Senator Elizabeth Warren sits down with Tommy to talk about Medicare for All, climate change, Venezuela, Israel, and more. (Previously released on February 21, 2019)
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- Washington Post: The Trailer
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- Daily Beast: Women of Color Shouldn’t Trust Elizabeth Warren – Op-Ed
- Politico: Why Elizabeth Warren Needs to Give ‘The Speech’
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- NBC: Warren pushes back on Native American jab, says Trump he may not be ‘free person’ by 2020
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- The New Yorker: Why Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax Would Work
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Pod Save America- February 21
Interview: Elizabeth Warren and Tommy Vietor
Tommy Vietor: [00:00:14] I’m honored to have in studio Massachusetts residents a United States Senator Elizabeth Warren. Thank you so much for being here.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:00:22] Oh thank you. I’m delighted to be here.
Tommy Vietor: [00:00:24] You just met pundit Leo and.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:00:25] I did.
Tommy Vietor: [00:00:26] So most important question of the day we gotta give the people what they want. How was your new golden retriever puppy Bailey doing.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:00:31] Oh I’m telling you Bailey is taking to campaigning so he now comes to the events in New Hampshire. Since we’re nearby and he runs his own separate photo line and I keep saying everybody it is not a competition. I’ll do one… And I have to keep saying that because more people want to get their picture taken with Bailey.
Tommy Vietor: [00:00:52] He is painfully cute. Everyone check him out.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:00:55] He’s a honeybun.
Tommy Vietor: [00:00:56] I mean just amazing. OK.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:00:58] And I just want you know he’s completely in favor of affordable child. Yes universal child care affordable health care. He’s he’s in on all of this.
Tommy Vietor: [00:01:05] He’s for all of this accountable capitalist.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:01:07] Accountable capitalism he’s in. We had to do the whole thing on Glass-Steagall which was early on and I think maybe he was a little young when I first introduced him to it.
Tommy Vietor: [00:01:16] I heard he-he really pushed you towards the no first use nuclear policy.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:01:20] Actually this was a big deal for him. And I think it came from the other guys at the dog park who had been talking about it for a long time. And you know there just comes a moment when it is the right time to just go ahead and say we’re just not going to do this.
Tommy Vietor: [00:01:32] Makes some news.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:01:33] That’s right. And make a statement your principles here are like no first use he, He really is opposed to nuclear war. So what could I say. Yeah he’s got to work together.
Tommy Vietor: [00:01:44] Well I would love to dig into that in a minute but first question for you. So during President Trump’s soaring stirring beautiful State of Union speech he said “We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” You stood, you clapped. You said you’re a capitalist. Why are you a capitalist.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:02:05] Because I see the value of markets and that they can produce a lot of good if they have rules but let us all be clear markets without rules are theft and I am opposed to theft. There is a reason that the folks on Wall Street the big CEOs don’t want me or even me in the Senate. They’re kind of in the anyone but you. That’s exactly. Maybe that will be their tattoo “anyone but her” you know because I get how the system works and how it can work when it works right. And how these are the guys who are ripping it off and making it not work. And I really do want to I want to see it work. I want to see us as a country not just continue to produce more wealth but I want to see as continue to produce more wealth where that means opportunities not just for those at the top but opportunities for everybody. And I mean not like kind of everybody. I really literally mean everybody.
