Ep. 279 - Jeff Weaver


And now from the university of Chicago institute of politics and CNN the axe files with your host, David Axelrod. Jeff Weaver, we grew up in tiny, Vermont town near the Canadian border, became a household name, at least in politics in two thousand and sixteen as a campaign manager for his old friend and client Bernie Sanders. He's written a book about that experience called how Bernie one inside the revolution that's taken back our country and where we go from here and where where he goes from here and where Bernie Sanders goes from here was one of the things we talked about when he came by the institute of politics last week and sat down with me. But they had can't Cambridge Analytica. They had. They did. They did. They did absolutely tens of millions of dollars in the background. Absolutely. But. They also got. Millie, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars of free television exposure he twice as much as she got. Yeah, she got twice in the primaries. It was overwhelming. I mean, part of it was they claimed if you talk to people at CNN or elsewhere, they'll say, you know, we offered the same opportunity to other people. They didn't take advantage of it. I don't believe that I could tell you stop Selena, true. I remember election nights, you know that when they were still a bunch of Republicans and Bernie and Hillary and you know, we everybody tried to stagger their election night speeches in order to seventy gets covered. Right? And they said, we just want you all to know that if Trump comes out, right, we're cutting truck. You know, this is the thing. I mean at some level. And he knows this and he cynically manipulates. Media, you know, the news business is a business. I mean, there is a trust associated with it and the people try and balance it. But anyway, we can talk about all this, Michelle wolf at the at the Washington correspondents' dinner. I was there the camera to me because at the end she says, I know you all say you hate Trump, but I think you really love him because he sells your newspapers and sells advertising on TV and the Roma silent except for me in the cameras to me and that she was absolutely right, totally, totally. In keeping with your your image and your and your style and your history. It was true. It was. She added that on. I mean, he was immediate creation and then they tried to kill him afterwards, you know? Yeah, yeah. Well. The truth is he's still paying off like a slot machine for them. Yeah. So you know you, you're in there. I mean, the political. I was talking to bunch of reporters before the election general show, and they're like, well, when I'm going to doing after, you know the political departments get winnow down after the general election, of course they're bigger than ever. Right? I mean, well, and as you say, they're going to start with, you know, the mid terms have taken on this disproportionately important disproportionate importance and then you're right into, you know, it never stops in never repetitive beleaguered voter. Yeah, right, exactly. Samuel in the driver seat today. I Sam. This Jeff Weaver. I will do an introduction later. Some just going to jump right in short and you're going to have to bear with me because some the show is partly by graphical impart contemporaneous and I read somewhere that you you don't like talking about yourself? I'm not. I'm not a Greg. I mean, I like I'm like Bernie in that way. Yes. Yeah. Go ahead. It's fine. I'll all with when he was here. Who for my first ever show he? He was pretty good. Actually. We talked about Brooklyn, the dodgers leaving. And yeah, no, no, that's fine. Yeah. Yeah, of course, absolute. My favorite was at the end of that show said to him, you two thousand kids waiting for you at the university and five hundred more in an overflow room. And I said, you are the most unlikely rockstar, then he said, just don't talk to me about those selfish. I hate those selfies. We're walking from dinner last night and Union Station. He was getting. Oh, Bernie. Sanders can have a selfie selfie. When they don't want Selby's anymore. That's when the problem. Yeah. Well, did you tell me. All right. Jeff Weaver, welcome here and welcome to the institute of politics. It's good to see you again, you come from as probably as close to being in Canada's one Katom. Tell me about Saint Albans, Vermont. Yes. So SAM's Vermont. Well, change a lot since I was a kid, it's was a conservative democratic area had more cows than people. I went to high school with substantial number of people who spoke French at home as a first language and your your your folks. Were y'all original French Canadian? Absolutely. Absolutely. My mother's maiden name of champagne. Exactly. So that's good. And that's French Canadian. So, yeah, you know those days the border was, you know, we talk about open borders. These days when I grew up the border with Quebec was basically an open border. You could drive back and forth waving being waved through. So there was a lot of a lot more interaction across the board than the than than there is now, certainly, but and you, Dan ran a pet shop, but added a pet shop. He did a bunch of jobs, but he his final job in life is having a pet store in insane Alban's which he loved very much. Also, he worked for many years that a utility as a late night, the person who called when your power went out, he would dispatch the trucks for folks. So it was a nice place to grow up. I mean, was obviously homogeneous in some ways. There were two Catholic church Irish Catholic church on the hill and a French Catholic church below the diverse. It was diverse and Irish Catholics. You know the, the major minority was Methodist. And I read somewhere that years later when you were working with Bernie Sanders, he was in your town and feel fielding oppress collar something in your dad's pet shop while the cockatoos were holdings four, three Ming, and the, you know, those as there was no cell phone. So when you wanted to call somebody, you had to find a telephone. So we went to my father's a pet store and he had this giant very beautiful cockatoo and it was screaming in the background, the AP reporter in montpelier the capital was said, Bernie, where are you? Sounds like you're in the jungle somewhere. I also remember driving with Bernie from one town to another late for a live radio show, and we were desperately looking for a payphone as the host is on the air saying, I don't know where mayor Sanders is, where could he be? No self had just a very different world in those. Yeah, I'll say I'll say, I'm sure there are days when he probably misses those those those days. Yeah, every every politician of a certain age probably does. There was kind of charm to that when you had a few moments to collect your thoughts. Before being thrown in the mail stream now? That's right. I mean, now you get in the car and it's just another period of work, right? This phone calls and as you know, you know, sometimes multiple cell phones being passed to a candidate back and forth, and there just is no sort of down time to write or thinker get your bearings know you. Were you deeply interested in politics as a kid? I was not deeply interested in politics as a kid. I was interested into political theory as a kid became sort of politicized when I was at Boston University. As