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tv   A Conversation with Freshman Representative Mark De Saulnier D-CA  CSPAN  November 27, 2015 10:50pm-11:21pm EST

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rep. desaulnier: growing up in massachusetts, i registered to vote when i was 18 in boston. republicans are very different in new england. i wanted to vote for ed burke from massachusetts. pete wilson appointed me to the board of supervisors when i was mayor of a city of about 130,000 people and then appointed me to the california resources board. so, in those days, before pete wilson decided to run for president and what he did on immigration, i thought he was a liberal republican. basically, the republican party has driven people like myself
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out of the party because they had tolerance for people who deviated from not just conservative, but very reactionary. >> what does that tell you about the state of a republican party now with a democrat and politics in general? rep. desaulnier: michael dukakis is a friend. he likes to tell a story about when he was running, people said there was not enough differentiation between the two parties. now there is such an extreme. i prefer the previous. i don't think there is that model of progressive, new england republican. we dealt more with solving problems rather than rigid ideology. it was more the basic function of day-to-day operation, which is into 60 -- isn't too sexy or interesting, but that is our main job. >> you studied history at holy cross. what can we learn from history
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today in washington in this congress? rep. desaulnier: we had a great moment with david mccullough, who i just love. he was talking about the wright brothers. he has written so many great books. "1776," his book on truman. his book on john adams is a masterpiece. i asked mr. mccullough, what would you advise to us? he said, courage. he said, i think members should be willing to vote on difficult issues that they know are in the best interest of the country, but may not get them reelected. that is a pretty susinct observation of where we are at right now. members are so interested in their own careers and that is across the board to a degree. as a former republican, i think it is very true for the republican party, particularly the extremists who are not ideological, in my view, they
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are just interested in their own self-interest and whatever their view of thei heroic role is here. >> we heard that earlier this year when speaker boehner announced he was stepping down as speaker of the house. why have we reached this polarization point? rep. desaulnier: you know, we have been through these kinds of swings before. we had one just before the civil war. i just think we are in one of those periods. i think it is made worse somewhat by social media, not to blame the media, it is just something that the world has changed. i think a lot of people go into politics could -- politics nowadays, unfortunately, our not motivated by what they were 20 years ago, 30 years ago. when i went into politics, a majority of people on both sides went in for the reward of making sure the government worked and
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less about their rigid ideology. now, for some reason, i think too many people who are very smart, but not very self-aware or empathetic about other people get in these positions and it has led to this dysfunction. >> who else do you like to read? rep. desaulnier: ellis is great, walter isaacson's book on innovation. so generally nonfiction. both of my sons are big readers. they both like to read fiction and have always encouraged me to read more fiction, but i can't help myself. i read nonfiction and i find that nonfiction is more interesting than fiction because reality is more interesting, sometimes, oftentimes. >> you are new to this job in washington, but you served in the california legislature. what has been more satisfying to you personally? rep. desaulnier: they are different ways. i was a city councilmember, a mayor, a board of supervisors member, a regional board appointee, they are all
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different. i think they have all reinforced, at this point in my life, the amazing structure that this government had when the founders devised it and how it has evolved and how i get to walk over, what i referred to as the greatest temple, spiritual place, of self-governance in the evolution of the human species. that is for better and worse. all of these offices are amazing. the difference of here in california is that i am a freshman member here. i'm in the minority. in california, i was one of 120. both members of parties trusted me. here is more of a struggle culturally to get things done and because of my position. >> first of all, when pope francis came to the u.s. capitol, as a catholic member of
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congress, what was that like for you? rep. desaulnier: it was very inspiring. i went to high school boarding school, the jesuits, in college. i feel a very strong affection for the jesuits. i started a caucus friends of just who it just jesuits institutions -- just institutions. i have not been a practicing catholic for many years because i think the catholic church got carried away with dogmatic issues. i think the social gospel is something we should practice every day, whether you are a catholic or not. i thought the pope wonderfully named the whole idea of francis
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as a saint being called by god to rebuild the church. it is not just a wonderful metaphor, but a wonderful message. he is a very unique individual with a very unique spirit and i think we saw that in the reaction that people had, catholics or non-catholics. people urine for somebody authentic -- yearned for somebody authentic. >> a personal question. could you find yourself moving back to the catholic church because of pope francis? rep. desaulnier: i think i am in the sense that i practice what i learned from the jesuits, which was to serve in a spirit of your social contract with one another. we have funny definitions and institutions. sometimes, the house of representatives, the leadership of catholic church, they lost their way. the catholic church lost their way on pedophilia, abuse,
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sexuality and they have a long way to go to correct the problems and the injustices. the pope spoke to that. institutions change. the spirit of institutions stay constant. that is what makes institutions and doer. it is not just the day today. you need the day-to-day operations. >> you are in the hospitality industry, owned and operated a couple of restaurants. how did you deal with angry customers? rep. desaulnier: i had a three strikes rule. we apologized when somebody was upset. we tried to replace whatever they were upset about or make it right. if you just cannot make them happy, usually i are managers would say, this is maybe not for you, you should go down the street. the third time was like, maybe we should acknowledge that a lot of different restaurants exist and you should go somewhere else. >> did that happen? rep. desaulnier: many times. i would show up and when they were not happy with the outcome from that, they would ask for the honor and iowa's in trade -- enjoyed saying, i'm the owner also and this is the way it's going to be. at some point, you have to draw a line.
