Town hall with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. TRANSCRIPT: 6/3/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: I`m Chris Matthews, live from the John Wright
Theater at Fresno State on a special HARDBALL Town Hall Event. Not since
Barack Obama was a candidate, has someone ignited so much buzz, so fast.
He`s 37 years old, a graduate of Harvard, a Rhodes Scholar, a Naval Reserve
Officer who was deployed to Afghanistan, and the mayor of a small city in
Indiana, population 100,000. Pete Buttigieg. He says his eight years
leading South Bend, Indiana gives him more experience to be president than
Donald Trump had.
He gave me a tour of his hometown, which a decade ago was cited as one of
America`s 10 Dying Cities; the same year Buttigieg was elected mayor.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
PETE BUTTIGIEG, MAYOR OF SOUTHBEND, IN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How you
MATTHEWS: So you don`t mind being called “Pete” by this guy?
You don`t have to say “Your Honor”?
BUTTIGIEG: That`s my name. He`s my mayor.
BUTTIGIEG: It would be fun (ph) if I insisted on being called your honor.
BUTTIGIEG: Hey, how are you? Good seeing you.
MATTHEWS: In South Bend they call him “Pete,” the hometown mayor who`s
suddenly a national celebrity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say hi to Mayor Pete.
MATTHEWS: When you wake up in the morning, do you feel mayor?
BUTTIGIEG: Yeah. Do I? Yeah. Because the first thing you`re doing is
you`re checking to see what happened overnight. If it wasn`t something
worth waking you up over, there`s still stuff you need to know about.
MATTHEWS: Is it a crime report you get?
BUTTIGIEG: I get instant reports as they happen and I get a monthly look
at where the numbers are.
MATTHEWS: The city was in a decades-long decline. Indianapolis Star
called the business district a blighted ghost town, the tallest highrise
was empty. Today investment is pouring in. There are new condos, parks,
restaurants; even a nightly light display along the river. One of the
mayor`s proudest achievements? Smart sewers.
BUTTIGIEG: So this little thing here contains a piece of equipment that
can communicate wirelessly. And what it`s doing is it`s linking to a
sensor that goes down to that PVC tube down there.
BUTTIGIEG: And then that is giving you a level reading on what the level
is here. So if you know that this one`s starting to get close to topping
out, you can reroute the flow to other places, avoiding an overflow.
MATTHEWS: I`ll bet you Donald Trump`s never had one of these experiences.
BUTTIGIEG: I doubt it.
So. There`s different parts of even this building, which is just one part
of the complex.
MATTHEWS: Now the mayor took me to the site of the old Studebacker plant,
which closed in 1963; at one time it employed 24,000 people.
BUTTIGIEG: The company basically folded, almost overnight. They`d had
some problems in the `50s; labor issues, business problems and then the
word went out one December day in `63 and the whole city changed. I mean,
people thought the city was dead, pretty quick after that and started
losing population. Down by the `90s we were down about 30,000 people from
How are you doing?
MATTHEWS: The mayor transformed this site into a technology hub; also a
site for nonprofits. The city still faces challenges. The jobless rate
among African Americans is almost twice as high as for whites. One of the
mayor`s policies, demolishing vacant homes faced early pushback from
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`d say, well, what`s your plan to help the
neighborhood? Because you`re demolishing everything. What about building
and repairing? And so that`s when we came up with like 500 Homes in 500
BUTTIGIEG: We lost a quarter of our population. Plus the housing stock,
it peaked, you know, eventually becomes a little different than what people
want and need, in terms of demand. You`ve got houses built in the `40s and
`50s; smaller lot sizes, smaller house sizes. People want something
I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana and I am running for President of
the United States.
MATTHEWS: Buttigieg wants his record as mayor to power his presidential
campaign. He told me he`s proud of where he comes from. Rust Belt.
BUTTIGIEG: You know, a lot of my fellow industrial Midwesterners want to
ban that from the vocabulary. I think we should own it. I think we should
own and transform what it means to say “Rust Belt”. To me, it ought to be
a source of pride – that we`re a place that was built around one kind of
economy, took it in (INAUDIBLE) – because of the changes that happened and
then figure out a way to grow and – and adapt to the future.
MATTHEWS: I think Trump promised to bring it back.
BUTTIGIEG: He did. But he promised to bring it back by returning to the
BUTTIGIEG: And that`s just not a promise you can keep (INAUDIBLE) –
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MATTHEWS: And now –
The biggest star to come out of the South Bend, Indiana –
– since Rudy – Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
BUTTIGIEG: How you doing?
Hello. How you doing?
MATTHEWS: Pretty good.
BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for asking.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get into business now on the issues that matter to the
news business, but to the real people out there, who are here. The
shootings in Florida – in Virginia, Virginia Beach this week – 20 – 12,
12 dead, 12 dead. You`ve gone out for a national licensing plan. How
would that work? We have almost 400 million guns in this country; how do
you license them?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, that`s the thing. I mean, if you have to have a license
to have a car, it doesn`t seem that unreasonable that for deadly weaponry,
we would do the same.
