tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg August 31, 2017 10:00pm-11:00pm EDT
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: welcome to the program. it is the end of summer and as we prepare for the next season we bring you some of the favorite conversations from "charlie rose." al franken -- -- tonight, we talk about books with the author of "hillbilly and neil tyson degrasse. >> i do not think i was the guy that was going to beat norm coleman. as the campaign progressed it was less about him and more and
more about those who -- any cafe i would go to in the small towns anywhere, v.f.w. hall, american legion hall, you'd see, you know, a sheet up there saying, we're having a spaghetti dinner for this family, because they've gone bankrupt because of a health care crisis. and elizabeth warren had been on my radio show telling me more than 50% of americans go bankrupt because of a health care crisis. it's related to a health care crisis. i knew that on my radio show, but it got personal because it was personal for the people of minnesota. it is a petty reason to run for the senate to say somebody has to beat this guy, but what it became more about is what paul said. he said politics isn't about winning for the sake of winning,
it isn't about money, it is about improving people's lives. charlie: authors for the hour when we continue. j.d. vance is here. he was raised in the appellation town of jackson, kentucky. after high school he joined the marines graduated from yale law , school. he had success in the financial community. his book told the tale of his remarkable trajectory. it tells a story of white, working-class america. it is called "hillbilly elegy: a memoir of a family and culture in crisis." calls it essential reading for this moment in history. i am pleased to have j.d. vance at this table for the first time. welcome. you should have been here earlier. thing god we have you here. tell me what drove you to write this. j.d.: i wrote this at yale law
school. i was disappointed there weren't more people like me at law school. i was the only working-class white person. it seemed i was relatively low income relative to my peers, but had a cultural outsider attitude that was very unique. that i was not just lower income, but i felt like a cultural outsider for the first time in my life. i started to wonder what was it that made me different and i decided to start writing to answer this question about why there were not more kids like me. charlie: did you feel like you lived in a world where people look down on you? you qualified where you were at every stage. j.d.: i never felt the people were looking down on me it yale law school. i felt it was general disdain where i came from. maybe folks called them rednecks, but i never felt it was personally directed at me. charlie: as you started to write the book you thought about where
you came from, it is called -- about memoir of a family and culture in crisis. j.d.: i think it is specifically white working-class americans in -- with connections to appalachia and the rust belt. what i saw and started to research and realize is that a lot of problems that existed in my family existed in the broader community at large in a disproportionate way. charlie: what problems? j.d.: increasing rates of family breakdown and divorce, opioid addiction come up and a schism, cynicism of the future that is real. what i would call a learned helplessness. charlie: is it a feeling of being a victim? j.d.: it is partially a failure of being a victim, but not an individual failing. i think it comes down to the communities and neighborhoods we are raised in and the attitudes we acquire. charlie: what do you acquire from the neighborhoods? j.d.: one thing is a sense your choices don't matter. what has happened is that the industrial economy has been tough on these areas and i don't think we should allay that.
in combination with that tough economic circumstance, people start to give up and think, no matter what they do, they cannot get ahead. and i think that is a self-destructive attitude. charlie: do you think in this book we understand some of the feelings driving this presidential election? charlie: yes. that is definitely true. that is definitely true. it's not any special quality of donald trump himself, but the fact that folks feel resentful of the media establishment, political establishment and so , forth. one thing i recognized as a teenager is folks are very pessimistic, cynical. they feel alienated from the broader american community. that is one thing i wrote about. charlie: they feel alienated because what? j.d.: it is a combination that the communities themselves aren't necessarily going very well. we talk about the addiction crisis and other indicators that
things are not going good. andreeds frustration perception of people don't care about your problems. your life is not going well, but the political elites it not only do not care, there is a send that they condescend. that they look down on people like you because of the way you live your life. charlie: why didn't it affect you? j.d.: i think it did in a lot of ways. if you started when i was 14 years old you would have said, because of the drugs i got into, i would not have had a successful life. a big part of the story is exploration. charlie: what changed? j.d.: i started to live with my grandmother. she was a very classic, hard-working, self-reliant woman who recognized life was unfair but made sure i did not think the deck was stacked against me, even though i recognize structural inequalities. charlie: how did she do that? j.d.: she preached a tough message. i remember when i was a kid she
brought me a really nice graphing calculator for one of my advanced math classes. she didn't have a lot of money herself, but she said look, if i can afford this calculator, you're going to get out there and bust your butt in this math class. that really had an impact on me that this very poor woman did this for me. that meant i had to study and work hard at school. she preached a tough message, made sure did my homework made , sure i took my studies seriously and she fought against the cultural believe that my choices didn't matter. and she charlie: you went into stop that. the marines? j.d.: yes, right after high school, when we invaded iraq in charlie: did you do that out of 2003. patriotism or other reasons? j.d.: partly, i was definitely patriotic. but it was also recognition that i wasn't ready to life after high school. i remember puzzling through the financial aid forms for ohio state. i had no idea what to do and i was sort of scared by it. i thought the marine corps would give me four years to shape up.
