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Hey, everybody, it's David Plouffe, welcome to Campaign HQ. So I am recording this on Wednesday afternoon. Day three of the Democratic Convention. So let's start there. I think the first two days of the convention have been really terrific. And I think the convention team, led by Stephanie Cutter, who is our guest on this podcast a few weeks ago, and so many others have done a really remarkable job of adjusting to our first virtual convention. I actually think there's parts of it that I vastly prefer to the way we do.
And I thought the roll call, you know, where we saw all of our states and territories was inspiring and fun and imaginative. I think that Joe Biden's speech last night, being in an empty classroom was more compelling than being behind a podium. I think a lot of the speeches are shorter, and that's great. I think that's more interesting to people who are actually watching the convention and easier for people who are going to check it out afterwards or have a part of a speech shared by a friend or family member.
They'll be more likely to consume that than a 30 minute speech. So, so far, so good. I think Michelle Obama's speech was so urgent and raw, actionable.
And, you know, she gave wonderful speeches in 2008 and 2012. But I think this one was the strongest speech she's ever given for someone who does not like politics. And that's just on the line. She doesn't. I think that's why she's such an effective communicator. She doesn't talk like a politician, but her urgency is something we should all, I think, carry forward, because it was startling, I think, to hear from her the stakes of this election, our role in this election.
And, you know, I've certainly heard that, you know, online and off from her in the past. But it was a captivating performance that I think will have real impact. And I thought her really demand of herself all at the end to request an absentee ballot today, vote today, get was was so terrific and something I think we need to see for the rest of the convention. I think we'll see from Barack Obama tonight. You'll all see that hopefully by the time you listen to this podcast, you will have seen it or be preparing to watch it, you know, afterwards.
But I think it will be an urgent mission and message to the American people on both the stakes of this election. Joe Biden's unique suitability to be our president at this moment, he can speak like nobody else about the qualities and attributes Joe Biden will bring to the presidency because he relied on him and saw them up close. And also, I think, an urgent call to to protect and fight for our democracy. So I think that will be a helpful speech.
Really interesting to see Kamala Harris speech where she will need to both introduce herself but continue to do the job of introducing Joe Biden. And, of course, the vice presidential nominee usually has a few less than kind words for their opponents. So we'll see what the new material she has to bring out against Trump and Pence. And but the most important moment by far of the convention will be Joe Biden's speech, where I think what we'll see there is is hopefully a better sense from him to the American people about what he'll do as president.
You know, he talks about it all the time, but this is his best chance with the biggest audience to date to reintroduce himself to the American people, both in terms of biography and character and values, which are such important underpinnings, but really get specific about what he'll do as president. So I'm sure there'll be some funny and good barbs and serious contrasts with Donald Trump. But I think his most important job is to really give those people who are leaning his way or have sort of decided they're going to abandon Trump or maybe they'll register for the first time to feel even more excited about that and confident in their choice.
We continue to see Trump's attack on our democracy, you know, most urgently around the issues of the post office, where we've seen a lot of equipment being removed. We've seen issues with overtime. We've got the post office telling states they likely won't be able to process ballots in time. We've seen, you know, mailboxes being taken out all over the United States. The post office General Luis Dejoy said yesterday on Tuesday that he's going to cease all of this nonsense.
Democrats should not take any solace from that. The damage has already been done. I would expect him to continue to do more damage. And, you know, Democrats in Congress have to stick with this. They have to treat this as their own campaign to really bring Trump into joy, to heal, to make them surrender. And the standard here is, you know, if in 2010, 18 or 16 or 14 or 12 or 10, you know, it took two or three days to get your prescription drugs or, you know, your Social Security check or send in your absentee ballot or get a letter from your family member.
It should take the same amount of time now. So this isn't Will. Stop doing bad things because they probably won't. We'll do our best, not good enough. This has to be done exactly as it should be done. And Democrats can accept, you know, half measures here. There has to be hearing after hearing if that's what you took our subpoena after subpoena. Every member of Congress, every governor, every senator should be doing press events every day with people who've been affected by the post office malfeasance.
They just need to be all over this, because at the end of the day, I also think even a lot of Trump voters probably don't think we should be messing with the post office.
Some do. Most don't. So this is not a helpful political dynamic for Trump. So let's make him pay as much damage as he can for his illegal efforts to hold on to power. But we've got to make sure that, again, separate than the election, the post office should work the way we need it to work for people because so many people rely on it. But why this is important electorally is a lot of states, including five out of the six core battlegrounds, if your ballot is not returned by Election Day, comes in the day after the election, it doesn't count.
