Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar sits down with Dan to discuss what she brings to the 2020 race. They talk climate change, her plan to prioritize mental health, whether Congress should open an impeachment inquiry, and how she’ll use humor to campaign against Trump.
Interview: Dan Pfeiffer and Senator Amy Klobuchar
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:00:48] I’m excited to be joined by Minnesota Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. Senator Klobuchar, welcome to Pod Save America.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:00:55] Well, thanks Dan. Let’s not forget, I was the first Senator to ever go on this show.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:00:59] That is true. We owe all of this to you.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:01:02] You may have been nothing, if not for me.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:01:03] We actually call this the Amy Klobuchar studio, in honor of that.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:01:08] Well, let’s also remember I did it from D.C. And I thought, I knew it was a very cool show, but I didn’t know that it was a podcast, so I dressed up in a cool outfit and realize that it was a podcast. Yeah. Well you always know in your head you had the cool outfit, and then realized that it was a podcast.
Dan Pfeiffer: Well, you always knew in your head that you had that cool outfit.
Amy Klobuchar: I did. It was my daughter that told me it was cool.
Dan Pfeiffer: Before we get to our notoriously hard questions, I do want to say belated happy birthday.
Amy Klobuchar: Oh, thank you.
Dan Pfeiffer: I understand you had your birthday this weekend while campaigning.
Amy Klobuchar: I did. Many, many cakes and songs.
Dan Pfeiffer: That’s good.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:01:38] Yeah, it was a lot of fun. Actually my husband gave me and our daughter and our staff auto bingo games – kind of a retro thing to play in the car while you’re driving around Iowa and you try to look for one cow, one post office box, things like that. It was a lot of fun.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:01:55] That’s awesome. I want to start as we start most these interviews with your decision to run for president. In my experience, there are sort of two types of senators. There are the ones who view the Senate as a way station on the way to a presidential campaign and there are Senators who come to the Senate and take it very seriously as legislators. And I always saw you in the latter camp, as someone who came in very focused on work in the Senate, passed a lot of bills – I think more bills than most senators. And yet, you decided to run for president. And I saw that as sort of a shift, and I’m curious what led you down this path? I think it was unexpected to a lot of people that you would do this.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:02:36] Part of my thinking is that’s exactly what we need in the presidency. We need someone right now, after these years of Donald Trump, that’s actually going to go in there – instead of trying to divide people, instead of trying to make them hate each other – someone who’s going to go in there and try to get things done and have big ideas for the country, but be able to actually go through with them. I figure anyone that runs for president better have some real solutions for real problems, figure out how they’re going to pay for it and go forward. And that doesn’t mean that it is not aspirational, that it is not a big idea campaign.
It simply means that when you take everything away – and everyone has all these lofty ideas in these speeches and they talk – do you want someone in there that’s going to have the ability to get things done, that has a track record to do it, that has a track record for over a decade of being a proven progressive? Because I figure if you’re going to make progress and be a progressive, then you have to make progress, and that means doing things like taking on the prescription drug companies, or making sure that we have an [agriculture] policy in place that works for everyone. Not just every big major ag company, but our small farmers. Making sure that we’re doing something about renewable energy and taking on the oil companies. I have a track record of taking on these issues.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:04:01] I think more than 10 percent of your Senate caucus is running for president.
Amy Klobuchar: Well that’s why it’s so nice to sit down with you today because I’m able to see someone that’s not running for president. That’s a lot of fun for me.
Dan Pfeiffer: I haven’t let my intentions be known fully just yet.
Amy Klobuchar: Oh, okay. Well, maybe that’s the big announcement today.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:04:26] Right and you know, when someone decides to run for president, one of the ways of looking at it is you sort of look around the 300 million Americans and decide that you, yourself are uniquely qualified to do this job. And it in this case, the thing that is even more interesting, in the sense that not just you, but every one of these senators are running or deciding that they are more uniquely qualified to do that than their colleagues. What is the very specific unique thing that you bring to the table that you want voters to know about your candidacy?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:05:01] Sure. Well, I mentioned one of them, but the other one is that I am from the Midwest. I think you know from 2016 that the story I always like to tell is my husband is, he’s the third of six boys, grew up in a single trailer home, tripled bunk beds, and they would take one vacation every summer in their station wagon, and they’d all pile in there, and my husband was always the quiet one, the good boy. And the story is, which has not yet quite been proven, that he once got left behind at a gas station and they pulled out, but what we do know for certain is that they counted off every single boy in that station wagon because they didn’t want to miss one. And I can tell you one thing, when I head up the ticket, we’re not going to leave the Midwest behind at the gas station. So that record of going not just where it is comfortable, but where it’s uncomfortable, of winning 42 of the counties that Donald Trump won in my state back in 2018. He won them in ‘16. I come back in ‘18 winning every congressional district including Michelle Bachmann’s, every single time, and I do it not by selling out on our values, but trying to figure out where can we find some common ground to move forward.
