Jon talks to Montana Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Steve Bullock about getting dark money out of politics, making college and health care more affordable, and why he loves a “good” dad joke.
Learn more about Steve Bullock here.
Interview: Jon Favreau and Governor Steve Bullock
Jon Favreau: [00:02:30] Governor Bullock. Welcome to Pod Save America. It’s good to have you here.
Steve Bullock: [00:02:33] John, it’s great to be here for sure.
Jon Favreau: [00:02:35] I’ll start with a simple question. In 2020, you’ll have served two terms for governor of Montana. You could go into the private sector, you could retire, you could possibly be the next senator from Montana. Why do you want to be President of the United States right now?
Steve Bullock: [00:02:51] Yeah, and I want to be President of the United States because I think this is a dangerous time in this 243 year experiment called representative democracy. I mean, I have young kids. I see us more divided as a nation than ever before, certainly not in my lifetime. And I ended up running for governor – I was Attorney General before that, a job I loved – but ran for governor because it really was, what am I handing off to my kids? And I think it’s even that much more important today.
Jon Favreau: [00:03:22] What got you into politics in the first place? What made you run for AG?
Steve Bullock: [00:03:26] Well, it’s sort of a twisted – so I actually went to college down here. Small college.
Jon Favreau: [00:03:33] Claremont McKenna.
Steve Bullock: [00:03:34] Yeah, went sight unseen. The idea of family visits or college visits was beyond my family’s financial means. Worked my way through college and borrowed my way through law school at Columbia and had this idea that I was gonna stay in New York, pay off what would be a $175,000 in loans today. And then maybe move home. But my father – and my parents divorced in grade school – got stage-four lung cancer, so decided, you know, if I was ever going to get everything right from that time, to move home.
The only place that I could work in Montana with a debt load that big was in public service because then Columbia would help pay my loan, so I started in a cubicle in the Attorney General’s office. The only way that I got an actual office was my voice was so loud that everybody would say “We gotta get him out of there.” And I’ll never forget – so I was in federal court on a case. James Watt had this group that was suing to get rid of our stream access laws and we have some of the best stream access laws in the country and I’m like three years out of law school. ‘My name is Steve Bullock. I represent the people of Montana. These streams and rivers belong to all of us, no matter how wealthy we are.’ I’m like, this Attorney General stuff is the coolest job in the world. So I ran for it and I’m not sure my whole family even voted for me. I got killed.
Jon Favreau: [00:05:00] What year was this?
Steve Bullock: [00:05:01] This would have been in 2000?
Jon Favreau: [00:05:05] Okay, so that was the first time you ran.
Steve Bullock: [00:05:07] Yeah and said, I will never want to do that again. Went on to practice both in private practice as a union-side labor lawyer for a little while, did a minimum wage campaign as we got closer to 2008 election. But I really loved doing that, when I worked in the Attorney General’s office. So I decided to run for it, wasn’t a favorite. I was in a three-way primary and somehow it worked out.
Jon Favreau: [00:05:35] So you’ve talked about how you’re the only candidate in the race who’s won a Trump state, but right now like the top five polling Democrats, all of whom won in pretty blue areas, are still – they have about 70 percent of the vote between all of them.
Steve Bullock: [00:05:52] Sure.
Jon Favreau: [00:05:53] So how do you make the case to primary voters that, you know, a candidate who has won in a Trump state has experience that’s more valuable and even necessary than the top five or six candidates.
Steve Bullock: [00:06:07] No, you bet and I only got into this about a month ago. My legislature was still going on so had a lot to do. If some ways we look at it like – and I get the excitement and the need to get on going against Trump. But, you know, four years ago I think Ben Carson was polling number one. And so I think that there’s some time along the way.
No, I think I make the case that, as you know, was the only one to win a re-elect and state-wide race with Trump on the ballot. He took Montana by 20. I won by 4. 25-30 percent of my voters vote for Donald Trump. If we can’t bring back both some of the places that we lost in ‘16, in addition turn out our base, this guy could well win.
