Governor Terry McAuliffe
Recorded August 12, 2020
Katie Barlow: Our guest today is a politician, a lawyer, an entrepreneur and a best-selling author from 2014 to twenty eighteen, he served as the seventy second governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. And from 2001 to 2005, he was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Terry McAuliffe was also the co-chair of President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and 1997 presidential inauguration. In addition, he served as chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Katie Barlow: Governor McAuliffe, welcome to Words Matter.
Governor McAuliffe: Katie, great to be with you,
Joe Lockhart: Governor. As we like to do on this program, we disclosed previous relationships. We’ve known each other for a very long time.
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah.
Joe Lockhart: Worked together with President Clinton and around the world together, played cards at 4am in Kuwait City. And while I was trying to sleep. And you were happy about it. Yeah. I.
Governor McAuliffe: Sleep when you’re dead, Joe.
Joe Lockhart: Exactly. Sleep when you’re dead. I’ve heard that before.
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah.
Joe Lockhart: You you know, I’ve been at your house in Syracuse, classic working class, middle class family. How did you get to Washington and into this whole government business?
Governor McAuliffe: Well, I came down to Washington to go to college, stayed for law school, loved the area, loved growing up in Syracuse, great blue collar town, was actually going to Georgetown Law School. Lived in a big group house, 10 guys, a lot of fun kegs in the tub, the whole deal. And after about my first week, one of my housemates was a guy named Tom Donilon, who we all know ended up becoming national security adviser for President Obama, said that Carter was looking for some folks to work on the campaign.
Governor McAuliffe: This was the reelect. What the heck? I can always go to law school. I jumped at the chance, ended up going into the finance department, fundraising, and they sent me on my first trip. A week later, I left law school, deferred and ended up going to forty plus states, ended up becoming the number one fundraiser for the Carter Mondale re-elect and ultimately became the finance director at the age of twenty three. I had never raised money before politically, but, you know, they sent me all over the country. What’s the worst thing they can say? Joe is no. And I loved it. We got defeated, as you know, I ended up going back to law school and then stayed active and did it pretty much. I had been an entrepreneur. I started my first business when I was 14 to pay for college and got into a lot of different – been an entrepreneur my whole life was the youngest bank chairman in American history. I have seen huge ups in business. I’ve seen huge downs. I’ve been an entrepreneur. I like it that way and was successful in business and then have spent most of my career as a full time volunteer for Democratic causes or candidates.
Joe Lockhart: So without a doubt, Terry, you are the best fund raiser in this generation of Democrats.
Governor McAuliffe: Well, I’ve been around doing this for 40 years, believe it or not.
Joe Lockhart: What’s what’s the key to success here? How do you part people from their money?
Governor McAuliffe: I don’t take any money for and I do it as a volunteer. So I’m going in and, you know, I only help candidates in things that I actually believe in. Causes that I believe in.
Governor McAuliffe: I loved working with President Clinton. I loved helping President Obama help.
Governor McAuliffe: And Vice President Biden now and you know, I worked with Dick Gephardt, who is one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met in American politics. I started with Carter, which was interesting for your listeners. They’ll probably find this hard to believe. When I worked on the ’80 campaign, we never did any events with President Carter due to the Iranian hostage situation. He never left the White House. So I never did an event with the president. Think of that in this day and age. We had Roslynn Carter, we had Walter Mondale, we had Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of HUD. But the key is you got to be passionate about what you believe in. I do it for the reasons I believe in. As I say, I don’t get paid for any of this. I just love helping people in the things that I actually believe in. And,
Governor McAuliffe: I’ve loved it.
Joe Lockhart: I don’t know anyone more passionate, more enthusiastic, more optimistic than you. Maybe Bill Clinton gives you a run for your money.
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah. Yeah,
Joe Lockhart: How did you translate that into deciding to run for governor and then being governor?
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah, I always wanted to run for office. I think it’s where you can really make a huge difference. But as you know, Joe, close to the Clinton family, I never could. It was always one project after another, as you know better than anybody. And I kept getting called back. And to do this, do that.
Governor McAuliffe: And, you know, I remember, what was it? Ninety nine. Clinton appointed me the ambassador to Great Britain. I was excited to move to England. I’d be the second Irish ambassador, Joe Kennedy. The other move over, you know, the kids, the dog, Dorothy was excited. And then last minute, Al Gore calls me and says the city of Los Angeles has reneged on their financial commitment and you need to move to L.A. and save the convention. So, oh, I was ready to go do some government service. I got pulled back in again. And then after the debacle we had in Florida in 2000, I was so incensed. You know, the National Party did not even have a voter file, Joe. So I ran for chair a huge debt. I got us out of debt for the first time in history, built the new headquarters, built the party’s first voter file. The Democratic National Committee did not have a voter file in two thousand and one. I built one in two thousand and two and three and became the biggest. And so, you know, I got into that. But I always wanted to run and opportunity came up because I think you make the most difference. And I ran in 09 and it was an audacious move. Most people didn’t know I even lived in Virginia. People said, oh, I see Terry on TV all the time.
