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2020: Beto O’Rourke on Biden, Iran and the puppy primary

Tommy talks to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke about why he thinks he can win, what President O’Rourke would do on day one, recent comments by Joe Biden, lots and lots of policy and why his dog Artemis should be leading the pack.

Learn more about Beto O’Rourke here.

Show Notes

Transcription below:

Interview: Tommy Vietor and Beto O’Rourke

Tommy Vietor: My guest today is from the great state of Texas. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, running for President, it’s great to have you in the Crooked media HQ. Thank you for doing this.

Beto O’Rourke : Good to be at the world headquarters. Thanks for having me.

Tommy Vietor: Um, first question lets just dive into it here. So there are 23 Democrats running for president. It is this big, diverse, impressive, field of people, I think we all have a good handle on the challenges we face, we all want to beat Trump, people are struggling to figure out, with all these great candidates, who can win and who will be the best President. So, can you make your pitch for why you’re the one who could beat Trump? And why you would be the best person to serve in the job if elected?

Beto O’Rourke : Yeah, so you mentioned this historic set of challenges: climate, health care, an economy that is not working for far too many people. And you mentioned Trump as well this country – already very polarized – he is dividing further everyday, this democracy – already badly [00:01:00] broken – he’s undermining at every turn. So in other words, we really got our work cut out for us and it’s important that we beat Trump. It’s really important that we meet these challenges that we face; which in almost every instance proceeded Trump, but we’re just made much worse by him. So in order to do this, I think we’ve got to bring something different to the campaign and something different to the country. If we’re divided, we’ve got to find a way to bring people in, if this democracy doesn’t work, we’ve got to find a way to fix it. Everything that I’m about everything that I’ve ever been a part of has been bringing people in and making democracy work for everyone. So small, but I hope telling, example on city council for six years every single week I held a town hall meeting. And it’s important for me to listen to my constituents on proposals for economic development or how to make sure that we balance a budget, which we did every one of those six years, [00:02:00] even a listen to those whom I could not help; your neighbors dog was barking too loud last night, but you were going to make sure that you let me know about it. That direct accountability, fundamental to a successful democracy, made me such a better representative in also ensured that when we had to take on the tough fights. An example in 2009, extending health care benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, despite the blowback and the recall elections. I had a grounding in working with my constituents regardless of the differences between us. Taking that same approach to a campaign against an incumbent and against the odds for congress in 2012 and winning by going door-to-door bringing in new voters who had not participated maybe ever, given him a reason to register, or folks who dropped out for the last 15 or 20 years including their voices and their concerns in our campaign. We won that race and use that same [00:03:00] level of accountability to deliver on expanding Veteran’s health care, for example, or protecting public lands; all of which happened while I was in the minority, so finding Republicans and Democrats alike. With whom I could work getting that signed into law by Barack Obama getting that signed into law by the one person with whom I agree on almost nothing, Donald J Trump, but proving that we will work with anyone anytime anywhere to advance this country’s agenda and then and then lastly, Texas. So here’s a state that had ranked 50th in voter turnout not by accident, a hundred percent on purpose by design drawn that way through racial gerrymandering to diminish the power of your vote or your voice depending on the color of your skin. We went to every single one of the 254 counties of Texas without a single dime from a single political action committee, showed up with the courage of our convictions – a bold Progressive agenda – but also showed [00:04:00] up to listen and to learn and to include people and their stories in the campaign that we were running; and at the end of the day though we did not defeat Ted Cruz, we won more votes than any Democrat has ever won in the history of the state. We won independence for the first time in decades and brought along nearly half a million Republicans who voted for Greg Abbott, very conservative tea party Republican for Governor, and voted for me on the same ballot, not despite, but because of the progressive campaign that we ran and what is thought to be one of the reddest states in the country and we transformed our democracy no longer 50th in voter turnout, those 38 Electoral College votes now unlocked forever changing the political landscape in America and that movement led by young people who turned out five hundred percent greater than the last midterm election in early voting. So in other words, if you do not count anybody out or down, if you don’t take anyone for granted, if you include everyone in a bold progressive [00:05:00] agenda, you can lead a Grassroots movement. That’s what it’s going to take to defeat Donald Trump. That’s what it’s going to take to meet the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced in our Administration.