And so if it takes five, seven or eight days for ballots to come in, a lot of people think they're sending him in with plenty of time and they won't. And again, we saw in some of these June primaries, you know, eight to 10 percent of ballots getting spoiled.
So that's how, you know, it's not good for democracy, whatever party you support. But again, that's how I think a close election could be lost. So it is just not acceptable. This can't be a case where Democrats are, you know, sending a lot of letters and saying that they're pleased with statements that he's made that he's going to stop monkeying around. No, you just got to drive this to the ground with ferocity and intensity. And all of us also need to be vigilant, you know, and lifting up her own voices in that regard.
So another reason why, you know, even with polls showing Biden with a comfortable lead, it could tighten. I think it will. I've said that before. You know, national polls out this week, which, again, aren't as important as battleground state polls, but fifty forty one Biden, that's good. Whereas the other nine are going to go more. That goes home to Trump. We know he's going to outperform the national polls in the battleground states.
And, you know, Trump is going to try and make it harder for people to vote. He's going to make it harder for people to trust that their votes are going to count. And he's just trying to do everything he can to confuse the electorate. Now, there's some evidence out of the Florida primary this week that Republican voting by mail was down. So he's also you know, I've spoken about this before. It's dumb politically because he needs as many votes by mail as we do.
But at the end of the day, there's going to be a lot of, you know, Republican voters vote traditionally by mail and a lot of these states and there's plenty of Democrats do, but there's going to be a lot of people who maybe this is the first time they've ever voted and it's by mail or someone who's only voted in a polling location and they're voting by mail. They're not familiar with the rules. So, you know, we're all going to have to be all over this and do a great amount of education.
And, you know, I think Michelle Obama's speech was the right tone, which is we cannot take a single vote for granted. We have to treat them all preciously and we all have to do our part. I'm excited for our conversation today with Susan Rice. Susan was on Joe Biden's short list, not surprisingly, given her strength and what she would bring to the ticket was on Joe Biden's vice presidential short list. She has a long and storied career on in service to our country.
You know, let a lot of Bill Clinton's work in Africa during the 1990s in Barack Obama's administration was both our representative at the United Nations and served as national security adviser. So I really want to talk to Susan today about foreign policy as relates to this election.
What are the core arguments, you know, on behalf of Joe Biden and against Donald Trump? We, Susan, and many diplomats and foreign policy leaders in our country have spent a lot of their time trying to talk to others in the world about free and fair elections and democratic institutions and freedom of the press and the damage Trump's done. Because everyone around the world looks at what we're doing here and it seems to be counter to everything we've stood for. Talk about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Susan has spoken powerfully about this, that it really was such a powerful moment, obviously, within this country. But around the world, you saw people around the world joining in, you know, peaceful protests and civil disobedience, but also reminded people what is special about America. So I think you'll enjoy this conversation with Susan Rice, someone who I loved working with back in the day. She's brilliant. She's tough, strategic, but she has a huge heart.
And that's why she does this work, is to try and better the lives of people both within this country and all around the world.
Susan Rice, thank you so much for being on. Campaign HQ, it's great to be with you, David. You must have had an interesting few weeks. Yeah, things are a little bit quieter now than they were a few weeks ago.
Well, listen, I want to start actually, we were talking in the middle of the Democratic convention with the Republican convention next week. And the conventions are really your best opportunity because they're not a debate really to just make an argument on your own behalf and contrast that with your opponents. And we had John Kerry last night, Colin Powell. So I think people who are watching are getting a sense of this. But one of the things, obviously, you've been such a brilliant, substantive leader, but also understand that how you communicate foreign policy and its consequences is important.
Like if you had 30 seconds with a voter who says, you know, I'm really torn about this election, how would you distill from a foreign policy standpoint what the best argument is for Joe Biden and what it means in their lives?
Well, Americans, like everybody else, they want to be safe and they want to be confident that they have a great future. The way the United States has a strong, safe and prosperous future in the world is if we have friends and allies who are willing and able to work with us to get things done that matter to the American people, whether it's fighting a pandemic, dealing with climate change or terrorists dealing with a rising and more aggressive China, pushing back on a a Russia that seeks to undermine our democracy.
We can't do any of that effectively without our friends and allies. And the single most damaging thing that Donald Trump has done for us internationally is to sow distrust and fear and resentment among America's allies and partners. They do not trust Donald Trump. They do not want to work with Donald Trump's America. They do not believe that our interests and our values align anymore. And we can't lead if others won't follow. And that's the great danger that Donald Trump has done.
