COLUMBUS, Ohio ― When he first ran for the White House in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) promised to usher in a post-partisan era, in which competence took precedent over ideology, and the bickering that defined the Clinton and Bush years gradually faded away.
It never happened. But that didn’t stop Obama from saying it would. In subsequent elections, both he and his aides predicted that Republicans would eventually soften their instinctive opposition to his agenda. The “fever,” he predicted, would break.
As the Obama presidency comes to a close and a Hillary Clinton presidency looks to succeed it, few politicians still believe it.
“I think there’s going to be an obligation to show that Trumpism is not a complete equivalent for GOP,” he said in an interview with The Huffington Post Thursday. “And I think, in that moment, when they’re trying to demonstrate that, there’s going to be some opportunities to get some wins right out of the gate.”
“They’re going to need to show GOP does not equal Trump,” he said.
And does he think the fever will break?
“I believe it will,” he said.
Kaine is a self-proclaimed optimist. So his confidence in the ability to govern constructively in the near future was not out of the ordinary, though perhaps aided by the IPA he sipped while sitting in the warehouse of the Land-Grant Brewing Company in Columbus, Ohio.
Watch the full interview above.
Kaine prefaced his confidence with caution, noting that neither he nor Clinton was taking their election for granted (he spoke a day before the FBI announced that it was investigating several emails that could be pertinent to its initial investigation into Clinton’s private account). But he allowed himself to imagine areas where he thought progress could be made. That included reforming the Affordable Care Act, agreements he envisioned could be made on enhancing small business tax credits, pursuing Medicaid expansion in states that hadn’t previously done so, and encouraging more market reforms to reward outcomes instead of procedures.
To get to a place where lawmakers forge compromise on items as contentious as Obamacare, however, will likely take more than just the electoral humiliation of one Donald Trump. Modern governance rewards politicians who play to their base. And often, it is the influence of money rather than the recognition of sound policy that plays a motivating factor in the legislative process.
Kaine noted that Clinton has called for a series of reforms to get money both out of politics and, when impossible, shed light on where those contributions are going. But he pushed back forcefully on one proposal aggressively championed by Trump.
Term limits for members of Congress, he said, were a “bad idea,” based in part on his experience as a term-limited governor of Virginia.
“It sounds good, but I think if you do term limits, you would really increase the power of lobbying,” he said. “I’ve been in 40 states as a candidate, and I interact with a lot of state legislators who are in states where there’s term limits. And here’s what they say to me: ‘OK, it sounds good, but boy, I tell ya, you do term limits, then the only people who don’t have the terms are the lobbyists.’ And so the permanent institutional expertise class is now no longer the legislators, it’s the lobbyists who don’t have term limits and are there forever.”
"It’s important to use executive orders. Every president since Washington has." Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)
If nothing else, Kaine understands how lawmakers think, work and operate. He’s held office on the local, state and federal level ― occupying perches in the legislative and executive branches. It’s a bio that comes with complications in an election where the other side is running against “career politicians.” But it’s one he seems comfortable touting.
Because of this background, he has perhaps a more informed perspective than most on where the line should be drawn between executive and legislative powers. One of his big causes in the Senate was to bring the powers to declare war back under Congress’ purview. And he repeated that should Clinton win, her administration will push for an authorization for use of military force in the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“The big-picture issue constitutionally for me is, get Congress on board to initiate war as a way of sending a message to troops that are overseas,” Kaine said. “We’ve already lost 20 people in the war against ISIL, and Congress hasn’t had the guts to even cast a vote.”
But Kaine also made the explicit case for executive branch authorities. Though Obama has confronted legal challenges and setbacks for some of the actions he’s taken on immigration and pollutant controls, Kaine spoke approvingly of both those objectives and the steps used to achieve them.
“It’s important to use executive orders,” he said. “Every president since Washington has. And the thing about an executive order — there has never been an executive order that a Congress couldn’t say, ‘You know, we don’t like that so we’re going to do something else,’ if there is a majority in Congress to do something else. So sometimes, you know, you have a court ruling that this or that executive order went beyond authority. But almost always, executive orders are within an authority and always within the purview of Congress to change if they want to legislatively change it.”