Tommy Vietor: So. Congratulations, you did it. That speach won. You’re elected President. You’re sitting in the Oval Office what you choose to do first matters a lot. Right? Because you can burn political capital Administration get overtaken by events like whatever so you can hammer out executive orders all you want but that first legislative priority really matters, what would President O’Rourke put to Congress first?

Beto O’Rourke : If I think about the single greatest threat that we face, it’s the fact that this climate is changing and that’s produced. Not as an act of God, not from Mother Nature, but from you and from me and from people in this country and around the world through our emissions are excesses and in our inaction in the face of the facts and the science; and the fires that we’ve seen here in California preceded [00:06:00] by historic droughts in this state; the floods in Houston, Texas, the floods were seeing on both sides of Iowa along the Missouri along the, Mississippi. These disasters that are consuming the lives of our fellow Americans our property and entire communities in some cases that will pale in comparison to the hell that awaits our kids unless we take action now, and so, responding in the boldest and most confident the most courageous way distinguishing ourselves, by the way that we meet the greatest challenge, we have to lead on that because the clock is ticking and the scientists tell us that there are roughly 10 years left to us to free ourselves from dependence on fossil fuel to make sure that every single one of us is doing our part that were fortifying those communities very often lower income and communities of color there on the front lines of climate change and pollution to make sure that we not only survive this but we lead the world and making sure that we overcome this challenge. [00:07:00] So there are a host of threats and challenges that we face. That is the single greatest. I think it’s important that we begin by bringing this entire country together around the solutions to it.

Tommy Vietor: And it’s worth noting folks one more detail. It’s one of the major policy platforms on your websites. They can check that out. I don’t want to dwell on Trump today, but just one question. I mean Vice President Biden basically argues that Trump is an aberration and that Republicans will come to their senses once Trump is gone. Do you agree? And do you believe that cordial relations between Vice President Biden and segregationist Senators is a good example of civility in politics?

Beto O’Rourke : Look the the Republican party of today – at least those Republican members of Congress – is complicit in what this President is doing –  absolutely tearing apart this country and tearing down our democracy. If you had any doubt about [00:08:00] the president’s efforts to collude with Russia, then those were completely dispelled and it became crystal clear to you when he admitted to George Stephanopoulos that he would take the help of a foreign power to defeat his opponent in November of 2020. And where was the outrage from the Republican party? I mean if you had any doubt that he sought to obstruct Justice into the investigation – what happened to our democracy in 2016 – then his firing of James Comey or is tweeting to his attorney general to stop the investigation or his calling of Vladimir Putin after the Mueller report is released  – and describes that as a hoax – giving the guy a green light to invade this democracy again or Bob Mueller’s crystal clear public statement that when the subject of an investigation lies to investigators or seeks to obstruct that investigation he strikes at the very heart of our government – of, for, and by people, – where is the Republican party on this? And who [00:09:00] cares about our prospects in the next election? About polling numbers? This is the very future and fate of this country and our democracy, this is something where country should absolutely trump party – or any other consideration really for that matter. So deeply pointed in that party and still hold out some hope – although I’m not counting on it – that folks are going to come to their senses, those in these positions of public trust, who future generations are going to be looking back to, they’ve got to do the right thing and and and the windows closing on the ability to do that.

Tommy Vietor: Yeah, the Biden comments about segregation to Senators, do you think that’s a good example of Civility?

Beto O’Rourke : No. The fact that this country is so riven by partisanship – being [00:10:00] diminished everyday by a President who will stop at nothing to secure evermore greater powers for himself – might distract us from the fact that for African Americans in this country from the i  nception of this country – this country has not worked for them. And in fact has been actively keeping them down by law and out of greatness and economic success. So one of the most obvious examples of people point to is the fact that we lock up almost two and a half million of our fellow Americans, many there for nonviolent drug crimes, disproportionally comprised of people of color, but it’s not just that it’s the economy where there’s 10 times the wealth in White America than Black America, Health Care outcomes where you have a maternal mortality crisis in this country that is three times as deadly for women of color, education in a kindergarten classroom – a four or five year old child is five times as likely to be disciplined or suspended or expelled if she is a child of color. So for the [00:11:00] vice president to somehow say that what we’re seeing in this country today is a function of partisanship or a lack of bipartisanship completely ignores the legacy of slavery and the act of suppression of African Americans in communities of color right now. So we’ve got to be focused on the future and again it means bringing people in, especially those who’ve been locked out and estranged from having any ability to participate in the success of this country. That’s what I want to do as President.

