Town hall with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. TRANSCRIPT: 6/3/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Pete Buttigieg

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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 doing? 

MATTHEWS:  So you don`t mind being called "Pete" by this guy? 

(LAUGHTER)                                                     

You don`t have to say "Your Honor"?

BUTTIGIEG:  That`s my name.  He`s my mayor.

MATTHEWS:  Well.

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.

(CROSSTALK)                                   

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.

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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 our peak.

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 community activists. 

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 Days.                                                     

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 different. 

I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana and I am running for President of the United States.

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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 past. 

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BUTTIGIEG:  And that`s just not a promise you can keep (INAUDIBLE) --

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(END VIDEO TAPE)

MATTHEWS:  And now --

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The biggest star to come out of the South Bend, Indiana --

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-- since Rudy -- Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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BUTTIGIEG:  How you doing? 

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Hello.  How you doing?                     

MATTHEWS:  Pretty good. 

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Thank you.                                          

BUTTIGIEG:  Thanks for asking.

(CROSSTALK)                   

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 work.

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 --

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MATTHEWS:  What about a regular guy who owns, a person who owns a shotgun; should they register it?

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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 --

(CROSSTALK)                                   

MATTHEWS:  But not the ones that we have now.

BUTTIGIEG:  Look, we can -- let`s figure out a system that we can do --

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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.

(CROSSTALK)

To look at what we can do retroactively, too.  But at a minimum, if we`re not doing it at the point of sale --

(CROSSTALK)

-- for purchase going forward, we can begin.

MATTHEWS:  How many would like to see that?

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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 --

(CROSSTALK)

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.

BUTTIGIEG:  Yeah.

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 - -

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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.  Come on.

BUTTIGIEG:  Look, there`s like --

(CROSSTALK)                                   

MATTHEWS:  Does anybody think he`s talking about Biden?  When he says we`re getting --

Thank you.  I heard the noise.

(CROSSTALK)                                                                 BUTTIGIEG:  There`s like, there`s like 24 of us.  I don`t know which ones are pursuing --

(LAUGHTER)

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MATTHEWS:  All right.

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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.

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This is honesty here.  OK?

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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.

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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 itself. 

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.

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

BUTTIGIEG:  To send a message and that`s exactly what we got.

(CROSSTALK)

So we`ve got to demonstrate that we are speaking to the fundamental concerns that made it possible.  You know --

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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?

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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.

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Jacqueline (ph), go ahead.                                                

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Good afternoon, Mayor Pete.

BUTTIGIEG:  Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Welcome to Fresno and thank you, HARDBALL, for coming to Fresno.

BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you.

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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. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Right.

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 product sometime.

(LAUGHTER)

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 pattern.

It`s a pattern of poking people in the eye to see what`ll happen.  But when you don`t have - look --

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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.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)                                                                        `                                                                 MATTHEWS:  Let`s go to - Mayor --

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We have another guest.

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Calvin Fleming (ph), sir, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, Mayor Pete.  Happy Pride.

BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)                                     

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.

(LAUGHTER)     

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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 --

(APPLAUSE)

-- families --

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And as for our plans, Chasten`s right here; he`s a very patient person.

(LAUGHTER)

We`re obviously, I`ve made a couple of professional decisions that are kind of complicating our --

(LAUGHTER)

-- pathway to parenthood, but -- but we can`t wait and maybe you can give us some advice down the line on that.

(LAUGHTER)                                     

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

BUTTIGIEG:  How to meet that challenge.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Mayor, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

I wanted to ask you --

(APPLAUSE)

I want to talk to you about -- a follow up to Calvin (ph).

BUTTIGIEG:  Yeah.

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 percent popularity.

(APPLAUSE)                                                       

BUTTIGIEG:  She was really good at it.

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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.

(CROSSTALK)                                   

BUTTIGIEG:  Hey, there`s hope for everybody.  You never know.

(LAUGHTER)

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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.                                       

MATTHEWS:  Yeah.

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. 