In addition, he's elevated and heralded our adversaries, given Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, Kim Jong un of North Korea, the red carpet treatment. And meanwhile, he's just antagonized and denigrated our closest allies. It's very, very dangerous to everything we want to accomplish in the world. That's why not Donald Trump. Let me just say, why Joe Biden? Why Joe Biden? Because uniquely, Joe Biden has the experience, the personal relationships with our closest friends and allies and their leaders, the integrity, the decency, the respect for the role that the United States can and must play in the world and a commitment to our alliance relationships that goes back 40 years.
They know him. They trust him. And they they he, of all people, can help us put this huge mess that Donald Trump has created back together. And so that's why, among so many other reasons, all the right policies, the right team he'll have around him, the Joe Biden himself, is uniquely positioned to help us dig out of this ditch.
Yeah, I mean, the moment seems really tailor made for him in a way. Maybe 18 months ago, you would have said a little less so. So, Susan, back in 2008, when you were advising then Senator Obama and I was working on the campaign, I think it always surprised pundits that we would say there are swing voters out there, maybe people who didn't pay much attention to politics, who one of the reasons they're for Obama is they want us to be respected in the world again.
Now, George W. Bush did not set out to burn our alliances. I think Donald Trump, that's kind of his signature foreign policy. But I'm curious in terms of making that argument and you just laid out, I think, on both sides, really compelling messages for people to take out into their work on behalf of Joe Biden. You know, you this pandemic we're in right now and you led the effort to set up the pandemic response effort in office that Donald Trump got rid of me.
Bring this home for people like we obviously see the rest of the world who are going back to school. They're going back to work. They're going back to sporting events. We alone right now seem still in the grips of this. How could this have been different? And how does that tie back to Donald Trump's kind of America? First, America only he doesn't trust our allies. Tell us that story, if you wouldn't mind, David.
The sorry. Truth is, so many more thousands of Americans have died than needed to die. So many more millions of Americans have been infected and will have perhaps long term health consequences. Our economy is in the worst recession since the Great Depression and our kids can't go back to school safely. And the reason for that boils down to failed leadership by Donald Trump and his White House. Now, it's fair to say that nobody could have prevented a pandemic from arising at some point in some place in the globe.
But as you point out, the way that every virtually every other country except Brazil and Russia have handled it indicate that a competent government can and should have mitigated its worst consequences. And Donald Trump has failed to do so. And this has enormous implications not only for the health and the well-being of Americans and their livelihoods and the education of their kids. But when the world looks to the United States, you know, it's one more, you know, indicator that we have fallen so far so fast.
We have proven ourselves utterly incompetent, incompetent to test, incompetent to reopen our economy, incompetent to source personal protective equipment in sufficient quantities and distribute them rationally. I mean, we've created a free for all where every state and locality has to compete against another for essential supplies, whether ventilators or masks, because Donald Trump refuses to employ the tools of the federal government has to make rational procurement and distribution decisions. I mean, it's just about as big a mess as it could be.
And when it comes to our allies and partners, again, who we may ask the next time we face a rising ISIS or the next time China tries to take over territory in the South China Sea or start a trade war or whatever it is that we're going to need them to join with us and and heed our call. When we say, look, this is a time when we all have to come together, we're going to look at us and say, if Donald Trump has got four more years, what are you talking about?
You don't share our values. You can't get anything done. You're not you. You're a paper tiger, so forget it. And they're already beginning to say that on any number of issues, including right now, this week, when just to get into a small matter. But the administration is going to walk into the United Nations Security Council later this week. And having abandoned the Iran nuclear deal, withdrawn from the deal in twenty eighteen, we're now going to say to the world, but oh, for the purpose of putting sanctions back on Iran, we're still a participant in the deal.
And we are going to be utterly isolated and that we've been isolated every step of the way on climate, on issues like this of nonproliferation. And now we're isolating ourselves on a pandemic. And the other danger of this, David, is that Americans need to understand when it comes to the pandemic, we aren't going to be safe and secure against this virus here in the United States simply by vaccinating a majority of Americans and getting to so-called herd immunity in the United States.
We've got to get to herd immunity globally because diseases don't respect borders. And if we don't lock it down everywhere, it can mutate and come back around and reinfect Americans. So we have to lead internationally on vaccines, on their distribution, on providing the kinds of support to the countries that need it most to stamp it out globally. And Donald Trump seems to have absolutely no understanding of that, as evidenced by his withdrawal from the WHL, which is the organization, despite its flaws, that can help ensure that there's global access to a coronavirus vaccine.