Tommy Vietor:  You proposed a major plan to make it easier to vote and to restore people’s faith in government. I was interested and was hoping you could walk us through the plan briefly and talk about why you made that a priority?

Beto O’Rourke : Yeah, so, you asked about the first policy priority and I talked about climate for reasons that I hope are obvious to all of us – maybe not to the president and much of the Republican party today – [00:12:00] but how are you going to do that? There’s been scientific consensus on climate for decades. There’s been political consensus actually for 30 years on this. Why have we not been able to act? It’s because our institutions of power – Congress as the most telling example – have been captured and corrupted by special interests corporations, especially after 2010’s Supreme Court decision on citizens united – that they are equated to people and money is speech and they can spend unlimited amounts to not just affect but I would argue purchase the outcomes of elections and legislation. Meanwhile, you have people locked out of their democracy. I mentioned the racist gerrymandering in Texas; but Stacey Abrams would be Governor right now of Georgia, but for the fact the Secretary of State could, successfully and legally, purge hundreds of thousands of Voters from the roles in that state – could serve as the referee in the competition where he was a competitor and crown himself [00:13:00] victor at the end of it. So how do we meet this challenge? We free ourselves from the influence of corporate interests and special interests by removing political action committees from federal elections. We make sure that we restore faith in our elections by having paper ballots or paper receipts for every ballot cast.

We audit those elections that take place. We ensure that we have the resources to stop future foreign interference and guarantee that there are consequences in this country and outside of this country for those who have welcomed or participated in undermining the world’s greatest democracy. And then we bring people in; we call for 55 million more Americans to be registered over the next four years through automatic and same-day voter registration, ensuring those who’ve been criminally justice involved are not denied their rights to vote – once they’ve paid their debt to society – and then we make sure that barriers in place like those voter roll purges [00:14:00] or voter ID laws that we have in Texas are removed through a new Voting Rights Act; and then ensure greater access to the ballot box through a national election day holiday to make sure we make it easier for people to cast their vote and ensure that their voice is heard in our democracy. We do all that and so many more things become possible. That’s what’s different going forward. That’s again what we bring to this historically in the way that I’ve run and served. And at the heart of what I propose to do is President for this country bring everybody in – remove the barriers and ensure that people not PACs or corporations are calling the shots.

Tommy Vietor: One piece of the plan that I found particularly interesting was the proposed 12 year term limits for congress and 18 year term limits for the Supreme Court. So the argument against term limits is that lifetime appointment somehow make judges immune to politics – I roll my eyes at that – and that Congressional term limits push people out right when they become experts – [00:15:00] you served in the house, why do you think some of those bozos need to retire earlier than they would otherwise want to?

Beto O’Rourke : Look I’ll make the best case for term limits. Amy and I decided when we first ran for congress in 2012 that I would serve no more than four terms eight years and the logic was, you know, the present United States can’t serve more than eight years, the mayor of El Paso can’t serve more than eight years what’s special about a member of Congress? And then and then Amy’s additional push on this is I don’t want you to turn out – to be trying to say something polite – I don’t want you to be a jerk at the end of this. I don’t want you to think that you’re more important than anyone else. I see what happens to people who hold onto power to long. So after three terms – six years – chose not to run again. That seat is now held by Veronica Escobar. She became the first woman to ever represent the 16th congressional district in Texas – in history of the district – and the first Latina [00:16:00] woman in addition to Sylvia Garcia to represent a congressional district in the state of Texas, a state that’s more than fourty percent Mexican-American. So by getting out of the way, you demonstrate a faith in the people that you represent. You say look out of more than 700,000 people in this District certainly, there’s someone who will do just as good – if not a better job – than I’ve been able to do and *speaking in spanish* we’re going to add something to that institution of power that reflects the diversity and the genius of this country – folks who in some ways have been locked out through the perpetual re-election of members of Congress and listen to be intellectually honest I get the other side of this argument that you lose some of that institutional knowledge. You may empower lobbyists or you know, some people say, Staff or federal employees. I’m not so concerned about that.

Tommy Vietor: They seem pretty empowered.