charlie: did it? j.d.: it definitely did. [laughter] the great thing about the marine corps is that they really force you to shape up. i like to describe it as a four year character education. they teach you not only had to iron a uniform but financial management, to make your bed, a lot of the skill sets you need to be a successful adult. charlie: part of the conventional wisdom in terms of commentary that leads people to be so excited about your book is that you're giving them a key to understanding. dramatic political component in the presidential election of 2016. they say where is the dialogue between politicians, between the establishment and the people we are talking about? likethere was a comment hillary clinton made about
, that offends people. and when donald trump says something that seems to have contempt for people, it offends people. i wonder how much dialogue really takes place in trying to listen and communicate, not just use for political means. j.d.: i think there is precious little dialogue between these two big cultural segments of america. there is the middle america, flyover country. donald trump has become their representative. folks were clinging to their guns and religions, which was a well-intentioned comment. he mentioned folks were struggling economically and that was his explanation. but it was layered with a certain amount of condescension.
adults you respect don't cling to things. he could have said it in a much better way. the comment would not have had the effect it did if he had said it in a more compassionate way. charlie: how do we change this? j.d.: that is the really tough question. i continue to think that one of the big problems, big sources of this cultural divide, is the fact people are not spending a lot of time together. when my wife of indian dissent was born in san diego -- who was born in san diego i was , terrified that she would think my family was a bunch of dumb hillbillies and i worried they would think she was an out of touch elitist. but they love each other. but there is contact theory, when different -- people with different groups spend time with each other they empathize at a much greater extent. it is a consequence of too much geographic segregation between the elites and the rest of the country. at the end of the day, if you are a policy maker in
washington, d.c., you know very little about the people in ohio. not because you are a bad person, but because you spend little time with them. charlie: what effect do you think this election is having on this country other than disdain for the tenor of it? j.d.: i think it is having a very negative effect especially on the white working class. a lot of these grievances are legitimate. but what it is doing is giving people an excuse to point the finger at someone else. the point the finger at mexican immigrants are chinese trade or the democratic elites or someone else. sometimes these villains are legitimate. it is fair to say the policy elites of the democratic party have not been totally concerned about the white, working-class, but at the same time what donald trump has done is change the focus of the white, working-class to engage politics to the politics of pointing the finger. --rlie: jeff greenfield said
saidld law graduate -- that would hillary clinton should do now is she should go , to these working-class communities -- perhaps she is -- go to them and say i may not get your vote, but i want you to know i am listening. and if i win and don't get your vote, i am coming back. to give them some sense, to be able to believe that somebody headed for washington has taken enough time to try to hear what their problems are. j.d.: sure. i think that would be a constructive addition to our politics. at the end of the day if people only focus on those they think will vote for them then we will , have a very polarized electorate. there could be a natural constituency in the white working class for hillary clinton. obviously the white working class voted for bill clinton in
overwhelming numbers. it is not so much an ideological opposition to democratic or republican leaders, it is the sense that people don't care about others like you. charlie: exactly they don't , care. j.d.: right. if you think about the political dialogue we are already starting to have on the left and right, there is a movement to gloat over the fact that elites were right about trump. i am a never trump guy, but i have noticed a willingness from people who think a lot like i do. look, we told you so. we told you trump would be a terrible candidate. we told you you were an idiot if you voted for him. the problem is, if you take the attitude over gloating over trump's defeat, you're playing into the very thing that gave rise to trump in the first place which is the feeling that elites think you are a bunch of idiots. charlie: what impact has writing this book had on you other than
it made you think deeply about where you came from and what and understanding of your own community might make? trolls that criticize everything you do. understanding of your own community might make? j.d.: for the first time it has exposed me to the wild world of internetcharlie: they follow you everywhere? j.d.: absolutely. the internet is a den of vipers. i think the biggest impact it has had on my life is that it me to confront the fact that i sort of exist uneasily in the world of the elites and uneasily in the world of the non-elites back home. i will be most comfortable in middletown, ohio. but the media asked me to be the spokesman for the white working-class voter that is voting for trump. but as somebody who doesn't like trump myself, i understand where they come from, but i also don't like trump himself and that makes me realize i am not quite part of either world.
