Interview with Pete Buttigieg. TRANSCRIPT: 4/15/19. The Rachel Maddow Show.
REBECCA TRAISTER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: And it is also the structural
impulses around gender and race that make a lot of voters and a lot of
media comfortable covering white men. That`s part of what we`re looking
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: All right. Rebecca Traister, thank you
so much for joining us.
That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel, with the aforementioned Mayor Pete Buttigieg on your
program in just a few minutes.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I have never met him before. As I was running
to makeup, somebody who`s here with him said, I`d like to introduce you to
Mayor Pete. And I went, hi. And I keep running into makeup.
HAYES: He`s out there.
MADDOW: So, I`ll meet the mayor for the first time. Now I`m nervous.
HAYES: I`m looking forward to it.
MADDOW: Thanks, my friend.
HAYES: All right.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
As Chris mentioned, in just a few minutes, sitting right here at this desk
with me will be Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. I have
never met him before. We`ve never had him on the show before. So, I`m
very, very much looking forward to that conversation.
But, tonight, of course, all eyes remain on the city of Paris where the
historic cathedral of Notre Dame is still smoldering right now at this
hour. It is 3:00 a.m. local time in Paris as we speak.
The fire that broke out there today has horrified the world as it burned
through this 850-year-old world landmark, gutting the spire, which you see
falling there, reaching one of the iconic towers of the cathedral. Paris
firefighters were able to contain the fire, contain it after six hours,
even though they weren`t able to completely put it out. They say they were
able to save the cathedral`s facade and the bell towers.
The “A.P.” reports that Paris prosecutors have ruled out arson. They are
treating the fire as an accident. But they can`t say much more than that.
A major renovation, multimillion dollar had started to repair water damage
to the cathedral`s spire. It is always possible that that construction
renovation is part of what happened here. But as yet, the cause remains
Seeing Notre Dame burn during holy week in particular is as painful as it
is unimaginable for the world`s Catholics. But the cathedral is just as
much as it means to Catholics worldwide, the cathedral is just as much a
symbol of France, just as much a symbol of Europe. It`s a world landmark.
Notre Dame was there during the Crusades. It survived long rage
bombardment during World War II – excuse me, World War I. It`s a miracle
of World War II that it was spared during that war.
Shortly after the fire was contained tonight, the French President Emmanuel
Macron vowed to rebuild. He announced a fund-raising campaign toward that
end will begin tomorrow to restore it. So, we will continue to monitor the
situation in Paris tonight. We will keep you updated. As it develops now,
as I said it, it appears at this point still be smoldering. It is 3:00
a.m. Parisian firefighters say they`ve got it contained.
Here at home, it has been a busy news day. Even inside a number of
newsrooms today, today has been a very notable day because the 2019
Pulitzer Prizes were awarded. The Pulitzer Medal for Public Service
Journalism, which is considered to be the most prestigious of all the
Pulitzers, it went this year to the “South Florida Sun Sentinel” newspaper
or its coverage of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last February.
Quote: for exposing failings by school and law enforcement officials before
and after the deadly shooting rampage at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High
The National Reporting Medal today went to the staff of “The Wall Street
Journal” for uncovering President Trump`s secret hush money payments during
his campaign to two women who claimed to have had affairs with him. That
reporting, of course, ultimately led to a federal prison sentence for the
president`s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen and it led to the president
himself being named by federal prosecutors as individual one, responsible
for the commission of those two felonies for which Cohen is being jailed.
And, of course, Michael Cohen`s plea deal and cooperation in that case
ultimately led to him testifying before Congress and the many alleged
financial improprieties by Trump and his company that Cohen laid out in
that testimony have now become fodder for multiple aggressive congressional
Today being tax day though, perhaps the most fitting Pulitzer Prize to be
awarded went to David Barstow and Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner of “The
New York Times”, quote, for an exhaustive 18 month investigation of
President Trump`s finances which debunked his claims of self-made wealth
and revealed a business empire riddled with tax dodges.
This was the incredibly detailed “New York Times” investigation published
in October. This was the first sentence of that you might remember.
Quote: President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the
1990s, including instances of outright fraud which greatly increased the
fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by “The New York
Times” has found. That investigation has now earned a Pulitzer Prize.
This was the story that among other things laid out a fairly simple fraud
scheme that Trump and his siblings ran for years through a fake building
supply and maintenance company. It was tax evasion essentially
accomplished via money laundering. That is just one of the schemes
unearthed by “The Times” reporting.
Just in the past week, two of the reporters on that byline who received
this Pulitzer Prize today were able to further report that the president`s
older sister, a federal appellate court judge, resigned from the judiciary,
retired from the bench just after she was informed that she would be the
subject of a judicial conduct review for her alleged participation in those
tax schemes, her retiring from the bench after being notified that judicial
conduct investigation had begun was her only sure fire get out of jail free
end – get out of jail free card to end that investigation. Judicial
conduct investigations can only happen for people who are serving as
judges. When she gave up her seat and her robe, she got out of that.
And I know this kind of goes without saying, but the reason we need 18
month long investigations by teams of journalists at “The New York Times”
into the tax history of the sitting president of the United States is not
because they do that for every one. The reason that`s happening in this
presidency is because Donald Trump really is the first president in four
decades, the first president in the whole post-Watergate era to refuse to
release his tax returns either as a candidate or as president. The
president has now hired a brand-new team of lawyers whose entire job
specifically is to keep the president`s tax returns secret. And any
related financial information as well, we learned today.