I know most Americans are fine with this. Most responsible gun owners,
this shouldn`t cause any problems for them. But the issue is that when we
lack that, just as we lack universal background checks, in most states we
lack Red Flag Laws to disarm domestic abusers or help with other situations
where somebody who poses a danger to others, or to themselves, can far too
easily get a weapon. It`s making our country less safe.
I`m fine with this being something that is harmonized at the federal level,
but managed at the state level; kind of how we do IDs that are suitable for
flying federally, but issued at the state level. But the point is, it`s
got, though, to be up to a certain standard nationally in order for it to
MATTHEWS: All right. Well, the NRA, as you know, has been wildly against
this, since I was born practically. They talk about it, gun registration
is the enemy; they`ll round them up next. Would it be by serial number?
Would you – how would it work? Would everybody who has a gun in their
house call in the ATF and register? How would it work?
BUTTIGIEG: Look, I think the most important thing is what we do going
forward. So retroactively is going to be tougher. Right? I`ve got a
couple antique rifles I brought back from Afghanistan; you couldn`t fire
them if you tried. I don`t know how you`d go about registering those, but
what we`re talking about –
MATTHEWS: What about a regular guy who owns, a person who owns a shotgun;
should they register it?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think at the point of sale there should be a –
I mean, again –
MATTHEWS: But they own them.
BUTTIGIEG: I`ve got to register my car. Right?
MATTHEWS: We own 400 million guns now.
BUTTIGIEG: So let`s at least get it right going forward.
MATTHEWS: So the future guns get registered.
BUTTIGIEG: Yeah. At minimum –
MATTHEWS: But not the ones that we have now.
BUTTIGIEG: Look, we can – let`s figure out a system that we can do –
MATTHEWS: Have you changed on this? Because I thought – I thought you
said a while ago that you believed in licensing of all guns.
BUTTIGIEG: Look, I think we can start on a go-forward basis. Then we`ll
have a system we can actually use.
To look at what we can do retroactively, too. But at a minimum, if we`re
not doing it at the point of sale –
– for purchase going forward, we can begin.
MATTHEWS: How many would like to see that?
MATTHEWS: How many don`t like the idea of registering guns?
BUTTIGIEG: One or two.
MATTHEWS: Come on. There are a few. Some people out here –
BUTTIGIEG: I see the honest people.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the guy who`s leading now in the polls, Joe
Biden, over the weekend. You made a mention about the fact that, that
basically the – that you couldn`t get back to the norm.
MATTHEWS: That we can`t get back to the `90s any better than we can go
back to the `50s, because the Democrats were rejected. People voted for a
– in the Electoral College, at least, for Trump.
BUTTIGIEG: Here`s the thing. People have seen Democratic and Republican
administrations, letting them down for basically as long as I`ve been
alive. And there`s a sense that our economy and our government are
twisted, are tilted, are not working for us. And it was incredibly
upsetting. At a time when most Americans, by the way, agree with Democrats
on most issues – to see us basically cast out as though we represented the
system – if we don`t demonstrate that we understand the need to transform
the systems that we`re living in; not just tinker around the edges, not
replicate what we`re used to. I guess the point is, if we have a campaign
where the theme is, let`s go back to normal – then I think it`s going to -
MATTHEWS: That`s what Biden wants, isn`t it? You`re suggesting Biden
would do that.
BUTTIGIEG: I`m not going to talk to anybody else`s campaign strategy.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes you are. You are – this is an indirect shot at Biden.
BUTTIGIEG: Look, there`s like –
MATTHEWS: Does anybody think he`s talking about Biden? When he says we`re
Thank you. I heard the noise.
BUTTIGIEG: There`s like, there`s like 24 of us. I don`t know which ones
are pursuing –
MATTHEWS: All right.
So you think you can get an unanswered shot from Biden when he would say,
“Some people want to go back to Obama/Biden,” and want to go back to
Hillary, but I`m not going to name them. Like, come on.
This is honesty here. OK?
BUTTIGIEG: This is a lot bigger than one candidate or even one cycle. I`m
talking – I believe we`re at a moment between periods in American history
– every 30, 40, 50 years you come to one of this hinge points; the
beginning of the Reagan Era was one – and the Reagan Era has basically
lasted all the way until now.
It is constrained how Democrats and Republicans have behaved once they got
into office; the problem is it didn`t work. The whole idea – and
Democrats bought into this, too, was the rising tide lifts all boats. As
long as we make sure there`s growth, everything else will take care of
The problem is, you start the clock right around the time I was born. And
what you find is the rising tide rose, but most of the boats didn`t budge.
Most people`s median income didn`t move. And I think that sense that the
system overall has failed us, helps to explain why, you know, in, around
here, in this part of California, certainly around where I live, in the
Industrial Midwest, a lot of people who were under no illusions about the
president being a good guy, OK? That they`re under no illusions about his
character, but they decided to vote, effectively to burn the house down.
