Exclusive - Debbie Wasserman Schultz Extended Interview

April 4, 2016 - Debbie Wasserman Schultz 04/04/2016 Views: 9,020

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz weighs in on the battle between presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as well as the GOP's voter suppression tactics. (12:38)

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My guest tonightis a congresswoman from Florida,

and the DNC chair.

Please welcomeDebbie Wasserman Schultz!

(applause and cheering)

Have a seat. Here.

Thank you so muchfor being here, Congresswoman.

Thank you for having me.It's a pleasure.

-Um, let's get straight into it.-Okay.

This is a...what a time to be alive.

-(laughter)-Yes. Yeah.

Is is exciting for you, or areyou stressing every single day?

No, it's invigorating.

Uh, I'm a true believer,and I really think

that the 73 straight monthsof private sector job growth

that we've hadunder President Obama

and congressional Democratsis something

that we need to build on.

And we need to make surethat we have an opportunity

for everyone in Americato reach the middle class,

to have good jobs.

But before we get that far,we have to get over the fact

that right nowthe race is turning into,

like, a wacky race.

I mean, it's, uh... it's insane.

Never mind the Republican side.

Let's talk about the Democrats,'cause you have, uh, obviously,

a bigger role to play in this.

Between Bernie and Hillary,

are you happy with how the raceis being run right now?

Is the Democratic party happy

with the relationshipbetween the two?

Because it seems likeit's becoming nastier

and nastier as the race goes.

You know, I really thinkthat that's some drama

that is created by the mediathat just isn't there.

I'm very proudof our candidates, and our...

and their supportsshould be proud of them,

and I know they are.

If you look at the clown carthat is...

has been ridingaround the country

on the other side of the aisle,I mean...

-(laughter) -And you're laughingbecause it's true.

No, I'm laughing because

I started picturing themin the car.

-(laughter)-Well, right, right.

And I was, like, who's drivingand who's doing what and...?

And they're all getting outof the top and the sides.

So, I mean, look,from my standpoint,

I want them to debate every day,

and I bet my counterpart,Reince Priebus,

wants them to debate never,because

every timethey open their mouth,

they do somethingto alienate somebody else.

So I'm so proudof our candidates

because they've talked about howto move our country forward.

And even thoughthey don't agree, um,

-on the best approach to achievethe same goals... -Yes.

...they have done soin a substantive and robust way

that gives peoplean idea of their vision.

Robust is a... is, I guess,the correct word.

I mean, um, Bernie came outon Twitter.

I don't know if you saw thisthis weekend, this past week.

He's been going at Hillaryquite hard,

and a lot of people feelthat Bernie Sanders has been--

I'm gonna paraphrase, or reallyquote Twitter, rather--

that Bernie's being(bleep) blocked,

-um, by the DNC.-(laughter)

Is there any merit to this?

You know... I'm, uh...

(applause and cheering)

As powerfulas that makes me feel...

-(laughter) -...um,I'm not doing a very good job

of, uh... of riggingthe outcome, or blocking...


...um, anyone from being ableto get their message out.

The reality is, is I have a jobas national party chair

that is one that requiresa thick skin.

It requires me to be ableto absorb the body blows

so our candidates can stayabove the fray,

and, you know, if I have to takea few punches

in order for them to be ableto make sure

they can get their message out,then so be it, but...

-But isn't the...-I'm all about making sure

that ultimately we can electour party's nominee

in the general election.

And-and I'm certain thatthat's gonna happen,

but is it... is it...safe to say...

Here's the thing that's tough,is that everyone assumes

that, let's say the DNC,is part of the government,

but in essence you are... youare sort of separate from that.

-Oh, more than sort of.-You're separate.

-Yes, we are. -Yes. So...so you make your own rules

-within the party, you...-With our members.

-Yes, you define what isand what... -Yes.

For instance, super delegates--like, a lot of people talk

about super delegates, they go,

"Hillary has moresuper delegates. Who...?"

I... I know youdidn't start this, but...

doesn't the ideaof a super delegate

go against the very factthat people should be voting

for the people who representthem at the convention?

-They-they do.-(applause, whooping)

First of all...

first of all,we've had super delegates

-since I graduatedfrom high school... -Yes.