in undergraduate school, I became involved. I in a Soviet jewelry movement, and then in the anti-apartheid movement, why in the Soviet jewelry movement, I was a Russian area studies major at the time and I had met, you know, there were a number of Jewish students said to be you and I became involve, I was convinced to go down to a annual lobby. They had in a d c. at that time to lobby members of congress, on behalf of Soviet jewelry and had Geog. Griffey professor who heard I was going and she said, I have a friend, I would like you to meet. And I met this woman and her mother was still in the Soviet Union, and but was there weren't letting her leave. And I brought her case actually to Pat Lahey Vermont Senator exactly. And he raise it with Soviet officials and she was ultimately released was sort of early that's gratifying to me of political political activism, paying off. And then I was arrested in anti-apartheid protests at BU in Unser modestly unceremoniously asked to leave. And that's what I meant matter with Bernie Sanders. In the summer of you, you said shantytowns. We did. We did other schools. Other schools were doing. It seemed to go fine view that was John sober. I don't. If you remember John who went onto the career in politics? Yes, yes. In the Torius right wing anyway, he, he was not going to tolerate that, and we were well, there was an also you hung banners out of your? I did. I did. We. They tried to throw us out of the dorms, the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts represented us in court, and we won actually that we one actually that case. They said there was no institution, Massachusetts had more civil rights violations. Our civil liberties violations lodged against it than Boston University under John sober than why did the why did the apart anti-apartheid movement so sees you so that so much so that cost to your your your place was such a clear and compelling example of injustice in the world. You know here you had just a brutal regime that was keeping down the vast majority of people in that country, obviously along racial lines. And you know, Boston University, John sober was a big fan of Ronald Reagan, and he was bringing speakers, you know, you wouldn't call them pro apartheid speakers, but there were certainly apologised for tied speakers onto campus and it was. It was just it just, you know, move me very much that. Institution that I was paying a lot of money to was involved in in supporting that regime, you know, and be you had that time were number of departments. The international relations department had strong relations with the contra rebels in Central America was eventually scandal at the communication school involving the CIA sending students there to be trained as journalists, and then sending them to a foreign countries to join news organizations and report back, you know, stuffed on the UPI and others. So you know, be you at that point was really sort of had become sort of hob of far-right intelligencia and was being used in that way to build credibility for people who would then support that kind of agenda around the world. And it was very disturbing. One of the ways you cleansed yourself was to go back and work for socialist mayor Burlington right for governor yet running for governor at that time, right as as an independent against Madeleine Kunin who was in the middle of her first to your term when. Bernie announced and for the record. Lincoln was one of the few Democrats, Vermont in two thousand sixteen who supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, which was a small minority of people. Vermont is the only state during the during the primary process where once candidates swept all of the delegates. So that was certainly a minority position so, but back in eighty six. What was it that that drew you to to Bernie? Well, I, you know, I had been corrigo radicalized at undergraduate school and I came back home again to this sort of sleepy place, and I was looking for, you know, what am I gonna do now kicked out of college, right? I don't have a job and you know he was running and I call down to his office to see if I can help out and guiding. Phil from auntie came up who's been a friend of mine. Now for decades came up and then should have been my first warning David. By the time he left. My house. I was the county coordinator campaign with absolutely no political experience whatsoever seemed good at the time. But in hindsight, said about a warning Sam know about him at this cockatoo Sieber exactly Bernie at an event when he came, I staffed a minute event. He came up to in in Franklin county, and you know, we, I guess we hit it off and he called me up and said, can you come down to work and Burlington a couple of days a week, and it's been, I don't know how many years is that now thirty years since then how which, which is the greatest thing in in politics. When you have these long term, relationships were of trust where you you really know how someone thinks. Absolutely. What. What was it then? What? What do you recall about your initial interactions with? I mean, I I will tell you that the impression of him generally is that he believes deeply in what he believes in completely sincerely doesn't have a whole lot of time for kind of social niceties. He's got more important things on his mind. Right. And I try, I assume you, it's like that. Yeah, he wasn't. You don't some ways. You know, we were going around the state and he was, you know, he would meet with small groups of people, eight, ten people, you know, far cry from the thirty thousand get a person crowds. He had twenty sixteen, but you know some ways that there were some Larry's because at that point he was mayor Burlington, not that well known or that itself was a national story when race. Absolutely. Because he he was. He was clearly on the. Left Iran came out of nowhere. You know, not up machine, machine politician in Burlington, but outside the Burlington, Burlington, Vermont, Burlington, you'll look at as a small city, but in Vermont, Burlington's the big city, right? And so among rural people and small town, people Burlington's looked at what at that time was looked at as sort of like the big city. And so people know really what to make of him outside of Burlington. So yet a lot of work to do a truth matters. He ended up being very popular with rural people in particular, I think who appreciated his sincerity and understood that he was, you know, believe what he said. You know, let me ask you question about that because he did my very first acts files, two hundred seventy seven shows ago and who's counting David? Well, you know, I like to have a little meter on my desk, but and one of the things that talked about was was guns. And I asked him and I actually really appreciated his candor said, if you were representing Brooklyn where you grew up rather than for my, would your position be have been different on on guns because he had been sort of moderate on the issue. And he said, probably so, yeah, although gotta tell you in Vermont, you know, his position, Vermont, particularly in the eighties when he was running for trying to run for congress, you know, it was really very because they're very, extremely left's. You know, Howard Dean had an a plus rating from the NRA throughout his entire career. He would