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tv   Charlie Rose  WHUT  January 6, 2012 11:00am-12:00pm EST

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>> rose: welcome to our program. tonight, congressman barney frank, a powerful democrat from massachusetts, looks back at his service in congress as he retires and as he leaves he talks about washington, politics congress, and the future of liberalism. >> i would get a call on friday afternoon from paulson after 4:00 when the markets closed and when the phone rang i thought oh another one's gone under. a another bank, another crisis. it was very hard. i was dealing with stuff that was intellectually very complicated, of enormous importance to the public, to the economy and difficult. so i was tired and i... i... you know, i'm not a puritan. i have no objection to leisure time and enjoyment.
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i have a ptner now, jim rea, i was an emotional attachment. i'm in love for the first time in my life. >> rose: also this evening, former senator george mcgovern, also a democratic presidential nominee, talks about what it means to be a democrat. >> i don't agree with those who criticize the federal government as our enemy. i think it's the best government in the world. and look at all the things that has done... so i cringe when i hear some of my republican friends talking about the terrible federal government. >> rose: barney frank and george mcgovern when we continue. captioning sponsored by
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose.
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>> rose: barney frank is here. since 1980 he has represented massachusetts in the house of representatives of the united states. from 2007 until 2011 he chaired the house financial services committee where he remains a ranking democrat. among his accomplishments is the 2010 dodd-frank wall street reform and consumer protection act which overhauled the nation's financial regulatory system. in november, he announced he would not seek reelection for his 17th congressional term this year. his retirement will ma an end to a 45-year-long career on public sthafs began in 1967. i'm very pleased to have congressman barney frank back at this table. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: let's just do the end first. you're retiring. >> yes,. >> rose: are you prepared for this? >> yes, i was prepared a year and a half ago. i first started working for kevin white full time when he was running for mayor o boston in 1967. by the end of this year, my term it will have been 45 years. i real these that is the
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equivalent for me of somebody i net 1967 when i first started working full time in polics who had begun his political career in 1922 with calvin coolidge. so you have to look... >> rose: (laughs) puts it in perspective doesn't it? >> i served eight years for the state legislature. it will be 32 years in the house. it's... this will be the first election coming up in 40 years when i wasn't voting for myself which i'll miss because i can always be sure of one candidate, at least. but i began to think last year that i wanted to retire. partly because you do get tired. i'd like to write, i have a lot of things that i think are worth saying. some people can write and do other things. pat moynihan was the exemplar. he could write fluently. >> rose: they used to say in the senate pat moynihan had written more books than anybody else had read. >> but i am too easily distracted by the... used to be the blank page, now the blank screen. if i have a distraction i can't write well and i want to write.
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>> rose: what do you want to write? >> there are threeooks i have in mind. one about liberalism, and i haven't been a progressive, i've been a liberal and i will continue to be and i want to talk about how to be an effective liberal. both substantively and strategicall one of the things i finds some of my friends on the left mistake passion for effectiveness and passion should fuel your acvity but it shouldn't be an end in itself. so i want to write about what liberalismoes and should mean. i want to write about the history of what was gay rights when i started, now l.g.b.t. rights. my career and the movement for equal treatment for gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender people are the same age, serendipitously. the stonewall riot which is began this movement were 1969. i first ran for office in 1972. i filed the first gay rights bill in history. part of it is to document the progress we've made but also to talk about how... what's the right way and the wrong way.
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i do fee part of my message is to tell my friends on the liberal side where i think people have been ineffective and what they can do to be effective. and finally-- i don't know if i'll get them all done-- i want to write about legislating. i've been a legislator for 40 years. if you go to law school you learn a lot about judges and the executive branch, administrative agencies. you don't learn much about congress and the ste legislates. i'm not going to argue this is a perfectly rational activity, but it's not a random one either the function of legislating in a democracy is very important and in all three of those there will be a common theme and maybe it's another book and you never know how these work out and that's democracy. i'm a passionate small "d" democrat and i think dempsey is very important but i think it's more complicated and tougher than people thin people are very ambivalent. within the same week i would hear people denounce a politician as arrogant because she won't do what the voters in
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her district want and secondly denounce that same politician or a similar one as a demagogue because she's following the voters and not standing up for principle. >> rose: come back to all of those things. are there any great regrets or that r they ambitions unfulfilled. >> yeah, i have one. substantively. and i don't mean to be too grandiose but i remember reading about lyndon johnson and woodrow wilson, both men with a passion for domestic social reform. both men who wanted to make this a less unfair society. who wanted to fight for social justice and economic fairness and in bothases they were dworted by wars. lyndon johnson began the great society and did important things. medicare, the civil rights act. then bogged down in the vietnam war. woodrow wilson, of course, shortly into his term was consumed with the european war which he ultimately had to get into. on a lesser scale, without
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question, i had this... i got on the committee, it was then called bking, it became financial services, because i have a passion for dealing with low-income housing. rental housing. that's one of the things i'm frustrated by. i have felt we made a mistake in trying to get lower-income people into hses that they own. if we had decent rental housing for people there wouldn't be a need to have a push to put people inappropriately in some cases into that. and i finally got to be chairman of this committee in 2007 whi has jurisdiction over housing and housing is a broadway to deal with... i'd like to... we could get rid of homelessness except for those who were for mental or emotional regions determined to be homeless. i thought we could do a great deal to improve people's living conditions. i wanted to integrate housing with human services to do all is better and i get to be chairman of the committee and a financial crisis hits us. and as i said? a much lessgrand scale because world war i, the vietnam war took johnson and wilson off
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their course. instead of being able to do a lot about housing i found myself looking at repos and derivatives and i've got a song book for my retirement. one of the songs is "ain't gonna study derivatives no more." >> rose: (laughs) >> so i once thought okay... >> rose: but they're still with us. >> they are but they'll be somebody ee's problem. although they're ia better regulated form. will argue for that but i hoped to make changes in the way in which we provide affordable housing, we've made some gains but that's my biggest policy regret. >> the interesting thing about housing first of all, it's drushl the economy and it's kind of a basic need, shelter. and, three, as larry summers, i guess, first said, nobody ever watched a rental car. >> i think he' wrong about that. people wash leased cars all the time. i've had this argument with larry summers and i think that's part of the problem.