(CROSSTALK)

(APPLAUSE)

And I trust America to do the same thing --

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MATTHEWS:  One of the reasons I`m (INAUDIBLE) of people like Kennedy --

BUTTIGIEG:  Right.

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) --

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(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to our special live town hall in Fresno, California, with South Bend Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. 

Thank you.  Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Right there.

Keith Caldwell (ph), your question, sir. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right.  Thank you.  Welcome to California, Mayor Pete.

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)

(CROSSTALK)

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.

(LAUGHTER)

(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, right?

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 sequence. 

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.

And...

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Mayor -- Mayor, I have got a follow-up.  And it`s to -- it`s to sort of nail you down. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes. 

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).

Angelique (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hello. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Hi.

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? 

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BUTTIGIEG:  Well, look, I admire so many of the people running.  They are extraordinary.

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 the clock.

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 just different. 

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)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

Mayor, the next one is Caylin Knopf (ph).  

Caylin (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 education. 

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.

(LAUGHTER)

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 debt. 

And I think more --

(APPLAUSE)

BUTTIGIEG:  And I think more generous programs for public service loan forgiveness, so that you can get it forgiven. 

(APPLAUSE)

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 affordable. 

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 sentence. 

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.

(APPLAUSE)

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:  OK.

(APPLAUSE)

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 table issue? 

Yes, look at that, real people. 

Thank you. 

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 working together. 

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 life?

BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you. 

So --

(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:  Wow. 

(APPLAUSE)

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. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  There`s a lot of agreement about concern about choice. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much. 

We will be right back. 

The lightning rod -- round is coming next. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to our special HARDBALL town hall with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 

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 union."

Where do you stand, right-to-work laws?

BUTTIGIEG:  Bad idea. 

MATTHEWS:  Bad idea.  Even though you have them in Indiana, you`re against them? 

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 year? 

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 together. 

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? 

(APPLAUSE)

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. 

(LAUGHTER)

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 that.

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. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

BUTTIGIEG:  And we have a systematic racial bias in who`s incarcerated in the first place. 

(APPLAUSE)

BUTTIGIEG:  And if we can`t correct that, it does make my position harder to defend. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.

Let me ask you, on the same topic, same cultural realities, capital punishment, for or against it?

BUTTIGIEG:  Against it.

MATTHEWS:  Good.

Twenty-one states now against it, and you`re against it in any case, in any case?

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Those were all easy, and now the tough ones.

BUTTIGIEG:  Oh, those were easy?

MATTHEWS:  They weren`t.  Just kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Name some of your public figures, Republicans, who you respect - - living Republican. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I will give you a few seconds. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Oh, I had such a great answer if it wasn`t living. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I know.  Abraham Lincoln?  Come on.

BUTTIGIEG:  No, I got a better one for you. 

MATTHEWS:  Teddy Roosevelt?

BUTTIGIEG:  Even better. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Wendell Willkie.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(LAUGHTER)

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. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he was Roosevelt`s diplomat going to Britain to unite the world there.

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 higher standard.

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 knew more. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 

(APPLAUSE)

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 bad idea. 

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 do. 

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 -- 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  What -- if you`re elected President of the United States, what would you say to Vladimir Putin the first time you met him? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Because you will get to meet him. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Well, don`t mess with our elections, for one. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

(APPLAUSE)

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 roughly zero. 

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. 

(APPLAUSE)

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 now. 

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 --

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

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 generational shift. 

MATTHEWS:  Sharing incomes with other family members. 

BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

We`ll be right back with the mayor, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.  We`ll be right back. 

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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)

(APPLAUSE)

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?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  Dick Gephardt. 

GEPHARDT:  Hey, Mayor Pete, you really took me seriously, didn`t you? 

(LAUGHTER)

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. 

(APPLAUSE)

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 --

(CROSSTALK)

BUTTIGIEG:  Got to get on his good side then.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

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. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

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:  Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

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? 

(LAUGHTER)

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 thing. 

(APPLAUSE)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, that`s how Dick Gephardt got ahead.  I watched his career. 

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. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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. 

(APPLAUSE)

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 solution. 

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. 

(APPLAUSE)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

  END

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