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tv   After Words with Senator Mitch Mc Connell  CSPAN  June 12, 2016 10:00am-11:01am EDT

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more effectively and accurately than ever and first, i remember watching the, two things struck in my mind. one was the bp oil spill when they said those cameras down and there was like a television channel you could watch which was pollution tv and all day long in hd, there it was. the same thing after fukushima when they took the high-speed drones that could move in with hdtv and you could see a reactor meltdown in real-time. this is a metaphor for our age. there are always problems we cansee. massive immigration waves, we see them with a degree of fidelity not possible ever before and we can do nothing about them. a footnote about that , is that the more you see the system failing, the more you see our leaders failing to deal with them, the more you start to suspect that there's something really wrong in the system.
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afterwards is next with mitch, who talks about his life and politics with senator lamar alexander.
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>> this is a book about a shy boy who grew up in alabama, overcame polio. was inspired by henry clay, university of louisville to become a senator, did, then set out to become a majority leader of the united states senate and did. mitch, i have a confession to make. when i was asked to do this, here is what i thought. how can anyone get mitch mcconnell to talk for an hour. because in your own book, you point out that you only the press when it's to your advantage. you talk about a time when bill gates came in to see you, the two of you to sat there, or uncomfortable waiting for one of you to speak at your account that once someone once told president george w. bush that you were excited over a certain vote and he said really? how can you tell. so why so few words? >> guest: i'm not afraid of talking but i found i learned a lot more by listening. so frequently, i start out
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listening and think about what i want to say before i do it. i think it's fair to say that i'm in the era of trauma, probably a very different approach to commenting on public prayers. >>. >> host: bob novak used to say the hardest interview he said yet and you dancer asking another question and he'd say no when you got out of questions and the easiest one was hubert aubrey, one question and he talked for 30 minutes before you don't get in trouble for what you don't say and i think there's nothing wrong with being cautious with your comments, i certainly don't mind talking and i usually like to know what i'm talking about before i ventured down that path.
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. >> host: there's a lot of second material in there and there's polio, we will talk about that. that fight with vicki mcgrew. your vote for lyndon johnson in 1,964 over civil rights and then when it gets to professor obama and senator harry reid, your democratic counterparts and the senate conservative party, you don't hold back there and most people would be surprised to learn that you are an all-american tailgater at the university of louisville, we will talk about that why don't we start with polio? 1944, two years old, living with your mom and in five points alabama and the doctor, your dad is overseas in the war and the doctor says mitch as polio. it's hard today to imagine how terrifying those words must have been for parents then. >> guest: absolutely and i subsequently learned there was a serious epidemic in 1,944 all over the country.
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and the disease is very, very unpredictable. you have the flu. you would think you have the flu and a couple weeks later, some people would be completely normal. a couple weeks later, some people would be dead. in my case, it affected my left quadriceps, the muscle between your knee and thigh and in one of the great good fortunes of life, at this little crossroads five points alabama there was not even a stoplight there where my mother has you indicated was living with her sister while my dad was overseas fighting the germans. it happened to be 60 miles from warm springs . roosevelt, having gone there yourself in the 20s, he got it at age 39, completely
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paralyzed below the waist. >> your mother had no way of knowing if you might be like the president, completely paralyzed. >> guest: not completely but the worst-case scenariofor me would have been a brace on my left leg . and so i didn't have a severe case as president roosevelt had. but the key, i'm two years old. you know what kids are like. my mother took me over to orange springs, they taught for a physical therapy regimen and told her to administer fourtimes a day and to keep me off my feet . so she literally watched me walk a hawk for two years every waking moment. and tried to convey to me the subtle message they didn't want me to think i should walk but i shouldn't walk, a very subtle message. >> host: how do you keep a two-year-old from watching?
