tv Antonia Felix Elizabeth Warren CSPAN September 30, 2018 10:00am-10:46am EDT
that happens tonight on cspan2's book tv, 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books every weekend. television for serious readers. our on either this weekend's fall schedule is available on our website, booktv.org. >> .. then we left jeffrey lewis reading from his new book. on saturday at 4 p.m., lewis miller, the author of the late bloomers club will be here to read from her book and she will also be a to help us judge our second annual baking contest so
you may want to come in for treats, even though you didn't make the treat. with quite a robust schedule of events for september so please do check a website or just give us a call. tonight we are happy to have with us antonia felix, a "new york times" best-selling author of 20 nonfiction books, a short fiction, a medical thriller and a play. her cookbook is "elizabeth warren: her fight. her work. her life." her political biographies include ruth bader ginsburg, american icon, michelle obama, a photographic journey, sonia sotomayor, the true american dream, and wesley clark, a biography. she has spoken and lectures frequently on women in power and appeared on cnn, msnbc, sky news, npr, pbs's "washington
journal," cnn international, cbs radio and many others. in addition, because she's really not busy enough, she researches and writes about racial and gender equity and in public education. she lives near minneapolis minnesota. tonight we're pleased she will be in conversation with karyn miller-medzon compassing associate producer of a little show on wbur called here and now. before her tenure at wbur, she wrote for newspapers including the montréal gazette, the global nil, the riverside press and the boston herald as well as numerous magazines. please join us in welcoming antonia and karyn. thank you. [applause] so it's an absolute pleasure to
be doing this tonight. and i have to say that i'm going to start with a confession. when i first got this book i thought i pretty much knew everything there was to know about elizabeth warren. i thought, i knew she grew up poor. i knew she taught law. i knew she championed the consumer protection agency and became a senator, so like what else is there, right? by the end of the first chapter i realized that the story i put together for elizabeth warren was kind of like like a resume. the story that antonia put together is a portrait. it's not dry. it's riveting. it's human. she uses everything from introduced speeches, , debates, commenters. she describes late-night tv appearances, public condemnations. it's a really important book about a very important public figure. so we're going to talk a little bit about the book and the
things that you will discover when you read it, and you should read it because it's worth reading. so let's start not at the very beginning, not at her beginning which we will go back to come by want to go to february 2017, and it's during the debate that senators were having about whether jeff sessions should be nominated as attorney general. there had been weeks of arguments, for and against, and in comes the elizabeth warren and she has a letter with her from coretta scott king from 1986, and in that letter is a statement that coretta scott king had written years earlier that said, mr. sessions has used the awesome power of this his e to chill the free exercise of black people. elizabeth warren tried to read that sentence. what happens? >> she was silenced by her
senate colleagues. ultimately, by mitch mcconnell. there were quite a few little steps that have been very dramatic, doing that very dramatic evening but ultimately it was the majority leader mitch mcconnell who insisted that she was violating a very arcane senate rules that you're not supposed to say anything derogatory about any of her senate colleagues. senator barbara mikulski told me when i interviewed her for this but you saying that rule was made back in the early 1900s, maybe the late 1800s, when it wasn't uncommon for a gentleman to show up on the senate floor or the house floor inebriated and making a real rockets rest of the proceedings. and they were not supposed to do that so that developed this rule that you can't just come in drunk and start to slander somebody that you are angry at.