Governor McAuliffe: I was passionate about I believed in and wanted to take the state in a different direction. And I got clobbered. I came in second in the primary.
Governor McAuliffe: And then we got clobbered in the general election, I got up the next day. Most people said, oh, Terry is going to go off to something else. I got up the next day and I spent four years going throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia such that in 13 for the primary nomination, I did not even have an opponent. And then I won the general. It’s not easy in Virginia because you have the presidential election and then the year after you have the governor’s race in Virginia and New Jersey, the only two big races. I’m the only guy in 48 years to break the curse. Whoever wins the White House, the other party wins the governor’s mansion. And I was able to sweep in an entire Democratic slate of lieutenant governor and attorney general. So it was all Republican controlled. We took in, took it all over, which was great. And I love being governor. As you know, I restored more fellin rights than any governor in American history. I criminal justice reform. I had the hugest deficit left. The biggest surplus created, the most jobs, 20 billion. I just love the governor. You can help people.
Katie Barlow: So that election will be coming up again in 2021, and I’m sure we will have a question or two for you about that later. But let’s let’s start with 2020 and talk about the news and everything that’s happened in the past week. Last week, the former vice president, Joe Biden, announced his running mate, his first presidential decision, as as many call it, Senator Kamala Harris of California. I want to hear.
Katie Barlow: Your thoughts on Senator Harris about her joining the Democratic ticket as his running mate, and particularly in the context of,
Katie Barlow: There were those in the party that were looking for a more progressive candidate, someone like Senator Warren. And so as the former DNC chair and governor was experienced bringing together these different factions and coalitions, what do you say to those people and in particular those that were maybe hesitant about Senator Harris’s record on issues of race and LGBT issues?
Governor McAuliffe: Well, first of all, I thought it was a great pick. As Joe mentioned, I’ve been doing this a long time. I have known Joe Biden for 40 years. I have said for weeks and months on television, Joe Biden is going to pick the person, A, who is most qualified be. He has feels he can have the closest personal relationship, connective tissue he wanted a relationship like he had with President Obama. And listen, he had a great group of well qualified folks, a lot of them there. I think at the end of the day, Kamala Harris checked many of those boxes. I mean, very qualified. She represents the most populous state in America. She was on the Intelligence Committee. She’s on Judiciary Committee. She was a very powerful attorney general in California. She’s tough. And I think what he loved, A, that she ran for president. I think that was very important for Joe Biden, because until you get into that rough and tumble, you don’t quite appreciate it. I think he liked it that she ran for president, but he loves it that she’s you know, she took on big oil. She took on big banks, she took on the gun lobby. And she had the personal relationship because of Beau Biden. He was the attorney general, Delaware. She was in California. And that’s where she really got her first big binding relationship with Joe Biden. So I think she she connected a lot of the important boxes. I think it’s important that we have a woman of color. If you look at the African-American community and the strength that has meant to the Democratic Party and why we keep winning races. So it’s important. I know that he had others. He was looking at Gretchen Whitmer and Karen Bass and Susan Rice, but I think he went with the one he thought would be, if anything happened, could take over the next day and be present. This is a great ticket. You’re not always going to get everybody to agree. But, you know, look at Joe Biden. I mean, he was an early nominee. I remind you that Hillary didn’t get out of the race until June of 08. Bernie Sanders didn’t get out till July of 16. Here we are in 20. And in April, Joe Biden had the nomination wrapped up in Bernie Sanders. And it was before everybody coalesced around him. He immediately took on Senator Warren’s bankruptcy bill. He signed on with Bernie Sanders on the issue of college education. Those under one hundred twenty five thousand dollars get free education.
Governor McAuliffe: So, you know, I think it’s a very good ticket. And listen, we’re running against Donald Trump,
Governor McAuliffe: Four more years of Trump. I mean, it is an existential threat to our nation. So let’s go. Let’s win this one. We can’t be. And I’m still upset that ninety two million people didn’t vote in twenty sixteen. They stayed home. Really? And then you wonder and in those three states we lost by seventy seven thousand votes. Three hundred thousand plus voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. I mean, let’s win this.
Katie Barlow: You mentioned how critical the black community is to the Democratic Party and getting them both to to come out on Election Day and to support throughout the campaign. So what do you think that Senator Harris, if anything, needs to say to that community and to the LGBT community to alleviate those concerns that they they raised again last week?
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah, I think she needs to go out and talk about her principles. She is part of the Biden ticket. So Joe Biden obviously is you know, he is going to be the president. She is going to be vice president, but Joe’s going to be the president. And she needs to come out and address all the issues that people may have a concern and where she is.