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>> guest: that's what two-year-olds do. she watched me every minute and prevented me from prematurely walking. obviously, she told me that years later, my first memory in life was the last visit to warren springs . where they told my mother i was going to be okay. that i would be able to walk without a limp and we stopped in his shoes store in lagrange georgia onthe way back to alabama . to get a pair of blue top shoes which were kind of assembled so i can have a normal childhood and i did have a normal childhood before you were for. >> guest: this went on for two years, she watched me like a hot. >> host: what an amazing thing. you've got a chapter in your book called resilience. i guess resilience must come from that experience . >> guest: if impressions being made on us at a really early age rest significant as some people think, it sure
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had one on me which was if you stick through something, you keep working on it and giving it your best, the chances are you may actually overcome whatever problem you arecurrently having g. >> host: do you have any impediments today question mark. >> guest: son. the quadriceps is more important going downstairs and up so i'm not great at going downstairs but i've had aperfectly normal life. when i was a kid i wasn't good at running long distances but i could play baseball . a sport that doesn't have the kind of back and forth like basketball does. >> host: let's move on to dickie mcgrew. your father encouraged you to have afistfight with vicki mcgrew, what was that about? >> guest: i had no choice. this is a situation i was about seven, we lived in athens alabama . and i had a friend across the street named dickie mcgrew who was a-year-old or that i wasn't considerably bigger. he was also a bully and he keptpushing me around . and my dad was at work in the yard one day and he saw that. again, he had seen it before. he called me over and he said, son, i've been watching
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the way he's been pushing you around and i want you to go over there and i want you to beat him up. i said, dad, he's older than i am and bigger than i am. he said i'm older than he is and bigger than he is so given what someone would say hobson's choice i chose dickie. i went us across the street and started swinging. i beat him up in his glasses. it was an incredible lesson in standing up to bullies and i thought about that through my life at critical moments when you people are trying to push you around. >> host: you've got a chapter on standing your ground. let's jump ahead to kentucky. the university of louisville. people looking at c-span might wonder what those senators talk about when there on the floor. odds are, you're talking about the university of louisville sports program. before i get to that though, your honors thesis was henry clay, senator henry clay . that inspired you to want to
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be a united states senator? >> guest: i had gotten interested in politics in school, ran for the student body president in high school and a big high school,, it was a contentious race. >> host: you said you were hooked. >> guest: i one. [laughter] so i began to follow politics. i remember at age 14 when the conventions were really, coverage of conventions was really dull. they focus on the podium and listen to all the speeches on tv. >> host: or we used to, there's a bigzenith radio and we sit there and listen to the whole thing . >> guest: pretty boring. youmay have been doing this too but i thought i was the only 14-year-old . only 14-year-old in america i thought, maybe you are watching too. watching those things from gavel to gavel so again, i began to try to practice this
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craft and see if i could get good at it and i was, ran for president of the student college in college and law school and clay was the most famous politician in kentucky . >> host: what about clay inspired you the most? >> guest: the fact that he in a not terribly significant states, some would argue, had become a major statesman. in kentucky people focused on clay so i wanted to learn more about him soo. >> host: he was known for crafting compromises which is a dirty word today with some people. >> guest: it is but absolutely essential. that's what the constitution is full of compromises and you and i in our daily lives do it every single day in
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order to make the senate function. so i did my senior thesis on henry clay and the compromise of 1,850 and continued to follow him a lot of as a lot of our kentucky politicians. >> host: there was another university and that's this athletic program. describe your tailgating schedule. >> guest: well, football is an important part of life. >> host: but you take it pretty seriously before i do. i have about 12season tickets every year, i have some regulars, one of them goes back to college and we go to every home game . and an occasional away game. we make a day of it. we go out early, one of my friends have an rv in the parking lot and we talk about what will happen in the game and then go to the game and talk about what did happen in the game and it's a complete lengthy exercise and one of the great joys of life.
