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tv   QA Author Chris Arnade on the Dignity and Resilience of the American...  CSPAN  November 27, 2022 10:15pm-11:14pm EST

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offered that and stand with hospitals in this moment. reporter: previously, you talked about getting your vaccination booster before halloween. we are past that. you were saying this had to have already had happened before to be effective for the holidays. why wasn't there this spring before when it would have had a bigger effect? dr. jha: first of all, we have been talking about this consistently for a couple of months now. and i was out here talking about people getting it before. look. it is certainly not too late if you think about the holidays. it takes a couple weeks to get maximum benefits from your booster. you start getting into relatively quickly. if people get vaccinated this week, they will have a lot of protection january, february, onward, the time we socialize the most. we have been doing a lot to keep vaccines and vaccinations happening.
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we are redoubling that effort and making it clear. reporter: has the country followed behind? dr. jha: no. we have had slow and steady progress but the bottom-line is we need more americans vaccinated. the weather is getting colder outside, as you can tell. we know the virus each of the last two years -- we have seen substantial increases late december into january. going out and getting vaccinated right now is a great way to protect yourself if that happens. reporter: the federal government purchased 171 million doses of the vaccine and so far you have 35 million into arms. that seems like a far cry from what the government paid for. is your expectation you will ever hit the 171? dr. jha: let me talk about the purchase we made. first of all, our goal is to make sure we have enough vaccines for everybody. in rural areas, you end up having to do with the fact that you may have a vial of five doses and may able to -- may be
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able to get out three. second is over time there will be updates that the fda makes. they may make a decision that one of the vaccines is what you want to use as a primary. if the fda makes that decision, we want to make sure we have plenty for that. we have made these purchases thinking across all the ways americans leave vaccines and have made decisions to make sure there are plenty of vaccines available for americans wherever they are, in rural areas, urban areas, and i think that was a really good decision to make sure there is plenty of access no matter how our vaccine usage is. reporter: i don't know what the numbers are for the flu, but are you expecting that year after year some number of americans will get their updated vaccine? what number are you hoping to achieve? dr. jha: we don't have a target. i do believe at this moment given where we are with covid and the evolution of this virus, i do expect that for a majority
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of americans, they will need an annual covid vaccine to have maximum protection. a majority of americans were eligible for a booster last fall. if they got it last fall, they are eligible this fall. it is hard to make specific predictions about this virus. but all the signs and evidence we have suggests we will probably need to update our vaccine again next year and have americans get vaccinated next year. right now, our focus is to get americans protected this >> cyber monday, the cell you've been waiting for, starts this monday at c-span shot monday and tuesdaynd save up to 35% on our latest selection of c-span sweatshirt, ants, and more. there's something for every c-span fan for the holidays, and every purchase help support our
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host: we are back with john lawrence, former chief of staff for nancy pelosi. he is discussing the democratic agenda and the leadership collection. good morning and thank you for joining us. guest: it is a pleasure to be here. host: what was your reaction when speaker pelosi stepped down from leadership and why do you think she chose to do it right now? guest: i think her major reason is she had 20 years as the leader of her party. the second-longest of anybody in modern american history. she had had an opportunity under the obama administration and under the biden administration to enact many of the highest priority legislations she was interested in, whether that was
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health care or resuscitating the economy after the collapse in 2008. infrastructure, climate change, a series of issues she was committed to. she also worked collaboratively under republicans under president trump and the rescue legislation under president bush. she has showed she has accomplished a great deal herself but she also helped bring along a new team of democratic leaders, who are now prepared to step into the leadership division. host: your personal relationship with speaker pelosi. what do you want people to know about her? what are common misperceptions that people have about her? guest: i think one of the things people misunderstand is the nature of leadership in congress and that is one of the things i write about in the book that i just wrote on her first term as
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speaker. her great success in being speaker was not a heavy-handed, authoritarian leadership, which i think people associate with her. she was not pursuing a legislative agenda that reflected the liberal wing. she is a pragmatist and understands collaboration and compromise. she derives her power from the members of her caucus who support her, because they understand she spends the time necessary talking to them, getting to know them and their political needs. that is how she ended up being so successful and been able to produce the victories, by narrow margins, when necessary to do so. host: we want to get to some of your calls. you can start calling in now for any questions or comments you have for john lawrence, former house speaker nancy pelosi's