-in 1984. And so...-I was born that year.

-(laughter)- Yeah, and Igraduated from high school,

so I couldn't quite beyour mother, but darn close.


But, I mean, look...

we have party activists,elected officials

-and other leaders-Mm-hmm.

that are a part of our processbut who have never determined

the outcome of our nominee.

It's voters that can and shoulddetermine that outcome,

and they always have.

And we... we have activistswho-who are also a part

of that process.

But if you look at what'sgoing on on the other side,

I bet my counterparti-is wishing

-Oh, I'm sure.-for some kind of magic pill

or some-some...

-Super delegates.-Harry Potter...

-Yeah, super delegates.-invisible... invisible cloak

that he could useto make his problems go away,

because at the end of the day...

we're-we're going to cometogether, I'm confident.

We are gonna haveour primary process unfold

and a nominee will be chosen bythe people who have cast votes

well before we getto the convention.

And you'll watch the chaosunfold on the other side,

where they are about to splinter

into I don't knowhow many parts,

because they have alienatedand done everything they can

to make people in this countryfeel unwelcome--

the vitriol and the bigotryand the nastiness

that not only Donald Trumphas engaged in,

-but that they've allpiled on to... -Definitely.

and-and promoted, and-and...

gone out of their wayto embrace.

Are you... are you worried,though, that some of that...

destructive splintering maycome into the Democratic Party?

You read online or you seein the newspapers every day

more and more storiesabout "Bernie or bust."

You know, there was the...there was the story

of Susan Sarandon saying,

"Actually,I'm gonna vote for Trump,

"because I... you know,maybe the revolution

will come faster that way"--if Bernie is not the nominee.

Now, she walked that backobviously,

but some people feel likethat's the sentiment.

Is that something that youworry about within the party?

Remember in 2... No.

We're gonna come together,we'll be united,

because Democrats understandwhat's at stake

-in this election.-Would you still come together

even if Berniesomehow became the nominee?

Absolutely.Both candidates have said

that they would supportone another.

And if you look,in 2008, remember,

our primary wasmuch more divisive,

and ultimately, Senator Clintonsupported, you know

then-Senator Obama,and eventually he chose her

to be his Secretary of State,and they went at each other

much harder,and it got a lot nastier.

And so I've been proud ofour candidates. They've been...

They-they've disagreedwithout being disagreeable.

Look, you know,they sharpen the elbows,

it gets a little rough andtumble. At the end of the day,

they know that we have to havea president who will

continue to focus on creatingjobs that pay a decent wage,

people can have a good roofover their head, they can have

a good education that doesn'tbankrupt them into their 50s,

that they can make surethey keep their health care

and they can make sure they havea safety net that... when...

retirement that's notcut so full of holes,

which is whatthe Republicans would do.

They'd take us back to whatthey think is the glory days

of the Bush administration,which plunged us

into the worst economic crisissince the Great Depression,

so we will come together,because we know that America

-needs to move forward.-(cheering, applause)

-Sorry, I get a little intense.-The, uh... I could...

I like that. I-I... I feelthe passion. I feel the passion.

In terms of getting things done,though-- that's-that's

an interesting point thatyou bring up, 'cause, I mean,

this is fascinating, so let'sgo... Uh, since the election,

all right-- the Democratic partyis down 11 governors,

13 Senate seats, 69 House seats,

30 state legislative chambers,

over 900state legislative seats.

This is whatthe Democratic party is down.

I-I think it hasn't beenthis bad since the 1800s.

Like, right now, if you werea coach of a team,

you'd be coaching the 76ers.

It's... It's not in a greatplace, and change,

as we've seen,comes from the inside

as much as it doesfrom-from the top.

Democrats have been re...accused many times

of focusing on the general,but not so much

the grassroots level.Is this gonna change?

Is there something you can doto move it in another direction?

Most definitely,we already have. If, uh...

But let me take you back to theRepublican autopsy after 2012,

when... What they said, afterthey did... took a good,

hard look at themselves,is that they needed

to stop alienatinggroups of voters

and making them feelunwelcome in the country.

-Yeah.-And they needed to embrace

comprehensive immigration reformin order to win

presidential elections,'cause they've been

losing presidential elections.