Beto O’Rourke : Yeah, they those are people that I so often relied on to be smarter and do a better job, but I think this is [00:17:00] about a faith in our democracy and a faith in people and that not anyone of us is, you know, inherently any better than anyone else and if you don’t refresh and recharge these institutions, they’re not going to reflect the true genius of this country and you’re not going to meet these challenges with the urgency that they demand.

Tommy Vietor: Yeah. I mean, it would be nice if some of the US Senate had used the internet before. From El Paso you put out a major immigration proposal that includes protecting DACA recipients and their families from deportation as well as temporary protected status recipients – ending immigration detention for everyone except I think violent criminals – better resourcing and speeding up the Asylum process, and I’ve heard you talk about potentially tearing down some parts of the border wall. Clearly immigration is going to be a central part of Trumps campaign. He’s going to lie. He’s going to scare people, he’s going to say there’s a caravan on every corner. But do you worry that what you’ve put forward could be credibly described as opening the Border or could be described [00:18:00] as creating more of an incentive for people to come to the U.S. at a time when the system is taxed?

Beto O’Rourke : This is another reason to run, this is another way in which we can distinguish ourselves in an extraordinary field of candidates. The president has trained our focus on the U.S. Mexico border in an attempt to try to scare us about Mexicans – whom he described as rapists and criminals – about Caravans that are coming to get us about asylum seekers. He’s described them as an infestation. He’s described them as animals. I think it’s only when you use language like that that you get kids in cages. That you are able to deport their mom’s back to the countries from which they fled. That you end up separating families and creating this kind of cruelty that seems so unamerican and yet is happening in this country right now. And I’ll tell you having lived there raising our three kids there – I think I’m able to tell it really powerful and I hope compelling story about immigration being such a [00:19:00] positive for this country. Not only the right thing to do not just morally just but but in our own self-interests – economically or from the perspective of Safety and Security – El Paso, Texas is one of the safest cities in the U.S. today and it’s because we are city of immigrants and Asylum Seekers and refugees from the world over who were called to us and are making us better by their very presence and then I’ll say this – as a Democrat – I’ve been really frustrated by our parties response to this issue for my entire life. I’ve seen us be so apologetic and defensive and really kind of half-hearted and making these Bargains that never work out. I’m gonna get really tough on immigrants, we’re going to deport a bunch of people, break up families, we’ll vote for walls and fences though we know they’ve caused thousands of deaths of people who are trying to join their families or work jobs in this country that no one born in this country would take, but I’m going to do all this so that I can get to a place that will allow me – [00:20:00] having shown how tough I was – to do the right thing. We’re changing that. This is different, we’re going to say doing the right thing makes us safer and more secure, adds to our economy, makes the average Americans life far better by ensuring that the nine million green card holders in this country can become US citizens as quickly as possible – wave their fees – make sure that we send them prefilled application forms with the data that they sent us when they first applied for legal permenant residency – for the more than 1 million dreamers make them US citizens, never again allow them to live in any fear of deportation to a country whose language they don’t speak where they no longer have family were if against those long odds, they’re successful – they’re going to be successful for that place not here, not your community, not our country and then the millions who are here doing the most back-breaking, the shittiest jobs that we have available in America – that no one born in America is willing to do – allow [00:21:00] them to register and get right with our government, contribute even more to our country’s success and ensure that we’re living up to the promise of this country that defined itself not by race not by common genealogy – but by the fact that we were all created equal. And that’s the source of our strength. It’s the foundation of our success and we turn our back on that to our peril. So this is ambitious. It is bold. It is confident. It’s in the best traditions of the United States of America, and I know that we can bring not just Democrats into this – we can bring Independents and Republicans – folks who understand from their communities that this is the right thing to do.

Tommy Vietor: I left out a big piece of your plan, which is investing five billion dollars – mostly through NGOs – I believe in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, to improve the quality of life for people living those countries, so they don’t want to leave. And you’ve also talked about creating regional p;artnerships to get other countries in the region to bring money and provide [00:22:00] political support. And I mean, I personally think this is the key to any long-term immigration proposal if you’re a kid or if you’re a parent and you’re kid is being forced to join a gang or could get killed  nothing’s going to convince you to stick around right? But I’ve also worked on the NSC and I know how hard it is to convince Americans that it’s in their interest to support sending dollars to other countries; unless we’re blowing them up. So can you make the pitch? Like how do we convince a skeptical voter that this is a good use of taxpayer dollars?