Here is the latest letter from Trump`s secrecy lawyers which was sent to
the general counsel of the Treasury Department which oversees the IRS. In
this latest letter, Trump`s lawyers say that they believe the request for
six years of the president`s taxes from the chairman of the House Ways and
Means Committee is an illegal request. Never mind, they say, that the
language of the law is plain as day. The law says, black letter law, it
says that the IRS shall furnish the chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee with any tax return he requests.
Never mind that say Trump`s new keep my taxes secret lawyers. Trump`s
lawyers said the Treasury Department should view that as an illegal
request. They should refuse to hand over Trump`s tax returns to the
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. They say the reason he
shouldn`t get the president`s tax returns despite the letter of the law is
because that chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is a liar. Nobody
believes him when he says he wants the president`s tax returns for
legitimate congressional oversight. If you won`t take our word for it,
well, here are some Republicans in Congress who also think that he is a
liar. That`s their argument.
You know, as I have noted frequently, I am not a lawyer. But I am really
sure that it is not a hugely compelling legal argument to block a
congressional request depending on black letter statute to just say, liar,
liar, pants on fire, everybody knows that guy sucks. I mean, I understand
these new lawyers got to make their billable hours, but I don`t know – I
really don`t know what leg they are standing on here.
That said, the same keep the president`s taxes secret lawyers today have
also sent a letter to Trump`s accounting firm, Mazars USA, telling them
that they should not comply with a subpoena from the House Oversight
Committee, which has demanded 10 years of Trump`s financial records from
Mazars. According to Politico.com today, Trump`s attorneys, quote, said
they were formally putting Mazars on notice, which “Politico” describes as
an implicit threat of legal action.
Oversight Committee Elijah Cummings said last week that Mazars accounting
firm had expressed a willingness to hand over this material. But they`ve
asked for a so-called friendly subpoena to do it, meaning they didn`t want
to just hand it over on the basis of a document request. They wanted to be
legally required to hand them over.
Chairman Cummings` office tells us tonight that he has sent that subpoena
to Mazars. Again, as the president`s newly hired tax secrecy lawyers tell
them not to respond to that subpoena.
Also tonight, “The New York Times” is reporting that the House Intelligence
Committee and the House Financial Services Committee today issued their own
subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and to numerous other banks seeking information
about President Trump`s finances and the lenders` business dealings with
Congressman Adam Schiff, who`s the chair of intelligence and Maxine Waters,
who`s the chair of Financial Services, they made clear that Deutsche Bank,
the president`s lender of choice, is one of their top investigative
priorities as they follow a lot of the money around various Trump scandals.
They want to figure out why that bank, which has a long, rich history of
Russian money laundering, they want to know why that bank for years was the
only mainstream bank that was willing to do business on any scale with
Donald Trump, even as he repeatedly defaulted on their loans to him and
even occasionally sued them instead of paying them back.
Deutsche Bank`s spokeswoman tells “The New York Times” tonight that the
company is engaged in a productive dialogue with the committees. Quote: We
remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized
investigations in a manner consistent with our legal obligations.
Because of that, presumably, Deutsche Bank and these other numerous banks
that have just received congressional subpoenas today, presumably they will
also now receive letters from Trump`s new lawyers hired specifically to
keep his taxes secret, presumably those lawyers will be writing to the
banks any minute as well telling them, don`t respond, it`s a subpoena, but
don`t do it. This is those tax secrecy lawyers` time to shine.
Speaking of things being kept secret, to benefit the president, today the
Justice Department announced that Attorney General William Barr will
finally be finished making all of his redactions from Special Counsel
Robert Mueller`s report as of Thursday morning. So, on Thursday morning,
that is when he will finally release his version of Mueller`s report,
complete with the redactions decided on by his redaction team.
Because Attorney General William Barr said in Congress that the redaction
team is working night and day on cutting all these various elements out of
Mueller`s report, these four different areas of redactions, which he
insists must be in the report, there`s a redaction team working on that.
He says it involves staff from the special counsel`s office as well as
other Justice Department staff.
Today, we asked both the Justice Department and the special counsel`s
office if they would tell us who is on this redaction team, deciding what
will be cut out of Mueller`s report. Both the Justice Department and the
Special Counsel`s Office declined to comment, which is the sort of thing
we`re getting used to.
So, on Thursday, we will get something. We do not know what is going to be
cut out of Mueller`s report. We don`t know how much of Mueller`s report
will survive this redaction team treatment. We know that Bill Barr says
the redacting is four broad areas of material, including grand jury
material which could only be released by court order. Bill Barr says he
won`t ask a court to issue that order.
Thursday morning will be the first time we read any of Robert Mueller`s
actual words except for the sentence fragments that Barr gave us in his
summary of Mueller`s findings three weeks ago. That was the letter in
which he assured everyone while he couldn`t show us really any of the
Mueller report, he could offer us his own summary of the report`s principal
And those principal conclusions were: no crime in here. Everything is
fine. Nothing to see. Return to your hopes. We will have this cleaned up
in a minute.