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mostly in the hospitality industry, you have to really be responsive to your clients are you are out of business. the restaurant business is notoriously hard. if you don't respect your client, you are not going to stay in business. that has always been reflected in my work in politics. you got to go to the people who don't care for you or your position and listen to them if you are going to be good at your job.
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>> how did that train you for politics? rep. desaulnier: one thing is that when i was young, i opened my first restaurant at 25. i worked very hard to raise money to do that. my dad had gone bankrupt. i started in california with nothing. i did not suffer fools gladly. what politics is taught me to do was be more tolerant of people and the people i might have thought were foolish or wrong, i found out often that they are right and there is an element of truth. the answer to your question isn't trained me in some ways, but in other ways, i had to respond and learn. i'm grateful for politics for that. i now understand that many times the people who disagree with me not only have a point, but they are right, which is quite disconcerting when you have an angry conservative republican and a liberal democrats say, you have narrowly -- i have narrowly thought about it that way, you may have a point. >> at what point did your conversion from republican to democrat occur?
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rep. desaulnier: i will did pete wilson to get out of office because i felt a certain loyalty to him. he had started running for president. part of his platform was anti-immigration, which was part of the republicans' road down that unfortunate path. i decided that there was not room for me in the republican party and i switched when he finished in office, when gray davis began governor of california. >> your office has a lot of things. these two ducks. what do they represent? rep. desaulnier: i spent 10 years on the california resources board. we were eliminating two-stroke outdoor marine engines. our staff had different ways to measure exhaust. they could measure the exhaust from a student -- a two-stroke engine and a four stroke engine.
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we outlawed two-stroke engines and only had four stroke engines. it was my suggestion they should give board members those ducks. it is a clear, visual explanation or example of how government can have a positive effect in people's lives. >> the photographs, the picture of john near, gandhi, mlk. where do you start? rep. desaulnier: it started behind all of them. the photographs of gandhi and muir and king came from an assembly member in my area who had been in the assembly for many years. bob campbell, a wonderful man. he had those in his office and he gave them to me when i was elected. he was a liberal democrat, he
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left them in my office. he said, i'm going to loan these for you at one dollar per year. you can tell the one signed by arnold schwarzenegger because he likes to give you a pen. jerry brown never did a pen, giving you -- being frugal. >> how do you assess jerry brown's governorship? rep. desaulnier: he is an extraordinary politician. very bright. jesuit-trained. i have an affinity for him. we have some strong differences. we have legitimate differences about where we should cut and not. high-speed rail is a big project i chaired and we differed about
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that. having said that, he has been a really wonderful thing for california. when you think of his family and the impact his father and he and his sister made on the state of california, we are really lucky and fortunate. his father was a republican when he first ran for office. pat brown. when i told him that once, he said, how did you know? i said, i've read his biography and you should read it too. >> how does a state deal with the drought? the lack of water? rep. desaulnier: there have been two remarkable stories on that. we were asked to drop it by 25%, water usage, initially. most districts are 40%, 45%. the agricultural industry is responding.
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climate change is impacting california, as everywhere. we passed a $7.5 billion bond. it has got to rain. as well as we are doing, ultimately, having been in a state that embraced and accepted the fact of human activity and its effect on our climate, i'm proud of what we have done, but we've got to do more. and i am really thrilled that internationally now, governments across the world, including china, are starting to commit to more actions on climate change. the job is a two-part story. it is what we can do to make life as comfortable as possible and i think we have done a good job in california. california is the most adaptive, innovative place in the world. >> you ran for congress once before and lost.