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>> host: let's jump ahead a little bit. we are talkingabout the early 1960s when you were at the university of louisville . you and i have both for washington, we each realize in a green mustang for the end of the 1960s and i can do the work for senator marlowe of kentucky, i work for senator baker and i can remember in 1,969 senator baker saying you need to go over and meet that smart young legislative aide from marlowe, mitch mcconnell. let's go back to louisville. in louisville, you lead a march or part of a march on the capital about civil rights. you were in washington as i was to hear martin luther king's speech in august 1,963 , the i have a dream speech. you had goldwater speak at
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the university of louisville because your you are president of the college of republicans but you voted for lyndon johnson in 1,964. what happened? >> guest: in our generation i think the civil rights movement was the defining movement. in 62 i had fortunate enough when i was a college republican president to accept an invitation to come to you of l and in the summer of 63, people like you and myself got to see the i have a dream speech and in 64 i was an intern in senator coker's office, two important things happened in 64. we broke the filibuster, the civil rights bill and senator cooper was in the middle of break in the phyllis buster and we nominated barry goldwater, one of the few people to vote against the civil rights bill. i was mad as hell about it. and i was so irritated about goldwater voting against the civil rights bill and defining
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you voted not to overwrite the veto. >> guest: i wrote it to overwrite. >> host: which most republicans did not do. >> guest: i believe reagan was simply wrong whether south africa sanctions could work, and i know that people think they never work, occasionally they do, they worked a number of years later and i -- i thought reag rent as wrong and i did vote to overwrite his veto.
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>> host: i remember watching you and speaking speeches on the senate floor and wondering what you were doing. >> guest: i started following her after she won the nobel peace prize in '91. her father was the founder of modern burma. she went off to europe and went to the united states, went back to care for her sick mother when this movement started. and she is was sort of thrust into the leadership, the military from early 60's decided to have a free and fair election and they got cremed and the reaction of getting cremed
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in the free and fair election was to arrest all the people who had gotten elected and put her under house arrest in her own house where she remained for 21 years and she would slip notes and along with some other burma sanction bills that ultimately made a difference and -- >> you visited her, did you not? not long ago. >> well, amazingly enough the regime began to crumble and at 2011 and so then we were able to talk on the phone and i actually went to burma in january of 2012 and got oh to see her in person, invite her to come to the university of louisville to the mcconnell center and she did come in 2012 and now she's the elected leadership leader of the country even though the
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constitution prohibits anyone who is married to a foreigner who has been married to be a foreigner to be president, put it in the constitution exactly to keep her from being president. she's defacto president. >> host: you mention the mcconnell center at the university at louisville, what is that? >> guest: it's a scholarship program for the best and brightest. you have to be from kentucky, ten each year, ten freshmen, sophomores and designed to try to compete with ivy league kids and get sharper kids to stay in kentucky believing that if they stay there, they are more likely to stay there after school. 70% chose to stay in kentucky where most of the sharp go off
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to the east and never come back. what i do is bring in speakers and we had some great ones over the years. hillary clinton was there while she was secretary of state, joe biden while vice president, chief justice roberts, it's a treat not only for the party -- >> host: you won six races in kentucky. let's talk about the first one. the blood hound commercial. i think all of us in the united states senate are political activists. not all of us will admit but we surely are. you were 30 points. >> guest: in july of the election year. >> host: what was that?
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>> guest: it was a desperate situation. >> host: how did you find roger ailes? >> in those days he was doing political consultant. >> host: he was able to take someone in the democratic state 30 points behind? >> guest: he thought a couple of clients that he thought were going to win and me. i appreciate the fact that he was willing to take me. this is a tough competitor. you can see how he started fox for rub ert murdahl. here is the situation that was driving the election -- >> host: 1984. >> guest: i was down 34 points. we had a meeting in louisville and i said interrogatoriers is this race over, he said, i've never known anybody come from this far behind this late to win but i don't think it's over. we
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were looking for some kind of issue. so ailes turn that to a couple of ads featuring a kentucky honored-type person out looking for him to get him back to work and electrified the campaign, got people interested in and got people talking about it and then there was a sequel later. actor being chased by the dogs and who literally end up by the tree and the key line there, was we got you down. not exactly a landslide.