BUTTIGIEG: To send a message and that`s exactly what we got.
So we`ve got to demonstrate that we are speaking to the fundamental
concerns that made it possible. You know –
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a powerful message, Mayor, because I want to ask
everybody if they agree. Do you believe that the politicians at the
national level, of both parties, have been out of touch?
Let`s go to a local person, right off the bat. Jacqueline Lowe (ph).
Where`s Jacqueline Lowe (ph)? There she is; thank you. Fourth generation
farmer, walnut farmer here in Fresno, California.
Jacqueline (ph), go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon, Mayor Pete.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to Fresno and thank you, HARDBALL, for coming
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Jacqueline Lowe (ph) and I`m a fourth
generation, generation farmer. And my family farm currently raises walnuts
in the San Joaquin Valley. President Trump`s policies on tariffs and trade
are absolutely devastating our opportunity to sell our products overseas.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Particularly in Asia. Now you are in Fresno, in the
heart of the San Joaquin Valley, one of the richest agricultural areas in
the world – and we would like to know what are your ideas on trade policy?
And tariffs – as they relate to farmers and AG policy?
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you. Well, first of all, thank you for being here.
Thank you for raising that issue. And I hope we get a chance to try your
I bet that when I do, one of the things I`ll come away believing is that
anybody in the world ought to be able to enjoy it; you ought to be able to
sell it to anyone in the world. And the San Joaquin Valley helps feed not
just America, but the world. The products that are grown here are world
class. And yet, what we`re finding is that because of a shortsighted – I
can`t even call it a strategy – I can`t even call it a policy – it`s a
It`s a pattern of poking people in the eye to see what`ll happen. But when
you don`t have - look –
I completely get the idea of – China`s doing something unfair. I get the
idea of standing up to them. If there are trade deals that are not
benefiting us enough, I get the idea of adjusting them to make sure that
it`s fair trade. But that`s not what we`re seeing right now.
What we`re seeing right now is basically politically motivated gamesmanship
and it`s coming down on your back. It`s hurting farmers. It`s hurting
workers. It`s hurting consumers. I wonder how many consumers are yet
aware that the projection is that we will all pay, on average, 800 bucks
more a year, starting now, because of these tariffs. And by the way, a
tariff is a tax.
So if you ever believed the Republicans don`t raise taxes, that`s what
they`re doing right now.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to - Mayor –
We have another guest.
Calvin Fleming (ph), sir, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Mayor Pete. Happy Pride.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a gay dad who adopted my two sons through foster
care, I wanted to find out what your plans were to fix the broken foster
care system. Hint, I hear you and Chasten are looking to grow your family.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, thank you for making such a positive
difference in the lives of your children. And I believe that we have been
seeing the consequences of grossly under-resourced foster care systems.
You know, each state does it differently and most every state is letting
kids and families down.
So we need to have a process that will hold states to a higher standard.
Yes, it`s OK that states can have some independence on this, but it is not
OK for children to be kicked around from home to home, for wait lists to be
infinitely long – and by the way, it would also make a big difference if
it were harder for agencies to discriminate against same sex parents who
can provide loving –
– families –
And as for our plans, Chasten`s right here; he`s a very patient person.
We`re obviously, I`ve made a couple of professional decisions that are kind
of complicating our –
– pathway to parenthood, but – but we can`t wait and maybe you can give
us some advice down the line on that.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: How to meet that challenge.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, thank you.
I wanted to ask you –
I want to talk to you about – a follow up to Calvin (ph).
MATTHEWS: And what he raised there and I think there`s other questions
here, so we can get to, along those same lines. With your candidacy, we`re
at kind of a new frontier. We had a Catholic president when I was growing
up and – and it so happened – this is not just political talk –
(INAUDIBLE) like the president, his religion never came up again. It
wasn`t relevant. There were bigger things. We were fighting the Russians
and the Cuban Missile Crisis and things like that are much more important.
And with the first African American president, and I growing up in this
country thought, wow, this might be a challenge for the country – and yet,
you know, Michelle Obama was enormously popular as First Lady, a 70-some
BUTTIGIEG: She was really good at it.
MATTHEWS: And so, I wanted, Chasten`s here and I just think, I think – I
want to talk about the people, not like Mike Pence, who are never going to
vote for you, for all kinds of reasons, partisan and otherwise.
BUTTIGIEG: Hey, there`s hope for everybody. You never know.
MATTHEWS: What about the people – what about the people who honestly say,
“A gay couple in the White House; let me think about that.” What do you
want to say to them? They just want to think about it.
BUTTIGIEG: Just – I would ask them to think about what kind of president
I would make and how I would serve them. And that`s what we did in South
Bend. You know, when I came out, it was relatively late, certainly
compared to Chasten and other people I knew. I was already mayor. I`d
been through this deployment that prompted me to realize that you only get
one life and I thought, I`ve got to get on with the personal life and that
means coming out.
