to take a 180 and we are talking to former RNC chair Michael Steele. Michael Steele, I had never met before, I had never spoken with him. I always thought he was an interesting guy. He had a small connection to Ed that we will discuss in the podcast, and I think you will really enjoy it. I really just admired him because I thought he was outspoken about the things that were happening in the Republican party that he disagreed with. And, because of that, I thought he would be really really interesting to talk to. Kind of a funny story about that whole situation: He was running a little late because he was dealing with a family issue and because of that was just googling doing a little last minute research on what I wanted to talk to him about. And we ended up getting into a long-long discussion about the Civil Rights movement, him growing up in Washington D.C. being about 9-10 years old during the 1968 riots. And then we went on to speak a lot about the Catholic church and religion because he wanted to be a priest, he went to seminary school. And that was really interesting to me. I had fun, I've had fun with both of those. And I am currently sitting here waiting to interview somebody else. I'm thinking this one will be pretty fun as well. So, what we have coming up, people I will be recording with: I have arranged an interview, I don't like to say interview it's actually a conversation, with Congressman Kevin Cramer out of North Dakota, a Republican. He's running for Senate right now against Heidi Heitkamp in a very contested seat, so we will see what happens there. We will see why he thinks he should be the next Senator. He takes a lot of guff from the left in North Dakota, which is a small sect, but in major cities like Fargo, major cities in North Dakota like Fargo, it's a pretty left-leaning town. I'm looking forward to talking to him. We will be talking to Senator Nina Turner, former State Senator from Ohio, she is now the President of Our Revolution, that's Bernie Sanders' organizing group. We are going to talk about that fracture on the left, but we are also going to talk about her. She is a very very interesting person, outspoken, and really knows the issues. But she is also a real everyday person. These are the people we will talk to. And eventually we will get into possibly a couple of athletes who are involved in activism, we'll speak with maybe some celebrities who are involved in activism, and how they got molded in that way. Why they take those life experiences they've had and they relate them back to getting involved. And that is really what we are doing. So, here are a couple of clips of some the interviews I have recorded. Kind of a sizzle reel, if you will. And I want you to go ahead, and when it is available on Itunes, please subscribe to it, subscribe to it through your favorite podcasting app: Clips (on tape): Brent Jabbour: As far as policy is there one thing you wish you could take back? Former Senator Byron Dorgan - D-ND: The vote the authorizing George W. Bush to take military action in the Gulf War. The vote required him to do a number of other things which he did not do. But, when Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice and others were giving us top-secret briefings day after day after day they made the case that they knew there were biological weapons and nuclear weapons and so on that threaten our country. Turns out, they were wrong. And it also turns out that I know, I know for a fact that some of what was said to us in top-secret briefings misrepresented the facts, and some of it deliberately misrepresented the facts. Scottie Nell Hughes - Republican Grassroots Strategist: This is what's happening across the board, and this is where Conservatives and Republicans continue to lose. I don't have to agree with you. But, I can still have sympathy and empathy for you and from your point of view. I may not agree with it, but I at least have to give you some sort of grace and look at it from your viewpoint. You're right. These kids did go through it. Interesting story, my son's going into sixth grade this year. I met his English teacher, and she said she had moved from Connecticut, about 8 years ago, and I didn't make the connection. Another mom called me, and says, you know, she was a teacher in Sandy Hook. And after Sandy Hook happened, she left her entire community and came to Nashville. That woman right there, I hold with so much high regard. Michael Steel - Former Republican National Committee Chair: No elected official should use the Bible for anything other than Sunday School or Church services. You live that out. You don't dictate it to others. So, if you are a pro-life Catholic like myself, then you live that out. I don't need to judge you, because God has made it very clear, he doesn't like it when we judge each other. That's not my job, that's his job. Ned Ryun - CEO - American Majority: I think the most important thing that I am trying to communicate to my children is, of course, I would like them to go to college, but at the same time, I think the most important thing they have to do is always have a desire to learn. Always be curious. And I think that is the one thing that I love about what my parents instilled in me is always be curious, always ask questions, always try to explore, always read as much as you can. One of the things I remember from growing up is read widely with discretion. It was one of those things they just instilled in me a desire to learn and always be curious, and always seek out and try to understand things much better. Former Representative Jack Kingston - R-GA: In Athens Georgia at the time wealth, wealth is always something everybody kind of watches but I think intellect was just as important. So, at the dinner table, you were allowed to have any opinion you wanted but you were not allowed to be unable to back it up. You had to be able to back it up, you had to be able to say this is what I believe and this is why. And I think every night we would have the traditional family dinner with my three sisters, and mom, and dad, and we were very fortunate in that respect. But, we would talk about things. (End of Clips) Brent Jabbour: That you so much for listening to the pilot episode, episode zero of the Origin Stories Podcast. Again, my name is Brent Jabbour. You can follow me on Twitter @BrentJabbour, please like the Facebook page, Origin Stories Podcast: A podcast about politics and people. And of course, feel free to give me any comments, tell me what you think. I'd love to hear what you have to say, just about this little bit. But We have a lot more coming up. It will be released every Thursday. Thank you.
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