That is why what is redacted from the report and how much will be redacted
from the report is going to be so important to see. Thursday will be our
first chance to see how Bill Barr`s representation of what Mueller found
stacks up against what Mueller actually found. We will get this Mueller
report Thursday morning, minus whatever is still being blacked out by Barr.
Now, going into this past weekend, a lot of people thought the Mueller
report might get dropped on Saturday or Sunday of this weekend. And since
shad season is starting in western New England, I didn`t really want that
But you think, I didn`t want that to happen. The people who didn`t want
that to happen is people who are announcing the start of their presidential
bids this weekend.
Yesterday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his presidential candidacy in his
hometown of South Bend, Indiana, where he has served as mayor since 2012.
To underscore the mayor theme, he had three other mayors on hand introduce
him. Mayors from Austin and Dayton and West Sacramento, who were all there
to vouch for why the experience of being an American mayor makes someone
particularly well-equipped for the U.S. presidency.
Senator Cory Booker also kicked off his campaign officially this weekend in
Newark, New Jersey. That`s the city where he served as mayor for seven
years before going to the United States Senate.
Incidentally, we also had Congressman Eric Swalwell announce his candidacy
this weekend in Dublin, California, which is where he launched his
political career not as mayor but as a city counselor less than a decade
ago. Again, not a mayor but yet another 2020 candidate touting their
experience at the city level.
And, of course, all of those candidates who launched formally this weekend
join Julian Castro who did serve as a cabinet secretary under President
Obama, but his political experience prior to that was being the dynamic
young mayor of San Antonio, Texas.
So, you are seeing there`s a little bit of a theme for at least one slice
of the candidates in this year`s 2020 field.
I should mention while we are humming this tune, that people in Vermont
still identify as Bernie Sanders not just with his time in the Senate or
his time in Congress but with his eight years as the mayor of Burlington,
Today, Senator Sanders released ten years of his tax returns after a few
months of saying, soon, soon, soon, I will do it soon. The returns show
that Senator Sanders` income shot up dramatically after his last
presidential bid, thanks in large part to a book that he published shortly
after the election.
Today was the deadline to for all the candidates to file their first
quarter fund-raising reports with the FEC. And it`s early yet. I know.
If you are in the habit of parsing these numbers, I think there`s a couple
of different ways to look at them, depending on if you are a glass half
full or glass half empty person in terms of the Democrats` chances of
beating Trump next year.
On one hand, we have seen a lot made already of the fact that nobody in the
race right now is matching the kind of totals that we saw in 2007 from the
Democratic field. That year, Hillary Clinton brought in $26 million in the
first quarter, with Obama kind of stunning the political world by raising
nearly as much, $25 million. I mean, neither of them is an incumbent,
they`re raising $26 million and $25 million in the first quarter.
Yes, John Edwards and Bill Richardson also brought in respectable hauls in
the first quarter. Again, that last time Democrats were running without a
Here is the equivalent numbers from this year. Senator Bernie Sanders has
a lot, raked in over $18 million. That puts him ahead of what John Edwards
had this time in 2007. Even with that, you can see none of the Democratic
candidates is hitting the types of numbers that the candidates hit in 2007.
That said, in 2007, the donations to Democratic candidates weren`t being
divvied up 5 million ways among the different people running on the
Democratic side. When there are fewer candidates, maybe each of them gets
a bigger piece of the pie?
That said, if any Democrat is going to beat Trump, you want the whole
Democratic pie to be higher as George W. Bush might say. You want the
whole Democratic pie to be really big. You want fund-raising numbers that
represent Democratic engagement and interest and commitment.
And on that point, there are some really encouraging numbers for Democrats.
When it comes to – you look not just as the size of the piles of money
that each candidate has put together. Look at the number of people who are
making donations to Democratic candidates this year.
For example, go back to 2007. In the first quarter of 2007, Barack Obama
had 104,000 donors, which was an astronomical number at the time. Hillary
Clinton had a very large number herself, over 60,000 donors. But Obama
blew everybody away with getting more than 100,000 in the first quarter.
Look at this year. Apples to apples comparison. This is first quarter of
the year before the election. In the first quarter, 525,000 people have
donated to Bernie Sanders alone. O`Rourke, Buttigieg, Harris, Warren, they
each got over 130,000 people to donate to their campaigns. They`ve all got
more donors tapped already than Obama had at this time in that legendary
race in 2008.
And donors this time around are giving smaller amounts, which is actually a
good thing, right? Everybody – I`m sure every candidate likes big checks.
If you get small checks early, that means these campaigns can go back to
the small donors again and again and again for more small donations without
worrying that those donors will max out or that they need to expand their
mailing list. So, that`s good news in terms of the number of donors who
are giving to Democratic candidates.
We also got one final metric this weekend that I think is – it`s its own
kind of thing. Btu it is courtesy of the Pete Buttigieg`s campaign. Again
he is going to be here live in just a moment.
Buttigieg reported that he raised $7 million in his first quarter, which is
pretty impressive for somebody who had no name recognition as recently as a
couple of months ago and still has a lot of name pronunciation trouble
among people who like him. After that $7 million, on top of that $7
million he raised in the first quarter, Buttigieg`s campaign reports that
he added another million dollars in donations yesterday – actually, just
yesterday afternoon, actually, just yesterday over the course of four
Within four hours of officially launching his campaign yesterday in South
Bend, he added another million dollars to what he raised. That`s more than
some candidates have brought in this whole first quarter.