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former chief of staff. democrats, your line is (202)-748-8000. republicans, your line is (202)-748-8001. independents, your line is (202)-748-8002. what do you think is the impact? there was a brutal attack at speaker pelosi's home while her husband was home. he is still recovering. what do you think the impact of this assault was on her decision to step down? and what do you think it says about politics today, as someone who has been around for many years? guest: i think it is hard for me to say with respect to the attack on mr. pelosi, which is a horrific event. i do not know how much that contributed to any decision she made. but i do think that in
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conjunction with the assault on january 6 against the capitol, which i think was an egregious and tragic assault on an institution she deeply cares about, helped contribute to a sense of the dangers that we face in american politics today. certainly, the attack on mr. pelosi reflected that as well. i think violence in general has been increasingly looked upon by a small, but determined segment, of the american people to respond to political grievance. that is something politicians of both parties have a legal and moral responsibility to address. host: there was an opinion contributor at "the hill" that wrote about your book. he wrote, "a nonpartisan summary of any sound first draft of
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history." he goes on to say, "it will note she is the most powerful woman in modern history, she has the most successful and enduring messenger for the modern democratic party." that is putting her place in history not just in terms of the successful woman but one of the most successful legislators in modern american history. do you agree with that and what evidence would you give people to back up why? guest: i would absolutely agree. i think the evidence i would point to is as follows. number one, she was a successful legislator under democrat and republican president. she was a major contributor to presidential success when she was in the majority and minority, because she could
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reliablyer democratic votes on high-priority legislation. when in the majority and united democratic president she was able to move legislation that had been on the agenda for years if not decades. not just affordable health care but improved energy efficiency, climate change, and a whole host of issues that had languished for many years because of divided government, sometimes because it was difficult to corral the democratic caucus. i think you have to look at that broad and often bipartisan success she had. it would not have happened, i think, without the leadership she provided. for that, i think she deserves an enormous amount of historical credit. host: before we get to the calls, here is a portion of a 2008 c-span interview speaker pelosi did at the time she had a
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new book out. she describes why she decided to run for leadership back in the late 1990's. [video clip] >> i did not have any interest in running for political office. i had experienced that. when i was born, my father was a member of congress from maryland. he was elected mayor of baltimore when i was in first grade. when i went to college, he was still mayor. it was the only life i knew. i thought that was fine for him but not what i was interested in. one thing led to another as i raised my family and became interested in issues. you find out you need a political solution so i got drawn back in and became chair of the council of democratic party, which was following the success in maryland. it was a tremendous honor. i was the chair.
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i thought that was the ultimate honor and one thing led to another and i came to congress. but i was never on the path to run. to go back to when we were 21 years old or whatever, i would never have suspected such a thing. host: that was speaker pelosi talking to brian lamb about going into leadership. what do you think made her so effective as a leader? guest: mrs. pelosi subscribes to the philosophy that great british political thinkers do, like mick jagger. you do not always get what you want, but you get what you need. she knows what her members need and she knows what the country needs. she understands her job is a careful balance between with the
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individual members want from their districts and constituents and what can practically be pass ed and enacted into law. i think that her skills at doing that speak for themselves. there is no speaker, democratic or republican, under both democratic and republican presidents who have had the success in eliciting support from her members and keeping her members disciplined in order to produce legislative results she has been able to achieve over the course of her career. host: let's get to the phones. our first caller is louis in columbus, georgia on the independent line. what is your question or comment? caller: i would like to make a statement pertaining to mrs. pelosi's career. i think she is wonderful and done an outstanding job and people will always remember her good work she contributed to
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this country. and she will never, ever be forgotten by me and all the good people here in america. guest: i want to pick up on one thing lewis mentioned and that is that her work will not be forgotten. i am a historian by training and unfortunately, people forget history. but one of the things she did -- and i talk about in the book -- is aggressive recruitment of minorities and women to both run for congress, and once elected, to elevate them with committee assignments, appointments to speaker boards, to bring them into the leadership. as they rise through this and you already system on the subcommittees and committees, you produce people in the leadership of the congressional process who reflect and look more like the diversity america is. that is something that will
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endure long beyond her service and for which the country deserves -- she deserves the respect of the country. host: let's go to topeka, kansas where we will hear from mary on the republican line. caller: i just wanted to say the person who attacked mr. pelosi, we do not know much about him. he was not republican, necessarily, he was blm activist and nudist activist. the information is not clear as far as i can see. nancy pelosi used her husband -- her and her husband used lots of money. she may have danced the democrats' agenda but she was necessarily there for the american people. she was there to increase her own wealth. she has a rich house in