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thateople were pushed into inappropriate home enership. it's inappropriate one because you have to have some money but, two, owning a home is a complicated business. not getting flimflamed by someone who tells you you need a new roof or putting on a new roof when you need one. if we had decent, affordable rental housing then there would not be this push. and i know larry has said that, in fact people don't live in their cars-- at least we hope they don't. the other thing i want to say about housing a then i'll get off it, decent housing, decent living conditions are not just ends in themselves. they're a foundation. kids who go to school who live in terrible housing who don't have a place to get aood night's swlep are inadequately... they're harder to each. living in a decent safe a sanitary condition is i think basis. people who aren't well housed don't t good health care. there's a deterioration of health care. >> re: there's the point about this is ere's very creative people who are architec and city planners who know how to
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create neighborhoods to make them interesting, attractive and make it a place that people want to come to without spending that much more. >> in fact, there are two objections. one is the spending. you make good point. one of the things i want to talk about en i write about democracy... and i said it before, it's not just because i'm not running again. i understand people find politicians to be wanting and i'm veryritical... i'm more critical of a lot of politicians than the average citizen because i have to deal with them more. >> rose: (laughs) >> and i'm not great fan of the media collectively. >> rose: i kw that. >> i think's been some deterioration. but sometimes the voters are no bargain either. >> rose: (laughs) >> this view of the world that says, you know, we have all these terrible politicians. i'm saying to people where do you think they came from? nobody parachuted through the dome. they all got elected by these people. dot voteor people that do these things but that's part of the problem with housing. one of the major obstacles to decent affordable housing, rent mostly, some ownership for low income people is the
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prejudices of the citizens of this country who say "not here in me." nimby, not in my backyard. i will tell you that i have had this fight with people who resist this and that's one of the reason why they get clustered in bad neighborhoods, you're right. >> rose: did youhink you could win in the face of the restricting or just didn't want to campaign hard. >> correct. >> rose: wch one? >> i thought i could win. i've run for office 20 times. 15 of those were slam dunks. >> rose: right. >> five were hard. >> rose: and the last one was the hardest? >> no, actually, turned out the first one was the hardest. i won the first one 52-48. i won the last one by 11%. and the second one was also harder though i won it big because it was a good year. no matter how good you are there's an element of the national trend. i ran in a very bad year in 1980 and barely won. i had a tough opponent, former congresswoman, and i won big in 1982 because it was a good democratic year. last year i won by 11 points in
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a terrible year. i think i would have won. here's the problem i face. i now represent 650,000 people, some of whom have very serious earn shoes and i am their advocate with regard to the fishing industry the city of new bedford. i was then ld in this new district there's going to be 325,000 new people. but i can't walk away from the 650,000 i knew have. so now i'm responsible for a million people. i have to campaign among the 325,000, i have to advocate for the 650. it would have meant spending a considerable amount of time campaign. i believe i would have had v won. i would have had to work very hard. it would have diverted me from e government stuff. and i wouldclose with this. a young man from one medium asked me well, you had a similar situation in 1981 when there was a drastic change in your district and you had to run very hard to win and you ran. now you're facing a similar situation, why are you behaving differently? and my answer, which i assume you will appreciate is "you're asking me why i made a different
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caer decision at 71 than i made at 41." and i think he was about 25, charlie, i don't think he still understood what i was talking about. >> rose: (laughs) there you go. there's also this. some suggest your decision to retire was because you did not believe the democrats would have a majority and you didn't want not to be in the minority. >> that's the opposite. i understand that but here's the deal. if the democrats had held the majority in 2010 then i definitely would have retired. i had decided in 2009 and in 10 that i was tired and i wanted to do other things. that i didn't enjoy this as much. look, i do it because i think it's an important mission. >> ros and you have reached a place where you can make a real difference. >> yes. but i was... frankly, tse last four years in particular were exhausting. i became chairman in 2007 and then the economy collapsed. all through 2007 into 2008 i
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dreaded these phone calls i would get from paulson, bush's secretary of the treasury. >> rose: and whom you admired. >> yes. and i finally said to him will you please stop calling me on friday? i uld get a call on friday afternoon from paulson after 4:00 when the markets closedand when the phone rang i'd say "ood one's gone under. another bank, another crisis." i was dealing with stuff that was intellectually very complicated, of enorus importance to the public, to the economy and difficult. i was tired. and i... i'm not a puritan. i have no objection to leisure time and enjoyment. look, i have a partner now, jim ready, i have an emotional attachment. i'm in love for the first time in my life. >> rose: for the first time in your life? how long has this been? well, we met in 2005. it's really been this way since 2007. i thought i could enjoy life and combine that with public policy.