But I`m happy to say Mayor Pete Buttigieg joins us here on set for the
interview. That`s next.
MADDOW: I`m very pleased to say, joining us now for “The Interview” is
Pete Buttigieg. He is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and now,
officially, a candidate for president in the Democratic primary.
Mr. Mayor, it`s really nice to meet you.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for having me on.
MADDOW: Your speech this weekend was very moving.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
MADDOW: Your husband says you wrote it yourself that morning.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I`d been working on it a little more than that. But I was
polishing it off until the other day.
MADDOW: When you think about big moments like this in your life, are you a
guy who likes to work alone or do you like to work with a team? Are you a
collaborative person? Are you sort of a hermit? How do you – how do you
work for big stuff?
BUTTIGIEG: You know, I have a great team. I love collaborating with them
to get things set up. But there`s a line of poetry, I can`t remember where
it`s from – the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
And, you know, when I got a big decision or big body of work, once I
consulted with the team and gotten advice, that`s when I like I spend a
little time with myself and just put my head down, think, reflect and often
that – that or sometimes in the shower when I`m just thinking to myself in
more laid back fashion or when a lot of best ideas come.
MADDOW: Ninety percent of my best ideas have come in the shower. That`s
why I spend too much time in the shower.
In terms of how things have gone so far, obviously, you`ve had – you got a
lot of very good press early on in this run. And now, you`re getting a lot
of good press about getting good press.
MADDOW: And you are polling very well. Your fund-raising numbers are
really big. The response, according to your campaign, in terms what the
fund-raising response was yesterday to your formal announcement is very
impressive. Is this what you planned? Are you surprising yourself?
BUTTIGIEG: The trajectory of it is a lot faster than what we expected.
So, we`re pleased. I mean, we certainly believed and hoped that the
message would land, that we would get traction, that people would be
excited about the idea of a new generation of leadership and somebody
coming from a different background like a mayor. You know, all of that is
as we hoped.
But the pace of it has been extraordinary. At the same time, you know, I`m
trying not to fool myself, right? Obviously, it`s no small thing to find
yourself third in the polls related to the American presidency.
On the other hand, when I go out on the street after this, the majority of
people who pass by will not recognize me. And it`s April. We`ve got a
very long way to go in this process.
MADDOW: How do you scale up? How do you learn how to scale up to running
a national level campaign? You have do that not just for the general but
in order to win the primary.
I know that you`ve – you know, you have worked on presidential campaigns
before, Kerry, Obama. And so, you`ve seen them in operation from a ground
MADDOW: But how do you learn how to run when you`ve never done anything
remotely like this before?
BUTTIGIEG: We`re very conscious of what we don`t know. And so, we`re
trying to take on advice from people who have seen some version of this
movie before, from people who were involved in the Obama campaign, to
people who are involved in the Gary Hart campaign, just to learn as much as
we can about how this works.
And at the same time, recognize that each cycle is different. It has
different dynamics and we`re also determined. I mean, somebody like me
shouldn`t do something like this unless we`re prepared to do it in a novel
way, in an original way.
And we want to make sure we`re writing our own playbook. You know,
organizationally, some things, you`ve just got to get muscle memory of
people who`ve seen it before – ballot access in early states, organizing
in different constituencies. And there are other things that I think the
playbook really is changing. Digital is a good example.
You know, we Democrats like to think of ourselves as the sophisticated
ones. But in some ways, we`ve got outclassed on digital persuasion in
2016. I`m not just talking about the cheating and the nefarious stuff.
I`m also just saying if you look at how much we spent on digital versus on
traditional television, for example, in so many races, it was actually the
Republicans who were seeing more of what could be done with digital
And from a tactical perspective, you know, you don`t have the sort of firms
that you have around TV organized in quite the same way in the digital
space. So, we`re going to build up some of this talent and capacity in
house. So, it`s a mix of building a great organization that you think can
power you through in those early states and listening to people who have
some insights because, you know, we – as you said, we have never been
doing something like this in this way. And we need to learn from those who
have seen these things before.
MADDOW: On policy, you have floated some big idea policies. Yet when you
go to your website, you go to the issue section, you compare the way you
are running to somebody like Elizabeth Warren is running, you`ve been a lot
less specific on a lot of policy matters.
Are you doing that strategically because you`ve got some idea of all the
policies you want to roll out, you just want to do it later?
MADDOW: Or are you trying to avoid being pinned down on stuff at all?
BUTTIGIEG: Part of it is sequencing thing, but I do want everybody to
understand where I stand on any important policy issue. And we`ve tried to
make that clear in interviews, in statements. You`ll start seeing more of
a web presence that will make that clear, too.
I do think as Democrats, we sometimes have a tendency to lead with the
policy minutia. Of course, it`s important for people to know where we
stand. But I also think – you know, one thing conservatives did
effectively was they claimed the idea space. They talked about values and
kind of won a lot of the arguments or at least won a lot of media space for
their values, beginning with the Reagan administration, in such a way that
even Democrats were compelled to do what I would consider largely
conservative things, when they took office really at any time in my
And so, it`s very important to me to make sure that we`re winning a values
argument, too. That`s why I talk about things like freedom and why freedom
can`t just be property of the conservative movement to the Republicans.