but that was the role that was brought up, because mcconnell and others were saying you're basically slandering senator sessions and you are not allowed to do that. even if you're just quoting from something that is saying something critical of the senator, you can't do that. ultimately she kept talking because there was, there were steps, as i said, to this rule. at first you are warned him and so she was warned about this rule but then she continued to read this letter by coretta scott king. and then she was interrupted again and told, mitch mcconnell finally said well, she was warned. i forget what the middle part is. >> she was given an excavation. >> she was given an explanation. nevertheless, she persisted, and then was time for another big
session about this whole thing, but she was silenced. she went out into the hallway and use your iphone and read the rest of the letter and put it on youtube, and the rest is history. it just went viral. >> and nevertheless, she persisted, became the rallying cry for so many people who supported what she did on the left, progressives, and some more conservatives as well, particularly women. it became hashtag, was on t-shirts, on coffee mugs. i'm sure belmont books will make a tote bag with it. but it's also a good metaphor for her life. it's almost ironic because as were going to discuss, elizabeth warren really persisted. so let's go back to her childhood. you write she didn't have an easy time. her family was poor. they almost lost their home. she was a bright girl who was a debating champion but didn't always have the money to go to
the tournaments that the other kids could go to. tell us about what she needed to do just as a child even. what was her early life like? >> she did learn what persistence means very early on, even as a kid in second grade she decided that she wanted to be a teacher. she found her passion. there was a second grade teacher who encouraged her and said you can really do something with your life. this is in the late '50s, early '60s, and she came back to school and then said mrs. lee, i decided i'm going to become a teacher. she made up her mind and she was very excited about it. but her mother was from a generation where she felt that a woman's place is in home and that her daughter, her one daughter, should aspire to be a wife and the mother and nothing else. so her mother never encouraged that aspect of her. they really had some bitter
arguments about it. as she grew up, went to junior high, high school, even through college when she decide you want to go to law school, there wasn't that kind of foundational support from her mom, but she persisted through that. so that was a very early on, very personal aspect of that persistence. >> and, in fact, what you say about her mother, she did internalize it. she did drop out of college at the age of 19 to marry, to get married. there had to be some grain of that that stayed with her. >> right. that was a message coming from home, of course, , and also from society, from high school. i write quite a bit about the betty crocker homemaker of tomorrow program that was happening in high schools in the mid-1960s, which was a quite sophisticated course about how
young women should look toward child raising and be good citizens and things like that. it really wasn't about how to measure out bread dough. it was about being a good citizen, a wife and a mother. so there was a lot of pressure there because the program did not talk about getting out there and having a career. the women's movement had not hit the ground running yet. she had those messages coming from the side and then she had her own passions and this inner drive to do something in the world, and they were just at loggerheads for so many years. >> it's interesting that she does end up going back to college. she finishes her degree at rutgers and then she goes to houston. she joined houston law center where you write that she doubled the number of women on the faculty by arriving there. that's pretty remarkable.
back on that theme of being an woman and doubling the number of women, she suffered major sexual harassment. she was part of the #me too movement. tell us what happened to her and how did she get the on that? >> that was while she was on the faculty at houston, houston law, and there was one particular professor who, as some of the professors have said and told me, had a real crush on her, and knowing very well she was in mother with small children and everything else. he would at one point when she was alone in his office within, he tried to grab her and was chasing her around his office, and frightened her. so she had to live with that type of tension on the job. because of this one particular professor. she came out and she said in the #me too movement she recorded
that story that went on television and a lot of people, you know, one more story about a woman who had to take that kind of treatment on the job. >> a pivotal moment in her career also came in texas and it sounds like this is going to be really drive but it's not. it's really dramatic and interesting. in 1972 is a major overhaul of bankruptcy law that change the code for the first time in 40 years. what that meant was that the new code made bankruptcy relief accessible to families in need so that at that point no one had ever really studied bankruptcy. nobody really knew who the people were who were filing for bankruptcy, and a guest lecturer came to a class she was teaching and he said, people who file for bankruptcy mostly laborers and housemaids who live on the economic margins and always would. here's elizabeth warren whose