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i decided earlier 2010 that i was going to retire just because i want to do other things. and then... and i felt that way up through election day. and then over the december holidays in 2010 aft the republicans had taken over i said... jim and i talked about it. "i can't quit because it's going to look like i'm running away and i think being in the minority it's important for me to defend financial reform." >> rose: as you know, other democrats are retiring as well. >> i understand that. but i can tell you in my own case i... theeason i was going to run again was that i thought it would be unsmly to run away once we'd gotn into the minority and that i was need-- sounds arrogant-- but that i would take to defending financial reform. but once they gave me a district where i would not be able to spend much of the next year governing as much as campaigning that got undercut. as far as not being chairman, i'll tell you this, i hope the democrats take the majority. i think we very well might.
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>> rose: very well might. >> but i don't see gridlock breaking. unfortunate lift i think we have this problem right now. there is a problem of a public perception of government that is much too negative. it's partly based in the bad economy and the fact that we have n been able to produce and from frustrates she that the right wingers who have taken over the house now and have a blocking minority in the senate, they benefit from their own obstruction because they keep us fromoing things through government that would be beneficial and people get angry >> rose: buteople like george will will say to you when you make that point "this is democracy in action. this is the way democracy is supposed to work. >> i understand that. that's an irrelevant point. i haven't said they should be arrested for doing it. i haven't said this is wrong. of course that's democracy at work and that's one of the things i want to write about. buthat doesn't mean... what i'm saying is i want to change their opinion. i... my point was i think at this point i can do as much if
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not more to influence public policy in the direction i want to see it-- less discrimination, less inequality. of course we have inequality, you can't have a capitalist system without inequality and i believe in capitalism. i think it's the most effective way to generate wealth but you can get to a point where inequality is excessive and damaging economically. so i do believe now with the anger that exists towards the government, there are two points i make abo that. i think as an advocate not running for reelection i'll have more credibility. there's a cynicism about people in my business. i believe i will be able to say the same things about not wanting to raise the retirement age for social security, not wanting to cut backon medicare when i'm not a candidate for reelection as before. the other thing i would say this-- and this is my substantive point. i think we're in aicious downward cycle right now. people don't like the government so they elect people to office who deny the government the ability to do anything. and because the governmentan't do anything, they dislike the government more. but i think we have to break that.
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there's one way to break it and i was very pleased at what leon panetta was forced to do today. if you saw leon, he looked lik he had a sour lemon. he was very unhappy to announce these cutbacks. america substantially overspends on the military. we are overcommitted worldwide. we are doing much more than a reasonable share. we overreach and the significant amount of money that goes to the military, the hundreds of billions of dollars that go to the military i believe $200 billion a year more than we need... >> rose: at the same time the military is overstretched a well. overstretched in terms of the life of those people who are serving in the military. third and fourth terms in iraq and afghanistan. >> but we shouldn't have been in iraq. that's exactly point. you don'start by reducing the military, you start by scaling back the overreach. the commitment. >> rose: let's be there specific on another broader theme, specifically you'd withdraw troops from south korea? you'd withdraw troops from europe? you'd withdraw troops from... no >> no and yes. i would not withdraw troops from south korea. you have a nuclear armed lunatic family in charge. but i do not i don't understand
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why we have 66,000 troops in europe. we have troops in germany. harry truman... >> rose: nato troops. >> no, they're american... yes, they are nato troops. you know what nato troops are called? >> rose: no. >> americans. it will overwhelming majority of nato militaryorce is american. >> rose: and is the overwhelming marity of equipment american as well? >> yes. in fact, in libya where the president did the right thing by saying "for once, will you people do something?" they had to buy equipment from america. this is ita, france, country that can spit and hit libya when the wind is right but they didn't have their own material. i would say this. first of all, i never... we never should have gone into iraq. i am ready to pull out of afghanistan. i think that's a... here's the point i think... >> tell me where you would have gone in with respect to afghanistan. >> oh, i voted to go in. >> rose: i know you did. >> so i would have pulled out... even before we killed bin laden. >> rose: you would have pulled out if, in fact, iraq had never happened?
