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Everybody, it's David Plouffe, welcome to Campaign HQ. Well, we have a few momentous things going on. I'd start with Donald Trump's attempts to now be more visible in interviews. I don't know if this is a result of the shakeup in his campaign leadership, but it's not working.
So we saw the disastrous Chris Wallace interview not too long ago, followed by it's hard to think about an interview that could be worse than the Chris Wallace interview, but the one with Jonathan Swann by Axios, who really did a great job of just being prepared and not letting Trump get away with his normal lying and B.S. and overtalking was one of the worst interviews any human being could ever give, much less someone who's 13 weeks away from trying to win a presidential election.
So I would say if you haven't watched, I'm sure most of you have. Watch it. Bisharat posted to social networks and to your Trump loving friends and family members just to depress them. But, you know, I think it's it's you know, this just suggests that Trump I've said before, he's not figured out a court case for his re-election. He's really not settled yet on a core argument against Joe Biden. His campaign now suggests that they're going to just run ads saying Biden is like a weak, empty vessel for the left.
You know, Bernie Sanders, AOC don't think that's going to work. We'll have data soon to see. But, you know, at the end of the day, Trump cannot, you know, talk about the pandemic in an honest, straightforward, credible way.
I think, you know, a child could explain it better and be more honest about the statistics. In the same interview, he denigrates John Lewis and suggests that he's done more for black Americans and he or anyone else in history. He defends Glenn Maxwell and, you know, kind of a notorious sexual predator and trafficker or at least accused and goes on and on about how he's worried that, you know, because Jeffrey Epstein died, maybe she'll die. And so she wishes her well.
It just was a calamity. And there's no cohesive argument about why he should be re-elected. There's no cohesive argument about how we're going to dig out from the pandemic and get a vaccine out. He just lies. And, you know, the narcissism is getting worse by the day. You see, I mean, he just lives in his own comfortable bubble and believes what it is he thinks everyone should believe. It is like the HBO show Westworld. He he wants to live in that world where he is the man.
He thinks he is not the man he is. And the other thing going on is Trump's continued attacks on voting of all sorts. And, you know, my big concern here is obviously there's going to be legal challenges all over the country. Democrats won an important one in Minnesota this week to allow absentee ballots to be postmarked by Election Day. They don't have to be returned on Election Day. But you also see he he installed a Trump toadie fundraiser into the Postal Service.
And they're going to do all they can, I think, to make it. You know, ballots might get lost.
They certainly, you know, Trump talks about fraud. I mean, he's the one that's going to commit fraud.
Huge delays, by the way, these postal service delays. It's not just about the election. People rely on them for prescriptions for, you know, timely payment of bills. You know, if they're not using electronic means. And I think you're going to begin to see outrageous people's prescriptions are late and as reliable service that we've all gotten used to over the decades erode simply because Trump is ordering his, you know, political appointee to screw the post office.
And I'd like to see Democrats in the House and in the Senate and governors be much more focused on this. This is urgent. You know, this is almost a time of war like footing where we need to be on this. There needs to be hearings. There needs to be investigations, there needs to be interviews. There needs to be pressure, like just suffocating this and haven't seen that yet. To data. You've seen some statements of concern, but that's not enough.
So this is where we need party leaders to really step in. And, you know, this next aid package, I mean, this has to be part of it because, again, it's not just about the election. It's about commerce. It's about medicine. It's about health that the postal service gets what it needs, starts getting screwed with. And we have the right approach to assisting states, to counting ballots. So we do not yet have a pick from Joe Biden in terms of his VP selection.
Rumors are we may get that next week, the week of the 10th, which should be the week before the convention. And that's you know, I've seen some stories where Democrats are expressing concern that Biden hasn't made his selection yet. This is the most important decision Joe Biden will make until he becomes president if he wins. And let's let him take his time, if he's not 100 percent sure, rather get it right than rush it so he will announce it.
And, you know, my guess is we'll see it either next week could be late. Could be something that he does right, leading into the convention, but don't worry about the fact that he's not made his decision yet. And I as I've said on this program and in other interviews, are done having gone through this process, you know, and then Joe Biden, of course, went through the process, was picked and served in the job.
This is going to be about his governing partner is not about the campaign. You want to pick somebody who doesn't hurt you in the campaign. And I think the only way Joe Biden could hurt himself would be to take a flyer on someone like a Sarah Palin or George H.W. Bush did with Quayle, somebody who's clearly ready to be president. And if voters believe that person could be president, the pick is not going to hurt him politically. And then someone who, you know, you think can do well in that one debate with Pence, assuming we have one.
You know, other than that, let's not understate the challenge that Joe Biden has here. If he if he gets elected, we are going to be still an economic catastrophe. We are still going to be maybe in the depth of a horrible pandemic, maybe at some point next year we have a vaccine ready to be distributed. That's a massive piece of business. We have so much to do around climate change, repairing world alliances. I think sometimes we just can say, oh, we win an election.
Awesome. Like what comes after is what really matters.
And he's going to have to have a vice president who can be working adeptly and skillfully with Congress, who can travel the world stage, who can be assigned key projects from an execution standpoint and be a valued counselor, maybe your most valued counselor. So this is about what happens after November if he were to win much more so than anything on the campaign trail between now and then.
So I'm eager to talk to our guests today about the election. Paul Begala, I'm sure almost all of you, maybe all of you know Paul, legendary Democratic political strategist and operative, most famously along with his partner in crime, James Carville, helped lead Bill Clinton to the White House back in 1992. You know, was very involved in his re-election in 96 and has done a lot of work for candidates, for outside groups, and obviously is a constant presence on our smartphones and televisions.
As a commentator on CNN, Paul released a book this week called You're Fired The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump. And it's really a terrific read. He really does, I think, a remarkable job of putting in plain language and effective language the case we need to make against Trump, the case we need to make on behalf of Joe Biden and Democratic candidates. So for all of you that are involved in the election, I think a lot of you are.