family had roughly escaped bankruptcy and whose family was middle-class, maybe lower middle class but working really hard. she asked him a question and he was intransigent about it, and it sort of change the trajectory of her career. tell us, where did you go with that? why did that sort of launch her? >> he assumed that he had some sort of factual basis to back up that sentiment, the people who file for bankruptcy are all in this one certain little section of society. and she asked in that and he said, well, everybody just knows it. it was the most unscientific, on professorial and to the summit could give. that really starker. so as you said it sparked her interest in the field. she formed a tight research
group with two other professors at texas, and they did a long qualitative study about who is actually going bankrupt in this country. it sort of turn all of her understanding about it upside down. they found all of these stories about it being a regular middle-class household that either because of a medical crisis or a job loss or a divorce just sent them right over the edge, and the law is set up where if that happens this is the safety net and you have a second chance. of course in commercial bankruptcy, companies have the same chance and it doesn't have the same statement quite as much as personal bankruptcy, but her decades of research on this really changed that sentiment that most people had. and that she herself had. she went into it with that same thinking that, well, it's just
people trying to game the system and get out of paying their bills, but then when she really got into in a big way, it evolved as a scholar and as a person, and actually as, what are political affiliation was. >> right. you write quite convincingly that force people to consider the moral and human dimensions of bankruptcy. it's pretty profound. so that also kind of launched her washington, you know, arise into the national scene. she was asked to be on the bankruptcy commission, you write, and she was like a canary in the coal mine. she just wouldn't stop singing. she was railing about preapproved credit cards being mailed out like candy and screaming that filings, bankruptcy filings were up over a million a year, and she
basically as you said, people don't really know, i certainly didn't know, she started out as republican, and you write that she felt you could support the party of deregulation. how did that play out? c switched parties? tell us all a bit about that because that was something that was sort of eye-opening four. >> it's an interesting story because she is this icon of the last, of the progressive party, but back 30 odd years ago, back further than that when she was starting office research, she was a republican and at times in independent, but the more she learned about the realities of the economics of working people and of the middle class, and particularly the people of color as well, this market system that she adored, and still does, she's a a capitalist and she
believes in markets, but she saw that the markets were not working for everybody. they were really excluding a lot of people. and oppressing a lot of people. she realized she wanted to be on the side of a platform that believed in regulating those markets and making them fair and work for everybody. that's been her message for a very long time, and it created this personal evolution in herself and a new political affiliation that come as a set in the book, i admire a person come in person who has that kind of the mindset where they will learn and evolve from the life experiences. i think that's the trait of a a good leader for one thing. >> suddenly she is a rock star. you write about how she goes from being prolifically publishing professor to suddenly
she's blogging and she's writing books. i mean, that's a whole other can i don't know that will get to this that she's also a prolific author, very important books. but suddenly she's also a late-night television. she's on "the jon stewart show." she said, she compared subprime loans to hand grenade grenadess pulled off. explain the financial crisis so clearly that the audience burst into applause and jon stewart said that if her husband wasn't backstage he would want to make out with her. that's not your standard law professor. people have this idea, but tell us a little bit about this meet you at rise that she suddenly had. >> when she began writing for the general public with her daughter amelia was also a very accomplished young woman, her message about our finances and the plight of a lot of working americans really got out into
the public square. she went on dr. phil and she went on with amelia, and dr. phil surprised to by saying we've got three different couples here who have different problems with the financial lives and we want you to advise them. she thought her going on an interview to talk about what's in the book. the latest book, the two income trap. he really put her on the spot and it was interesting to go back and look at those old videos. but millions of people watched those shows a lot of people read her books. her trademark ability to be so clear and straightforward about complex issues, and also to resonate that outrage that a lot of people have had over the recession and how it didn't seem many of the people who were responsible really came out of it without a scratch.