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>> host: four tenths of one percent. >> guest: the other way to look at it, reagan carried 49 states and democratic incumbent. >> host: i think the next democratic opponents probably find method of campaign is smash them in the mouth before they get started. probably and i'm just guessing your toughest campaign other than that was the last 2014 because you had the senate fund coming at you from the right, you had harry reid coming at you from the left and it was a pretty big brawl but you started right out by an ad that called you bailout. >> guest: you and i witnessed the results in 2010 and 2012. >> host: i'm glad all the attention was on you. [laughter] >> guest: conservative fund and
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allies had cost us five races in 2010 and 2012 by nominating people who couldn't win. and so with the beginning of 2014, i said not only in my own race but in other races, we are not going to allow that to happen anymore. so what we did not only in my race but other races around the country, we got the most electable people nominated, basically took them on. always want to make a point but never want to make a difference. the only thing if you want to win the election is to beat. we won every primary including my own and as you indicated my primary opponent was a credible guy that got elected governor of kentucky. in my primary he carried two of 120 counties. >> host: you say take them on. it's kind of like the fistfight.
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one of your top aids josh holmes said, wandering around the country destroying the republican country like a drunk that tears up every drunk they walk in, the difference is they stroll into mitch mcconnell's barn, he's not going to throw you out, he's going the lock the door. those are pretty fighting words. >> guest: i thought that's what needed to be done. not only in my race but several others, we took the senate back. we had the most electable candidates on the november ballet everywhere. >> host: let's talk about the senate democratic leader harry reid. you and senator reid both spoke what i often heard you say, that people think mitch mcconnell and i don't like each other but we are good friends you say in your
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books your friend was harry reid. he says, you're classless and you like donald trump think woman are dogs and pigs, you say not in your book, but i think you've said other places that he may be the worst majority leader. the senate is a place of relationships, what about this relationship between the democratic and republican leader? are you friends or are you not friends? >> guest: well, look, i've been very, very public about a couple of things about harry. number one he shut the senate down and prevented people from voting. i didn't like the way he ran the senate and i think his public rhetoric is frequently very inappropriate. >> host: like what?
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>> guest: the example you just mentioned. he took all of donald trump's outrageous comments and attribute them to me. i don't do that to him. so i don't think there's equivalence here but nevertheless i think to a lot of people that we are feuding all of the time. we aren't feuding all of the time. we have to talk on a daily basis. i do object to the way he ran the senate and my goal and this current majority is to be as different in every way from harry and the way he ran the previous majority. i'm trying to the everything different so i do object the way he ran the senate and i do object to this inflammatory rhetoric calling alan a political hack but a political hack isn't. calling george w. bush a loser or saying the iraq war is lost
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in the middle of military exercise. i can't fail to express my objection to that kind of rhetoric, which is frequently flat-out i don't think. >> host: let's take one other person senate conservative funds. you write about senator reid, you have a chapter entitled called professor obama. why did you choose those words? >> guest: the president is a very smart guy. i think he knows a lot about a lot of things. i think he would do a better job of dealing with others if he was spend less time trying to acquaint whoever he's talking to at the moment with his brilliance and more time listening. just to draw a contrast between the president and the vice president. i've been in a number of major deals with the vice president that were important and worth doing for the country. he doesn't spend any time trying
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to convince me of things. he noses i don't believe and i don't spend time trying convince of things he doesn't believe. we get down to try to figure out things we can do together because i know how far we can go and how far they can go. i think the president is a brilliant guy and successful in political career, rising quickly to the top in american politics, but i don't think these lectures are very helpful in getting an outcome if you're in some kind of negotiation. >> host: let's talk about divided government for a minute. i heard you talk about it a lot specially disappointment that you and the president haven't been able to accomplish more together, i've heard you say that divided government is the time that you do hard things because you spread the responsibility around.