It happened to be an election year. And we weren`t sure what the politics
of it would be. I mean, Mike Pence was governor of our state at that time.
South Bend was generally Democratic, but also quite socially Conservative.
BUTTIGIEG: And what wound up happening is that I got re-elected with 80
percent of the vote, because people just cared about what kind of job I was
doing for them as mayor.
And I trust America to do the same thing –
MATTHEWS: One of the reasons I`m (INAUDIBLE) of people like Kennedy –
MATTHEWS: And I have to tell you, one reason he won the West Virginia
Primary, is he did it the way you`re doing it, very direct, very open, very
clear, and let them make up their minds. I think it`s wonderful, the way
you`re doing this.
And anyway, we`re going to come right back; we`re going to talk about
another lighthearted topic - impeachment. We`re coming back with that (ph)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to our special live town hall in Fresno,
California, with South Bend Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete
Thank you. Thank you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Right there.
Keith Caldwell (ph), your question, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Thank you. Welcome to California, Mayor
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Keith.
And I just want to let you know I`m starting to feel a little discouraged
and feel like all the work that I did in 2000 – and we all did in 2018
really didn`t matter. And I`m also starting to lose confidence in our
House Democratic leadership.
And I want to know if you support Speaker Pelosi`s slow, cautious approach
towards the impeachment inquiry or not and why?
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
First of all, I believe that the president deserves to be impeached.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: I would also say, even though I have revealed myself to be
ambitious, in that I am a young man running for president, that I also
would think twice before offering strategic advice to Nancy Pelosi.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: Because I think part of what`s happening here is, to a lot of
people, impeachment means removal from office. But it`s really a process,
And it`s the only process we have got left, because the DOJ has said, “You
can`t charge a sitting president.” And I don`t think it makes a lot of
sense to suggest that the president is above the law.
But, basically, it means the only place we can have a procedure, the only
place we can have a due process, the only way we can go through the steps
of evidence and so forth, as long as he is in the Oval Office, is in
Congress, in the form of an impeachment proceeding, which I think is what
we`re going to have to do.
But, in order to do that, it better be an airtight process. And so I do
recognize that, while we`re still trying to get information, the
investigations are ongoing, there are witnesses yet to come before
Congress, that there may be some strategic wisdom in following that
I will leave that to Congress.
What I will say is that no one ought to be above the law, that it matters
that there is a majority.
MATTHEWS: Mayor – Mayor, I have got a follow-up. And it`s to – it`s to
sort of nail you down.
MATTHEWS: If you were voting in Congress right now on impeachment, would
you vote to impeach?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I would.
MATTHEWS: OK. Good.
See how fast he is? Thank you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Let me to Angelique (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
So, you have a tremendous resume, one that speaks to your character and
your capabilities. But you are running in a field of truly exceptional
candidates, particularly in the case of the women who are running, like
Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.
So, my question to you is, why should the women of America vote for you
over our sisters who are kind of more qualified?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, look, I admire so many of the people running. They are
And, by the way, we ought to have a woman in the Oval Office right now.
I`m still disappointed that didn`t happen.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: I do think, though, that my qualifications are a little bit
different, that, when you have led a city, especially exactly the kind of
city that this president targeted with this rhetoric of nostalgia and
resentment, but that can find a new future in a way that I think disproves
this whole idea that making America great again has to do with turning back
When you have the experience of executive leadership on the ground on
everything from economic development puzzles, to officer-involved
shootings, not just discussing them, but having to actually handle them day
in, day out, and having to summon a community together when it comes under
moments of intense strain, not to mention knowing personally what it means
to be sent, ordered into a war zone by the stroke of a pen of the American
president, and I think a different kind of focus on the future than any of
my competitors in this process, I think that I represent something that`s
Now, the other thing that I want the women of America to know, because I
have met a lot of women who say, “I like you, I like your message, I think
you have got an appealing candidacy, but I just will not vote for a man
this time,” is that I get it, and whether you decide to be for me or not, I
promise that I will be for you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Mayor, the next one is Caylin Knopf (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Mayor Pete. My is Caylin (ph).
And, this fall, I will be embarking on graduate school. And so, like many
others, I will have to take out large sums of loans to pay for my
So, my question is, what will you do about student debt?
BUTTIGIEG: So this one`s pretty personal for us. I don`t know if you saw
the rankings of the wealth of the various candidates for president.
BUTTIGIEG: But our household is pretty much bringing up the rear on that
one, because – because we have six-figure student debt, not because of any
wrong choice, actually, largely because Chasten made the selfless choice to
be a teacher, and go through some very expensive graduate school in order
to get qualified to do that.
We have got to make debt more affordable in terms of interest rates, which,
if you can refinance a house, you ought to be able to do that on student
And I think more –
BUTTIGIEG: And I think more generous programs for public service loan
forgiveness, so that you can get it forgiven.
