tv Overheard With Evan Smith PBS July 15, 2017 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT
- [announcer] funding for overhead with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation and hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy. and by klru's producers circle, ensuring local programming that reflects the character and interests of the greater austin, texas, community. - i'm evan smith, he's a former u.s. secretary of housing and urban development and a former san antonio mayor widely regarded as a rising star in the democratic party and a possible future candidate for president. he's the honorable julian castro, this is overhead. (inspirational music) let's be honest, is the about the ability to learn or is this about the experience of not having been taught properly? how have you avoided what has befallen other nations in africa? i hate to say he made his own bed, but you caused him to sleep in it. you saw a problem and over time took it on. let's start with the sizzle before we get to the steak.
are you gonna run for president? i think i just got an f from you. this is overheard. mr. secretary, good to see you. - great to be with ya. - welcome back to texas, i guess you're living here now so it's not really much of a welcome back but in some ways. - but welcome back to austin. - you've been gone, welcome back to austin. so here we are, i looked it up today, it's day 124 of the trump administration. - ah. - does that feel long or short based on what we've seen so far? - it feels like the longest 124 days of our national life. - is it really any different than you expected? i mean, obviously, your side going into this election, thought you had it won, didn't end up that way, coming out of it, worried your fears would be realized and in many respects, suspicions confirmed, it's been somewhat like you thought. has it been really though worse than you thought? - oh, no doubt. let's start off with a caveat, that caveat is we're only a few months in, and i think that americans of all different stripes tend to give a president a little bit of room to learn and grow on the job.
- whether they were for him or not. - that's right and that's usually reflected in public opinion polls. - and you want him to succeed. - of course. - of course, everybody wants the president to succeed. - everybody wants the president to be successful in moving the nation forward in the right direction, of course, we have very strong disagreements about what that means, but you want for the sake of that office and the country for him to succeed. having said that, it has been a mess, unqualified mess. (audience laughs) you have a president that looks like, if reports are true, that he's abusing his power, potentially has obstructed justice in terms of the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and russia, they put together a healthcare package that would mean that 24 million less americans would have healthcare, put forward a budget that just decimates opportunity for people who are low income and even middle class.
- i think in fact every state agency except for homeland security, defense, and veterans saw a decrease in this budget. - yeah, it's a train wreck of a budget. - but practically, it's dead, i mean, that budget's not gonna go in, practically. - so it doesn't matter who the president is, you're not gonna get everything that you want. in this case, i hope that he gets nothing that he wants. (audience laughs, applauds) just to give you an example of that, over at my former department at hud, the proposal was to cut more than $6 billion from the hud budget. now mind you, when reagan walked in the door in 1981, hud had about 16,000 employees. today it has less than 8000 and at the same time, the needs out there have grown. - well the population has grown, right? - population has grown and the needs have grown and this is a budget that would cut from the ability to provide for low-income and middle class americans housing opportunity, it also would impact things
like meals on wheels, which is very popular and make sure that poor seniors have food to eat during the day, and so it's a very draconian compassionless budget that we haven't seen in a very long time. - you know, there are democrats i've had the opportunity to sit across from, some democrats including nancy pelosi recently, we interviewed her a couple weeks ago, and she said, "i can't believe i'm saying this, "but i miss georgew that, i s. - and she's not the only one to say that, i mean, there is this idea that somehow those of us who thought, not myself, but people who thought in the bush era, we hate this, this is not what we wanted, they're nostalgic actually for a time like that. - you know, to me, and the budget is a good example of this, to me it just feels like he's turning over the supervision and mechanics of government to right-wing ideologues. i would be surprised if president trump actually knows the basics of what's in the budget that has been proposed on his behalf. - you think it's staff driving this
as opposed to his vision top-down. - no doubt. - let me make the counter case to you, mr. secretary, that there were things about the obama years that needed to be fixed, that is the case that was made during the campaign, it's the case that's being made now and this budget and the policies that have been put into place or have been articulated since inauguration day are really an attempt to rescue the country from the brink, that was the argument that mr. trump made during the campaign. - well the argument that he made during the campaign was that there were forgotten americans, folks, for instance, who lived in wisconsin or michigan or ohio who had been impacted by free trade and jobs moving overseas, the problem is that he hasn't lived up to his promises. for instance, in this budget, he takes away economic development money from the very communities that he said that he would help to revitalize. - and in many cases, communities that voted for him. - that's true. - the affordable healthcare act translates into the ahca, it is said that the people who will be hardest hit are often people who voted for him,