It's worth a read because you'll pick up an idea or two, maybe more about how to be more effective and make the case, because ultimately, whether we're trying to convince somebody to register to vote or to vote or not vote third party or if they're true, swing voters deciding between Biden and Trump, if we're talking to them, it's going to be the effectiveness of our case. And, well, it's always going to be most effective for us to make our own case.
You know, speaking our truth. And what motivates us, Paul, is is got such skill with language and with argumentation. So I think you'll find it to be a helpful guide. And then we'll just talk to Paul generally about the election. He's been through these wars before and observing this one pretty closely on the other to talk to him about his home state of Texas and how real that is, both from a Senate race perspective and is it possible for Joe Biden to get to win number there?
So I think you'll enjoy this discussion with a legendary Paul Begala.
Paul Begala, welcome to Campaign HQ.
David, thank you very much. It's good to be back in the campaign headquarters. I miss it.
I know they've changed a lot, haven't they? So I want to talk about your book, which I read over the last couple of days. And I'm really excited for people to spend time with other things to make a difference. But I want to start let's just start on the campaign.
So I want to start with actually your home state of Texas. So how do you evaluate Biden's prospects in this campaign? And if I could ask you, kind of regardless of that answer, where do you think we are in Texas? Come, let's say the presidential race of twenty eight, Texas is in play.
It's easy for me to say now because you and I don't have to allocate money yet, right?
Certainly, yep. Jen O'Malley Dillon. That's right. Agenda is a frickin genius and a champ. And she lived in El Paso for a while this year. She knows a bit about Texas, believe me. But Texas is putting Texas in play. Whether or not Biden does, whether or not O'Malley Dillon does it kind of in a way, it doesn't matter because Texas is putting Texas at play, by which I mean this better Iraq. And Justin Nelson, the candidates for Senate and attorney general last night, who each came within two or three points of winning better than any Democrats done in twenty five years, better adjusted or leading the effort to take back the state House Democrats only have to flip nine seats.
They used to be down 50 in one hundred and fifty one seat chamber. The. We're down 50 now, they only need to flip nine and Betto carried all of those nine and more, so they're talking about 20 better carry, I think 11 of them. It is very doable. It is, I think, better than 50 percent likelihood because of the effort that they're putting in. On top of that, I guess I view Texas, I guess, since we're now governed by Moscow as one of those matushka dolls, you know, those Russian nesting dolls.
All right. Right at the heart of it is the state House, which if the Democrats flip, they'll have a terrific seat at the table for redistricting, but also helped to run the state in a more progressive way outside of that than the next one is the congressional delegation where Nancy Pelosi, who, if anybody is the hero of my book, it's Nancy Speaker Pelosi. She closed down her Democratic campaign office in California after twenty sixteen and moved it to Texas and anywhere from two to 10 seats.
I think they can flip in the Congress. Then on top of that is the Senate campaign where the Democrats have nominated MJ Hegar, a war hero, bad ass Texas woman rides a motorcycle like Ann Richards. And they've got John Cornyn, the incumbent Republican senator, at thirty six percent approval. And MJ, I think, could take him. So then you add to that.
Thirty eight electoral votes for Joe Biden as states in play. I know it's vicious, expensive. Again, I'd rather be me than Jen right now because I don't have to allocate the money. But people like me use Texas as an ATM for the last twenty five years, and I'm glad I did. I don't have any regrets. Bill Clinton is a pretty good politician. He didn't carry Texas, didn't even come very close against two Texans, Bush and Perot.
Barack Obama, pretty good politician. He shouldn't have targeted Texas either way. But when you run a campaign. But it has changed and it's changing from the grassroots up. And it's important, I think, Joe, by the way, Mike Bloomberg is listening. He should spend one hundred million dollars in Texas in the last hundred days and he alone could flip it. It's a fine idea.
Well, your point, even if Biden narrowly loses it and we win the state house, what a victory that is.
And so, Paul, do you imagine that this really quick moving change? It kind of reminds me a little bit of what happened in Virginia. You really think by the end of this decade, you know, most statewide races will be competitive in the state?
I do. I do. It's it's a combination of the things like we did see in Virginia and other states. It's there's changing demographics, enormous Latino population, a sizable African-American population with more black people who live in Texas than any other state. It's just so big that there's not as big a percentage of the population as in other southern states. So that has happened. And Democrats are doing a very good job from the grassroots up in registering them. Chuy Hinojosa is a state party chair there.
Manny Garcia is executive director. They're really focused on registration. But then there's a second thing which happening all over the country, changing attitudes of college educated white people. So I grew up in Fort Bend County, which when I was a kid was small, exurban. It's now the 10th largest county in Texas. It is now majority nonwhite and full of immigrants full and the wealthiest county in Texas, which sort of gives the lie to the Steven Miller Donald Trump nonsense that somehow immigrants make us poorer.
It's a wealthy county, Texas, and it's got more immigrants than anywhere I've ever been. It went for Hillary. This is a county where I grew up. Tom DeLay was my congressman for twenty two years. He was typical of the people I grew up with. And that place has changed so fast. And it's I guess like they talk about bankruptcy, right? It happens over a long period of time. And then all of a sudden. This has been going on for a long time, but the tipping point is this year it couldn't be more exciting.
Now, of course, as we know, you look back at like 1976 and Carter wins the south and the plains and Ford wins California and Oregon and Washington and New England. Right. So the Electoral College changes. So, you know, maybe the upper Midwest over time gets more difficult for us.
But, you know, you add Texas, you know, to California, to New York, to Illinois, some of these larger states, and we're on the doorstep of 270 every presidential election.
So, Paul, you and your partner in crime, James Carville, famously came up with the term It's the economy, stupid, back in 92. You wrote a book about that. And I want to talk about in the context of this election. And again, you talk a lot about this in the book, so we'll get to that in a little more detail.