BUTTIGIEG: And then, on the front end, I think we should massively expand
Pell Grants, and this time actually peg it to inflation, so you don`t have
to go to Congress every time you want to raise them.
But I want to mention – and a bunch of other steps to make college more
But I want to mention something else that I think is important that doesn`t
come up as often in the conversation about college affordability, and it`s,
college should absolutely be more affordable.
It should also be more affordable to live and work in this country if you
haven`t been to college. OK, we`re talking about an American majority that
may not ever have a university degree. And that shouldn`t be a poverty
So we have also got to make sure that, through – first of all, making sure
that we have got a decent minimum wage, starting with $15.
BUTTIGIEG: But also, more broadly, that we honor work, and that we have
adequate benefits and good pay and affordable healthcare, housing,
education and the rest of it, that a working-class lifestyle is a good one.
It ought to be possible in this country to be able to afford to have your
kids go to school, and to put food on the table, and even to be able to
afford to be generous in some way to your little league, to your church,
whether you have gone to college or not.
And so, in addition to making going to college affordable, we have got to
make not going to college more affordable in this country.
MATTHEWS: How many – how many in the audience – just raise your hand.
How many in the audience, this issue of college debt is real, a kitchen
Yes, look at that, real people.
Let me go to Lydia (ph) right now.
Go ahead, Lydia (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, thank you for coming to Fresno.
Women`s rights and equality are very important issues to me, especially in
today`s political climate. You have talked a lot about getting along and
But in a primary where we have multiple strong progressive candidates to
choose from with detailed policies who are polling better than you right
now, my question is, what detailed policies will you put in place to
guarantee that abortion is kept safe, legal and accessible, but most
importantly, to guarantee women the right to choose what`s best for her
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BUTTIGIEG: So, I think that every candidate for the Democratic nomination
ought to be able to demonstrate our commitment to women`s reproductive
freedom, especially the candidates who are not themselves women.
That`s why I thought it was important for me to be on the steps of the
Supreme Court with Planned Parenthood. It`s why, if you visit our website,
you will see our commitment to repealing the Hyde amendment, our commitment
to making sure that judicial appointments are those who share my view that
freedom includes freedom to make decisions about your own body, and making
sure that we adequately fund the whole range, the whole spectrum of
reproductive health services, which, of course, includes abortion care, but
is not limited to that.
And I definitely invite folks to look at our website, because our website
contains more specific policy proposals than the majority of candidates for
president on the Democratic side right now, I promise.
MATTHEWS: Mayor Pete, thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: Check it out.
MATTHEWS: Mayor Pete, you should see – maybe you didn`t see all the
nodding heads from the women here as you were speaking then. It`s very –
I watched all the heads. They`re moving. They`re nodding again.
MATTHEWS: There`s a lot of agreement about concern about choice.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
We will be right back.
The lightning rod – round is coming next.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to our special HARDBALL town hall with Mayor Pete
We`re live in Fresno, a wonderful part of California.
Thank you for all being here, everybody.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: OK, lightning round.
Yes-or-no answers are – would suffice, but you want to expand on it…
BUTTIGIEG: All right.
MATTHEWS: Right-to-work laws.
The last time we had a town hall meeting, a guy stood up and said, “I hate
these right-to-work laws.” He said, “I`m an electrician. I don`t like the
fact that somebody can call themselves an electrician without joining the
Where do you stand, right-to-work laws?
BUTTIGIEG: Bad idea.
MATTHEWS: Bad idea. Even though you have them in Indiana, you`re against
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, we do, and it`s a bad idea. It helps explain why income
is so much lower in Indiana than a lot of other states.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MATTHEWS: A national draft?
BUTTIGIEG: No, but I do believe in national service.
And I think we should expand service year opportunities, not just military,
because the military is not for everybody, but things like AmeriCorps or
Peace Corps, you name it, until it becomes a norm that, when you`re 18, you
spend a year in national service.
And whether you`re headed to college or into the workplace, the first
question you would get on your application is, what did you do with that
MATTHEWS: I think that`s great.
BUTTIGIEG: I think it would…
MATTHEWS: It`s a cultural thing.
BUTTIGIEG: I think – yes, I think it would knit a lot of Americans
I got to know so many radically people from me, different politics,
backgrounds, when I was in the military. You shouldn`t have to go to war
to have that experience.
MATTHEWS: Did you ever have to use your weapon?
BUTTIGIEG: What`s that?
MATTHEWS: Did you have to use your weapon over in Afghanistan, ever?
BUTTIGIEG: I took it off safety a couple of times, but I was not kicking
down doors. It`s not like –
MATTHEWS: In other words, you were threatened. You were threatened.
BUTTIGIEG: We had a couple of hairy moments, but it`s not like I killed
bin Laden. I was an intel guy.
BUTTIGIEG: If it gets to where – if it gets to where I`m taking my weapon
off safety, it`s pretty – it`s pretty tough.