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because some say ere might have been a different result in afghanistan if iraq never took place. >> i think that's true. if iraq had never taken place i think there's a brint sufficient force in afghanistan would have left them in charge of the country. what would have happened afterwards, i don't know. i think that is right. iraq diverted us. look, we went into afghanistan in self-defense. people should understand it. we didn't go in to root out the taliban. george bush became president with the taliban in to in power in afghanistan doing the unspeakable things they did and he didn't say we had to invade them. we went into afghanistan because they were harboring a murderer, osama bin laden, who didn't just murder americans, o murdered ndreds of africans when he bombed kenya and tanzania, our embassies. and we asked tm to give him up they wouldn't, so we went in. if it hadn't been for the diversion in iraq, i think we could have put an end to the taliban and then pulled out. >> rose: your friend charles willson... friend or not, your fellow member of the house. >> he's a friend. >>ose: famous because of the fact that when we pulled outof afghanistan before, when the russians left, many argued that's when the taliban came in
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and that's when al qaeda came in and when things turned bad. that was what charlie wilson... >> let me explain. you've made your point and here's your problem. >> rose: i wondered how long it would go before i had a problem. >> our military is very good at stopping bad things from happening. they are very well trained, very able, very well equipped, mostly young people, very well led. they are not good at making good things happen. no military is. it's not a criticism of them. they're not in charge of making democracy. >> rose: it's not the miliry... >> you interrupted me, charlie. yes, it is the military. i say pull the military out of afghanistan. it's always the military that costs the most money. and the same we said don't pull the troops out of iraq. the fact is where bad guys are shooting at each other or good guys are shooting at each other you only have the military. the mistake i think you make when you say, well, there won't be stability. it's not the role of the united states of america to guarantee stability in most of the world. probably because we can't.
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you cannot buy anything america does get the shi'a and the sunni and the kurds to get together. i can't make karzai a good leader. we can't afford it. what we wind up doing is spending a lot of money impoverishing our own capacity to improve the quality of our life and, by t way, damaging our ability to help the rest of the world. i'm not an isolationist. but foreign aid gets cut back. development aid gets cut back. >> let me turn to largerssues. help us understand how you see this issue of paralysis in government in washington and what can be we've yet to see the paralys th we can deal wit our economic issues. >> some people don't appear to understand the american
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constitution. if you're in england and you're a candidate, you're the leader of a party and your party wins the majority on elecon day, the next day you're kissing the queen's hand and prime minister and you're in chge of the whole government. in america that's deliberately not what the founding fathers said. at any given moment in america we are governed by the last three elections, not one election. have united states senators elected in 2006, we have united states senators and the president elected in 2008 and we have united states senators and the house of representatives elected in 2010. what happened was tt that the public more than at any other time in american history made a drastic shift in their views they elected decisively the democrats in 2008 and then shifted-- at least the peopl who voted-- shifted in 2010. so what you have are t incompatible groups of people in office. so the paralysis is not a case of personality. it's not a case ofechacs, it
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ishat's the way the american system works. and until you get an election which brings more harmony, people say "why can't you work together?" i will be honest with you, charlie. i have served on the committee on financial services with michele bachmann for her entire service here. i do not se a way for me and michele bachmann to work things out. we have very fundamental differences. and the problem is now... because john boehner has made tentative efforts to work things out. but he gets pall pulled back by his caucus because the republicans in the house, laugh tea party people and the other half are afraid of losing a primary to tea party people so until elections change the personnel i don't see much happening. >> rose: but the president of the united states did not offer full support to erskine bowles and alan simpson, the simpson bowles recommendations, did he? >> no, neither didi. i supported some of them but whether they did or didn't they would not have worked because if u look at the congressional members, they weren'tupportive of it. the president is not able to... in fact, i think the president
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finally understands that. my one criticism... i think obama's done a great job and has had polies that have made things better. i think he overestimated at first his ability to work with the republican party. i think he underestimated e extent to which this very right wing party as we see from this presidential primary was dominated by people who have no... they don't believe in government. they are not... you say why can't we work things out? they don't want to work things out. they want to shut things down. >> rose: as you well know they would argue the private sector can do it better. >> charlie, you're changing the argument from what you asked me. you didn't say to me... in effect what you're now saying is is it better that government's paralyzed? >> rose: well, first i said paralyzed and secondly when you went to the argument that they were making i would say yes, of course they're saying... >> but charlie, you're switching again, that's unfair. >> rose: i don't want to be unfair. i don't have to have an argument. >> here's what you're missing. you asked me why government is paralyzed. >> rose: i did.