So I think that’s unique. The other thing about me is I’ve never lost an election. I do what it takes to win. I know I’m an underdog coming from a state that’s not as, has as many people, or has as much money, but every single time I’ve run, I found a way to do it. When I was running for Senate, I had a bunch of primary opponents, including two that were wealthy, and I remember calling everyone around the country and some people didn’t call me back because they couldn’t say my last name. And so I finally just found a new way. I called everyone that I knew in my life and I actually raised an all time – this is still a US Senate record – I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends. And as my husband has pointed out, it is not an expanding base. And so that is why I always encourage people to help us at AmyKlobuchar.com because ours is a grassroots campaign. And I am the only candidate that announced in the middle of a blizzard, and stayed out there, and delivered my entire speech with eight inches of snow on top of my head.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:07:13] You brought up your state of Minnesota, and I’m curious about what you have found is the form of success that you have had in that state. And so I’m going to ask you a couple questions about this. One is, Minnesota’s thought of until recently as a battleground state, but one that leans Democratic. Democrats have won it most. Barack Obama won it by I think around eight points in 2012, Hillary Clinton barely won it in 2016.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:07:42] It was their smallest margin of victory, actually.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:07:42] Less than two points, I believe. And so, do you think that change from 2012 to 2016 is specific to Donald Trump, to that race, or part of a larger trend that we’re seeing in the Midwest and states like Wisconsin, Michigan, etc?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:07:59] Well, I think it was part of that trend. And you saw, we had you know, at one point we had, when I first got in there, Governor Pawlenty. We had three of our four constitutional officers Republican. We had the other Senator was Republican, and we’ve really changed it around. And we’ve done it as I’ve said, by building up support in the suburbs, by building up support in the rural areas, and then by getting our base voting. We had the highest voter turnout in the country in the last election. And I think that those are things that differentiated us from Wisconsin, which is really similar. But then what you saw – you know after Donald Trump’s victory, for the most part in nearly every level of every state in the midwest, except for that short victory that Hillary had in Minnesota – what happened in 2018 was people started focusing on those bread and butter issues, our own economic agenda, especially when it came to health care, not kicking people out for pre-existing conditions. And then you know, if you don’t think that worked, I have four words for you: former Governor Scott Walker. Right? Like, this worked, and we put up candidates like Abby [Finkenaur] and Cindy [Axne] in Iowa in those congressional seats. Dean Phillips and Angie Craig in the suburbs of Minnesota, and we took back a bunch of Republican seats, and the House became the people’s house again, allowing us to work on democracy issues, all kinds of things, and of course stymied in the Senate.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:09:21] And so you think health care – is health care the key message there or is there something broader?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:09:25] I think that in 2018, health care, and which is born out to be true, anyone that thought we were crying wolf when we said, ‘oh, hey, they’re going to try to take your health care coverage away,’ now look what they’re doing when they’re filing that lawsuit down in Texas, and other things they’ve done to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. So in 2018, that was it. I think now as we head into 2020, because of Donald Trump’s actions, the way I look at it, climate change is bigger than ever. Because of what he’s done and because of the weather that we’re seeing all across the country.
This isn’t just rising sea levels. This is also what we’re seeing in the heartland with farms under water and tornadoes and hail, raging wildfires. All you have to do is look at that video of that little girl in the car with her dad is he drives through these lapping fires with their house burning down behind them, singing to her to try to calm her down. People know that it’s happening. The gun issue emerged where I think people had written that off like, oh no one’s going to vote on that, that’s hard for Democrats. Now look what happened after Parkland. You had kids voting in midterms in record levels and you had them also talking to their parents to convince them that this was something that they had to change their mind on. That it didn’t hurt hunters, like in Minnesota. It wasn’t going to hurt them if we had universal background checks.
So I just see a number of issues coming out in 2020 that make this more than just about, ‘oh, you know, which person do you like better to lead the ticket?’ People are interested in number one, who can win, and I’ll make my case for winning based on the Midwest and how I’ve won, but it is also about a mandate to make changes, that this President every single day goes back on.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:11:04] I want to ask you about your policy platform, and you know what you’ve been running on, what you would do as president. And one of the first policies that you announced was a policy to combat addiction and prioritize mental health. And you talked about that in very personal terms. So I’m going to ask you what your plan would do and why why you put it so close to the top of your platform?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:11:30] I thought it was time for a candidate for president to take this on and not just take it on like War on Drugs, and not just take it on like, you know, this is nice if we could get this done. One out of five Americans are dealing with mental health problems. Yet, for one example, the state of Iowa, there’s only 64 public hospital beds. Can you imagine for mental health? Because we went away from this state hospital system to community-based which is a good idea, but the money wasn’t there, the resources weren’t there to help people. Addiction, one out of two people in this country have addiction in their family or addiction with someone they know well. And yes for me, it’s personal. My dad struggled with alcoholism my whole life growing up. He had two DWIs when I was in middle school. And by the time, right before we got married, my husband and I, he had his third one, and that one was a different time in our history, and he was really facing jail or treatment and he chose treatment. And with the help of his faith and his friends and that treatment, in his own words, he was pursued by grace, and he got his life together. And now he is 91. I just saw him on Memorial Day. And in his words, he’s in assisted living, it’s hard to get a drink around here.