But so, you know, Trump has eroded on that measure to his his one attribute that he was doing well on in the last few months was who do you trust more on the economy? We've seen erosion there. And I guess my question for you is one, what can Joe Biden do in the closing 97 days here to maybe take a lead on that measure and maybe with some margin? And then secondly, how much is it about how we recover from the pandemic in the next president's term?
Versus do we still have work to do to indict the way Trump led on the economy in the first four years? Or is that better left? You know, is kind of ground. We don't fight on and we just focus it on the future.
I think I think that we have to take the fight to Trump and indict what he did and failed to do even before the Korona crash that the Trump tax cut for the rich. I go through this in the book, David, you were there in the White House. You guys inherited a global economic collapse, the worst since the Great Depression. And all you could get out of Congress was eight hundred and thirty two billion dollars, 800 hundred billion to save the global economy.
And you use that to save the global economy. You saved the auto industry. You saved the financial industry. You saved the American middle class for eight hundred billion. Trump comes in and he puts two trillion way more than twice as much, not into the middle class, not into working people, not into child care, not into the opioid crisis, but into corporate profits. Now, there's an argument that we maybe needed to update the corporate tax code.
It's above my pay grade. But the notion that we needed to put two trillion dollars against that problem when corporate profits before the tax cut were at an all time high, it's preposterous. And it needs to take that case to the American people. At a time when the wind farm bankruptcies are at a record high, farm suicides are at a record high, Opéra deaths are at a record high. Middle class is fading. His biggest concern was corporate CEOs.
That's an argument I think Joe needs to take straight to the heart of the middle class, right?
I violently agree with that. Well, because I think if you don't do that, then I think the the argument about who can you trust to rebuild is not as strong as it needs to be.
And, you know, if we do recover, it's only going to be for those at the top. I completely agree that. So, Paul, I'm curious.
So, you know, you and James and the amazing team you had in 92 led Bill Clinton to the White House. He won re-election in 96 in a race that ended up not being that close.
But, you know, you were part of that effort. You've studied every presidential election, been part of many of them. I'm curious, you know, when you look at Clinton in 96 and how we define that race and Dole George Bush in 04, how he defined the race and Kerry how we define Romney in 12 with your help from the outside.
Why has Trump this late in the campaign not settled on? Here's my case for re-election. Here's why. You shouldn't be for my opponent. I mean, it is getting really late. Is this just all about him and his narcissism and his inconsistency and his inability to focus, like, what the hell's going on there?
I think it's that yes, I think it's the candidate. I think he should be studying what you guys did in 2012 because your economy still wasn't fully recovered. You weren't, thank God, in the kind of crash we're in now. But President Obama ran for a second term with an agenda for a second term and an agenda that would affect my life for the better. And he was able to put the contrasting vision with Mitt Romney on trial. People much more wanted Obama style economics and Obama style health care.
That's not what Trump is doing. You saw the interview with Sean Hannity was asked the ultimate puffball question, what would you do with the second term? And he talked about how now he thinks experience is useful. But he didn't say anything, anything. What's he going to do for my 84 year old mom? Well, he's going to cut her Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, but that's not going to help her. The guy's lack of a forward looking agenda and his lack of focus on people.
This really is the heart of the book. This is as I as you well know, I had to eat crow, the very first chapter in this book about what I got wrong. You were kind to say I helped with the super PAC from the outside of President Obama's re-election. He would have won without us. But I think in 2016 I did not do my job as well going after Trump. And it's because I got distracted by his sewer level character, his piggish personal behavior.
And I didn't make it about your life, the fact that he was going to take away health care from vulnerable people in the cities and the suburbs and the rural areas and the fact that his economic policies favored the powerful. And we didn't do that. We just attacked his character. So I don't want to make that mistake again. I think that we have to make this about voters, not even about Trump in his in his appalling character. I think that's baked in.
I think Joe's doing a very good job of that. He's I think his build back better plan is very good. He's now about to give a speech on racial reconciliation. I'm desperate for him to do a massive, massive move on national service. That's I make the argument in the book right now.
You do? Yeah. So I want to get deep into the book in a minute. So let's talk about mostly the economy. But there's also how do we make sure the vaccine gets distributed, you know, properly in health care and education and immigration. How much of the rest of the campaign from the Biden campaign do you think is really just talking about Joe Biden, his values, his character, who he's going to fight for, you know, his issues and his policies?
To your point?
I mean, it seems like well, more than, you know, I think 55 percent of Americans, maybe certainly 50 to have decided they don't want to rehire Trump right there, like done with a guy.
But, you know, the question is, how does Biden close a sale? And, of course, you have to keep pressure on Trump. And part of that you mentioned on this economy is you've got to go right at him.
But how much of this is just filling in that Biden picture, do you think? Yeah, I do think he needs to do that because I think you're right, they've stopped listening and this did not happen to President Obama in his re-election. It did not happen.
Thankfully, we were worried about that. No, that's exactly right. Right. We had this amazing epiphany. You talk about being lucky. I was a fly on the wall when Hamilton Jordan, God rest his soul, who was Jimmy Carter's campaign manager, came to talk to Carville and me. And Hamilton said there was a time with Carter when they just stopped listening. It didn't matter any more with the president of the United States said they were hell bent on firing him and all Reagan had to be was an acceptable alternative who wouldn't blow up the world.
And that's why the race was very close until the debates, because people people had some questions about that blowing up the world thing. Right? Right.
Right. Well, he gave us the same advice. He said, look, people are done with Bush Senior. They're done. They're ready to fire him. The question is, are you qualified for the job? And we did actually ran quite a positive campaign, published a book called Putting People First, saying this will be our economic strategy. I watched President Obama and President Bush and for the American people were still very open to them and listening to them.
And at this time, I think it's more like it was with the last two presidents we fired. I think they're done with this guy. They've decided they want to fire him. And so now Joe has to close the sale on the things that he's for. But I do think he's doing that. I'm not I don't mean this is a criticism of Joe. I think he's done a very good job of saying here's how we will build back better, as he says.