Should he be elected, Kaine would have a unique purview over the ground where Congress and the executive meet. The vice president’s role is twofold: both the second in command and the president of the Senate. The current occupant of that position, Joe Biden, has been one of Obama’s best dealmakers on the Hill, occasionally to the chagrin of liberals.
Kaine said he would seek to model his tenure off of Biden. He wants, he explained, be Clinton’s “chief adviser” and “the last person in the room”; someone who gives advice, learns and takes on “a few projects.” For him, those projects would dovetail with his past work: economic revitalization of cities and states, and enhancing relations with Latin America (Kaine volunteered with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras before entering politics).
“I’ll say about Joe, I have really learned a lot from him,” Kaine said. “Some, because of things he’s told me, but some just watching the way he’s done his job. This is a supporting job that gives you an enormous ability, but you also have to be really loyal.”
Video produced by:
Senior producer: Sharaf Mowjood; Producer: Omar Kasrawi; Editor: Adriane Giebel; Director of photography: Chelsea Moynehan; Cameras: Dan Fox, Shane Handler; Audio: Mike Caravella.
Full transcript of The Huffington Post’s interview with Kaine:
SAM STEIN: Welcome to Land-Grant Brewing Company here in Columbus, Ohio. I’m Sam Stein.
AMANDA TERKEL: I’m Amanda Terkel.
STEIN: And we are joined by Tim Kaine, senator of Virginia, former governor, current vice presidential candidate and, I guess, in recent weeks, America’s dad. So, thank you very much for joining us.
SEN. TIM KAINE: Dads and beer, I mean it goes right together.
STEIN: Dads and beer. Cheers. I appreciate it.
So we wanted, I guess, we wanted to have a conversation about how government works, and maybe why it doesn’t work, which is a big frustration for a lot of people.
And I want to go back to 2007. You’re one of the first people out of the state of Illinois to endorse Obama, and the premise essentially is, he can bring a bit of competence to government, he can get us behind, or past, the partisan rancor.
And I think Obama himself has said that is one of his shortcomings, and one of his failings. So eight years later, how do you diagnose where it went wrong and why it went wrong?
KAINE: Well, first, I don’t ― I won’t accept the premise that it, you know, went wrong, because the president has also had some transformative achievements. Twenty million people have health insurance who didn’t before.
It was Teddy Roosevelt who first said he would do that, and Harry Truman who first introduced it, and, so ― and I could do, obviously, a number of things. Two of the three frozen relationships that the U.S. had in the world, Cuba and Iran, are in a different chapter.
STEIN: Yeah, but those are like executive things, right? I mean, it was with Congress that was sort of the problem, right?
KAINE: Look, Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank. There are a number of things with Congress. But you’re right, President Obama would say the thing that he probably feels the most regret about is he really thought ― not really his election, but the times we were in, that we were in the worst recession since the 1930s, and we had two wars that were kind of open-ended at that point ― that that would have compelled kind of almost like a national unity, like when Churchill did the National Unity Government after, you know, Britain got into the war.
I think President Obama felt like this would be a time when we can do it. And he would say that that is probably what he really regrets ― that there’s still an awful lot of division.
STEIN: So what went wrong?
KAINE: You know, boy, we’re a closely divided country.
STEIN: This is why we’re plying you with alcohol.
KAINE: I mean, can I tell you? We’re a closely divided country. This is my ninth race. I’ve never had an easy one. I’ve never had one that it wasn’t closely divided and tough. But what we’ve got to figure out is a way to be closely divided before an Election Day, but then pull together after an Election Day.
STEIN: Well maybe the question then is not what went wrong, but how does, how does Hillary Clinton, if she were to be elected president, how does she go about breaking through that impasse that Obama tried ― and occasionally did ― but by and large couldn’t really figure it out?