Anyway, but the point of the story is, he was sober ever since he had that treatment. And he also went to AA, and his AA group still visits him in assisted living, and it’s my view that you know, everyone should have that right to be pursued by grace, whether you’re struggling with mental health or opioid, meth, crack cocaine, some of these drugs where we’ve seen an uptick, especially meth, have gotten lost in the discussion on opioids, but there’s a lot of people and especially in communities of color that are struggling with various drugs. So, how do I pay for it? I pay for it on the backs of those that caused this addiction in the first place. That’s those pharma companies that produce opioids that didn’t tell us the truth about how addictive they were, and they got tons of money, and you’re going to have a master legal settlement. You can also put a milligram tax on them for opioids, and you can use that money not just for opioids, you can use it for treatment for other drugs and mental illness.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:13:45] You talk about how you would pay for this proposal. Do you believe that all policies need to be paid for? How do you think about the balance between short-term needs we have right now, whether it’s around climate change or health care, or other things, and long-term concerns around the deficit?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:14:04] Well, I think it was Angus King, my friend from Maine, who said it took us 30 years to walk into these woods with this debt. It’s going to take us that long to walk out. So you want to have it as a factor as you make decisions along the way, and what bothers me about this President is that he doesn’t care at all. He just did a tax bill that was trillion dollars that he’d add to our country’s underlying debt, and he does it all the time. He doesn’t care. A wall for billions of dollars, who cares. Money just melts up. So for me, it will be a factor because I don’t think that this next generation who already has got saddled with this debt, student debt, other things should also be saddled with this.
So as you look at things, you’ve try to figure out how you’re going to pay for it. In a crisis, do you think like that, when Barack Obama faced the downturn? No, we had to do the stimulus, but when you look at things like infrastructure, yeah, I think we should pay for it. And I put out there right how we can do it, and a lot of its going to be reversing these regressive tax policies that this administration has put in place. Literally if you take the corporate rate from 21%, which was way lower than anyone thought they would do, the Republicans, and they did it, and you put it at 25%, every point you go is a hundred billion dollars. So that’s $400 billion, right, that can pay for infrastructure. You go back to the way that we were doing taxation before they put in the international tax plan where they take an average of the tax rate in all these countries. You save $150 billion, and depending on how many of your listeners have money in the Bahamas, it’s probably not going to hurt them. So yes, a lot of this is reversing them.
Then you add things like changes the capital gains tax where you could bring in hundreds of billions of dollars, depending on how you do it, closing the carried interest loophole, that’s $14 billion, passing comprehensive immigration reform, scored by the Congressional Budget Office $158 billion in 10 years because people come out of the shadows and pay their taxes. And I think it’s important for people to think about what those mean about our country, the value statements and how you pay for things. So I’m going to talk about it, but do I do I think it’s going to matter for every single policy? No, but I do think that you’ve got to keep it in the back of your mind and propose ways to pay for things.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:16:30] You brought up President Obama’s stimulus package that you guys all voted on in the Senate as something that wasn’t paid for, and for good reason given both the economics of it in the crisis we were in in the moment. A lot of people today believe that climate change is a crisis on par with that. Does climate change mitigation or efforts to curb carbon emissions need to be paid for as well?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:16:57] I think some of this is shifting where we have our money now. We, you know, give billions of dollars to the oil companies. I would take that away. Right that is their incentives basically, that you don’t have for other forms of renewable. So that’s one example, it’s shifting where some of the money is now to put the incentives in place. And then I would one, get us back into the international climate change agreement on day one. And then two, bring back the Obama clean power rules that ended up on the cutting room floor, as well as the gas mileage standards, and then yes, sweeping legislation. And there are many ways you can pay for things but we also have to see it as a long-term investment and getting off this track.
And the unique thing I bring to this issue, because we’ve got a lot of great candidates as you know, you had them in the studio that talk about climate change, is that it’s a voice from the heartland. We all know we have rising sea levels and melting ice sheet in Greenland, but what people don’t always talk about are those raging wildfires in Colorado, losing the firefighters in Arizona, the tornadoes, and the hail storms, and the woman in Iowa named Fran who is in Pacific Junction, Iowa on the Nebraska border, who literally was hanging there on her neck was his pair of binoculars. She had me look through them and she says this is my house. I bought it with my husband, our four year old twins. We were going to retire in this house, and now it’s halfway under water. And she said it’s such a sturdy house, when we bought it, it was there for almost a century, there was horse hair in the plaster. And then I said, well, I guess you got this house, she bought it, next to this river and she said no, no, that’s the road. The river is two and a half miles away, and the river’s never come like this before. Well, there you go.