But that means, you know, constructive freedom.
So, to me something like the work that goes on on consumer financial
protection is freedom, because you are not free if you are prevented from
suing a credit card company after they rip you off. Health care is
freedom. It secures our freedom to have access to healthcare, which is why
I`ve been clear about Medicare-for-All the desired destination for us.
But also, I believe that politicians who talk about things like Medicare
for all should have some account of the glide path to get there. That`s
why I described how I think if we design it in the right way, making a
version of Medicare available on the exchanges for people to buy into as an
option will be the pathway to get there.
So, I feel that I`ve been specific about the goals and about the outlines
of the policy design I think helps us get there. But I also am looking
forward to an iterative process where we continue to find the best way to
articulate some of these and to define some of those and have some humility
about what happens when all of your campaign statements collide with the
reality of governing.
You know, you look at something like the New Deal. That didn`t happen
because it was completely formulated by FDR as a campaign promise, brought
in in a briefcase to the White House and then deployed. It happened
because there was a set of values and priorities that encountered the
reality on the ground.
And when we think about the Green New Deal, which I think we should admit,
even though it`s very attractive framework, I think we should admit that
it`s more a set of goals right now than it is a fully articulated policy.
We`re going to need to continue laying down the left and right boundaries
of what we think we ought to be part of that, but also recognize that
that`s going to evolve when we actually hit the ground in the policy
context, hopefully, after a Democrat comes into power in 2020.
MADDOW: I think that one of the values that Americans are talking about
more and realizing we have more of an emotional attachment than we thought
we did was the idea of our constitutional norms, our non-legal mores about
how we govern –
MADDOW: – because this president has been radically dismissive of so many
In that context in which we`ve got a president who is revoking security
clearances against his political enemies, in which he is talking about
banning Muslims from the United States and campaigning on that, doing sorts
of things that are unimaginable even in a dystopian fiction version of
American governance, but we`re living it now, I think the idea of radically
changing structural things in the American government, especially when the
Republican Party is now led by Donald Trump and his supporters, that is –
that feels different than it might coming out of President Obama or it
might at any other recent time.
MADDOW: The idea of abolishing Electoral College, as you suggested.
MADDOW: The idea of expanding the Supreme Court to 15 seats, with a
different method of picking judges. I feel like those are bold ideas, bold
structural ideas about protecting our democracy. It also feels like we`re
sort of balanced on tiptoe right now in terms of our constitutional
It feels like a time where we might not be able to take a shove on either
direction in this stuff.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. It sounds like a paradox, but in many ways, I think
actually those two observations go together. In other words, it`s at
moments when the soundness of our democratic setup, especially at its
seams, moments when it`s being tested that we need to pay the most
attention to the structure.
I would argue that a presidency like the one we are living through wouldn`t
have even by possible unless there were a lot of structural problems in our
economy and in our democracy that a candidate like he was was able to
exploit. I think this is actually the exact moment where we`ve got to look
at how we shore up our democracy.
You think about some of the concern and anxiety and maybe grief over the
stability of our system that happened in the `70s which led to some reforms
in the Watergate era. You look at various moments, various seasons, if you
will, for structural improvement. They aren`t the most kind of stable or
easy times for our country.
The question before us is, can our democracy accommodate the forces that
are hitting us through the 21st century? I think it can. But o get there,
we`ve got to use some of the most elegant features built into the
Constitution like the ability to amend it to make our country stronger. I
think we ought to have that level of ambition.
And the difference between us and this president is we`re proposing using
the Constitution`s processes for a kind of self-healing. If we realize
that this would be a fairer place if everyone`s vote counted the same and
if the way we picked our president was to tally the votes and give it to
the person who got the most votes, then now is a moment to make that change
through a process that is deliberative.
MADDOW: Are you worried that you are giving the Trump era Republican Party
an idea that they ought to start amending the Constitution right now?
BUTTIGIEG: Whoa (ph) – you know –
MADDOWE: Or they ought to start changing – radically changing the
structure of the Supreme Court?
BUTTIGIEG: They already have. You know, the Republicans in the Senate
changed the numbers of justices on the Supreme Court, they changed to
eight, until they took power. And then they changed it back to nine.
So, you know, a lot of what we`re talking about is no less a shattering of
norms than what the other side has done. But we`re proposing it to do it
in a way that is more inclusive, I would say more constitutionally sound,
more appropriate, and will just by the nature of the checks and balances in
our system, have to go through a very thoughtful and rigorous process.
I think that if they try tinkering with the system – again, they are doing
it under the table in so many ways. If they try to do it more nakedly,
they`re going to encounter resistance, because most Americans don`t want
this. Most Americans don`t want the conservative agenda that we`re now
seeing – the extreme agenda that we`re seeing in Washington.
In fact, it is precisely for that reason that they have to interfere with
democracy with things like voter suppression or clinging on an Electoral
College that overrules the will of the American people. It is precisely
because the American people by and large don`t want what they are selling
that they are relying on manipulations of our political structure in order
to keep their agenda in play.
