tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg January 10, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: 11 days. today is january ninth. january 20th, a new president takes over. when i say that, 11 days left in the obama administration, what do you think? denis: i think there's still a lot of work we have to get done in these 11 days. i think that i'm glad it's just about that and not many more. and i think that thank god we did as much as we did until now because i will tell you what --
i used to say this in the start of the second term, the beauty of being around for two terms is first of all, that means you got reelected, but you also have the perspective of how quickly those first four years went and the , second go even faster. little 11 days, i say a -- it gives me a little anxiety, because we have work to do, but it gives me release. -- relief. charlie: what do you have to do? denis: move a lot of documents to the national archives. that's the first thing we have been worrying about. we have a team that has been working on this this whole calendar year. moving hundreds of millions of emails, hundreds of millions of documents, pursuant to the presidential records act. charlie: hundreds of millions of emails? all public emails go into this? denis: correct. they'll go into the national archives and become public records, searchable to the public. we are doing their business and they get a chance to look at our email.
that's one thing we've got to do. another thing we have to do, we have business yet we want to get done. charlie: like what? denis: we are making a series of good arguments this week about the affordable care act. we think that some of the debate that is beginning today in the senate in earnest would benefit from an insertion of the fact s and the experience we have had with the act. the other big thing we have to do is make sure we are doing everything we can to get the next president and his team everything they need to be ready on january 20, because he's going to be president, and that is in the constitution. there are no do overs were start overs. -- or start overs on this charlie: what will you miss the one. most? denis: i will miss the people. the team of people is unbelievably capable committed , group of people. ifay this all the time, that
you can design anything about your work, you want to design the people you get to work with. we spend more time together than we do with our families. charlie: you better like them. denis: you better like them, and you better respect them. you better treat them with respect and with dignity. because by the way, they are going to see you at your best and see you at your worst. charlie: tomorrow in chicago, the president will give his farewell. the tradition goes all the way back to george washington. left generalve , eisenhower, great speech, the military-industrial complex. what are the themes of this president who you know so well, almost like a brother? denis: i have seven brothers. [laughter] charlie: and four sisters. denis: that's right.
so my job with the president, my relationship with him, i have been his staff guy. i have always understood that. i hope one day i will be his friend. charlie: but he calls you his friend. denis: i aspire to that, believe me. he's still working the speech, but i think what you will hear tomorrow is a lot of what you have heard since we started. that is part of why he wanted to go back to chicago to give this speech. this is a place where, working on the south side of chicago in neighborhoods under the shadows of the abandoned steel mills, as a community organizer with people who had been knocked out their 24 -- that had been real paths in the middle class, he recognized he had a gift for organizing, a gift for getting people working together toward the same goal . i think that is what you will
hear a lot about from the president tomorrow. the importance of sticking together, working together, standing up for what you believe in and fighting like hell for it. charlie: he believes america is strong. denis: he believes america is strong, and he believes america is an exceptional power, and he believes as he has said aliens -- numerous times, his personal story is only possible in this country. i happen to believe that, too. charlie: raised by one parent. denis: raised by one parent, got to know his dad only sparingly, raised by grandparents, and he got the shot he got because he had a good education. charlie: that is part of his political success. he was able to make his narrated in 2008 a story of america. denis: it is the story of america. he did not have to make it. charlie: he had to tell it.
he had to make it his narrative. denis: he is an unbelievable story teller. charlie: he will talk about his narrative. denis: he will talk about it, he will talk about the fact that that narrative can still be true here. i don't want to get ahead of the speech because he is still working it. one thing i do know is that this president -- i'm never going to get ahead of him and the speechwriters on this one. that's for sure. so we have to wait until tomorrow to see what he says. denis: i think so. charlie: we should talk about the media, because he talks not criticizing, but how it has changed and how it affects democracy. he talked about that theme in some exit interviews. denis: he has been talking about it and we have done a good job in some places but we have also been on the wrong end. information is moving superfast and stories move superfast. when i talked to my
predecessors, they talk about at the end of the day, when they called the news anchors to talk about the weekend and what happened the week before and the week ahead, is not the media climate we live in. media is much more disaggregated, much more specialized. people can get their media the way they want it from the sources they want. charlie: and sometimes you don't know where the source is coming from. denis: that's right. charlie: in terms of fake news. then we have a president who tweets, a president-elect. denis: the president talked about that little bit yesterday. he said that has been a tool that has served the president-elect well and gets him instantly in touch with his voters and with the media.