never have touched guns with a ten foot pole burning Eighty-eight. We ran for congress and lost by three points, and he was the again, running as an independent, the both democrat and Republican, both pledged that they would not ban assault weapons, and he was, he said, no, I will. I will ban weapons ninety eight. And so you know there's in, you know, of course, presidential campaign is a lot of nuance gets lost as you well know as people try to paint you with broad brushstrokes. But the truth matter is, is that in Vermont, certainly Bernie was way out front in terms of the assault, weapons ban head of everybody. I mean, there are other issues I'm not. I'm not really making another. That he, you know, you are elected to represent your state and plainly the fact that the state there was a large world population, lots of hunters and so on, right? He clearly talked to folks about that that inform some he, he hadn't. He, he had a nuance position on the issue. The the thing is that in the times in which we live, it's hard to have a nuance position on that on that issue. I mean after propo- like where I grew up, you know many people's homes. You will go into the limit room. One of the major sort of pieces of furniture is the glass gun gunky gun virus six guns in it. There's the initiatives lying on the shelf below and no one thinks anything about it. Note anybody think that would be something that you would take us for some nefarious purposes just, yeah, one of the things you have. Yeah. I mean, you know, the thing that. The thing that's so difficult is how do we get the have, how do we have a reason discussion on this? You know Obama's had a debate when he was in the state Senate with a rural, a rural legislator, and he said, you know, I know. I think I've said this here before, but I know that. You know, you grew up with guns and your dad took you out at dawn hunting and his dad did the same. This, you know, big part of of your of your life and of your of what what is is typical in your communities? In my community, though I've got parents who wait by the window anxiously hoping that their kids don't get shot on the way home. And he said there has to be a way to to to to protect your traditions and our and the children in my area, and he's right about that. We ought to be able to have, but we can't. We can't because of well, frankly, because of the way the issue has been weaponized. And here you know, I'm sure people because it has people who if there are people listening on the right here, they would say, well, weaponized by a gun control advocates, but really the NRA is kind of an industry now. Yeah, absolutely. And they speak for an industry. I mean, they really, you know. They they, they have weaponized this issue on behalf of the gun industry shrouded in in in, you know, intimations about autocracy and the overweening government. And yeah, let me let's be clear. The NRA has become, you know, an adjunct Republican party. There's no. I mean, it is a wildly partisan organization. I mean, I remember when Bernie I got elected to the house of representatives. There were a lot of much many more rural Democrats, right? And the views on on gun legislation within the Democratic Party was was much more diverse in terms of positioning and it was much urban rural now it's completely a partisan issue, right? And Republicans, you know, use it to try to beat up Democrats. It's interesting to see how this if in how this issue evolves, it feels like that parkland shooting was a bit of a watershed. We'll see how certainly in suburban areas the issue has has changed, but so have suburban voter? Yes. So you you ultimately did go back to college at the university of Vermont, I did. Yes. Between campaigns Bernie, I work with burn eighty six where he was not successful in running for governor. I work with an eighty, ran for congress loss by three points and then a ninety. He came back and had a rerun against the Republican who had beaten him two years earlier, and he won in nineteen ninety nine. I came down to DC with him. Yeah, says a lot about your relationship that you lost all these races and he still wanted you back. Yeah, right, right. Well, it wasn't you know, at that you know those campaigns were very different than what what I understand now like a modern campaign, they were very, you know, Bernie a lot of the quote unquote running of the campaign. It was a very few people. The Madame money was, you know, I look back on it very, very little. Although other we ran TV advertising, certainly eighty eight ninety. Payment that expensive in Verma. Not that in than not that expensive. I'm sure the as were homemade, and so there was no production expensive, very little. So it was, you know, now I'm gonna make wardrobe. Exactly. But at. So you went down and you, you also you, you attended law school. Did you do that while you went down? I did. I don't tell people Georgetown Cassini tell you can't work while you're going to law school, but I to late now, I would work on the your work on the hill and Georgia lost goes on on Capitol Hill. So I would leave the hell to go to class and then go back, go back to the hill. So I, I was, I did was okay with Bernie. Yeah, it was. I mean, yes, I just want, you know, class time isn't that much yet the the, you're studying at night and then my after my second year, I did a summer tour traditional summer associate gig at a firm and my that I left Bernie's office and worked at that firm for three or you left out one significant part of your biography. How's your own brief campaign as a candidate? I was actually Canada twice Iran, Iran, for alderman. Insane all in Saint Albans in the most conservative ward in the city in three race didn't do well. And then I ran for mayor of that city following in the footsteps of the man himself. Well, that's what my Ponant were saying. Yeah. And. I got forty percent of the vote. My opponent had the doors on both parties. I was twenty four one, the sort of working class side of the city barely. And then in the hill section. You know Salat it was. It was an interesting lesson in class politics even in a place like that. Yeah, didn't leave you with the bug to one ever do it again? No, you know? No, not really. I've done. I've done that and I much prefer the role I have. Now there's plenty of great people running for office a needle. Frankly, David, as you know, you know, in many ways, the environment is so toxic. I don't. I don't anybody runs for office frankly. Yeah. Is that what you're saying? Bernie when he's to say whether running to look, I'm very, very clear about the last three words of my Booker run Bernie run. So I'm I'm very clear about what what I think he should do, but you know, it's his his decision. He. I don't wanna leap ahead because I, I wanna follow the your own story here, but on that subject because you raised it, it is. Politics is so course today and so difficult. And what is it about him that he seems? I mean, there were times when he got irascible in Caisley. When reacted when he was tacked and so on. But generally he, he seems to to take the incoming and he seems to keep on heading forward, what is it about him that allows him to endure the environment yet? He's always had this goes way back from the early days. He's always had the conviction that he can just talk to enough