planetarium, also an evangelist for scientific curiosity. he hosts a radio and tv show called "star talk." his latest book is called "astrophysics for people in a hurry." it is perfect for me. welcome back. neil: that sexiest astrophysicist, that was 40 pounds and 17 years ago. just to put that in context. charlie: you were a young dude? who did you write this for, people in a hurry? neil: people have jobs, go to school, have kids. if you are still curious as an adult, is there anything that serves that busy lifestyle? i wanted to take these headlines i know you have seen like xo planets, dark matter, multiverse, things about the universe i know you have seen it. charlie: but you don't know what it means. neil: exactly. i wanted to put them under an umbrella in a story arc. while you are in a hurry you can dip in, get out, conserve the
needs of a busy individual. charlie: bear with me for a couple of definitions, astrophysics. neil: we care about everything outside of the earth's atmosphere. to the edge of the universe, that is us. black holes, planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, galaxies, the entire universe past, present, and future. the interesting thing is the laws of physics is not a given, not written in the sky that it had to be this way. but the laws of physics we established in the laboratory, turns out they apply across the universe and across time. i celebrate that in a chapter called "on earth as it is in the heavens." when you apply the law of physics to the universe, you are in astrophysicist. charlie: why are we so curious? is it simply because -- neil: let me offer an untested hypothesis.
i want to possibly research this, i do not how -- know-how. but humans are one of the few mammals, one of the few animals at all that are comfortable sleeping on our back. you have never seen a horse sleep on its back, right? most mammals do not sleep on their back. and we sleep at night. what happens? i'm asleep on my back at night and then i wake up. i look up, i look at the stars. the moon was here last night but now it is there tonight. these writer once, the planets, they moved. you have got to be curious. you have to be. in butte our species with a sense of curiosity for what is above our head in a way of beetle could not because they are on the ground. if you take a bird and turn it upside down, it has no -- they -- turtles only look down.
they might try to do a head thing. charlie: one exception, i have a dog called hemingway who was a black lab who sleeps like this, with his legs in the air at night. i always thought that was a little crazy, but now i think it is even more crazy. neil: i don't know all mammals, but the ones i know about. ask your dog if he is thinking about the universe. charlie: you don't mind me mentioning that this book is opening at number one? i am witnessing the curiosity. neil: the first i was like, that was great what i just did. its not i thought, no, me. there was a curiosity that has been undervalued by media. people have curiosity into adulthood -- maybe not
everybody, but i am privileged to be able to fan that ember. that might still be burning and burst into flames. they say, i got to know. there are a lot of competitive books on this list. political books, a lot of good books. this floated into the top. it is an affirmation that the public does care about science. charlie: it is an affirmation you tell it well. they used to always talk about stephen hawking's book -- bless stephen hawking for all he has done, but how many people have actually read his book? neil: hardly anybody. charlie: but this is a very readable book. neil: by the way, it is not -- astrophysics
for dummies -- first of all, the title is already taken. it is real astrophysics. if you open the book to any page, you have to pay attention, i am treating your intellect with respect. there is a lot of fun things in there as well, because it will be more resoundingly received if i attach it to pop culture you know about. charlie: what reasonable success i have had an the media is because i have maintained a childlike curiosity. neil: if a child is curious and keeps the curiosity into adulthood, that is all a scientist is. i a kid that never lost am curiosity. what is going on at home? we speak the first year teaching the kid to walk and talk, the rest of its life telling it to shut up and sit down. somewhere in the school system we need to nurture curiosity on a level that can be sustained even when you graduate. how many people you know run down the steps of high school at the end of the school year or
senior year yelling, school is out. i am thinking, you're celebrating the fact you no longer learn things? charlie: school should ignite your curiosity to explore. neil: exactly. you will spend many more years outside school than in school. if you teach curiosity, you can turn all of us into lifetime learners. you will also be equipped inoculated against people who might --ing to exploit what might otherwise be your ignorance. you wonder, is that true? you have a built-in skepticism when you are curious. that is what we need more of in the adult community. charlie: let's talk about more questions you answer. einstein's theory of relativity. neil: this was the follow on, because isaac newton came up with a new theory of motion and a theory of gravity, and it worked everywhere we ever measured it.