Beto O’Rourke : You can just decide where you’re going to meet this challenge. If you wait to meet it at the U.S.- Mexico border and you for example believe in a wall that’ll cost you 30 billion dollars. You’ll have to take you know, our fellow Americans ranches and homes and farms and properties in order to build it because it won’t be built on the true International boundary the centerline of the Rio Grande river channel. It will be built well into the interior of the US. You can even look at our current cost to accept [00:23:00] these asylum seekers. If we were to follow our laws – incredibly expensive to do that – or for a fraction of the cost – you could invest in reducing violence in Guatemala and El Salvador and Honduras. So that no family ever has to make that god-awful decision to send their child on that 2,000 mile treck and when we empathize and we just put ourselves in the shoes of somebody would have to make that decision we realize no parent would ever do that for kicks or to take somebody’s job or benefits or to take advantage of another country. You would put your child on that perilous journey if that were the only thing you could do to save her life. It’s exactly what people are doing now, so what if we can help them to protect their families and their kids in those countries? And as you mentioned work with nongovernmental organizations work with communities neighborhood level policing and then understand some of our culpability in the problem. We are the largest market for illegal drugs on the planet we’re four percent of the [00:24:00] population and we consume 25% of the illegal drugs – that demand and our way of responding to that with a militarization of this drug war in Central America has helped a hollow out some of those civil institutions compounded by decades of intervention in Central America – in their Civil Wars and Civic life and eroding institutions for democracy. We also have some responsibility to do this as well. But but again if I were just to make the most basic self-interest argument, it is far cheaper to meet this problem at its source and immediate at the U.S.-Mexico border and then the larger challenge I think that we have to address is the need to elevate the Western Hemisphere as a priority in foreign policy. It always is  forgotten – if it was ever remembered – at all, and these are the people that we’re literally connected to by land, by language, by culture and increasingly by family and it should not have come as a [00:25:00] surprise to us that tens of thousands of kids showed up on our front door, but it was because we were so preoccupied on places half a world away Wars that we’ve been fighting now for 18 years and counting so a great opportunity for our Administration to elevate the Western Hemisphere address these problems at their sourced

Tommy Vietor: agreed. So Health Care questions, so during the Senate campaign you talked about your support for Bernie Sanders medicare-for-all bill that would have essentially eliminated the private insurance market. You now say that’s not the fastest way to get to Universal care. When did you change your mind on that bill and why?

Beto O’Rourke : Yeah, so two extraordinary women with whom I had the chance to work as a member of Congress introduced a proposal called Medicare for America – Jan schakowsky of Illinois and Rosa de Lauro of Connecticut. And essentially this plan says that if you are uninsured today in America you can enroll in medicare. It also importantly says that [00:26:00] if you’re insufficiently insured – so you have insurance but really it’s in name only, you can’t afford the copay on the medication, you can’t afford the rising Premium cost, you can’t bridge that deductible – you can choose to enroll in Medicare, but if you are somebody who has employer-sponsored insurance and you liked it because it works for you and your family if you’re a member of a union that negotiated for a healthcare plan perhaps in lieu of wage increases or other benefits and you like that plan because it works for you and it works for your family, you’re able to keep it. I think that gets us to the goal of guaranteed high-quality universal care as quickly and as surely as possible, it incorporates the interest of everyone who’s concerned about the affordability of prescription medication, the ability for women to make their own decisions about their own body and have access to the health care that makes that possible, ensuring that our County jails are no longer the largest providers of mental health care [00:27:00] services; and it allows people who have insurance that they like right now to be able to keep it going forward.

Tommy Vietor: Okay. Quick question about your time growing up as a kid. You were messing around on early internet message boards, and he’s like pseudo hacker communities. You were in a punk band. I can imagine a 2019 version of Beto O’Rourke that is in these same communities and gets pulled into 4chan or force-fed some like alt-right bullshit by the YouTube algorithm and your life goes in a really different direction, you know, and I know you have three kids. Do you worry about how many young people are finding friendship and community in some of these dark corners of the internet and you think the government has a role in preventing radicalization?

Beto O’Rourke : The answer to the question is yes. I want to just clarify that nothing about punk rock will lead you down that road. No, but I get your point. So I’ll go back to where [00:28:00] you started. So in the 1980s – awkward kid who had a hard time socializing – found friendship online. Well the version of online at the time which was dialing into somebody’s computer on a 300 baud modem.