people about his ideas on the, you know, the policy agenda. He's advocating that he'll be successful and this is true in the presidential race. You know, when he would count the number of p we go to when he'd hold rallies and he would. He kept a rolling track of how many actual people attended the rallies just because he wanted to know what percent of the eventual electorate. He actually talked to basically in person, right? And he, he was always very, you know, some of us make the case. Well, many more people will see part of this rally on television, that in person he's like, not on. I don't care about that. I wanna know how many actual people talk. To. So he's always had that. And so he keeps his head, you know, keeps his head down. He put his shoulder heart into the wheel, and he tried to talk to more people about the sort of vision he articulates and he's he's confident that if he can again do that to enough with enough people, he'll be successful. There were there were they came in in oblique ways, but stories written attacks that were probably propagated by people who wanted to stop him about his wife and her tenure as head of Burlington. Yeah, holidays and so on. Vampire have been difficult. Yeah, no, clearly clearly it wasn't. Yes, they were propagated. I mean, you know, the, the chief propagator was Trump's campaign manager, Vermont. So I mean, I don't think any about come as a surprise anybody. But yeah, it's very difficult. And you know, I mean, you've been with the candidates who when their family gets tact or they get a tag on fairway particular when you after their family, you know it really. It really hurts even look like, you know, ten. Cruise when his father was accused of being one of the Kennedy assassins or. Chris gotten over it. He's he loves President Trump. No, I apparently, that's apparently they're kissed and made up. Yes, but, but you know, you know you've been in the heat of a campaign when. Yeah, family members get attacked. Yeah. And I, you know, and I've always, I've find really distasteful. You know, I, it's one of the things that really bothered me was, you know, I think the, you know, I mean, I'm you and I may have a different view on this. I get beaten up by the left on this all the time. I don't like chasing people into restaurants when they're there with their family, and I don't there have to be some. You know you've been a practitioner politics for longtime. You've worked with elect? Yes. Issue. You know, because my feeling is once you once you not norms down, wants to this, my objection to the president wants you shred. What? What used to be norms? You know, like there are known 's beyond which you know, then if you never get them back. And if if if the left can chase Sarah Sanders or someone else into a restaurant and chase their family, the rights going to do the same thing and we're in this mad cycle of, you know, and I'm not sure it contributes anything to the to me, it's more an act of frustration than something constructive understand the frustration. But yeah, the end of the day that you have to, you have to beat them at the ballot box. I mean, that's how you are vindicated in politics in democracy is beating them at the ballot box. You know, apropos this sort of norms. You know, I remember got how many years ago as it now I was at a Christmas mass and the priests. Who had a thick Irish brogue. And he was like, right from Ireland, spoke against the war and a fully dressed full uniformed, Virginia state policeman walked to the front of the church and so- scolded him and then walked out like that's, you know, that works both ways and to see sort of policemen in the Virginia uniform is fairly military looking, you know, scolding cleric for now talking as the War. I mean, you know that that's I think what you're talking about this break we get into, we, you know, it's a mad cycle down, you know, right? Where one thing begets another thing and and and you wonder where all leads. And I look, I thoroughly thoroughly agree with. You mean I'm believe I wrote a book called believer. I'm a believer and it wasn't about a person. It was about this. Idea of democracy and that that's there is one self-correcting. There's one corrective in democracy and that is the vote. And you know, that's, you know, that's been weaponized too. I mean, you know, Republicans, as you know, working very hard because they don't want fairly at the ballot box and so they do things to, you know. Able to vote and and that to me is an absolutely important battle to fight. I mean, my view is that every we should want every single person absolutely to participate in elections, and we shouldn't game the system in any way and anyone who does should be prevented from doing that. And I agree with you. I mean, I think if you if you feel like you are, if you feel like you are advantaged if you're people vote, that could be a sign that you shouldn't win. You know, so you stick you stuck with with with Bernie Sanders throughout his throughout his time in the house. And you ran his campaign for the Senate. Yeah, right. So I, I left work the law firm for fears, and then he called me back and I was house, Sheva staffer years. And then in two thousand. Did you practicing those to you? So I didn't government contracts law. So I work for an electric, a number of government contractors in their never ending, pushing money back and forth across the table with the government. So United Technologies and companies like that. It was actually know was an important moment from me because I really got to see sort of how corporate America works and what the start in what you learn culture. Well, just the way you know, just the way information's past the, you know, the culture of how big corporations work. It just gets. I think too few people on the left understand that world at all right, into him conceptions about it. In some ways, it's much less than the ferris than. People think, you know, it's collections of people trying to make a lot of money, and you know, people do things at times that are in any other endeavor that are not appropriate in order to, you know, chief their end, but but it was. It was an interesting window for me coming from my small town and working for the, you know, congressman from Vermont. Yeah, you. You. So you worked with him. You ran the campaign? Yeah. We had a self funded opponent in two thousand six guy who disowned his company. He had built up medical software company had sold it, and he had hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. I mean, in cash in his Bank account and the most at anyone had ever spent in a Senate race in Vermont is gonna sound quaint to people who are familiar with politics patently hit spent two million in the prior election cycle, so salons money today. Two million dollars run a Senate race, so so, but you know, for us, that was a lot of a lot of money in the end of the at the end of the day are Ponant up spending eight million dollars and we spent over six million dollars. Most of it razed through direct mail. This is before the advent of internet fundraising to a large and how much of it came from Vermont, I'm sure relatively small, relatively small Vermont as a not a huge fundraising, not all right. I mean, we had a lot of we had a lot of mean in terms of donations, Vermont donations, but they