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why did you decide again? rep. desaulnier: this work is -- if you were going to be a human being in the united states of america, being involved in the governments of this country, i don't think there is a more compelling rewarding thing to do. i love the policy and getting to solve day-to-day issues. i get very discouraged by the theater we are in right now i'm theow and sort of machiavellian cuteness we get involved in. i curse the consultant class that tells people they have to act a certain way. if people were more authentic and they did it because it was tremendously rewarding, we would be much better off.
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>> you succeeded george miller. rep. desaulnier: i thought you were going to y, you have big shoes to fill. i was just at an event friday. george said, i could never get a republican leader to leave. he is a wonderful friend. he is a great californian and american. he is a passionate liberal democrat. he was here for 40 years. i have heard from more republican members who served with him and even though they disagreed with them, they were willing to compromise and serve with him. >> retirement, the resignation of speaker boehner, what does that say about the state of this institution? rep. desaulnier: i have a lot of
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respect for him. people say he should have stayed and kept fighting. at some point, you decide whether the commitment is worth the investment. it is a sad state for their caucus. it is one thing to be conservative, we are all conservative at some point. someone asked why jefferson put alexander hamilton's bust up in his home. jefferson said, that's why i put it there because we never agreed. there are going to be differences of opinion. to take that to its extreme, were you are basically being extortionist on the functioning of government and the economy, is just a disservice. what has happened with speaker
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john boehner, i worry about the ultimate consequence of that. how do you govern when you have 35-40 members of an institution with those who can hold up in operation. >> what do your boys think of their dad's work? rep. desaulnier: my two sons. i'll ease say that i have lots of titles, but my favorite title always say that i have lots of titles, but my favorite title is dad. we are very close. for long period of time after i got divorced, they lived with me. we sort of grew up together. they are proud of me, but they have different paths that i have encouraged those. they both live in los angeles and have great jobs and have great long-term relationships, although neither is married. i met a point in my life for an anxious to have grandchildren, but they will get there on their own time. in this day and age, it is fantastic that i can be divorced and stay close to the mother of my children and my children.
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that is a new definition of family. >> how painful was that period of your life? rep. desaulnier: it was very painful. my parents got divorced in a day and age in this country where particularly for catholics it was considered a shameful thing. having moved 3000 miles, it was difficult, but having said that, we are happy, full human beings, my ex-wife, myself, my two kids. the definition of family has changed, but you can still do wonderful things. two of my four siblings are gay and we always joke that those two have the longest committed relationships. things change. rep. desaulnier: you are new to this job.
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do you stand -- tend to stay in the house? >> this is a wonderful job. in california, in most states, you automatically have some credence if you are going to run for the u.s. senate or governor -- in california, with 53 members, that is not necessarily the case. i have loved every office i have had and they have all been tremendously rewarding. i like to tell people in the district that i am the forrest gump of local politics in the east bay. i think i responded when doors have opened for me. these are great jobs. >> how often do you get back to your district? rep. desaulnier: almost every weekend. i get a lot of reading done. i read a lot before i was commuting across the country, but i want to stay in touch with
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my constituents. as a freshman member of the minority, you get a lot of reward from being back in the district solving problems individually for constituents. we do a lot of that. it is very rewarding. i like to be back in the chair with that. >> finally, a chance to tell a little nonfactor interesting story about mark desaulnier that most people may not know about who you are. rep. desaulnier: unfortunately, i think i've told people just about everything about me. [laughter] rep. desaulnier: that is a good question. i think you covered my two sons and that is something i try to keep private, but not something i hold from the public. i would say that a little known fact is that as much as i have been devoted to public life in my career, i'm much more devoted to the success and development of my two sons. >> congressman, thank you very much. rep. desaulnier: my pleasure. nice tie. >> republican congressman mark walker of north carolina is a newcomer to congress.