MATTHEWS: Voting in prison.
BUTTIGIEG: As soon as someone is released, I believe, without any red tape
or any cost, they should be able to vote.
I`m not there yet on when somebody`s still incarcerated.
MATTHEWS: What do you mean you`re not there yet? You sound like Kamala,
who said it should be part of the conversation.
Is it part of the conversation?
BUTTIGIEG: It`s not my position. And I want to be really up front about
MATTHEWS: You`re not heading toward that?
BUTTIGIEG: No, but I have had some really interesting conversations with
activists about that.
And what they have pointed out is, even if you believe philosophically, as
I do, that it`s possible that, in a fair system, part of what happens when
you`re removed from society for a sentence is that you`re also removed from
voting, we don`t have a fair system.
BUTTIGIEG: And we have a systematic racial bias in who`s incarcerated in
the first place.
BUTTIGIEG: And if we can`t correct that, it does make my position harder
Let me ask you, on the same topic, same cultural realities, capital
punishment, for or against it?
BUTTIGIEG: Against it.
Twenty-one states now against it, and you`re against it in any case, in any
MATTHEWS: OK. Those were all easy, and now the tough ones.
BUTTIGIEG: Oh, those were easy?
MATTHEWS: They weren`t. Just kidding.
MATTHEWS: Name some of your public figures, Republicans, who you respect -
- living Republican.
MATTHEWS: I will give you a few seconds.
BUTTIGIEG: Oh, I had such a great answer if it wasn`t living.
MATTHEWS: I know. Abraham Lincoln? Come on.
BUTTIGIEG: No, I got a better one for you.
MATTHEWS: Teddy Roosevelt?
BUTTIGIEG: Even better.
BUTTIGIEG: Wendell Willkie.
MATTHEWS: You know why? Because he…
BUTTIGIEG: He is from Indiana. He – he was – put country before party.
These are during the FDR years.
MATTHEWS: And he united the country going into World War II.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, wonderful, wonderful.
MATTHEWS: Yes, he was Roosevelt`s diplomat going to Britain to unite the
Al Franken, should have been pushed to resign from the U.S. Senate by the
Democratic Caucus, his fellow caucus members?
BUTTIGIEG: I think it was his decision to make. But I think the way that
we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people
has been used against us.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he should have been pushed to leave?
BUTTIGIEG: Again, it was his decision.
I think that –
MATTHEWS: But I`m not asking you about his decision. Should the other
members of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, starting at the top, Chuck
Schumer down, and the other people that pushed him to get out – they put a
lot of pressure on him to leave – were they right or wrong?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think it`s not a bad thing that we hold ourselves to a
MATTHEWS: I know, but were they right to do that, to push him out of the
Senate? Because they did.
BUTTIGIEG: I would not have applied that pressure at that time before we
MATTHEWS: OK, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Let me – let`s go to Scott Sally (ph), Scott Sally (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome, Mayor Pete.
I wanted to thank you for your service…
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: … and also on that sort of topic ask you, if you had been in
the U.S. Senate in 2002, would you have voted, along with Senators Biden
and Clinton, to go into the Iraq War, and why?
BUTTIGIEG: So I was against the Iraq War then, and I believe now it was a
I was obviously not in the Senate. I was a student. But I actually
thought – you`re supposed to pretend that it never crossed your mind to
run for office until you actually do. I actually did think when I was in
college that I might run for office one day.
And I actually thought it would probably hurt any future political career
that I might have when I stood up and spoke at an anti-war protest as a
student. But I also believed so strongly that it was the wrong thing to
And we didn`t find weapons of mass destruction. If we did, I think it
would have been an even worse mistake, because they would have been used
against us. And we have seen what a total policy disaster that was. And
it gave democracy promotion a bad name.
I actually really believe in democracy promotion. I just don`t think we
should do it at gunpoint. But, at the end of the day, that was something
that cost hugely in lives, in treasure, and in America`s reputation. It
was a mistake then, and a lot of people back then – it`s not just
something in hindsight.
A lot of people back then knew it was a mistake. And I`m afraid there were
some Democrats who maybe believed deep down that it was a mistake, but
didn`t think that it was safe to say so.
MATTHEWS: Mayor –
MATTHEWS: What – if you`re elected President of the United States, what
would you say to Vladimir Putin the first time you met him?
MATTHEWS: Because you will get to meet him.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, don`t mess with our elections, for one.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Nia Parks (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, Mayor Pete. My name is Nia Parks (ph), and my
question to you is the topic of reparations has come up a lot in this
election. I would like to know what your take is on that. And if elected,
how would you go about that strategy of giving back to slavery?
BUTTIGIEG: So, thanks you for your question.
I think it`s time for us to have this discussion. And there is a proposal
in Congress called HR-40. It`s named after the 40 acres and a mule promise
that was made but not kept to former slaves. And it proposes that we set
up a commission to look at how we could establish a fair and reasonable way
to go about reparations.