Governor McAuliffe: But, I know her record and she is going to be a great vice president. She will be a great partner for Joe Biden. And we’re up today in all six battleground states. This was before Kamala Harris was put on the ticket. And I just go back to the point here, folks. This is Donald Trump. I mean, the man is immoral. He is a racist. He has been. The worst president in our nation’s history, and we got to win and we got to win the Senate and pick up seats in the House. I mean, I’m just horrified by what’s happened in the United States Supreme Court. But that’s what happens with ninety two million people. Stay home and don’t vote. You get a court like we have now in the United States Supreme Court, and it’s going to take decades. I mean, he’s put these young folks on the court who I disagree on so many issues with, and there’s not a lot you can do about it.
Joe Lockhart: Terry, you served, as the party chair during and ran a convention,
Joe Lockhart: The John Kerry convention, in addition to introducing Barack Obama to the country, was very effective. Got the message, got a little bump in the polls. Yeah, this one’s really different.
Joe Lockhart: Put your head in to Tom Perez, his head now. And. How do you do a virtual convention? What what are the challenges? How do you make sure that the message gets out?
Governor McAuliffe: Well, it’s tough. I’ve run two conventions. I ran, as I say, the two thousand in L.A. and I ran the two thousand four in Boston. And but I’ve been saying for months, there’s no way we should be having a convention. There is no way we should have 50000 people come to Milwaukee. It just doesn’t make sense. So let me just say, first of all, it’s interesting because, you know, to the press conventions,
Governor McAuliffe: It’s about the balloon drop and who’s speaking and so forth. This has turned into a huge negative for Donald Trump. Joe Biden made the right decision. I’m not going. I don’t want anyone going. He made a decision based on science and health to keep people safe. Donald Trump could not have screwed this up any more. He had North Carolina. He berated the governor and others and then moved to Jacksonville for his big speech, ultimately had to cancel it because Donald Trump made it about Donald Trump. Joe Biden, in contrast, showed presidential leadership. It’s about keeping communities safe. So it’s interesting. They’ve actually taken a convention which is now put into the mainstream of another screw up by Donald Trump. And it’s just another example of how he doesn’t want to keep us safe. So but if you’re trying to run this convention, it’s all going to be done virtually. So they’ve already announced the speakers and we have so forth. I think most of the probably speakers have already done their speeches and they’re already locked and loaded, ready to go.
Governor McAuliffe: And so all the things that you normally have to deal with, the four days of thousands events, you don’t have to worry about any of that. You don’t have the expense that you have to go through. You won’t have the contentious you always have contentious platform rules, credentials, meetings. That’s all going to be Joe, done virtually. So on the one hand, it’s going to go a lot smoother and you’re just going to present it. But ultimately, as You know,. and I tell folks all the time, it really doesn’t matter what’s in the convention hall to the people there. It matters what’s on television. You are connecting with several hundred million eyeballs around the United States and the globe who are tuning in to watch the president, the vice president and the other speakers. And that’s what you have to do effectively. And now you got a shot to do it thematically in different parts of the country to highlight what Biden is for, build back better and really highlight the failures of the Trump Administration. You can do that with people in different cities. So I do think this is the model going forward. I just don’t see cities coming up with $50, $60, $70 million dollars in the future to put down these conventions anymore. I just don’t see it. So I do think what’s happened in Milwaukee will be a metric for both political parties going forward.
Joe Lockhart: Terry, we’ve seen each other a lot in the last year at CNN in green rooms, and at times it was you and me against the world saying that Biden was running a good campaign.
Joe Lockhart: And you know who and who are not panicking after New Hampshire and Nevada.
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah,
Joe Lockhart: But you’ve been around a long time – critique the campaign.
Governor McAuliffe: So I always thought Joe Biden was going to win, I can say this,
Governor McAuliffe: I spent twenty eighteen myself preparing to run for president. I thought as a Southern Democrat who had dealt with a horrible economy and left a gigantic surplus record job creation, but very progressive.
Governor McAuliffe: Restoration rights, criminal justice reform. I took the Confederate flag at banned it from Virginia license plates. I was the first governor in America to perform a gay marriage after the famous Supreme Court ruling.
Governor McAuliffe: I thought I had a little bit of everything that would be appealing across America. But I remember Joe was April of 19. I went over to see Joe Biden and we spent over three hours together. And my pathway, I figured, would be South Carolina because I had strong support in the black community because of the work that I had done on restoration rights and so forth. And then we’d roll into Virginia, those other states. But Joe Biden had just gotten a pullback. It was about a 60 page poll. And I sat there with Joe as he went through that with me and he said, Terry, if you want to run, I’ll support 100 percent Bob. He was great. But it was clear to me after going through that polling data with Biden, a 95 percent approval rating in the black community.
Governor McAuliffe: And he didn’t come right out and say it. But I he did mention his close personal relationship with Jim Clyburn. I quickly came to the realization show that this would be if I couldn’t do Iowa, New Hampshire and then pivot to South Carolina before we got to Virginia. It would be hard. So I went home and thought about it for 48 hours. And I called the vice president up and said, we got issues in Virginia. I have to go back and campaign there and I’ll be with you, Joe. And then I did the CNN thing and so forth.