KAINE: Well, it’s, it’s important. I mean, one of the reasons Hillary asked me to be on the ticket is, I was a Democratic governor with two Republican houses. She knows that I’ve got a good track record in the Senate of working across the aisle, and Hillary, as both first lady and senator, had some major bipartisan accomplishments.
So, I think that she’s going to use what she already brings to the table. So she knows from eight years as first lady, eight years senator, four years secretary of state, she knows an awful lot of the players; she knows what motivates them, what they really care about, what the trip wires are that she probably doesn’t want to run across. That knowledge will come in handy.
I mean, I’ll, you know, we don’t take anything for granted. I think there’s a good chance though that there’ll be a Democratic Senate, with a majority leader that is very close to Hillary. They were colleagues together, she and Chuck Schumer of New York.
And then, I’ll say this: Not every Democrat agrees with me, but I was on the Murray-Ryan budget conference committee in 2013, and saw, you know, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray ― who are very different people politically ― say, “We gotta get a deal for the good of the country. I don’t have to set aside my ideological leanings, but we gotta get a deal for the good of the country.” And I think ―
STEIN: You had the sequester coming down, you need to get rid of it somehow, yeah, that type of thing.
KAINE: And then, Ryan did it again with respect to the approps bill at the end of 2015, and, you know, I was involved in that to some degree.
STEIN: So do you think the fever breaks a little bit, though?
KAINE: I believe it will.
STEIN: I mean, that’s the constant mantra from Obama, is that the fever will break after this election. Why will this election be any different than any past election, even if you win the Senate majority?
KAINE: Yeah, well let me, let me give you two things that I think will happen, and I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t an optimist, right?
STEIN: I have noticed that.
KAINE: So, but here are two things I think will happen. We’re getting a lot of GOP support. So in terms of bringing people together, I think it starts with, we’ve got GOP folks who are supporting us right now. When John Warner, who’s the archetypal Republican in Virginia, stands up and says, “I’m supporting Hillary,” and he doesn’t mention anything about Donald Trump ― “I’m supporting Hillary because I worked with her in the Senate.” So that starts the bridge-building process right away, when you have folks who have come across and said, “Hey, I’m trusting you, I think you’ll do a good job.” So that’s number one.
And second, look, if we win, and I think we’re going to ― we don’t take anything for granted, not presuming ― but if we do, I think they’re, we’re going to have the burden of governing and governing for everybody. But I think the GOP’s going to have a burden too. They’re going to need to show GOP does not equal Trump.
KAINE: And I think there’s going to be an obligation to show that Trumpism is not a complete equivalent for GOP. And I think, in that moment, when they’re trying to demonstrate that, there’s going to be some opportunities to get some wins right out of the gate.
And then, you know, look, in life, success begets success. You know, you spend your time blaming the other for what’s not getting done and you actually do a couple things, and then you switch to, “Hey, let’s instead compete about who gets the credit for what we just did.” And that’s a lot more fun.
STEIN: You are an eternal optimist. What is going on here?
KAINE: It must be in this IPA.
STEIN: Yeah, that IPA’s got something in it.
TERKEL: So you mentioned Obamacare, and that seems to be one issue where you could maybe use some bipartisan consensus. Premiums are going up now, so where do you think the middle ground is to sort of help fix some of these problems with Republicans?
KAINE: Yeah, no, great question. Let me tell you where we were when I came to the Senate in 2013 on Obamacare, and where we are today. Really interesting shift in the dynamic.
When I came in in January 2013, the Democrats were like, “We can’t do anything to touch it or fix it, because that would be to admit that it’s not perfect.” And the Republicans are, “We don’t want to do anything to improve it. We want it to fail.” There was zero reform caucus. Absolutely zero.
And I remember getting frustrated at some of the Dems, and I’d say, “There’s some obvious fixes here.” And I remember telling them once a story in a Democratic caucus lunch, when I was governor, at the end of every session, there would be about 1,100 passed bills on my desk that I would have to sign, veto or amend. And I noticed my first year that 850 of them were fixes to existing law, and only 250 were new. The job of a legislator is much more fixing existing law, revising it, improving it, than it is passing something that doesn’t exist.