I believe that we have to do this for this reason. You can`t just have
racist policies for one generation to another, all the way up to this
present day, and replace them with maybe less racist policies or neutral
policies and expect everything to just get better. The generational wealth
gap for black Americans has so many black families at a net worth of
Obviously, that is a consequence of the fact that we live in a country
where some people used to own other people, and none of us is free – even
– look, a lot of people think, well, why should I have to contribute to
this in any way because I wasn`t around in the Civil War or something. But
we are living in these racist systems today, and that`s why in
entrepreneurship, in home ownership, in health, in education, of course in
criminal justice – not to mention in democracy itself where it is
systematically harder for people of color, especially black neighborhoods
to be able to access the vote in so many parts of this country, that we
have to systematically reverse that.
I think the time has come and real resources may have to go into that, if
only because some of these disparities came about as a result of policy
since slavery. I`m not just talking about far-off historic wrongs, I`m
talking about the fact that some of our segregated neighborhoods – and of
course here in Fresno, there is an egregious pattern of segregation, but
it`s true in my hometown, too. That`s not a knock on Fresno.
MATTHEWS: Mayor –
BUTTIGIEG: Some of that happened because of policy, because federal
subsidies – and this goes, for example, in the FDR administration,
actually took neighborhoods that were less segregated and made them more
segregated, the way that housing subsidies were distributed. So, we`ve got
to be intentional about this because a lot of intention, unfortunately,
brought us to the point we`re at right now.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, let me ask you about reparations back in the
Reconstruction Era, Thaddeus Stephens, one of my heroes, talked about 30
acres and a mule. Is it a quantum of money or is it, like an opportunity
to go to places like Dartmouth where there are special educational
opportunities? What would be the form of - so it would have (ph) an
ongoing enduring value to African-Americans in this country, not just money
up front but a change in their opportunity?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, that`s what this –
MATTHEWS: How do you do it?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, that`s what the commission ought to work out. But there
is no way you can do it without putting dollar resources behind it. Now,
the right can`t wait to caricature this –
MATTHEWS: I know.
BUTTIGIEG: – as a check in the mail that they say would be unfair.
MATTHEWS: Sure. But we did it with Japanese Americans.
BUTTIGIEG: That`s right. There can be ways of doing this that are fair or
at least bring us to a more just reality than the one we`re living in right
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about politics. I looked the numbers. You must
look at your poll numbers every once in awhile. I`m kidding. You have to
look at them.
African-Americans are not coming forward as a community to your campaign.
What is that about?
BUTTIGIEG: So, a couple of things. I think the biggest is that we`ve got
to reach out in communities that haven`t had a chance to get to know me.
If you are neither already famous with a long track record in national
politics nor yourself from a community of color –
BUTTIGIEG: – then of course, it`s going to take longer for people to come
to know and trust you. We were able to do it in South Bend. The minority
voters who know me best – by the way, not everybody, of course, but the
voters who know me best contributed to that big re-election margin that I
was talking about. I had years to build up that kind of trust.
Now, the most important thing is people need to hear the message. What I
have to say about how we can make a difference on black home ownership, on
health at a time when a black mother is three times as likely to die in
childbirth as a white mother, issues in generational wealth building,
concepts that don`t get talked about much like the black tax, which is
basically the name given to the fact that even for people who do well in
professional life, black professionals are more likely to find themselves
financially supporting members of their family or close social network.
And that this in turn helps make it harder even for those who made it into
that upper middle class to build wealth and create that kind of
MATTHEWS: Sharing incomes with other family members.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
We`ll be right back with the mayor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. We`ll be right
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Mayor Pete, this is what we`ve all been waiting for on our program right
now. This is not the first time you`ve been on HARDBALL at a live event.
In fact, many years ago you asked a question of a presidential candidate
who visited your college, Harvard.
Here you were back in 2003 asking Dick Gephardt about young voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTTIGIEG: Congressman, why are you the only presidential candidate not
attending tomorrow`s youth-oriented Rock the Vote forum? And do you think
young people`s votes matter in your campaign?
DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: They matter a lot, that`s
why I`m here tonight. And I`ve got to be in Iowa. I had a preset meeting
that I`ve got to go – I`ve got to win Iowa, I`m going to win Iowa, so I`m
going to be in Iowa tomorrow night.
But I talk to young people everywhere I am. I`ve got lots of young people
on my campaign. Maybe I ought to say this now, when I was in college, Jack
Kennedy was president and I was moved when he said to young people like me,
“Get involved in politics, give part of your life to politics.”
So I just want to say to all of you here – get involved in public life,
give back to your country, don`t just take from it and get involved in this
campaign. If it`s not for me, get behind somebody and get out there and
work to make this country a better place. You can do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You haven`t aged a year. Look at this guy. So was that the
stimulation that you needed to make a move for public life?
