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If Joe Biden wins this election, it will be because the citizens of this country, Republicans and Democrats alike, decided understood that now we need a leader for the nation. We don't need a politician, although Joe Biden has been a politician for a long time. We don't need the leader of the Democrat Party. What we need is a leader for our nation. Hello from the Lincoln Project and welcome back, I'm Ron Artest on today's episode. I'm going to sit down with the former Republican candidate for president and the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 company, Carly Fiorina, to talk about the importance of character in leadership.
We had a wide ranging conversation about why she decided to get into politics in the first place, why she decided to vote for Trump in 2016, and what led her to calling for Trump's impeachment last December and ultimately deciding to vote for Joe Biden. She even endorsed Biden in late June. We discussed the importance of accountability in government, the Trump administration's failed coronavirus response and what The New York Times reporting about Donald Trump's tax returns means for our national security.
I had the privilege of working for Carly on her 2016 primary campaign, but prior to that campaign, Carly went from a secretary to a nine person real estate business to leading Hewlett-Packard through the worst technology recession in 25 years. Under her leadership, HP tripled innovation, quadrupled growth and grew to become the 11th largest company in the United States after leaving HP. Carly served as the chairman of Good 360 and Opportunity International. She also founded the one woman initiative in partnership with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to engage and empower women in Pakistan, Egypt, India and the Philippines through increased access to economic opportunity.
She was also appointed as the chairman of the External Advisory Board of the CIA by President George W. Bush and CIA Director Michael Hayden today. Carly uses her 30 plus years of experience to advise corporations and nonprofits at her company, Carly Fiorina Enterprises. Carly, it is a distinct privilege to get to sit with you and have this conversation today, so thanks for being on the podcast. It's my pleasure. And it's very good to see you again. It's good to see you, too.
We're going to talk a lot about character today. And that's really the through line of the entire conversation, I think. But I want to set the stage by talking about the word character, because it's a word we use pretty regularly. It comes up a lot in the context of this president. But you have one of the best definitions of character, I think. Can you break down what you mean when you talk about character?
So character is how you do things as well as what you do.
And a person of character understands that how they get things done matters as much as what they get done. Character is about integrity over time, trustworthiness over time, authenticity over time, generosity over time. Sometimes you'll hear people talk a lot about values in conjunction with the word character. And I always say to people that values are what guide your behavior when no one is looking and you don't think anyone will ever find out the way you behave when you think you can get away with it is who you really are.
You've been really consistent about how important character is as a part of leadership from your time as a CEO to John McCain to Joe Biden. Can you help us understand how important character is to being a leader and how you saw those traits in Senator McCain and Vice President Biden? So back to the definition of character for a moment, integrity over time, trustworthiness over time, authenticity over time, behaving the way you would want people to believe you behave even when no one's seeing you.
The thing is about leadership. Some of the most important and most consequential decisions that a leader makes are the decisions they make when the rest of us can't see them, particularly a president.
The most weighty decisions that a president makes are those where we don't all get to eavesdrop and listen in.
Maybe the health of the nation is at stake or the safety of the nation is at stake. And then what we have to be able to count on is their character. Are they going to have us in mind, not them, because leaders serve. And if you don't have character, you only care about yourself. You don't care about those you're supposed to be serving. Will they have honesty and integrity? So that's why character is so important. John McCain, I didn't agree with him on absolutely everything, but the reason he survived and endured five and a half years in a prisoner of war camp in Vietnam is because he had character.
He knew what he was fighting for. He knew who he was and nothing and no one was going to take that away from him. And I see that same set of qualities in Joe Biden.
And by the way, I believe it is why John McCain and Joe Biden were such good friends, because they recognize that about each other. Before we really dive in, I want to take a quick listen to something you said all the way back in the primary campaign while you were talking to Meghan Kelly. I think can we roll that clip?
The reason it's relevant is not because, you know, as Carly Fiorina, a victim, I don't think anybody looks at you and thinks victim. But it's relevant because character matters, does it not? If he is a sexist, is it important to know that, of course, character matters? You know, when you think about leadership and certainly the Oval Office requires leadership. It is about strength. It is about courage. It is about judgment. It it is about temperament.
It is most definitely about character.
And character requires humility and empathy as well as confidence. And one of the things that I believe is that character is revealed over time and under pressure. And so I think all of our characters are being revealed over time and under pressure, including Mr. Trump's.
I think there's another clip of you saying basically the same thing almost four years later.
Well, I posted today a comment on this. And what I said in that post is that tone is set at the top and character counts and character is revealed over time by behavior and words. And Trump's character has been revealed over time and his words have been all too often divisive, insulting, offensive and racist. So is it fair to lay all of the blame at one president's feet? No. Is it fair to lay some of the blame at this president's feet?
This has been really a core way of how you talk about leadership. And you've been really consistent about this. These two clips are four years apart. And I want to frame this conversation in the context of character and as you put it, character being revealed over time and under pressure. Let's turn to the political portion of this conversation, because like before we begin, why did you decide to step into the political arena in the first place?
You know, I think our politics has been infected by too many politicians. It's interesting.
George Washington in 1789 said the trouble with political parties is they will come to care only about winning. And of course, we see that all the time. It's running in winning, running and winning, running and winning. And, of course.
While everyone in politics is focused on running and winning the problems our nation faces. Don't get solved, aren't getting solved, they fester. In fact, we've been arguing in politics about the same problems for a really long time. I mean, pickup, racial inequity, educational inequity and debts and deficits, the care of our veterans, immigration reform, health care reform, picket.