And I remember saying that to my folks but, you know, anyway, they weren’t listening. But, the Healthcare.gov roll-out glitch took a lot of the Democratic complacency and said, “OK, I guess ―”
STEIN: It’s kind to call it a glitch, but ―
KAINE: And it made them think it’s not perfect, I guess we better fix it. And then 20 million people with health insurance, you know, you can’t rip it away from them. There’s a lot of Republicans, “OK, we’re not going to repeal it.” Even the repeal-and-replace formulation is sort of an acknowledgement, “I guess we can’t repeal it.”
So now you’ve got actually a working possibility of reform, and I think the reforms are likely to be, you know, in a couple of areas.
One: The small business tax credit is something that Hillary talks about a lot. You know, I mean, like this, you know, Land-Grant Brewing here in Columbus. We had a tax credit for small businesses. Not that many small business have taken advantage of it. There was a goal that many would, but the fact that they haven’t means it’s probably not robust enough, and it’s also probably too administratively complicated for a small business to take. So that’s something that we, we definitely need to fix, and why wouldn’t Republicans want to do something good for small business, and we would want to make it easier to access.
Second, we’ve got to work with the 18 or 19 states that haven’t done the Medicare expansion. Virginia is one. We got a Democratic governor that wants to do it, Republican houses that don’t. But Virginians are paying taxes and they’re not getting coverage, and I always analogize this to, when Medicaid was passed in ’65, the last state that got on board ― because it was optional, it’s mandatory now ― the last state that got on board was Arizona in 1982. It took 17 years.
It was interesting, when the Affordable Care Act passed, Arizona did it immediately, even though they had two Republican senators, a Republican governor, Republican legislature. They were like, “What did we get by being the caboose on this effort?”
STEIN: Also, it’s good economics for the state, right?
KAINE: It is. And so, I think that, if we can, you know, make these remaining states ― work with them to get the expansion, that’s good. We need to work on drug costs, and there’s things we can work on on drug costs, especially Medicare Part D, to bring drug costs down.
And the last thing, and this is the big one, what the Affordable Care Act started was a change in the American health care system from paying for procedures to paying for outcomes, paying for health. Other nations have already made that move. We pay for procedures and we get the best procedures in the world and we get the most procedures in the world, and then we spend a huge chunk of our GDP on health care, but we don’t have the best outcomes.
Nations that pay for outcomes and health actually spend a lower percentage of GDP, and they have better outcomes. And so the Affordable Care Act is starting to make that migration, but we’ve got to keep down that path, and we’ll improve outcomes and reduce cost.
TERKEL: So, one area where Republicans are already indicating that they’re not going to cooperate with a future Clinton-Kaine administration is on the Supreme Court. You had Sen. McCain say that they are likely to oppose any nominee you put forward for the Supreme Court. Ted Cruz said that there’s plenty of precedent for not having nine justices, for having eight or fewer. So, what do you do about that?
KAINE: Well, Ted Cruz, I think, is being slightly disingenuous. The Constitution doesn’t set the size of the Court. It sets a maximum, I think, of 15. But since the Judiciary Act of 1869, it’s been a nine-member court. That’s what the statute says. We take an oath to uphold the law, that’s what we’re upholding. Congress could change it, if Congress wanted to and had the votes, but Congress won’t. So until Congress does, that’s the size of the court.
And the battle is, do we want a lawfully constituted full court, or will we let the Republicans have a hobbled, limited and weakened court?
And this really is unprecedented, and the thing that’s unprecedented about it is this: Senate has to advise and consent. That doesn’t mean you have to vote yes; you can vote no. It’s not a rubber stamp. But what these guys are doing is, “Wait a minute, we don’t have to vote yes or no, and maybe we can trick our voters into not holding us accountable for not voting yes or no.” And so, I’ll tell you what ―
STEIN: What’s to stop them? I mean, honestly, what’s to stop them?