BUTTIGIEG: First of all, I`m a lot more sympathetic to scheduling – I was
pretty hard on him. I feel bad about that now.
Wow. How did you even find that?
MATTHEWS: We have one more question not from the audience, it`s a remote
question in (inaudible).
Sir, do you have a question for the mayor?
MATTHEWS: Dick Gephardt.
GEPHARDT: Hey, Mayor Pete, you really took me seriously, didn`t you?
MATTHEWS: How is he doing? How do you think he`s doing as a candidate?
GEPHARDT: Good for you.
MATTHEWS: How do you think?
GEPHARDT: He`s doing great.
So here`s my question, Mayor Pete. So I get asked all the time by people
all over the country what about the future of our democracy, of America?
And my answer is very simple, I`ve always been optimistic about America
because the people are good and they`re good citizens. You`re out there
now meeting thousands of them. Am I still right?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. That`s my experience.
MATTHEWS: Dick Gephardt is now a California voter.
BUTTIGIEG: Uh-oh. All right.
MATTHEWS: He`s a resident and voting resident of Santa Rosa. So, you got
to watch –
BUTTIGIEG: Got to get on his good side then.
BUTTIGIEG: No. I mean, that`s my experience, is that people – look,
people just want to know that they`re going to be OK, but, you know, people
can have good and bad things called out from within us. We`re all capable
of good and bad things. Just ask somebody you love.
And, you know, people individually and also collectively, I think we become
worse when we`re not secure. And part of what`s happening right now in a
world where we`ve got everything from the rise of China to artificial
intelligence and automation and the economy`s changing is people have been
made less secure and it makes it possible for a cynical leader to draw out
the worst of us.
BUTTIGIEG: But I also believe that one of the best reasons to get involved
in politics, as I felt called to do when I was a student by people like
Speaker Gephardt, is that you can also use the tools, the skills that you
learn as an elected leader to draw out the best in people. And I think
that, even more than policy and administration and management, that is the
thing we`re missing most in the White House right now, and the thing I most
want to restore.
MATTHEWS: I`m going back to Dick Gephardt. I want the chance (ph), we
have him on the phone.
Dick Gephardt, you would have been a great president. I think you know I
believe that. Do you have any advice to this young fella, 37 years old,
running hard with 20 other – 20-plus rivals? How does he get ahead of all
of those guys and women?
GEPHARDT: Just keep doing – just keep doing what you`re doing. Work hard
every day. It`s a big job but you`re doing a great job of being out there
talking to people and listening to people, which is the most important
thing you can do. You`re doing great. Just keep on going.
I`m proud of you and all the other candidates. We`re going to win this
MATTHEWS: By the way, that`s how Dick Gephardt got ahead. I watched his
Thank you, Dick Gephardt, from Santa Rosa, California. A registered I
think Democrat safe to say in California. Thank you so much.
Back with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. We`ll be back here – no, why am I saying
that? Fresno State in just a minute.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back. We`re live still at Fresno State in California
for our special live HARDBALL town hall with Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Let me – Leo Price (ph), last question, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for coming today. I`m an eighth grader and
my question is, since climate change will have a big affect on my future,
what measures do you support to stop this crisis?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, thanks for your question.
BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for not being as tough on me as I was when I was a young
person asking a presidential candidate a question.
Look, this is an existential issue, and I think we got to treat it like a
security issue. It`s also a moral issue and it`s an issue of
intergenerational justice because each generation in the future is being
made worse off if we don`t deal with it. So, what can we do? Well, we
definitely got to have a carbon price and dividend, carbon tax and
dividend. Call it what you want. We need to do it in order to get our
economy to be close to carbon neutral.
We`ve got to at least quadruple federal R&D and renewable energy and energy
storage. We`ve got to undertake building retrofits, which by the way, will
create a lot of jobs in addition to making us more energy efficient. And
we need to put climate at the center of our diplomacy so that other
countries are being held to account for how much they`re part of the
There`s one other thing that`s not being talked about so much, where just
kind of rural America, places like the Central Valley, could be a huge part
of the solution. You know, there are some estimates that through better
soil management, soil could capture a level of carbon equivalent to the
entire global transportation industry.
And if we let rural America know they can be the most important part of the
solution instead of just being – feeling like they`re being told that
they`re part of the problem, we might be able to break down some of the
resistance, especially at a moment when rural America is beginning to
realize, because of this extreme weather that – where I live is making it
hard to see whether it`s worth planting soy this year, for example, because
some of the fields are so waterlogged after a lot of extreme weather – you
know, they have the most to lose.
But the point is all of us need to be part of a national project to deal
with climate, through good policy, yes, but through everything that the
private, public, academic and social sector can bring to bear on the issue.
MATTHEWS: OK, Leo (ph), thank you.
And thank you, Mayor Pete.
Our special thanks, by the way, to Fresno State, where we are right now.
What a great place. Go Bulldogs.
That`s all for the special HARDBALL town hall.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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