On June 22, I sat with Hillary Clinton on a hot day in Raleigh, North Carolina. She had just finished giving a major speech on her economic vision — she wanted "a full employment and full potential economy," she said — and I wanted to know more about what that meant and how she would achieve it.
We spoke for about 40 minutes (you can read my longer thoughts on our conversation, and what I learned about Hillary Clinton, here). My hope in this conversation was to draw out the deeper theories animating Clinton’s agenda. But I think it’s worth reading the transcript (lightly edited, below) or watching the full video of our discussion yourself. It will give you a sense of how Clinton thinks, how she reasons, how she works through policy questions. We so often experience Clinton chopped down to a sound bite on the nightly news, or confined to a 30-second answer in a debate, that it’s a surprisingly different experience — or at least it was for me — to watch her when she has more space.
But if you want to skip around, here’s what we covered. Click the link below to head to that point in the conversation or scroll down to read the whole interview:
Extreme poverty, welfare reform, and the working poor
Let’s start with poverty. Scholars have estimated that the number of American families living in extreme poverty, under $2 in cash income, has skyrocketed in the last 20 years.
You have about 1.5 million families and 3 million children in this kind of poverty. Given how many children are now in that condition, should we be following the model of countries — like Sweden, Germany, and now Canada under Trudeau — that have a universal child allowance to cut or eliminate child poverty?
Well, this is a very personal and important issue to me — because, as you know, I started out my work as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund. And I have been focused on child poverty and what we can do to alleviate it for a very long time.
I would just slightly amend your question, because we were making progress in the ’90s. We had more people lifted out of poverty. We had a 33 percent increase in African-American family income. We were on the right track. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have been looking at more ways to lift more kids out of poverty. But we were on the right trajectory — and, unfortunately, we changed direction.
We had policies that I think contributed greatly to the increase in childhood poverty starting in 2001, the Great Recession being the worst of those. But there were also policy decisions, regulatory changes — providing more leeway to the states, so that they did not have either the requirement or the incentive to continue lifting people, particularly kids, out of poverty.
So we’ve got a big problem, and it’s a problem that’s a reflection on our political as well as our economic systems. And I do think we should focus on how we’re going to support more families, and there are a number of inputs. But trying to create more financial support is something that we should look at. I’m not ready to adopt a plan that comes from some other country, because we have to look to see how we would do anything in our federal system — and how it would be workable and what the cost-benefit analysis might be.
But while we’re looking at how we lift incomes — which is the defining economic challenge that we have for working, middle-class, and poor families — we need to do much more to provide the proven interventions in early childhood education that help families, even poor families, know more about how to better prepare their kids. We need to do more with nutrition — and we’re making progress with health care thanks to SCHIP [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program] and the Affordable Care Act.
So it’s not just a decision about whether or not to increase the child tax credit or some other means of providing a greater financial safety net. It’s also what we can do to really support families. And I think we have to move on both tracks.
But to ask a big-picture question about that policy shift: Something a lot of poverty scholars argue to me is that we made a very big change toward trying to support the working poor — welfare reform was, of course, part of that. It went, from the numbers I’ve seen, from bringing a million of these families out of poverty to around 300,000 in more recent years. Then there was the expansion of the EITC.
Do you think we do too little now to support the poor who, for whatever reason, cannot find or cannot keep a job?
I do. I know there’s a big debate — and it’s an important debate — about welfare reform. Because when welfare reform was passed, there was an expectation — certainly on my part, and I think on the part of many who had supported it — that there would be a requirement that states would have to be contributing to the broadest possible safety net, particularly in economic downturns.
So we wouldn’t help the working poor, particularly through the EITC — which I think is one of the best anti-poverty programs that we have devised — at the expense of the poor. We would be providing a continuing safety net for the poor. And that’s one of the programs that I was referring to when I said after 2001, there were a lot of decisions made that basically did not carry on what had been not just the spirit but the requirements in the law, because we had set the base payment at the highest possible rate and expected states to do that.
So we are back to a serious problem of poverty, and I think we have to do much more to target federal programs to the poorest, where intergenerational poverty is once again a cycle. Congressman Jim Clyburn has a creative idea called the 10-20-30 approach, where you would put a percentage of federal funds — 10 percent of federal funds — in those communities that are most impoverished and have been for 30 years.