Yeah, the challenge for any campaign, as you know, is, you know, even when you're in a campaign, you can get bored and say, well, we already talked about that or we gave you you just got to do it every day. So you're sick of it, right? Because then and only then are the voters you care about beginning to pay attention to. Paul, your book, which came out this week, is aptly titled Your Fired The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump.
And you mentioned to me a couple I want to start this. Your first chapter is actually called Mea Culpa. The book I released earlier in the year. I also spent some time eating some crow. So I want to talk about that a little bit. You mentioned that you were doing work on the outside and you were attacking his character. And we kind of didn't make the economy as front and center as possible. And I think Hillary's campaign, you know, said they made that mistake as well.
But I'm curious. I think part of the thing I struggle with and I look back on that is, you know, we had polls and we had data. We were all talking to the Clinton campaign. You had your own data. So it looked like she was going to win. But also we just didn't think somebody like that, particularly after Access Hollywood, could be elected president. And I'm wonder if you've reflected on that. So we all made mistakes about what we did in the race and how we viewed the race.
But that to me was my fatal flaw.
Also, like every Republican I knew was not voting for Trump, it turned out those were the only Republicans not voting for Trump. So I also, like, overestimated that, you know, that voter cohort. But I'm just curious as you reflect on that, because it does worry me for our country that someone like that. Now, let's be honest, he got forty six point one percent of the vote, which is the third party vote, had been historically what it normally is.
He would have gotten a beatdown, but he still slipped through. He did.
And I think you're right. I think that I. Misapprehended How desperate many Americans wanted a wrecking ball that I should have seen that the primary David we watched it and I was laughing, was laughing.
Oh God couldn't be this good to me. Give us Donald Trump will pound him. But what I didn't really appreciate. I've talked to by the way, the Trump strategists and they did see that and I did not. They believe the country wanted a wrecking ball. A one of them described Trump to me as a big middle finger.
Well, that's a pretty good description, actually. And that was from one of Trump's top strategists.
So I didn't appreciate that. And that's why I had data to we tested arguments on the economy the same way, you know, of course, we never attacked Mitt Romney's character because he's a person of good character. But we had different ideas on the economy and health care. So when we tested it, it didn't seem to work as well as the character attacks because they are so very shocking. But I had this epiphany that three weeks after the election, I thought about my my wife's an Army brat, but her family's all from Wisconsin.
They're dairy farmers in rural Wisconsin. And I thought about those folks and I've been out there a lot and I thought, well, they would have seen our ads attacking us, attacking disabled people, attacking women, attacking immigrants. And they would have said, well, golly, we could never vote for a guy like that. But then right at the end, a couple of things happen. One is, I don't think we made the case on the economy and he was in his weird wrecking ball way talking about the economy and the middle class in manufacturing.
And I imagine this farmer turning to his wife and says, well, you know, honey, he's not going to grab you by the privates, but he says he's going to open up that factory where they laid off our son, Harvey.
And that's what I got wrong. I didn't make it about a farm family in rural Wisconsin, a factory worker in Pennsylvania, an office worker in Michigan. I made it about Trump. And that's what every narcissist wants. And that's my plea in this book is let's get back to the first law of politics taught to me by Bill Clinton, which is it's always about the voters. It's never about the candidate's. Yeah, well, and Trump has violated that he pretended a little bit in his campaign, but now it's all about him.
And, you know, we're at a time where the last people wants a wrecking ball. They want somebody to repair the country. You know, there's the old saying, we actually my firm put this in an ad for Tom Vilsack when he was running for governor. You know, any jackass can tear down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one. Right. And I think that trumps one of his strengths from 16 was that he was just going to take an absolute wrecking ball, you know, to the government, to Washington, to our economy.
And now he's a the last thing he thinks about is, you know, voters he is seems to have no sympathy for what they're going through.
And secondly and I would I want to ask you about that, because you have a lot of great, I think, arguments in the book. And I want to talk to you about how the average voter can put those to play. How important do you think it is to paint the picture that, you know, if you're Joe Biden? Listen, the economy is clearly never going to fully recover, you know, until we have a vaccine. But how on earth can this jackass that we have in the White House be trusted to actually execute, you know, delivery of that vaccine and, you know, do the right things to repair the economy?
It seems to me that that's one of the reasons I think Trump's paid a price in his economic approval numbers simply because the economy really sucks right now for a lot of people. But I don't think he's paying the full price. And I think you really have to paint a picture for people of really four more years of this. You know, this guy couldn't organize a two car, you know, you know, parade. So what's your view on that in the best way to make that argument?
I think it's both the competence but also the priorities. We have got to put that tax cut on trial. We have got to put his desire to repeal Obamacare and take away protections for pre-existing conditions on trial. You know, this week and I do honestly wish him well. Congressman Louie Gohmert from Texas, who famously refused to wear a mask, was diagnosed with Coronavirus. And I do wish him well. And I'm not being sarcastic, but thank God he has government provided health care.
Thank God some insurance company can't say to him, hey, you're over 65 and well over several years. And so we're going to take away your health care. Thank God we're not cutting his Medicare if he's on Medicare. And I want the same protections for everyone else. This is the case. I think Democrats have to make that. If we put Trump back in charge, he's going to have the same priorities first. It's always himself know he's like the the the tenor at the opera during warmups.
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me.
And second, though, when he has other priorities, it's not for you. It's not for the American middle class. The fact that he cut corporate taxes by two trillion in his first term and now wants to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security by two trillion in his second is something that we cannot communicate enough. And I bet you a nickel I bet your listeners know this, OK, but I bet you half of my viewers on CNN have never heard that.
And that's on me. That's on me.
Well, so, Paul, you you know, whether it's the economy, taxes, health care, the courts, the environment, you know, throughout your book, I think you do a great job of laying out the indictment against Trump and the case we need to make from a positive standpoint.
But but the point you just made, you know, part of because there's so much chaos and crisis around Trump and he does such outrageous things, I do think whether it's, you know, Medicare, the size of the deficit, you know, what he's done to, you know, environmental regulations, which, by the way, work with swing voters, not just with the base in the Democratic Party, that that that's not fully known.