people resonated with that message and with her, the intensity behind it that seemed very, very genuine, and they still do. i believe that is her hallmark of being such a pipe was. >> as her star was rising she finally gets she starts the consumer finance protection agency, i always get that acronym wrong, so that was born in july 2010. it did so many things. i'm not going to list them, but it's on page 192, when you get the book. but she didn't get to head that agency, and you call that one of her biggest life disappointments. why didn't she had that agency which she conceded, she birthed it and then she seated it over to a man. >> well, in case some of you don't know, we have a rather polarized washington, and it's
been that way for a little while. during the obama administration, because of her stance on regulation and especially the stance that became very, very clear when she was overseeing the bailout, that was before she became a senator, conservatives who believe very strongly in deregulation did not like elizabeth warren. they are very clear about it, so there's a pretty clear divide. the senate did not want her, and none of the conservatives wanted her to be able to run that agency. they didn't want the agency to exist at all. it came into being as part of dodd-frank, which they are trying to dismantle as well as the bureau they are trying to water down. they would not allow her to become the director. obama was forced to select someone else, and they tried some finagling to make it work
but it didn't work. what some people say enough is it's probably the worst thing that her political enemies could have done because she didn't get to become the director of the bureau. she's a lot more powerful than the director of that agency. >> that's really interesting. so let's talk about that. so as we all know elizabeth warren became a senator. and still is one. that gets into the whole campaign to become senator when the incumbent scott brown used the false claim during a debate, accused her of getting jobs by falsely stating that she was native american. now, that's been debunked and actually as recently as the week before last "boston globe" had a major investigation where they interviewed every living faculty
member from every school that she apply to as a law professor about whether or not she had used the claim that she was of native american descent, and every single individual said no she did not. it should put that to rest. will it? >> no, because these are american politics and she is of course up for election in november and that is an easy target that of course the president has made all the more come use all of his vitriol on that one aspect, calling her pocahontas. i think it's really going to come up as we get closer to november. i think it's going to be pulled out more and more by her opposition. but she came out in february of this year with a big speech
about her ancestry and how she wants to, i mean, she grew up with these stories that her family on her mothers side had some cherokee in delaware, blood, and that's what she grew up hearing. she said very flatly that she's not going to call her family liars, and that is just part of who she is. added you write about this quite a bit in the book about this very complex issue of native american identity in this country and what it means through ethnicity and culture versus just a blood quantum or something like that. but as making her a political target by using her claim of native identity, you know, coming up with racial slurs, she is using that. she said that every time the president uses that slur against
her she is going to use that as an opportunity to raise more awareness about issues that are confronting the native american communities around the country, and she has been doing that. so i think were going to have quite a bit more of that. >> you actually write in the book about, i mean, you get into a little more detail about why she does believe that account has native american ancestry, including the fact her parents had to invoke because her father's family didn't want him to marry into a family of native americans. that's just a fact that they did the pope and that's the reason the mother, her mother gave -- elope. which is quite convincing. >> right. >> so that story is actually elaborated on in the book, quite convincingly.
i want to talk a little bit about some of the things, some missteps that elizabeth warren is made. the book i should say is pretty positive about her, it's quite a glowing biography. i don't think it's one-sided. i think it's pretty factual, but you do also talk about some missteps she's made in senator to talk about the fact that she would put misstated her role in the occupy wall street movement. she said that the backtrack and regretted regrets and that she created the intellectual foundation for what they do. she dialed back later and said it was a statement. she also misstated the amount of money she was paid at one point to serve on the congressional oversight panel. she explained why she made that mistake, calculating one year versus the totality of years that she had done it. we can choose to believe or not believe those things. but it's interesting that you point out a lot of the criticism
she received has nothing to do with performance whatsoever. she gets criticized for being shrill, for being allowed, for being angry and even people who we could say are on the left or are progressives like billionaire warren buffett complained that she would be so effective that she wasn't so angry, and we've got to go back to the fact that this is because she's a woman. talk a little bit about that, what she still has to overcome even with this laundry list of accomplishments that any man would be, you know, i mean, that would be all you would have to see. why are we still talking about whether her voice is too loud? >> it's a double standard for women leaders. there's quite a bit in the book about women in the senate, in the house and how they have come across this same double
standard, and defined everyday in their work, and what they do. where the qualities of confidence and straightforwardness and steadfastness and earnestness, you know, knowing your stuff about a topic in being very clear about where you stand, in a mail that those qualities are seen as a very strong and just great qualities of leadership, where as you said when he women exerts that kind of authority with that kind of energy and intensity, she is being as he said, people admire her on tv have said that if she wasn't so shrill. it's a double standard and we are so far behind other industrialized nations in how we look at women as leaders. we are so far behind.