would relatively small donations compared to what you would get nationally, and then you, I have to ask you about your foray into the comic book. Do you still have your store? I do still have my store fact over the last week and I was at the New York comic con quite a quite a quite a place. So tell me about this fascination. I have to tell you I had it once in my possession when I was a kid almost every inaugural issue of marvel Thor and Spiderman, and I had the most extraordinary collection of comic books. I vent about this every once in a while also had a great collection of baseball cards and autographs, like Jackie Robinson, right? I mean, just and I made the mistake of not securing them before I went to college and my mother wanted reclaim my room and just threw it out thinking this. This is this is not an uncommon story as you know, David. Yeah, I know. But it's one that sticks Mike Kreil tell you that, but how. Much would like a the first addition of Spiderman yield today. So the first appearance of Spiderman sort of on the, you know that in that hobby, it's very grade driven, right? The nicer the book is the more brings, but you know. So the range on that book would be anywhere from fifteen thousand to two million dollars depending on the condition. You're probably let me say. The reason I want to have this discussion is even though she's she's slipped her earthly bonds. I still have this notion that my mom knows what I'm doing right. And if she's listening to this podcast, mom, do you hear that? Do you hear what you threw out? But anyway, so tell me it wasn't where there wasn't worth that. Then I loved it, though. Man, I you, we used to. I was veracious reader of comic books. I remember there was a blackout in New York in nineteen sixty six and so school. You know, every there was going to be no school. The next and a friend of mine mine and I went. Into the staircase of my. I lived in a housing project housing development in New York, and we just took a flashlights Nasreddin comic books for hours. I mean I- Yala changing. Them I was of racist comic book reader is a good to that was burning by the way you should know is there I tells you stories about he and his brother would and friends of theirs trade comic books. You know, he was living obviously in in Brooklyn, but you know, I was in Vermont, a small place, and it was really a way with them usually escape right now before twenty five TV and the, you know, people don't remember the days of the, you know, the staticky late night television, the flame the planes flying, the national anthem and like there was three TV stations, just a different like now there's so much entertainment on your phone or on the big screen or whatever. But there were, you know, comic books for quite a few generations for major form of escapism ended you have. Did you favor? Did you? I mean, I was kind of like a marvel Anna DC. Yeah, I was. I was I was too, so I. So I, I decided to after spending couple years of the Senate staff that I was just done with politics. So why Chris? You get tired of it after all. It's tough, right? You know, I ran the Senate campaign. I, I went was in Vermont live for six months. I went Monday through Friday. Vermont had little kids back in DC. Yeah, right in northern Virginia. Yes. So I just wanted to do something else and thought I would do that and my daughter runs the store now. So family business, it's been successful. I don't know that it's a business that like impasse onto them. Ultimately the the interest will still be there in the in the world for comic profit making venture. Absolutely, yes. Yep. Yep. I seven employee's. And is that. I know that you have this side gig which is looking after the Sanders, my primary gig, the comic book businesses. Just because you think Bernie may decide the side gig now, but I, you know, I was happily there until I got the call and you know twenty fifteen. Yeah. Let's talk about that. You know, I, I remember when he decided that he was gonna run. Now, a lot of people took that very seriously. I remember from my own time in the Senate, I remember going to the Senate caucus, he always was sitting by himself. You know, Bernie Sanders was a solitary figure and he had issues that he raised that others weren't raising and so on. But nobody really thought of him, you wouldn't look around and see this kind of rumpled wild haired guys sitting by himself and say, this is the guy in the room who's going to be president of the United States site, the millennial generation. Exactly, yes. Tell me about the pro that process of deciding that he was going to to run. Yeah. Well, I, you know, I have to tell you like carcass my book he called me up for meeting in, you know. As you point out Bernie's very focused on his work and like social Nicey. So like when you when I work with him, I, you know, we talk every day and often multiple and on us so forth. But when you're not working with them, even if you were coming over and have a beer is not like a lot of coming over and have a Ben and Jerry's, right? Say, right, you know, I would get invited to the holiday party and go to that. But other than that, you didn't really hear from him much. So I got a call from out of the blue ask if I wanted to have dinner. So we went and had dinner Union Station, and it was just all chitchat, right? Like how you doing how you kids doing? I was helping coach my kids little league teams. How's your store doing? And like, you know, just like if I went out to dinner at some point, you like you've done to talking people go home and I went home and my wife said, what did he want? And I was like, I have no idea. This is before he, you know, but this is not clearly he wanted something and then you know, it became clear after watching news. He did this to around the country. This pre tour, I wanna few places so it became clear that he was thinking about running for president. And then he called me up again and we went to dinner. Again. This was right before he announced before he announced. And I said, we're gonna talk about today. What we were supposed to talk about last time. And I, I just think why didn't he talk to you about was trying to gauge how good my life was. Whether I, he should say, you should throw that away and well, you must have been pretty persuasive sincere raise the subject, right? Right, right. No, I was in the comic book businesses. Fantastic. Was just I had. I had a very good life and explained to me that he was gonna run for president. We talked about sort of his thinking about what he wanted to be like, you know, at that point had already talked to a number of consultants post, not a poster of that time whenever pollster till the fall, but you know, TV guys on the digital guys and you know it all seemed very expensive to him, which it is very expensive and. I, you know, I think some of you wanted somebody to help sort all that and like somebody he was clearly in his corner. Right. Sure you didn't get ripped off. Right, and that things were done the way he wanted them done that he wasn't, you know, consumed by consultants view of what he should be your say, right? He he's always been super resistant to that, which is one of his right appeal. Yeah, right. Exactly. So, you know, he certainly understood the value that you know people can raise money on line or