Tommy Vietor: [00:03:10] So I think in part because of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Sanders and then President Trump picking up the mantle of socialism. He’s – I’m sure he’s a big supporter. It’s been discussed a lot recently. And so I mean I’m just going to help people understand the distinction because you know you support Bernie Sanders Medicare for All bill. You said you support the concept of a Green New Deal. You know I think people look at you and they look at Senator Sanders and they think there’s a lot of similarity there on policy views. But he’s a Democratic socialist. You’re a Democrat capitalist. And I’m just hoping maybe we can help listeners understand that distinction and how you might differ on policy.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:03:45] So you know Bernie I’ve been friends since long long before I ever got in politics. Of course that’s not saying much have been in a thoughtful long on the political endeavor it’s always been the policy. But the best I can do is – is explain my end of it. So let me let me give you two parts. First part is we’ve got a country right now that works great for those at the top. It is a country that works great for giant drug companies just not for people who are trying to get prescription pills. It works great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere but not for people who see climate change as it’s bearing down on us. It works great for investors in private prisons but not for the people whose lives are destroyed and whose communities are torn apart. When a government works just for those at the top that’s corruption – plain and simple. And we’ve got to call it out because what’s happened in this country is in effect on every decision that gets made from giant ones that we see out in front like drilling off shore down to minute regulatory decisions there is almost always somebody in the room representing the rich the powerful or multiple someone’s trying to get the field tilted just a little bit more in favor of their clients and not just once but twice 20 times, two hundred times, two thousand times. And the consequence has been we now have a government that really does. It’s not working for the people and so whatever issue brings you to the table, whether it’s around economic issues, gun safety, climate change, net neutrality, it all intersects through this fundamental piece of corruption. Of of a government that’s listening to the folks with money instead of a government that’s listening to the people who elected us to get their so I start with- we got to root out the corruption and then we’ve got to change the rules in this economy and move us away from an economy that works again. Giant corporations who can buy political influence, we’ve got to get to an economy where there’s more balance in it. We need – It ought to be easy to join a union. Right. We ought to make it easy to have more worker power accountable capitalism says workers get to elect 40 percent of the seats on corporate.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:06:39] This is a bill I’ve already put forward. 40 percent of the seats on corporate boards. Ways to get more power back into the hands of workers. That’s how we start to rewrite this economy. And I just keep working through that in every part of it taxes, progressive taxation. I put a an ultra millionaire’s tax out a proposal on this. Think about this. If we taxed estate people families that have more than 50 million dollars in assets. If we- if we charged him 2 percent a year and they put that back in the kitty to help build opportunity for everybody else we could pay for universal child care. We could bring down student loan debt. We could make a big down payment on a Green New Deal. We could make the investments that make this country work. And that’s that’s for me. What this is all about.
Tommy Vietor: [00:07:48] Yeah but there wouldn’t be a lot of investing in Nantucket summer houses. Oh and I think that they need new decks and places to park boats and such. So staying along these lines. I mean a lot of the 2020 Democratic candidates support Medicare for all. I think it sort of table stakes really in this race. Some people think you I think interestingly you said that there are a lot of paths to get to universal coverage but there are some critics on the left who see a lot of Twitter ,fun place to be, who vigorously disagree. They sincerely believe that a public option won’t get us to universal care and that we need to eliminate private insurance to actually fix a broken health care system. Bernie Sanders, for example, told the New York Times that he thinks the only role for private insurance in the system he envisions would be cosmetic surgery. You want to get your nose fix something like that. Why do you disagree with those who have a more draconian take on how to get to universal health care.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:08:41] So let me start by saying I believe in Medicare for all. I’m a co-sponsor on this bill. Yeah. I’m signed up for this but remember even the bill that Bernie has put on the table has a lot of layering in over time.
Tommy Vietor: [00:08:57] Right.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:08:58] It doesn’t just happen immediately, Nobody throws a light switch and says “We’re there.” It’s got its ways of how we get some people how we get some more people how we get some more people and by the way how some people never end up in it. So for example, veterans are are kept in a different system. It’s a question about how Medicaid gets brought into it. It’s a big and complex system to be able to do this. And so there are folks who think – for example one way you could layer this is you could say – you know what. How about if we say Medicare now starts at 60 and then a year from now it starts at 55 and a year from now it starts at 50 in a year from now it starts at 45. Or how about we go the other way and we say everybody 30 and under is covered by Medicare and in another year another two years everybody 35 and under is covered by Medicare. How about if we let more of the population shift to Medicare immediately by letting employers buy directly and drop private insurance and put people into Medicare. How about if we let people individually be able to buy into Medicare instead of having private insurance in fact. I’ll tell you I have a bill that I put out last year that Bernie is a co-sponsor on that says if you’re going to have any private insurance one of the the provisions we ought to put into law right now is private insurance has to at least cover what Medicare covers. So that’s what I mean by there are a lot of different paths. But we all know or at least I know where we’re aiming and that is the center of this where we’re trying to head to is that everyone has Medicare coverage and that everyone in this country has coverage at a price they can afford. And let me just add on that. How, think about what it means that Democrats are talking about. OK. Is the way to get there. Bernie said well it’s just over four years, other people say let’s do it over six years, some people say let’s build up from Medicaid instead of Medicare. Others say start with young people start with the older people. Lots of different ways. That’s the conversation Democrats were having.