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>> i explained why it's paralyzed in my view and you said oh, well, it's better for the private sector. i agree, that's what they think. i know that prefer the private sector but it's precisely that argument. their view that the private sector can do almost everything better, eept go to war ich they want to do more of, that's why government is paralyzed because when one house of the congress is controlled by people who, as you say private sector can do it better, that's why there's paralysis that's why it cannot be easily worked out. it's not a case with common als and different views of how to get there. there's a fundamental philosophical divide that results from the differences in the 2008 and 2010 elections and to go back to my response about what i plan to do, i think i can do more, frankly, as an advocate to try to persuade people to reinstate a majority of people who believe that government has a constructive role than i can do operating within that divided government. >> rose: okay, should a
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fundamental debate in the upcoming presidential election be the role of government? >> absolutely. it's the single dominating issue. >> rose: define... we've talked about hear what the private sector can do and what is a legitimate role of government and where some people-- democrats, too, democrats see the role for the private sector as a role for government. republicans see a role for government in some places and also a bigger role for the private sector. help us understand how you would define this issue ought to be debated. >> rose: that's been the traditional view in america that there's a... people have had a general view of what the private sector should do, which is create wealth. that's what the private sector does. and then the public sector does some things that impve the quality of life that cannot be done individually no matter how rich you are, you can't clean up the air and you probably can't build th highway. or provide police services. you can provide them around your own housbut you can't provide it everywhere. and then also do some
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compassionate things and most people believe there is and a level below which people should not be allowed to go economically if it's not the fault. they're not simply lazy, et cetera. and there's been an argument about where the line is dwn. the people who govern the republican party today are much more extreme than that and they believe that there's almost no role for the public sector. and i believe that's the debate and i think mitt romney did not used to believe that but he is now espousing that view and one example is, difference, with the economy. i think it's very clear that we have a double problem. one, a long-term deficit which has to be reduced. in my judgment in substantial part by cutting the military but not only by that. and secondly we have a short-term problem of unemployment and the thing to do there is spend some money, at least not cut back. off republican view that says, no, there is no role for the federal government in combating
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unemployment. there is no set of affirmative public policies that you should do. >> rose: no job retraining, anything like that. >> right. or, in fact they go the other way. one example, public sector; private sector. unemployment is a problem the private sector has cread... the lt number i saw was 2.8 million jobs in the last say three years. however the net gain in employment is only 1.9 million because the public sector has lost jobs. these are peop who have been substantially putting through policies that need fewer teachers and fewer social workers and fewer public employees and fewer public works so the debate is over the role of government because it's not now where the margin should be, where the line should be drawn between the public and private sector it's whether there's any significant role for the public sector at all in stimulating the economy and keeping unemployment down. there are people who think the only thing you should do now is cut taxes and cut government.
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and i think they're on the wrong side of that. >> rose: are you in favor of... these are broad generalizations of. raising taxes? >> yes. >> rose: and not cutting spending of any entitlements at all? >> no, i'm for cutting some entitlements. rst of all, i believe we should be scaling back this notion that america is going to be the worldwide provider of stability. you ked me before where i would cut. i would certainly cut western europe. harry truman did a great tng by defending the weak nations of western and central europe against stalin in t post-war period. they're not weak anymore. stalin's dead. but we're still spending tens of billions of dollars. and subsidizing. the percentage of grant spent by the average member of nato is 1.7% except for the u.s. which is 5%. that's a degree of wealthy nations that we shouldn't bother with. secondly i believe we should raise taxes on wealthy people. e republicans object as a proposal ithe nate to put a
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5.6% surtax on income over a milln dollars a year. that means after you've learned a million dollars a year in taxable income the next thousand dollars you earn you'd have to pay $56 in taxes. they acted like that was going to be some terrible thing. they could have raised hundreds of billions of dollars over t ten years. so i would raise taxes on wealthy people as we did under bill clinton. one of the entitlements... we have means tested entitlements and non-means tested entitlements. we have an anti-means tested entitlement, that's the farm program. that's an entitlement under the law and the bigger your farm, the more money you make. tens of billions of dollars is wasted on the farmers. and some of the most conservative members of congress support that. have looked and i don't see anywhere that says "except agriculture." maybe it's written in german and that's why i couldn't understand it. but with regard to social security and medicare i would do a couple things. >> rose: wha would you? >> with regard to social security i would tax ch more
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heavily the social security benefits of people who make $75,000 a year or more. that's a way of means testing that doesn't get the complication. get social security and i pay i think 35% tax. i ought to pay 100% tax on my social security. so i would tax away the social security benefits... >> rose: as a meansest? you don't need social security and tax it. >> it's an official way to do it. so that's one try deal with it. secondly regard to medicare, i think george bush made a terrible mistake when he wouldn't let medicare bargain with the drug companies for the prices of... for the price of drugs and i would cut back. >> rose: let me ask you this. in terms of the obama health care reform clearly most people believe it's certainly increased access to health care for a lot of people that were not covered. yes? >> true. >> rose: it did that. you had the individual mandate.