we haven't had a president yet. we are very far behind, and what is it that we linger with a double standard in this country? it's a fascinating question, are at different answers for it. is it because sort of the judeo-christian upbringing that women are supposed to be the helpmates? is that so deeply embedded that it's just always part of our nature, or where does that start? but as we see more and more women getting elected at every level, local, state, national, federal level, we will start to become more comfortable with the idea that women are capable leaders, and that we shouldn't be looking agenda at all. we should be looking at the ethics and their qualities, their strengths, their intelligence, all of that. >> it always does, you write about it so eloquently and it,
when you read about all the different people and all the different things they have said, it takes you back in the you sort of know that that goes on. >> we think we have come for. we seem a lot but in some ways it's just like that. >> so elizabeth warren is still obviously very active as the sender. center. she's serving on committees including health education labor pension, armed services committee. she's got all her ducks in a row. is she coming up for a 2020 run, do you think she's going to be on that roster of presidential candidates? >> she did something just this past month that makes me think guess. of course she's always denied that, she says i'm working for the state of massachusetts. you know a lot about elizabeth warren, but last month just two weeks in a row she brought up these sweeping bills. the person was the accountable
capitalism act, to make capitalism accountable. this is something other people been writing about that we need, our capitalist system, our corporate entities need to be more humane and people need more of a voice in them. a very interesting bill commented she followed that up with an anticorruption bill saying the people who work in the government or work in congress should not own stock. that's too much of a conflict of interest. several other point she made about that. so those are big statements about this is what i believe about this country. i think the timing for that was intentional. that really sounded presidential to me, so i would not be surprised. >> and then just one last question, this book is so incredibly detailed. i mean, if you've ever met elizabeth warren, you interviewed in this book, , so i
knew that none of you knew elizabeth warren, but i wonder, did it occur to you or to did e any interest in interviewing her for the book, or was it something she wasn't interested in? i was curious when i read it. >> i matter briefly many years ago this book has been a long time in coming. because when she was doing her first campaign and people started to really perk up there in years, especially you didn't do this alone speech, none of us got rich on their own or something like that, that thing went viral, that really got my attention. i thought here's somebody who believed in capitalism but believes in the social contract, something that so many of us think have been eroded pretty drastically. i started looking at her and kind of started a file and then about the book proposal. i thought, if i'm just interested, i have a feeling of
the people are interested in knowing more about her, too. i gave it to my agent at the time atticus the timing just wasn't right. we couldn't sell the project way back in 2012. but i can't researching her and following her, and last year i revamped that proposal, and at lunch one day with my agent she said this is our last year, she said what are you thinking about? who do you want to write about next? i said, well, i just happen to have come and i pulled out of my bag this full-fledged jerk for this book. she said i can sell this, i know i can sell this. that was a lovely lunch and it was great to finally be able to type into it. long story short, i'll let your question, we contacted her. what i wanted to do was shadow her for a few days and just be there to observe rather than to
ask direct questions. it's hard to ask those questions till you've really got into the material and knowing really what you like to ask it but it didn't work out schedule wise and things like that. she writes her own material of course, and i can completely understand that she didn't want to give me time. she had put out a a notice actually that she wasn't doing any one person interviews and things like that. so i was one of many who didn't get a a chance to do that. but it's funny because he of the people i interviewed are telling things she's never going to maybe even remember or talk about, so we get a real picture of her through all these avalanches. >> absolutely. it doesn't feel like a black hair in fact, there's lots of information. >> thank you. >> it works. >> thank you. >> thank you. that's all super interesting and recommend the book. i have to say again, and i told
antonia this one a better earlier, when i first picked it up, economic and legal expertise is so extensive, and my economic and legal expertise is so diminutive that i thought this was book is going to really wrestle with and i thought that's good for me because i should learn this stuff. it wasn't like that at all. it read like a novel with enough of the economic theory sort of scattered in where work neededt it really feel like i now do understand that without having to have taken an sat on it. so i appreciate that. >> thank you. >> thank you. [applause] does anyone have any questions not for me? any questions you have any of this? just. >> the outrageous and intensity, i mean, we learned to live with
her in this state edifact having seen her in person with a very large audience. her demeanor was very different. she is very strong that she tempered yourself. how do you see it coming across and other places in terms of the future for her? >> that was a very interesting thing for me to hear from people like her former students and professors she to work with whoever said with more one-on-one with her, like in her office talking about the class or something, she is so soft-spoken and personable and calm and just a very open person that seem so different from what they see on tv. as i put in here, when she's doing a 60 or a 90-second bit on msnbc or something, she has a point to make an she just sticks