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california where she lives high up the hog. that is who she is. the democrats may think she is wonderful but she enriched her own pocketbook. thank you. guest: i guess i would respond to two things prayed i would not suggest the attack on mr. pelosi was due to the assailant was of a particular political orientation. but i will say one of the disturbing things -- and it is not just me that has noted it -- was that there was not stronger condemnation from republican leaders when that occurred. that was disturbing because -- and you can see this in several editorials that have been written recently in "the new york times" -- this unwillingness of republican leadership to speak out against what happened in the capitol in january. and the assault on mr. pelosi is
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genuinely disturbing. the republicans need to take back control of their own party and one of the ways to do that would be speaking out against the use of violence, whether or not it is perpetrated by a republican or independent or whoever. on this other point, this trope about mrs. pelosi to influence herself, they were affluent long before she was a member of congress. i think that is something really not related to her legislative objectives. if you look at the legislation she promoted, she was interested in extending health care to lower minorities and expanding support for small businesses. her agenda had support for children, the child tax credit and was not designed toward enriching her or members of her family. host: let's bring up some of the tweets and texts we have
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received. this one comes from @delivertoni on, and said, she should have retired years ago. do you believe she did a good job grooming, particularly hakeem jeffries, who is not in line to leave the democrats? guest: i think he is a normally talented as well as others moving into leadership positions. i would say this in terms of retirement. everybody needs to keep in mind mrs. pelosi was speaker, not queen. she had to go every two years before the democratic caucus and make her case and often she faced challenges and criticism.
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she had to negotiate with those people and ultimately, the house and caucus elected her. the reason she stayed was because she felt that she was being effective and history will have to prove -- if you look at her second speakership -- she was enormously effective. speakers do not pick their successors any more than presidents pick their successors. this is an inherent process within the caucus and what we have seen is a new generation of leaders has been elected by the caucus, just as she has been, to assistant speaker positions and those of the people now slated to move into those leadership positions. i think it is very much a testament to the influence of mrs. pelosi this is a diverse group of people. host: i want to bring up one more tweet. this one is from @ ct yankee,
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you cannot be a good leader without being a good listener. how well does this describe nancy pelosi? how open to other's ideas is she? guest: i think one of the reasons pelosi has been a successful speaker is she will listen to people almost without limitation. the staff is well aware of that. we would very often be in the office at 11:00, 12:00, 1:00 in the morning because a member needed to make their case for an amendment or some other action on legislation. it was the reason she was effective and able to keep this diverse democratic caucus as united as it is. it is historically united under mrs. pelosi. people feel they had the opportunity to make their case. they have not always been able to prevail, they have been able to influence the design of
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legislation to have something included in the bill to vote for it. it is not common among leadership. she has created a freshman breakfast and sophomore breakfast, which never existed before, so that new members could come in on a weekly basis, meet with leaders, meet with chairman, talk about the legislation coming up. if anything i would characterize her strength is that she is a good listener, and that is not always a trait you find among politicians. host: as her chief of staff, for this book, it is based on the notes you took in real time in meetings, in strategy sessions. did you know then? what made you take notes? i remember reading the stereotype is people do not take notes because they do not want that on the record in the library of congress. why did you say, i am going to
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take notes and document everything? guest: i took notes because i am a historian and i realized going into this position that i was going to be able to make a record of the level of interchange between individuals, personalities, factions within the house, but also institutional rivalries with the senate and white house, and have that as a record for future researchers. i did not anticipate i would write a book, but as a historian, when you are working in said government at the level i worked for decades, you realize what a small sliver of evidence you often have to work with. and here i had the opportunity to provide for future researchers and scholars the ability to go back and find information as it was occurring. these notes i took, 8000 pages on which the book is largely based, they were not written
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after the meetings, they were not written decades later as people tend to do when they write books. they were written as people were enunciating these words and i think they give you the real sense of that back and forth and that tugging that goes on -- they used to call it belly bumping -- even when everybody is in control of the same branches of government. there is still personality, factions, ideology, rivalry, and that is what these notes convey that you do not get in an ordinary historical account. host: let's go back to the phone lines. from toledo, ohio, lee on the democrat line. caller: good morning, good morning america. mr. lawrence, thank you for your service too. nancy pelosi has been -- she has been the goat. she is the greatest of all time.