Tommy Vietor: [00:11:16] You just reject this it’s all or nothing while away.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:11:18] Well but here’s my point. While the Republicans are out there at the same moment doing everything they can right now to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans and you know they’ve still got the lawsuit pending down in Texas that that they’re trying to repeal all of the Affordable Care Act the Medicaid they’re trying to cut Medicaid and they’re doing everything they can through HHS and the regulations around that to undercut it. So I think this is a great moment for what primaries are about is to get the ideas out there get a lot of people to talk about it. But the point is to build the kind of energy, grass roots energy in this country for Medicare for all. So that Democrats win 2020. We’ve got the house we’ve got the Senate. We are ready to move forward and get everybody covered.
Tommy Vietor: [00:12:17] It has been a very substantive primary so far.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:12:20] It has.
Tommy Vietor: [00:12:21] Let’s keep it that way.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:12:23] For now.
Tommy Vietor: [00:12:23] Other candidates listening, not you, you’ve been perfect. So President Trump reasoning declared a national emergency on the southern border so that he can take a bunch of money from other places to pay for his stupid wall. There is no emergency. This is absurd. I think everyone knows that including Mitch McConnell even though he flip flopped on it. But it’s also clear to me I think that the publicans aren’t going to stop him. I mean Congress could block him in this instance but it would require Republican votes. And I think we’re all sick of waiting for them to be courageous. So I guess my question to you is shouldn’t Democrats say to Republicans if you’re not going to step up and protect the institution of Congress and enforce the old rules then these are now the new rules and that we’re going to play by these rules when a Democrat is elected and we fully intend to use a national emergency to advance democratic priorities or things that are actually emergency like climate change.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:13:14] Yeah which is an emergency.
Tommy Vietor: [00:13:16] Right.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:13:16] Right. We’ve got a lot of real emergencies. So here’s how I see this. I’m not. Quite ready to give up the way you implied in that question.
Tommy Vietor: [00:13:25] That fight.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:13:25] Yeah. In the following sense there is no emergency at the border. So the facts are just wrong on this. Second I don’t think he has legal authority to do this and he’s not going to be able to do anything right now as you know 16 states have sued him we’re going to see a lot of libal and that’s just gonna be the beginning of the lawsuit. This is gonna be like full employment for lawyers who can spell Constitution right. But we’re gonna see a piling on of these lawsuits. Ultimately the courts will settle out what is the legal authority here of the of the president of the United States. So the threat here is not imminent. We can continue to have this this constitutional debate around it. I think the president is wrong on this but I do think it is a moment to talk about what you think a real emergency is and to talk about that emergency in terms of trying to to highlight for all of us this is the responsibility of government. Government’s job is to look out there and see what’s coming and climate change is upon us. I’m going to say something really controversial here. I hope you know everybody is listening. Be, be calm out there. This is controversial. I believe in science and sciences admit that climate change is real. It’s manmade. Our and we have got to act. We’re running out of time on this. The urgency of the moment and banging on that drum I think is critically important right now. And and I want to see it. I want to do the emphasis on that in a big public sense again because I see our opportunity in 2019. And you know up through November of 2020 as a chance to pull more people in on the core issues and I think look I think the questions about the power of the president are very very important. Come on. I believe in this, but we’re going to be out there talking to the American people about the stuff that touches their lives. We really do have to be talking about a government that’s not working for them. Talking about universal child care. Talking about people who are just getting crushed by student loans. Talking about the importance of raising the minimum wage and the opportunity to join a union. Talking about climate change. Talking about gun safety. Talking about the things and making them real that – that affect people every single day and saying to them hey look maybe you’re already a Democrat then you should be a fired up Democrat. Maybe you’re an independent but man if you’re worried about climate change or if you’re worried about gun safety or if you’re worried about your student loan debt or how you’re gonna get your kid in some kind of high quality affordable daycare, we are the party who is working for you. We’re the party who’s trying and that’s our chance to bring back some of those some of those Trump voters. I want us to use this period of time to build the grassroots movement. So when we win in 2020 we are ready to start making those changes.
Tommy Vietor: [00:16:48] Look I’m 100 percent with you but I do think there’s a lot of Democrats out there who look at the past few years and are pissed off. They look at Mitch McConnell stealing a Supreme Court seat. They look at the way Trump right now is completely ignoring the Magnitsky Act requirements. He has to report to Congress about whether the Saudis, whether we’ll sanction the Saudis for murdering a journalist. They’re pissed off that he’s using a national emergency declaration to take away from Congress. It’s most clearly articulated power in the Constitution which is the power of the purse. And so I think they’re wondering are Democrats when we get power back going to fight fire with fire or are we going to try to return to norms and institutions that seem a little passé especially when you have someone as craven as Mitch McConnell in charge for the Republican side. I think that’s sort of what I’m trying to get at.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:17:34] So, so maybe the best place to look at that one. How about if we do it in the specific realm. Oh when we think about the rules on voting.