But, of course, the big thing is the pandemic in the economy.
So if you're running a campaign and I think this isn't just, you know, for Joe Biden, it's also for the average citizen out there. Right. Who I think your book is going to be a really invaluable guide for them as they as they work in these last weeks. How do you handle that? Because there's like 12 things you probably want to get off your chest. And, you know, to your point, swing voters, if they knew it, it would bother them.
But we also need to really zero in on the core arguments here. So what advice do you give to people on that?
That's right. That it's it's better to be simpler than than than more complicated. Right. That side you mentioned before that we had in the world, it actually said this at the very top.
It said change versus more of the same. Right. So if I had to say one word to people. Right.
And and and it said and don't forget health and don't forget health care. Right. And you know what? You could put the same thing up there. 80 percent of Americans think that we're going in the wrong direction. It's the highest I've ever seen. And so fundamentally, I think guys like you and me can make a difference at the margins.
And I think you really did. I think, you know, frankly, Clinton was going to win no matter what, because it was a terrible recession. But I think that we can make a difference at the margins. But fundamentally, there's only two arguments. Stay the course versus it's time for a change.
Well, I know where I am in that dichotomy. Right. So if I said one thing, it would be change. If it was two things, it still would be the economy, stupid. And don't forget health care.
It still applies. So. When folks buy your book and read it, how do you hope they operationalize it?
Like, what do you what in your like when you when you were writing, you're like, here's what I really hope this book contributes to the effort to be Donald Trump. How do you hope people utilize your words of wisdom?
This only works if you read your book first. I mean this, David.
So your book does such a great job of empowering people like my my 84 year old mom. She volunteers and campaigns. She can't go door to door anymore. But she she was out there.
The Black Lives Matter rally, my 84 year old Irishman of all the way down to my my twenty two year old kid who just graduated from college. He's working in campaigns to now they need to know practically the nuts and bolts. How do I do this? Where do I go? How do I protect my rights? How do I advance this? Cause that's what your book does. I think my book does. Following on to that is say here's how to talk about it.
Here's the content that, you know, if if mom is emailing and texting and zooming her friends from church or my twenty two year old is talking to his buddies from college, what do you say? Right. Once you get the techniques down in the tactics down the content, how do we make our case? And one of the things I think that you've been great about is we've got to do outreach. There was an element and I think it's faded out.
There was an element on our side of the aisle of just hating on Trump voters, which I've never understood. You know, I always felt like if people voted for Trump, that was a failing on my part, that I didn't make the case against Trump sufficiently to connect it up to them. So I want to reach out to people and I want everybody who's listening to this to try as best they can to do both motivate and excite our base and persuade some of his folks to come over to ours.
And that's I think that's how good campaigns work. You know, campaigns are like churches. Some want to reach out and seek converts and some just want to hunt down heretics. I got no time for heretics, honey. I'm a I'm a Pope Francis Catholic.
I, I want everybody in the church the politics of expansion, not exclusion.
So I would encourage everybody, you know, particularly those of you that live in battleground states, all of you know people in battleground states to encourage people to to read Paul's book, because I think, you know, you obviously are a great writer. You write in, I think, a very conversational style. And so no matter the issue, if you've got a cousin or a neighbor or a colleague who's struggling with their vote, whether it's health care, the courts, the environment, education, leadership, Paul's got great arguments in this book.
And I think you'll find it to be just a really helpful tool.
I'm curious, Paul, when I was reading the book, it's also kind of a horror show in a way, because you recount what we've lived through over the last four years and honestly, like you're seeing every issue and everything Trump's done and then the alternative of what the country could be like.
You know, it got me pretty angry, honestly.
How I mean, was it therapeutic at all for you? Did you need to take some long walks also? Because, I mean, it is kind of a horror show just to be in one place, see everything he's done in the harm it's caused.
You know, it was actually a little taxing psychologically because I wrote it during lockdown so I could go out for walks and things. But I was trapped in a room with Trump's record. And there are over just, by the way, over 750 citations, almost all of them to journalists. And it really did make me appreciate the journalists. And I complain about them. I think they overplayed Hillary's emails and so forth. But my got the first rough draft of history of this Trump presidency has been written by some really terrific journalists.
And when you walk through day by day, issue by issue, as you say, that we haven't even had time to talk about the environmental wreckage. And I think closest to my heart in that is from a small town in Texas. And one summer during college, my brother worked on an offshore oil rig and I worked in the warehouse, shipping pipes and heavy materials out to those rigs.
So I, I have a real fondness for those guys and almost all guys out on those rigs. And after the BP explosion in Deepwater Horizon, 11 guys were killed and they did not need to die. They should have had stronger safety protections. So President Obama put stronger safety protections in. And Trump has repealed them, the protections that President Obama enacted so that working class guys busting their ass out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, sweating in the heat, doing it just for their family.
They don't need to die before their time. And President Obama protected them, and I bet you a nickel, most of them voted for Trump. God bless him. But some of them, their lives were saved by Barack Obama. And for Donald Trump to take away those protections, yes, it'll destroy the environment, too. It's just been heartbreaking to me because the truth is, like everything in life, people who are downscale suffer more, right?
Poor people have more asthma. They have more air pollution. They live in places like Deer Park, Texas, right by where I grew up, where there are the refineries. And when Trump repeals these environmental protections, he's putting benzene in the air. He's putting mercury in the ground and in the water. This matters and it matters to all of us if we if we breathe and eat and drink. But it matters more to poor folks. And a lot of those poor white folks voted for Trump.
You know, it's it's the truth is, you know, his behavior, the corruption, the illegality, the historic incompetence around the coronavirus, the tax cuts for the wealthy, all these things appropriately get most of the headlines.
But what they've done kind of off Broadway here to harm people, this is where I mean, Trump himself is not competent, but he's clearly got some people in these agencies who are basically saying, what's everything we can do to stack the deck on the side of big corporations and, you know, really harm workers.