the moon going around earth, or going around the sun, the moons of jupiter around jupiter. it was not just a solar phenomenon. the planet neptune was discovered because the planet uranus was not following newton's laws. people said ok, we found the limit of newton's laws. they said wait a minute, maybe there is another planet that we -- whose gravity we have not yet folded into our equations. it is a very hard mathematical problem. -- it is a very hard mathematical problem to invert. one is i have an object calculate its gravity, the other one is there is gravity here, where must the object be. it is a very hard mathematical problem. some brilliant people looked at it. they said, look here tonight. that announcement was made to berlin, an observatory, and astronomer looked and discovered neptune. newton's laws of motion and gravity were still intact.
in modern time we find failures at the edge of it, things are not working. all einstein's relativity is is an updated version of the laws of motion and laws of gravity. it doesn't replace newton, it subsumes it. it applies to black holes, the beginning of the universe itself. if you put low speeds and low gravity in einstein's equations, they become newton's equations. that is why i am saying it subsumes newton. charlie: am i right in believing that over the years, we have discovered affirming evidence of how einstein was right? neil: einstein was right on some -- so many counts. but here is something interesting. when he wrote down his first equation that described how gravity functioned in the universe, there was a term that represented antigravity. mathematically it doesn't have
to match the universe. you can say, the rest of it fits, but there is no antigravity. what this term did for him was stabilize the universe to become a static entity. if you take out this term, the universe collapses. why would he think the universe would have any kind of motion at all? there is no premise for that. toputs it in, says i have leave this in, i do not know what it is but i'm putting it , in. then edward hubbell discovers the universe is expanding. he does not need the term anymore. the man, not the hardware. einstein realized he didn't need the term and took it out and said putting it in was the greatest blunder of his life. fast-forward 70 years, we find a pressure in the universe operating against gravity that
is making our expansion accelerate. we have to go back to that term and put it back in. now we need the term, it is real, it is called the cosmological constant. einstein's greatest blunder was saying this was his greatest blunder. his only mistake was saying he made a mistake. charlie: is there a big search for a unifying theory of gravity? neil: yes. einstein was the earliest out of the box. charlie: so if you could figure that out -- neil: it is not just gravity, but all the forces of nature. there is a philosophical idea that -- and it is not unfounded, you go back 150 years there was magnetism, electricity, and these were two forces we were playing with. these were manifestations of the same coin, we had electromagnetism. we found that weak electrical
force and electromagnetism were the same, that won the nobel prize. three of the winners were graduates of my high school. that school has eight nobel laureates among graduates. seven of which were in physics. we call that now the electroweak force. so now we have the electroweak force, electrostrong, and gravity. it has been tough mixing gravity into this, but we have top people working on it here. charlie: explain why this question is important -- can anything or any object out run a beam of light? neil: no. not only experimentally, theoretically we can declare it is not possible. charlie: what is the significance of that? neil: it is one of the founding principles that make relativity real. charlie: that einstein did.
neil: yes. we were discovering this was true in our experiments. einstein said let's imagine and must be so everywhere in the universe, what would then be the consequences? out of this he derives the laws of relativity. every time we tested it comes , out correct. we have a very deep awareness and sensitivity of the operations of nature as isaac newton did. charlie: what is the difference between dark matter and dark energy? neil: unfortunately they have names similar to each other. dark matter is what we call the gravity in the universe that has no known origin. we should call it dark gravity, that is literally what it is. space,things moving in you can calculate how much gravity would be enabling that. and if you look at what is there, there is not enough there to account for the gravity making the motion. how much stuff is there?