So those stories and the levees we’ve seen breaking down, and the problems with the locks and dams, and the problems of not having good public transportation. Those are the stories that have to be told to capture the imaginations of people in the Midwest to get them behind the momentum that we need to pass sweeping climate change legislation.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:19:08] I want to get your reaction as a former prosecutor to the Mueller report. What did it say to you about what happened in 2016 and afterwards?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:19:18] Well, the first thing it said to me was that a foreign country invaded our election. And I know we have talked a lot about obstruction of justice, and I was the one that asked Attorney General Barr all those questions where he somehow interestingly said that things were obstruction of justice that I believed then were in the report as established facts, and I got to ask him about it again. But if we just look at our country’s security and our national security, I look at that first part of that report, where very methodically they go through what a foreign power did to invade our democracy and we know what the repercussions of that was – slowed, reversed the momentum of an entire presidential campaign by hacking into their emails and putting that out there, tried to hack into the election equipment in now we know every single state, got very close in Illinois, and now we know about those two counties in Florida, spent multiple, multiple amounts of money on trying to get propaganda out there. We know all that, but it literally lays out that a foreign country, maybe they didn’t use tanks, maybe they didn’t use missiles, but they invaded our election all the same and people call it meddling. That’s what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she’s doing. This was actually an invasion of our election.
So that’s why I so dearly want to have Director Mueller come before the Senate or the House and testify publicly. Because I think no one’s going to get through that whole 448 page report except members of Congress and the media. I think that people need to actually hear him tell that story. Why? Because I want to protect our election in 2020 and this administration has done everything to stop us in our tracks. Senator Lankford, not exactly liberal, and I have a bill, The Secure Elections Act, that requires backup paper ballots and audits. The White House literally made calls to stop that bill from getting through a committee markup, even though we had the Republican votes to do it. That happened. The Honest Ads Act, a bill that I had with Senator McCain and now Senator Graham is the lead Republican, that says that those social media companies have to have the same standards that radio, TV and newspaper do. That you got to say who’s paying for ads and that you’ve got to say how much money they spent on ads, and you’ve got to be able to see the ads. Those are some pretty straightforward things we can do to protect our democracy. But this Administration stops us every time.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:21:55] What do you think is beneath the administration’s opposition to these issues do they…welcome the interference again? Is it, I think this is a really important question.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:22:12] There’s – there’s a few things. It is well we have some clues there a little bread crumbs to follow. I mean the first is what we found out that former Secretary Nielsen, Homeland Security Secretary, was told that she couldn’t go talk to the president about this issue of Russians Invasion. Well, why was that? Because he doesn’t even like to admit what happened, right? So I’d start there. Is that they are afraid to even suggest some serious policy changes that have to be made because he doesn’t want to hear anything about it because he wants to relish in his victory when he didn’t even get you know, the majority of the popular vote. Okay, we start with that.
I think the other thing is that I don’t trust them. Of course, I don’t him when it comes to protecting our elections, it’s been in his interest to have chaos every step of the way and that’s what he likes to foment. Imagine if we have a close election, and which I do not plan on having, but if we had one and one of the states had one or two counties that got hacked into there were no backup paper ballots, then he would have kept the chaos of no conclusion in a democracy, and this makes no sense when we can incentivize these remaining 14 states that have partial paper ballots or don’t have them at all to get there by 2020.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:23:29] In the second half of the report, Robert Mueller lays out a fact pattern of obstruction of justice or attempted obstruction. As a prosecutor, how do you look at that fact pattern? Is that consistent with the fact-pattern of someone who would be charged with obstruction of justice?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:23:29] I think it is. When you go through, what he did was, you have these, there were 10 points made by the special counsel. And I think the one that’s probably easiest to understand is the one where Michael Cohen was out there trying to decide if he wants a plea or at least publicly, that’s what it looks like. And then you have Trump out there saying things about his family members, you know threatening things that he’s saying about him and his family members, the guy in the highest office in the land, to me that’s pretty obvious that he’s trying to get Michael Cohen to not plead right? To not put the facts out there and threatening him in that way.
You have the way he handled Director Comey. You have the things that he said about Flynn. There’s you can just go through bit by bit and it is the pieces of a puzzle to show a pattern and that’s what I was trying to get Director Barr to tell the truth on, and that is that it is not just you know one thing. As a former prosecutor I know this, you look at that what is called the totality of the evidence, right? You look at everything together and to me this showed a pattern.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:25:02] Do you think the House should open an impeachment inquiry?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:25:06] You know that is going to be up to them. I know that they are right now very aggressively pursuing a number of strains of an investigation. They are trying to get all of those financial documents, which may be very important in a different way, to show the president’s business dealings and why he does certain things that he does. The financial documents, the tax returns. They are trying to get Director Mueller and McGann and others to come and try to push on that and I think this is all most likely going to end up in court.