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now the democrats say about you that you said early on that your main goal was to make president obama a one-term president. i've heard you say it. it's time to go work on entitlements and offer -- offer a hand to do that. you never heard back from anybody. whose far is it that we haven't taken advantage of the seven years? >> guest: obviously we have one point of on that. right after that -- >> host: which was? >> guest: in the meantime we had plenty of work and plenty of ways to work together. that was sniffed off by almost everyone. but decided government is probably the only time you can do big transformative thing.
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i will give you an example, reagan and o'neil raised social security. bill clinton, republican congress balanced the budget three years in a row. big stuff. arguably none of that could have been done in unified government. let me give you an example, george w. bush reelected in 2004, he asked all of us to tackle social security, i was number two in our conference at that time and i spent a year trying to get any democrat, any democrat even joe lieberman. you have the white house, you have the house, you have the senate, you want to do something on social security, you do it. what that means is we will see you in the next election. so my big disappointment with barack is two things that have
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to be done to save america from the path that we are headed. entitlement eligibility changes, eligibility for popular things like medicare and social security to fit the demographics of america tomorrow. not america in the 30's, not america in the 60's, social security in the 30's, medicare in the 60's. the president knows that. he's a very smart guy. he doesn't want to do that. comprehensive tax form. we need to do it again. it's not for the purpose to getting more revenue, it's for the purpose of getting america more competitive but the president won't do comprehensive tax reform in any other way other than get additional revenue to the government. the big transformative issues we have been able to address because the nation's ceo simply doesn't want to do it. >> host: suppose maybe the best example of when we did that in
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civil rights in the 60's. he has the office you now have and for days around a big table, senators came in and out as democrats and republicans worked together to see if they can get enough votes to get 67 which is what it then took to end and johnson and dirkson did that together because of their special relationship. you have in your book, story cooper took you as a youngster to the signing of the voting rights act in 1965 and you had a conversation with president johnson's daughter lucy. i saw lucy in 2008 in celebration of her dad's 100th byrd and -- birthday and i said,
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lucy, i was in the room when your dad was in the voting rights act. she said, i was too. she said i will tell you why i was there. my daddy said to me, get in the car, i'm going to take you down to witness something important and explained to me on the way down to the hill while he was going to be featured in the remarks. the reason is why would you have a republican there? president johnson said to her, not only did most of the republicans vote for it, but the nation will be more likely to accept it if they think we have done this together. lucy johnson explaining why she was there. >> host: to do that they had a relationship, senator baker used
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to tell me about the time by the time he heard his father dirkson take a phone call and heard dirkson, no, mr. president, i can't come and have a drink with you tonight and i did that later. lyndon johnson said, everett and they disappeared for the civil rights bill in 1968. that relationship proceeds probably divided government. let's talk about senate as an institution. you alluded to earlier, you say your main goal is to restore the senate as an institution. you thought about getting your ph.d in history at one time. you went on to the floor before you were majority leader and said you wanted to run the senate the way senator mike
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mansfield ran it who was the majority leader 16 years at the time you and i both came here. what did you mean by that? >> what i meant by that, we were talking about that earlier at my critique, first of all, you have to open the senate up. last year of the previous majority there were only 15 roll call votes of the new amendments, the first year we had over 200. so you open the senate up, let people vote. number two, when we talk about regular order, most people don't know what that means. the bill is actually worked on together, comes out to the floor with bipartisan support. the best example i can think of that happens to be your bill to completely rewrite the so-called
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no child left behind passed by bush which was unworkable and unpopular and you had the republicans and democrats lined up it was open for amendments, at the end it passed with a very large majority. we have done that time after time after time under this new majority, five-year highway bill which most people would think it would be easy, we haven't done that in 20 years. comprehensive energy bill. cybersecurity, permanent internet tax. a major opioid and heroin addiction bill, we are hoping to achieve something really important again coming out of your committee related to some of the incredible cures that seem to be just around the corner for our country. now, what does all of this have
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in common in a time of divided government, we are focusing on the things that we can agree on because when people elect divided government, we know that we have big differences. that's how this majority is totally different from the previous one. >> host: it's important to say and i heard you say it, what you have to do is give the other side credit, my case with no child left behind that would never happen if senator murray of washington leading democrat hasn't been as interested in the result as i have and our bill on biomedical research. it's not a bad thing to give somebody else credit. usually it helps you get where you wanting to. you came here 50 years a little more than that working for senator cooper.