to that of course. as a city seems as if the clock is always taking for elizabeth warren. i've been talking to people about this. does she need to try to slow down a little bit and show more of that other set of her which of course is a bigger sight of her for most of her life that we don't get to usually see? when she is on air, does she need to expose more of that and just kind of slow down a little bit? may be her advisers were told that as this campaign goes on because it's not just people saying she is shrill but she is more dimensional than that. people notice. a lot of people who talked to me, they all said the same thing, that that's not all of her that most people see on television and that a senate
hearing, that there's much more to her than that. i hope that wiki to see that during the campaign. whether people are going to vote for her are not, we deserve to see the well-rounded person that any of our candidates are. it's a really important point. i'm glad you brought that up. >> i think she's between a rock and a hard place. a hard place being that men speak with strong tones, but women's voices are higher, and when they do the same thing, it is heard as a shrill, as opposed to somebody speaking shkreli. it's just because i think that when the cup matches that she is a women at the women's voices come across to the ear as more shrill. that -- that was the hard place. the rock being hated she does
this more soft thing, then she falls into the category that is the cultural, you do, she's just a supplemental new people to get the job done. if she's able to a defiant that middle ground, which i don't think has been forged yet, i think that would be really good. >> that's an interesting point about the pitch of a woman's voice. and some women have a more resident, medium pitch to the voice where they could be just as intense and everything but it would not come off with that same vibrational effect that you are saying. >> she should do what i understand lauren bacall did, go out and the desert and screen and tell her voice broke. >> that's just what i heard. >> that is interesting.
campaign people, if you're listening. >> thank you. that's really interesting. >> i'm just curious, i have had the pleasure of reading the book, but do you think that she thought about going to politics use care when she entered law, or do you think to some extent i feel like her story is she was drawn in by these dire economic, you know, this crisis and she understood and was able to explain it in a a way that reay nobody else was and that's kind of what led her into politics, otherwise she might just be a law professor still teaching here in cambridge. i'm just wondering what your impression is of her trajectory having lived through all this material? >> when she first got a taste of what it's like for your work as an academic to be out there making a direct impact in the world, in the way things work, i
think that was the switching point. that was the turning point for her. as you mentioned she got on this bankruptcy review commission to spearhead a real good close analysis of the new bankruptcy law, and having the ability to bring all of her knowledge and research over decades of academic study and research, to bring that to something concrete, that's crossing that line where there's a very solid line between academia and the rest of the world, right? she crossed that line thin, and they went harry reid invited her to direct the bailout, the commission, the watchdog for bailout, eric inches able to put all of that insight into a real-world practice that was important. it gave her the bug that may be
if i really want to make a difference, academia is fantastic and she has made difference, had made difference already, but there's so much more that a person could do. so she got her feet wet with that bankruptcy commission and then the tarp oversight group, directing that really, showed her that she was good at it and that she had a lot to offer. so it's that public service thing. i don't think she would have realized was something she would enjoy doing if she had not first gotten into government, people inviting her because of her expertise to contribute. >> thank you. well, thank you for being here. it's been a real pleasure.
one of the things i'm laying out in there is the horrific effect on american democracy that voter suppression has. if you believe in america, if you believe democracy, if you believe in your fellow human beings in this nation. >> you want anyone to vote regards what other speakers because that's what a vibrant democracy looks like. what we have right now is that what we called the electric and i think one of the key areas were we doing that is gerrymandering. gerrymandering is a way for politicians are able to choose their voters instead of voters choosing the representative in alabama and helicobacter gerrymandering, in alabama, alabama has also gerrymandered that state. it might look like that would not kept in the senate race but what gerrymandered does is it
depresses vote because he demoralizes people because they think the system is rigged and devote one account. >> it would have competitive elections, people turn up. >> right. you keep going that and it doesn't make any sense. >> afterwards airs saturdays at 10 p.m. and sundays at 9 p.m. eastern pacific on booktv on c-span2, all previous afterwards are available online at booktv.org. >> hello, everyone. welcome to heritage foundation. i and reports, assistant director of lectures and seminars. thank you for joining us today in the auditorium. i just wanted to remind everyone intending in person to silence their cell phones and encourage anyone watching online or on c-span2