but he also talked about that. charlie: 140 characters. denis: information is moving fast. charlie: suppose you were giving a farewell address. what would you want to say? you've been by the side of barack obama since he was in the senate. scene two campaigns. seen twoen -- you have campaigns. you have seen the white house from the oval office. you have traveled with them as he met foreign leaders and in some sense, you controlled who had access to him. so what does denis mcdonough say in his farewell? denis: i will tell you what i would say. first, i don't know who it -- who would come. it would be like an empty hall. but i would say thank you. it's an unbelievable opportunity to watch the president do what he's doing. the second thing is i would say as amazing as the president's
story is, that is what has always made america great. i'm as unlikely a chief of staff as he is unlikely a president. i've got 10 brothers and sisters, grew up in minnesota , and now here i am. i didn't even know these jobs existed. but that's because in this country, if you take a shot, you will get it. charlie: what are you going to tell your grandchildren? there have been moments that you say to yourself, i will never forget that. denis: god willing, i will have grandkids and that will be a great thing. what i will tell them is that the things that make you get a shot to be chief of staff, or a staffer in the white house, to or be hard-working, to get
smart, get as smart as you can argue like hell your position and if you lose the argument, you fall in behind whatever the decision is and get on with it. nobody needs to know a staffer's position. charlie: that brings me to the question of what does the chief , of staff do? give us a sense of your day and what it has been like. when do you see the president and who do you see before that? are you there for security briefings? denis: i start the morning with a workout, then i get my security briefing. we go into a series of meetings with the senior staff. one in the chief of staff's office, one in the roosevelt room. then, the president comes down and has his security briefing. i join him with the deputy national security adviser. the deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, and the vice president, and his national security advisers.
that's the first time i see him in the day. then, we go on to meetings throughout the day. i see him before he goes home at night. charlie: sum up the day. denis: the day depends on what is happening. a lot of what we do is driven by what is happening. getting us ready, getting the arguments ready for a fight on the hill. we have basically, during the morning, a lot of prep time for various press engagements and in the afternoon, it's toward development either in the national economic council, domestic policy council and national security council, and the office of science and technology policy. every day, everyone is cranking out new ideas and implementing things like the affordable care act. charlie: people say the only thing that couldn't get to the president's desk is something that could not be decided earlier.
denis: if you have done a good service as chief of staff, -- you have done a great disservice as chief of staff if an easy decision gets to the president. those decisions get there because they are hard. my job is to make sure those decisions are teed up to him square, not uneven. it has been developed transparently. anybody who has a view on the matter has been heard on it. the papers not going to come out and the decisions not going to come out, and the president checks block a and they say i never got a chance to make that argument. i wanted to make an argument for block b, and i was not given that opportunity. charlie: your job is to be an honest broker? denis: partially. my job includes other things, but that is what i feel is my most critical assignment, to be an honest broker, so when the president of the united states has to make a difficult
decision, he has all the information he needs, and it is teed up in a way that everyone who wants a shot at it has a shot at it. charlie: you control access to the president. that makes you what some people call the second most powerful person in washington. denis: maybe it has been different in other white house is -- white houses. maybe it is because of how president obama works. it's important to know what's going in and what's coming out. i don't control access to the president. thelie: you controlled paper flow, you control what he sees, who he sees. denis: we have a team that makes a series of these decisions. charlie: but you are the ultimate decider. denis: you know who the ultimate decider is? the president. will saythe president he wants to see so-and-so, and fes, please make sure he gets in? denis: or i hear he is not
getting in, he will straighten us out. charlie: when is he most angry? when hee's most angry has the impression that you have withheld information. charlie: he did not think she had everything he needed. denis: yes. i think this is probably an .nstinct of all presidents it is particularly true of president obama. he wants information. he doesn't want to be given information that somebody else has managed open together. he wants to be able to get his own. roomie: he goes around the and says, i haven't heard from you. denis: yes. general jones used to say if you are getting close to the end of the meeting and haven't said something, you better get ready , because you're about to get called on by the president. he wants to hear. he wants to hear dissension he , wants to hear if there are alternative views.