But more than that too, that like there is a hunger to get things done that impact real people’s lives and being a governor and a governor of a state, that’s best…My legislature’s been about 60 percent Republican. We’ve been able to get progressive things done from healthcare, to kicking dark money out of our elections, to high-risk medical pools, to investments in education. And I’ve done more on dark money than anybody else.
So I think how you break through it the end of the day, when people look at all of this, is that we’ve got to beat Donald Trump, but we also have to make sure the government can work. And so many of the issues that we’ll be hearing about through this primary, to me, it’s been more than speeches. It’s been actual having to get things done on the ground that impacts people’s lives.
Jon Favreau: [00:07:45] So, what are we missing about these Montana Republicans, you’re working with in the state legislature that are so different than the Republicans that, you know, we all know in DC. What’s the secret there to get stuff done?
Steve Bullock: [00:08:03] Yeah. Certainly I think DC could learn a lot from Montana. I’m not going to say that it would be easy. Because I also have more vetoes than any governor in history. I think the way that I’ve had some successes there in governing are twofold. One of which is sure I try to find common ground. I work with individuals, but I also will then go to their districts and try to say, you know, most people’s lives – I hate to tell you this – are even too busy with real life to listen to Pod Save America.
Jon Favreau: [00:08:34] I know, believe me. We know. We’re gonna reach all those people.
Steve Bullock: [00:08:37] Yeah, and most people don’t live for politics, but they want a safe community, a decent job, a roof over their heads, good public schools, clean air, and clean water. The belief you can do better for your kids and grandkids than yourself. So I think how I’ve been able to have success is certainly showing up, listening, trying to engage folks along the way going to their districts.
Jon Favreau: [00:09:01] And what do you say when you show up because I feel like it is a great argument for Democrats that we got to compete everywhere if we’re going to win everywhere. I think everyone, you know, pundits, everyone else always looking for, what’s the secret message that really breaks through to these voters?
Steve Bullock: [00:09:14] Well, two different things. I’ll give you an example of how I’ve showed up when it comes to trying to govern and then also to yours: what do we say to these voters along the way? 2015 was when I was trying to get Medicaid expansion through. Like this was the heart of anti-Obamacare time.
I’ll never forget. I go to this town called Choteau. It’s population: 1700 on the Rocky Mountain front. Literally everyone in town knew why I was coming, because the Koch brothers were nice enough to send a picture of me and Barack Obama saying “Bullock and Obama are coming to destroy your healthcare.” I showed up and everybody in town got that flyer. So I showed up instead of just telling them what they need. I listened. First person that spoke was a hospital administrator who said 43 percent of the people that walk through those doors don’t have health insurance. Couple speakers down and yeah some people yelled and said “Oh, Bullock and Obama are horrible.” But the chair of the county commission. And the chair of the County Commission wasn’t even from Choteau. He was from Bynum.
It’s a suburb, population 50. He’s a rancher, you know, he goes, I was born in this hospital. This hospital saved my life a couple years ago when I had a heart attack. If we lose this hospital, we’ve lost this town. And I think them telling me what they needed more than me telling them that I had all the answers, that’s what gave the Republican legislators the courage to defy the Koch brothers, defy party leadership. When you know every single vote mattered, and as a result, we haven’t lost a rural hospital. Now when we go to places too, you know, we’ve got to recognize that, when I was growing up in the early 70s, 90% of 30-year-olds were doing better than their parents were at age 30. Today it’s only half. Or in real terms, in the last 40 years people haven’t had a pay increase. So part of it is saying, you know, this economy is not working out too well. As Democrats have traditionally fought for your economic interests, your healthcare interests, your education interests and they look to DC and it’s not working either.
So broken economy to broken political system, if we’re not showing up and telling them, here’s how we will work in partnership to make your life better, I think we’re missing something.
Jon Favreau: [00:11:42] So there’s a study last month out of the University of Iowa that said most of the voters in that state that switched from Republican to Democrat in 2016, I’m sorry, Democrat to Republican in 2016 who voted for Donald Trump did not do so because of economic distress, but because of nativist appeals from Donald Trump and that your proclivity to change from Democrat to Republican in 2016 was much more likely if you responded to the nativist appeals. What do you- and there’s been a whole bunch of studies like this, right? Because I’m someone who thought, worked for Barack Obama, and I think oh, it’s always economics. Democrats needs an economic message that’s more populist and then we can break through. And then you see all these studies and you’re like: I don’t know. What do you think about that? Do you buy those studies?