So piece by piece, they are building this case. It may end up there and that may end up being the right thing to do. But right now they’re simply investigating, pushing and they could also as some have suggested start an impeachment proceeding just to gather the evidence, but I do agree with speaker Pelosi that you can investigate and legislate at the same time. And one of the things that we learned from that last election is that people, they believe in the law, they believe in the truth, they want to have a check and balance on this president, but they also want us to stand for an optimistic economic agenda for this country.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:29:16] When I used to work for President Obama, I would always tell him before press conferences – You never answer a hypothetical question, but I’m going to – I’m going to ask you –
Amy Klobuchar: Oh now are you going to ask me one?
Dan Pfeiffer: Now I’m going to ask you one. But it’s a good one. Like it’s a good one. So let’s hypothetically you’ve won the election, day there.
Amy Klobuchar: Oh yeah, that’s a really good. Yeah.
Dan Pfeiffer: Congratulations.
Amy Klobuchar: Thank you.
Dan Pfeiffer: So you are you’re sitting here transition office. Speaker Pelosi, Senator Schumer who’s now, who was just about to become the Democratic Majority Leader again. Senate Democrats have 52 votes let’s say. So Pelosi and Schumer come to you and they say president-elect Klobuchar, ‘the first bill we put on the floor as the one that’s going to have the best chance of passing, which of your policy proposals you want us to put on to put up first?’
Amy Klobuchar: [00:29:58] I would put up a health care proposal to get at the pharma prices with negotiation under Medicare, something that there’s general agreement with Democrats, and on that issue you can get some Republicans on board doing something with a public option, something that we wanted to do for a long time. Do I think that that will pass immediately? No, but that’s in for the long haul. On the climate change proposals. We just laid out, some of this I could just do myself, right? Put us back in that climate change agreement, do those and from then I think that would be working with them on what that legislation would look like.
And then the third thing I would do which has to get done is immigration reform. This president has been, the rhetoric has been so hurtful and divisive for this country. I always think of this little girl in Minnesota who I met her parents and they said that during the height of his mean-spirited rhetoric. They were Somali, they took their family out to dinner, and this guy walked by and says, ‘Hey you four go home, you go home to where you come from’ and the little girl looks up at her mom and she says ‘Mom, I don’t want to go home and eat dinner. You said we could eat out tonight!’ You think of the words of that innocent child, she only knows one home and that’s my state. She only knows one home and that’s our country. And so we have to stop the rhetoric and at the same time there could be a huge economic gain for our country if we do immigration reform as President Obama wanted to do it. And as we passed in the Senate in 2013.
I mentioned the debt reduction, but it’s much more than that. You know 70 of our Fortune 500 companies are headed up by people from other countries, 25% of our U.S Nobel laureates were born in other countries, and he’s basically stopping this economic march that we have always been on where people have not just survived in America. They’ve led America. That immigrants don’t diminish America, they are America. And so I see that as ripe for getting done. Our business community wants it, the labor union support it, the farm migrant workers supported that bill back in 2013 as did the farm groups. We don’t have enough workers in many of our state’s in the middle of the country in our fields in our factories, in our nursing homes, in our hospitals. So this idea of a path to citizenship and immigration reform. I believe that gets done in the first year of a Democratic president.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:32:25] Any piece of legislation or almost any piece of legislation would require 60 votes in the Senate and I wanted to ask you about, what … you and you signed a letter back 2017 supporting the legislative filibuster. Do you still support the legislative filibuster?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:32:40] I supported as a check and balance, of course so that we make sure that the minority party has a say and that we don’t get basically shellacked by the Republican party, but few things. First of all, you know, we’ve seen changes on the other sides, on the appointment side, on the judicial side, and the Republicans actually had the audacity to make changes when it came to the Supreme Court, which we had not made. And so that is now going to change. So when I’m president you’re going to see us be able to, as long as we have the Senate, to be able to get those judicial nominees through nearly immediately and it’s something that I would do right away.
The second thing, that, that we could look at is legislative filibuster. I would prefer and I’ve said this publicly, and you can see in that letter have most of my colleagues to keep it in place, but I think it’s leverage. It would be leveraged for Senator Schumer if they start blocking things that have Republican support, right, immigration reform doing something on climate change. There are Republicans that want to move on this. Healthcare these huge priorities against the national momentum that we’re going to see in the 2020 election with the House and what we just saw, if they start doing that, yeah, it’s leverage. You could change it, you could you don’t have change it right away. You can change it later and I think that kind of leverage matters when you’re in a body like the Senate so, you know, that’s how I look at it. I look at it as leverage. I look at it as you would rather to keep it in place if people are actually in good faith legislating because the shoe goes on the other feet when you lose the minority and I would look at it that way more practically.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:32:40] You’re someone who is known for your relationship with Republicans. I read an article for right around when the time you announce its in POLITICO with the headline was like Republicans gush about Senator Klobuchar –
Amy Klobuchar: Yeah, that’s just I think that’s going to really help me in a primary. That’s my plan. I’m going to put that right out there. Thanks for bringing it up.