i think that is why he insisted on being able to get his own wireless, so he can get ,nformation off the internet read what he wants to read, and not be subject to whatever his staff pushes into him. charlie: he goes to dinner with the family? denis: he does. charlie: that is essential for him? denis: yes. in 2013that clear to me when we talked about the job. it is really important to him to have dinner with his family every night. he is vigorous about defending that time. as somebody who grew up sitting around the table with my family, i don't want him to miss that either. after that, he's working. he goes home with a stack every
through an election. he has said, as he said to the staff, and you have said to the staff history zigs and zags. , why did it zags? denis: i think the thing we talked about at top of this interview is something we all believed to be true about the united states, which is if you are working hard at school and you are rolling up your sleeves and doing your homework, playing by the rules, you get a shot. that was true for my parents, true for your parents, it's why my grandparents came here from ireland. they were not getting that fair shot. i think people feel right now it is that basic bargain that you play by the rules come , you will get a shot. a lot of people feel the deck is stacked against them and i think that informed a lot of the
voting in the fall. charlie: for eight years, you had to combat the bully pulpit, the megaphone, to save them that's not true. we are here to communicate with you, to tell you how we are trying to make things better. somehow that failed. the election is the result. denis: we are not here to only communicate with the american people. we are here to change things. if you were to stack up the fact that we are now, just last friday, the 72nd month in a row of job growth. this is the longest streak of job growth, greater than 50%, greater than the 48 months, we have changed the health care system, 23 million people have health care. we've changed the way we conduct foreign affairs. we have changed the way wall street did business. we feel like we made a lot of changes.
nevertheless, the american people still don't feel that in key ways. charlie: explain to me why that is. the president's approval is as high as it has been a while and yet, you have an election result that you had. he says he could have won. he said that today was axelrod. chicagoans talking about politics. denis: i think what he said is for two elections in a row, he the majority in the country, which has obviously not been done since eisenhower. he feels strongly -- charlie: he got the electoral vote and the popular vote. denis: that's right. the majority of the popular vote, not just a plurality. he continues to feel strongly that his message of hope is the right message, and it's not only
right but it is also timely for precisely the reason we are talking about. hearts of the country still don't feel like they are getting that -- parts of the country don't feel like they are getting that fair shot. is that going to be resolved in eight years after the deepest recession since the great depression? probably not. charlie: but their lives should be better off and they should be recognizing that, if we've gone from where we've gone in 2008 when he was being elected to where we are in 2017, when he's handing over power. there's some basic disconnect. denis: there may be, or as traditionally is the case in america when people have great aspirations and great expectations, they always want more. that's one of the great things about this country. charlie: there's also this. he has said that she spent most of his time trying to govern rather than trying to build the democratic party, rather than taking care of politics.
he had a team that helped him in 2008 and they helped him again with changes in in the 2012, constituencies he appealed to. but he essentially said, i was governing. the democratic party, in his own words, and he's the head of the democratic party is in bad , shape. he said that. they need to rebuild. he said it. denis: he acknowledged all the things you said. he also said he acknowledges the part of the role he had in it . he also acknowledges we have the best ideas. we are watching this play out this week. it is great when you're in the opposition to be against things. when you are governing, you have to be for them and you have to deliver. we are seeing this play out in the house and senate now. charlie: in terms of affordable care. denis: yes.