about 15% of what is necessary in the form of matter. we call it dark matter, it is a mystery. the longest unsolved mystery in modern astrophysics, possibly all of science. it has been with us since the 1930's. charlie: all of science? -- dare i go that far? i think i do. how many mysteries have been with us for 80 years? i don't know of many. the longest unsolved mystery and astrophysics. it remains a mystery. we do not know what it is. if you are a betting person that bets on physics -- [laughter] neil: people are suspecting it might be a new kind of exotic particle that doesn't interact with us. it does not have light, it does interact withght,
light in any traditional way that matter interacts with electromagnetism. it is a mystery. black energy, that is what we call the mysterious pressure that is operating against the wishes of gravity. charlie: stephen hawking says we need to colonize some planet somewhere, and they talk about mars. neil: i think we should do it because it is cool. i do not fully agree with their reasons. they might good headlines. we could end up trashing earth and need a backup plan it. or an asteroid could come or a killer virus, something devastating the human population. if you have two eggs in two baskets, you don't break them all. i get that. but that -- but is that practical the following sense? raform mars, and split
the species, protect one from disaster relative to the other, i get that. but whatever effort it takes, it has to be easier to figure out how to deflect the asteroid. it has got to be easier to come up with a super viral serum where no virus would ever in -- insect fact you. those have to be easier than ter raforming mars and shipping one billion people there. if we trash earth and then go to mars after we terraform it, then i think we should terraform earth and back into the earth. why not? in practice -- we should do it because it is a cool thing to do and it is a scientific frontier. but to do it as a solution to saving our species, i don't see it as realistic. are you going to watch 4 billion people go extinct and do nothing about it? we are fine over here, where the haves that are going to survive and propagate the human species. i don't see it as realistic. i say let's do it, but not for
before entering politics, he was a comedy writer and performer on "s.n.l." and hosted a progressive radio talk show on air america. he's recently emerged as a forceful challenger of president -- of the trump administration. his tough questioning of cabinet nominees during hearings went viral. al: if there's any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and i did not have communications with the russians. >> i think if i'm understanding your question correctly around proficiency, i would also correlate it to competency and mastery so you -- each student is measured according to the advancement that they're making in each subject area. al: that's growth, not proficiency. in other words, the growth
they're making is in growth. the proficiency is an arbitrary standard. >> the proficiency is if they reached like a third grade level for reading, etc. al: i'm talking about the debate between proficiency and growth, what your thoughts are on that. governor, thank you for coming into my office. did you enjoy meeting me? >> i hope you are as much fun on that dais as you were on your couch. al: well. [laughter] >> may i rephrase that, sir? al: please. please. please. oh, my lord. [laughter] charlie: there it is. still unleashed. karen tumulty of "the washington post" wrote, at the dawn of a presidency, that would be the trump presidency, that stretches the limits of late night parody,
and the moment when an out of power democratic party is trying to find its voice the former , comedian and satirist may be having a breakout moment as a political star. he's out with a new book, a memoir called "al franken, giant of the senate." i'm pleased to have senator al franken back at this table. welcome. al: thanks, charlie. great to be here. i hope i'm as much fun behind this table as i was on that couch with rick perry. charlie: i did notice when rick perry campaigned, he wore the glasses, people said he was trying to look differently. obviously, the glasses have continued. al: i found him actually very prepared for our meeting. he knew my stance on energy issues. and i found him actually to be -- he's the longest governor in the history of texas. they did a lot of wind energy. charlie: very popular down there. al: very popular.
brought a lot of wind -- i think texas is the largest wind electricity producing state. i didn't vote for him, because i didn't like some of his answers, on climate, but i called him to tell him i wasn't voting for him and we said, let's get dinner. charlie: you had dinner with him? al: i did not have dinner with him. we just said, let's get dinner. doesn't mean we were going to have dinner, we just said -- i hope to do that. i hope to do that. i asked him to become a student of climate. and so -- i think it'll take a few months to do that. charlie: we might need that. there are reports and seem to be more and more evident that the president will, although he's not announced it, withdraw from the paris climate. al: i think that one a big
tragedy in terms of our leadership in the world. this is something that 195 other countries signed on to. every country in the world, i believe, but syria and nicaragua. charlie: let me talk about the budget they have and look at this domestic agenda. the argument is a lot of what he promised in the campaign would be hurt a lot by the budget. al: i am cochair with pat roberts of kansas, a republican, the world health caucus, and i go all over minnesota talking to hospitals, clinics, nursing homes. people are freaked out about the health care bill, because i -- in minnesota a woman was crying because she said my mom will lose her home health care and my husband and i both work, and i don't know what we're going to do with my mom.