in the communities that supported him. - no doubt, no doubt. what folks have to understand about donald trump is that he spent the last four decades almost doing certain things like railing against free trade, railing against china, railing against saudi arabia, at one point in the 1980s railing against japan too, and he gets into office and the first thing that he does is to say, well, maybe china's not a currency manipulator, and maybe we do need nato after all, and no, we're not gonna scrap nafta the way that i said that we were, we're gonna go ahead and try and renegotiate it with canada and mexico, so time after time, not only has he gone back on what he promised during the campaign, he's not even the same guy that he was before he went into politics. he has turned into, basically, mike pence, a right-wing ideologue and so, whether it's 2018 or 2020, the decision that people
are gonna have to make is do they trust someone who flat out lied to them about the man that he would be as president. - you understand though, mr. secretary, that although his approval ratings are lower than most presidents over time have been at this point, at the end of the day, a lot of the people who supported him are still with him, they actually knew he was imperfect, that he maybe said things that didn't square with facts during the campaign or that he had done things that you would kinda shield your eyes from, but they still voted for him, what makes you think that all of a sudden now, they're gonna break with him when they had ample opportunity to break with him before and did not? - number one, in august of 1974, there were people who were still with richard nixon. - right, it was only at the very end that he lost the majority of republicans. - no no, i'm saying at the very end, when he flew out in the helicopter. (audience laughs) i bet you that there were 25 or 30% of people who didn't think that he should be flying out in the helicopter, who didn't think that he should resign.
and so let's dispense with the idea that his support is ever gonna go down to zero, it's not. now i think the more interesting question is, the 10 to 15% of folks who would determine an election. there's very good polling data out, compilation of months of polling that has shown that the folks who strongly support him has diminished by 1/3. and so he's losing those folks, he's losing them because people can tell it's a mess. - so you think if the election were held today, he might have a hard time winning. - oh, no doubt, no doubt, and not only that, the other thing i was gonna say is, election, whatever election it is, i don't care if it's for school board or for city council or president is always a match-up between two or three people. and he's never gonna have the same match-up again. - it's a choice, not a referendum. - it is a choice, that's right, and so it's a choice, there's also timing, he's gonna have a track record next time. the republicans are gonna lose their majority in congress
in 2018. - well you say that. (audience applauds) we don't know that, well we don't know. - well i guess, evan, you're right, we don't know. - these guys notwithstanding. if you were sitting here on november 7th, you'd say, and we're gonna win the presidency the next day. - let me just say that if i was a betting man, if i were a betting man, i would put money on the democrats. - house, senate, or both? - well keep at least holding the senate, winning back the house. - holding the senate in what respect? - holding the seats that we have in the senate. - currently. - yeah, 48 essentially. - but not winning back a majority. - right now i'm not willing to say that because there are a couple of states that are very difficult. - well the fact is there are 10 seats that the democrats have to win next time, when they're up for reelection, that were either in states won by trump or that trump barely lost, so you're gonna have to assume that those are gonna be hard to hold. - i think that we're gonna hold everything that we have now. - so you said every election is a choice, not a referendum, if that's the case, is the reason
that we're in the situation we're in now because trump won or because your side lost a winnable election. do a little bit of self analysis or autopsy on what happened last time. - it's clear that from the very beginning, you had a race that was gonna be a challenge for democrats to win, and i said that because the democrats had held the presidency for two terms and it's rare that you get a third time with the same party. - george h.w. bush. - that was the last person. - is the exception that proves the rule. - that's right so when you start thinking about the framework of that, it was always gonna be tough. secondly, there's no question that something was in the air in 2016, populism, to a certain extent nationalism, this idea of america first that trump ran on. - russia. - russia, we don't know what the impact of that was or wasn't right now, but yeah, it's conceivable that that contributed, of course. so i think that the overall dynamics of the race, if somebody were looking back on it, they would say that they were not good for democrats.