they get a chance now to be forceful. charlie: they being the republicans and the president-elect. denis: well, he's not in office yet here it my comments are reflecting specifically the debate going on in the congress now. they said they will repeal and replace the affordable care act. the president said the other day, propose something that will cover, reduce the uninsured rate to the lowest it's ever seek and we will historically slow cost growth in health care, give me a system that will make a pre-existing -- foron that you have example, in some cases, pregnancy would not be covered under the old system because it is considered a pre-existing condition. so he said, give me a system that does all those things, and i will be the first one to go
and argue for the repeal of the affordable care act and the replacement of the system. but a system that covers this many people at this rate of historically slow growth while covering things like substance abuse, disorder treatment, opioid addiction, pre-existing conditions, they are going to find out this is -- charlie: it is a very controversial program in the country as you know. time an issueore of communication, an issue of being able to explain? spurts in terms of getting started, as you have acknowledged. which you probably are responsible in part. denis: if not in the main. there is no question about that, that it is controversial. i ask you but you are a o, right?cator, to
you tell me what about the republican proposal to replace the affordable care act will scratch these itches we are talking about? cost growth pre-existing , condition coverage, parity for addiction or substance abuse disorder. those are all things that are present in the existing affordable care act. those are facts, so let's talk about the facts. charlie: but at the same time, people are dropping out of the exchanges left and right. denis: i don't think that's true at all. charlie: insurance companies were not participating. there was a series of announcements by different insurance companies. there are 23 million to 24 million people who have coverage as a result of the afford will care act who did not have it before. partially, that is an outcome of the expansion of medicaid and partially, it's an expansion of
the marketplaces. the idea that people were dropping out of that left and right, or that insurance companies were dropping out left and right, there were some who are in and some who are out. this is an industry that has a lot of turn every year. that was true before the affordable care act and it's true today. the difference is nearly 24 million people now have coverage that did not have it under the old system. what is also true is year on year for the last three years we have seen the rates of health care inflation lower than at any time since world war ii. charlie: so, what is your warning to the american people, if in fact the affordable care act is done away with and there is nothing to replace it? what's going to happen? denis: i'm not making warnings to the american people.
the good news is -- charlie: should you be? denis: the good news is the republicans are coming out of the gate with a series of proposals now to reform, repeal replace the affordable care act. , they say they've got one to repeal. they don't have one to replace. our challenge to them is take advantage of this time to come out -- come up with a plan before you repeal it. -- 24 millionople people with a reliance on this. charlie: you are fighting hard because you believe it's part of a central legacy of president obama? denis: we are fighting hard for this because we believe working families want health care coverage. when we were talking about the basic bargain at the heart of the american dream, one of those things was if you play by the rules, you can get your shot.
if you play by the rules, you can get your health care coverage. but guess what? until the affordable care act, it you played by the rules -- if you played by the rules, if you had ap p existing condition, or even pregnancy it was allowable , for health care companies to say we're not going to allow that. charlie: what's the biggest mistake you made when you have look back in terms of getting that affordable care act passe d? in 2010, oru mean once we had the authority to implement it? in 2009 and 2010, to be honest, i was an observer from down the hall in the national security council space. i believe hard things are hard. back toesident franklin roosevelt had tried to get health care coverage, universal health care coverage.
it's hard, it takes time. we have a plan that in the main has developed and delivered. charlie: the president went up to congress to try to tell democrats up there don't take the bait. denis: he went to congress to say thank you for working with me on this and keep fighting for because it's working. he went to congress to say if they have a plan that covers all the things we want to cover, pre-existing conditions, having historically low cost growth, having tens of millions of people get health care coverage that didn't have it before -- charlie: one thing you have had to do is deal with the idea of hacking and you have argued that it was necessary to release a report and have all the intelligence agencies report to the president that was delivered to the president-elect. is that bothersome for you and
for the president, the reaction of the president-elect? denis: look, we thought the report was important for the following reasons. the president ran in 2008. he and john mccain's campaigns were hacked at the time. he ran in 2012 and then we witnessed this election in 2016. we thought it was important we get a straight up test assessment from our professionals in the intelligence community's who are excellent. her size they why that has happened so as to give the next set of policymakers the best set of information so they can develop lands end policies to be sure it doesn't happen again. the best way to start that is to give them our best assessment
based on all sorts of intelligence. that was the motor -- that was the motivation and now they are really going to scrub in on this in the first 90 days of the administration. the president has raise this with the president-elect. i have raised it with my counterpart. there is no single issue on which i've spent more time than cyber security in the last -- charlie: how vulnerable are we? denis: we are only vulnerable if we make mistakes and click on the wrong email. i think we have been very discerning about collecting the best evidence. charlie: even though we knew in october there was an intelligence judgment --
charlie: the president has said the toughest day for him was newtown. guns are still huge issue. what more could be done? is there anything we could have done because we believe guns are tied to -- denis: we spent a lot of time on this question, talking to republicans and democrats, should i have reached out to gun manufacturers to come in? charlie: did they? denis: no. charlie: you asked them to come in and they say no? denis: that's correct. i will leave it to them. i grew up in minnesota. i'm a fisherman. i'm not a hunter, but all my buddies are fishing or hunting.