We've been arguing about it for a long time. So I got into politics because I actually am a problem solver. I know what it takes to solve problems. I do think business and government are very different, but I think government could learn a lot from business. And I think we need in brief, I guess I would say I think we need more leaders and fewer politicians.
Yeah. So when you looked at elected officials, what were they working for and who were they working for and how did that motivate your your decision?
Well, I'm not saying there are good people in public service. John McCain is a good man. Joe Biden is a good man. What I'm saying is the system of politics orients politicians around running and winning and in between time, raising money so that they can run and win. I actually think that frustration with politics as usual is what propelled Donald Trump to office. It's what repelled so many people from Hillary Clinton, myself included, that, you know, this is the classic politician.
And so when you're focused on running and winning and raising the money necessary to run and win again, you are not focused on solving people's problems. In particular, there is no motivation to solve the problem because the problem gets your base out to vote. The problem is what raises money. The problem is what allows you to have a big fight on the debate stage. So, for heaven's sakes, let's not solve it. Let's not tackle.
It's too good for business and for sure, let's not collaborate with the other side to actually make progress, because that doesn't help us run and win.
Yeah, yeah. So you mentioned Clinton and Trump, and it's almost like the way you see it. There are two sides of the same coin. Is that is that a fair in fact, I said that.
Yeah. You know, I was trying to help Ted Cruz because in the 2016 primaries, I thought he was the only guy who had a shot at beating Trump. I thought Trump would be very bad for our party as well as our nation. And during that campaign, I said over and over and over again, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two sides of the same coin. She sells access and influence and he buys it.
That's a really. Interesting way to put it. Now, of course, he's on the inside. Yeah. And so he's selling it and benefiting from it. Yeah, but I think one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost and the reason I could not vote for her is she was a product of the system. Yeah. The classic politician.
And I believe she felt entitled to the office and no one is.
Yeah, I think there are a lot of Republican voters who are listening who felt exactly the same way as you did in twenty sixteen and and voted for Donald Trump because of that.
And, um, and because we know from the work we're doing at the Lincoln Project, there are so many of them now who can't do it again, and they're not leaving their identities behind to to vote for Joe Biden. But they're setting them aside for a moment to do something that is in the interest of the greater good for the country and that's vote for Joe Biden. So so I want to talk about going from voting for Donald Trump and why and voting for Joe Biden and why and what that journey for you has been like emotionally, intellectually.
I think there will be a lot in your story that our listeners can relate to. But also, you were knee deep in it already. You had just run against this man. So I'd love to start with you voting for Donald Trump. And you said you were willing to give him a chance to to prove he could govern. What were you hoping to see from him in the beginning? And and and then what hasn't happened?
I did vote for Donald Trump. You know, some people have said I was a never Trump or actually I wasn't. Yes, I didn't I didn't want him to win our nomination as a party because I believed he would. Destroy the brand of the party, I think he is sadly through his behavior, but I was not. Let me say differently, I was public about the fact that I voted for him and indeed defended many of the things that I agreed with that he did in the first two years and was silent on the things that he did that I did not agree with.
I voted for him because.
I could not support Hillary Clinton for reasons I just described, I voted for him because I thought, OK, I thought it was time for an outsider. So he's an outsider.
And I voted for him because I believed that some of the most outrageous things he said and did during the campaign. He couldn't possibly actually mean honestly, it sounds so naive now when I say that, but I remember when he said what he said about John McCain, I immediately came out publicly and condemned him.
I publicly asked him to withdraw as our nominee when the Access Hollywood tapes came out.
So it wasn't that I was unaware of his behavior, but I thought, you know, the office will change the man. Maybe he was saying a lot of this stuff to get elected. He certainly wouldn't be the first politician to say outrageous things to get into office. And then the office and the weight of his responsibilities would temper him. I believed that and I. I hoped for that, I guess I would say, and I was I have to say I was encouraged on the evening of the election because he gave this very.
Gracious acceptance speech, he purposefully talked, I thought, about being a president for all Americans, he reached out to those who had not voted for him and I thought, OK.
He's won this job and he will be better than what we've seen from him for the last year and a half.
I think a lot of people felt exactly that way. He's he's won the job. He's the president of the United States. And we should hope that he succeeds for the good of the country.
We should hope that he succeeds. Yeah, and I did. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people did. So from a from a policy standpoint, can you talk about the conservative principles of small government and cleaning up the deficit? And and we've talked about career politicians sort of clearing out the system a bit from how it had calcified and corrupted the working of government.
And then can you talk about how you've seen that play out under Donald Trump? I am a conservative because I've learned actually throughout my business career that conservative principles work better.
What I mean by that is. People closest to the problem know best how to solve the problem, so let's let people close to the problem solve it, which means actually you don't send all the money in the decision making to Washington. You disperse and distribute it. That's a very conservative principle. Power concentrated. Is power abused? Always in a corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C., it doesn't matter.
So you concentrate a bunch of power and money in one place, which we have done in Washington, D.C. for decades. Sadly, under Republicans and Democrats alike, it's going to get abused.
We need to deal with that. And I thought someone who understands the requirement for results in business will be focused on producing results in government.
You would think so. These are all conservative principles. Yeah, yeah.
And how have those principles been embodied and acted or not under this president?
We all know that Donald Trump for a long time in New York was actually a registered Democrat.
And I knew that when he ran for president, when he became president, I actually thought, well, maybe that's helpful because maybe he will be able to reach across the aisle. I very much hoped, actually, that the first thing he would do was deliver on an infrastructure project and reach across the aisle to Democrats and find some bipartisan agreement. And let's go rebuild the infrastructure of this country in a public private partnership.
Yeah, of course, that didn't happen. Our deficits are at record levels. Let's face it. Our debt is at record levels.
Let's face it, the conservative operating principles that I thought he would bring to the table, he has not the opportunity for bipartisanship to solve some of our problems, infrastructure build. He has not accomplished. And instead he has focused on those things that I believe damage our party most.
Given all of the policy that doesn't align with conservative principles, what would you say to conservative voters who are thinking about giving Trump a second chance? And and maybe that's the entry point to. How have you arrived at the decision to vote for Joe Biden, not despite these principles, but because of them in it, in keeping with them as a matter of as a matter of integrity? Maybe you can share from your perspective what that journey has been like and then what you would say to conservative voters.
And I would just add that I've asked other guests what the moment was for them, if it was a singular pivot point for them, where they decided I can no longer support this man, I'm going to vote for his opponent. And some of them have a very specific moment and others it's been a gradient of over time. And so I wonder how you think about your decision, your your journey to.
Yeah, I think for me it was probably more of a gradient to use that term. But before I answer your question about the specifics of Trump and Biden, a very important realization for me.
And I actually posted on it in September of twenty nineteen, I think was to remember that as citizens we don't pledge allegiance to a party. We pledge allegiance to a flag that represents a nation, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We pledge fidelity to a constitution.
That reminder was so important because I think we've gotten to this place where we feel that we have to be loyal to a party, but it is not. As citizens, we are not required to be loyal to a party. In fact, at the founding of our nation, there were no political parties in George Washington in the founding fathers did not want us to have political parties. What they said instead was citizens are sovereign. Yeah, the president works for the citizens, not the other way around.
The politicians work for the citizens, not the other way around. And so I start there because when did we get to this place where we feel like, oh, my gosh, I'm a traitor if I don't support the party that I registered with? No, not at all. Not at all.
You know, totally backwards.
Totally backwards. It's so funny. You mentioned George Washington because on this very point, it's probably the second time or third time I've brought this up on the podcast. So I'm sorry for our listeners have heard this before, but it was George Washington who right after the battle at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, they had just won and he received a letter from an officer in the Continental Army basically appealing to him. It was something along the lines of maybe America shouldn't be a democracy after all, because this is going to get real messy and we don't know how to figure it out.
Maybe we should be in a monarchy and maybe you should be our first king. And George Washington wrote back to this officer, and actually the letter that he wrote back is in Bill Bennett's famous book, The Book of Virtues, which I know you're familiar with. And he excoriates this soldier and basically says, if you ever raise such a proposition again, I will disown you, I will destroy you, you know, basically repudiate one. And and this letter, by the way, is filed in Bill Bennett book, The Book of Virtues Under Loyalty.
Because what was on display there was a different type of loyalty than we are used to thinking about, which is loyalty to a set of ideas, principles, not people.
Yes. And and that is what is unique about our nation. We are the only nation in the world founded on ideas, ideals, principles, not ethnicity, not tribe, not people. And yet somehow we've gotten to this place where politics is like WWE, you know, or a football team.
And, you know, no matter what happens, we have to stick with our team. This is not the way the country is supposed to operate. So that reminder was, for me, very important.
And then it got really easy because, you know, if you actually believe the things all of our parents taught us and that we teach our children, do the right thing, character counts, we teach our children and we have been taught how you do things, matters. It matters that you are humble and empathetic and gracious and generous. It matters that you were insulting all the time. It matters that instead of stepping up and serving others and being large in the moment, that instead you step on others and you serve yourself and you are small and mean in the moment.
All of that matters. So I don't agree with Joe Biden on everything, but he is a humble, empathetic man of character. He will try to collaborate with the other side. And honestly, the larger his mandate is, the more of us who vote for him, the more strength he will have to stand up to the left and to collaborate with those of us who are conservative. You mentioned the breath of Joe Biden's mandate, the more people who ultimately decide to vote for him and one thing that it seems to me is that if Trump wins, it's because he turned out a narrow coalition at this point, just electorally speaking.
And Biden needs a broader coalition to win, which means he needs more young people, more people of color, more older people than Clinton. Can we can we drill into what that kind of a victory would translate to in a Biden presidency for people who who have legitimate concerns, just as you do, about the way he would govern on the policy front?
Let's reverse it just for a moment. Imagined that Biden were to win a very narrow victory.
And imagine that that victory. Is delivered to him by mostly. The progressive left. How much power do you suppose the progressive left would have if they delivered his victory? How much power do you think Trump's base has because they delivered a victory to Trump? That's just the way politics works.
On the other hand, imagine for a moment that Biden wins because suburban women, college educated white seniors, people of color come out in droves for him.
Now it is clear that he is governing on behalf of the nation, not on behalf of the left. And by the way, this is not a center left nation. This is a center right nation.
So for those of us who care about.
Conservative principles, we need a president in the White House who is qualified by virtue of temperament and experience, which we can talk about, but also who will collaborate with others. And a president who has a broad mandate knows they need to collaborate. The American people have told them they need to collaborate. Just on your your point about seniors, as of this recording, for our listeners, Joe Biden is actually winning seniors by like twenty seven percent right now, which is it for those who don't follow the horse race of electoral politics, cycle to cycle historic for a Democrat.
No Republican president has ever won the presidency and lost seniors. Donald Trump is losing seniors in the 20 percent right now, like 20 percent or more. It it may be true that he's that that a president, a Republican president has never lost and lost seniors as well. So this is a this is a historic shift that we're seeing among that demographic. And and I think it goes to your point about the way Biden would govern or would would have a mandate to govern on behalf of the entire country.
But let's talk about temperament and experience. What do you think of when you think about the contrast between these two candidates when it comes to temperament and experience, given that, as you put it, character is revealed over time and under pressure, what have we seen about Donald Trump's character over time and under pressure and Joe Biden's character over time and under pressure and their fitness to do the job? I know that's a big question, but take it whatever you want.
So I'm reminded of something that I was asked in 2015 when I was running. A reporter asked me if I had only one word to describe Donald Trump, what would that word be? And I said, entertainer. And they said really not businessmen. I said, no, he's a failure as a business man. It was obvious then. Obvious to you.
Yes, because you lost your business. Yes. I'm not trying to to. Yeah, he cast himself in The Apprentice as a successful businessman. And I can understand why people would believe that. But of course, he wasn't a success. Anyone who declares bankruptcy four times is not a successful businessman.
And, of course, more and more has been revealed about how bad a businessman he actually was.
So why do I start with that?
I start with that because what has been revealed first about character, every time he has an opportunity to see something larger than himself, he fails to serve something larger than himself. He fails. Let's just take covid when Donald Trump in March. Is saying that he wants churches to be packed on Easter Sunday. When people are dying. By the hundreds a day and then thousands a day, could there be any more obvious example of a complete failure of character and unwillingness to see anything other than his own self-interest?
And it wasn't just one example. Yeah, I mean, my goodness, the man has just returned from Walter Reed and his message to Americans is, don't worry about this thing. I feel great. Now, from a policy point of view, all the way back to the entertainer, by the way, he put on a great show returning to the White House last night, he put on a great show. But for a moment, let us consider the president of the United States.
While our country is still in the grips of the highly contagious disease from which hundreds of thousands of people have died, is putting on a show. North Korea, all a show, it was a great show, but guess what, Kim Jong un has built more weapons since that show than he ever had before.
Kim Jong un is legitimized on the world stage or worse off than we were before the Donald Trump show started.
Those are the facts. China is not weaker.
China is stronger. Yeah. And if you doubt that China is for the first time visibly threatening Taiwan, why? Because they feel they can. Putin and Russia, Putin. Certainly Russia may not be stronger, but Putin is certainly stronger, emboldened, meddling in our elections. Again, South Korea, Japan are uncertain. They don't know whether they can trust us. And here they are in a very bad neighborhood with China. Meanwhile, our allies in Europe don't know if they can trust us and they're in a really bad neighborhood with Russia.
The point is the show the entertainer has made America worse off, more isolated.
Our economy is not strong right now.
It's been a great show from Donald Trump's point of view, but it has been a failure as a presidency.
And it is the American people who have suffered. And the world misses our leadership because America needs to lead. So here's Biden. Biden understands foreign policy. He understands who these actors are because he's done it. Yeah, he has the experience, yeah. Joe Biden has demonstrated that he has humility and empathy.
And I keep using those words. But humility is required in leadership because it is humility that causes a leader to listen to experts when expertise is required. If you are someone who thinks you know it all. You aren't going to listen. When somebody is trying to tell you something, you need to know, even if it's something you don't want to hear. And empathy is required because if a leader's job is to solve problems and to serve others, you have to be able to see other people's problems and recognize that they are worthy of service.
And that requires empathy.
And for people who everyone says about Joe Biden, whether they agree with him or not, he has a lot of empathy. He's a humble man. He collaborates with others and he connects with people. Those are all good things. And I guess finally, I would say, because we were just talking about history. OK, I admit I'm biased. I was a history major. But but history does matter. History does matter. And it particularly matters in this country because our principles, our ideas, our deals, our principles come from our history.
Joe Biden understands our history. He values our history.
Honestly, Donald Trump doesn't even know it yet and he doesn't actually care to learn it. That's clear.
Yeah, that is one of the most alarming aspects of his presidency, of his character for me personally, because, you know, one of one of the reasons I feel so strongly about getting this man out of office right now is because the existential threat to the democratic institutions, the principles that the country was founded on, that this is the assault on the rule of law, that stuff is really dangerous. And you cannot recognize those threats unless you understand the underpinnings of the American system.
And it's become clear that Donald Trump neither understands nor is interested in understanding the underpinnings of the American system.
What you just said is true, but it's a little abstract.
It is, actually. Forgive me. No, it's totally abstract. Let me give your listeners an example, please. A very personal example.
You will recall during the impeachment trial, which we should just note, you were one of the first people to say he should be impeached from the from which we can come back to said that publicly.
But whatever you think of impeachment, whatever your listeners think of impeachment, a decorated war veteran. Who works in the White House? Is subpoenaed lawfully by the Congress of the United States and asked to appear and testify under oath. Alexander Binmen does that as a citizen, as a decorated war veteran. What is he going to do? Refuse to answer a subpoena, a lawfully issued a subpoena and for the Congress of the United States? No, actually, we have three coequal branches of government.
The Congress can subpoena people in the executive branch. And so Alexander Binmen goes and Alexander Binmen tells the truth as he knows it. That is what we teach citizens is their duty to tell the truth under oath. Answer a lawfully issued subpoena, follow the law. And what does the president of the United States do? He excoriates Alexander Binmen personally over and over and over again. This is a man who does not care about the principles upon which our nation was founded, because if you cared, you would not take on a decorated war veteran.
Who told the truth as he knew it under oath in response to a lawfully issued subpoena?
He knows nothing of service. Let's go back to impeachment for just a moment, because you I think it was in December when you first publicly said that we should go forward with impeachment. And at that point, no Republicans were you know, I mean, very few Republicans ever went that direction. Can you talk about. Why not just why at that moment you believed that we needed to move forward with such a serious proceeding, but also why you wanted to say so publicly?
So one of the. Hallmarks of being a leader, of earning a leadership position, of being worthy of a leadership position. Is accountability, a leader has to accept accountability. It goes with the job, the impeachment process is the process. It's actually the only process that we have to hold a sitting president accountable. They can't be indicted. So if you want to hold the president accountable, impeachment proceedings are the way to do it. That's the way our Constitution works, right?
We know because Donald Trump released the transcripts of the phone call.
So there's no mystery here about what happened and.
In those transcripts, a perfect call, according to Donald Trump, was certainly a perfectly clear call a president of the United States.
Forget what party there. You forget what you think about Joe Biden or Hunter Biden. Forget all of that. Forget all of that. A president of the United States asks the president of another country to do him a favor by looking into the activities of the son of his political opponent.
I think one of the grave problems we have in politics right now is it has become so personal that we and one of the problems we have, because we think somehow that our loyalty should be to a party when we forget our duty as citizens, to be loyal to our principles, to our Constitution, to our founding ideals, when we forget that that is our highest loyalty, then we can get ourselves into this space where we say, yeah, but what Hunter Biden really didn't the it really wasn't right what he did.
And yeah, but I like Trump because of the tax policy. He's pro-life. I mean, we can rationalize endlessly and so we have to depersonalize it and say a president of the United States asked the president of a foreign nation to do him a political favor. And at the same time. Asked that military aid be put on hold because he was trying to cut a deal, those are just the facts. Those are the facts that behavior has to be held to account.
Let's talk a little bit more about accountability, because in business you have to appeal to your customers to be successful, you have to be as diverse as your customers. When you were at HP, you brought in more women and made HP the first Fortune 20 company to offer benefits to the spouses of employees regardless of gender. Part of the reasoning behind that, as you've talked about it before, is that diversity is critical to solving problems. I think I read a an op ed that you wrote in the Post about exactly that as it relates to Donald Trump's position on diversity.
And I put that in air quotes. But a business can't survive unless it is as diverse as its customers. And I don't think we've talked enough about politics in that context. Can you break down how we can think about the two campaigns and about who they're appealing to? And, you know, we talked earlier about the radical left and the radical right, and I'm interested in the importance of diversity, not just as a as a as an ingredient to a mandate that will lead to a broader governance.
But as a matter of rhetoric, what do you see in the difference between who each of these candidates is actively trying to appeal to?
Let's just start with a fundamental and it's linked to we've been talking about collaboration, collaborating to solve problems. Diversity is critical to problem solving because. When? We only talk to people who agree with us or we only spend time with people who are like us, and let's face it, it's easier. Sometimes it's a lot more fun.
Just hang with my tribe. You know what's more fun? They get me, OK?
And in the social media world, you can hang with your own tribe all the time. But here's the thing. And a psychologist will tell you this. A neuroscientist will tell you this.
We don't learn unless we are challenged by something new, someone new, some new idea.
We don't learn. We don't come up with new ideas. We get, in other words, in a rut. And the thing is, when you're facing a difficult problem, whatever rut you're in, it's not enough because you have to be more creative. You have to be more innovative. You have to think up new ways to solve this old problem. The old problem has been hanging around for a really long time because the old ideas aren't working to fix it.
And so you literally can't solve it without coming up with new ideas. And you're not going to come up with new ideas if you're only talking to people like yourself. It's a fact, it's a fact in business, it's a fact psychologically, it is one of the tragedies of what our politics has turned into. What are we doing? We're all shouting at each other, but nothing's getting better. So now to your question. So diversity matters because results are better with it.
Problems get solved. One more creative or more innovative? Yeah, well, we got a lot of problems to solve. We got a lot of problems to solve in order for Joe Biden to win. Joe Biden knows this, but anyone who looks at politics in the numbers, your listeners know this. Joe Biden cannot win unless he appeals to wins the votes of earns the respect from a broad coalition of people, which means. He has to speak to them, listen to them, and then ultimately we're all going to hold him accountable.
Yeah, if he doesn't deliver, yeah. What Trump is doing is exactly the opposite to Trump. When you say to the proud boys on a debate stage in front of tens of millions of American people, proud boys, I'm quoting now, proud boys. Stand back and stand by. You are not appealing to a broad coalition. That's the understatement of all time. In fact, you are telling vast swaths of the American people who are horrified that you would not condemn white supremacy and clear, unwavering terms, that all you care about is winning.
You don't care how you do it. You just want to do it. He's an equal opportunity insulter, unfortunately. And yet that makes it even more shocking that he would not insult. Yeah. White supremacists by condemning them. I mean, he's insulted everyone else when you talk to suburban housewives. Wow. Yeah. You lose a lot of women when you say things like, I've done more for black people than anyone since maybe Abraham Lincoln. You lose a lot of people of color.
I do not think Donald Trump cares how he does anything.
I think all he cares about is winning.
Yeah. And keeping that show in the White House going on. And where does that go? Caring only about winning. I, I see that having watched right after that debate, Rick Santorum defend the president, try to defend the president with this look on his face like he was so conflicted because he didn't want to have to defend it. He said the president doesn't like saying bad things about people who like him. And that was his rationale for why he thought Donald Trump didn't want to condemn white supremacists or condemn the proud boys.
But but even if that's true, what do you make of that explanation? And where does that ultimately lead? I think is is the question I'm trying to get at, because that on the surface, maybe some people might latch onto that and say, OK, I can kind of understand I don't want to say bad things about people who like me.
Well, if that's your guiding ethic. It seems to me that can lead to a very dangerous place, but how do you see that playing out?
We've been talking about politics and politicians and they only care about winning. And I've described Donald Trump as an entertainer. But let's give him his due for a moment. Turns out he's a pretty good politician. Yeah, he became the president of the United States. He played a certain kind of politics very, very well. He played on people's hopes and fears, their hopes that America would be what they thought it should be, that he used to be somehow.
And he played on their fears and he continues to play on their fears. Your cities will be, you know, a burning mess.
And never mind that they already are under, you know, so he plays on people's hopes and fears and he divides people. And in politics, that matters all the way back to the beginning. It character characters knowing that how you do things matters as much as what you do.
He doesn't care about how he wins. He just wants to win, he's not the first politician to be that way, let's face it, politicians on both sides have said, I don't care how I win, I just want to win. And they've divided people to win and they've played on people's hopes and fears to win, and they've done bad things to win. OK, so he is both a symptom and a cause. He's a symptom of politics as usual, and he's a cause of, I think, more divisive politics than we've had before.
However. The consequence of that kind of fomenting this kind of divisiveness and rage is it's hard to put all that back in a box. Biden is appealing to the American people for unity, for calm, for we have to come back together in order to be able to move forward. And that is true. Bob Woodward has this book out, which I have not read, but I was curious as to why it was called Rage. The reason it's called rage is because Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, another Washington Post reporter, were interviewing Donald Trump in 2016 and they asked him, why do you think you have succeeded in this primary of 16 Republicans?
And, you know, you've just succeeded beyond everyone's wildest imagination, perhaps including Donald Trump's own imagination.
HWI and Donald Trump's response was, I bring the rage.
Now, by the way, that's very true, yeah, and is it was politically very savvy, Donald Trump has always brought the rage and he brings it on both sides. The people who support him are enraged at the other side. The people who don't support him are enraged at him. There's all this rage in the country and yet rage won't solve anything. In fact, rage makes everything worse. And so, to your question, it's hard to put the rage back in a box once it's out there.
Yeah. And he keeps bringing the rage. And so Biden, if he wins and I very much hope he does, obviously back to our role as citizens. Yeah. Quinn, let us say. Yeah, President Biden is inaugurated. President Biden will need the help of every citizen in this country who cares about character and our principles and our responsibilities as citizens to help him bind this nation back together, because we cannot go forward unless we find a way to come back together.
Speaking of dividing the country and the type of politics that that further exploits exacerbates our wounds, our fractures, I want to switch gears a little bit to national security, because I recently had Alex Gibney, the filmmaker, and KOMY Francois, who is a technologist and cyber conflict researcher and an expert in online disinformation campaigns on the podcast to talk about Alex's new film, Agents of Chaos, which is about the Russian misinformation campaigns both in 2016 and in 2020.
And one of the things that you just reminded me of is, first of all, all of this benefits our adversaries when we are divided.
Of course we are. When we are when we are raging against one another. It's exactly what Russia wants and it's exactly what their misinformation campaigns were designed to do. And what one of the things that stuck out to me from that conversation, I think it's something coming from coming from what Francois said was that they didn't inject into our social media, Zite, Gaist, anything that didn't already exist here.
They just picked the worst of it and amplified it, of course, which seems to be. Exactly how Donald Trump is running his campaign and. And I think there was even a conversation that was leaked at one point where he said. That America is divided and that's exactly the way I like it. And so I want to talk about national security in a couple of different ways, but the first being and I say this because you were the chairman of the external advisory boards for the CIA, we probably will have General Michael Hayden on the podcast very soon.
Your friend and colleague and and a great CIA great as well as the NSA, the only the only man I think that's ever done, both the only person who's ever run both.
And so I want to talk about both the the Russian interference campaigns and and then also the implications of Trump's tax taxes and the debt that he appears to owe in the lens of vulnerability to the the United States national security. So let's take the misinformation campaigns first as it relates to the exploitation of our divisions, which is what they're actively trying to do right now.
I mean, we know that it's been confirmed. The Senate Intelligence Committee report was just released by Mitch McConnell, which is sort of puzzling that he would let that out because nothing gets out of the Senate without his without his blessing. But we know that that's happening now. Um, can you explain to our listeners why? A divided America, a raging America is good for our enemies, we can take Russia as an example, but just as a as a as a general matter, why that makes us weaker and more vulnerable to all kinds of attacks.
It's like in layman's terms, why is that such a bad thing?
The reason it's a bad thing is because when we are raging at each other, we are consumed by what's going on between each other. We are distracted. We don't care what's going on in the rest of the world because we're raging at each other and. That's exactly where we are right now. We're not paying attention to what China is doing. China. Has been very explicit about their goals. And they are pursuing their goals and they are achieving their goals and we're not paying any attention.
Nobody in the government is paying attention either, actually, I mean, our politicians aren't paying attention because they're raging at each other and in response to their constituencies. And again, I want to be fair here. President Trump didn't start this. OK, our nation has been divided along these same fault lines for a long time.
There has been distrust of government since our founding. There has been racism since our founding. There has been division and disagreement since our founding. Social media has exacerbated it all. He isn't the first politician to take advantage of it. So it's not all his fault. And when Democrats blame it on him, they're being disingenuous in the extreme because they, too, have contributed to this, he has made it all worse and he absolutely leverages it.
But while we rage at each other, we pay no attention to what else is going on in the world. And so bad actors in the world say, hey, they're not looking now. Let's go do this. Why do you think Russia picks now to buzz our fighter jets in our territorial waters? Because we're distracted.
Why do you think our NATO allies have basically said almost publicly, but certainly in their own private gatherings? We can't count on America, so we better just figure this out for ourselves, and if that's what they think, why is it that. Just as one example, why is it that Angela Merkel is so conflicted about condemning Russia over trying to assassinate a political appointment because she was negotiating an energy pipeline from Russia into Germany, if she felt she could count on the United States of America to stand by her side?
She'd be a lot less conflicted about that, I guarantee you.
That's why, because when we rage at each other, we got no time for nothing else and for all those listeners who believe that Trump was right to extricate us from endless foreign wars, and I don't disagree with that, although how he's done it has harmed us, I believe terribly. But that's a subject for another day. We don't need to be at war to understand that America must lead in the world. We must lead in the world when we do not lead in the world.
That doesn't mean going to war. But when we do not lead in the world from a position of moral strength and clarity, the world is a far more dangerous place because guess what? There is no one else in the world who wants to lead without territorial ambition associated with it. We're the only country in the history of the world that has led without seeking to conquer territory.
Make. China wants territory, Russia wants territory, North Korea wants. Power. We are the indispensable nation, actually. Moral clarity, you said, is required for that, yes, moral clarity is required and a moral high ground is required. And I'm not saying our nation is perfect. It isn't. We've made mistakes and all the rest of it. But again, we're the only nation founded on ideas and ideals. We are the only nation that has fought on behalf of others to defend those ideas and ideals.
We are the only nation that have having conquered others, invests billions to rebuild them rather than to subjugate them. These are unique things in human history. But you can't lead when you're raging and you can't lead when your president has no interest in leading. And you can't lead when the world looks at this nation and says, you know, wow, they're not doing so well with covid. So maybe they don't have much they can lead us on because they're not leading.
Now, speaking of the coronavirus, I want to talk a little bit about the Trump administration's response through the lens of character, because we have all absorbed this narrative, I think, of Donald Trump's negligence or incompetence when it comes to how he handled the pandemic. And I think I think that has really sunk in across the electorate. But I think what hasn't really sunk in yet is the reality, which is a bit different from that, which is not necessarily incompetence.
And it's not although it was incompetent and not necessarily negligent, but actually malicious because he lied. In early September, The Washington Post released some of the clips from Bob Woodward's interviews with Trump. And in February, all the way back in February, Trump acknowledged to Woodward that the virus was deadly and spread through the air. He also admitted to downplaying the virus. And on March 19th, he told Woodward that the virus was a threat to young people, despite publicly stating that children were almost immune.
And I put that in air quotes into August. And so, again, as you've put it, character is revealed over time and under pressure. Can you help our listeners understand how Trump's response to the coronavirus has helped reveal his character?
Whenever an organization or any organization faces a crisis, bad news of some kind. The temptation always. Is control the information flow, the spin the story. Because people get in their heads that that's necessary to sort of preserve and protect, you see companies do this bad news. It's a secret. Let's not let it out. Let's control so we protect and preserve. We're not being malicious. We're not trying to do the right thing. We're just trying to keep it all together here while we get it together.
Let's give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt.
It's difficult, I know, but let's try let's say he wasn't malicious, let's let's just say that his motivation for not telling the truth was to control the story.
Let's spin it while we get it together internally, and then we're going to roll out our plan that's going to deal with this in an effective way. Of course, he didn't do that. The plan wasn't rolled out in an effective way. The reason is very difficult to give him. The benefit of the doubt is because at every opportunity to do what a leader in a crisis does, what is a leader in a crisis to a leader in a crisis tells the whole truth.
And by the way, I teach leadership. I'm not saying this only for Donald Trump. If people go to my newsletters on LinkedIn or they look at my leadership materials.
A leader in crisis tells the whole truth as quickly as they know it, because it is only on the foundation of that whole truth that a workable plan.
To rise above the crisis can be built if people don't know the truth, they cannot deal with the truth.
Yeah, that's just it's almost like not knowing what the problem is means. You can't resolve it. That's right. In fact, my advice to leaders in crisis and I advised a lot of them in the current crisis, I set a leadership role, is to see the truth, speak the truth, act on the truth. That's a leader's job, always, but particularly in a crisis. So in a covid crisis, he perhaps saw the truth. But he forgot it quickly, he has never spoken the truth and he hasn't acted on the truth either.
And so here we are. Certainly not in a good way. OK, let's talk about Trump's taxes for a moment. And, you know, we've talked about them on the podcast quite a lot. There's been plenty of coverage about this. So I want to talk about them in a different way here. But just so that our listeners are familiar, in late September, The New York Times published a report after they examined more than two decades of tax returns for Donald Trump and the companies that make up the Trump organization.
And one of the key pieces of this story is the over four hundred and twenty million dollars in loans and debt that Trump is personally on the hook for. That comes due in the next four years. As I mentioned earlier, you served as the chair of the CIA External Advisory Board. Love for you to talk about the national security implications of the president of the United States having this level of debt and maybe just as a as a quick financial primer.
Can you explain what we mean when we say that he's he's personally secured these debts?
So imagine for a moment, just at a personal level, for all of our listeners here, imagine that this isn't hard to imagine given covid it's happening to a lot of people.
Yeah, but imagine that you have dwindling income and you have massive credit card debt. And you're on the hook. Imagine how that feels. Maybe you know how that feels. Yeah, you feel. A lot of pressure and as that pressure mounts. Because your income continues to fall and your debt levels continue to rise. And now maybe the credit card companies are calling and maybe you have, you know, people starting to. Say we're going to take away your house or take away your car because we need collateral to cover these debts, right.
A lot of people can imagine this.
What do you start to do as an individual under that pressure? Well, here's what you start to do. You start to get more and more desperate as you get more and more desperate to figure out how to deal with this. Your judgment. Is not as good as it was when you didn't feel that pressure, you start maybe to cut corners, you start to do things that you I mean, you know, they're not right.
You never imagined yourself doing them, but, oh, my God, I have to do this because what am I going to do about all this debt, that pressure, that failure of judgment, that willingness to cut corners, that getting all of a sudden into territory that you never thought you'd get into. But somehow you find yourself there because you're desperately trying to solve a problem that you don't need to solve. That's what it's like when you have a bunch of debt coming due and you're in the hot seat for it and you don't have the income to cover it.
And that's where President Donald Trump is right now. Forget who he owes the money to, although that in and of itself is a very interesting question because we don't know, because we don't know and we know there was only one bank who was willing to lend him money, and that was Deutsche Bank.
But forget that. Let's just say all that's legit, OK? This is a man under financial pressure and that financial pressure has continued to grow because the income from his properties has continued to fall. When people are under that kind of pressure, yeah, their judgment isn't as good and they do start to cut corners. And oh, by the way, to your national security question, they are subject to pressure.
Say more about that. Hmm.
Look, I don't want to get into a lot of speculation, sir. OK, it's not there's no need to.
But what I would say is this. Donald Trump's businesses operate in a lot of areas. Yeah. Where I mean, we know they operate in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. And these are places where potentially people could put pressure on his business. And because he has never been willing to extricate himself from this business, he could have recused himself from his business. He could have said, I'm I'm stepping away, I'm putting it all. My kids aren't going to run it for me.
I'm getting out of my business.
Presidents past have always done that. That's right. In order to avoid even the appearance that there might be some conflict of interest. That's right. And he did.
He purposely said, no, I'm going to stay connected to my business. So all of the pressure that that business generates for him also generates opportunity for him. We know, for example, that his Doral property in Florida is not doing well.
Yeah, I don't think it's a coincidence, unfortunately, all the way back to character. Yeah, I don't think it's a coincidence that feeling this intense financial pressure that President Trump would spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince the G20 to have a big meeting at one of his hotels. Yeah, that happens to be. Yeah. Struggling financially.
Yeah. The Times reported that Trump had lost over three hundred and fifteen million dollars that his golf courses since 2000. To your point, the Trump Hotel in Washington lost 55 million dollars between 2016 and 2018. And the Trump Corporation, which is the real estate services firm, has reported one hundred and thirty four million dollars in losses since 2000.
And just set aside The New York Times just for a second, because, I mean, there may be people saying, I don't believe The New York Times.
OK, set all that aside. What is public record? Yeah, what is public record prior to Donald Trump ever running for president? Yeah, every single one of his casinos last lost money, which is why he had to declare bankruptcy four times for those casinos.
The airline business lost money, the Trump steaks, steaks, the vodka, the water university, the universe. They've all lost money.
We we setting aside The New York Times, we have ample evidence that President Trump's businesses lose money except for one his entertainment business, meaning his shows.
OK, that's why he's a great entertainer. Give him that.
And we also know, quite apart from The New York Times, although they have said they received his tax returns legally. But even if you don't believe us, President Trump himself has said on many, many occasions, I love debt.
I have built my businesses on debt. I love that he said it many times. Wow, so Carly, previous guests that have come on, I've asked them to imagine they were, you know, in a room with Donald Trump and there's no cameras watching. And what would they say to him if they had five minutes? But I'm actually less interested in that, in what you would say to Donald Trump, because I'm more interested in what you might say to Joe Biden right now, given how we've talked about the broad coalition that he needs in order to to win, in order to govern.
So it's, you know, 20 days out from the election when this episode will be published. But imagine you've got five minutes with Joe Biden, one on one, no cameras, nobody listening. What do you say to the man who may become the next president and more importantly, the first Democrat that many of our listeners will vote for a very long time? Would you what what advice would you give him? The first thing I would say is actually what I said publicly when I indicated I would vote for him.
I said, I pray that Joe Biden understands he must be a leader for the nation, not a leader of his party. I would start there. If Joe Biden wins this election, it will be because the citizens of this country, Republicans and Democrats alike, decide it understood that now we need a leader for the nation. We don't need a politician. Although Joe Biden has been a politician for a long time, we don't need the leader of the Democrat Party.
What we need is a leader for our nation. I would also say to Vice President Biden, the core of who you are. A humble, empathetic man of principle who has collaborated his whole life with others, the core of who you are is the core of what we need now. So major on it. Don't let your handlers, your staff, your the members of your party who are politicians, do not let any of them pull you away from the core of who you are.
Because. That's what brought you to the dance here. If he wins. And it's what we desperately need as a nation now. So stay humble. Stay empathetic, collaborate with anyone who will work with you, lead the nation and help us solve some festering problems.
Thank you to Carly for making the time to talk with us today.
And thanks to all of you at home for listening. You can find more information about our movement at Lincoln Project U.S. If you have advice or questions about the podcast, you can email us as always at a podcast at Lincoln Project U.S. And please note that even if you don't receive a response, we read every email we get and we always appreciate hearing from you. If you haven't yet, please make sure to subscribe rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts.
This helps us stay up in the rankings so that more voters can find the show and join our movement to defeat Trump. And Trump is for the Lincoln Project. I'm Ron. I'll see you in the next episode.