Governor McAuliffe: Listen They won and they’re the nominee earlier. We’ve had since two thousand and four. I mean, think of how difficult this is. Everybody’s doing it on Zoom’s there’s nobody in a national headquarters. We don’t know if people be doing door to door. But,
Governor McAuliffe: The grunt work is being done on the ground. I speak to the folks here in Virginia. I just got it off an hour call with Chris Bolling, who is our state.
Governor McAuliffe: Director. We’re going to win Virginia. So I can tell you, I know firsthand here in Virginia we have all the pieces in place. And I think, gentlemen, please put together a great crowd.
Governor McAuliffe: So I’m I’m very optimistic. What I do worry about is I do worry about Donald Trump. There is no low Trump will not go and he is going to do everything he can to disenfranchise voters. And he’s really going to try and fool around with the vote by mail. And his theory is going to be, Joe. Let’s get in those six battleground states, let’s get our people to vote in person and the Democrats are going to vote by mail and on election night, he’s going to declare victory when the numbers come out. But there’s one hundred million ballots being processed and through the U.S. post office that aren’t found yet. He’s going to say there are Russia, there are North Koreans or,You know, Chinese, they’re all invalid. I know what he’s going to try and do. Trump cannot handle the fact that he is going to be a one term president. Mentally, he cannot deal with that and he’s going to do everything he can to steal this election. That’s why we have to prepare for that. Marc Elias, I think, is 30 lawsuits going on around the country, but Democrats beware and be smart here in Virginia. You’ve got forty five days early vote. Take advantage of that.
Joe Lockhart: What can the Democrats do? What what state by state? What can they do to make sure that this is a free and fair election.
Governor McAuliffe: Here in Virginia, as I say, thanks to the Democrats taking over the House and Senate with the governor’s mansion, we now have.
Governor McAuliffe: No excuse absentee balloting, but forty five day early vote, which means for forty five days, you can go into these polls and vote in person. So there’s no excuses. If you got forty five, don’t tell me you can’t find time in 45 days. Other states, I think Florida. I just did a Zoome call for Biden’s campaign yesterday with them. I think they said there is like 16 days. We’ve got to encourage as many people as possible to take advantage if there’s early vote in the state to vote in person so that we are just not totally clogging up the US post office. And if you can’t, then, yep, if you’re going to vote by mail, do it early as possible.
Joe Lockhart: I know we want to get to your book and Charlottesville, because that’s a central part of what this coming campaign is.
Joe Lockhart: But let me ask one more question on the Biden campaign. I’ve talked a little bit about the perils of debating Donald Trump because Donald Trump is like the last guy in the bar at the end of the night.
Joe Lockhart: You never win an argument with a guy. He’s still arguing that we didn’t put a man on the moon and know a lie comes out in every answer.
Joe Lockhart: I assume that you’re in the not crazy people like me who thinks he shouldn’t debate and thinks he should.
Joe Lockhart: But what would your advice be for for for Joe Biden on going in and debating Donald Trump?
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah, I agree with the idea that he’s not going to debate really? That’s crazy. You’re running for president United States. If you can’t stand on stage with this fool and get the American people to understand that you shouldn’t be running for president is my personal opinion. People may have other opinions, but come on, listen, you’ve got to be prepared. He’s going to Trump’s going to throw all this and that. I’m not as concerned. People say this all the time of the debate debate. Joe Biden has been in national politics for his entire life. He is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations vice president. He knows these issues inside and out. And,
Governor McAuliffe: Don’t take any of the guff from from Trump and answer back with the facts because the facts are on our side. Take a shot into it, Trump, and he’s going to do just fine. I’m not concerned.
Katie Barlow: All right, so I want to ask you about your book, and we know last week was the third anniversary of Charlottesville and in twenty nineteen you wrote a book called Beyond Charlottesville Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism. And the foreword was written by the late Congressman John Lewis. And if you’ll allow it, I just want to read what what the civil rights icon wrote in that forward. He said, I always believe in hope. And finally, on the dark day of the Charlottesville tragedy in August, twenty seventeen, I had cause for hope. My heart lifted that day when at least someone spoke the words that needed to be spoken. Someone stood up and showed the leadership that the people of Charlottesville, the people of the entire nation required in that dark hour to begin to steer toward the light. My friend, Governor Terry McAuliffe was strong and clear in his condemnation of hate and racism. Governor McAuliffe spoke the truth that day. He came across with conviction. Anyone listening could see he was speaking from the heart, angry and sad, but filled with a sense of purpose. I cried when I heard your speech. I told the governor the following Monday when I called him to thank him for his leadership. That was one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. So talk about that phone call with Congressman John Lewis for a minute and what it meant to you and and what it meant to this country as a civil rights leader.