i have a great admiration for that and so does the president, but the prevalence of firearms this country, including weapons of war doesn't make much sense. we have thought long and hard about that and it still astounds me we don't have simple background checks. we gave it everything we had in that vote and that debate. and we have looked at everything we can do with our executive authority and i think we have done important things, tightening the database for background checks, making sure we understand precisely what happens in gun shows. if the question is is there more we wish we could have done on
guns, the answer is yes. charlie: you have said and the president has said you think about syria every day. it is a human tragedy. you look at aleppo and so much of that country has been destroyed. there is still a civil war, although it looks like the person person supported is on the winning side as we speak. what is going to be history's judgment about syria in your
judgment? what will it say? denis: i think it's difficult for me to stipulate to one premise you raise which is assad comes out of this a winner. charlie: i mean by terms of territory control and retaking aleppo. denis: i think that's a very important question. charlie: there was a conference in which iran, turkey and russia, not the united states, met to talk about the future of syria. denis: nobody has done more interesting and important reporting on this then you, including a very critical acknowledgment in august and september in 2013, when president of saud -- president assad under a credible threat of
force from the united they technology the existence of a chemical weapons program on your show with you. for the first time ever. something he refused to acknowledge. charlie: and acknowledge that if there might not be a strike, he might be forced to do something about the chemical weapons. denis: right. charlie: i talked to you on the phone because you were on face the nation when i was leaving. denis: and what happened is not only did he knowledge the existence of that program, but he gave it up under international inspection. that's the result of a credible
threat of military force on the president of the united states. something he develop over the course of many months. the first thing history will acknowledge is potentially, for the first time, a government gave up its chemical weapons arsenal and knowledge its program. as a result of american pressure. the second thing it acknowledges is unimaginable human suffering where basically 7 million syrians are not in the home they want to be in, either internally displaced -- charlie: and they are disrupting and causing political change in europe. denis: yes. the third point and the one you are referring to is this intense humanitarian suffering brought about by one the person -- one person alone, thought, aided, by
the way i the russians. schools, hospitals, residences is having a geopolitical impact. there act that the russians needed to intervene geopolitically i don't think is a sign of russian strength. and also record the united states, as relates to this humanitarian suffering, has for years led international investment to address that. it is still for the reasons we talked about at the beginning, something that as the president has said and i have acknowledged, john kerry has
said and susan rice, something we continue to look for options and outcomes every day. but, what we also know is that the question of whether the united states got more deeply involved militarily. as being the best possible outcome. charlie: the president has spoken, i remember at the time of the afghan surge, he was certain, he was searching for alternatives at that time and felt like it was said that he was perplexed by not having more options.
true or not true? denis: i think that's true. charlie: here you have a situation that it's either 100,000 plus troops or what? was there no alternative? you clearly searched hard. you understood what was happening on the ground. you understood the united states was the most powerful country in the world. you understood was it only the fact that you didn't think you could make a difference that you didn't do more? denis: first question is what was the objective? the first objective was stopping the use of the chemical weapons arsenal.
charlie: and we achieved that. denis: the question often debated is whether we shouldn't have intervened so as to express very manifestly our opposition to how he was conducting business to include by use of chemical weapons. the use of force for the use of force sake doesn't make a lot of sense strategically. the threat of the use of force to achieve one's objective, knowing that you need to backup the threat makes a lot of sense strategically, and we did. then the question becomes after that, to what end would we have intervened militarily to express our opposition to syria's
conduct in its civil war. that would make us belligerent. but the president has been clear about and the nature of your question suggests you believe it's a false choice to say either don't get involved or put 100,000 troops on the ground. charlie: i'm asking the question, was that the only two alternatives? denis: there are other alternatives -- there are other alternatives. my judgment, it would have made a difference and there is none that would have allowed us with confidence to say that once you started you would not get more deeply pulled in. charlie: and in the end, that was a fundamental belief of the president? denis: that is my belief. charlie: speaking of that, was the pivot to china, asia and latin america, did it work? denis: yes. charlie: we are still deeply involved in the middle east. we have troops on the ground in afghanistan. we have troops on the ground in iraq.