Well, he has zero understanding of it or awareness he's never spoken about. And it seems to me this will be an important point for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to really pound on, you know, over the next 11 weeks.
Suzanne, I'm curious when you think Trump has such ardor for Xi Jinping and Orban in Hungary and Putin Kim Jong un Poliziano, where does this come from? And it's almost like he's got a schoolboy crush on these dictators. Is it because this is how he would like to rule? He would like to be an autocrat? Does he admire them because there are no boundaries? I mean, I'm sure you've thought about this. Like, where does this come from?
I can't psychoanalyze the man. Look, by any any standard. He is not playing with the kinds of constraints and faculties and concerns of. Empathy and decency that we have come to rightly expect in our presidents, regardless of party. He is by any definition an outlier and he himself has continually exhibited a desire to govern autocratically, whether it's employing the Justice Department against his political adversaries, whether it's evading congressional oversight and refusing to respond to subpoenas, putting federal forces in unmarked uniforms onto the streets of our cities to terrorize and beat unarmed protesters, or trying to manipulate the very basic underpinnings of our democracy by trying to delegitimize mail in absentee balloting or any other form of casting a vote that he fears might not be for him.
I mean, it's absolutely unbelievable. So that's clearly who he is, which is certainly a one plausible explanation for why he's most drawn to leaders who govern autocratically elsewhere. I think he's got some great fantasy that he's a supreme leader and that whatever he says goes and he gives indications of that every day. And maybe he's just jealous that there actually are still in this country laws and rules and constraints on power, much as he's doing his utmost to break them.
I think he finds that all highly inconvenient.
So, Susan, you've spent most of your adult life engaged in efforts around the globe, you know, to strengthen free and fair elections and freedom of the press and the rule of law.
And, you know, if you think about, you know, hopefully it's Joe Biden's next four, eight years to president. After that, the damage that must have been done around the world. Like no one's going to listen to us about any of that, given Trump's approach to attacking the press. Now he's trying to, you know, hurt the main way most people are going to vote this election. The US Postal Service talk about that a little bit, the discordance between, you know, the work that's been done over the previous few decades and these last three years.
I mean, there's the old expression, you know, any jackass can tear down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one. All the work we've done all these years seems like, you know, maybe it's not eroded forever, but it's going to be a long time before we can get the credibility back to have those types of diplomatic conversations, it seems to me.
Well, there's absolutely no doubt, David, that Donald Trump has done enormous damage to our moral leadership in the world, to our ability to speak credibly about democracy and respect for human rights and freedom of the press and freedom of religion and, you know, the rights of women and minorities and the sanctity of the vote, you name it. I could go down the whole list. He's done enormous damage. And if he's given four more years in office, I believe that damage will be irreparable because I think the countries that still share the values that are traditional universal values and American values will look at us and say that we're a lost cause.
And but I do think and this is one of the many, many reasons why I am so committed to seeing Joe Biden become our next president, that electing Joe Biden is the first and necessary step to changing that dynamic, to enabling us to lead again with advocacy and credibility, including restoring and refreshing our moral leadership. For all the reasons that I said at the outset, he has relationships. He has the experience. He has the credibility. He has stood up for and fought for our values throughout his entire career, like his predecessors.
So I I think this is electing Joe Biden is necessary, but it's not sufficient. And we do need to recognize that a lot of damage has been done. And it will take time. It will take humility. It'll take patience to build back that confidence. And it's, you know, with all the best effort, it's not going to be done in one term of one presidency. It's going to take much longer than that, because if you're sitting in Berlin or in Madrid or in Tel Aviv, for that matter, and you're wondering, you know what, America, can we expect what America can we depend on, you have to wonder if if the United States electorate delivered Donald Trump and all that he stands for in 2016, what's preventing that from happening again in twenty twenty four or twenty twenty eight?
That's such a great point. You know, that confidence has been seriously shaken. In a lasting way, not irreparably, I believe, and it's going to take not just Joe Biden but, you know, all of the capable people that he will have around him, from Kamala Harris to whomever he puts in his White House, in his cabinet, to be part of building back and refreshing and renewing our leadership. But it's going to be it's going to be a real task.
And as I said earlier, nobody's better equipped to undertake it than Joe Biden right now.