MADDOW: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, will you stay here?
BUTTIGIEG: I`d love to.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Mayor Pete right after this.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Back with us now is Pete Buttigieg. He is the mayor of South
Bend, Indiana, a Democratic candidate for president who has made a lot of
press in recent days for the ways that he has been rising in the polls and
putting up very impressive fund-raising numbers and for the media tour that
you have been doing that is making everybody learn how to say your name.
Sir, thank you for being here.
I want to ask you about an almost of your resume and your background that
is rare. There`s this gigantic field of Democratic candidates. It`s
literally like two baseball teams at this point. You could play each
But besides you and Gabbard, there aren`t candidates running thus far who
have military experience. You enlisted at the age of 26, 27?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, right around then, yes.
MADDOW: After grad school?
BUTTIGIEG: That`s right.
MADDOW: Can you talk about your decision about why to do that? Why did
you pick the Navy? What were you – what`s going on –
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, there had been kind of a family military tradition. But I
also had some excuse for not serving at any particular moment when I was in
college. I was in college when I got the chance to study overseas. You
know, I was tied up in that. Although there were several Americans at
Oxford who were in my class of Rhodes Scholars who were graduates of the
Naval Academy. I just admired those people so much that it made me think a
The thing that put me over the edge was actually a campaign visit. I was
knocking on doors as a volunteer for Barack Obama in some very low income,
very rural counties in Iowa, and was blown away by how many times I would
knock on the door, talk to a young person who was on their way to basic
training or on their way into recruitment.
I began to realize just how stark the class and regional divides had become
that I could count on one hand the number of people I knew at a place like
Harvard who had gone on to serve. I began to feel like I was part of a
You know, I grew up on the tradition of people like John F. Kennedy, a
young John F. Kennedy, experienced in military service the most probably
racially integrated environment that he could have been in at the time,
found himself on equal terms with the sons of farmers and laborers from the
Midwest. George H.W. Bush, the same thing, as the scions of wealthy and
powerful families who`s expected of them that they would serve and it
helped them get to know people of different backgrounds.
I was by no means the scion of a wealthy or powerful family. But I did
have the privilege of this amazing education, and began to think like,
maybe that`s a reason I should be contributing and should be as liable to
getting called up as anybody else in this country, rather than one more
thing that kind of separates me from other people I knew from my region or
hometown who had served.
So, I went in for the commission in intelligence in 2009. I thought – I
studied Arabic. I thought that might be useful. A letter came back to me
that the recruiter wrote down that I had studied aerobics.
MADDOW: Which would also be useful.
BUTTIGIEG: I actually wound up as a command fitness instructor for my year
in deployment. But I supposed that would have been useful. But I`m really
glad I did get a chance to serve.
It helped me connect with very different Americans, people, especially when
I was deployed to Afghanistan who – I had almost nothing in common with
them, different politics, different generation, different racially,
different regionally. But you learn to trust each other with your life,
because that`s what the job requires.
And I want more Americans to have that. I don`t want you to go to war to
get it. That`s one of the reasons I think national service will hopefully
become one of the themes in the 2020 campaign, because if we really want to
talk about the threat to social cohesion that helps characterize this
presidency but also just this era.
One thing we could do that would change that would be to make it if not
legally obligatory then certainly a social norm that anybody after they`re
18 spends a year in national service. So that afterwards, whether it`s
civilian or military, it`s the first question on your college application
if you`re applying for college or it`s the first question when you are
being interviewed for a job if you go right into the work force.
Now, to do that, we`re going to have to create more service opportunities
and we`re going to find a way to fund it. But I think it`s worth
MADDOW: I feel like that point and you discussing those difficulties with
it sort of strikes me on that because it`s always – it`s always really
resonated with me, the civilian and military divide that you`re talking
about is something I have been interested in a very long time. I wrote a
book about it.
And it`s something that I have struggled with because the easy answer is
that there should be a draft. And the easy answer that there should be a
draft is easy and sounds like a great solution to everybody except the
military who doesn`t want to deal with a lot of conscripts who don`t want
to be there, because it`s a high skills, high tech environment, voluntary
But this idea of national service that`s not necessarily a draft, I heard
so many smart people left, right and center talk about that for the last 15
years. And I feel like it`s this constant drawing board idea. Nobody ever
– somebody pilots a thing here or there. There doesn`t seem to be any
appetite for it at the federal level in terms of actually making it happen
because it will involve some sort of level of raising expectations if not
creating a mandate for people and we seem wired as a country to reject that
at every level.
I don`t have faith that something like that gets off the drawing board.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think it`s a bit like some of the democratic reforms we
were talking about earlier. It`s one of the ideas that everybody likes.
It was always important and never urgent, right? I mean, how would that
ever kind of hold its own in a policy debate where we`re dealing with kids
in cages and we have to deal with climate change and all these pressing,
But, again, one of the things I`m trying to have us have a conversation
about are, what are the conditions that made this moment, this presidency
possible? And one of them I think is a fraying in the social cohesion that
we experience. And some of that kind of stewardship, kind of housekeeping
of our society, I think requires policy intervention that to me makes
something like what national service could bring us a little more urgent
than we maybe have given it credit for.