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what's something that's the same ? >> well, i think what's different is the two party labels sort of mean something today. when you and i first came to washington there were liberal republicans and conservative democrats. i think the two party labels today are more descriptive of america's two party system. the republicans are mostly all right to center, right of center and the democrats are all left of center. so i think the labels mean more today than they did then. that's different. what i think isn't different is that there isn't as much animosity or unwillingness to work together as is portrayed in the media. with the internet and 24-hour cable television going on, people get hammered with what they teach them in journalism
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school that only bad news in conflict is news so people are way more upset about the process than they ought to be. they are legitimately upset about where they are in their lives and it's a fact that the average american 3 or $4,000 a year worst off than when president obama came to office. that's a legitimate complaint. but the senate ises no dysfunctional. it used to be but it's not anymore. one of my great frustrations that many people know that. >> host: i remember when i came to the senate as a senator having worked in it before, i thought i knew what i was getting into but i didn't realize what it was like to work in a body that operates by unanimous consent, i mean, most people don't realize you're the majority leader but if they'll listen carefully on c-span, you'll stand up at the end of
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the day and ask consent that the senate opened tomorrow at 9:30 and we have a prayer and go to this bill and if one senator objects, one senator objects, you have to start -- you have to start over, how would you -- if you had to suggest to someone a book to read about understanding the senate, do one or two come to mind? >> oh, my goodness, it would probably put people to sleep but the senate is ironically working pretty much the way george washington predicted. according to legend when he provided over constitutional convention, what do you think the senate would be like. he said he thought would be a saucer under the teacup and cooled off. why did he say that? senators were not popularly elected, elected by legislators and a third of the senate was up over two years.
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i think on purpose the founders wanted the senate to be a place where the bricks could be applied pretty easily and then over years the notion of unlimited debate empowered every single senator to have an impact. if the house is like a triangle with the speaker at the top, the senate is more like a level playing field with the majority leader having to write a first recognition but after that, this pretty much a jump ball. stepping back from all of minutia, thought over and rarely done on a strictly bipartisan basis. >> host: i think it's master of deceit -- master of the senate,
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maybe master of deceit too, but it's called the deaths of the senate, after the election the engineers come in and the democrats won most of the seats, even it out, to me a wonderful way to think about the way the place works. let me switch gears completely. you were married and have three daughters, divorced while you were mayor of jefferson county, louisville, you were bachelor for 13 years, with the suggestion of a friend you had your assistant call the mayor commission and that's how you met elain chao, that wasn't a very romantic beginning. [laughter]
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>> guest: i had befriended a couple of people when i was a safer. i went home and try to have my own career and i had as you indicated been single for quite a while, single when i came to the senate and i wanted to meet somebody new so i called julia chang, do you know anybody new, i have the one you ought to meet, and this is elain chow, family is a classic example why we never want to curtail immigration in this country. >> her mom and dad born in mainland china. they were dodging the japanese in china. when they got to be a little bit older there was the communist revolution. they separately manage today get out of mainland china and go to taiwan and they had met briefly
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on the mainland and my father-in-law had taken to her and he searched in taiwan to find her. they got married and had three daughters. my wife is the oldest one. he came to america for three years by himself, worked multiple jobs trying to get a start in the shipping business. he had been a ship's captain in taiwan. he wanted to be more than that. he for three years worked multiple jobs to get a start, he called for my late mother, they came over on a freighter. they were the only people other than the boat and boat commodity on a big freighter. finally ended up in a small apartment in queens and he kept working and kept having kids,
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they ended up with six daughters, four of whom have gone to harvard business school. [laughter] >> guest: he build a very successful shipping business and, you know, that is the kind of story that you see all across america, which is another reason why each in moments when we are frustrated our attitudes about illegal immigration to remember that we were all virtually all of us unless we were african americans who were brought here against our will, the sons and daughters of risk takers and so this constant renewal process that we have for the people who come illegally with am beneficiary and want to accomplish, tend to be the best americans, and so i think elaine and her family are a classic example of that. >> host: i want to you about some senators, one living but one deceased but the leaving is john mccain.