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in this next congressional freshmen profile interview, mark walker talks about his 2014 campaign when he defeated several better-known and well-funded candidates and he also talks about his time as a baptist minister. he also talks about his new routine is a member of congress. this is about 20 minutes. >> congressman mark walker representing north carolina's sixth district. a baptist minister and former car salesman. this is the first elected office that you have ever held. how did you decide to run for a seat in the u.s. house of representatives? rep. walker: there were a lot of experiences that played into that. out of college, i spent the last 15 years as a baptist pastor in north carolina. a lot of parallels. as far as working with people and what it takes to build genuine relationships. >> what will serve you better, faith or salesmanship? rep. walker: i think genuineness
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is what needs to be permeating, and that is one of the reasons we are seeing some of the leadership that we are seeing today. they have the ability to talk about policy in a genuine manner. >> how did you prepare to become a congressman? rep. walker: i ran strictly with no political experience whatsoever. i did not have the political capital or political connections. i spent time in inner cities in cleveland, new york, and baltimore to try to build relationships that may not always agree with us politically ideology wise, but understanding that the relationship always comes before policy. when you build genuine relationships, you hold the right to believe what you do. >> what would you tell someone who says, i want to be in congress and has no real experience? no first elected office? rep. walker: i would tell them to follow their heart. i believe that if it is something we are being led to do
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and we put together 40-50 people and we launch, we built an organizational chart from scratch. we begin to establish relationships and we were able to get through three elections in 2014 to earn a seat in congress. >> in the primary, you came in second, but came back and won by an overwhelming majority. what happened in this election? rep. walker: i get that question a lot. going from 25% to 60% over a 2.5 months timeframe, i think part of the message we were talking about as far as returning power to the people, but also to understand that this should not come -- come with vitriol or with name-calling or putting people on the defensive.
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i think the very strong leadership aspect to be up to talk about these issues and build coalitions without getting to the place where you are talking down to people. >> now you are all the way here. what is the reality of capitol hill life versus what you expected to find? rep. walker: i think some of it is very similar. part of the things that surprised me was how many people would meet on a daily basis. they said, you've got to help us with an overreaching arm of the federal government. sweet potato farmers, federal insurance agents, you name it. can you back off the regulations so we can be free to flourish and prosper the way we want to? >> your first name is actually bradley, but you go by mark. rep. walker: that is a question i have asked my parents many times. it is tradition. i have two younger brothers and i followed the same suit. my dad was a minister. mark is a little bit more for
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--lical name then bradley than bradley, so i stuck with it. >> you have two children. rep. walker: i have a son who is 20 and two daughters, one who is 17 and one who is nine. i got to spend a little time with them on saturday and sunday before spending -- flying back up to d.c. i'm married to a wonderful nurse practitioner. >> what was the reaction first off when your family found out that dad was going to be a congressman? rep. walker: i think they were pleased with it, but part of parenting, i want to make sure that their world is not a place where they can't follow and pursue their dreams, as well. my daughter, my 17-year-old, is a big-time in community theater and we want to make sure we are supporting those opportunities, as well. >> what do you do when you go back on? rep. walker: i make sure that family is priority. my golf game is not what it used to be. we also have many constituent services and events. last night, we were at an event where we had 115 world war ii veterans.
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as a pastor, it carries over to being a congressman as well, i enjoy doing it. >> you settle down in the triad. rep. walker: the triad. there are three populated places in north carolina. you have the triad, the triangle, and charlotte. the triangle is durham in chapel hill. fresh out of college, i drove my dodge stratus into the city and did not know a single soul. i had a young lady i had dated a little bit in college who lived 30 miles north and i said winston-salem is a great place to move and we started a life and career there. >> when you go back home, what are the issues you are hearing about? what inspired you to run to represent your community? rep. walker: i think part of it was to be able to talk about
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individual, talk about hope talk about liberty, something that people can identify with. i haven't built a bridge to be able to talk about the things that are important to me. if we can do that in a way that will resonate, i think it is very important. even on the republican side, we are very guilty of only preaching to the choir. i think the ultimate goal is to augment the base or broaden the audience. >> you are already looking ahead to your next reelection. you've got at least one challenger. how do you balance what you are trying to do on capitol hill with your campaign. rep. walker: we have a job to do. our job is to stay focused and not be distracted.
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the people will decide. we are at peace and content with the job we have done over the last 10 months. >> baptist minister and you have been a car salesman. what kind of cars did you sell? rep. walker: i spent about 10 months as a car salesman. i spent about two decades as a pastor. i sold audi, bmw. it gave me an opportunity to get out in the public, learn, meet and greet. all social and economic backgrounds. it was a great opportunity. >> a pastor of worship and music in greensboro. what does a pastor of worship and music do? rep. walker: i've had three roles.


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