Dan Pfeiffer: I don’t know, I actually my honest political opinion is that it would not hurt you.
Amy Klobuchar: No, I agree because as I said proven progressive means you have to make progress. Yes.
Dan Pfeiffer: But do you – Something President Obama learned painfully is relationships with Republicans as a senator are different than relationships with Republicans as president.
Amy Klobuchar: Oh, yes.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:35:07] Do you believe that Senator McConnell would treat a President Klobuchar any different than he treated President Obama?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:35:13] It depends on his own interest. Now. First of all, if we are in the majority he’s going to have to decide what to do. Is he going to just keep blocking things? I would guess he wouldn’t. I think you have to look at the times that we’re in and I think President Obama given the cards that he was dealt did an extraordinary job, but he was dealing with the downturn and so it was very hard to move on some of these other priorities that I just laid out that you know we have to do so we’re not just governing from chaos all the time, but he was stuck. You know, he came in. I remember him saying, I still remember this is after the Somali issue with the pirates and everything. He said, ‘Okay. This is my portfolio. It’s not the portfolio I asked for.’ And he like listed all these things he had to deal with – I love that moment. And one of them was of course much bigger than anything and that was that extraordinary economic downturn caused in part by some bad policies that the Republicans had supported.
So he comes in and he can’t do some of these other things and that’s why I think that I would be coming in at a different time. You know, I hope we keep economic stability despite this President trying to you know, do everything to create an uproar every day. Whether it’s with the trade wars or whether it’s with how he’s dealing with the rest of the world. But if you come in at that moment you can deal with these long-term challenges that we haven’t and then I think you’ve got – especially with some of the things I’ve picked out in addition to those big three challenges. I put out their infrastructure, mental health – you do have, there’s a reason I picked those. It wasn’t just – it’s because those are things Trump promised, especially when it came to infrastructure on election night. And he hasn’t been able to do anything on him. He hasn’t kept his promise because he’s unwilling to even push the big money interests a little bit to help pay for it because he’s such a, he says he wants to do it and then he gets back in the Oval Office puts his head down and says, ‘Oh I can’t pay for it.’
So I think those issues are things that we could work with McConnell on but I’m not naive about how it would be different in the Oval Office. I just think the fact that I know who people are and where they want to find compromise will be very helpful.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:37:23] It is the, like – I think it’s very interesting to me that you picked immigration – I’m sorry, you picked infrastructure and and mental health.
Amy Klobuchar: Mental health and addiction.
Dan Pfeiffer: As your two issues because they and I think you’re saying this to me but I just wanted to confirm – you picked them in part because they are issues that have bipartisan potential in a very polarized country in Congress.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:37:47] Right, in part because they can get done and because they’re crying out for a solution because this guy has you know said words that he wants to do something about it, but he hasn’t done it. And by the way, I have used that formula a lot. I mean it just and some interesting things like the sexual harassment policy. It kind of got lost in all of the horrible news stories about these cases. I led the bill with Senator Blunt to get that done. We changed the whole way those cases are handled in Congress now. That’s the bill that passed the House, Klobuchar & Blunt and it requires members to be personally liable. It is something that is focused on getting rid of these crazy waiting periods, or when I was given the problem of Tammy Duckworth wanting to bring her baby on the Senate floor when they not change the rules once except for a dog. And people thought ‘Well, this seems silly.’ It wasn’t silly to women of America. And so I did it by kind of almost, using humor which I do a lot by the way.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:38:48] Senator Schatz told us that you were the funniest Senator.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:38:52] Yeah. Well, thank you. Yeah. Well when Hatch said that there maybe we could have one baby on the floor but not 10. I said we already have ten babies on the floor, or I finally used a rhyme because they were they were all lined up in the head of a classified briefing, bunch of the older senators and I went up and I tapped one of them on the shoulder. I said I hear you guys are worried about breastfeeding? You sent someone over? [they said] ‘Oh, we’re not worried about it.’ No, I hear you are and so I used this Dr. Seuss rhyme that I did.
‘She won’t she won’t nurse the baby on the floor. She won’t change its diaper by the door. She won’t change his clothes in the house. She’ll be as quiet as a mouse. She’s not going to be burping the baby at work. Stop being such a jerk.’
Okay, so then suddenly they changed the policy and Tammy got to wheel herself out on the floor, this veteran with that little tiny baby on her lap and I will tell you that that use of humor against Trump is going to be really important because he uses humor. You might not think what he says is funny but you’ve got to be able to have your own agenda ignore him when it matters.