And I think, you know, that will matter to some voters.
So, Paul, your book is a reminder to people that they have not just a stake in this election, but an obligation and responsibility to get involved. And I'm curious, you know, you like I probably talk to people who you hear one of two things.
Either, you know, the polls are wrong in 16 and we could lose or more increasingly, I'm starting to hear people saying, well, how on earth could Trump lose?
So what's your message to people who are in the latter camp, which is looks like Trump's losing by 10 or 15. I mean, what I say, but I'm is like, well, one, it could end up being super close in every vote and every precinct matters. And if it's not and we win by a landslide, we have to win by as much as possible to both, you know, put a we won't put a stake in the heart of Trump ism totally, but will cut its head off.
And, you know, we win back the Senate and win seats in the House. But I am concerned about that, that there seems to be a little bit of overconfidence right now. What's your take on that?
I think you're 100 percent right. This is the argument actually I've been having with my best friend and business partner of 30 some odd years, James Carville. James is, I think, irrationally exuberant.
He's like this is saying is, oh, but it's done.
It's like hell it ain't even in a shopping cart, much less the bag for the reasons that you state. I do think we have to discredit Trump ism so that it can't come back in the form of a Tom Cotton or Ted Cruz or whoever, but also for the first time.
There is a need to get beyond 270 and, you know, guys like you and me, that's only number we care about 270, 270, 270, and it didn't matter how far past the goal line you ran, but it does now because I we have to run up the score because Trump is going to call for civil disobedience. He is going to call for violence. He is going to say that the election was fraudulent. And so we have to win by so much that people will not respond to his call.
And I know that that seems unfair to Joe. Everybody else only had to get to 70, that this is the first time in all of American history that we have an incumbent president, as Lincoln says, and Steven Spielberg's movie, Clothed in Massive Power, who will use that power to refuse to acknowledge the election.
So Joe has to win Florida. He has to win Georgia. He has to win North Carolina. He has to win Texas. He has to run up the score so that people know that we have rejected both this corrupt man and his sick ideology.
Right. So let's go. Just we're going to go to a dark place for a minute, Paul. But, you know, as a as a as a means of motivation. So, listen, you and I have learned that that every election cycle is distinctive and unique and you need to be cognizant of history, but not overturn it when it comes to elections. And it could be that this race is like 1980. It could be that Joe Biden's lead never diminishes and he wins by a margin we thought was impossible in today's politics, 10 points.
But, you know, you're reminded, you know, I think 538 does this. Some of the other data journalists they put out now daily, you know, the tracking polls from previous presidential races.
And it shows, you know, back in, you know, 80 for Reagan and Mondale was almost tied, 88, of course, to caucus had a big lead at this time, you know, 92 or 98. Bill Clinton, you know, had big leads, won comfortably, but those got tighter.
George W. Bush had a big lead over Al Gore in 2000, ended up losing the popular vote. Kerry led Bush. Our lead in 08 was smaller than it ended up being. We were tied with Romney essentially at this point and Hillary led.
So like every race, there's pretty significant changes from where we are in August to Election Day.
So how could this race really tighten to the point of it being uncomfortable, in your view?
A hundred ways, but you're exactly right to go through that history. I remember you guys are in such a brilliant campaign, but I remember stopping in to see Senator Obama. We were both in New York on September 11th.
And I remember the date we were trailing then we were behind.
Oh, this was in 08. Yeah. After the Republican convention. Yeah. People forget that. Yes. And and, of course, you know, I'm far better than I do. It's like he didn't have a Clinton would have been Mooi stressed man had President Obama was just you know, he's just really analytical and brilliant.
But every I think every campaign reverts to the mean that what I don't know is has that mean reset after three and a half years of the mean being forty three? I doubt it. I doubt it. Carville thinks it has. James may be right. I don't think so. I think there's very little to keep him from going back up from thirty eight to forty three. Now his challenges he got to get forty three to forty six. Forty seven.
That's hard. That's a hard climb. But I think this is absolutely going to tighten up. And there's a couple of things that can happen.
And I think will the most evil is voter suppression.
I you know, you and I both had the blessing of knowing John Lewis, and I'm proud to say he was my friend. So I went out to the Capitol to stand in line for two and a half hours and pay tribute to him. And the line snaked all the way around the Supreme Court building. And I thought that was so fitting because in that building, John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act that John Lewis shed blood to to to create, and that the fact that this Republican Supreme Court has taken away the heart of the Voting Rights Act has empowered people like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to suppress black voters.
It's just that simple. Other places like in Texas, they're trying to also suppress young voters. So I'm terribly worried about voter suppression terribly.
I'm obviously worried about foreign intervention, I believe, and save this digital tape, whatever it's on now, save these pixels, what pixels, wherever they say, these electrons.
We're going to have an October surprise, David, and I think it's going to be manufactured fake evidence probably from Russia. But we also know that from John Bolton's book that the President Trump has even leaned on the Chinese to intervene.
So he has foreign adversaries who have massive technological capacity to create perhaps a deep fake video of Joe Biden saying or doing some horrible thing.
Or fake evidence trying to pretend that he did something wrong, so I'm terribly worried first about domestic voter suppression. Second, about foreign intervention and interference. And then third, I really am just still worried about complacency, which we already discussed right now.
I mean, listen, James may be right and maybe maybe this thing is cooked and the die is cast, but the notion that somehow Donald Trump, his White House, his party, and then, of course, you know, whether you're Erdogan or Auburn or she or Kim Jong un, Putin, of course, at the top of the list, you know, you in your wildest dreams never thought you'd have a weak American president like this. Right?
So they're going to do everything in their power to help this guy.
So, Paul, you are just one of the master communicators of this of really the last few decades.
So on things like voter suppression, disinformation, long lines on Election Day, absentee ballot, we've talked a lot about communication around the economy and health care and change a how much should we communicate about that? I mean, there's an argument that says don't tell and don't tell anybody. Things are going to be hard because that may dissuade them.