KAINE: Well, the voters are going to stop them, or we’re going to stop them. And when I say “we,” I am a U.S. senator and I’m going to be a U.S. senator through the end of the year and maybe beyond. But I mean, I’m a U.S. senator. I have a prediction. This is not a guarantee, and I’m not revealing inside intel, but ―
STEIN: That’s all right, I’m writing it down. Go on.
KAINE: I was in the Senate when the Republicans stonewalling around appointments caused Senate Democratic majority to switch the vote threshold on appointments from 60 to 51. And we did it on everything but a Supreme Court justice.
If these guys think they’re going to stonewall the filling of that vacancy or other vacancies, then a Democratic Senate majority will say, “We’re not going to let you thwart the law.”
And so we will change the Senate rules to uphold the law, that the court will be nine members.
STEIN: So it sounds like you’re predicting Harry Reid will follow through on what has been, so far, sort of a subtle, veiled threat to change the filibuster rules for the Supreme Court.
KAINE: I am predicting that if the Republicans continue to stonewall, then I think that will happen, again I’m not revealing inside intel. This is a prediction.
STEIN: No, no, no, I know, it’s what Reid has talked about basically, recently, yeah.
KAINE: And I think that, you know, after an election, people will think about it, and I think there’s still a significant likelihood that Merrick Garland will get a vote before the end of the year. But we’ll see.
STEIN: And you’d be happy with a Merrick Garland vote?
KAINE: If I am in the Senate and Merrick Garland comes up, I’m voting yes, because, the way the character and fitness test for advise and consent positions was set up, it’s just supposed to be, is the person a fit character? He gets so far over that hurdle. I don’t know that anybody would get over that hurdle higher than Merrick Garland will. So I’m voting for him, if he comes up.
STEIN: You don’t think he’s bored waiting around at this point, waiting to go back to law practice?
KAINE: I mean, I’m sure he is.
TERKEL: Just flipping through magazines.
STEIN: What is he doing at this juncture?
KAINE: The good thing about him is he has a job. He’s on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. If he was in law practice, they would’ve held a congratulations party for him the day after he got nominated. He’d be sitting in his office for months.
STEIN: So, one of the things that everyone basically says is partially responsible for why government doesn’t really function that well is just the sheer amount of money, right? And the influence.
KAINE: Yeah, I agree.
STEIN: But you guys have put out, you want to overturn Citizens United, you want to do the Disclose Act. Don’t want to get into it, but it’s essentially it would ―
KAINE: No secret money, no secret money.
STEIN: So, there’s two reforms that your opponent, Donald Trump, has introduced in the past couple weeks that would go even further than that.
STEIN: One is to term-limit members of Congress.
STEIN: And the other is to put a five-year ban on members of Congress and executive officials from turning around after they leave office or their positions and lobbying the agencies that they were associated with. So, why is he wrong?
KAINE: Well, look. Let me take them in reverse order. The ban on the revolving door, I don’t think that’s all bad. And there are current limitations on it. Now, how do you structure it? Because what happens is, OK there’s a ban on being involved when you get out of Congress, but then some say, “OK, well I don’t lobby, but I’ll do, you know, strategic advice” or something like that. So how do you define it so that there really isn’t a revolving door?
Look, there’s already rules about it, and can we make the rules better? I’m really open to that.
Term limits, I think it’s a bad idea.
TERKEL: Because you had them in Virginia, for governor.
KAINE: It’s a bad idea. I had a one-term governorship in Virginia, which I think was bad for the state. It was good for the family, but it was bad for the state. But here’s why I think it’s bad for Congress.
I worked DNC chair and as a candidate now. I’ve been in 40 states as a candidate, and I interact with a lot of state legislators who are in states where there’s term limits. And here’s what they say to me: “OK, it sounds good, but boy, I tell ya, you do term limits, then the only people who don’t have the terms are the lobbyists.”