Steve Bullock: [00:12:31] Well, I do in as much as: a third of the counties that went Obama, Obama, Trump in Iowa, or you go to where Dubuque is. It hadn’t voted Republican since Eisenhower and then somehow that we lost it. I think the feeling that the economy and the political system aren’t really working for you, in part, leads to the same nativism that the University of Iowa study provided. I think that he in part was the result, not the cause, of focusing on things aren’t working instead of doing what President Obama did, which is saying we can actually bring people up.
He poured gasoline on that fire.
Jon Favreau: [00:13:21] What does a Trump-Bullock voter sound like? Because there were like tens of thousands of them in Montana.
Steve Bullock: [00:13:29] Yeah, come to Montana sometime, I’ll show you, Jon. Look, I think that many of them certainly don’t agree with all my policy positions or everything that I stand for but they thought at the end of the day I was going to put them above the politics and I’d be fighting for their education interests, their healthcare interests. And I do show up. I don’t just go to the pockets of blue. Now, one of my favorite examples was from your old boss. You know, I’m not naive enough to say that you can just go door-to-door across America, right?
Jon Favreau: [00:14:02] He wanted to.
Steve Bullock: [00:14:03] But I’ll never forget. So, when he was running in the primary in 2008.
Jon Favreau: [00:14:09] I remember, I was there with them.
Steve Bullock: [00:14:11] Were you there in Butte?
Jon Favreau: [00:14:12] Yes, I was.
Steve Bullock: [00:14:14] Because that, to me-. So, if not everyone’s followed all of the saga of Montana politics, we have a June primary. I was in that three-way race for AG and I got to the point where the Obamas and Clintons were there so much. I just work the lines and I’m like, I don’t need to hear that. So he wraps up the nomination and, come Fourth of July, could have been anywhere in this country, could have been in Martha’s Vineyard raising money, could have been with his family somewhere.
He took his family to Butte, America.
Jon Favreau: [00:14:44] I think it was Malia’s birthday, too.
Steve Bullock: [00:14:45] It was, actually it was. And Butte is a town that at one time, around the turn of the century, these wealthy copper barons basically controlled all of Montana through the largest open-pit copper mine. And now it’s the largest Superfund Site. Now on the one hand, there was zero electoral advantage for him to come to Butte. But it spoke to places like Butte all over this country that this guy gives a damn about me.
Jon Favreau: [00:15:12] What is the first piece of legislation you’d want to pass this President?
Steve Bullock: [00:15:16] So the first thing I would get done is, even by executive order, I would do – and I did this executive order in the state of Montana – is said that if you want a contract for services with the state.
Not even if you get it, I can’t tell you not to spend in our system. But you have to disclose every single dollar that you spend trying to influence our elections so that way, if nothing else in this post-Citizens United world, you’re going to add transparency along the way and think the federal government contracts with dang near every company in the world.
But certainly the United States. So at least we’d have the sunshine and transparency. I mean I think sort of the HR-1 like for so many of the issues that we’re talking about and will be talked about through this primary and into the general election, until we address what’s happened since Citizens United, until we address the fact that now a billion dollars of undisclosed spending has even occurred since then, it’s going to be that much harder to address anything else.
Jon Favreau: [00:16:20] Would you consider passing HR 1 as your first piece of legislation?I know Elizabeth Warren said she’s wanted to do that. What do you think?
Steve Bullock: [00:16:27] Yeah, I would do the executive order and a couple other executive actions along the way. I’d try to blow up the filibuster when it came to legislation both on some campaign finance or disclosure stuff. I think that we need to do some overall tax reform and I think we’ve got to start addressing climate.
Jon Favreau: [00:16:43] On the money in politics thing, you know Elizabeth Warren has sworn off high dollar fundraisers as one way to reduce the influence of money at least on her campaign. Would you consider something like that? What do you think about that?
Steve Bullock: [00:17:100] Well, I didn’t start with like 10 million bucks that I could transfer. So no, no corporate PACs. No Super PACs.