Tommy Vietor: [00:17:46] Sure.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:17:46] Right. What’s going to take a 60 person majority, are really going to have a 50 filibuster or are we going to say 51. Now I’m somebody who believed very very strongly in filibuster reform I’m on the record on this I fought for it for a long time because the Republicans completely blocked us, right. They weren’t letting us put anybody in the courts but it was worse than that…not worse – equally bad. They also weren’t letting us put anybody in the consumer agency said the agency couldn’t get its legal full legal authority. NLRB they’re about to shut down the NLRB. And the answer to that and I think it was the right answer was just to say we’re done on the filibuster and I voted for it I strongly supported it.
Tommy Vietor: [00:18:32] Harry blew it up.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:18:34] Harry blew it up and I think Harry was right to blew it. I strongly supported him when he did that. Now the Republicans turn around and they took the filibuster and blew it up even more so they said even on a Supreme Court nominee and we hadn’t even done anything yet. Right. So first they steal a Supreme Court seat then they turn around and change the rules on filibuster on a Supreme Court seat. And so when it swings back around us what are we going to do. And my answer on that is all the options are on the table that that’s how we gonna do this. If the Republicans are going to try to block us on key pieces that we’re trying to move forward then you better believe we got to keep all the options on the table. And I think that’s the way we should be describing it right now on everything that the Republicans are doing that nobody is gonna forget what happened here and all of the options are on the table. We’re not going to play, but let them play by one set of rules and then we play by the, you know, polite everybody drinks tea and and keeps a curled pinky up while they do it. I’m just not for that.
Tommy Vietor: [00:19:45] And then the Morning Joe civility rules. I like that answer very much. I could turn to some foreign policy if that’s OK.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:19:53] I’m Ready.
Tommy Vietor: [00:19:53] OK. So there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. People are literally starving to death. Hospitals don’t have like gauze or bandages like the most basic supplies. The Trump administration has recognized the National Assembly president Juan Guaido as, as the president and encouraged a bunch of other countries to follow suit. And frankly what was a pretty impressive diplomatic play by them. He also sanctioned Venezuela’s oil industry which is a major step which could cut off all their supply of dollars and their ability to have an economy. Do you agree with those two steps recognizing Guido in the sanctions on the oil sector? And if so I mean how do we back up a step as bold as saying there’s a new president and it’s this guy that we named especially given our history in Latin America.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:20:39] So I want to I want to broaden this one out just a little bit. Start with the fact that Maduro is obviously a dictator he’s terrible he’s stolen this election it’s a nightmare it’s a nightmare for the people of Venezuela. So that’s part one. Part two. This notion of using our diplomatic tools. I’m all for it. I think recognition. I think getting our allies to do it its way to bring diplomatic pressure economic sanctions. Yeah. I support economic sanctions but now we’re gonna start, we’ve got to turn the dial some here we have to offer humanitarian help at the same time. We can’t let people starve. It doesn’t matter that Maduro is willing to let his own people starve. So for example let me pick a one that’s at least a little easier to deal with a lot of people are fleeing the country. And that means they’re loading up around the borders. The countries around the borders the social services are under enormous strain refugee camps are springing up. We should be leading the international community to get help to those people to make sure that they’ve got food they’ve got medicine they’ve got care and frankly that makes it easier for people who are in Venezuela. They have you know fewer people dividing the resources more people seeing an option that if they get out of the country at least for a period of time and that puts more pressure on Maduro. The part you didn’t talk about though and I just think it’s worth mentioning here Trump did something else besides doing the diplomatic recognition because I’m I’m all for the diplomatic part of this. He also did a lot of saber rattling.
Tommy Vietor: [00:22:11] Yes.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:22:12] And given America’s history in South America. Frankly our history all around the globe now I think rattling sabers when we should not be considering a military intervention is a real mistake. I think that it causes the President to burn the credibility of the United States and remind everyone of times when we have intervened that were not only bad for our government. They were sure bad for the local folks so I think that our focus should be on diplomatic and on- on humanitarian relief. And I just have to emphasize this part again I said it but I won’t let it just go in passing. Working with our allies. This is why we need allies. This notion now that, Trump cozying up to Putin and Kim Jong un and G and can’t get along with Canada? Yeah I mean who can’t get along with Merkel?