And so the permanent institutional expertise class is now no longer the legislators, it’s the lobbyists who don’t have term limits and are there forever.
It sounds good, but I think if you do term limits, you would really increase the power of lobbying. If you want to decrease the power, you can do revolving door stuff or you can do campaign finance reform, which is what we really want to do. And that would be more likely to check lobbyists’ power than term limits.
STEIN: Fair enough. One of the things you’re known for with respect to the Congress, even if they’re not term-limited, is you tried really hard to get the war powers away from the executive back to the legislative branch. And I know you recently said — why don’t you elaborate on why you think Hillary Clinton should do that going forward, if she were to be elected? What is the point? Don’t you think ― now you’re going to be vice president potentially, don’t you want all those powers?
KAINE: No. No.
STEIN: Why not?
KAINE: I’m going to talk to you about the issue generally, then I’m going to talk to you about the battle against ISIS right now. Use that as an example.
The issue generally. I’m a Virginia guy, so I like James Madison. And Madison wrote the ―
STEIN: Jefferson’s not happy with us.
KAINE: No, I like Jefferson, too. Jefferson and Madison both agreed on this.
STEIN: Just want to make sure. Who’s number one?
KAINE: I’m not going there. I’m actually going with Madison. Bill of Rights was Madison, I’m going with Madison.
STEIN: Wow! We’re making news here.
KAINE: Right. So, so their thought was, they surveyed the history of the world, and they said war is for the king, the sultan, the monarch, the emperor, the executive — that’s who war is for.
KAINE: We’re going to change it. And we’re going to make the initiation of war for the people’s elected legislature. And then, once initiated, the president will prosecute the war — commander in chief. The reason that they did that was, they looked at history and they thought executives overreach and wage wars that they don’t need to — and I think history is filled with examples of that.
But also, there’s another moral value that’s really important. People are in the military. It’s a risky line of work. I’ve got a boy in the military deployed overseas right now.
Before you order them onto the field of battle, there ought to be a political consensus between the executive and the legislature that, this is in the national interest. We’re putting our thumb print on this mission and say, it’s in the national interest. If the executive does it but the legislature is like, “Ah, we’d rather not vote” ― it’s immoral to ask people to risk their life.
So, the big-picture issue constitutionally for me is, get Congress on board to initiate war as a way of sending a message to troops that are overseas. We’ve already lost 20 people in the war against ISIL, and Congress hasn’t had the guts to even cast a vote.
STEIN: Let’s move it away from ISIS and foreign policy, and just talk generally about balance of powers between legislative and executive branch.
KAINE: Yeah, but I want to say one more thing about this.
The reason it’s important, and that Hillary agrees with me on this ― we look at the legal Article I v. Article II, we look at it slightly different, but we reach the same punch line, which is: We are in a war against ISIS right now. We’re moving on Mosul, maybe moving on Raqqa. But we’re using an authorization that a Congress passed on Sept. 14, 2001.
By the time the next Congress swears in, probably 70 percent of Congress was not here when that was vote was given. So it’s on autopilot. We got people risking their lives and dying, and Congress is like, “Why do we have to declare?”
And Hillary says we have to take stock of what this fight against non-state terrorism is, and there is a dialogue that goes on between an executive and legislative that educates the public and then we send a message to adversaries, a message to allies, a message to our troops, and I do think that that’s really important. OK, so now.
STEIN: OK so, if the idea here, and I think I’m getting this right, is you need to show solidarity with missions as grand as ISIS and wars.
STEIN: Certainly, to a certain extent, you can say, OK on domestic policy there are some issues where you want to show the legislative and the executive branch have a solidarity. Sure. Now, President Obama has been criticized for using his executive authorities on climate legislation, immigration reform, and so on. So, you know, you’ve been an executive, you’ve been a senator, you’re hoping to be in the executive with purview over the Senate.
KAINE: I mean ― a hybrid.
STEIN: So, what’s your 30,000-foot picture on where this line should be in terms of a balance between these two branches?