people that can run a social media campaign or people that can create TV commercials or people that you know an ultimately people I can poll, you know, he understands the value of these things, but he doesn't wanna be consumed by them. Right. And so so he finally put his cards on the table and said, will you do this. Yes. And we talked, you know, we talked about and I'm gonna be the only one probably maybe even more than than he was convinced that not that he would win, but that he could win because I seen it in Vermont, and you know, people have a view of him and you know, it's largely stereotypical view at this point about who he appeals to. You know how people relate to him, but you know, I saw, you know, rural people, otherwise, Republican, rural people who love Bernie Sanders. I'm outta remember very distinctly, he and I went to strawberry festival Saint enshrine in the in the islands and in the in lake Champlain, and we went to the cafeteria, various running for governor. I think very early on and we were in a cap cafeteria, and they're bunch of French-Canadian ladies over Montrose, but French Canadian heritage. Look like my grandmother behind the counter. You know, we're like the jello and the, you know, the metal bars. You run your tray down and they were literally David crawling. Through the food to get to Bernie Sanders. And this is very early on. And so he has always had this connection with rural people that I think people don't understand you saw in the primaries, you know, and I've talked to, you know, I'm actually have great relations with a lot of the senior, Hillary people now haven't worked with them in the general election and they didn't get it either until later in the campaign that in fact, Bernie Sanders was going to do well with rural Democrats with quote, unquote, moderate Democrats. He did much better with those voters than Hillary Clinton, right when you and you know, they were point trying to drive those voters out to counter him. In fact, they were helping him, you know. So let's dive in for a second into that appeal. I mean, there's a lot been made of sort of the the fact that Trump energize these rural voters that Sanders energize, these rural voters that there were some populist themes in common on trade. For example, how much of it, how much of what evolved in that campaign was about him and how much was it about about Hillary who for all her strength was and was true in two thousand eight as well. Really kind of a avatar of of the status quo very well established Washington figure who is associated with, you know the the establishment Washington in in every conceivable way. Right. Right. Look, you know, elections binary so it particularly have two person race. It's a choice. Apologies to governor O'Malley right? Became binary very quick very quickly. I mean, just like in two thousand eight mean John Edwards was did not play the role in that race that he played in two thousand four were you know where he was one of the top two. People we had. You know, the that field was, you know, people forget it was Joe Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, and there were other serious people in that race that field you you, you had it was advantageous to be in a binary race? Yes. No, that's exactly right. But you know, and Brock Obama was certainly outside outside candidate in that primary, there's no doubt about that. But like I do think that there is a lot of discontent in the country, a lot of anxiety in the country. I think it's it's largely economic manifests itself in other ways. And I think that the Clinton people didn't get that in twenty sixteen, you know, I think a lot of the policy people she had around her were very much more conservative, not not mean Republican, but I mean conservative cautious an incremental in there. Yeah. I think that they had suddenly Bernie caught on and they really tried to catch up right mean her. She was not for fifteen dollars minimum wage and to get to New York. And she was for, you know, there was like evolution in her policy prescription. They kept getting more and more left to try to. Catch that was problematical as well because one of inauthentic city was one of the charges exact can. So if you try and change in order to catch up, you're also opening yourself up to even more questions about ROY you actually feel strongly about now. That's right. I look, you know, the polling was like the very beginning of the race. Appalling was at least that I saw was pretty clear that Hillary Clinton was very popular with self identified. Democrats. I mean, are popular is very high. You know, Bama was slightly higher, but you know, he's beloved by a Democrats, but she had a real problem. This is before any engagement with Bernie a problem with younger voters, and she had problem with independent voters on his, you know, in most places in this country, independent voters can participate in the democratic primary process and her favorables when you got to a democratically leaning independent, they weren't like off a cliff, and there was a lot of there's been a lot of like while you talk about what Bernie one or not. Want. And obviously the Clinton people say, well, he would have adult these attacks against him that already had these attacks against her, but they had landed on her and she was carrying baggage, and it really hurt her with independent voters in general election as you know, that's that's. That's a big, you know, what are you going to tell independent voters who have fixed notion of you from decades that's going to change their mind? Right. When you start with high negatives with independent voters? I, it's, it's a real challenge. There are, you know, everybody has their view in hindsight, there people who are close to her who say you guys cost her the general because the primary was so vital bre tive so difficult so lane, th-they so costly. I know you guys were helpful to her in the general as you point out, you work with them in the general, but what do you say to that? Yeah, I think that that is just one hundred percent wrong frankly. I mean, if you look at, if you look at. The tone and tenor of that twenty sixteen race compared to two thousand eight. It was a much tamer exchange than in two thousand eight frankly. And you know, I always look back to actually believe in long primary had actually benefits. Democrats media only likes to cover conflict and soon as the conflict resume coverage in two thousand eight. We absolutely mean we wanted to end early, right? Nobody really wants to go through a long primary. I came to believe that people wanted to see Obama run the full course right because he was a young guy and not would not a lot of Washington experience, so they were testing him, but it also is true that from an organizational standpoint, having a run races and fifty states, yes, created, you know, mow it forward momentum in those states and organization. So in that was good and in the race dominated, you know, McCain, John McCain was the candidate in two thousand. After the problem couldn't break into the story because everyone is focused on the democratic race. Well, and you look at two thousand four when Edwards leaves the race in April, like the cover media coverage of Kerry just goes away until the convention. And then the next always being swift boated