Jon Favreau: [00:17:11] Are you taking money from lobbyists?
Steve Bullock: [00:17:13] I’m taking money from anyone as long as it’s disclosed, fully disclosed.
Jon Favreau: [00:17:20] So you recently expanded Medicaid in Montana, it’s about a hundred thousand people?
Steve Bullock: [00:17:22] We got it reauthorized, interestingly. So I started in 2015. We’re trying to reauthorize it by ballot initiative. Tobacco companies spent twenty six million dollars killing it, the initiative, so stripping healthcare away from a hundred thousand folks.
Jon Favreau: [00:17:40] Tobacco companies, unbelievable.
Steve Bullock: [00:17:41] But we did then- I got it reauthorized through my legislative session.
Jon Favreau: [00:17:47] So I imagine if you become president, you know, you’ll do everything you can with your executive power to shore up the Affordable Care Act. What do you then do for the other 30 million people who still don’t have health insurance right now? And, in addition to that, all the people who you know, even people who have Obamacare who bought insurance on the exchanges and said my deductibles are too high. I can’t find a plan that I can really afford. So what do you do to cover the rest of the country and bring costs down?
Steve Bullock: [00:18:18] Yeah, and first of all, let’s recognize it. You know, 70 percent of America is covered by employer-sponsored health insurance and, by and large, they’re happy with it. They’re not always happy with the cost of the coverage. So we have to get to the point of both access and affordability for everyone. With access, I would do a public option. If you look, there’s 25-30 million people that aren’t covered, so you could buy in, certainly. You could also auto-enroll Medicaid expansion and we could get the rest of the states in the country to pass it. Well, that’d be about 14 of the 10 million that have zero coverage.
Jon Favreau: [00:18:59] So, automatic enrollment for everyone who qualifies for Medicaid.
Steve Bullock: [00:19:03] For Medicaid eligible. And the idea that drug companies invest how much in our political system and we can’t negotiate prescription drug costs. We pay more for drugs and healthcare than any country in the world and then I think you do have to, and you brought up this, the next piece of this is turning around and saying out-of-network charges, surprise medical billing. How do we address that? How do we bring down overall cost? I mean, even with that legislature in Montana, right?
We passed a reinsurance program, essentially a high-risk pool for folks on the exchange. That should drop what they’re paying eight or nine percent.
Jon Favreau: [00:19:45] Yeah, have you heard of this program Medicare for America, this legislation that’s been offered? It would basically allow everyone to enroll automatically in Medicare and will allow employers to choose that. I mean, how do you see the public option? How much? How much would you have to pay in, could you just enroll in a public option?
Steve Bullock: [00:20:03] Yeah, the way I look at it would be something to compete against. An individual that doesn’t otherwise have insurance could go to the private market or you can turn around and buy into a public option Medicare For All.
Jon Favreau: [00:20:17] You were just speaking about how you had a lot of student loans when you were coming out of law school. What do you think we should do about this enormous burden of student debt that is facing so many people in this country?
Steve Bullock: [00:20:29] Yeah, when you look at student debt doubling in the last decade, and I noted I had $175,000 in today’s terms that I had to pay off. I mean, first what I’ve done and then what I think that you could do. I’ve frozen college tuition six of the last eight years in Montana and that’s not by starving our universities. That’s by investing more money at the state level into the system.
If you look from the recession until today, 46 states have decreased their state investment in higher-ed by almost 20%. Montana is one of four that’s increased. We have the fourth lowest tuition and fees in the country. Student debt load ends up well over 10 grand less than the average for our country.
So we have to make meaningful contributions at our level now when you look at the literally 100- what’s the overall student debt burden, right?
Jon Favreau: [00:21:29] Yeah, like billions.
Steve Bullock: [00:21:31] I think that there are things that you can do without going down the absolute free college for all. Think about-
Jon Favreau: [00:20:40] So no free college on the front end, but would you like, you know Warren’s got this proposal to wipe out the debt for like 96% of Americans paid for with, you know, a wealth tax. What do you think about that?
Steve Bullock: [00:21:49] I think that there are things that you can do without wiping out the debt for everyone.