KAINE: Yeah. Well, I do think the president’s best role is usually as the sort of initiator. If you think of big, legislative accomplishments, most of them kind of get initiated with the president putting something out there and Congress working on it.
If you think, what was the last really big, big accomplishment for the nation that came purely out of the legislature? It might be the Americans with Disabilities Act. I mean that really was a legislative creation.
But usually the president is kind of the initiator of the idea, then Congress makes it work. And then, you know, in the war powers area, it’s well, Congress does the budget — you know, the approps, that’s not the president. The president doesn’t get a line-item veto, so all the budgetary approps stuff is with Congress.
The executive order thing — look, it’s important to use executive orders. Every president since Washington has. And the thing about an executive order — there has never been an executive order that a Congress couldn’t say, “You know, we don’t like that so we’re going to do something else,” if there is a majority in Congress to do something else.
And so sometimes, you know, you have a court ruling that this or that executive order went beyond authority, but almost always, executive orders are within an authority and always within the purview of Congress to change if they want to legislatively change it.
TERKEL: So you’ve talked about how a Clinton-Kaine administration could show a strong woman leading and a strong man supporting the woman in charge. So, how worried are you, though, that we could see something like we saw under Obama, where a woman, the first woman is elected to the White House and we see an increase in sexism. We elected the first black president and we saw a lot of, you know, a lot of divisions in terms of race relations. How worried are you about that?
KAINE: Well, here’s the way I look at President Obama’s election — and I was a civil rights lawyer in the capital of the Confederacy for 17 years. His election and his re-election demonstrates that we are progressing and getting better.
It didn’t create any new racial hostility. It may have brought to the surface some that was there, but I don’t think it created it. I think it normalized the idea that an African American could be president, and it is a step forward. It’s not at the end of the race in overcoming racism, but it is a step forward.
And I think we will look at this when President Obama is gone and say that in the area of race and normalizing acceptance of others around the table of leadership, we’ve taken a big step forward. We’ve still got a ways to go.
So, Hillary, if you think it through, yeah maybe some people who don’t like the idea of a woman leader will be more vocal about their feelings, but that election is going to be a big step forward in Hillary’s legacy.
I was talking to a college audience at Kenyon today and I’ve been saying this thing that, when President Obama was elected, the moment they called him the winner, before he had done anything else, suddenly, a whole group of people who could never see themselves as president said, “I can be president of the United States, and if I can do that, I can do anything.”
And Hillary’s election is going to do the same thing. Before she takes the oath of office or does one bill, immediately — “I can be president of the United States.”
They each are creating a group of successors who had never been able to see themselves as president. That’s a step forward, but it’s not the end of sexism, it’s not the end of racism. We’re human. But it’s a step forward.
STEIN: We have two very fun questions.
TERKEL: Quick questions.
KAINE: OK, I’ll take one of them.
STEIN: Nah, you get two, otherwise you can’t finish the beer. First one, you’re a Bob Dylan fan.
KAINE: I am a Bob Dylan fan.
STEIN: He wins this Nobel Prize in Literature.
KAINE: I know!
TERKEL: Do you think he deserved it?
KAINE: Oh, yeah, oh completely. Absolutely. I’m so in the tank for this. I think this is great.
STEIN: You know, Philip Roth is a huge fan of this [show].
KAINE: Well, and Philip Roth, I mean, anybody who can write The Plot Against America, American Pastoral ― he deserves a Nobel Prize.
STEIN: That book is a little weirdly prescient in this election.
KAINE: Especially the somewhat optimistic ending, or so I’m hoping.
STEIN: All right. Why has Bob Dylan not picked up his prize? Have you been following this? He just won’t pick it up, what’s going on?
KAINE: So, who would be the equivalent of a Bob Dylan? Marlon Brando for an Academy Award, and I think there had been one or two other literary Nobel Prizes like Jean-Paul Sartre. I don’t think he picked his up.