Tommy Vietor: [00:23:14] Everybody likes Canada.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:23:16] Exactly.
Tommy Vietor: [00:23:17] Justin Trudeau.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:23:17] With the Europeans that are allies in this. These are the times that we should be working with our allies our European allies, our Canadian allies, our Asian allies to move in and support together that increases the pressure on Maduro. It it. It helps with humanitarian relief and it it it undercuts any notion that United States is big footing around South America or any other part of the world. There’s a reason we need our allies in these. This is one of those times we need to work together we’ll have a lot more diplomatic and economic power if we do that.
Tommy Vietor: [00:24:01] Agreed. The first bill that the Senate put forward was a bill called S1 which did a whole bunch of stuff. It was military support to Israel. I think it was some policy towards Jordan, some additional sanctions in Syria, but then there was a really controversial provision that would allow state and municipal governments to punish companies that boycott, divest from, or place sanctions on Israel so so-called BDS Movement. Why did you oppose S1?
Elizabeth Warren: [00:24:28] So I opposed the boycott but I oppose a law that permits punishment of people who want to support the boycott. This is one where I stand with the ACLU. I just don’t think we do that in the United States. I’m opposed. I opposed it when it came up earlier. I’ve spoken out against it. I’ve written letters on this. I don’t think that’s the place we go. I know that Israel faces real challenges so do the the Palestinians. I think the way we can be a good ally to Israel is we can push again toward a two state solution toward a long term solution in this area and look I get it. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world. It’s a liberal democracy. We don’t have a lot of allies over there that follow the liberal democratic traditions but a good ally urges friends to get together and work out a solution. And the Palestinians and the Israelis need to be back at the negotiating table. The United States should not be dictating terms. We should not be putting chips on the table or taking them off. But we should be pushing them to negotiate a two state solution.
Tommy Vietor: [00:25:51] So totally agree. And you know President Obama spent a lot of presidents spent a lot of time pushing the Palestinians and the Israelis to try to negotiate a Middle East peace process, a two state solution. But you know one major sticking point in that peace process has been Israeli settlement construction.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:26:10] I know.
Tommy Vietor: [00:26:10] And, You know we put a lot. There were a lot of carrots there a lot of things offered to Netanyahu. Some that have never been reported in terms of military hardware and other incentives that come to the table and to their credit the Israelis did have some settlement freezes and the Palestinians refused to engage. But you know at this point we are at a point where a lot of members of the Likud Party President Netanyahu’s, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party are talking about annexing the West Bank and it feels like the chance for incentives to bring them to the table for a two state solution or to end settlement construction are unlikely to work. And I’m curious if you would consider a pressure track that included some sort of punitive approach that might force them into negotiations or to stop settlement construction.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:26:56] So let me say that I think we have to stop to acknowledge what has changed during the Trump administration. The pressure toward a two state solution obviously has gone away and in fact the whole publicly naming Jerusalem as the capital and moving our embassy. Took one of the things that should have been decided by the parties. It’s not our decision, it’s their decision and how they wanted to handle that. It made it very clear we’re standing on one side in these negotiations. And the problem with that is it. It doesn’t encourage negotiation.
Tommy Vietor: [00:27:34] So in fact the Palestinians refused to talk since that.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:27:37] That’s exactly right.
Tommy Vietor: [00:27:38] Jared’s magical plan.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:27:39] There You go. Plus the Israelis now have less incentive to turn. Right. That’s that’s a part of what’s happening in this. So the way I see what you’re talking about is we have pushed it this far under the Obama administration and now Trump has completely reversed it. I don’t therefore draw the conclusion that what happened under the Obama administration was never going to work that you couldn’t keep pushing harder because over time realities are bearing down on Israel demographic realities births and deaths. What the region looks like and I think that that this is a moment not while Trump is in there playing the game that he’s playing but that the opportunity soon to get Israel back to the table and get the Palestinians back to the table. If we the United States can be an honest broker and can encourage again other nations other allies to help support that. I’m – I’m, I actually had just a little spark of-.
Tommy Vietor: [00:28:54] Glimmer of hope
Elizabeth Warren: [00:28:55] Optimism. Let’s call it a glimmer. Can we start can we start with glimmer?.