Jon Favreau: [00:21:51] And why don’t you want to wipe out the debt?
Steve Bullock: [00:21:52] Well, two things. One of which is it, like yeah in an ideal world no one would have student debt, but as long as we could figure out how to pay for it and let’s also recognize that 68% of America doesn’t have a college degree.
So, how do you make it more affordable? Now, 60 years ago in this country we said, wouldn’t it be great if employers sponsored and carried health insurance? So, what did we do? We actually incentivized saying, employer you can write off the cost of health coverage and employee, you don’t have to pay taxes off of this.
Think about what we do for student loans. Now, if an employer turns around and says, Jon I’m going to cover your student loans. I don’t think it’s business expensed. And then you, as the employee, have to pay taxes on it like this is a benefit. So we need to actually make it so first employers can cover part of it.
If you look at it, we have 80 to 90% of all of the student loans out there, are controlled by, owned by the federal government. You could lower the points along the way, you could not dismantle the public service and loan repayment programs. I think there are a number of steps that you could do without just saying, all right, we’re going to wipe all this way.
Jon Favreau: [00:23:15] Is there a solution on the federal level to sort of slow the rising cost of tuition because, as you say, as a governor, you can invest more in State education and freeze tuition like you did, but I keep wondering what we do on the federal level because otherwise, it feels like we’re just subsidizing loans and college.
Steve Bullock: [00:23:35] And yeah, when you look at it, I mean where the federal government’s always been most effective, at least in the past with when it comes to education, education funding, is using its purse as either the carrot or the stick, right? The Obama Administration did more for publicly funded preschool by putting out opportunities for states to invest along the way.
Well, you look at what we’ve seen the last two and a half years when it comes to tuition issues that what this Administration is doing is essentially dismantling any consumer finance protection side of this and the fly-by-nights will get more and more money along the way. I’m not sure that other than using the power of your purse, you’re going to be able to limit every public university from increasing costs on tuition. But we also got to recognize that it’s got to be a partnership. I think that you could turn around and I think we should. A high school degree is no longer enough. Recognizing that, what you could do is you could cover to your college the last dollars at the federal level.
And, at least for the tuition fees part, not the living expenses, it would be relatively affordable.
Jon Favreau: [00:29:59] On immigration, what does enforcement look like in a Bullock Administration? Who gets deported, who gets detained, who gets to stay?
Steve Bullock: [00:30:09] First, let’s recognize that this president has taken humanitarian issues and made it to try to divide people all the way across. There are some systemic things, like you have a broken bureaucracy when you have 400 judges and a caseload of almost 800,000. But you turn around and say that, as far as who gets to stay, the idea that individuals here and elsewhere have known no other country but ours and are now at risk of deportation.
The dreamers, immediately, we’ve got to figure out a way to take care of them. It’s 3 million. Another eight million folks: undocumented immigrants. Two-thirds of them have lived in this country for over a decade and just even what we would get, you know, when you talk about how do we pay for things, just what we get for tax from actually getting them in a path to citizenship could be a meaningful, meaningful way along the way. Now, I don’t. What was the rest, who gets detained?
Jon Favreau: [00:31:25] I mean, I guess what I think is, you know, looking back at the Obama Administration, we obviously want a comprehensive immigration reform. We push for it very hard. We couldn’t get it done in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform.
We had a Department of Homeland Security and specifically ICE within Homeland Security that sort of ran wild on its own, at least in the first term, and rounded up, deported a whole lot of people that probably shouldn’t have been deported, people who weren’t dangerous criminals. By the end of the administration, we have the priorities changed a little bit, but I think there have been some interesting proposals in the field so far. Julian Castro said he would change it so that crossing the border illegally would be a civil infraction and not a criminal penalty anymore. Beto has talked about, from an executive standpoint, he would only deport the most dangerous criminals. Where do you come down?