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she has given us the health care and that is just one example. the temperament that she constantly has when she is making leadership decisions, she thinks of us in america. so many words i could say but i will say this in closing, thank you for your service as well as speaker pelosi. i am one of those people that think she is the m.v.p.. guest: thank you very much. host: melvin is calling from here in washington, d.c. as an independent. caller: good morning. i am not sure about the politics and everything, i am just finding out about things and trying to keep my mind aware of
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what is going on. but i had to go back in history dealing with a lot situations. i am not going to debate with him on how good nancy pelosi was or is, but i never really heard her speak about the african-americans. i think i fell into that and i have been trying to get my case heard since 2008. i think my case as far as my accident that happened september 3, 2008, created a lot of what
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is happening in this world today. i am being held inside an apartment they have given me. not one person wants me to petition the court to see where i lie in what is going on with me. i think i am being used. host: we appreciate your call. we got your point and we are going to let john respond. melvin brings up issues speaking to african-american issues but also said he had an issue related to the criminal justice system. what kinds of things did speaker pelosi tackle along those lines? guest: mrs. pelosi had the opportunity to work with those great civil rights leaders in the country and the congress, john lewis was one of her greatest inspirations. most recently, her greatest
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concern has been trying to restore those provisions of the voting rights act which was eviscerated by the supreme court. and congress did pass the john lewis voting rights act and other legislation to rescind some of the laws that have been passed at a state level that would obstruct the ability of people to vote and try to modernize those provisions that had been initiated by the supreme court. unfortunately, this is one of the situations where the lack of strong majority in the senate has prevented action from being taken. there are hundreds of bills the house has passed that the senate, largely because of its 50-50 senate, there are a number of structural and procedural reasons these bills do not pass. unlike other legislation, something like voting rights
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cannot go into the reconciliation process. that allows you to pass legislation with 51 votes. absent any support from the republican side it has been impossible to take up that extension. host: cynthia in staten island, new york on the republican line. your thoughts. cynthia, are you with us? we will have to come back to cynthia. let's try tom. tom is in washington, d.c. caller: good morning. thanks for your service. i recommend the book to everyone. i have two questions. i wonder if you could speak about the role of congressman john scranton and was assistant
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to nancy pelosi for several years? my second question is, what advice would you give to the new republican speaker? guest: as far as congressman spratt was concerned, he was long-term chairman from south carolina. and was one of those marginal democrats who was occupying a seat that was voting republican other than he. he is one of my heroes. he served for many years, provided members of congress leadership on key budget issues which are pretty hard to understand, pretty hard to explain, and it was his diligence and that of his staff that enabled congress to utilize both the budget process to pass the spending initiatives and reconciliation process, particularly when that became necessary to pass the affordable care act to extend health care
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to 30 million americans and make it more affordable for millions more. as far as my advice to whoever the next republican speaker is going to be, and it may be congressman mccarthy, it may be not. he fell 31 votes short of the majority he will need january 3. i suspect there is a lot of roiling inside the republican caucus. my advice would be twofold. not that he asked but number one is he has got to get management and control of his own caucus. the republican caucus has been notoriously difficult to manage. in the book i mentioned i encountered john boehner in 2010 and he told me, i am going to be more popular in your caucus in six months than in my own, because he knew his majority was dependent upon the infusion of
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tea party members who viewed him as much of a problem as they did mrs. pelosi and the democrats. six months later he told me, i have not made it there yet, but i am close. i think mccarthy or whoever is going to face a similar problem. a lot of republicans who have come into office who view the congress in an adversarial way and did not feel it is necessary to commit themselves to the basics of passing appropriation bills or debt ceilings, the things necessary to keep the government operating and delivering services like social security and veterans checks. the speaker is going to have to get control over that republican caucus. the chances are the speaker will have to come to democrats over and over again insecure those, because he will not be able to get votes from republicans. my concern is the level of
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partisanship has grown to such a degree that it may be more difficult to get those votes. whoever that leader is they have to sit down with hakeem jeffries and the democratic leadership and determine the working basis upon which they are going to proceed so there is greater collaborative processes that go on as we face these issues coming down the road. host: next up on the democratic line is doug in muskogee, oklahoma. caller: my comment is speaker pelosi is, in a sentence, able to get things done. i kind of relate her speakership when the insurrection happened. who was doing most of the talking between schumer and