Tommy Vietor: [00:28:58] I’m pro hope. I’m pro glimmers. But I mean when I look at Israel I look at Bibi Netanyahu putting up campaign signs that featuring take photos of him and President Trump. This weekend he released a TV ad attacking his opponent Benny Gantz and accusing him of colluding with Obama behind his back and it had this grainy darkened image of Obama. I’m just wondering, Does it worry you that such a close ally has fully aligned with one political party? The Republican Party.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:29:24] Yes. No. This is the part that’s why I was talking about the difference between the two administrations. Yes. And I honestly I I don’t think it’s good for Israel. I mean I think it’s terrible for Israel and that that’s the direction he’s going. Of Course also remember you know he, he is under investigation. Others in his administration and his family.
Tommy Vietor: [00:29:48] We’re talking Netanyahu or Trump?
Elizabeth Warren: [00:29:49] Oh I’m sorry. Which one were we talking about? Yeah. Yeah the setence applies in both places doesn’t it. But I think that is part of the point. Yeah. Trump is not forever and neither is Netanyahu.
Tommy Vietor: [00:30:01] Good point. Switching gears a little bit. So I know your brothers all served in the military and one flew combat missions in Vietnam. Did their service shape how you view let’s say the use of force or the use of the military as president? and I guess, Is there a post-World War Two conflict that you look at and you think – that was a right justified use of military action?
Elizabeth Warren: [00:30:25] That’s an interesting question. Let me tell you how it’s shaped. I think it undoubtedly did. That I grew up because I’m my brothers are all lot older than I am. I grew up in the shadow of a family constantly worried that one of my brothers wouldn’t come home. That Don Reid flew in in Vietnam, was obviously the name, Two hundred eighty eight combat missions. That’s.
Tommy Vietor: [00:30:55] Wow 288 combat missions?
Elizabeth Warren: [00:30:58] 288.
Tommy Vietor: [00:30:58] That’s incredible.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:30:59] Yes it is. And to this day I I feel my heart flutter when I say that I I lived watching my mother always checking the mail you know. It was always there but I think of that in terms of the very personal reminder both of the incredible bravery and sacrifice of those who say I’ll put it on the line. You know my my brother John was was stationed in Morocco. Much safer it was at a different time but still he was. He was far- far away couldn’t come home for a year. There was some shooting there was it. It and they have agreed. That’s what they’ve agreed to do. David, my youngest brother trained as a combat medic. Now it turned out he never had to be set to combat but so the first part of it for me is the reminder that it is an extraordinary decision to sign up for military service and that- that means there is a moral obligation incumbent on those who would send our military into harm’s way to make sure that it is done for well thought out reason.
Tommy Vietor: [00:32:25] Right.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:32:26] When truly our security and safety are on the line.
Tommy Vietor: [00:32:31] Yeah.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:32:31] Not not just for politics, not just, that it’s that it’s got to be real. And It’s hard to find a place where that’s been the case.
Tommy Vietor: [00:32:45] Right. I mean I think that’s sort of driving, I mean we all know now that Iraq was sold to the United States under false pretenses. But you know if someone I loved had served in Vietnam and it would piss me off that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in ’64 was forced through congress under false pretenses. And when Johnson and the administration figured out that there were those false pretenses that was never revealed to American people and they continue to use that authorization. So curious if-.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:33:15] It’s when McNamara said-.
Tommy Vietor: [00:33:16] Right.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:33:17] He knew that we’d lost. But he didn’t pull out. And thousands and thousands of people continued to die young Americans 18, 19, 20 years old who’d been sent over. And he later claimed as part of his you know his great confession that he knew was lost. And yet he kept sending our, our brothers, our sisters to die over there.
Tommy Vietor: [00:33:50] Yeah, I mean that would piss me off.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:33:52] Yeah.
Tommy Vietor: [00:33:52] Yeah. Well it’s you know, it’s this defining moment in our history Obama was sort of a post-Vietnam President but I think for a lot of people who are in the military there are some who feel that Vietnam is an instance of where we should have gone all in earlier and didn’t have the backbone to win the war. Right. Like you hear that from some parties. Others I think, you think how could we possibly trust our government when they tell us why we’re going into war. I’m just curious like if that experience especially how personal it is for you maybe makes you distrustful of some of the claims that might be made for why we could go to a war in Iran or whatever the next thing might be.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:34:32] So I think of it is surely we have learned our lesson that we need to ask the question once, ask the question twice. Look at the evidence. Over and over and over before, before we move in and obviously during the George W. Bush administration the whole weapons of mass destruction was just made up. It was just a lie to the American people. I think of this just, just a little bit differently. And that is if we’re going to use military force – that we need to be a whole lot more thoughtful about what exactly we think military force can accomplish. You know it’s a big toolbox out there.