Steve Bullock: [00:32:11] Well, and what O’Rourke says, right, is that now you really do have is sitting outside at the end of a plant gate shift as opposed to finding the most dangerous criminals. I mean this makes zero, zero sense. I would still keep it a criminal infraction across the border and I think that it is, you know, some folks say, all right, we got to get rid of ICE. Now as you know, you and the administration struggled with this for eight years, got the priorities presumably by the end where you thought it was. I don’t think it’s about getting rid of ICE. I think it’s about doing the reform to make sure that enforcement priorities are the hardened, the bad criminals, not the individual that’s just hanging out with their family trying to make a better life.
Jon Favreau: [00:33:01] So a growing number of Democratic presidential candidates, as well as Nancy Pelosi, about 60 House Democrats now support the creation of a commission that would develop reparation proposals and issue a formal apology to African-Americans in this country for slavery. Do you support that?
Steve Bullock: [00:33:19] You know, I support the concept of saying that there have been historical injustices that continue until today. They are having meaningful impacts in our communities. I mean, by definition, reparations is remedying past wrong by providing assistance to those who have been wronged. And certainly the promise of this country for a lot of folks isn’t, hasn’t ever been realized. It’s been a different path than you or I ever had. So where I take that is, well if we know that an African American family makes 58 percent of what a white family makes, part of that’s historical and that goes all the way to today. If you look at, in a separate context, like in my state, the lifespan of a Native American is 20 years less than someone else. Well, we’ve got to address what’s held us back along the way and I think that is where I’d go: say that there are systemic inequities today that didn’t just start today. But that’s probably different than a payment for every individual.
Jon Favreau: [00:34:43] How would you address some of the systemic inequities, you know, as you mentioned there’s both a very large and growing wealth gap between white Americans and other Americans and also infant mortality. It goes through all kinds of economic issues, housing, and there’s also, of course, inequities in our justice system. How do you start approaching some of these?
Steve Bullock: [00:35:06] It really is looking at each of the inequities and saying, what resources can we bring to bear? Even in a state like mine we got eight or nine bills through which looked at criminal justice reform. If you look at Health disparities, you know, an African-American woman is four times more likely to die in childbirth, or as far as maternal care, prior to having a child, Hispanic families have substantially different access to care. Now part of that seems like Medicaid, part of that is availability along the way, but I think for each of the issues sort of where there’s systemic differences, we have to take them one by one and say, how do we meaningfully address a community that’s been wronged?
Jon Favreau: [00:35:59] I want to talk about climate change. So I know you’ve talked about rejoining the Paris Accords. I think aside from Paris, probably the most consequential step Obama took to reduce carbon pollution was his clean power plan. Obviously power plants are the number one source of carbon pollution pollution in the United States, when we first announced that plan, you said you were very disappointed in it. Why?
Steve Bullock: [00:36:23] So, it was two different steps, right? Step number one came out and said, here’s the Montana’s mass reductions we need to do. We actually went around the entire State and said, we can actually do this. Let’s figure out how. So we went to coal communities and others. And then when you rolled out the final rule, it actually doubled the reductions expect out of Montana. So after working with EPA and others, said, look you moved the goalposts on us along the way.
Jon Favreau: [00:37:00] I mean, I guess the question is: there’s so many issues where you can say, well, this is as best as we can do and we’re compromising and compromising’s important. The only way to get things done. Climate is this issue where it’s like, okay, we’re given a deadline.
Steve Bullock: [00:37:13] We got to do something, yup, absolutely.
Jon Favreau: [00:37:14] It’s almost like the usual politics of compromise and let’s do a bit here and a bit there seem like they don’t quite fit.
Steve Bullock: [00:37:24] We can’t do that anymore, we cannot do that more, and I look at 1.3 million acres burned two years ago.
Jon Favreau: [00:37:25] What do you think we should do?
Steve Bullock: [00:37:26] Fire seasons are 78 days longer now than it was thirty years ago. So I do think that you turn around and say, IPCC says we’ve got to be at net zero by 2050. I think we can do it a lot sooner, 2040 or earlier. Certainly, yeah, some of these easy steps. It’s not only rejoining Paris, but also funding our commitments along the way. Not even the auto industry was asking for repeal of the fuel efficiency standards, you know, they were along the path. Looking at the probably the most antiquated piece of machinery that we have in this country is electrical grid. Because it’s really been cobbled together. So, investments along the way into that to make more both wind and solar available. Investing in technology as we get battery storage along the way. Energy conservation, that’s about 30% of what you could change just by hiring people to make things more efficient along the way. So I think that we need to take-
Jon Favreau: [00:38:39] Do we need a price on carbon?