I get the obstacles. I get that it would be challenging. But if we made
it more of a priority, I think we could establish that as a norm by the
time that my kids are going to college.
MADDOW: Are you going to have kids?
BUTTIGIEG: I hope so.
BUTTIGIEG: Don`t have any yet.
MADDOW: Do you have plans?
BUTTIGIEG: You know, this whole running for president of thing has kind of
slowed down the path a little bit but –
MADDOW: Are you guys talking about it?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, Chasten, my husband, is – he is made for a lot of things.
He is a great educator. He has become a great public figure, kind of
coming out of the gate.
But he is going to be an amazing father. And I can`t wait to see – I hope
I`ll be good at it, too. But I can`t wait to see him have that chance.
MADDOW: Well, let me – I want to talk about a lot of these things in more
depth. On that point, actually, let me ask you – I will acknowledge that
this is an awkward question.
I was a Rhodes scholar, too. I went up in 1995. You went up a decade
later. So, I was the first openly gay American Rhodes scholar.
And I got there and I had come out in college. I applied for the Rhodes
scholarship as an openly gay person. It definitely came up in the
selection process and I got there. And I learned that I was the first
American that ever been out.
MADDOW: That was a decade before you. And you went through college and
then the Rhodes scholarship process and the getting the Rhodes scholarship
and going to work for McKinsey and joining the Navy and deploying to
Afghanistan and coming home and running for mayor in your hometown, and
getting elected before you came out at the age of 33.
MADDOW: And I bring this up. And I acknowledge it`s a difficult question
not because it`s bad that you didn`t come out until you were 33, but I
think it would have killed me to be closeted for that long.
MADDOW: I just think about what it takes as a human being to know
something and to have to bifurcate your public life. And for you to have
had all of those difficult transitions and experiences and to be aiming as
high as you were all of that time, and not coming out until your early 30s,
I just wonder if that was hurtful to you?
MADDOW: If it hurt you to do it?
BUTTIGIEG: It was hard. It was really hard.
MADDOW: Coming out is hard, but being in the closet is harder.
BUTTIGIEG: Yes. That`s what I mean.
It was and it wasn`t. First of all, it took me plenty of time to come out
to myself. So, I did not the way you did or the way my husband did figure
out at such an early age that – I probably should have. I mean, there are
certain – plenty of indications by the time I was 15 or so that I could
point, like, yes, this kid is gay.
But I guess I just really needed to not be. You know, there`s this war
that breaks out I think inside a lot of people when they realize that they
might be something they are afraid of. And it took me a very long time to
resolve that. I did make sure as a kind of final way of coming out to
myself to come out to at least a couple of people in my life before I took
office because I knew that I didn`t want that psychological pressure, of at
least not being out to somebody.
MADDOW: Are you sort of swore them to secrecy? Or you –
BUTTIGIEG: They understood, yes –
BUTTIGIEG: – that this was a very sensitive thing.
They also pointed out, as your friends do, you know, patting you on the
back, that I hadn`t made it easy on myself because at that point,
professionally, I had two things in my life that really mattered to me
professionally. One of them was being an officer in the military, in the
reserve. And the other was being an elected official, in Indiana.
BUTTIGIEG: Neither of which is exactly LGBT friendly. In fact, both of
which I assumed were totally, totally incompatible with being out. Both of
which were meaningful.
One of the risks that I think people with meaningful jobs have –
especially people in politics actually – is because your job is
meaningful, a lot of the meaning in your life comes from your job, which is
a real problem because part of what is needed I think to be good at your
job in politics is to have something worth more to you than winning. You
have to be ready to walk away from that job in order to deserve it.
But I did get a lot of meaning from that work. And in some ways because it
was so demanding, I almost didn`t mind for a inordinately long time –
MADDOW: That that was –
BUTTIGIEG: – that I didn`t have much of a personal life.
BUTTIGIEG: And I did not have a dating life while I was closeted or
anything like that.
The city was a jealous bride for a long time and kept me busy. But it was
really the deployment that put me over the top. I realized that you only
get to be one person. You don`t know how long you have on this earth. And
by the time I came back, I realized, I got to – I got to do something.
MADDOW: Were you sure when you came out it would cost you reelection?
BUTTIGIEG: I was pretty sure it was going to be a big complication. But I
had no idea – I mean, I felt like things were going well in the city. I
felt like I had done a good job by the people of South Bend. I had some
level of trust that I would be – that I would be rewarded for that with a
But there`s no way to really know. There`s no playbook. I mean, no
executive in Indiana that had been out. And so, it was kind of a leap of
faith. I just – I had – I wrote it all down, put it in an op-ed, dropped
into the “South Bend Tribune” and saw what would happen.
MADDOW: And then got re-elected with 80 percent of the vote.
BUTTIGIEG: And then, there you go.
BUTTIGIEG: So, you treat people – you trust people and at least in this
case, they reciprocated that trust. You know, that was more than I got
elected in the first place. And so, I guess it`s one thing that gives me
encouragement. I mean, don`t get me wrong, as you know, there`s plenty of
ugliness from all over the place.
But most people I think are either supportive or even enthusiastic about
the idea of the first out person going this far. Or they find a way to let
me know they don`t care. And that`s historic, too.