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which you also have in massachusetts, by the way, if people don't know, when governor was governor of that state. >> and newt gingrich used to be for it. but i was for it anyway, even though he was. >> rose: did this bill accomplish wt it should have accomplished by reducing the cost of health care? >> not enough, although it's interesting. the republicans now, one of their arguments is that... and they denounced our bill that i voted for because it didn't redu medicare expenses. for instance there was a program called medicare advantage which paid the private insurance company more than the basic medicare. and we voted to reduce that. so that did... there was some reduction there. but, no, what i would have done is, frankly, to have... i think the medicare system works well. i think it costs much less for the care delivered than private insurance because you get rid of private insurance. i was for medicare for everybody and i still am and i think that
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is the way i would... because i do want to say this. i don't think it is a good idea to single out medicare for substantial cost restrictions that don't apply to the whole economy. you put people at a disadvantage. i would like to put us all on medicare and then have cost containment. >> rose: you mentioned michele bachmann. you obviously served in congress with rick santorum. >> yes, i did. >> rose: what do you know about him? >> that he's one of the meanest people in terms of public policy that i have encountered. >> rose: do you really mean that? >> what wod you characterize the response... >> rose: the better question is why do you think that? >> because when the supreme judicial court of massachusetts said that two men who are in love could marry each other, he compared that to human being having sex with dogs. he said "what's next? man on dog?" that is a degree of virulent bigotry that i find outside anything i would accept as reasonable. i think there is a... as i said,
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a general kind of meanness in his response t gay and lesbian people that is simply... as i said terribly mean. >> rose: is that primarily what it is in terms of your characterization of him as one of the mean meanest people you knew? >> that's one of them. another is his attitude on the question of abortion. now i understand people are philosophically opposed to abortion although i have said as i said of ronald reagan, that i have trouble of people who from the federal government's standpoint that life begins at conception and ends at birth so they're not prepared to help the children once they brought into this world, or their motrs. but there is an anger that he expresses. i think that woman... you can say that a woman who has been raped or a woman who is young and poor or already has a couple kids finds herself pregnant when she didn't want to be, birth control failed, you may disagree with her decision to have an abortion, i think the way he
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characterizes them is much harsher than ought to be. >> rose: while we're talking about republicans. you were a congressman from massachusetts, mitt romney was the governor of massachusetts. how do you see him? >> as a man totally unburdened by any conviction expt that we would all be better off if he was running things. you know, everybody in elected office is going to take the public into account, and that's one of the things i want write about is what is this tension between what you want to and democracy. but mitt romney is a man who has shown no evidence that he cares about anything except his confidence in his own ability and i am appalled at the extt to which he will say almost anything at any given time in 1994 he said he would be a better supporter of gay rights than ted kennedy. >> rose: in 19... >> 1994 when he ran for the senate. >> rose: against tedkennedy. >> he flipped on the environment he flipped on abortion. he flipped on almost every issue.
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as governor my problem with him was that he clearly at some point... there's a republican named steve crosby, a moderate republican who worked for governors weld and cellucci i think and who said of mitt romney "you know, we've heard of politicians get ma toe mack fever. he had potomac ebola virus" because he became governor and did almost nothing for the state. wasn't going to run for reelection. so i was disappointed. i think the problem is we're all ambitious. you don't do this if you're a totally humble person. st. francis of assisi ain't running for congress. but mitt romney has such naked ambition and lack of concern for everything else that i find it appalling. >> rose: looking back over your life ipolitics and all the things that challenged you, what is it that you regret the most?