Tommy Vietor: So your mom picks up the phone and you yell like “I’m online!”

Beto O’Rourke : Or your dad gets the phone bill.

Tommy Vietor: Oh, man.

Beto O’Rourke : “What are you doing?”

Tommy Vietor: I got hammered for our AOL Bill many times. I was with you. I weigh the same as I do now and I was much shorter and I was spending a lot of time in my room.

Beto O’Rourke : Yeah, but  here’s here’s a positive side of that. I found this extraordinary community of people who also in some ways were misfits in their hometown or their school or in their lives, but who came together online or that version of online and, man, that was just a really powerful experience and really in some ways kept me going in the right direction, you know, so I [00:29:00] don’t want to discount the the value and the positive power of online communities, but I’ll acknowledge your point that there’s there’s a really dark side as there is in every aspect of life, right? There’s a dark side to that as well. And when you have people who traffic in hatred and violence and incitement based on race or religion or the differences that should not matter, it helps to explain some of the rise in public hatred that we see right now, you know, right outside the United States Capitol I think very recently. Charlottesville, Virginia, just a couple of years ago and a President who then says that klansmen and Nazis and white supremacists are very fine people. He’s in part responding to a base that has been nurtured in in these online communities – unfettered and undisturbed, especially by the [00:30:00] platforms that enable this. And so I think expecting far more out of Facebook and Twitter and other digital platforms where people congregate – to combat this kind of hatred and also to acknowledge that that really young people are on there and are receiving an education in intolerance that’s going to manifest itself in violence, you’ve seen a rise in hate crimes every single one of the last three years in this country and much of that is Donald Trump. But a lot of it is what is allowed  to grow and exist unchallenged and unchecked. So I do see a role for government to help regulate that – I do see greater responsibility – through enforcement of these social media platforms to make sure that we’re protecting people and that everyone is able to thrive in this country without fear of our differences.

Tommy Vietor: I want to turn to a couple foreign policy questions. So [00:31:00] there’s been a lot of loose talk about Iran lately. Whether to go to war with them, you’re seeing you know, New York Times columnist Senators members of the administration. If Iran did sabotage the to commercial vessels in the Gulf of Oman with these Limpet mines and they continue to enrich uranium above the level set by the JCPOA – what do you think the Trump Administration should do about it to stop?

Beto O’Rourke : America should find a way to work in concert with other countries. Primarily our allies, but countries who may have a shared interest in stability in the region to ensure that peacefully – without invading Iran – without firing a shot we’re able to resolve what would otherwise be an intractable problem. In part because we know that the cost and consequence of invasion and military action will be measured in lives lost or fellow Americans who will be sacrificed – lives taken in the name [00:32:00] of this country and an understanding that rarely has military intervention produced the results that we’re looking for. The CIA led coup in Iran in 1953 of the democratically elected Mossadegh, in part produced the revolution that we saw in 1979 and the impasse that we face today in 2019. We were talking about Central America earlier, the next year in 1954 again CIA led coup in Guatemala – deposing Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán – leading to instability that has persisted to this very day. President Trump has made it very hard for us though to do this and to do it the right way not just through the saber rattling and the threatening of War but by exiting the joint comprehensive plan of action, which is one of the greatest foreign policy feats of the United States in the modern era – certainly of the Obama Administration – the fact that we could bring the permanent members of the UN Security Council – Germany and Iran – [00:33:00] all to the table and be able to stop them from pursuing nuclear weapons and begin the  process of addressing other tough challenges that are on poses – the funding of terrorism in the Middle East their development of ballistic missiles their support of the houthis in Yemen and instability that Civil War that we see in that region – I felt like that was a great start towards addressing those other issues. Now we have no one with whom to meet at the table. Iran’s not going to trust us again. Europeans don’t know how to handle a It breaks its word and its commitments and that has made us less – not more secure – less – not more safe. And as really made War a more likely outcome and option – as we are seeing play out right now. So yes, let’s hold Iran accountable. Let’s do this through partners and allies and friends – we’re much more likely to be successful and Achieve our aims.

Tommy Vietor: Sticking with the region [00:34:00] you’ve talked about Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. You mentioned – I think the quote was – he openly sided with racists. If he follows through on his campaign pledge to Annex the West Bank do you think we should cut assistance to Israel? And given some of the racist things he’s done and said, do you think he’s committed to a peace agreement?