You make such a great point. I mean, I think our allies will be hopeful, but we're still going to be on probation for a while. So, Susan, our former boss, Barack Obama, I'm sure, will have some things to say about Joe Biden tonight in terms of his the real capabilities he brings to the presidency.
You know, you were the national security adviser. You spent probably more time, you know, in The Situation Room than anywhere else in your life during those years. You've obviously played other senior roles. Talk a little bit.
I'm always surprised when I talk to friends of mine who some even in politics, but certainly those that aren't. You know, there's a sense, I think, you know, particularly today with social media that, you know, the presidency is about, you know, great speechmaking. That's important winning debates. That's important, you know, using social media. It's all important. I'm not denying that. But basically, you know, it's it's running meetings.
It's hiring good people. It's allowing dissent. It's making lonely decisions. Just you have you have such a unique vantage point to understand what the presidency is and what it isn't. And I love for you to talk about that a little bit. And again, expound a little bit on why you think Biden is such a great match for the moment we find ourselves in.
Well, we heard Michelle Obama the other night talk a bit about what it is to be the president, having seen it very up close and personal. And obviously she's seen it even more up close and personal than I have. But you're right, I have seen it. And it's something that I think many Americans may not fully appreciate it. It requires guts. It requires a quiet confidence, the opposite of what we see in Donald Trump's neediness, insecurity and paranoia.
It requires the capacity to be curious and to absorb massive amounts of information and then figure out what among that is most important. And then it requires real judgment and integrity and a willingness to make decisions that may be personally or politically disadvantageous to you personally as president, but the right decisions for the country. And so with President Obama, I saw him do that all day, every day. Now, let me give you one example that many people will have forgotten.
2014, we're dealing with the Ebola epidemic. It's raging in West Africa. The Centers for Disease Control tells President Obama and all of us sitting around the table in the White House Situation Room that this is now late August of 2014, that if by if we don't act quickly to change the trajectory of the virus, that up to an over one million people could die in West Africa. And that's just in West Africa, not but not the rest of the world where it has real potential to spread.
And as you'll remember, we had a couple of infections here in the United States. And we move very quickly to try to set up mechanisms to ensure that handful of hospitals had the particular capacity that you need to safely treat Ebola and that we were able to make sure that travelers coming from around the world, but particularly from West Africa, weren't able to fly in and disappear and spread the virus throughout the country. People were freaking out about this virus.
Republicans in Congress and you'll remember this was a midterm election year. We're calling for the borders to be shut down entirely. Don't let anybody who's been to West Africa, whether an American citizen or a green card holder, health care worker, anybody come back, including our three thousand American service members who we sent over there to help create the logistics support to enable health care workers from Africa and around the world to to treat the virus effectively. And he was and President Obama was under enormous pressure just to shut down the borders, which would have had very, very adverse consequences.
Now people need to understand what is a different disease from coronavirus. You can't transmit it through coughing or breathing. You have to have an exchange of bodily fluids so it's harder to transmit. Even though it's much more deadly and, you know, and they also need to understand that despite Donald Trump claiming that he shut down the border from China and shut down the border, shut down travel from Europe, and therefore that saved millions of lives. Well, obviously it didn't because the virus was already here.
And four hundred thousand travelers, you know, came to the United States from China between December and March of this year. And as Andrew Cuomo likes to say, it wasn't the Chinese version of the virus. It was a European version of the virus that lit up New York state and the entire East Coast. So shutting down borders doesn't work. And the scientists were telling President Obama it will not work. It'll just cause people to sneak in weather across the land borders with Canada and Mexico or whatever.
It's not going to work. And he was under a huge amount of political pressure to and from some even inside the administration, to shut down the borders and make it impossible for anybody who'd been to West Africa to get back in the United States. And he resisted that pressure because it would have made matters worse and it would have been politically palatable to do it popular, but scientifically and practically very counterproductive. Donald Trump was screaming to shut down the borders.
He was wrong. Obama made the tough decision, but the right decision. And at the end of the day, David, as few people will recall, only two people died in this country of the Ebola virus. Compare that to over one hundred seventy thousand and counting. And we were able to send health care workers over there to be helpful and come back safely. We were able to funnel in travelers and screen them and monitor them very, very carefully throughout the entire incubation period of 21 days.
We manage that through skill, through science and through. You're making the tough decisions. That's the difference between a president who's seriously serving the national interest and what we have today, which is one who's serving his personal political interests and arguably financial interests. Now, then, take Joe Biden, who is very much involved in our response to the Ebola epidemic and every other serious national security issue that we face during the eight years of the Obama administration. He, too, is guided by what's right for this country.