STEIN: OK, sure, this is weird, you can admit. I know you like the guy, but it’s weird.
KAINE: No, it’s weird. It’s weird. But isn’t that part of why Bob Dylan won the prize, and why we like him?
TERKEL: Yeah, although it was controversial that he won.
STEIN: It was very controversial.
KAINE: I mean he’s not Robert Zimmerman, he’s Bob Dylan.
STEIN: Fair enough, although I would like if he went by Robert Zimmerman. It’s good for the Jews.
All right, last one. The guy you’re trying to replace, Joe Biden, has for some reason said he’d like to take Donald Trump out back and fight him.
What’s the deal with that? Is that productive? It feels like it’s playing to the lower common denominator than maybe ― If the mantra is, if they go low we go high, is that?
TERKEL: Or do you want to fight Donald Trump too?
KAINE: I’m a lover, not a fighter. I am a lover, not a fighter.
TERKEL: You’re from Virginia!
STEIN: Is this productive though, what’s going on here?
KAINE: You know what, I mean, I have no way of knowing this to be true, but my intuition is not that Joe Biden’s speechwriter thought about that and put it in the speech.
STEIN: What gave that away?
KAINE: One of the reasons people love Joe Biden is he just kind of says what he thinks. He’s a guy whose heart is on his sleeve, and that’s one of the things people love about him.
And I’ll say about Joe, I have really learned a lot from him. Some, because of things he’s told me, but some just watching the way he’s done his job. This is a supporting job that gives you an enormous ability, but you also have to be really loyal.
KAINE: I’ve been a lieutenant governor to a great governor, Mark Warner, I’ve been a DNC chair to a great president, Barack Obama. Both are supporting roles. So I have had supporting roles like the role I may go into.
STEIN: Is that the model you want to follow, the Biden model?
KAINE: Yeah. The Biden model really has been the model, sort of, since Mondale, and that is, let me be your chief adviser, the last person in the room, give you my best advice, but it’s also two-way, I’m going to give you my best advice, but also learn from you. And, let me take on a few projects. I have some projects based on being mayor and governor and living in Latin America and doing a lot ―
STEIN: I’m going to get killed by your advisers, but what are your projects you want to take on?
KAINE: Well, I mean, no surprise, and Hillary has talked about this too, but one of the first two bills out the gate is an economic acceleration package to grow jobs. No bill works if it doesn’t work in a zip code where somebody lives.
I’ve been a mayor and governor doing economic development deals. I was also a civil rights lawyer caring about the fairness and equity of the justice side of this, so I think I could do some things in connection with the economic development effort to really make it work, you know, where people live.
And then the second thing is, having spent time in Central America, and having Spanish fluency, and knowing that secretaries of state usually fly east-west all the time ― you know, we have 37 nations in the Americas and Caribbean, a billion people, we are without war, really, for the first time in our recorded history, other continents can’t say that.
I think there are a lot of opportunities in the Americas that matter deeply to 45 million Latinos in this country, and I would hope to be able to work to maybe elevate the profile of the Americas in our discussion about American global leadership.
STEIN: When you say we’re without war, you meant in our North-South Hemisphere, right?
KAINE: Yeah, even after the referendum failed in Colombia, the U.S. helped that Colombian peace process end the civil war, then the referendum to ratify it failed, but both sides have said they’re not going back to war.
We’re going to have to work on the legal status, but peace should be our future. And when that ceasefire went into place, and in the Americas there are other challenges ― we’re human, obviously ― but to have no war for the first time in history, as far as I can determine, that’s a big deal.
STEIN: I would love to talk to you about the referendum on the Colombian civil war, but Karen Finney will literally rip my head off.
KAINE: Yeah, I mean, of course, because we’re in Colombia! Cause we’re in Colombia! No, I’m sorry, Columbus.
TERKEL: Thank you, it was great having you, thank you.
STEIN: Sen. Kaine, America’s Dad, and perhaps, the future vice president. And thank you of course, to the Land-Grant Brewing Company for hosting us.