Governor McAuliffe: So that was just a tragic weekend beginning on Friday when all the torchbearers walked on the University of Virginia, hundreds of men with torches screaming blood and soiled shoes, you will not replace us. And then the tragedy of Saturday where we lost Heather Higher, 32 year old protesting against hatred. And we lost two state troopers, my pilot and a member of my former security detail. Just a tragic day. And then Sunday, I spent all day going to the black churches and making the point that these haters will not define us. We are stronger, bigger, better than them, and we will come out of the stronger. So by when Monday Fallin had been, I just can’t tell you the emotion I’d gone. I’d spoken to Susan Broo, the mother of Heather Hire. I had gone to the homes of the two fallen state troopers and have seen their families and their kids. It was emotional and I’d gotten back to the office. I was in there Monday and my assistant said that Congressman Lewis is on the phone and I’d known John forever. And I picked up the phone, you know, and then what he said there is what he had said on my phone. And, you know, I was taken back because John Lewis has heard quite a few speeches, but. This is who John Lewis is, and through the worst of the worst in his mind is how do we bring people back together again? And as much as John said he appreciated the words that I had spoken, we talked about the actions that we had taken in the black churches the next day and how we need even though this is horrible, we need to come out of this stronger. And it was really powerful for me. And there is nobody like John Lewis. I mean, just the way his gentle calmness, the good trouble, he will be sorely missed. But clearly his legacy will live on forever.
Katie Barlow: The nation remembered Charlottesville last week on its anniversary, but your book really gives an amazing account of what happened. And you spoke to President Trump that weekend back in twenty seventeen before his infamous many fine people on both sides comments. What did he say to you on that call and what did you think he was going to say to the American people?
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah, and I’ll say, Katie, I’ve seen a lot in my life. I have had a lot of experiences. I’ve seen it all. I have traveled, done business all over the globe. I really had a hard time. With these thousand neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the things that they were saying about women, African-Americans, members of the Jewish faith standing in front of a synagogue saying we’re going to burn you and burn that synagogue like we did in Auschwitz. And crowds cheering I got to tell you, I just how did we get to a place like this in America?
Governor McAuliffe: So at about noon, Katie, my phone rang somewhere around that time. And it was operator one, which is the White House operator who places the president’s calls.
Governor McAuliffe: It had been a while since I had had operator one, as Joe knows, during the Clinton days. OPERATOR One generally would start firing up about one a.m..
Joe Lockhart: Oh, yeah, you got the early calls then.
Governor McAuliffe: Yeah. Yeah, right.
Governor McAuliffe: And she said, would you please hang on for the president? And the president got on and you know, I had known Trump forever.
Governor McAuliffe: He had been a donor to the Democrats. He’d actually written me a check in 09 for twenty five thousand. You know, it’s Democrats whole life and it helped Democratic causes. I had known the president. I had dealt with him a lot in twenty seventeen. I was chairman of the National Governors Association. So I represented all the governors in his first term. We battled on immigration ice detainers health care.
So much so we got the call, basically wanted an update on what was happening. I explained to him, I said, these are horrible, horrible human beings. Here are the things they are saying and vicious, awful. And I said to the president, I said, Mr. President, you have got to stop this hate speech.
Governor McAuliffe: Mexicans were all rapists and drug dealers, no Muslims can come to America. I was incensed because earlier in the year I had got tipped off that U.S. citizens were being detained at Dulles Airport, which is in Virginia. So I got called. I took the helicopter. I flew up, had a press conference, five Americans, their kids, U.S. citizens, five hours without legal counsel. This is you know, we put the ban in and the Muslim countries. And I demanded that they be released. I mean, I was furious with some of the things that Trump had done. And I said, Mr. President, you’ve got to stop the hate speech. And it’s interesting, Katie, he agreed with me. He said, you’re right, we’ve got to get people together. And I said, you know, you need to come. Mr. President, everybody in the world is watching what’s going on here around the world. They’re watching what’s happened in America. You have got to come out and address the nation. I talked about how Clinton had dealt with Oklahoma City and President Obama had dealt with Sandy Hook and Charles and George Bush. 9/11. This is your moment, sir. People are looking for leadership, moral leadership to condemn. And he said to me, you’re right. He said, I will do it.
Governor McAuliffe: I said, great, I’ll wait for my press conference service. Will you go? He said, I’m going to go right out. He was up at New Jersey is his golf club. And I hung up the phone. I felt Katie pretty good that he was going to come out and do the right thing and I’d follow after him. And I waited like three, four hours at some point. And finally and he came out finally and said he would not use the words neo-Nazi and white supremacist. And he said they were good people on both sides. I got to tell you, it was like someone had just kicked me in the gut here. I’m dealing with all of this situation here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I can’t believe it. And he comes out and says they’re good people. Heather Hire was killed for protesting against hatred. They were not good people on both sides. So I, of course, went out, spoke from the heart. I didn’t have any notes. I told them to get the hell out of Virginia, get out of America. They’re not wanted. You are not who we are. But you came to hurt us. We will come out of this stronger. And, you know, I said what the United States should have said, the world was watching. And it to me, it was an indictment on President Trump. I think it was his worst moment. I’d put the Bible in front of St. John’s Church up there as well. But it was his worst moment. And after that point, I realize this president has no moral core.