We haven't been very successfulin midterms. What we did--

instead of writing some planthat we threw in the trash can

before it even saw the lightof day-- uh, we focused on,

after, I created a Democraticvictory task force.

And we put our bestand brightest party leaders

across a wide,diverse array of the party,

and got down to brass tacks.

And the brass tacks werethat we had to rebuild the party

from the ground up.Focus on party building

and building our bench.And that's gonna take a while.

And we have a multi-cycle planthat we're focused on,

-making sure we can strengthenour party... -So you're

-building the championship team,is what you're saying. -We are.

We're rebuildingthe championship team,

because we need peopleto understand that voter turnout

is important. They have to votein presidential elections

and in midterms. And you can seefrom the way legislatures

have not ex... and governorshave not expanded access

to health care through Medicaid,how badly a president

needs down-ballot electedofficials to get behind them.

-Let's speak about the votingreal quick. -Yes.

Uh, congratulationson the result.

-I-I saw you hada press conference. -Yes.

-And, uh, the Supreme Court...I mean, to get

-a ruling from the Supreme Court-Unanimous.

-when it's now four-fouris impressive. -That's right.

Unanimous, nonetheless.

Uh, why is it so importantfor the DNC to vote...

to focuson voter suppression laws?

We submitted an amicus briefin this Evenwel decision

and have fought hard to makesure that we could maximize

people's ability to participate.

All the while,Republicans have openly admitted

that the fewer people vote, themore likely it is that they win.

-Yes. -Republicans all acrossthe country, like in Arizona,

where they cut the numberof precincts

and that's why the lineswere longer--

that happened in Florida in 2012as well--

we are all about making sure--and-and have always been--

creating more opportunitiesto vote,

because we knowthat when you shine a light,

when you...when you promote democracy,

when you give peoplean opportunity to have a say,

that more people will...good people will get elected.

And the Republicans know thatwhen you don't let people vote,

when our people show upto the polls...

And, of course, conveniently,that's where

the voter suppressiontakes place, is people who are

more likely to go to the pollsand vote for Democrats.

So we need to make surethat people

-who defy the... -That'sin poor areas, obviously.

-Poor areas. African Americans,minorities, -Minority areas,

-women, the LGBT community,students. -Yes.

Uh, in Texas, they don't allowa college I.D.

to be used as a valid formof state identification

to cast a vote.I mean, how intentional is that?

So we-we are exposing themright and left.

They lost a big one today.

And we are gonna continueto roll up our sleeves and--

I'm not wearing sleeves today--but roll up our sleeves and...

-You've already roll... They'repre-rolled. -I've done it.

-I've done it. I come inpre-rolled. -I like that.

-We're gonna make sure that wecan fight hard... -It's-it's...

it's really... it's reallyimpressive. One last thing

-before-before I let you go.-Sure.

Um, if you were to give advice

to the RNC,

if you were in the positionthey're in right now,

with Trump looming,the possibility

of a contested conventioncoming up,

what would you do if you wererunning the RNC right now?

I-I would strengthen my spine,

and I would make surethat I stood up

for the... what was right,

instead of caving,

which is what the entireRepublican Party has done.

They are in this situation...

They say Donald Trump hijackedtheir party.

No, he didn't. They succumbedto right-wing extremism

and... they are layingin the bed

that they made for themselvesbecause they cared more

about power than they didabout doing the right thing,

standing up for peoplewho need to have their voice

so that they can reachthe middle class

and they can succeed.

If you give people a fair shot,

they'll get an opportunityto succeed.

The Republicans have focusedon the wealthiest,

most fortunate Americans.

Democrats are about making surethe people have an opportunity

to build those co-cornerstonesof a middle-class life.

The Republicans have beentotally transparent.

They care about the wealthy,they care about big business

-and big banks,and we're gonna make sure -I...

we continue to expose them.What should he d...

What should they do? They shouldmake sure that they stand up

for peoplewho need their voice amplified,

like we do every single day,

-not cower in the corner-(cheering and applause)

for the right wing.

-I'm hoping we'll get you backon. -Thank you.

-That was really fascinating.-Thank you.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz,everyone. We'll be right back.

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

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