I mean, one day the way this will work is if a mayor is trying to figure
out how to come out, you go to the next rubber chicken dinner you`re going
to and your date`s the same sex, that`s that, right? People shrug, figure
it out and get on with the evening.
It didn`t feel that way in Indiana in 2015. But one of the things I think
I can do before the first vote is cast is maybe make it a little easier
just by being here –
BUTTIGIEG: – for the next person who comes along.
MADDOW: Yes, you`ve written the history in some ways about how to do it
and the next person gets to live it.
I have a couple more questions for you. Will you stay?
MADDOW: All right. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is our guest. He is the mayor of
South Bend, Indiana. He`s running for president.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Back with us for the interview is Pete Buttigieg. He has
announced his run for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.
Mr. Mayor, thank you again for sticking with us.
BUTTIGIEG: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: This administration has embraced dictators and strong men in a way
we haven`t seen before this in this country. I`m thinking about President
Trump`s failure to rebuke the Saudis for killing Jamal Khashoggi.
MADDOW: The praise, the declarations of love, in fact, for Kim Jong-un,
the weirdness of Vladimir Putin.
MADDOW: What would your posture be towards those types of world leaders
that this president has embraced? Would you meet with people like that?
Would you not meet with people like that?
BUTTIGIEG: There certain conditions where maybe you would meet with them.
But I actually think the emergence or the reinforcement of figures like
that are an example of why it`s so important to have America be credibly
defending our values. And right now, we`re not credibly doing anything in
the international scene.
Look, I still believe strongly in American values. And anytime we as a
countries have tried to do something that we thought was in our interests
but went against our values, sooner or later, it caught up to us. So, I
think the core of American foreign policy in the future as the next
president is trying to re-establish U.S. credibility and do things like
make clear what the standards will be for the commitment of U.S. troops in
unilateral military action in the future – which, by the way, I hope is a
much higher bar going forward.
But as any of that is being resolved, it has to begin with the idea of
American interests and American values are inseparable. And so, when we`re
encountering these often competitors or adversaries, we`ve got to recognize
that, look, the American model is not quite – is not viewed as convincing
as it used to be, you know, because of instability here at home and because
of the embarrassments coming out of the White House.
There are a lot of people around the world who might say, you know, the
Chinese model isn`t looking so bad right now. You got the Russian model
throwing its weight around. The Saudi model, as you mentioned.
I think it`s precisely because they`re throwing their weight around that we
need American values out there. But it has to be credible. And that means
you have to have a U.S. leader who`s willing to draw lines, who`s willing
to hold leaders accountable when they do murderous things and who is
extremely selective with when you use the prestige and power of the
presidency either through a meeting or through a favorable comment to
elevate or lift up a leader of any other country.
MADDOW: The relationship between this president and Vladimir Putin in
particular obviously has its own dynamics.
MADDOW: The redacted version of Robert Mueller`s report is going to be
released to the public on Thursday according to Justice Department. Do you
have expectations what`s going to be in it, or how we should react?
BUTTIGIEG: I have expectations that are expectations we`ll be frustrated
just because of the redactions and because – you know, so often we`re I
think we still have this instinct as Democrats horrified by the abuses and
the failures and the character of this presidency that there will be some
kind of piece of evidence out there that demonstrates conclusively to
everybody that he`s not a good guy.
And what I hope we can remember is that there are a lot of people,
certainly in the Industrial Midwest where I live, who already know that
he`s not a good guy. They didn`t vote for him because they think he`s a
good guy. They voted for him for a whole different set of reasons. And
this isn`t going to change that.
So, I think we need to separate the importance of the Mueller report for
our country and for clarifying what happened to the extent that it will,
and we just don`t know yet, with what we think or wish it would do
At the end of the day, on the political side, I think the only pathway to
getting to be a better country is to very decisively defeat Trump and
Trumpism at the ballot box. And as for the report, that`s for Congress and
the American people to figure out once we`ve gotten a look at it.
MADDOW: In terms of what`s going to happen over the course of your
campaign for president, what`s going to happen between now and 2020, one of
the ways Democrats are going to make national news every day between now
and the 2020 elections is by pursuing various investigations of this
president, including a whole bunch of subpoenas that just went out to
Deutsche Bank, a fight right now for whether the president should be
handing over his tax returns, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Do you think that Democrats in Congress are doing the right thing by
pursuing that course of action?
BUTTIGIEG: Yes, I think we need to have accountability, and the American
people need to know what`s going on. We just can`t confuse that with the
message. Even as we`re pursuing that, and that`s just part of our
oversight responsibility to ensure good government, we also need to have a
message that will make sense as I often say in 2030, 2040, or 2054 when I
get to be the same age as the president is now. And by definition, a
message that makes sense then would have to be one that does not revolve
around the deficiencies of the current occupant of the White House.
MADDOW: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, almost
exactly half the age of both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Am I right you
won an essay contest from high school for writing about Bernie Sanders
being a good congressman?
BUTTIGIEG: Profiles in courage essay contest. I was 18.
MADDOW: You know, the world spins faster and faster every year.
Sir, thank you for being here.
BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Really good to have you here.
BUTTIGIEG: Appreciate it.
MADDOW: First time we`ve had you on the show. I hope you come back.
BUTTIGIEG: I hope so.
MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again
Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the