- easier to see now when you look back over the totality of it. - and trump was an unconventional candidate. he also did a very good job of, and i think here is where the russian influence and social media influences comes into play, they did a very good job, and by very good, i mean effective, of smearing hillary clinton. basically on social media, they turned hillary clinton into somebody that she was not. i can't tell you how many times when i would post something on facebook or on twitter, i would get back this really virulent strain of, oh, this person is a criminal, she should be in jail, i mean, come on. - but they used the tools available to them, they used the new tools particularly of campaigning. - for sure. - and as they say, this stuff ain't bean bag, it's tough stuff, and they used it effectively. - i think that it's gonna be difficult for either party to achieve that kind of result in the future because i think people are, each time folks go through that as a populace,
they get a little bit smarter. - so you learned from at least that aspect of the last campaign, you learned about that. what did you learn about the democratic message, what the message of your party needs to be. if you go back now and you look at what the message was in the last election and you think ahead two years or four years, what should the message be, what tweaks would you make to the message? - i would focus a lot more on what the policies democrats embrace would do for low income and middle class americans. - an affirmative argument. - an affirmative argument instead of an argument that focuses so much on, this is a bad guy and look at what our children are thinking, watching him. i just think that that didn't seem to resonate the way that folks thought it would. but look at his policies, look at the fact that he's gonna strip healthcare from 24 million americans, that he's making it harder for poor senior citizens to get some food delivered to their doorstep, that he's making it more difficult for folks
who are developing hiv in africa, something that president bush championed, supporting them, taking that away or at least 1/5 of that budget. so there's plenty there that shows that this is a guy, who is a billionaire, who is making policy or suggesting policy to reward billionaires and millionaires in wall street and i would focus a lot more there. we need to lay out a positive vision for opportunity in the 21st century, it needs to focus on opportunity for everyone. if folks remember when barack obama emerged in 2007, 2008, there was this great hope in this sense that opportunity would be expanded and it contrasted very well with the bush years and i believe that the democrats have a golden opportunity to do that going forward against trump because it's so focused on the past, it's stuck in trickle down economics, it's such a mess, it's just dour,
that we have a real chance to be something different. - so on the subject of obama, i wanna look backward before we look forward, i wanna talk about your time as hud secretary, what did you learn, why was this a good decision? people say, well he's rising up through the democratic ranks at least in his home state of texas, he's running a city that was then and is now the seventh largest city in the country, dealing with a lot of problems that affect people's lives every day, he's gonna disappear into a federal cabinet, he goes to washington, he becomes part of the problem, not part of the solution in the rest of the country, why was this a good decision, what'd you accomplish, what'd you learn? - the satisfaction that i got from serving at hud was the knowledge that the work that you're doing is helping to provide opportunity for folks who are low income, folks who are middle class but are willing to work hard and are just trying to reach their dreams in the united states and to go and see the country and see what's working and what's not, i got to visit 100 different communities in 39 different states, i never would have had
the opportunity to do that, at least in the same amount of time, as mayor. the satisfaction of being mayor was that you kinda have the wind at your back, there's a sense of community, a pride in the city, that's what it felt like being mayor because things just move much more swiftly. the bureaucracy sometimes lived up to its reputation, things go a lot more slowly, you're dealing in an ecosystem where you're not in command of your own ship because congress appropriates your funds, you have a whole bunch of rules and regulations that have built up over the years, but what i learned was that when we do policy right and we make the right investments, that you can make a fundamental difference in people's lives. the best example of that was the obama administration's push to end veteran homelessness. because of smart policies like housing first, which says the first thing that we're gonna do is get somebody into permanent housing, not make them jump through hoops to get housing, because the congress appropriated the right resources because mayors and county governments out there