charlie: do you believe that looking to 2018 election which democrats could take over both the house and senate? is it heading that way? al: you know, i'm not a prognosticator. i'm not going to go down that -- that's not a pivot. that's -- i'm not prepared to answer. charlie: that's a statement. al: i don't like to do that. i like to focus on what's in front of us right now. what's in front of us right now is a terrible health care bill that the president had the ceremony in the rose garden, which you don't do after the house -- charlie: that's not a mission accomplished time. al: no. and the president is saying, you know, you know, everyone -- no one knew that health care was complicated. until i figured out that it's complicated. that's -- you know, that's crazy.
we all know it is complicated. it's very complicated. and sometimes i feel that my republican colleagues just had the affordable care act, which has its flaws and has weaknesses, they just were counting on hillary winning so they could keep bashing it around and didn't bother to find out how complicated it is. charlie: i want to talk about politics. why did she lose? why did the man you're looking at in the presidency today win? al: i think there are a lot of reasons. he obviously appealed to people who are angry. and -- charlie: why wouldn't she appeal to those people? al: i believe that part of what they're angry at is the establishment. and part of what they felt was, if we just get somebody in there who hasn't been part of this -- charlie: the establishment, washington crowd, drain the swamp.
al: there was that aspect of it. but people are legitimately angry. i mean, i'm talking about people who for 40 years have seen the middle class squeezed. and who don't see their kids having a brighter future than they had. and are angry about it. i think that we -- the democratic party have a different interpretation of why that has happened. charlie: did you make that argument clear? al: i think what happened was at a certain point, hillary had felt that donald trump had disqualified himself. i think they felt they were going to win. and they started playing prevent defense and then 11 days before, the comey thing hit. i'm not making any excuses for her.
and the extent of the russian interference in terms of 1,000 trolls in russia sending fake stories out and that's where fake news came from, and that going on facebook taking -- once they hacked the d.n.c. and hacked podesta, they can put anything out there. no one has read all of podesta's emails. no one has read everything from the d.n.c. they can send whatever lies. if you are talking about was , there cooperation with russians on that, there are some things where, you know, podesta's time in the barrel is very soon. charlie: roger stone said that. al: so that's kind of suspicious, don't you think? charlie: speaking of politics, too. you have said that celebrity today triumphed ideology. al: actually, i said trumps
ideology. and i didn't mean it as a pun. charlie: what did i say? al: triumphs. charlie: believing what, if you have a big name recognition as a as a celebrity, you can win over people who are policy wonks. al: i think i first made this observation when i went to republican conventions for comedy central or my radio show. i'd go to the conventions, people were like, hi, al. all i did was, you know -- savaging your people and hi, al.
charlie: i normally vote republican but i remember that great skit, i'm going to vote for you next time. al: believe me. i write about the 2008 campaign and everything i'd ever done in comedy was put through a $15 million machine the republicans -- charlie: looking for an attack ad. al: to create an attack ad but they put everything through a dehumorizer. charlie: explain that. you write about it several times. al: this machine was built with israeli technology which would decontextualize anything i've ever written. in satire and comedy you use irony and hyperbole. sometimes when those things are taken out -- i'll give you an example. so, i wrote this joke which was -- is a very conservative joke, because it was warning parents about the internet and you should monitor what your kids are doing on the internet. but i wrote the joke with some irony. i said, the internet is doing great things for learning. my sixth grade son did a report
last year doing the internet on bestiality and he downloaded a lot of great visual aids and the kids in the class just loved them. because at that age, they're just sponges. you're laughing. charlie: you made your point. al: you understand the joke. they just did an ad where they kind of did, al franken tells jokes about bestiality and it goes from infinity to, to your face in the living room. my mother-in-law cried when she saw the ad. i was unrecognizable as her son-in-law. it was rough. it was rugged. charlie: speaking of family. you said in that election, your wife of 40 years. al: 41 1/2. will be 42 this year.
charlie: without her you couldn't have won the election, because she had some bouts, i am trying to say this right -- bouts with alcoholism. al: she's an alcoholic, a recovering alcoholic. she did not like the way i was being portrayed and wanted to -- she said i want to do an ad. telling about my battle with alcoholism and how you stuck with me, because what we're seeing isn't who you are. she did an ad with mandy grunwald. she did a one-minute ad. in it she talked about, we've had problems in our marriage, and i was -- had a problem with alcoholism. but the line was, how can a mother of two such beautiful kids be an alcoholic? and that line spoke to the shame that mothers feel.