Tommy Vietor: [00:35:17] Yes.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:35:18] And there’s a lot of diplomatic tools in there and there’s a lot of economic tools in there. Why military? OK. On the front and then the question is what’s the back end of this look like? You know what. So the military do X and then what? And what do we expect to have happen? Is it the military going to go this far and then economic support is going to move in and it’s going to cause something to happen or a lot of diplomatic help? So for me I think what frustrates me and it has in virtually every discussion about using military force since I’ve been old enough to follow it, is there’s always a lot about the front end.
Tommy Vietor: [00:36:06] Yes.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:36:07] And nothing about the middle in the back end and but that’s how we end up in the endless war of Afghanistan. So that’s how we end up. Yes that’s exactly right. And that can’t be right. That cannot be our approach going forward.
Tommy Vietor: [00:36:24] We are, we’re running out of time. But you and Congressman Adam Smith recently introduced legislation that says quote “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” Close quotes. A very brief but very important piece of legislation and I think a conversation that again unfortunately isn’t just academic. Everyone knows we use nuclear weapons in World War 2 but that didn’t swear us off using them right. I mean Truman debated using nuclear weapons or in Korea. Eisenhower was telling Johnson to use them in Vietnam. Westmoreland was talking about it with a working group. We are planning to spend a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons to upgrade our arsenal. Why did you think it was important to put this policy forward because he also noticed you put it in your foreign policy speech and it was, jumped out at me.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:37:11] That’s right. In fact I didn’t hide this. Yeah this is right out front and I’ll tell you exactly why. It’s because we’re having a conversation in the U.S. Senate right now. I said on Senate Armed Services about usable nuclear weapons.
Tommy Vietor: [00:37:27] Tactical strategic nukes, little baby nukes.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:37:30] Use all those fancy words.
Tommy Vietor: [00:37:30] It’s a euphemism.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:37:31] They’re euphemisms and it’s oh we want nuclear weapons so we can totally blow up a city but not the entire country around it. And that would mean usable just by definition means more likely to use. Right. And that that’s been the push from the Trump administration and the Republicans jumping up and down for this. I think that we need to have a conversation about nuclear weapons. And I think we need to make clear there is a real risk to that kind of conversation and that kind of move in our nuclear arsenal if we are out there saying yeah we could be first use country. The odds that something goes wrong in the next big crisis and someone miscalculates a signal that we’ve sent or missiles that are a conventional weapon that we have sent. That we have increased the odds of a nuclear holocaust.
Tommy Vietor: [00:38:36] Global annihilation.
Tommy Vietor: [00:38:37] Yeah. Yeah. Final question for you. So Massachusetts our home state. We’ve produced a lot of winners. We have patriots with the Red Sox we have the Celtics. Even the Bruins everyone in the room now hates me. We’ve had less luck with presidential candidates. Dukakis Kerry, Romney, Ted Kennedy kinda in ’80.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:38:56] Excuse me, can I just stop you right there? John F. Kennedy.
Tommy Vietor: [00:38:58] I know I know. When we go back a little further we had one serious badass. But why are you the Massachusetts and I guess, Bay Stater or whatever you say who can put it over the top.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:39:10] Look for me this isn’t about politics. It just never was. This is my life’s work and it grows out of who I am. I am the daughter of a janitor who got a chance to be a public school teacher. To be a college professor. To be a United States senator. And now to be a candidate for president of the United States. Because America invested in a college education for a kid like me because America set the minimum wage at a place where my family could survive and didn’t lose its home and get tossed out on the street. I believe in an America that recognizes the value of every kid. That’s our best. That’s that’s our best statement of who we want to be. I look around and see this government that just works great for those at the top. I want to make this government work great for everyone else. That’s why I’m in it.
Tommy Vietor: [00:40:13] All right Senator Warren thank you so much for coming. I won’t tell the other guys that you said Lucca is the best and we can clearly hear pundit barking as the interview careens to a close.
Elizabeth Warren: [00:40:24] Yes well Bailey loves it all.
Tommy Vietor: [00:40:29] Thank you again.