Katie Barlow: You talk a lot about systemic racism in your book.
Governor McAuliffe: Yes,
Katie Barlow: When you hear senior officials like the president and Attorney General Bill Barr say there’s no systemic racism in our police department specifically or in the country in general. What’s your response?
Governor McAuliffe: They’re just plain wrong. And remember, Katie, I wrote this book a year ago, and it’s interesting in many of the things that I have written about came out a year later to be true. There is racism in this country. We have to address it. I talk at length about systemic racism. We have it in education. When children don’t get the same quality education, that child is disadvantaged for the rest of their lives. We have it racism in housing. We have it in health care delivery. We clearly have in our criminal justice system. I’ll tell you, Katie, I pardoned a man by the name of Lenny Singleton. Lenny Singleton was a drug addict, he committed a series of robberies, he stole 50 bucks here, 50 bucks there, nobody was ever injured. His total theft, Katy in Virginia was five hundred and eleven dollars. Katee, take a guess what his sentence in Virginia was was four or five hundred eleven dollars. You read the book, so you know the answer. It was two life sentences plus one hundred and fifty years. You cannot tell me that that’s justice. So I finally pardoned him. He’d serve twenty five plus years in prison for five hundred eleven dollars. There is a better way to deal with the Lenny Singletons of the world. So yes, we have racism. Trump is wrong. Barr is wrong. But I make the point in my book, you know, for white people, this is not an easy topic for them to talk about race. I talk about reconciliation. Commissions are a total waste of time. These are white people sitting in a room trying to make themselves feel good. You’ve got to realize racism is there. You need to lean in and pilot my last sentence of the book. People got to quit talking. You got to do something and, you know, you got Ilina, elected officials have got to do things on education, housing, criminal justice reform to make it a more just and equitable society until they do it. Yes, we have racism in this country.
Katie Barlow: So in an interview last year when your book first came out, you talked about Charlottesville in the broader issue and I want to pull from something you said at the time. You said they used to wear hoods. They used to do it at night. They don’t wear hoods anymore and they do it in broad daylight and they think it’s comfortable to do these types of things. It’s acceptable behavior. It isn’t. I must say, as a child who grew up in Georgia, in north Georgia, they used to do it in broad daylight in the town square wearing hoods. I, as a little girl, saw them standing, saw the Klan standing in the town square in in an all white in their hoods. But what’s happened in the three years since Charlottesville and the aftermath of George Floyds murder and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, is it enough anymore for white Americans not to be racist? You said.
Katie Barlow: We have to do more than talk. We have to we have to do things. So not just not be racist, but what more is there to do?
Governor McAuliffe: Oh, first and foremost, we’ve fundamentally got to make the changes in education. I began education reform in this country when I was governor You know,. a huge deficit. I put the largest investment ever, billion dollars into our Virginia to make our schools fairer, more open.
Governor McAuliffe: And we got to deal with education early on. But a lot of this takes money and it takes investment to do it. And until you do that,
Governor McAuliffe: Nothing else is happening. But, you know, I talked about people that were in the hood. Now they do it in broad daylight. If you read the book, many of the folks that we had interviewed for the book and statements the police had taken that day, they were there and they were very specific. We are here because our president told us to be here. Now, he didn’t directly say to go to Charlottesville, but by his the language that he is you is used as president. The things that he has said, they now felt comfortable. If Trump can say this, I can do. And that really, Katie, was the difference and why,
Governor McAuliffe: Charlottesville had you didn’t see anything like that in quite a while. It was because of Trump’s election and the running down of everybody, which he constantly does. And, you know, that’s the problem now with Joe Biden will get the healing process, will come back together again. And we’ve now got after George FOID, we’ve got people paying attention. What we need to do on criminal justice reform, police reform I’ve long advocated, which I talk about in the book, we need more money for police, not less. I mean, we need more money for community policing. We need more money for police to deal with the issues of mental health illness. They’re not trained to deal with someone who has a mental health illness. They’re not.
Governor McAuliffe: I put a lot of money in when I was governor in dealing for our jails because they’re not trained to deal with these issues. Sheriff Brooks in Atlanta was what he was, what sleeping in his car and the police came up. Now, why couldn’t we take him? His sister, I think, live two blocks away. Why not? Simply, he wasn’t driving. Put him in the squad car driving the sister’s house, give the sister the keys and say, go get the car tomorrow. But what happened? We we had to prosecute. We had to arrest him. And what happened? He’s no longer with us and the father of two young children. We’ve just got to think differently. We don’t have to prosecute everything and we’ve got to be smarter about it.
Katie Barlow: Aside from the infrastructure and dealing with the ingrained systemic racism in education and health care throughout the country. As a politician, one of the political moves that is available is to help make clear the path for four black politicians to run and get elected in a particular black women. And I think we saw Joe Biden elevate a black woman for the first time to to the vice presidential candidacy. What do you think that politicians can do to it or do you think that that’s the right path?