So I think we’ve got to address really systemic, generational poverty differently. We still have to lift up working people. We have to make it worth everyone’s while to work. We have to create more good jobs. We still have to have the training pipeline there. But we are now, unfortunately, back having to face poverty that we thought we had a better approach toward ending than it turns out — given the change in administrations and attitudes — that we did.
Is it time for more deficit spending?
Let me ask you about how to pay for that. So I looked at the Treasury’s real daily yield curve website today, as I do every morning when I get out of bed. And short-term interest rates on US government debt are negative; they will pay us to take money. That is how much the market wants more US government debt.
Should we be taking the markets up on this offer of free money? Should we be doing more short-term deficit spending for infrastructure, for poverty, for middle-class tax cuts — and worrying less in the near-term about deficits?
I think we have missed an opportunity over the last eight years to make some big bets on America — to make some investments with, as you say, money that is as low in terms of interest rates as it’s ever going to be.
I have put forth ways of paying for all the investments that I make, because we do have the entitlement issues out there that we can’t ignore. But we are failing to make investments that will make us richer and stronger in the future. And that’s where I think our biggest gap is.
I think it’s important that we look for ways to pay for our investments. But I think there can be short-term decisions about the kind of federal dollars that are available now, with a revenue stream to pay them back in the future that would bridge the gap if we can’t do everything we need to do to really give the economy and job creation the kind of boost that it needs.
But I’m not going to commit myself to that because I would like first to figure out what we’re going to do, because I think we’ve had a period where the gains have gone to the wealthy.
The Great Recession wiped out $13 trillion in family wealth. And a lot of people have come back roaring — they are doing better than ever, corporate profits are up, whereas so many Americans are stalled or have fallen backward.
Real family income hasn’t moved. In fact, it’s below where it was in 1999 and 2000.
So we do have a problem. It’s a real problem. Because we are a 70 percent consumption economy, so we’ve got to get more growth going.
And the best way to do that is to invest in these jobs, and I think we can pay for what we need to do through raising taxes on the wealthy and making it clear that there’s a commitment to these investments if we’re going to grow the economy, which will benefit everybody.
I’ve not heard you say it that way before. So part of the argument of doing pay-fors in the near term is not just balancing the budget or reducing the deficit but also bringing distributional fairness to the aftermath of the recession.
That’s right. Last summer, I gave two economic speeches which called for strong growth, fair growth, and long-term growth. And I think the three go together.
It is important that we look at how they can converge, because I do believe we’ve got to grow the economy. I’m an economic growth Democrat, so I believe that.
But we also have to make it fairer, and part of the way we make it fairer is by shifting some of the tax burden onto those who have done really well despite all of the macro- and microeconomic ups and downs in the global economy and here at home. And that’s why the Buffett Rule; that’s why a fair share surcharge on incomes above $5 million; that’s why closing the loopholes, like the carried interest loophole.
It’s not just a symbolic effort to say, "Hey, we gotta get rid of the gimmicks and the games." It’s also to get money to do what we need to do to lift the bottom and the middle up. And it is a way of making clear that growth and fairness have to go together.
Would more immigration be good for the economy?
I think it’s probably an understatement at this point to say that immigration has been a big part of this year’s campaign. We talk a lot about the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants who are already here. And I know you’re supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.
But there’s a broader question around immigration and the economy: The economic data I’ve seen suggests pretty straightforwardly that immigrants are good for the US economy, particularly as the population ages.
So do you think it’d be good for the economy to double or triple the number of people who could come here legally?
I think we have to deal with first things first. It is certainly the case that immigration has been and continues to be good for our economy. Immigrants start businesses at a faster rate; they seem to grow those businesses more successfully; they do fill certain gaps in skills and knowledge that are good for the overall economy.
But I think there are three big problems we have to address. One is just the human cost of those 11 million undocumented immigrants. I have met many of them — in fact, we all have, whether we acknowledge it or not. And these are hardworking people. These are people who are already contributing to the economy, whose children are in schools, who are really absolutely committed to the American dream.
The little girl I met in Las Vegas who is living in fear that her parents are going to be deported, she’s got stomachaches and all kinds of physical ailments. And she should be a kid and she should be enjoying school and learning and deciding what she’s going to do. So I do think we have to be very understanding and accepting of the human stories that are behind these statistics that people like Donald Trump throw around.