got on board and starting trying to drive down veteran homelessness. between 2010 and 2016, we saw veteran homelessness decline by 47% in the united states. 47%, that's proof that we can do good when we do government right. - now did you talk to ben carson, your successor at hud, about this program or any other program, i mean seriously, i mean there's obviously a handoff of responsibilities at that agency as you looked ahead to a new administration, how much guidance and what kind of guidance, if you're willing to talk about it, did you give him? - we had a brief conversation before the holidays last year, before he took office, and of course i offered my help and he was very gracious, we really didn't get into much of a policy discussion, i left him a short note, there at his desk. - dear secretary carson, this is not brain surgery, get it? (audience laughs) that would have been what i would have left him. - i will say that, to his credit, about a week ago,
he assembled, he asked the last four or five hud secretaries and their spouses to join him in washington to have dinner and give input. now, i was not able to make it but i did get a hold of his office and tell him that i'd love to give any input any time he has a question, any advice that i can provide because he's in a tough spot. - and you gotta root for him the way you're rooting for the president, right? i mean, at the end of the day, you want him to succeed. - his department is being decimated in terms of the budget, in terms of the personnel, also i do disagree with the perspective that he has on the people that hud serves, i don't believe that receiving housing assistance or other types of assistance necessarily makes you dependent on government. now, i'm not saying he believes this part, but i also don't believe that poor people are lazy, i don't believe that there's something wrong with the idea of trying to help people and my hope is that he will listen
to the many great professionals that have been there at hud over the years and know the programs, they know the impact that they're making, and maybe just as importantly, listen to all the mayors out there, listen to the folks that are running housing authorities. - who are on the ground. - yeah, they're on the ground, they're working with folks, they see the need out there, one program that's up for elimination is community development block grants, cdbg, and that's been around for 43 years now. it makes a lot of difference. my hope is that he and the administration will actually listen to the need out there. - well of course you were mayor and as i said, mayor of the seventh-largest city in the country, san antonio, you would be one of the mayors he'd be talking to so go back now to your time as mayor. what were the things you took away that you would be telling secretary carson if he were asking you about the biggest challenges that are being faced on the ground in these cities? - number one, that what the obama administration did, now this is from when i was mayor,
to encourage the mayor to work with the school district superintendent, to work with the housing authority director, the transit administrator, everybody working together and physically take neighborhoods that need revitalization, include the community and then go step by step trying to work at the same time to improve the educational achievement, to lower crime, to improve transit options, to try and get more jobs by investing in small businesses, neighborhood by neighborhood, go to the toughest sections of cities, one by one, that was basically the idea behind promizons and we'll see how much fruit that bears in the future but in san antonio, at least preliminarily on the east side, we've seen that it is making a difference. the graduation rate is higher, crime has gone down, there's more of a sense of optimism in that community. - right. - so it can work. - but of course the challenges in any big city, not just san antonio, were going to be, that's the nature of big cities,
you have a disproportionately high number of people without health insurance, you have educational attainment that may not be great at the k12 level or college readiness may not be what it needs to be, poverty is a big issue to deal with. transportation, getting people from place to place, affordability of housing, these are pretty significant challenges, any one of them would be a significant challenge but if you're a mayor of a big city, you have to deal with all of them and it's just hard to know which to tackle first. - yeah, i mean i guess so my message would be the sooner you get to addressing them holistically, working together at the local level. - strategy, not tactics. - that's right, and then the federal government working, there were 17 different federal agencies working as part of this promizons effort and in san antonio, when i was mayor, we began working across those lines. so my message would be encourage folks to look at these challenges holistically and you can both save money and also have a bigger impact and the other thing i would just say is that there's a whole lot of need that is not apparent, but is there.