Governor McAuliffe: Well, listen, we want as many folks running for whatever offices they want to run for, and I think it’s important, I think with having Kamala Harris on the ballot is going to be so inspirational for young black children, females and say I, too, can be vice president, ultimately president of the United States of America. I think it’s important we’ve got to encourage more people to run. We need more folks who are willing to, you know, to lean in on issues that really do matter. I was always distressed with when I became governor, I had a very Republican legislature and I tried to get Medicaid expansion. I worked like a dog for four years. The speaker Republican told me on my day before my inauguration, you will never get it. As long as I’m speaker, I’ll never allow a vote. And I didn’t deter me from working day in and day out, day in and day out because I could get four hundred thousand people health care, save people’s lives, bring back two point two billion a year.
Governor McAuliffe: And I had many Republicans who’d come over to my office say, Governor, I’d vote for it tomorrow. I know I need this for my rural community to save my rural hospital. I know it’s the right thing to do. I say, well, then vote for I can’t say the speaker won’t let me do a B if I do, I will lose a Tea Party primary and I lose my job. And I guess, Katie, the thing that always bothered me about that is folks were not willing to risk a job for the General Assembly in Virginia that pays seventeen thousand dollars a year. They were not going to risk that to get four hundred thousand people health care. Bring thirty two point two billion dollars, create thirty five thousand new jobs, save rural hospitals, and they put all these smokescreens up, all, you know, it’ll ruin our budget. No, no, no. The way I structured it, it wouldn’t cost the state of Virginia a penny, not a penny free money that. So don’t use that argument anymore, all while the federal government shouldn’t be spending. Well, we don’t argue when all these aircraft carriers come to Virginia or based in Norfolk, but that’s the issue. So for me, let’s get people who are willing to get into office really lean in to shake it up.
Governor McAuliffe: I mean, I love shaking it up. As you know, as I said earlier, I restored more fellin rights than any governor in the history of America. In Virginia, if you committed a felony and a felony threshold was two hundred dollars and you’re a 19 year old kid and you stole an iPhone or whatever and you convicted of a felony, you lose your voting rights for the rest of your life. And it really came out of 19 to a senator by the name of Glass, put it in our Constitution. He did a poll tax literacy test and the felon disenfranchisement and his quote that day, Katie was on the floor of the Capitol in Richmond. I’m doing this to eliminate the darcie from being a political factor in Virginia. Well, one hundred and fourteen years later, I got to stand in that same capitol. And with the swipe of my pen, I restored the felon rights of two hundred six thousand people, gave them the right to vote back. What the Republicans do, they immediately took me to court. Supreme Court of Virginia said I didn’t have the authority. I clearly had the authority. My adviser was the guy who drafted the seventy two Virginia Constitution and then the Supreme Court, who is political appointed by the legislature, said, no, the governor can’t do it, quote, because no governor has done it before.
Governor McAuliffe: Well, I told you I went to Georgetown Law School, but I’ll be honest with you, I never went. I mean, I graduated past a bar, but I never went to class. I was working, doing all kinds of stuff. But even I knew what my limited background that I had the authority to do it. And they say he has to do it individually. Really? I said, fine it all, two hundred six thousand petitions, take them out in front of the Civil Rights Memorial, I’m going to sign every single one myself, bring boxes of pens. If it takes me 48 hours, I’m going to do it. Well, they rushed to court, sued me for contempt of court, and ultimately I won. And today, Katie, there’s one hundred and seventy three thousand people who are now voting in Virginia. That’s what I’m talking about on elected officials getting in and doing some fighting for what you believe in.
Joe Lockhart: Terry, let me finish the story for you on expanding Medicaid. Yeah, you said before, rather than run for president, you went back to Virginia and what you did was turn the legislature and the legislature now expanded Medicaid.
Joe Lockhart: I want to I want to switch gears a little bit here. And I want to put you back in the in the governor’s mansion if you were there today.
Joe Lockhart: Why is Donald Trump wrong when he says that fighting coronavirus is a state issue, that governors should be able to do this? What’s the big deal? I you know, I’ve got no role in this.
Governor McAuliffe: He has a huge role in it. I can. Perfect example is Ebola. When Ebola came around, I talked to President Obama. He told me that Biden would be my point person on it. I mean, Ebola for the governors that had international airports, New York and New Jersey, very important Ebola. And we put a task force together. I talked to the CDC every single day. I immediately stood up a hospital. UVA and VCU built Ebola wards. CDC briefed us three times a day.
Governor McAuliffe: Here’s a big issue, Joe. When Donald Trump heard about this in November of last year, he heard again in December and in January 4th, I think it was the fourth and intelligence briefing. He did nothing, nothing for two more months. And we know why he didn’t want to affect the stock market. He wanted to run a re-election of a great market. Now, as a governor in Virginia, I don’t have intelligence information. I don’t know about the.