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mcconnell? nancy pelosi was the one doing the talking. i kind of like in that -- liken that to a commercial that somebody gets things done. what i mean is, when somebody talks, she listens. thank you very much. host: that thought about pelosi, when she talks, people listen, and she was the one being out front and may be the uncomfortable thing or save a thing other people will not. we saw that after january 6. is that a trait you saw from her throughout the years? did it develop over time or was that always part of her characteristics? guest: she chooses her words
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judiciously but she does not shy away from controversy, she does not shy away from putting issues out there. in the book repeatedly, you will see her take very confrontational stances with people with whom she has strong agreement, barack obama, harry reid, chuck schumer, members of her own caucus, insisting they address issues of importance to her house members. she is a very direct -- sometimes people will see the public nancy pelosi and she is very well spoken, very articulate and she can be very pleasant and she is. but when you are in the back room and deals are getting cut or she feels the house's position is being challenged unfairly, there is no doubting as to her opinion and what she expects other people to do. she can be very direct and very
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outspoken. host: let's hear from lisa in texas calling as an independent. caller: good morning. i have a comment. mrs. pelosi is my kind of lady. she has a lot of grace with spark and fire. she has done a lot for the common american people. guest: i would say that when she went to congress in 1987 in the special election there were 12 women in the congress, and many occupied widow seats that they had gotten because their husbands had died and they had run for office. there were far fewer african-americans, far fewer hispanic members or asian-american members. i think that she cast a very
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broad strategy to attract people, to bring people into congress, to encourage them to run. she felt strongly about elevating women's issues and although i think she was reluctant to overemphasize her role as the first woman speaker -- and it is obvious she was -- nevertheless, she put issues she thought were critical to women, working women, families, children on the front of the agenda. she also -- she was very moved and is very moved by her personal faith. she views many of the issues she addresses, whether it is climate change or the future of the environment or the future of children, very much from that kind of ethical and religious basis. this is a role she feels and a job she fulfills in a deeply personal way along her constitutional responsibilities.
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host: our next caller is alan in waverley, ohio, calling as a republican. caller: good morning. the house of representatives has the primary responsibility for the nation's finances. when she took office, the national debt was $2 trillion, when she is leaving it is $32 trillion. it is the highest percent we have had in the history of the country. won't she have some part of the responsibility for basically destroying our nation's finances? thank you. guest: well, i think everyone in congress is going to share responsibility for the debt. nobody gets to escape that responsibility. i would point out that throughout her speakership, and throughout her service in congress, a lot of the damage
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that has been done to the debt in terms of the deficit has been done by republican tax policies, quite frankly. she opposed those policies. she opposed the $1.7 trillion deficit tax cut president trump put through. she opposed the bush tax cuts that were unpaid for in the early parts of his administration and she fought hard to rescind in 2012 the $600 billion tax cut for the upper 1% or 2%. she warned at the beginning of the iraq war it would cost $1 trillion and she was almost laughed out of the room. i think it has cost $7 trillion. i am not here to exonerate nancy pelosi or democrats in their role. i think everybody bears culpability for spending, but i will say this, when she ran -- when we were running in 2006 to win the majority, she fought to
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impose the pay-as-you-go role which have been developed in 1982 by george miller from california. it achieved balance budgets in the 1990's. when republicans took over, they rescinded it and they never founded pay-as-you-go which means you cannot add to the deficit without paying for it first by either raising taxes or cutting spending. the deficit skyrocketed under president bush. it had been balanced for three years under the leadership of john spratt on the budget committee and president clinton. the deficit skyrocketed with the wars, unpaid for mandates like the expansion of medicare to part d and tax policies. these are serious responsibilities and nobody evaded these, that's true, but this concern that she had --
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they did restore the pay-as-you-go when we won majority in 2006. these have been efforts to put constraints around the deficits. host: next is pam in california on the democratic line. go ahead. caller: i wanted to call in and say i love nancy pelosi. she is a strong, god-fearing lady. the main thing about here is good moms love their children. great mother's love all children. nancy pelosi is a great mother. she is a nurturer by nature. i appreciate her husband and her family and the deficit has nothing to do with her. the little bit of deficit they ran up they gave to the american children and the poor and middle-class. the rest of the deficit went to unnecessary war and to the super wealthy. you have to have a heart to know
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where to put your money. she has a heart. she knows what to stand behind when it came to putting money in the right place. god bless her forever. she is the most beautiful, sophisticated, quiet storm. noisy when she needs to be and can tear something up. i love the way she shut trump down. she saved our lives, she saved our country, she saved our democracy. god bless her forever. i love her. thank you, nancy. host: can you expand more on the role families play in speaker pelosi's leadership? guest: again, there are certain personal aspects of her life i am not as comfortable speaking about because they are personal. certainly, anybody who has worked with her nose the extent to which faith is an important part of her life.