I've always believed you should be honest with people, but what's the best way to communicate?
Because I am worried that even if we don't have complacency, that that even if we enter this election with more than enough people who intend to vote for Joe Biden and Democrats for the Senate, that, you know, if we have a lot of ballots that don't count or people decide I'm not going to stand in line for four hours, like, what's the best way to get the message through about how to actually participate in this election?
Right. Well, again, I think your book covers this really well, David. It's like mutual admiration society. But we have to communicate to people about this. I strongly believe that. And by the way, there's a terrific study that John Allen, the head of the Brookings Institution, did. General Allen was a four star general before he took over at Brookings. And that's like the first thing that he talks about is communicate, communicate, communicate.
So we have to communicate to people that our election and our democracy is at risk. Second, we have to empower people. I think your book does a good job of that. The particular thing I would ask right now is that your listeners who are able to that they volunteer. As Election Day poll workers set a partisan hat aside, the majority of poll workers are over 60, a colossal percentage or seventy five. They are most at risk from covid.
So if you're younger and and look, this excuser very young, we I don't want to risk anybody's health. But if you can, you should consider working at the polls so that the lines are shorter. If we don't have enough poll workers, the lines get longer, the lines get longer. People some may lose heart and go home. Then turnout goes down. Everybody who can't vote early should vote early. And everybody who can't vote by mail should vote by mail.
It is the safest. It's perfectly honest. Good Lord, that's what Utah does.
I think it's almost 100 percent of the vote in Utah is by mail and it's certainly one of the more ethically run elections states in the country and happens to be one of the most Republican. So I would vote by mail.
So empowering people to do that and volunteering as a poll worker, it's a wonderful, patriotic thing. And I just don't want to see seniors getting sick because of it. Now, that's an important call.
And I think some people will say, well, what about the phone calls Joe Biden needs to make on Election Day? We need to do both. So I think but the truth is more people are going to vote by mail. So the universities are going to be smaller on Election Day than they've ever been in our country's history of people who haven't voted that we're worried might not show up. So we do. I think that's a really important call.
Paul, I'm curious. And, you know, this is both about the next, you know, period of time in this election. But I'm really thinking more over the next decade.
You, from the beginning of your career, I think, have been so great about, you know, economic messaging and really capturing the hopes and desires and concerns that people have. You talk a lot, not just about message in your in your book, but a lot of great policy ideas.
I'm curious, you know, but the world is changing around us, right? You know, with globalization, with income inequality, with, you know, massive automation, you know, right around the corner. You know, it used to be after World War two, if you were a manager at the factory or worker, you kind of live the same lives. That's not the case anymore. A lot of rural areas where the best you can do is 13, 14 bucks an hour.
What's the best way for Democrats to be honest about that, without being depressing, but because I do think there's a marketplace for that.
It's not easy because it's a tough message. But, you know, this isn't just about well, one party gets in office and they'll do all the right government programs and everything will be great. I'm just curious. I know you spent a lot of time thinking about these things.
We need a lot of new jobs, we need a whole new set of new jobs and you know, in the 90s we had the tech boom and it created a lot of jobs, but that's worked through the system.
And now because of I, a lot of jobs are at risk. And so we need a new pot of jobs. I think that Joe Biden is perfectly positioned to lead this because he ran a you know, this, obviously. But your listeners should know he ran the Recovery Act. He actually implemented President Obama's Recovery Act, which was the first draft of the Green New Deal, created thousands and thousands of green jobs in new technologies, in clean energy.
And I guess I would look particularly at green jobs. And I guess if I was going to rebrand the Green New Deal, I would call it green new jobs, because I do think that there's a big, big pot of jobs out there.
And one way out get into it is national service. You know, there's forty two million young people between the ages of 20 and 30, and there's only 75000 people in AmeriCorps. And I'm proud to work for President Clinton. And he started AmeriCorps and President Obama expanded it in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. By the way, both Presidents Bush were very good on national service is not a partisan issue, but 75000 people in America is just not going to cut it when unemployment between 20 and 30 years old, probably around 40 percent.
So I want Vice President Biden, president elect, we hope, soon to take up his successor in the Senate as Chris Coons and Senator Coons with Roger Wicker of Mississippi Republican, has a proposal to take AmeriCorps up to a million volunteers, a million people at hell, I take it beyond that, five million, 10 million. We need to create a giant new pot of jobs. The need is there. We've got to rebuild our infrastructure. We've got to make sure people can drink water without poisoning themselves.
We've got to make sure that we're treating people who are at risk in health care. The needs are so vast and the talent pool is there and money is cheap. So I do think you need this massive, massive new pool pool of jobs here, here.
Well, in order to get some of that done, you're going to have to have legislation passed, both the Senate and House. And I'm curious, when you think about the agenda just laid out, where are you on the question of getting rid of the filibuster?
You know, I I'm torn. Tell you the truth, I'm torn. I was there and helped Harry Reid out and work for him, but I was an outside adviser.
I'm terribly close to Senator Reid when he took down the filibuster for lower court nominations. It's a pretty small band of votes, but President Obama needed to fill these vacancies. Republicans were being blindly obstructionist.
And so Senator Reid was able to put scores of good judges into the judiciary because of that change that the good about the filibuster is it requires some level of bipartisanship if you have fewer than 60 senators in either party. The problem is, like everything we see, it depends on dorm's. It depends on people being people of goodwill. You know, I worked for the White House. We had Bob Dole running the Senate who ran up running against my boss.
And six weeks after the election, Bill Clinton gives Bob Dole the Presidential Medal of Freedom right after running against it. I mean, what's not a halcyon time they impeached Clinton. OK, but gee whiz, if the Republicans were less crazy, they were less hell bent on destruction. They were less nihilistic.
Even Trent Lott, who succeeded Bob Dole from Mississippi, he was we were able to get along with him and get things done. So the Republicans, I think, have squandered their right to filibuster. So long way of saying, I guess I would do away with it. But I kind of hate, hate, hate having to do away with it.