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personally... a couple policy things by the way, i regret... the biggest one i was wrong on is i should have voted for the invasion of kuwait by george bush. i was afraid that george bush the father was going to do what george bush the son did and overdo it and go to baghdad and create a mess for us. i think the way george bush handled kicking hussein out of... saddam hussein out of kuwait was a very good... was a very good thing. >> rose: built the coalition and did it and stopped. >> and stopped short of that and with cheney... >> rose: you regret you didn't vote for him? >> i should have voted for that intervention. >> rose: right, obviously. that's a regret. >> obviously i have personal es. part is how i handled being gay personally. i was closeted. i do not think that i could have had a career in politics if i had been honest about my sexual
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orientation and 12. i came out voluntarily... but it was still later than i should have donit. the problem is while..i was trying to live this life in which i was privately a gay man but publicly sort of neutral i have-- as everybody does-- personal needs, emotional needs, physical needs that i wasn't handling well so i did bad things. i did stupid things. not bad in the sense of evil, i didn't hurt anybody, except myself but getting involved the way i did sexually with this guy who later made a series of accusations-- most of which were false, a cup which will were true-- i regret that. i regret the extent to which my irsponsibility may have harmed... i think only temporarily, the whole gay rights movement. those are the biggest ones. i regret as i said... not something i did wrong but i didn't have a chance to do the
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housing stuff. on the housing it is true in the early part of this century i was too optimistic. i didn't see the collapse of the housing market so regard to for instance fannie mae and freddie mac i didn't see the need for change until 2004 and 2005. it didn't make any difference, i was in the minority and i know people don't feel this way but paulson said in his book it was in 2007 when the democrats took control that fannie mae and freddie mac were put under constraints under a bill we passed and the bleeding stopped. so i was wrong about the housing crisis, i didn't see it coming but because i was in the minority at the time of the house run by tom delay i didn't have the impact. >> rose: we must do this again. it's always great to talk to you. >> thank you, stimuting. >> rose: come bk to this table often. i think we ought to be debating the kinds of issues you care about and are passionate about. i think you bring a rare intelligence and experience to examination of where america is and certainly have had the kind of han-on experience that
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america can benefit from, whether you're in congress and speaking from the position of a committee or out as a citizen writinbooknd commenting on things. i think we have lost the sense in many ways of the kind of civilized discourse that i would hope... >> rose: and which you are one of the few outlets for. so please whatever else you do don't stop doing this. >> >> rose: grge mcgovern is here, a former senator from south dakota, he's also a long-time activist for eradicating world hunger. has written a new book cled "what it means to be a democrat." i'm pleased to have him back at this program. thank you. >>ose: thank you, charlie. it's a pleasure to be on your program. >> we have known each other for a long, long time. >> rose: we have, indeed. what's your life like snowed >> it's wonderful. retirement for me charlie means going from about 14 hours a day
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down to 12. i still work everyday. i still write. i still make speeches. i don't know whether anybody's listening but i know that i can't to speak... continue to speak and'm writing, i'm working on my memoir. i did this little book "what it means to be a democrat. the reason i wrote this book is that i'm so tired of the negativism in american politics today. i've never seen our politics more confused than it is today so i decided to write a book on what i'm for. what it means to be a democrat. >> rose: what does it mean to be a democrat and what are you for? >> it means this... i'll tell you what i'm not for. i don't agree with those who criticize the federal government as our enemy. i think it's the best government in the world and look at all the things that it has done. so i cringe when i hear some of
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my republican friends talking about the terrible federal government. i don't think it's terrible. look at all the wonders we have that from that government just to mention two. the interstate highway system. the rural electrification program that's brought light in the homes of all the farms of america. those are things the federal government did and i wanted to... >>ose: putting a man o the moon. >> putting a man on the moon. providing the g.i. bill of rights after world war ii. i was a bomber pilot in war. when i came home, the government had this g.i. bill, this awful federal government that enabled me to go all the way through to a ph.d. in history at northwestern university at government expense. >> rose: it's an interesting aspect of your life that in 1972
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you let yourself be perceived-- or you didn't fight it hard enough-- and they defined you as soft on crime and soft on defense. neither were true. >> well, it's ridiculous. i'm an american patriot i fought for this country and risked my life in world war ii. i'd do it again if the circumstances were the same. but i don't know how the republicans get on this kick that democrats are soft and crime and soft on defense. i've always been for a strong defense, but i don't believe in wasting money defense. right nowe have a $700 billion military bi. and nobody's threatenings. can you think of a country that wants go to war with the united states? i can't. >> rose: leon panetta, a good
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democrat, says that... now secretary of defense says if in fact the sequestration takes place-- a word that they use coming out of the supercommiee-- that it will affect the security of the country. that severe a defense cut. >> well, those defense secretaries always have to play scared and talk about fair and danger. i know leon. he's a brilliant man. he knows better than that. >> rose: you don't agree with him? >> no, i don't. i don't know of any country that's threatening us today. now, they certainly were in world war ii which was the war that i volunteered for and i'm glad thai did because then we had hitler, we had tojo, we had mussolini. they were all out to get us. >> rose: what size military budget will you think appropriate? >> well, i think we could begin working it down now, you can't do this overnight. but i would think that within five years we could cut it in half. we'd still be far and away the most powerful cotry in the world. >> rose: and would swre a
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presence in south korea? would we have a presence in europe? where would you make the cuts? >> we'd have some difference in europe but i think theuropeans are capable of defending themselves. i don't know of anybody that's threatening europe. who's going to invade germany or france or britain? so we kind of scare ourselves into these enormous military budgets. i don't think any make us any safer. i think they make us less safe because we waste money on things that we don't need for our defense and that deprives of us of funds we need for the schools for the hospitals, for environment, for putting people back to work in public works. >> rose: is there a democrat consensus on this? a democratic consensus? >> well, the if there's a democratic consensus on it