He's guided by science and fact and reason and expertise. And he has all of the tools also to be the kind of president that we need, particularly in a crisis when every misstep counts and cost lives.
Well, that definitely, Suzanne, really paints the stakes of this election. Well, the other thing about the Ebola crisis, I mean, you all led an effort, diplomatic effort around the world to get resources doctors. I think you even convinced the Cubans to send doctors to West Africa. So think about that, which is basically, yes, you made the right decisions here at home, but you're doing everything you can to help there as opposed to Trump, who basically isolated America, you know, and is not trying to solve this crisis in a global way.
I'm curious, you know, it is interesting on people, as you know, always say, oh, it must just be like the West Wing television show when you worked many days.
You do. But what people don't know anything that comes to that floor you and I both worked on in the West Wing, in the Situation Room, just by definition is hard and kind of sucks.
I mean, it's just like basically, you know, so, you know, Joe Biden, you know. Yeah. Maybe occasionally he stutters when he answers a question. He's just not going to stutter in, like running good process and making good decisions. Right. And that's what I think we really need to center people on. Susan, I heard you speak about this recently, and it was really compelling to me. You mentioned in an interview that the Black Lives Matter movement here and all the remarkable protests and advocacy we've seen really has been for the first time during the Trump years.
It's given hope to the rest of the world that we're not lost. Speak about that a little bit, because that really struck me as something that was really, you know, optimistic and interesting and something that I think more people should understand the value of what is as important as it is to change laws here and practices here. It also is really helpful for our image abroad.
Well, it's helpful to our image abroad for the world to see that even where we fall short, in contrast to our ideals of equality and justice, that the American people still have the guts and the capacity to come together and demand that we do better. And the movement that we saw arise after George Floyds murder, as you know, was multiracial, multigenerational, expand every state in this country. In rural areas and urban areas, and the protests were almost entirely or at least largely peaceful, and they had a real purpose to them, which was to say once and for all that every human life.
Has equal value, regardless of the color of the person's skin, the notion that you hear from some that you know, if you say black lives matter, you're saying other lives don't matter is so profoundly wrong and offensive. What it's saying is black lives matter as much as white lives. Every life matters, but black lives matter as much as any other life. And that's not been the way our story has played out over the last four hundred years in every respect.
And so, you know, obviously we've made, in my judgment, important and critical progress over the generations. But we have so much more distance to go, whether we're talking about criminal justice or economic and health disparities or educational inequality, the prospects for economic mobility, you go housing, environmental conditions, you go run across the gamut. And in so many ways, we still have very substantial disparities that are a function, both of race and our socioeconomic inequalities that affect people of different races who are at the bottom of the economic spectrum, brown people, black people, white people, native people in everybody.
And so when we came together in this amazing way as Americans across all of these different dimensions and demanded peacefully that we finally start to achieve progress not only on criminal justice, but on many of these other dimensions, the world did stand up and say, wow, and what about what's going on here in our own countries? We've got some of these issues. We've got issues. You know, the UK has got issues. Everybody's got issues of certain sort that revolve around these historic disparities.
And they were inspired to ask and demand better in their own countries. And this movement, as you know, spanned the globe. And so even when at the top of our government, we've got the most immoral, corrupt, self-interested leadership, the power of popular opinion is still very compelling. And the vibrancy of American civil society is not to be discounted in its capacity to inspire civil society and popular engagement elsewhere in the world. So look at Belarus today.
I'm not here to suggest that, you know, it was the Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, you know, protests that inspired people in Belarus. But there's a country where we've had twenty six years of dictatorship and a completely or almost completely dormant popular reaction. And the people being frustrated with autocracy, with a failure to deal with the coronavirus and a number of other festering issues, has led to the vast numbers of Russians coming into the street, also peacefully demonstrating and demanding that there be legitimate leadership born of the popular will of the people.
We'll see how it plays out. But, you know, it is extraordinary to witness in so many different places. And we saw it in Khartoum, Sudan, in the last few years. We've seen it in Algeria. We've seen it in so many places where civil society, peaceful protesters are coming together to demand progress. And I'm glad to see the United States, even as we're failing at the top, showing our chops at the at the grassroots level.
And it's so inspiring. And I think it does give hope to our allies that we are on the verge of coming out of this dark period. So not that folks here who are involved in all this important racial justice work need more reason to stay with it. But this is another reason that it's having an impact outside of our borders.