in August. Meanwhile, the Republican ministration was on, I was on the hill, then they would try out a cabinet secretary or high level governor official literally on the hour and dominate the news for the entire Carey could not break through, but that was because the primaries over the quote, unquote conflict was gone in the media went away. I guess the essence of the the, the suggestion they're making some of the themes that you guys developed against her in the primaries became themes that Trump picked up on an infect Trump loved to quote, Bernie Sanders against her mischievous I guess that's benign way of saying. Has that is that is, but so there is that you guys opened up some wounds that were that were hard to to heal. I'm not sure that those wounds weren't there before the campaign started. I mean, as I pointed out, you know, independent voters difficulty with Hillary Clinton before the campaign was even engaged, and it was largely on the issue of trustworthiness. That was something they came to the election. That was something that was created by our campaign, and frankly they have I, you know, I there moments when you talk to when bef- you had many debates. Some were pretty there was some pretty sharp exchange. New York was probably the stress I, I remember it well, we were on the. We were on the ropes we had to do well in New York. And what kind of conversations did you have about how far he was willing to go? Yeah, he was, you know, so friends too. You know, he did not go after the foundation, right. That would been clearly something that somebody could have gone after he didn't wanna go there. You member? He famously said at the November at the Las Vegas, I hire the damn emails point being it's dominating the conversation. Let's talk about. He wanted to talk about single payer healthcare. He wanted to talk about the fifteen minimum wage climate change. You wanted to talk about these issues and probably though was a very big moment for him when he said that wasn't it? Yes, because it was unlike what people expect from politicians not to not to jump in on on an opportunity like that. Right. And he, you know, I mean, he doesn't people's personalities or their personal life since he just he's not interested in that kind of politics. He didn't. He, you know, he always wants to, you know, if he had won, he would have wanted to have one on the basis of the ideas that he was putting forward so that he would have in some way mandate to push those ideas through because it's not it's not personal for him. As he often tells me, look, you know where I come from, I wasn't somebody who was born groom to be president of the United States. I don't have to be president of the United States and that's up. That's absolutely true. He's not somebody who's you know, was groomed from child to be the next leader of the free world. That's not who he is in net net pack in Brooklyn. They weren't there. Nobody training school in Brooklyn that insa- that guy looks like he could be president United States -actly, hey. You yourself had some pretty. You're a fierce advocate for your guy, and you had some really big rose particularly about the process itself and what you felt was the stacking of the process against him, and I assume you to this day, you feel that way. I think you've written on it and you know, I absolute. It was well, we know Donna Brazile exposed that in the summer of twenty fifteen. You know, there's a document between w Osman shows on the Clinton campaign, essentially giving them control over staffing and messaging. And that was certainly not something that was revealed during the campaign, but there were enough other things. It's clear that the Clinton campaign dictated the debate schedule including wear and win and how many there would be that was dictated by them. And you know, I mean, Tom Perez I think is in a much different position. I think he will be a regardless of who's the candidate will be a much, you know, honest bro, honest broker. I mean, that'd be Wasserman Schultz, you know you, you remember the point in which she showed off our data because. Couple of low level staffers, you know, took advantage of a breach in the firewall. I mean, you know the the charge was that you guys had stolen date of chores campaign, which the subsequent investigation demonstrated which we paid for showed by a contractor picked by the DNC. There was no data stone was modeling data. You would have had to memorize, you know, ten thousand personal lists and the course of thirty or forty seconds in order to have had data you should answer. I didn't ask you when you brought it up before, do you think he would have beaten, you think Bernie Sanders would have beaten Donald? Absolutely. I do think he would have beaten Trump and because he would not, you know, if you look at, you know, you look at Michigan, Hillary Clinton loss Michigan. The primary, she lost John election in exactly the same way. You know there was depressed turnout into Troy and Wayne County, and then overwhelming turnout against her everywhere else. Small towns, rural areas, suburbs, and he was. Was it was an identity. You know, Bernie Sanders would not have lost Michigan, not have lost, Wisconsin. I hear you and, and I don't know the answer the question really, but she kinda cleaned his clock among African American voters in the primary. So why do you think they'd be more well. Well, that's not. So that's the narrative right in early in the campaign that was true. By the time we get to Michigan, he's going toe-to-toe with her with African American voters under forty. By the time we get to Pennsylvania when the campaign in fact is tanking. Basically our campaign after New York started steady decline. He was doing better than she was with African Americans under forty. We only lost the African American vote in Pennsylvania by ten points. I think we lost the overall state by more. So we're doing better with black folks, American voters under forty or not a majority of African American votes. No, that's right. But you know, this was an issue throughout the campaign David. If you look at voters over. Yeah, six any race? It doesn't. It was. That was not, you know, what is true? Is that according to the exit polls, the percentage of African American voters who are millennials, much smaller than other communities of in the x. oppose. It was twelve percent of African-American boaters millennials in a non African American community? Democratic. Primaries it was eighteen percent. And so that you know made us look like we're doing even worse with African American voters, but it was primarily had a lot to do with the age of the electric, not the race of the electorate, but I will admit that it, you know, certainly in the south of the beginning he was crucial. It was, you know, this is important because you were talking before we started rolling about the fact that there are a lot of people aren't run for president who talk about it as if it's, you know, like the voice or something, you just kind of reform and then everybody votes. It's a process. Yes. And it begins an Iowa and you have to and New Hampshire. You know, you've got Nevada, and then South Carolina, where the vote is majority African American vote in the primary and the question is, and even now with the California primary has been moved back. So