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they're sure being quiet about it. i think that if the democrats could remind the country in the year 2011 that the republicans are against social security and against medicare they wouldn't have to go very far to win that election because everybody knows the democrats were the authors of social security. we don't want to cut it. we don't want to cut medicare. i would like to extend medicare to all americans. but at least if we just start... >> rose: do you believe that president obama was prepared t in a grand bargain cut entitlemts? >> i wish he'd be a lite bolder than he has been. >> rose: what's "bold" mean for you? >> well, "bold means that you jump right down the throat of the opposition when they attack social security and medicare and say, look, we're not going to cut it, we're not going to talk to you about compromise on programs... >> rose: you don't believe medicare can be reformed and be more efficient. perhaps medicare needs a hard
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look in order to make it better? >> well, let's do that. if we can make it better. but let's not talk about cutting it back let's not talk about abolishing it because our population is growing, people are living longer. there's never been a time that we needed social security and medicare more than we need right today. >> rose: who were your political heroes? >> well, abraham lincoln number one. franklin park zoo... franklin roosevelt number two. thomas jeffeon. >> rose: of the founding fathers thomas jefferson? >> of the founding fathers jefferson would be my first choice and then ben franklin. ben franklin didn't run for office, he's still my hero. i think he was one of the most remarkable americans. i think franklin rooseve did more to impact... have an impact
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on america today than any presidt in the 20th century. nobody else in the0th century could touch him in my opinion. he gave us rural electrification he gave us minimum wages. he gave us aid to education. he started health care. so many things and further more he was very successful on the international front. roosevelt had an enormously successful record internationally, not only in winning the world war ii but in putting us out in front on foreign assistance and all these other things that have... >> rose: is the most important political act of your life the opposition to the vietnam war? >> yes, that was the most striking because for ten years in the united states senate i blasted that war with everything i had and then when i found out
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i couldn't end it as a senator i became a candite for president and the main purpose of that was to end that war in vietnam and even though i lost that electionty think we forced an end to it by having a major party, the democratic party and a candidate for president who dedicated his campaign to ending that war. as you know, congress ended it right up after the '72 presidential race. >> rose: but for the ideas you believe in in tms of domestic issues, lyndon johnson was as good a president as it gets. >> lyndon johnson as you say on the domestic side, forget about vietnam, on the domestic side was the most productive president of the0th century with the exception of franklin roosevelt. but he was a great president. he... he got past... got enacted
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into law the two major civil rights pieces of legislation that transformed the racial situation. >> rose: civil rights and voting rights. >> the voting rights act and the public utilities, the public acceptance at restaurants and bars and so on. i think he was a great president... >> rose: did he listen to you on vietnam? >> no. >> rose: wouldn't listen to you? >> no, he wouldn't. >> rose: so who you think about the afghanistan war? >> well, we never should have gone into afghanistan. you know, going back to 2,000 years people have been puttering around with afghanistan. the british tried it for a while, the mongolians before them. testimony french. >> rose: even after 9/11 you ink we should not have attacked affidavitafghanistan? >> no, we should not have.
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>> rose: what would have you done to go after osama bin laden who ordered the attacks on america? >> i would have had a small group of people combing the woods trying toget to him but i would not have put the american army into afghanistan. >> rose: so what does it mean to be a democrat today? what ought to be the rallying cry for democrats in the 2012 election? we should say we democrats believe in the federal government, we don't think it's our emy and we'd like to make it an instrument of the public good. we'd like to see that health care is extended to all americans. we'd like to see that our schools are strengthened, that our environments are strengthened. we'd like to continue to push for piece in the wod. these are the things we believe in and this is why the democratic party is our chosen vessel. >> rose: as you know, people will come along and say "senator mcgovern, we'd like to do all of
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that, we wish we had an unlimited amount of monetow do all of tho programs but we don't. we have a huge deficit that's been built up because of the wars we've fought but also other reasons and we need to deal with-to-that deficit or our economy will never get back order so that we have a kind of economic machine that could benefit everybody. >> ros you know there was no big bull new jersey the deficit, the federal deficit, until the reagan administration. and the reason it went up $4 trillion there-- and that was the biggest jump we'd had up until that time under any administration was because he kept increasing military spending and then giving tax cuts. >> rose: right. >> you can't cut your revenues and increase spending without... >> rose: you never bought supply-side economics. >> that's correct. i never bought supply-side economics. and the second big bulge came under bush, jr. another $4
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trillion. >> rose: bush 43. >> why? because he cut the taxes to the wealthy and got us into two wars. anso there's $8 trillion of the $15... over half of it on those two wars. we've got to quit getting involved in these wars. it contributes nothing to our security. >> rose: as a short-term measure would you like to see the bush tax cuts eliminated and would you like to see a larger share of taxes paid by the wealthy and would you like to see the tax reform that would produce more tax revenue for the country? >> well, all of those things. nibble the graduated income tax that we g under woodrow wilson. i think it's the foundation stone of all these programs to strengthen the united states. it means that the more you make, the higher your tax rate goes and that's the only fair way to do it. >> rose: the book is called
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"what it means to be a democrat." so great to see you. i thank you for coming. >> a pleasure to be with you. captioning sponsored by se communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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