denis: and we are making substantial progress against isil in mosul and syria. we have not seen them be about to carry out the kinds of attacks in the united states they clearly aspire to. from which al qaeda planned those terrible attacks on 9/11 in new york, at the pentagon and in pennsylvania. they will not be able to because of our ongoing presence, have the kind of free reign to plot and plan and carry out those kinds of attacks against us. but the rebalance never and finished the -- never envisioned
us washing our hands of areas where we have great interests. south asia, the middle east, europe, what it did envision is that asia was where the people are, where the opportunity is, where the growth is and where the potential conflicts are. we are going to maintain and increase our presence there. strengthen our alliances as we have done with china. with the koreans and with australia and new zealand. charlie: a lot of americans and the president and americans are concerned about these reports from north korea, by the leader uses we are working on an icbm that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental united states.
denis: that is very much a problem. charlie: what do you say to the incoming president-elect? that this goes to the top of your -- denis: we have made that clear since the we started our conversation. this is a critically important issue. china needs to understand that is a core interest of hours to not be threatened by north korea our allies need to have confidence that we remain deeply engaged with them against this threat. and that the north koreans will continue to field the per and the per isolation. charlie: that has not stopped them from moving forward and the
president told me in germany that every time they make a mistake, they learn from it. denis: that is true of the liberators everywhere, which is why we have in as explicit as we have been with china about what we expect not to happen. it has been throughout this administration. we have encouraged the next team to take that view as well. charlie: president obama, you know him so well. help us understand who this man that has been leading us that we might not know. you have seen every move, every question, you've seen his bouts, you have seen his successes and his failures. what do you want the country to know about barack obama? denis: i am routinely amazed at how hard this guy works, this president works while making it
look effortless. charlie: grace under pressure? denis: i think so, or recognition that there is a right answer out there and he's bound to get it, bound to press his team and work with anybody to get the right answer. he goes up to the resident every night with a stack of binders and does not come down until he has read them.
whether that is until three in the morning. the point is that this is a really hard job and the problems that land on his desk or heart problems. he takes that really seriously. and to be witness to that and party to that is not only extremely interesting intellectually, but i think speaks to his dedication to making sure he lives up to the expectations of the american people. i would say one other thing, as a dad myself, i love watching the president as a dad. i get advice from president for my kids, i get as management's or scolding from him when i'm not doing what i need to do as a dad, and i'm struck by that. i will miss that. charlie: what is it between the two of you question mark he has had five chiefs of staff. you are who they call obama's obama. you must know something. denis: the words that rahm and
bill and feet and jack did, it's a different between a first term in second term. the differences those guys governing every day in crisis when they came in, literally every day in crisis when they came in. those first jobs reports, last week we had a jobs report were we added 150,000 jobs. unemployment at 4.7%. wage growth that .4%. the kind of growth we see now in wages they would have dreamed of in those first four months. charlie: there was so much focus on restoring the economy. denis: there was so much crisis. i visited from their work then
and i benefited from an unbelievably good team. charlie: he said over the weekend that he says it has been better in the last couple of years, not just the country and economy at her, but his ability to do the job. there's a cumulative experience. he still believes in the two-term limit. charlie: he is a really good president. history will find that. he's also really good at being president. guess what? that's what happens when you are in the job for six or eight years. but as he said, you need fresh
blood. charlie: he made the argument to the pleasure of bill clinton that ronald reagan was a transformative president. can anybody in this administration make the case that barack obama, beyond the fact that race, the first line of his biography, the first black president. denis: i played a lot of games in my life. i never predicted the outcome, but i've predicted the outcome and the guy i know who has won a lot more is barack obama. i don't know if we need to predict the outcomes or anything else, but the decisions he has made around restoring the economy, the decisions he's made run health care, the decision as it relates to the use of force overseas will hold up. but let's play the game and see how it ends. i think we will do fine. charlie: many would argue we are in a process that looks like a
new world order. denis: they will. our job is not to describe problems but confront them and change them. i like our record, i like as the president said the other day, that he bets on every turn on the american people and no president has lost on betting on the american people. he believes deeply in democracy and deeply in the american people. i think that's going to suit him just fine. denis mcdonough, chief of staff to president obama the hour. thank you for joining us. ♪ >> obama makes an emotional