I think also, though, there’s a lot of evidence that moving toward comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship would be good for our economy. We already know that undocumented workers are putting about $12 billion into the Social Security trust fund with no anticipation at this point that they’ll ever get anything out. They’re paying payroll taxes; they’re paying other forms of taxes — state and local as well as federal.
So we do have a productive part of our economy, and most of the analysts that I have seen suggest that this idea of deporting everybody would be a severe blow to the economy. That it would cost millions of jobs, that it would depress economic growth. There’s a moral, humanitarian kind of "American values" argument, and there’s an economic argument.
I think it would be very difficult to do anything on immigration until we make the decision that there will be comprehensive immigration reform. Because otherwise we are mixing up a lot of the concerns about immigration in a way that I think will hurt both the immigrants who fill jobs we need, particularly high-value jobs, and the people who are here living in fear that someone’s going to round them up and deport them.
I think we have to look at all of these issues. Comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship would deal with a lot of these concerns, not just the 11 million people here: how we would regularize them, what kind of steps they’d have to go through. Because I believe they do have to meet certain standards if they’re going to be on a path to citizenship.
But I don’t want to mix that with other kinds of changes in visas and other concerns that particularly high-value technical companies have. In fact, I think keeping the pressure on them helps us resolve the bigger problem, and then we can look to see what else, if anything, can and should be done.
But I would also add one of the biggest complaints I hear around the country is how callous and insensitive American corporations have become to American workers who have skills that are ones that should make them employable. The many stories of people training their replacements from some foreign country are heartbreaking, and it is obviously a cost-cutting measure to be able to pay people less than you would pay an American worker.
I think it’s also a very unfair and sad commentary that we don’t want to invest in training American workers because that’s just "time-consuming." And it’s a cost — so even if they could do what we’re wanting them to do, it’s just easier to get someone who will be largely compliant because they want to stay in the country. And that’s just wrong.
So there’s work we have to do on all sides of the immigration debate, and I want to see companies have to do more to employ already qualified Americans.
Why do you think it is that it is so intuitive to people, or so intuitive to many people, that there is a zero-sum competition with immigrants for jobs? As you said, that’s not what the economic evidence shows, but it’s powering a lot of politics in this country.
I think it’s because everybody with six degrees of separation either knows or thinks they know someone who knows somebody who lost a job to an undocumented worker or to a worker brought over on a visa to do their job. There’s just a lot of churn that suggests this is a real problem.
Now, the argument that I have been making is: Look, part of the reason why Americans are agitated about immigration is because they do believe their jobs are being taken out from under them — and there is an unlevel playing field — because if you are employing undocumented workers, and no one is holding you accountable — which we haven’t, we haven’t enforced those laws in a very comprehensive way — then it’s easy to undercut the market. To say, "Hey, roofer, come down, I’m substituting this man for you. Goodbye. Thank you very much. Here’s your last paycheck." Because the man they’re putting up there will cost maybe as little as a tenth of the price as the guy who was on the roof.
So I think it’s real. It’s hard to argue an economic, analytics abstraction — that really it’s not that much job displacement; and, you know, the overall economy is better; and they’re making these investments in Social Security trust funds — it’s really hard when you’re the one who has lost the job. When you are at Disney in Orlando and you’re told to retrain your successors and then kicked out the door. Or when you’re on a construction site, and all of a sudden you show up the next morning and they tell you they don’t need you anymore because they’ve picked up a bunch of folks at a job corner in the neighborhood. So there’s enough real-world experience that gives people the anxiety that we’re seeing in the political environment.
Is it a big job displacement? No. But is it something? Yes. Is it something that is painful and personally hurtful to somebody you know, maybe not you but someone down the line? Absolutely. And I think it’s a mistake to just make the economic argument.
I think it’s important that we see the undocumented as people with real stories, with kids who are going to school, with people working 70 to 80 hours a week to have a good life. But it’s also important we see the other side of the story, with people who feel doubly hammered. They feel hammered by global competition, particularly from China taking their jobs, and then they feel hammered from within by employers who are willing to hire undocumented workers and never get held accountable for it.
The difficulties of free college and universal health care
During the debates with Sen. