Ep. 311 - Claire McCaskill


And now from the university of Chicago institute of politics and CNN the axe files with your host, David Axelrod. Early in the history of the X files. I sat down within Senator Claire mccaskill to talk about her life and career now, she's former Senator Claire mccaskill having lost her bid for re election in the fall. But still full of interesting observations about the process, the state of the Democratic Party the Senate in the country. She's been a fellow at the institute of politics this winter. So I thought I'd take advantage and sit down with her and sir catch up on. What her thoughts are today? Claire mccaskill great to see you again. Great to have you at the institute of politics. The last time we sat down together. Like this was in episode sixteen of the acts files way back in the prehistoric times of two thousand and sixteen early in two thousand six that long ago. Yeah, I know time flies when you have a fine. You know, but and so I'm not going to go and rehearse all of what we talked about there. Because there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then. And that's what I wanna talk to you about about. I I'm not sure at that time that you had formerly said whether you were going to run for reelection or not I don't think you had I was really struggling with it. Yeah. So let that's where I wanna pick this up. Tell me about what you were struggling with. And what the decision making? Process wasn't did the election of Donald Trump tip you one way or another in deciding to run for reelection. Yeah. I, you know, I was really. There's all the jobs. I've had to terms has been the maximum I've ever done. Now. I don't know if this is a character flaw, or if this is a good thing. But I have a tendency to want to move on. Let's do could be healthy. Yeah. I think so. And I was getting to the point that I I wasn't sure that I was going to have the have a lot of energy. Yes. And I didn't ever want to get to the point that I was mailing it in. I really wanted to be in a situation where every day I was just after it after it after it. And I was feeling tired of the grind of the schedule is just brutal in the Senate. I'm not complaining. I was blessed to be there. But the facts are the facts you've gotta get on a plane and fly flew south west every Monday morning. I flew home Thursday nights. I had to work most weekends. I have a large family. I have almost twelve grandchildren. Now eleven twelve will be here any minute is. So if you cut this if you cut this conversation short, we'll know why? Yeah. Right. And so I was struggling with whether I was going to run again now Schumer didn't wanna hear it. Oh, you're running. You're running and everybody. Oh, you're running your own. But I really seriously my husband, and I had long conversations about whether or not it was a good idea if Iran, again, let me ask you question about that. Obviously, you weren't successful. Do you think that that ambivalence on your part was something that like unbeknownst to you was something that people could read or another way of saying it is do you think that people tire of their elected official? I think people tire their elected officials when Trump one I've really felt that I couldn't walk off. I just couldn't walk off there. There really wasn't anybody. I tried to talk to others that would have been, you know, Jason candor would have been a great candidate. That no one was willing after what happened in Missouri. And Trump won by what nineteen points almost twenty just short a twenty. And you know, so it was like nobody really wanted to to step right up and go. Yeah. I wanna run as a democratic candidate in a state that Trump won by twenty. So I really felt like I had to. Did would was the ambulance something that people sensed I once I get into something I'm pretty intense, and I worked really hard at the campaign. You don't do fifty town halls in one year. If you're just warming up a main fifty town halls and one year is a lot. So I was really in it. I was trying as hard as I could. I will say that, you know, I do think that the fact I been around so long was a big problem. I make the joke it in my stump on in town halls that, you know, can you imagine if they're willing you into the operating room, and the nurse leans down. And goes, I got really good news for you. This surgeon has never done this operation before you go back the gurney up act, the gurney up, but in politics now, having absolutely no political resume is much better than having a long one. And it is something I think we've got to kind of come to grips with. I'm I was a better Senator because I was a prosecutor I was a much better Senator because I'd been an auditor, but all of that experience in the eyes of voters added up. Well, you know, she's been there long enough. She hasn't solved anything where you better Senator for. Having been in the Senate for twelve years. I think I was I think I was a much better Senator, I think I I learned a lot from my colleagues in those years, I think I learned on how to be effective in terms of using the committee process to do affective oversight. That was kind of my main deal. I did a lot of oversight lot of experience as an auditor harass acute Iraq. I mean, I really went after it in hearings. And and so, you know, I think it did make me a better Senator the time I spent his a Senator, you know, I think from there such John about Washington, and about politics now that I think that people suspect that learning how to navigate the system is learning how to swim in the swamp, and that's part of it that just by dint of participating in the process that has been so tainted in people's minds that you you become tainted. Yourself. I think that's one of the things. He's presidential candidates are gonna have to deal with honestly being of Washington to many voters is just right at the very starting gun is a disqualifier. I think that's right. You know? It's also true that Barack Obama was only the third US Senator like one hundred twenty years to get elected. And I don't know whether it was because of that that we just discussed or whether people just didn't see senatorial experience as presidential experience. But it you know, is Warren Harding, John F Kennedy, and Barack Obama wasn't that common. A thing. And one of the reasons why so many senators are running now in part is because Democrats lost so many governors which used to be the wellspring of presidential candidates that there's there's this void that is being filled. So you see senators running in mayors running. And you know, a couple of former governors and so on how did Trump you talked about the fifty town hall meetings. What were those like post Trump, and what did what did you see there that said and this can be a tough row? Well, you know, I I've done town halls all through my time in the Senate. And when most of my colleagues were hiding under the desk after we pass, the ACA, I said, Nope. Nope. We're going out there. Now, I will tell you. It was not as bad as the town halls during the ACA. I mean, the townhall never forget is. When we had a terrific, young minister, do a prayer it one of the town halls after the ACA, he got booed in the prayer. So, you know, and that's rare. You know, it's going to go downhill fan to read the crowd cocaine buckle in a hot one. We didn't have anybody boo and at the opening gun at these town halls, and yeah, there were some very strong Trump supporters there, and they were you know, in my face. But with midwest politeness, I don't it. Never. I never felt like any of them were out of control. And you know, I think that there is untapped in. This country is the recognition that if you show up and you legitimately opened the doors to anybody who wants to come in. And you legitimately answer any question. They want to ask you there's a certain goodwill that springs from that that kind of take some of the edges off. They could see I mean, one of the things I do in my town halls as I asked right at the front who is positive. They will never vote for me under any circumstances. Andress them to leave. No. They always their hands, whoever they are. And I asked them to hold the basket and draw the questions so at the very get go. I hand the basket of questions to somebody who can't stand me and that kind of helps take the edge off. So we really I mean there were there was some, you know, there were people that said, why aren't you voting to impeach him at most of the town halls. And then there were a lot of people that said, why aren't you supporting him? Why are you fighting this thing that you say about showing up reminds me of the bettle Aurore campaign in Texas? And you know, there was this. It struck me that it wasn't issues that was that were propelling him forward so much as the fact that he went everywhere was holding. These town hall meetings was showing people respect by listening to them. And I think part of what has so roiled our politics is this sense that people were being disrespected and the act of just showing up and hearing people out and explaining your point of view, even if it's not their point of view probably gets you somewhere down the field. Listen, my state did not reelect me, but I will fight anyone who wants to look down their nose at the people of my state who voted for Donald Trump. You know, I get it. There's an angst and frustration about whether or not people are. You know, playing by the rules working as hard as they know how they're not really getting ahead. They can't afford to retire. They can't afford to send their kids to college. And you know, everybody who runs for presence as they're going to change things our friend fan for president on a message of change and things haven't really changed that much for a lot of these folks. And they really, and I think Trump got that. I mean, I don't think he gets a lot. But I think he gets marketing, and I think he tapped that vein of frustration and anger in if somebody is frustrated and angry that they don't think the world is giving them a fair shot based on their hard work. It you need to listen to that. And understand it and not look down your nose at it. And call him names and say, they're all racists, or they're all this or they're all that. Because it's just not true. I'm not saying there aren't some bad apples in the crowd. But there are in every crowd. There are in some of the crowds support Democrats. So people may get upset that I'm saying this. And say it's false equivalency. But I know these people that voted for Donald Trump and some of them I don't care much for and don't like much, but a whole bunch of them. I get and I hate it. When people in Washington, especially people from bright, blue states, just said, well, the only people voting for Trump or stupid people. No. That's not true. That's just not true. Yeah. I have a place in room Michigan. And my neighbors all had Trump sense in the arts. And I know for fact that some of them voted for Brooke Obama because they wanted change, you know, one of my concerns is that and we'll see, but you know, change we have this economy. That's being kind of turbo charged by. By technology, and globalization, and it's changing so rapidly. We can't really get our arms around and that the same time we've got a divided country and a system that's meant to go slowly when the country's divided. So you've got this warp speed change and a government that is not terribly agile in responding to some of these challenges. I worry about that alienating growing. I agree. And I think you know, what Trump did that. I really can't stand is that he's pedaled. The fact that the problem was the Mexicans in the Muslims instead of the microchip. I mean, the microchip has a lot to do with this even under the tax cut. They passed. I mean, a lot of the money that these corporations are realizing is going for new equipment. Well, you know, what that new equipment doing is causing the need less people. So it's not as if this. They're solve. Being this problem of advanced technology, requiring fewer people to do manufacturing and soon many jobs in the service industry driving a cab. So it is I think it is an issue for our time. And it's one that the president kind of did did a fast when he did a bait and switch he convinced everyone that this had to do with with with Mexicans. And of course, that's ludicrous. Yeah. And and the the efficacy of that strategy was most pronounced in places where there really weren't many immigrants. Correct. Which is acceptance agricultural communities, right? There are certainly a lot of workers that come in on a seasonal basis. I know that's true in my state, especially in the booty or were those, but they weren't taking jobs that other people were currenly, correct? And where they resented in those communities. No, no fact, I had a lot of the farmers and the boot hill is kind of say to me, hey, you know. Can you help out this? You know, this guy's been coming up here to work my father for a number of years. And now it's gotten a lot harder. I can't get enough of the visas that we need for the workforce. And so, you know, but the majority of the people particularly in in in rural America, I think we're willing to buy into this notion that somehow Trump was going to bring back manufacturing in a in a way that would replicate the fifties and sixties and seventies. And that some of it has the there there is more manufacturing the economy was growing when he became president. It may be that you on point five trillion dollars in tax cuts and some of that is going to. You know, it's gonna wind up. But I I would say in my state there's a lot of pain in small manufacturing because of the input costs of stealing aluminum. Because of. Yeah, you. As in every campaign, you there are things that happen that are unpleasant. You got caught up in a deal early on. I think about the use of you using your private plane, and you are in an RV tour and in all of that stuff. I mean, how irritating is that? I mean, I assume that there's a good explanation for what you were doing. Well. Yeah, it was just kind of you know bit. I can't really complain because I've done this a long time. And I know sometimes the smallest things get blown out of proportion, and they were looking for a way to make me not of Missouri. This is where I was going because there's not just it's not just economic. There's a cultural thing right that the elites are looking down on people, and you want your straight says a candidate has always been your like, your your home. Era, and and they wanted to chip away at that. And so, you know, I I don't think you're. You are flying around and looking down your nose at people if you do fifty town halls my opponent hadn't been in probably even half the counties in the state, Josh hall. You got elected he wouldn't go anywhere. He wasn't. He wasn't going anywhere answering questions. And, but that's not the point the point is that, you know, who we should have published with the press release the schedule because then it would have been obvious that I added on a stop for veterans. I wanted to veterans stop Saint Joe, and I couldn't make it with the original schedule. So I said, well, I'll just take the plane up to Joe and the meat you guys in Columbia, and we'll finish up. We were on the V for vast majority of the time. I mean, probably seven eight so the time we were on the RV. But the fact and by the way, anybody who saw where I was and it was all, but he knew the press newer. I was you could tell I couldn't have driven. It wasn't like we hit it. You couldn't get from Columbia to Saint Joe in the time that we had. There's kind of a parable of modern campaigns appear -able amount of modern campaigns. We shouldn't have called it an RV tour or we should have said we're going to do an RV tour, but she's going to add on one stop at no expense to her campaign or tax payers. So that she can see veterans and Saint Joe you, but I think you're right. The point was to make everybody remember recall, the fact that your husband is a very successful businessman, and you have access to plane, and it was it was a cultural point. It's like, you know, you're unit here. If my my husband should is in the dictionary for what the Republican party believes in his first job out of college was in a steel mill. He has created great wealth and thousands of jobs in a free market system where he's been smart and worked hard and succeeded beyond anybody's wildest dreams. Now, if he were married to a Republican woman Senator he would be perfect. But because he was married to me. He was attacked cheat and son of a bitch. You know, I mean, he was like, you know, a bad guy. And that's one of the hardest things about my campaigns. Is that how rough they were on him now in the grand scheme of things. I'm blessed. We have a great family were close metro seat say it was it's worth trouble. He'd he would say that he would say that because he's a wonderful man, but it was terribly unfair. What they did to him. And they were always trying to do. Oppo dumps on him. It got so bad in this in the nursing home industry, a long time ago, you know, like MO. More than a decade ago hasn't been anywhere near him for years and years, but it got so bad this time that they had a woman calling around to his former women employees is trying to get them to say bad things about him. And that's how bad it was. He started getting calls at his business from women who used to work for him saying, you know, somebody is calling us trying to get us to say that you were inappropriate with us. And you should just know they're doing this. That's how bad it's gotten. Speaking about a speaking of charges of inappropriate behavior with women. The one one of the issues that crested at the end of the campaign was the cavenaugh hearings. And you've spoken about this. You you feel as if if you had a shot that this was a momentum stopper, it it kind of crystallized in people's minds. Why Washington socked how bad it looked from a distance? I make no mistake about it. Whether you thought Cavanaugh was great nominee or terrible nominee. It was messy. It was chaotic and it was hard. I mean, this was a very difficult situation. So, you know, had we had all of this happened earlier. And with just one hearing in still wouldn't have been easy, but it wouldn't have kind of gotten people off the couch. Our chance of winning Missouri was about motivation, and we were running ahead in motivation. We were doing really well people were motivated we had an amazing amount of all in tears. We knocked on more doors than any of the campaign in the country. It was really a motivated group of people in Missouri. That wanted to reelect me they weren't that motivated. I mean, they were running about ten or fifteen points behind us on motivation, then cavenaugh happened then the caravan optics, and then Trump came in camped out and those three things got everybody off the couch that was in rural Missouri. And so we did had record turn out record vote totals. Anybody says we didn't do well with progressives doesn't have any idea what they're talking about. We did great all the blue areas of Zura record-setting historic. But so did the in the country. And that's what happened. He got a motivated and got him off the couch. Was the, you know, it's interesting to me yours look at these things through different lenses through, you know, through the lens of sort of the Washington, certainly the the the community that was opposed to Kevin on through the eyes of Democrats that looked like a a real problem for Republicans. And then almost after after blazey Ford testified. Almost on a dime. Lindsey Graham and others. When after Democrats for essentially politicizing the thing holding this information, and so on and that's like a formula in our politics. Now is that you partisan is these debates in a way that takes them away from the issue at hand, and they were pretty effective at in in sort of weaponising that whole thing to their advantage. Well, I think now there was a backlash I should say when you look at what happened in the suburban areas, or and among women, I think there was a there was a backlash, but in terms just in terms of motivating some of these rural voters, particularly men pretty effective. I think that one of the things that I hope that whoever is our presidential nominee can convey to the American people is that it's important. We understand why people feel differently than we do. I mean, this is. Important conversations, we need to have a there were so many Missourians that believed. This was a political hit job that was unfair to this guy. It was high school. It was just, you know, his word against her word now as a former sex crimes prosecutor, it's way more complicated than that. But you have to realize how people felt about it. And the way it all came down. There were hoping figuring that by like Rush Limbaugh of Cape Girardeau horse, of course. And Fox, News course, of course. But I just think the biggest mistake we made was when the letter came in from Dr Ford, the FBI as you well know, Dave, they do a lot of work confidentially on background checks. There is a whole lot of stuff. They uncovered that. It's confidential background checks. You can trust the FBI to keep it background. Check confidential. They they should have shared it with the F B I right away and said this woman wants to remain confidential. But we want you to have. This and the fact that that didn't happen just lent to the appearance that this was a kneecapping at the eleventh hour made it harder against the explosion for that was that she didn't want to come forward is that she wouldn't have had to come forward. But the fact that they didn't tell anybody about the letter until the eleventh hour, I think was a real problem. I think it was a mistake. We made on our side. You mentioned the caravan. Which was talked up to eleven on a scale of ten by the president rallies in your state and every state before the election, and then kind of silence the day after election day, but you feel it was effective. Oh, yeah. I I mean people who you have to understand wherever I go, Missouri. That's not in the greater Kansas City or Saint Louis area there. It's Fox News on TV and it was on a loop. You know, and it was visual. And those visuals were powerful. I mean, did look like they were gonna storm our border just from the videotape. That was being shown of the in some of it was be role that was played over and over again of when the crowd looked the largest and so forth. But be that as it may those optics were were really helped. I mean, somebody said did did Trump organiz the caravan? No. More than a few people. Don't they helped they helped him in a number of states, and you? Explain to me what happened here, you ran a radio ad at the end of the campaign to try neutralize that issue that you got criticized for. Yeah. I mean, there was some things going on. I said I think the phrase that really talked people with my said crazy Democrats somebody in the ad said, she's not one of those conversation people. She's not one of those crazy Democrats. And so, of course, you know, people outside of Missouri got all took a little bridge. Yeah. Like who's a crazy democrat, and I quickly pointed out we had a state Senator Missouri that called for the assassination of the president on her Facebook page. Well, that's a crazy democrat. I think crazy Democrats are people who go into restaurants and get in people's faces and torment them when they're sitting in a restaurant with their family. I think that's just a little crazy. I I don't have any problem with defining it. I wasn't saying that all progressives were crazy or anything like that? I was just trying to convey that. I'm somebody. That is happy to work in the middle. I'm happy to be part of a compromise to actually move the needle, great ideas. Great ideas, and they move us in the right direction. But the America's gotten pretty cynical about proposals. That don't happen in that cynicism is what breeds an electoral result like Donald Trump, so talk you're obviously sort of leading into an issue of where we are. Now, you're looking with interest as everyone is to two thousand and twenty what do you see in the early stages of this presidential race? And I should point out that may that people have stepped forward so far our colleagues of yours old colleagues of yours. It's very weird because I know so many of them so well, and I know them both personally, and in the context of their work high know, their work ethic, I know their character, and it is very hard. For me to pick if Avery. I do think this process in a strange way because I think Donald Trump will unites at the end. So in a way, I think this is going to be good because you understand acutely. What these things are like, you know, what you have to fight through. This is a huge thicket that candidates to fight throat. Yeah. Right. Right. 'cause pick it first of all all these young people here at the university of Chicago is like they think I have the secret sauce who's going to win tell me who to work for. And we don't know we know that it's going to be hard. They're gonna have to fight to a lot. When somebody pulls a head. Everybody's gonna pile on. How do they handle that? How do they do with grassroots fundraising, which I think is going to be huge this time and a year from now, I think the two or three that are really in contention will be obvious. And then it's going to be a matter of can they appeal to the voters in the five state. It's that Trump won that he had no business winning. The I couldn't agree with you more. You know, Democrats now I'm gonna get I'm gonna get dog for saying this. But I say this with faction, you know, there's a lot of hand wringing. That's it's a favourite thing. Right. And now the hand wringing is there's no who's the there's no candidate. There's no we don't know who the can't with. But the process is really important. I mean, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee of the Democratic Party had he not run the entire gauntlet in two thousand eight because people sensibly understood here's a guy was four years out of the Illinois state Senate, and we wanna see him handle all of the pressures and challenge and everything from Reverend Wright to every living room and Isla and had he not pass those tests. Right. He would not have been the nominee, and you know, in in two thousand sixteen there was less of that. They'll bernie. Sanders became a formidable candidate challenger to Hillary Clinton, but she was pretty much. There was a consensus that she was going to be the nominee use boarded her of fairly early on the process is valuable the process is important. It is a lengthy tryout for for for the hardest job on the planet. It is linked to tryout in this election will be so much different than twenty sixteen because you know, one of the things that kills me when people say, well, if Bernie would have been nominated he would have won. Well, there was a reason. There was no negative on Bernie, the Republicans were fine with Bernie taking the nomination. We're not going to see that in this presidential cycle. There will be a lot of negative on a lot of these candidates and how they handle those moments when the op research gets dumped on them when something is unfair as Oshii took her own plane at her own expense to see one more stop a veterans. You know that that became a touchstone of negativity for my campaign. Rain just tells you how weird it can get and how you handle those moments whether you can in how how well how will you get organized. How good is your organization? How do you attract the talented people? Do you keep them there are they treated so that they feel like they're part of something bigger, and they wanna go all in. So I think this is going to be, and frankly, I think the key if I had to handicap anything I would say I give a little bit of a nod to those candidates who've been through rough campaigns before. If you've if you've not had millions of dollars of negative run against you ever. It feels awful when it happens in knowing that feeling and knowing that you can fight through it and survive, I think that gives an advantage to to a few of the candidates who've had tough campaigns. I think all to having the experience of having to seek votes in a diverse state, correct? With vastly different kinds of populations is is valuable so but in terms of Bernie Sanders, just let's stop there for second. He raised six million dollars in the first twenty four hours of his candidacy people wondered whether he had anything left in his tank. That's a lot of money to raise in in one day. I'll predict that that record will be smashed time and time again in this campaign by maybe him, but also other candidates. It's a new day, you know. You're looking at somebody who was frankly, not the favorite of the online wing of our party in terms of the progressives. We did and we had two hundred eighty thousand donors are average contribution was fifty one bucks, and we raised forty million dollars. Now, if somebody would have told me twenty years ago that that was going to happen. I would say what are you smoking? That's not gonna happen. But it did any look at Beto eighty million would have told you what they were smoking was legal exactly both both. And so I just think that this online. No question, Bernie has a loyal group of supporters who are used to giving him ten dollars twenty dollars thirty dollars, and they believe in him, and they're showing up right now at the beginning of his announcement. But I don't think that means that he is going to dominate online fundraising. I think it will end up being a much more equal process between. Several front runners before it's all said and done you mentioned that he didn't have negative run against him in that campaign. He he also had a clear path in that. He was the only challenger to Hillary Clinton had a United kind of progressive right path thorough other candidates in the race. Now who Elizabeth Warren, maybe comma, Harris and others who will Cory Booker. Chris celebrators Jilo branch voted no on every single Trump nominee. I don't think she even bothered to look a bios. I think she just decided I'm against everything this president stands for into discussion, including every nominees made. You don't you? You're not your net offering that in approving way. I sent you know, I'm not disapproving of it. I'm just saying it's a fact that there are a number of candidates that are running hard to the left. Yes. So this is where I was leading before because you were. You were talking about the ability to kind of reach reached the the middle of the electorate, are you concerned that the that the campaign will take the party to this is, of course, a Republican mantra at this moment, which is at the democratic you heard Trump's state of the union speech era commentator now, you heard his state of the union speech. And you know, it's basic argument he made his positive argument from south in that Democrats are socialists, radical on abortion believes in believe in open borders. That's the campaign that he's gonna run right. There's no question. I mean, we're going to hear a lot about socialism. So I think whoever is our nominee better hit it head to head. And I hope that everyone realizes that Medicare for all sounds wonderful until you explain to people that means they have to give up their insurance that they love at there. Workplace and get whatever insurance. The government says they can have now that's gonna feel that's gonna make ObamaCare. Look like a very light touch because all ObamaCare said is, you know, we need you to buy insurance. And you know, you must buy insurance. I shouldn't say we need you because it was a mandate you had to buy it. And that was what was so unpopular was a government mandate. That's what made it so unpopular in many, many states in this country. So I do think that our candidates need to be careful about being. About getting so far out there on some of these issues that they can be purloined with the the socialism label to the to the extent that the president's clearly make that the more whatever they're gonna try and hang right? Hang it on them. And I guess you don't wanna hazard and you don't want to. Dissect the people are out there already. Yeah. You know, I'm I'm going to try not to do that. Because first of all who cares. What I think second of all can we're trying to get people finish this podcast. I know I know. But I I really don't think my opinion of all the candidates is something that is at the top of everybody's list. And I really wanna see I mean, it's like asking me to fill out my bracket for next year's tournament. Right for for for two thousand twenty not twenty nineteen. I mean, I could do a halfway decent job with my bracket right now for this year, but not for next year. So let's wait and see this time next year, you know, who who has done well who has performed well who has listed the pressure who has raised the money who does well in these debates in June all of that matters. I hope you don't feel obligated to put Mizzou in the final four. No my God. No of you know, bless their hearts. Is not going to be in the final four this year. Now, we could get one of the Puerto brothers back. But so far we've we've struggled as the kind of candor retirement allows you yes to tell the truth. I love his new, but they're not gonna be in the final talk to me about in. We're recording. This a week before we expect the Muller report to go to the the Justice department enable offer some sort of summary of the report least, that's what we're given to believe. What do you expect to happen on the hill? When this thing lands, I think it depends entirely on what's in it. But how? But what if what if I get a hint, very partisan? These are the kind of insights that I knew you didn't have that didn't have that figured out. So I thought I win. You know, Lindsey Graham will have righteous indignation about, you know, this is nothing, and you know, Adam Schiff will be saying web. There's so much more. There's so much more. We don't know we need to know more. And you know, the American people will probably split the difference. I'm guessing in many of them will believe that, you know, clearly if these going to release it next week, it's hard for me to imagine that there's going to be an impeachable offense that will be contained in it. But we'll see maybe. And what was your sense of what was going on there with Trump and his kind of peculiar behavior behavior? Relative to Putin. Was it just potentate envy? Or I think that that. I think there is a lot of if you look at his business career. The Russians have been a part of it. And I think he didn't think he was going to win the presidency and he saw this run for the presidency. Maybe as a way to because he was the nominee that he could get close to Putin and then have his way in terms of doing deals in Russia. I think he was totally lying about that. He had no business interest in Russia. Never had obviously, that's the case. So I think a lot of this has to do with. The fact that he'd never gotten a deal in Russia and wanted to deal in Russia, and then he got elected, and I think he is taken by these strong personalities. I mean, it's the weirdest thing to me that he is cozied up to our enemies. I mean, I think of all the things that he has done, and I imagine what would have happened if Barack Obama had done those things I mean, just Konya west MFN in the Oval Office. Now, can you imagine how heads would have exploded? If Konya west was in the Oval Office when Barack Obama was president and did an M F live on television. I mean, Sean Hannity's head would have exploded. But it was like, oh, well, you know, he's different. And so the same thing with being friends with all these strong men, these are enemies. He clearly doesn't get that part. And he believes this despot in North Korea. Who's a thug? He believes this thug in Russia over our own. Belgian community which by the way is almost all veterans. It's just amazing to me. You put the Saudis in the same category. I put in Bs in the same category. After what happened in Turkey when they murdered that that man, I think that there's a there are business connections there that explain the behavior. I, and I think in Bs is obviously a smart young man, he came over and made friends with Jared Kushner, and then he figured out very quickly what Donald Trump wanted. And I don't know if people remember, but that was Donald Trump's first foreign trip and what the visuals of that trip. They had Bill from wagging his sword. Yeah. They they had billboards everywhere with Donald Trump's face roses thrown in his path. I mean, it was an extravaganza of celebration of a guy that loves adulation. So they just adulated over his, you know, what it was like so memorable to him that he. He was loved in Saudi Arabia and NBS did that and it was it was strategic and and and frankly worked for him. Because now he is refusing to do what every United States Senator knows needs to be done. And there need to be sanctions imposed on Saudi for what they did. What NBS did in murdering a journalist? And you know, he's going to let it go. He's just going to let it go. And once again, can you imagine what would have happened if that would have been a democratic president? I mean, he would be they would call. They would be impeaching him. They would be impeaching him for treason. Talk about the institution of that that you just left, and you you said. I think properly that when this thing lands would have the reaction is it's going to be partisan. And that's part of what I think frustrates people civilians about our politics in about government is that it is all very predictable has gotten worse in the in the years that you've been there. And and where's it all going? I mean, how do you penetrate that? Yeah, I think it has gotten worse. The first year. I was in the Senate. I I think I voted on three hundred six amendments my last year in the Senate, I think voted on forty. Because that's what the leader would allow on the. Yeah. Yeah. What's happened is and this door swings? Both ways. I mean, we did some of it. There was a little bit of you know. You know, which came first chicken or the egg because Mitch was being an obstructionist. Harry Reid not letting people through not letting nominees through Harry, finally threw in the towel and said, you know, we're gonna go to fifty one on certain appointment on on lower court judges and on on the nominees for the cabinet when he was an obstructionist Harry would fill the tree which is a technical term for putting amendments already on a Bill so nobody can offer an amendment. So we began down the path of having fewer amendments when Mitch was being an obstructionist while then now the roles are reversed and Mitch is gone down that path with vengeance. With literally we're not debating amending legislation anymore. The power has gotten so concentrated in the leaders office. It's made it much more like the house. The tax Bill was written in Mitch McConnell's office the build overturn ObamaCare was written in the leaders office. There. A handful of staffers on McConnell's staff that are basically in charge. And it is the committee process is not what it used to be. And there's John McCain's great lament rabbinal oration to the Senate. Right. And and you know, hey. Every once in a while the committees are working like they should. But not on any of the big stuff. It is either being blocked or it's being written by the leader in consultation. I mean, I know this on the tax Bill. This is a true story. We are debating the tax Bill, and there's going to be a managers package and a friend on K street. Call my office and gave us a list of amendments. I went up to Ron Wyden who's the ranking democrat on the finance committee. I'm on the finance committee. I have this list. I said Ron this is the list that they're going to offer. He said where did you get that? I said well K street has it. So they were talking to k street about what was going to be the final minute. Yeah. The K streets lobbyists. They were consulting with the lobbyists on the final list of amendments. And nobody on the democratic side had any idea. What was going to be offered? Well, that's that's messed up. That's also exactly what peop-. Suspect. Yeah. No question and there, right? I mean, there's the lobbyists had much more say about that tax Bill, then any duly elected member of congress? It was a democrat. So gimme a few things that would help change that well citizens United would help if we got rid of that. That's Mitch Mitch McConnell's love letter to the country. He cares. More about all kinds of dirty money unlimited money and politics, and he cares. Really? I think about any other issue. I mean, it's been his life's work to make sure that he could open the floodgates offended. He was the great opponent of McCain. Feingold grand. Yeah. So I think that I think we're going to have to figure out how to fix that. I think it may have to be a constitutional amendment. So that we can behave like other countries do around elections where it is not. He who has the most money has the ability to distort to the point that people. Throw up their hands. And don't know what to believe I think that that is that's a really important part of it. And I think the pendulum will swing back to some appreciation for those people who are working trying to get things done and not afraid of compromising. We are right now at a point where you know, compromise is way out of fashion. But these things have you know, history has many examples of where things have gotten very polarized. And then there has been a coming together. It's gonna take a good leader. And I hope that the the president we elected twenty twenty which is not Donald Trump will be that kind of leader. Are you do miss job? I miss parts of it. I am shocked obviously, not the flights back and forth shocked. How happy I am. I expecting much more of a hangover. I feel exhilerated by the freedom. I feel exhilerated. I'm very fortunate in that I've got a strong close family, and and and and opportunities are knocking on my door. That are exciting in fun. So I feel really good about this next chapter. I feel good about trying to help others. I feel good about getting to work on some of the issues. I really care about that. I can actually work on outside of being a member of the government. You know, Josh Holly reminded Missourians every ten minutes. I've been doing it for thirty eight years. I was when I got elected I was a shiny bright thing once upon a time back in in in in the eighties. So this is I'm fine. And I'm happy and do I miss being able to cross examine people in hearings and really get. It, you know, getting the point across I loved oversight hearings. I loved doing that. Yeah. I miss that. I miss my friends. I missed the clear geology of it in by the way. I did have lots of friends that Republicans. I miss both kinds my democratic friends, and my Republican friends, but overall this is good your Republican friends that would have been if I were more artful that would have been a great place to stop. But I just have to ask you because you mentioned it your Republican friends how candid where they with you about their feelings about what's going on. Now about the president about their own situation. Very candid very candid. And I I will tell you that no less than a dozen Republicans have expressed to me everything from disbelief to share panic over this president. Now, he's behaved in Oval Office. I think one of the themes that. Runs through their comments to me is how unsettling is that he knows nothing about the policy that he really does shoot. From the hip and has no intellectual curiosity about learning about the policy. I had one Senator say to me, it was clear and the conversation about this topic that he had no idea what he was talking about. And everybody in the room knew it, and it really did feel like the emperor's clothes. You know, this is one of those moments where his staff all sitting around going. Oh, he shouldn't be talking. See clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. That's scary to people that that's that's the commander in chief. That's scary. And a and yet they feel constricted and trying to do anything about it because he has enormous powered influence the base of the party. He does they are trapped. Some of them have been more courageous than others. Some of them have been willing to. This vote coming up. This will be an incredibly big vote in history because it couldn't be clear about the disapproval of his national emergency. The resolution of disapproval that the Senate must vote on it cannot be planner than the nose on someone's face that this is an unprecedented breach of constitutional norms. So all these guys including my opponent who ran is a constitutional conservative. If they actually say, it's okay for what he did. Then then I think the congress has probably taken a blow that will take many years to recover from do you if they did vote that disapproval, and we know from reporting that Mitch McConnell warn the president that that was a real possibility he would veto it. And then it would require I think thirty four of the Republicans to override his veto. Do you think that that's possible? Not possible. Not probable possible, not probable the boy. Wouldn't that be a profile? Encourage wouldn't that be a moment in history if it happened, but I always. But I always profiles in courage was a slim volume for reason, it was a slim volume for a reason I'm happen that off, and you know, they've got a really know they all know that they're saying that the congress doesn't have the power to procreate because that's really what this is. He's just taking the power to appropriate away from congress. It was interesting to watch McConnell come on the floor and announce. He looked peptic. I mean, more than usual saying that he low bar that he didn't that he was going to support this -mergency order having made clear that he didn't think it was a good idea, and he has held himself up as a guy who believes in the Senate and the prerogatives of the especially when there were democratic presidents. But that was like a it seemed like a total emasculation it was, but he was thinking of the alternative the alternative is the government judge down again, and then their poll numbers continue to drop and that was a disease. Everyone was suffering from not just the president the entire Republican party suffering. So of his goal is making sure he holds on to the majority in the Senate. He looked at the two paths one government shutdown not good for my members to get reelected or I can give a pass to the. Senators that are in tough states. They can vote to disapprove of what he's done to cleanse themselves. Thom Tillis is Joni Ernst, the Corey Gardner's all the ones that are tough states and will live to fight another day, and I can hold on the majority in twenty twenty. That's how his mind works. It's all about well checking Legna avenue, the president was thinking, you know, maybe the courts throw this thing out. But at least I look like, I'm fighting, and you know, we'll deal with that when it happens, but I can't kind of submissively give in to the reality. Which is I lost. Yeah. And I think people forget that McConnell doesn't look at this as a. US poll of how popular he's looking state by state. He's looking at the states where he wants to hold onto seats. And he's making a calculation clearly just to determine whether or not he can hold onto fifty one seats in the United States Senate. I think that's a student Alice's. I just wanna say you may have thought that you're not the bright shiny thing anymore. But you certainly been the bread shiny thing around the institute of politics and have lit up a bunch of kids here and inspire them. And so grateful for that. Listen, it's been a blast. And these kids you when I used to get depressed in Washington. I would ask my staff to bring me in the list of resumes of young people who had applied to work in the Senate, and it would always lift my spirits, and being here, it you can't be pessimistic about the future. Spend a lot of time around these bright young people that are thinking things through and care deeply it's been great for me. It's a little bit. I don't really have a hangover from the loss. But if I did this would be this would be the great antidote for it. Well, we're lucky to have you. Thanks so much. You bet. Picks. Thank you for listening to the acts files part of the CNN podcast network for more episodes of the X files. Visit axe vials podcasts dot com and subscribe on apple podcasts, Stitcher or your favorite podcast app from our programming from the university of Chicago institute of politics. Visit politics dot EU, Chicago dot EDU.

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