Stand your ground and define those moments when he does something that’s abhorrent. You know, like he did this this week when he embraces Kim Jong Un again. And then and then the last thing is use some humor. So when he called me snow woman and made fun of me for announcing my candidacy in the blizzard while talking about climate change. I said, I wrote back in Twitter, you know, Donald Trump the science is on my side. And I’d like to see how your hair would fare in a blizzard. Mr. Umbrella man.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:40:40] As a member of the Judiciary Committee. What do you think is the appropriate response for Democrats to what McConnell and the Republicans did to Merrick Garland?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:40:55] The appropriate response is when we take the White House, is that – my guess is they’ll be some retirements then, is that you immediately put up a nominee and you never back down, you immediately and this is one of the key things that gets lost – There’s going to be circuit. And there’s going to be District Court nominations and when Barack Obama came in, as we know in the middle of the downturn as you know, it was harder to have that as a high priority that’s got to be your priority every day in terms of making sure we’re putting up qualified people who follow the law and getting it done and putting those names forth immediately because any delay is not good for our judicial system given some of these characters that they put in place.
So for me the response is we are just going to put these great judges in and they’re going to be judges that believe in the law that follow precedent, that are not these crazy right wing versions of judges that they have been putting in so that we can put, bring some I’d say some balance and some goodness back into our judicial system.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:42:08] Do you – I take it from that that you do not support some of the ideas floating around about changing the composition of the court?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:42:15] I am happy to look at that. I’m just looking at reality even with, even if we take back the Senate, do you get everyone on there? And can you get the votes for that? I know that’s what’s called the court packing idea right? You bring in more —
Dan Pfeiffer: We call it court reform at Pod Save America here.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:42:32] No, no, no. Oh no, I violated the Pod Save America rules. So the … the court reform. Yes. I am not opposed to that. I just think you’d have to look at your numbers and your votes and if you could get something like that done, but my immediate practical answer would be to put forward judges immediately to get them in place.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:42:54] Would you have a litmus test for your judicial appointments on choice or any other issues?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:43:02] Well, yes that they follow the law and the law is Roe v. Wade, and I think when you look at some of the choices that Barack Obama made with that as his guide he put some great justices on there from Sonia Sotomayor to Elena Kagan. He did that.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:43:19] Thinking about a general election against Donald Trump. Have you .. Like what is your theory on how you find the balance between talking about yourself and in responding to Trump?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:43:38] That went off balance in 2016 and it … I wouldn’t put it all and in any way on Hillary Clinton who would have been a great president and actually did I think a very good job a great job in those debates. No one had ever run against someone like him before. And now we know a lot. We know that he doesn’t care how divisive it is or who he makes his enemies. He simply wants to control the agenda. He will literally fly across the world and meet with Kim Jong Un for a summit that was ill planned that had no outcomes just to distract from something else.
He will write a tweet that has all kinds of falsehoods and misinformation. He’ll even send out a doctored video about the Speaker of the House just so he can distract from the issues at hand whether it is his own problems with the Mueller report whether it is a failed policy or not getting something done. And so what I’ve learned from all of that is that you literally have to stay on your own agenda. And you cannot always go down every rabbit hole with him. And I think we’ve all learned that and we certainly learned it and how we ran those 2018 races. So that would be my first answer the second – use some humor, push back at him some of what he says is just, you know absurd he wants us to be going ‘Oh my God, look at what he just said.’ That’s what he wants, people know people like that in their lives. And so we have to look at it that way.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:45:08] Are there any other lessons that you take from Hillary Clinton’s experience in 2016 specifically so, you know either more broadly or specifically around the challenges she faced with sexism the media misogyny from her opponent, that’s just – the unfair set of expectations are often placed on female candidates?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:45:30] I don’t know what you’re talking about. No, I’m kidding. Okay, so I would I would I’ll start with that and then say another lesson I learned but on that front. When I’ve talked to other women and this has been my own experience as well when we ran for tough jobs.
We always knew that we were having to have to prove ourselves. I think it was someone once said that women candidates, I agree with part of this but not both things. ‘Women candidates have to speak softly.’ I don’t agree with that, ‘They have to speak softly and carry a big statistic.’ The idea there is that we had this extra responsibility to be accountable, to know everything, to be able to answer every question and not screw up. Like, you know, they just don’t look at a woman candidate and say ‘Cool, what an interesting story.’