the fact is that poor people, lower income folks, are often in the shadows, and i'm not saying anything profound that people don't know. - but often they don't have a voice in conversations like this one. - they do not, they do not. they're not up there lobbying, they're not giving campaign contributions, they don't have the means to any kind of megaphone that others do, and so i would just encourage, whether it's secretary carson or any of the other folks in the administration, when they do their listening tours, which i think is a good idea, that they also go out there and try and listen to folks who are actually living the challenges. - in some of these communities. so are you gonna run for president at some point? i mean, i may as well just ask you straight away. there's speculation about your. (audience cheering) there's speculation about your intentions. there were many people who believed that we might see what i thought of as a patty duke moment at the top of the ticket in texas in 2018, with you running for governor and your brother running for the senate, o for two on that. but then people naturally go to the next opportunity
for you to decide to get back into something and that might be an election in 2020, well it sounds like every democrat in the country is talking about running so why not you? - i've said very clearly that i'm not taking that off the table, that i'll look and see how things develop over the next year or so and then make a decision as to whether that's something that i wanna do. - if someone in your situation were going to do this, what would the case be for a former mayor and former hud secretary as opposed to. - you don't think i'm that dumb, do you, evan? come on. (laughs) - i don't think dumb is a disqualification, candidly. (audience laughs, cheers) - that's a good point. - you've got a bunch of united states senators who are in significant positions, you've got governors, you've got people who are doing big things, being mayor of san antonio or hud secretary is not nothing but what about the job appeals to you or what about you might appeal to them. - well, first of all, that is not something
that i've made a decision to do. - i'm not suggesting you have. - and may well never. - we're living in a land of hypotheses here. - i would just say that a lot of attention has been focused on this make america great again and the word in that phrase that sticks out to me is the word again. because this entire administration is just looking backward and i feel like that we need a vision that is forward-looking, that we need to embrace the 21st century and that we need new blood at all levels that is going to be bold and really set out a positive vision for expanding opportunity instead of pitting people against each other and scapegoating folks the way that this administration has. and so whether somebody's running for mayor or for governor or for president, i'm gravitating toward people like that and i recently just endorsed a fellow,
andrew gillum, who's the mayor of tallahassee, that's running for governor of florida, colin allred who actually worked with me out there at hud. - former nfl player who's running for congress in texas. - nfl player, lawyer, just a terrific, genuine guy who is also young, who's running against pete sessions in the 32nd congressional district of texas. so i don't know how much that adds up to or whether the, what the sense is gonna be in 2018 or 2020 and whether i run or not but my sense is that this country is looking for a vision for the future, not a vision for the past. - is there anybody at the national level who is talking about running, if it's not you, who you look to and you think, the kind of person i'd be comfortable supporting, who i would be interested in supporting potentially is, blank. - i think there are plenty of folks. there are very talented folks from elizabeth warren to cory booker, kirsten gillibrand, that's why sometimes i read this,
in politico or some of these other commentary news sites, this idea that the democrats don't have a bench. - you think the bench is pretty good. - oh for sure. - in fact there are perhaps two dozen people who are talking about running, that feels like a pretty deep bench. whether they win or not. - and again, as i said, at the end of the day, it's a choice that folks have to make, and so you don't need a perfect person, what you need is somebody that has the right values, that has the right experience, has the right vision, and then folks are gonna make a choice, i assume it's still gonna be donald trump but who knows. - you know, we're living in a who-knows world, aren't we? right, when will you decide? - probably next year. - okay, well then you come back. - yeah. - okay. mr. secretary, thank you very much. (audience applauding) - [announcer] we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at klru.org/overheard to find invitations to interviews, q&as with our audience and guests,
and an archive of past episodes. - one of the first things that i told people when i walked in the room was, yeah, i'm asking you to raise your taxes and it's gonna cost you $7.81 a year so that we can fund these 22,000 low income students to get high quality, full day pre-k over the next eight years and then people can see what we stand for. - [announcer] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation and hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy, and by klru's producers circle, ensuring local programming that reflects the character and interests of the greater austin, texas, community.