But I'm I'm where you are. But, you know, I think their behavior over the last four years has kind of tipped the scales here.
I think so, David. I think we have no choice. They have aided and abetted.
It's not just a setback. They've aided and abetted destruction of our norms. And I don't think they can be trusted.
So, Paul, question for you, last question. You've been very generous with your time. So kind of another existential question. So you probably have experienced this. I certainly have. Whether it's racist for president or governor, you know, you run a good race, you win, then you get into governing. And all your supporters, like you guys, are so smart in the campaign. Why are you so dumb now?
And you know, Michelle Obama actually on her first podcast, Michelle Obama podcast's talks to her husband, Barack Obama. And she makes a she says, you know, people forget like there's no marketing campaign for government. And Barack Obama says in that discussion, yeah, you know, people basically really tune in the government. Something's wrong. And this has been something Democrats have wrestled with for four decades, which is, you know, how do we build up trust in government?
Now, of course, if you have a good experience at the DMV or with the unemployment system, like as good as when you shop on Amazon. Right. I mean that I think that is more important than anything a politician said. But it seems like we've got to make progress on that question to make the, you know, full.
Progress is a country you have any thoughts on that? I do. I think we have to obsess, as you say, on where people meet the government and in state government is a DMV. But the federal government, it's very often FEMA and President Obama did a great job with FEMA. He put Jeb Bush's guy from Florida, Craig Fugate, in charge of FEMA because he was the best, not because he was a Jeb guy. The President Obama didn't care about the guy's politics.
He cared about his competency. He was an emergency professional. We had Clinton states that got him. James Lee Witt, absolutely great guy, have no idea his politics, but he is a professional. So when I grew up in the Gulf Coast of Texas, when storms come, when wildfires out west raging, when earthquakes hit, when tornadoes hit Oklahoma, you got to have the best people there. And for reasons I've never understood, the Republicans have frequently used FEMA as a parking lot for their political hacks and cronies.
That's how Katrina happened. So I guess first and anything like that, that's emergency related. Beyond FEMA, though, the Kofod, the public health system, which this president has allowed to erode and decay, has got to be rebuilt. You know, Barack Obama saved us from Ebola. You put a guy named Ron Klain, who you and I know and love in charge. And there were four entire cases, four cases of Ebola on the American American soil for.
Because you guys did your job and he left President Obama left us forward deployed. In dozens of nations through the CDC, he created within the National Security Council, right in the heart of the White House, a pandemic response unit.
Trump comes in and fires everybody in the pandemic response unit and defunds the CDC s forward deployment by 80 percent. And what are the countries they had to pull out of was China. So this is where the government touches and concerns people, right? We don't ever know. Like, thank you, Ron Klain. I didn't get Ebola right. Nobody's ever going to come up to Ron and say that. But but we have to show when it does when things do hit like this.
covid the fact that Trump has been AWOL and this is not shouldn't be an ideological thing. The fact that he wasn't Johnny on the spot with protective gear, with ventilators, with field hospitals, you know, with all the public health infrastructure that we that he has allowed to erode. So I guess if places like that, that people will see the government and, you know, we're always skeptical about government because we're Americans, but it's got to be run competently.
It's this is the thing about Republicans who always run against the government. And then when they're running the government, they just they try to destroy it. It's it's so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Well, I agree with that.
I mean, I think the other thing is Democrats sometimes were not willing to say, you know what, that government program didn't work, but this one did.
So we want to invest more in that one.
Like, I think we're not going to have credibility about the power and import of government unless we're honest about where it's working. And then let's double down and where it's not. You know, this can't just be government good versus bad. I think we have to be honest.
Right. I get I get health care through Obamacare, OK? I don't get the subsidy, thank God a privilege. But I because it's just my firm is just me and my wife. I get it through the exchange. That exchange is terrific. It is very user friendly. It's comprehensive. And the launch was a nightmare. But President Obama adapted that. He said, OK, that piece didn't work, let's change it to this. And it was iterative and adaptive over time.
I do believe that the right policies, the right politics, because people like me, at least, who have actually experienced Obamacare love it.
And that's why the ACA is now at its all time high in terms of polling popularity, because it's working. It's 20 points more popular than Donald Trump. Yes. So.
Right. Because it's working. I always feel like, you know, one of the reasons Republicans hate it is has President Obama's name in it. So I always tell them, well, OK, I call it Obamacare, but Obama has left and now it's just care, right?
Well, he told Trump when they met in the Oval Office after the election and 16, like, just get get rid of my name, call a trump card, whatever you want.
You know, just don't don't take health care around for twenty million people.
Now, that's so great. Well, listen, Paul Begala book, You're Fired The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump is out this week. It's a fun read. You'll really enjoy it. You'll learn a lot from it. I think you'll be able to put Paul's advice and lessons to use it, encourage you to read it. And, Paul, look forward to having your voice out there here in the closing days and hopefully will gather on the other side whether that's, you know, the night of November 3rd or December 3rd or whenever we know, celebrating the fact that Donald Trump is a disgrace.
One term president. Amen. Your lips to God's ears.
Well, so much there from Paul, I was excited to hear his view on Texas, which, you know, I think there's a view that maybe Texas will be closer this time and closer in 22 and closer in 24. And, you know, maybe eventually in twenty twenty eight or twenty thirty two, it becomes a core battleground. But Paul seems to think it could happen this time. And that obviously is not just exciting for this election, but it really would change.
The entire calculus of the Electoral College of Texas was something that, you know, became reliably competitive every election cycle. So really excited to hear that. And again, as Paul has a way with words in a way with language and speaks not in the way Washington does or even in the way Austin does. But, you know, just the way folks in towns and communities all across the country do. So, again, I think you'll benefit from that conversation, hopefully.
But if you have a chance and interest would really encourage you to pick up Paul's book, I think it'll be a really good guide, which is his intent to help you through these last 13 weeks. So thanks for tuning in and we'll be with you next week.