and that alcoholics feel. and there was an anchor, esme murphy, an anchorwoman for wcco, the cbs affiliate who wrote a thing like, imagine this is the best political ad this year. because this can actually help somebody. two days after the ad aired, we had a debate. it was in a gymnasium. when she entered that room she got a standing ovation. and i cried when i saw the ad. chuck schumer cried when he saw the ad. i was extremely, not only would i not have won, i would have lost by a lot if it hadn't been for frannie.
frannie, it's funny. people come up to me and say, you have a thankless job. thank you. i go, no, a thankless job is a job where no one thanks you. frannie has a thankless job. which, that reminds me -- i should thank her for making that ad, don't you think? charlie: you do, i don't believe you haven't thanked her a thousand times. have you or not? al: i thanked her once. i felt that was sufficient. charlie: why did you decide to run? you start at the top. no political experience. you'd been a comedian. al: i didn't start at the top. we've seen that. paul wellstone, who -- i
dedicate -- charlie: the progressive senator from minnesota. al: whose seat i hold, i guess. also, hubert humphries' and walter mondale's. he was a hero of mine. i dedicate the book to him and to his wife sheila. he died less than two weeks before in a plane crash, he and his family and others. his daughter and wife and others in the staff and the pilot. and there were a sequence of events where there was a memorial for him that was very much about paul. paul had this exuberance and energy. and he was sort of -- i write about this at length in "lies and lying liars who tell them" and that was taken by the republicans and they said that
we -- that there was some inappropriate things said during that and it was used in a certain way. and so, norm coleman ended up winning that election and he beat walter mondale who had stepped in at the last minute. charlie: the former vice president. al: yes. a couple of months after coleman had taken office, he did a profile, his first profile in "roll call" and he said, i'm a 99% improvement over paul wellstone. charlie: and you read that. al: i read that and said who is going to beat this guy? i didn't say guy, but i said something. and i had never, ever, for a second considered running for the senate. or running for office. until i saw that. and you know, frannie and i were going to be empty nesters. and i talked to her about moving
to minnesota. and i had the air america thing start here. i did that -- charlie: the radio show. al: yes, the radio show in new york. but then we moved to minnesota to do the show and to explore. listen, i didn't necessarily think i was the guy who was going to beat norm coleman. and as the campaign progressed, it became less and less about norm coleman and more and more about those who -- any cafe i'd go to in small towns anywhere, v.f.w. hall, american legion hall, you'd see, you know, a sheet up there saying, we're having a spaghetti dinner for this family, because they've gone bankrupt because of a health care crisis.
and elizabeth warren had been on my radio show telling me more than 50% of americans go bankrupt because of a health care crisis. it's related to a health care crisis. and i knew that. my radio show. but the -- it got personal. because it was personal with the people in minnesota. so, it's a petty reason to run for the senate. to say someone's got to beat this guy. but what it became more and more about was what paul said. paul said that politics isn't about winning for the sake of winning. it isn't about money. politics is about improving people's lives. and that's -- you know, i wrote this book to answer the question that i get asked more than anything else, which is, is being a united states senator as much fun as working on "saturday night live"? and the answer is, no. why would it be? but it's the best job i've ever had because i get to improve people's lives. two weeks into being in the senate, johnny isakson from georgia, i call him up, i have
this idea, this bill, to match vets from iraq and afghanistan with invisible wounds with ptsd, with service dogs. and he co-sponsored it and it went through and it passed. and that made me feel like i was doing something. and that's when you feel like, i'm a good senator. charlie: and the interesting thing is you won by a landslide. al: i clobbered him, 300 and 12 votes. charlie: it took them six months to decide who one. al: it took them eight months. i won the recount in time to be seated with my colleagues, but we went to the process.
washington and you are watching "bloomberg technology." the house could vote on emergency relief funding for hurricane harvey admits at timber. congresswoman sheila jackson told bloomberg there is no time to waste. >> we need money now. there has been so much expenditures and so much harm. we don't know how many properties in terms of homes will be hurt. some people giving number high as 40,000 homes. alisa: vice president pence is in texas to visit victims and survey the damage in the wake of hurricane harvey. pence landed in corpus christi and was welcomed by texas governor greg abbott and energy