Beto O’Rourke : It is in our national security interests. It is in the interests of the people of Israel and the Palestinian Authority for there to be a two-state solution. Annexing the West Bank would spike any opportunity to achieve that which would promote greater instability and violence in the region. It would make Israel less safe – make it less likely that you would ever achieve full human rights and dignity for the Palestinians. So it’s got to be our priority and it would be [00:35:00] my goal as President to make sure that we achieve a two-state solution to provide encouragement to facilitate where we can, to do so with the humility of understanding that we cannot impose this solution, but it’s going to be tough because in addition to prime minister Netanyahu and his threat to annex the West Bank – his warning that Arabs are coming to the polls in a previous election – his siding with with openly racist parties and the Palestinian Authority with a Hamas – you don’t have a full partner for peace either. You don’t have somebody who can quell the incitement or control the violence or who can demonstrate a willingness to make the necessary concessions to get to that desired goal. So I say this knowing that it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult given the two leaders that we have in the region, but also making that commitment and – I would be hesitant to describe you [00:36:00] know a punishment or negotiate in public with the prime minister right now – only to say that this will be the priority of the United States and that we will work – even if it is prime minister Netanyahu and our Administration. We will work with anyone to make sure that we secure peace and a two-state solution.

Tommy Vietor: There was a pretty depressing coater to the Arab Spring protests in Egypt this week when Mohamed Morsi – who is Egypts first democratically elected President – died in prison of what appears to be neglect. But at the same time we’re seeing these mass protest movements in Algeria, Sudan, Hong Kong. It does feel like there’s sort of an Arab Spring 2.0 going on – or maybe it never ended. What did you take away from watching that first round of protest movements that started in 2001? And how do you think the US should respond to, or support efforts to, beat back authoritarianism?

Beto O’Rourke : Yeah, such a good question and it’s obviously a tough one for us to [00:37:00] answer and has been for decades. We mentioned Guatemala in 1954 Iran in 1953. We’ve always – or not always – well, maybe always, struggled with short-term security interests, you know fighting communism or fighting International terrorism today and compromising our values for democracy and Independence and freedom in order to achieve those those short-term security gains and here we are faced with that again only in this case it doesn’t seem like there’s a struggle on the part of the administration. They have openly sided with dictators in autocrats. You know Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia was able to kill an American journalist or journalist based in America Khashoggi with absolute impunity. With President Trump, you know, maybe this kind of stuff was said behind doors in the past, openly saying yeah, but this guy buys billions of dollars in Weapons Systems from United States defense contractor. So I’m willing to turn a [00:38:00] blind eye to that and the fact that he’s bombing Yemen into the last century and precipitating the greatest humanitarian crisis, perhaps that we’ve seen since World War Two and that we are effectively a co-combatant. It is Duterte in the Philippines. It’s El-Sisi in Egypt where Morsi was just just died in court. It’s Erdogan in Turkey – and then to our allies, the great  democracies – we turn the back or give the middle finger – that is going to make us, is already is making us, demonstrably less safe, if we’re going to be able to end these wars that we’re in, if we’re going to be able to confront climate change, if we’re going to be able to stop nuclear proliferation, we’re going to need partners and allies. And if we’re going to answer the big open question that the world has right now: is the future authoritarian or is the future Democratic? We’re going to have to lead by example around the world and then here at home. Again, why democracy is central to this campaign and to the [00:39:00] administration that I hope to lead. So as tough as it is in the short term, I think it’s important that America side with democracy – in Egypt it seems as though we were willing to forsake somebody democratically-elected politically and maybe diplomatically inconvenient, in favor of somebody who has been incredibly brutal in his repression and has effectively closed down even the nominal democracy that existed before him. That can’t be who we are and who we support and what we do going forward and in my Administration, we will absolutely change course in favor of democracy.

Tommy Vietor: Yeah. I mean you talked about the the Western Hemisphere as often forgotten. I mean the the one place in the Western Hemisphere that has been forgotten by this Administration has been Venezuela and you know, they’ve done this ham-handed sort of coup light regime change effort where they were supporting you no [00:40:00] legitimate brave opposition leaders like Juan Guaido, Leopoldo Lopez, in their efforts to to take power. But you know, meanwhile we have I think four million refugees have already flown out of Venezuela. So I’m curious what you make of the administration’s efforts to deal with Venezuela diplomatically and how you might approach that?