Steve Bullock: [00:38:41] I think that that should certainly be on the table. I think that could be part of it. Think about though, and it’s funny as you see, well it’s not funny, it’s tragic. You know, think back to the first George Bush. So he said as president, we got address the greenhouse effect with the White House effect. Meaning as a Republican president, I am going to lead from the White House. Now Republican can’t even acknowledge climate change is human caused because of what outside spending has done. So I think this is a crisis that we have to address and we have to take it seriously. Not only our role, but our role in an international leadership perspective because we can’t do it alone. It makes no sense that, yes, China is emitting twice as much as we are when it comes to greenhouse gas, but they’re also investing a lot more into the science and technology and opportunities for what a net zero economy can look like. Your old Secretary Vilsack, Tom Vilsack. He said, I can get the whole dairy industry to net zero but they can’t do it alone. There has to be federal investment along the way.
Jon Favreau: [00:40:00] I know you’ve only been in the race for a month. Are you going to come up with a big climate plan that’s all detailed? What’s your thoughts on that?
Steve Bullock: [00:40:07] We will, we will.
Jon Favreau: [00:40:09] Do you think Donald Trump deserves to be impeached?
Steve Bullock: [00:40:12] What do you think? I mean, I’ve heard you talk. Yeah, look I think it’s a moving target. I mean from the perspective of what he is normalizing and what this administration is, normalizing is absolutely dangerous for the institution that we have. And we shouldn’t just take this sitting down. Where I say it’s moving target, and I know that you don’t think these investigations may not be the way, now there is a Constitutional obligation of oversight from Congress and I’ll be darned if the executive branch doesn’t have a constitutional obligation to respond to that. So that’s where, from my perspective if they continue to stonewall in every investigation, then I think we have to look at it. So, that’s why I say it’s a moving target. It’s also interesting though because you say, you know, you don’t want this election to be a referendum on Donald Trump. Now I’m interviewing you. Do you think this election should be a referendum on Donald Trump?
Jon Favreau: [00:41:20] I mean look, I actually think that in this election we do have to offer people a choice, right? Like I think it’s insufficient to just bash Trump from now until election day, but I also think because we are in a media environment where that man can grab the microphone and command so much attention, that it’s always going to be about Trump. 2018, yeah our candidates talked about healthcare all the time, all the ads are about health care, but opposition to Donald Trump drove that vote, right? I mean that’s why people wanted a check on Donald Trump in 2018. Healthcare is part of that, right?
Steve Bullock: [00:41:57] Because I think they were about to lose their healthcare, he’s trying to strip it away.
Jon Favreau: [00:42:01] But I think it’s just it always, to some extent especially when there’s an incumbent running for re-election, this is the case when we ran against George W. Bush, this is the case when Mitt Romney ran against Obama, he tried to make it a referendum on Obama. It always gravitates towards a referendum on the president. So I just think I mean, I guess though my question was, you know, I think there’s an honest debate to be had whether the House should move forward and actually go do this, but I’m wondering if you having- have you read the Mueller report?
Steve Bullock: [00:42:34] Read most of it, skimmed it.
Jon Favreau: [00:42:38] Do you think reading that and knowing what you know publicly that he deserves impeachment? Whether they go down that path or not, whether it’s wise to go down that path or not.