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you and he had a big brawl over the first amendment. your first amendment view had to do with basically no limits on campaign finance disclosure and you voted against desecration of the american flag. john mccain disagreed with you. you fought it at the supreme court and you lost. that was pretty battle, what's your relationship with john mccain today? >> guest: very close. it went over about ten years, it was really pretty stressful between us at various points but, you know, i called him up today after he won in the supreme court, one of the worst days of my life actually was watching a republican house, a republican senate and a republican president pass a bill
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that i was opposed to and i deeply opposed to and i was lost in the supreme court, called him up the day after, congratulations, john, you won, i lost. we found there were a lot of other things we could work on together. we became friends and allies and a whole variety of other things. that's the way the senate ought to work. frequently does. i'm not sure many people in the public know that. >> host: do you consider john mccain an american hero? >> guest: absolutely. >> host: first thing that comes to your mind, henry clay? >> great compromiser. >> host: lyndon johnson. >> guest: as a senator? >> host: yes. >> guest: overrated. >> host: mike mansfield.
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>> guest: master of the senate. >> host: everett dirkson. >> guest: indispensable player who knew when to oppose and when to join up and an unsung hero in the civil rights movement. >> host: cooper of kentucky. >> role model as a young man, great conviction, very smart. >> host: ted kennedy. >> guest: he was as many books about him have been written and he roared and we knew when he was passionate which he was about everything but in many ways i think the most accomplished kennedy, he never got to be president, never was attorney general but in many way
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it is most accomplished kennedy. >> host: certainly the most accomplished senator, maybe the most accomplished. we use today laugh with him about going to lincoln day dinners and all you had to mention ted kennedy's name to fire up the crowd. he knew exactly how to make the senate work. senator robert byrd. >> guest: could well been senate historian. >> host: during the presidential campaign this year, governor christy got all over senator rubio for repeating himself during a debate. in your book you say, when i start boring myself to tears i know i am beginning to drive the message home.
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in other words, you think redundancy a good thing? >> guest: good politics is repetition and if you're trying to drive a message you to repeat it allot to make the point .. >> host: i've noticed. >> guest: one is not enough. if you're really trying to make a point, repetition is a good thing. >> host: i want to ask you about a period of time and your emotions during that time. after three times you were elected in the number two positions, that was november 13, 2002 then a month later thurmond said something and had to resign
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his leader, a position that you always wanted, you would seem to be the log call person to move up but senator bill frisk took the position and then at the end of january you had triple bypass surgery. >> guest: i think my feeling was that i was never going to have an opportunity to be the leader of the party in any senate because i was ten year's older than bill frisk. unfortunately -- ffortly -- fortunately and i wondered if i would ever have an opportunity to have the job that i had clearly been hoping to have for quite a while.
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i don't want to make my story seem all that unique. if you just don't quit and just keep keep plugging, the chances is you'll get where you're headed. i always tell students that i spend a lot of time with, the only way to fail in america is to quit or die. [laughter] >> guest: we all have speed bumps and setbacks, are we defeated by them or we just shake it off or keep on going. i got my second chance. bill decided to leave the senate and i got to be leader at the party that i wanted to be but then there was another disappointment. i wasn't the majority leader, it was the minority leader. >> host: you gave the blame for some of that to republican on republican violence, you talk in your book a quite bit of that about the politics of gesture.