So, Susan, let's talk about two scenarios. The first is a happy scenario. So Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win. Maybe we'll know that November 3rd, maybe we'll know at some time deeper in November. Trump will complain and call it illegitimate, but he gets on his helicopter and flies away. Finally on January 20th and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have taken office. Maybe you'll be there. Secretary of State, we'll see you.
But I'm curious, when you think about something like you made a great point, like to really get safe from this covid-19 crisis. It's not just what we do here. The world has to be vaccinated for America to be safe. So this is probably a great example of, you know, a significant and a large and interagency process as the US government will have. So in a scenario where we actually have enough trials done, enough confidence that we can begin scaling production and distribution, talk about what that would look like in twenty, twenty one.
Let's hope it's twenty, twenty one or early. Twenty two. Just the all the complexity. To make sure we're doing the right things here in a fair way and a quick way, in a way we measure, we're obviously also working with all of our allies on these questions. Talk about that a little bit, because I think, you know, we all want Joe Biden to win. I think we should all be really clear what he's getting into if he wins.
Right. Which is, yes, an economy in distress, alliances in tatters, climate change just about at this point. We can't turn it back, but we also have this pandemic that we won't make progress on any of that, really, unless we get a hold of that. So he's going to need the best and brightest working on this. But talk a little bit about what will go into that.
Well, David, I think, first of all, people need to understand that leadership matters enormously. But over the course of the year, it would have been a year in twenty, twenty one when Joe Biden is sworn in. A year since the pandemic really hit, a great deal of damage has been done. A lot of setbacks have we've suffered that we didn't necessarily need to suffer. So what he's going to have to do at the outset is it will come back to the vaccine for a second, as important as that is.
But he's going to have to set a tone at the top that we are going to be guided by science and by facts and by reality. And he's going to have to lead, as he is so capable of doing, with clarity about the things that Americans need to do. We cannot safely reopen our economy and our schools until we've really been that curve a down to almost zero and take the steps that are necessary to keep it that way. And that means that we can't have a patchwork set of approaches that vary from state to state.
Some states do have a high degree of independence in this regard, but they've been granted this sort of jungle mentality licensed by Trump to just do what the hell they want to do. In fact, we need the White House to say masks should be mandatory. Distancing is essential. You cannot go to bars and eat indoors at restaurants when if you're in your community, the positivity rate is above 10 percent. That's just too dangerous. And so we're going to need leadership that really calls it straight on what's necessary, because you're absolutely right, David.
Getting the pandemic under control is the prerequisite for sustainable economic recovery and for our kids going back to school. So all of those things that we're failing to do and communicate and implement now effectively are still going to be needed in January of next year. And then let's hope that Dr. Fauci is right, that by early next year there will be and it will be a miracle if this is the case, but a vaccine or vaccines that are proven to be both effective and safe.
And if that is the case, then the challenge will be and they may come from one man, one producer, if we're lucky, the challenge will be to scale up that production rapidly. And that's hugely difficult. It's a logistical challenge, is a financial challenge. And then you have to have a thoughtful strategy about who gets vaccinated. First, front line health care workers, first responders, people who work in high risk industries, whether they're truck drivers or grocery workers or meatpackers.
And then what about teachers, blah, blah, blah? You have to have a very thought out approach to how we roll out the vaccine and scale it up. And then, as I said earlier, work with other countries, work with the World Health Organization, work with countries like China. And, you know, we're now in a in a cold conflict with but whose resources and capacities are essential for us to collaborate with if we are going to address this concern globally, our European partners, the Japanese, I could go down the list.
But, you know, we're going to need, as we did with the Ebola epidemic, all the capable countries in the world to join together, not to have a Hobbesian battle for who has the vaccine, but to enable it to be as widely available as possible, as quickly as possible for the very reason that I said that, until that is the case, we are all at some degree of continued risk. So the challenge is going to be massive.
But the good news is the Joe Biden gets what it involves, that he has very concrete and specific plans that he's laid out to address it and that he's going to have around him. David, experienced, competent, credible teammates who many of whom have done some version of this before and who understand what it takes to to address this pandemic effectively.
Well, Susan, my last question is connected to the what you just said. So in your answer there, it's scary to think about all the things you just mentioned that have to happen if Donald Trump gets re-elected.
So for those people listening to this podcast, they don't necessarily need more motivation to work for Joe Biden. But, you know, when they're thinking about maybe they'll make an hour less calls or, you know, maybe they won't write that last postcard. I'd like for you to describe if Donald Trump wins and he will never have to face the voters again. And clearly, he has no respect for any of our boundaries or rule of law, you know, particularly in areas that you are expert on.