And I have thought about that even within today’s coverage, you know my own husband grew up as I said in a trailer home right? That’s kind of an interesting story. He went on to be, somehow got himself to college and went a year early, graduated a year early from law school at, worked hard for everything he did in his whole life. He’s got a pretty interesting story, but the media isn’t as captured by that. So given all that you still have to just run on your ideas. You have to not be brought down by this fact that you know people in their heads are thinking ‘Can she really do this job?’ Well, they give, they allow men a little more leeway of thinking. ‘Yeah, of course, he can do that job.’ And so when I first ran for Senate, I couldn’t believe how many people asked me constantly can a woman really win and I would say ‘Well a women won in Texas and a woman became governor in Texas. So I bet they could win in Minnesota.’ This is in 2005 and then I would go to groups of men steel workers and make my case and they kind of their arms crossed I could tell they weren’t and so finally I would say to that question. ‘I’m not running as a woman candidate. I’m proud to be a woman candidate. I’m not running that way. I’m running on my ideas. And what, what I want to get done.’ And then I would say, which I would never use now, it doesn’t quite make sense. But I would say ‘Because if I was just running as a woman candidate, I wouldn’t win because half the voters are men.’ And then they would take their arms down and put them down like yeah, and I think what they were getting at was that I was willing to say. ‘I have something to offer besides being a woman candidate’ whether that’s fair or not. It was in their heads and I think it’s still in their heads today. And so you have to just put it aside not talk about it all the time. You asked it. So I did and then move on to how you want to win.
And then the other thing I’ll say that I learned. Oh and you also have to show you can do tough jobs and then people say you’re too tough. Like you can’t win right? But you again have to just deal with that. So the other thing that I learned from all of this and Hillary’s election and what happened, was just the power of what her example was later. And I was, I heard someone say the other day that they were talking about how when Billie Jean King had to be the first woman and compete in that crazy match she had with Bobby Riggs and be in a lot of your listeners will have to Google it to know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter, I get it. But the point is she said afterwards. ‘I felt like I had all of women’s sports on my shoulders because I was the first one.’
And that’s how I felt for Hillary. And so what I would say to her and have when I’ve seen her, well look what happened in 2018. Yeah, maybe this didn’t go the way it was supposed to, but then in 2018, it got all these women to run, all these people of color to run who probably wouldn’t have run before, but they felt that the job had to continue, the job had to be finished. And you look at that day after that inauguration, that dark day where millions of people marched all over the country. And then nine days later, when the Muslim ban comes out and people are spontaneously showing up at the airports, or on day 100, my favorite march, The March for Science. ‘What do we want? Science! When do we want? After peer review.’ Or into the summer where you know, the 48 Democrats hang together and they’re joined by three Republicans and vote down that repeal the Affordable Care Act. Or that victory for dignity or decency when Doug Jones wins in Alabama. The students in Parkland. This is an arc that we’re on, right?
And that arc started the day that he got elected, and then the day that he got sworn in, so when people tell me ‘oh, I can’t stand this anymore, this is getting so sickening, how do you run against all these people?’ We are on a march, there are so many people that are part of this, and this is not, I am not worried about them getting disenchanted about voting. I am not worried about them. No matter what mean-spirited purging they do of electoral rolls, all this stuff. People are going to find a way, and we are going to have justice back in this country.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:50:26] That sounds like a great place to end this interview, but I have one more question which is as important as all the other ones, which is: Pod Save America is going to be in Minneapolis in about two weeks. What should we eat and do while we’re there?
Amy Klobuchar: [00:50:39] Oh, well, there is much to do there. Let’s see. Well, there are a lot of fun places. There’s a very famous hamburger called the Juicy Lucy that maybe you’ve heard of —
Dan Pfeiffer: Do you have a preference of which of the two places —
Amy Klobuchar: No, are you kidding? questions. Not gonna go there with you.
Dan Pfeiffer: It’s a very esoteric Minnesota point.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:51:00] There’s a very cool walk across the Mississippi in Minneapolis right near where I live actually, near where I announced, but there was a blizzard, it will be a nice day. You can go over the Stone Arch Bridge and get a sense of the original Minneapolis, which was a mill town. And then there is the Prince museum of course, we love Prince and miss him every single day. There is the Mary Tyler Moore statue, now that really has your name on it.
Dan Pfeiffer: Yes.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:51:28] Your listeners there. Now we’re going retro for you. Where she took her hat and threw it up in the air. And there’s a statue commemorating it. And then there’s just a lot of… it is a great town for young people. This is my pitch for people to move there, or you can come to our campaign headquarters. Now that is exciting, very cool building, you know, you like it. And, there are so many young people there just because it is an exciting place to be. It’s got great theater. It’s got great music and it’s got great food and people are very involved in the community in such a positive way. Which brings us to where we started, which is exactly why I’m running for president.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:52:40] Well done.
Amy Klobuchar: [00:52:41] You’ve got the most diverse and interesting generation that we’ve ever seen and I’m proud to say my daughter’s part of that generation, and we want to be able to give them their place at the table instead of going backwards to another century.
Dan Pfeiffer: [00:53:27] Well, that’s a great way to end it. Senator Klobuchar, thank you for joining us on Pod Save America and good luck out there on the campaign Trail.
Amy Klobuchar: Thanks, Dan.