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>> guest: yeah. >> host: what do you mean like that? >> guest: why don't we shut down the government to defund obamacare, that's a gesture, obama is in the white house, obviously obama is not going to going to sign such a bill. the politics is a way of describing tactical maneuvers that have no chance of success that only divide the party. and that has been a challenge. i think it's been a bigger challenge in the house of representatives and it has been in the senate, only a couple of people in the senate that have that kind of approach. but it's been a challenge and on the outside you saw it with the actions of the senate conservative's fund. the way we dealt with it on the outside is defeat them and you don't have a nominee that comes into the senate, first of all, who wins and second that comes in the senate with that kind of
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mentality thinking our job is to throw stones every day and never achieve anything. >> host: the message that you would like to deliver that the majority republican leader accomplishes a lot because you have republicans saying it's not and even presidential candidates it's not which makes it harder to elect a republican president, keep a republican majority. >> guest: it's not just about messaging, we all want to do things for our country, no matter what our backgrounds are, i think not every -- virtually everybody comes here wanting to actually accomplish things for our country and you have to deal with it -- with the government you have. you know, barack obama whether i like it or not, got elected. he's been there for eight years. and to suggest that we ought to send 100% of time simply fighting with him rather than trying to look for some of the
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things that we can agree on that would make progress for the country always struck me as absurd. >> host: why did you decide to write the book now? >> guest: well, i think it was becoming majority leader. i called it the long game. it didn't happen overnight. i was certainly not an overnight sense -- sensation. a time that senate needed to be operated differently and i think that's the reason why i chose that particular time. >> host: if there were one law -- if you were the king and one law that you could pass, what would it be? >> guest: i think i would fix the entitlement eligibility problem, the one issue that can sink the country is the unsustainable craft -- the way medicare and social security are currently crafted is unsustainable. it's the one thing that
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completely attack our country. >> host: senators have a weekly prayer on wednesday but tom who had your job before said something that stuck in my mind. he reminded us and said he often thinks that he wishes he had prized even more than he did the power he had when he had it. in other words, he was saying, take advantage of this incredible accidental power that you have. do you ever think about that? >> guest: yeah, i do. depending upon what the american people decide this november, i could be the minority leader next year and the majority leader position does present a real important in the body like the senate which is very difficult to make function. there are advantages to setting the agenda and what we call the
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writer first recognition to move country in the direction we would like to go, and so you just don't know how long that's going to last and you don't want to miss any opportunity to try to make the country. and you have to deal with the government that you have, i wish obama was not president but he is. [laughter] >> host: we have about three or four minutes left. i want to give you a chance to answer a question that i get asked, the speech that i made that senator kennedy got coresponsors for, it was about encouraging the teaching of american history so our children could grow up learning what it means to be an american and i think the teachers when they come on the senate floor early in the day, a senator can do that and go to the various decks, they try to find websters desks and different desks, and the question i want to ask you which is my last question, senator, what message would you like for us to take back to our
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students about the future of our country? >> guest: i think the senate has been indispensable legislative body. that's the place where things are sorted out, the place where only rarely the majority gets things exactly. most people obviously don't think that. >> if you're looking for instant grat if iification, the senate is not a place for you. >> host: what would you want teachers to tell their students about their future in this
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country? >> guest: well, because of history, we think period is tougher than others, we had nothing like the civil war. america has had plenty of tough challenges. world wars, depressions, this is a great country. we are going to deal with whatever our current problems are and move onto another level and i'm just as optimistic as i ever was that this generation is going to leave behind a better america than our parents left behind for us. >> host: well, that's an optimistic message from a kid who had polio, overcame it, set sights to be in the united states senate, made it and became the majority leader after about 50 years of keeping his eye on the


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