early voting will be in on the day of the Iowa caucuses. You have to figure out how you're going to navigate this because if you don't. You know, there's not going to be a binary choice in two thousand and twenty th this is like, you know the, they're going to be the multiple. Yes, it's going to be. I mean, it's easier to list the number of Democrats who aren't thinking of running for president than those who are. So only a few are gonna come through that funnel that is New Hampshire, and and if you do survive, it then becomes really important how you can compete with African American voters disproportionate impact on some of these primaries, South Carolina. Super Tuesday. Primaries these southern primaries. And the cost of how much do you think it will cost a candidate to just run the first four races run through the South Carolina primary into Super Tuesday this time. Well, as you point out, California will start voting when I was voting. So you have to be advertising even yet to be at the be a couple of weeks early, even there which was enormously. Let's fifty million if you wanted full flight of six weeks TV in California. What are you talking about? Fifty million dollars, right? Yes, I was probably sixteen fifteen sixteen million New Hampshire because of your. In media market is another is probably similar, you know, Nevada's cheaper, but I mean, it's probably six or seven, South Carolina could be three or four. I mean, so, and then you know, that's just for TV that that doesn't even spiel flying your candidate around on a plane and the fact that you know if a couple of days after South Carolina ho Slough, other states are voting right? You get Minnesota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Texas. And so if you have to advertise Mulvaney smells by by the time you get to Super Tuesday. I mean, just on television, you might have to spend a hundred fifty million dollars, which is unbelievable really does speak to right away a differentiator if candidates can do that Moore candidate could presumably because he has developed a base around the country. So I have to ask you the question as to where do you think his head is right now? Well, you know, I speak to him about it. Often, you know it, it, you know, one one question that sort of ways on him and I because he's a serious guys. He wants to make sure that Trump has beaten at twenty twenty. And he wants to be very confident that if he runs these wearing because he's the person who's best able to do that now I think he is, but I'm not the candidate and if he decides he is, I think the chance of running much higher. I think if he what about age Jeff, I mean, you know, I know he's an energetic guy. Anybody watches them on. TV can see that, but there are certain immutable laws early, not David. So you're, you're willing to test that. But I mean, I've been with the candidate in in in in been several candidates in presidential races. I know what they exact- I know what the presidency exacts. How much of a consideration is your look? You know, chronological age is one thing. You know, his biological age has to be has to, you know, his body has to just be younger. I mean, the guy puts you know, he puts Twenty-three-year-old media people, you know to shame try to follow him around. I mean, the hardest working person. I know he doesn't stop. This isn't a concern for you? Not not for me in terms of his ability to do it. Absolutely not. No. If I, if I thought he was going to look, the guy has had the guy. The guys had an electoral career guys, United States Senator. He was close runner for president got forty, three percent of having Leicester's Greer's. You've been around a while. Right? He has been around for a while. So like there's if he decides run for president, you know, the guys galvanized the whole generation of young people to get involved in politics. He's changed the debate in this country. I mean, so like he has nothing to prove to me, you know, I think you'd be a great president. I think he could institutionalize a lot of the policies that he has been advocating that have caught fire around the country. Last time he ran as you point out it was, hey, he and Hillary basically alone this time. As we point out, there's going to be a large field. Some of them are right in his lane. Elizabeth Warren who's already announced that she's going to seriously consider it, which I would take as a kind of very. Signal and everything she's doing suggests that that she's going to run. They do share a base on the surpassed. Bula laughed. She has the additional of quality of of being a woman, which I think especially in this day and age is is, is is a valuable asset will be in the primaries are in two thousand and twenty. I saw poll that was just done recently in Iowa of caucus-goers and it had Biden ahead substantially and then warn was second Sanders narrowly behind. Essentially they were splitting. What would I think have been the Sanders vote? So can they both run in the same race and be successful well, and you're, you're right. There was a BuzzFeed star recently about this sort of relationship of. You know, Warren versus Sanders and I think you're right to say that it's his lane. I mean he ran last time when she did not. You know, I think there is some resentment among some of his people that she did. She supported Hillary Clinton and not him, but I do look. I do think at a crowded field. There's room for both of them. I've seen the rich. I thought she was neutral. None of she ended up supporting Hillary and so there you know and I've seen other research and what you have to understand about Iowa. You know how Bernie Sanders, I think probably won the popular vote nihil, but because you know, they don't report the popular vote. They will now they have them out or new democratic rules, but they didn't then is you know, he changed the nature of the electorate in Iowa every those hundred thirty five thousand people show showing up and their one hundred seventy thousand people. And you know, in that book shattered, they talk about it, they Hilary people were shocked that of those new voters, you know they were. They thought it'd be like two to one for Bernie or forty, and there were ten to one. There's no competing for the. They're going to be a lot of, you know the Harris and perhaps Cory Booker and others who will be all competing for the. That's right. But I, I think Bernie Sanders has unique appeal voters. I really do, particularly the voters that we're talking about, which is, you know, we call low propensity voters who were less likely vote. He just has an appeal with those voters at that. Others are not. I'll tell you another thing he has. He has one loyal friend in you, and I'm sure that whatever he does that you will be in the thick of it because your conscience won't allow you to sell comment. Hang around the comic bookstore while that's all going Jeff Weaver. It's great to be with you, and thank you so much for coming to thank happy. Thank you for listening to the ax files part of the CNN podcast network for more episodes of the x files subscribe on apple podcasts, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app for programming from the university of Chicago institute of politics, visit politics, dot EU, Chicago dot EDU.

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