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she is a regular -- attends church on a regular basis and she will quote scripture often when she is talking about the political and policy objectives she faces. in terms of family and children, those are primary for her. and if you will remember, when she first became speaker, when she took over the oath in january 2007, she told us in the office what she wanted to do the moment she became speaker was to invite the children on the floor as part of the swearing in ceremony to come up to the podium and the representatives said, no, no, no, you cannot do that. mrs. pelosi, when she was about
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to be given the gavel, turned to the audience and said, i want the children to come up. they did and got that iconic photo. she adopted it at that point the space for the children. that was the motivation behind her speakership and her legislative and policy goals. you saw that reflected in support for things like the expanded child tax credit, which she fought for at the very beginning of her speakership. she was able to achieve both in hosted by the information technology and innovation foundation, live coverage begins at noon eastern on c-span. at 4:00 p.m., secretaries of state of michigan and georgia discuss elections and protecting the integrity of the democratic
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host: i wanted to put the cover of your new book, "dignity," on the screen. have you explain its essence to me. guest: ok. "dignity" is a book about my five years driving around the united states, spending time in what i would call back road america, the part of america that is everywhere. it is not a red state or blue state of thing, it is the towns and communities that have been ignored or left behind or forgotten. places like selma, alabama, like the north side of milwaukee, like the bronx in new york city. places that are kind of stigmatized and defined in various ways as being places where there is high crime or poverty, but places that make up
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a large part of the united states. guest: that is the back row, the front row is -- -- host: that is the back room. -- row. define the front row. guest: the front row is me. i used to work on wall street before i did this, i have a phd in physics. those are what i call front row professions. people who have harvard degrees, yale degrees, who make up a large part of the political class. people who make up a large part of wall street and the media. people who are very different in many different ways but have a similar lived experience after high school, which is primarily about where they go to college, where they go to school. host: and the poor, which a lot of these folks are, have always been part of our society and
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many western societies. is there anything distinctive about people who are poor in america right now? guest: first of all i would say that part of the change over my lifetime certainly, i am in my 50's, is the income gap between the poor and wealthy. both statistically has grown in the last 30 years. but what i have found and what my book tries to highlight is the differences are not just about statistics, the differences are about how people live, how people think, their whole worldview. what i learned in my book, and i hope i can communicate to the reader is that being poor, or being forgotten or left behind is not just about a statistic. it's about a way of life and feeling humiliated, feeling disenfranchised, feeling the whole way you view the world is ignored and demeaned and looked
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down on. and i think i call the book "dignity" because what i found during those five years all over the u.s. in these communities is i found a frustration and humiliation and a search for dignity, a desire to be dignified and have a dignity, despite what statistically is very bad circumstances. host: the concept of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps has been part of america from its very beginning. you think even about abraham lincoln from the log cabin to the white house. is the concept grounded in reality? guest: i certainly don't think so. it is a wonderful ethos, i think everyone i met on my journey has aspirations to pull themselves
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up, but the ability to do that is very much about where you are and who you know. i think in this world we have created, where i say we have this gap between the front row, the educated elite, and the back row, the people i spent time with, the gap is so large. and that cap -- gap is so large not only in material terms but in how people think about the world that some people in the back row don't even know what it means to be in the front. they don't know how to pull themselves up. they don't know. one of the things we in the front row, we educated, we know the rules. we are supposed to study real hard, sit in the front row, listen to the teacher, perform well on tests, go to the right school, build a resume that gets us into the right schools which gets us the right jobs, into the right neighborhoods, and so on.