Beto O’Rourke : Yeah. I’m concerned in much the same way about the administration’s threat to invade or bomb Iran, its threat to to bomb North Korea, its threat to invade Venezuela, threats that this President made and perhaps  unwittingly, diminishing Guido’s stature, you know with the memory of Pinochet with the with the memory of árbenz Guzmán with the memory of active American involvement in Civil Wars and overthrowing legitimately elected Democratic leaders in some ways, we complicated Guaido’s path to [00:41:00] effectively represent the resistance to Maduro and the ability to stabilize a country that is absolutely out of control. Once the richest country in Latin America. People are starving. They’re going out going without medications. I think Columbia alone has absorbed 1.5 million refugees. This is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, humanitarian disasters in the Western Hemisphere, so enough of the saber-rattling, focus on resolving the humanitarian urgency that we have in people dying, or potentially dying, and then work collaboratively with the other stakeholders in the region – with Colombia, with Mexico, with our partners in Latin America to provide stability a transition of power and then a democratically elected government.

Tommy Vietor: Two final, much less serious or important questions. First do you think the way the DNC [00:42:00] is structured and handled the debates has made sense or worked? Is this a good way to run a railroad?

Beto O’Rourke : I don’t know that it may make sense. I don’t know, you’ve got this really good problem where you have 23 or 24 people all of whom bring extraordinary expertise and biography and skills to this campaign and to what they want to provide for this country as president. And that’s a great sign for our party. I think it’s a great sign for this country and in our democracy, how do you facilitate the conversation necessary for people to make an informed decision when it comes time to caucus or to vote in the primary? So for example, this this 10 and 10 over two nights in, Florida. Maybe that was the best way to do it? The threshold of – I don’t know what it was – 65 thousand unique donations and a certain polling level. Maybe that’s the right way to do it? So I’m participating, obviously in [00:43:00] these debates. I’m looking forward to it. But I’m also really focused on meeting people where they are through town halls that we’ve been holding all over the country going tobig blue communities – going to rural red communities – just listening and making sure that I have a chance to introduce myself and then take the questions from the people whom I want to serve and learn from them in the process. So I loath to second-guess, you know how I would do this differently. I just think you want to make sure that every one of these candidates has a chance to make their case, to answer questions. And then we make the the best most informed decision for defeating Donald Trump and then bring this country together around the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced.

Tommy Vietor: Last question. As you know – cause  you gave Leo a treat coming in – we are a very pro dog podcast. So Elizabeth Warren’s golden retriever Bailey has been getting a lot of press, has a big social media presence and is reportedly “a very good boy.” Can you make the case [00:44:00] for why Artemis should be chasing tennis balls on the south lawn?

Beto O’Rourke : So. Artemis is amazing. She – Amy and I were just talking about this the other day – she she took our kids on a backpacking trip with her two brothers and their kids and took Artemis and she said no matter yhow far the leader on the trail was from the last person on the trail, Artemis is going back and forth the entire way to make sure that everyone’s okay, constantly checking on them. So she’s incredibly loyal and faithful and is there to,  protect the family and the extended family, so I don’t know those characteristics? She’s incredibly loving and cute – great dog to run with…

Tommy Vietor: …She was maligned as a turtle eater?

Beto O’Rourke : You know, that was my bad. I’ll tell you that the circumstantial evidence was [00:45:00] pretty clear that she had taken the turtle food out of the turtle container into the backyard and eaten it there was like turtle food wrapper everywhere. The turtle was missing. I’ve thought you know, she at the turtle food why not just eat a turtle as well? The turtle later showed up. I think  she picked up the turtle. In perhaps an attempt to eat it. I believe the turtle bit her. This is conjecture. And then Artemis drop the turtle and the turtle went into a closet where it hit for three days until we found it. Update on this, Molly our 10 year old who volunteers at an animal rescue just adopted two more box turtles that were found and rescued and treated and cared for so Gus has two more friends in the turtle enclosure, so we’re adding to the you know, the household zoo that Molly’s running right now.

Tommy Vietor: That’s a happy ending. It’s a, you know, you’re like a pizza away from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thank you for doing this, Congressman Beto O’Rourke great to see [00:46:00] you. Best of luck out there!

Beto O’Rourke : Grateful. Thank you!