Governor McAuliffe: Coronavirus pandemic.
Governor McAuliffe: I don’t think you need the federal government. They need to take the lead to give you an early warning sign so I could stand up. My health department’s prepared for we lost three months and that is the federal government’s job. And then comes the issue of what we need to ease in testing and supplies. He said you states go get what you find out now is Jared Kushner. Great story out the other day. Sad story that he took charge of it, screwed it all up, and then they basically said, push it to the states, let the governors take the blame. Listen, if I were president, I would have stood up FEMA with the National Governors Association day one and said, we’re going to do all the supply chain work, that we can handle it. And then the states could stand up their National Guard. But what happened is all the governors were competing against one another. It became a Game of Thrones, sent the costs through the roof. There are roles for the federal government now to states the governors are doing with the information they have. They’re doing a great job, but the federal government has to take charge. I mean, you had the governor of Colorado who went out and bought all of these all this equipment, remember?
Governor McAuliffe: And then if Trump administration heard about it, he went out and bought it himself for the state. They heard about it. They took it. They used authority to take it. And then they gave back like a quarter of it and said, well, I’m doing this because Corey, to help Cory Gardner, who was running for Senate, I mean, this should not be political, but the governor’s doing the best they can with the information they have. But these states are bankrupt today, city, local, state, county, they’re in a mess. And this is what the federal government is supposed to do,
Joe Lockhart: Terry. Is this the the most fundamental failure of the federal government in our lifetime?
Governor McAuliffe: Absolutely not. Even a close call. If you look at you think of the five million cases we have here in America today and,You know, you heard the story today. We have three hundred thousand died through this by December. And I mean more wars we’ve fought in. And it was it simply could have been dealt with as soon as we knew about it in November and December to get out to the states, we could have done the mask. Should have been done much, much earlier. But we just didn’t have the early warning from from the White House. And they didn’t want to do it because they were so afraid it would hurt the economy. This is an abject failure, moral failure, and it’s cost us hundreds of thousands of lives, millions of people affected and has crushed, crushed our economy, which is now having such a horrible effect on tens of millions of people. You know, their unemployment benefits, millions of these jobs are not coming back. This all is at the doorstep of Donald Trump.
Joe Lockhart: So let me finish by asking you this. Joe Biden ends next January. What does Joe Biden have to say in his inaugural speech? And then a year later, what is Governor Terry McAuliffe have to say to the state of Virginia to start the healing?
Governor McAuliffe: Listen, I think the biggest issue for the new president is one is the healing process just in Joe. This is who Joe Biden is. It’s so natural for him to bring people together. And it’ll be such a not only message here in America, but around the globe. The European Union, all these countries who looked at us with such high regard wonder what has happened to America. We can get this put back together very, very quickly. But the biggest issue is going to be face. And Joe Biden is dealing with the covid crisis. It still is going to be with us. And number two, an economy that is knocked on its heels and we still got a long way to go. How do you rebuild this economy now? The exciting challenging for Joe Biden is to rebuild the economy, rebuild an economy that, you know, for 40, 50 years, this has not worked for a lot of Americans. They have not shared a lot of income inequality. We can we can have a real reset here on our economy. That’s the exciting thing. I think we come out immediately with a with a infrastructure bill, broadband to every rural community in America, rebuild our roads and bridges, put millions of people back to work, get rid of the Trump tax cut. Let’s get immigration reform, get those 20 million people who have not been back into health care. Do that right off the bat.
Governor McAuliffe: Get us back in the Paris climate agreement they want. There are so many exciting things. I mean, he has a real opportunity. The first hundred days, I think the challenge for the next governor of Virginia will be rebuilding the economy. Similar to what I dealt with when I went in. And 14, we had sequestration, we had the Great Recession. Virginia is the number one recipient of Department of Defense dollars because we have twenty seven military installations, the largest naval base in the world. And when sequestration came, we got knocked on our heels and I went into an economy that was record deficit, no job creation. And I said, we’ve got to rebuild the economy. And over the four years we got us out of debt, created a huge surplus. Two hundred thousand new jobs, 20 billion of new capital, eleven hundred new companies. But more importantly, we built a new economy based on cyber companies, data companies, unmanned systems. We became a really, I believe, like a Silicon Valley of the East Coast. Before I left office, I wrote the bid and proposal for Amazon, which we ultimately won. You know, I recruited Nespoli Corporation to leave California, come to Virginia. The next governor of Virginia is going to be faced with these huge economic challenges. And that’s what we have to rebuild 2.0, the Virginia economy and take us to the next level.
Joe Lockhart: Terry, thanks so much for spending some time with us. Our listeners are are much smarter than they were. When we started this.
Governor McAuliffe: Well, thank you. Joe and thank you, Katie.
Katie Barlow: Thank you, Governor.
Governor McAuliffe: Make sure you vote. Go vote or.
Joe Lockhart: We will.