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the people in the back row don't know that, some of them don't know that exists. they don't have a map and they don't know how to do it. and i think even if they do know how to do it, there are so many obstacles in their way. to succeed in the world we have created, to be successful, to go to harvard on scholarship and go to graduate school and work as a wall street trader, you have to walk this tight rope, doing all of these things right from the very beginning. if you make one mistake, you fall off. and often, it is over. you cannot do it. host: is the book inherently political? guest: not explicitly. i intended it to be timeless in that sense. the five years i was doing the
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research took place during the election of 2016. so it is hard not to have politics explicitly in it. explicitly, i think the 2016 election is only mentioned three times in the book out of 300 pages. but i think the political ramifications are clear. i think, i hope what the book communicates to people is that if you are in a forgotten community and you feel humiliated and you want dignity, there are political ramifications for a lot of people feeling that way. if a large percent of the electorate is so frustrated and feeling frustrated, the political consequences are clear. you will have people that remove
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themselves. they just opt out of the system. i call that justified cynicism. they look at the system and say nope. why should i play this game? and there is another group of people who will basically knock over the table. things are not working for them as is, so why not knock over the table and try some thing different? host: i heard in an interview that you said the book has generally been ignored by people on the left of the political spectrum. if that is the case, why do you think it is so? it seems to be an indictment of capitalism, why would it be ignored by the left? guest: i don't know. it is for me a little surprising. my background. i was raised as a democrat, we had democratic club meetings in my house as a kid.
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i am a lifetime democrat and i count myself as a leftist. and i thought the book was to degree it has an ideology it is, as you said, an indictment of the current capitalistic system. i think part of it is, one of the chapters is called faith. and one of the lessons i learned over those five years was the importance of faith and the very dignified role religion plays in people's lives. and i think that caught people on the left off guard. i think some on the left don't particular want to hear that. i say this as somebody who started the project as an atheist and i count myself now as agnostic, i guess. spending five years with homeless people and in neighborhoods blighted by
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poverty and drug dens and seeing that the only thing that works for people was religion. it wasn't just pragmatic, it played a real, central role in their lives and i could not ignore that. i couldn't look beyond that and not write about it. host: it is clear this was an evolution for you. in order to understand that evolution, tell me more about your roots. where were you born? you mentioned your parents were democrats, tell me how you were brought up.
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guest: i was born in a small, southern town in florida. a lot of people don't think florida is the south but it was very much the south. 500 people in town and my parents were a bit of the outsiders, they arrived in the late 1950's when most people in the town had been there three or four generations. my father was a professor. one of the few professors in town. that's where we grew up. 99%, working-class community in the south. the minute i could, i got out of there. i was good at math, and as much as i liked the people in the town, and i did like them, it was not for me. and i was an altar boy and did all of the things in town, played little league and high school football. by the time i graduated high school, i was reading science books, was an atheist, and did not feel like i fit in and wanted something different. i left, went to college, got an undergraduate in math. host: where did you go to school?
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guest: new college in sarasota, florida. host: how did you get from there to the phd? guest: i took tests and was good at it, it came naturally. i was always into the big questions. the big question in my mind was cosmology. so i went to johns hopkins, which had the space telescope. 1986, 1987, i went and got a phd in theoretical physics. host: and from there to wall street. what was that? guest: i was one of the first people to do it, it is now a pretty common route. they call them rocket scientists. at some point people on wall street realize it is all numbers and here is this group of people who are good at numbers. i was not particularly great at physics. to make a career in physics, you have to absolutely love it and i liked it but i did not absolutely love it.
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and so i was not particularly good at it, so i left and went to wall street. host: were you good as a bond trader? guest: yes. host: how long did you do it? guest: 20 years. host: how did your life sell change? -- lifestyle change? guest: quite a bit. me and my family would like to say we did not change much, but i think over time. i got paid more my first year than my father ever made. 10 times more than i got as a grad student. you know, we lived what i thought was a relatively modest life but it wasn't. we had a big apartment in brooklyn, and sent our kids to a private school and did all of the things you do when you live in new york city as a wealthy person. host: what happened?
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guest: i always was -- i always took walks to relieve stress, like 20 miles. being something of a science geek, i made a goal to walk the entire length of the new york city subway system above ground. i had done that and i realized at some point that i had not gone to the bronx. i called them my terminus walks, i would walk along the route. in 2008 during the financial crisis, my life changed dramatically because of the financial crisis. my kids were older and my walks could be longer. i started making those walks not just about the goal of completing the subway system, walking wherever you could, but i started realizing what i enjoyed about the walks were the people i met during the walks.


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