Steve Bullock: [00:42:44] I think reading the first half and I mean we should have a real acknowledgement that a foreign government interfered and invaded our country. And to allow the normalization of him standing next to Putin and saying I take him at his word is pretty damn problematic for looking backward and it’s also what we look at going forward. Now you look at here are the number of issues that were brought out in the second half of it and whether that would be cause for impeachment. I think that’s anybody’s bet or it’s anybody’s discussion to have, but if Congress can’t fulfill its oversight duty along the way of saying all right, I want to unpack some of these suitcases which were brought up in this Mueller report and other things, then I think that’s where you would get to the point where you have to impeach. Now, I would turn around and say the week for last. Seven meet-and-greets and town halls throughout Iowa. People talked about their health care, right? They talked about what these tariffs are doing. This isn’t what their discussion was. And I think that there is the potential for turning around and by moving from impeachment, the Senate locks it up, hopefully what would happen is additional information comes out. It gets any sane person to say for the sake of our representative democracy, we gotta do something about it. But I would so much rather have the next year and a half talking about the fact that the guy who will clean up the studio tonight paid more in taxes than 60 Fortune 500 companies last year or we’re now 50 years the lowest corporate tax collection ever. In the last 50 years, trillion dollars stock buybacks didn’t go to me.
Jon Favreau: [00:44:44] What you want to do about taxes? Would you repeal all of the Trump tax cuts?
Steve Bullock: [00:44:51] Look, even the corporations weren’t asking for 21% and then add on to that when you have 60 companies that not only didn’t pay taxes, that they got credits. I think you could look at a 28 percent still be competitive and close loopholes and turn around especially on the first top four brackets. Take it up. Another three points. You’d make some good money. And I think at some point, you know, somebody that again cleans this place. When they’re getting taxed at a higher rate than somebody living off the trust fund, when you look at the passive income. We’ve got it. It should be taxed as ordinary income.
Jon Favreau: [00:45:28] So the Trump Administration is now arguing, or at least it’s reported that they’re arguing behind closed doors, that the 2001 authorization for use of military force that Congress passed after 9/11 for Afghanistan gives them the authority to go to war in Iran potentially. Do you agree that the AUMF gives them the authority to go to war with Iran?
Steve Bullock: [00:45:50] You know, to tell you the truth Jon I haven’t read the AUMF lately, but the idea that they’re going to turn around and say, now we have the authority to go to war in Iran.
Jon Favreau: [00:46:04] Do you think it should be repealed? The House Democrats voted today to actually repeal the AUMF because they said that we need a new one.
Steve Bullock: [00:46:10] To be candid, I should look into it more. But even look at like “America first.” He’s become “America alone.” This Trump reflex seems to be we’re going to treat our allies as adversaries and our adversaries as allies. If you look what’s happening with Iran, it’s of his own making.
Jon Favreau: [00:46:33] You’ve said we need to campaign and legislate like our kids are watching. What do you mean by that?
Steve Bullock: [00:46:42] I’ve shared this story. So when I got elected, my kids were 6, 8, and 10. It had been 40 years since kids that age had been living in the Montana Governor’s residence. I’ll never forget my son moves in, he kicks the soccer ball and somebody goes, you know, that paintings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m like, give her the damn painting, because we have to live here. And first day I said, you’re going to hear different sounds from both the governor’s residence and my office. It’ll be the sounds of children’s laughter and that our kids learn from our words and our deeds. And we as leaders have an obligation to act like our kids are watching because they are. So what does that mean both in how I present myself and in a way that, now that I’ve teenage daughters I’m embarrassing no matter what I do, but there’s got to be ways to call out honestly. Be honest and call out the BS when it’s there, but do it in a way that elevates a system not further tears it down. And I mean what we’ve seen, and this is where you started this interview, like what got you into this? I mean, the lies, the misstatements, the dividing us by race, gender, geography, the temper tantrums. It is no exaggeration to say we now expect more out of our preschoolers than we do out of our president. That’s causing further and further divisions in this country. I can be in Montana, the legislators I work with, I can fundamentally philosophically disagree with them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have some obligation to show them respect.
Jon Favreau: [00:48:28] What’s your best bad Dad joke? I know you’re known for them.
Steve Bullock: [00:48:34] They’re all good Dad jokes. So during my launch, I was asked that as one of the questions. What does the mama buffalo say to the baby buffalo when you drop it off at school? Bi son.
Jon Favreau: [00:48:58] What are the two different sections of a Montana library? Have you heard this one? Fishing and non fishing. That is what someone who’s in the office today, who knew your coming and said, I have a great dad joke, that’s Montana related. Please pass this on, and so I did. Governor Bullock, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it and good luck on the trail.
Steve Bullock: [00:49:26] Thanks for having me. All right, Jon.