What would concern you the most, like what could happen over the next four years? I mean, sometimes when I say the whole enterprise is on the line, people will say, well, that's an exaggeration. We're resilient. I mean, we never thought the post office would be under attack right before an election. Right.
So to me, there is no lo there is no scenario here that's too crazy to think about. But so you just mentioned part of what's so exciting about a Joe Biden presidency is hopefully he'll lead us out of this pandemic and all the hard work there. But where would Trump take our foreign policy and really the world if he has a full eight years?
David, I hate to even contemplate that question, but we have to I don't know.
That's the thing. I know.
But it's like a parade of horribles. Start with the pandemic. Absolutely, utterly failed leadership. No reason to think that will change. And the longer this persists, the more people who die, the more people who are permanently damaged, the longer and deeper our economy remains in the ditch and the longer we have a lost generation of students who aren't going to school. But beyond that, David, from the fact that he is waging war on our environment and the climate and we'll take further steps, we just saw this week opening up the Alaskan wildlife reserve, you know, he will accelerate the ruination of the planet and maybe make it irreversible.
He will give license to Vladimir Putin to do whatever he wants to do, which seems to be boundless, including potentially taking the opportunity to threaten our allies in NATO. I fear he will pull the United States out of NATO. I think that he will stumble in potentially to a hot conflict with China out of ignorance and stupidity. But do so without our allies joining with us. Our alliances will be wrecked. And I think it will and I don't think this is.
Overly dramatic, I think it will be the death knell of our democracy here in this country and our national unity and with the death knell for our democracy, the erosion of that form of government as a credible form of government globally, I think it's very hard for democracy to thrive elsewhere if it fails here in the United States. So it is a parade of horribles. And I'm only just giving you the greatest hits that I don't think are beyond the conceivable and that I truly believe are at stake in this election.
This, David, is and everybody agrees. Donald Trump is saying that this is the most consequential election of our lifetimes, much more so than the one you and I worked on together in 2008 is extraordinary as that was. And, you know, and it's consequential for Trump because in his view, it's an opportunity to finish the destruction of our democracy and our global leadership to his personal and political and financial benefit to do God knows whose foreign adversaries bidding and to leave us a country that can't recover.
Now, why do you think it's so urgent in his mind that he'd be re-elected when he can't even articulate what he would do with a second term in terms of policy? I think just can't. I think all I'm going to say to wrap this up. Look at our convention this week, the Democratic convention, and what it says about a vision of America that's unified, that's diverse, that's inclusive, that brings together all of the fabrics, all of the threads in the fabric of our society and celebrates that and believes that those threads woven together make us far stronger.
And then watch what we're going to see next week, which is going to be about division and fear and hatred and demonization of the other and a few token black and brown people skillfully placed behind Donald Trump to give the illusion of diversity when in reality the opposite is what he seeks.
I think that's exactly what we'll see. Well, Susan, you're, I think, frightening, but very real list a parade of horribles is why we all need to really follow Michelle Obama's marching orders, which is we need to vote as if our life depends on it. Because if you listen, men, when you listen to what could happen in the next four years, you know, we won't recognize this country. We may not recognize ourselves. And, you know, you only have to be a casual student of history to understand that, you know, empires don't last forever.
Not that we're an empire. And I think, you know, this was all thinner than we realized. Pre Trump the line between autocracy and democracy, how resilient our democracy is. So it's all on the line, as she said. And so I think you captured it incredibly well. Susan, thank you for your leadership in your public service through the years. The voice you're bringing to this campaign, which I think is is an urgent one, an important one is, I think, really focusing a lot of people's attention and causing them to be more involved in the campaign.
And if Joe Biden wins, hopefully in whatever way you see fit, you'll help him dig us out of this mess.
Well, David, thank you so much. And I want people to realize that, you know, as bad as losing would be, winning is is really the flipside of that, right? In so many ways, it gives us the opportunity to to come back together and be the nation that we have the potential to be strong, unified, principled and respected again. And that is achievable. We just have to all do our best. We have to bust our behinds to get this done.
And Michelle Obama put it perfectly. Our lives do depend on it and in very real ways, and our integrity and viability as a unitary nation depend on it. So let's do this like we've done nothing else before with all of our energy, all of our commitment and with no fear. We just have to leave it all on the field. Absolutely.
Let's go win this thing, as Barack Obama said tonight. All right, Susan, thank you, my friend. Thank you.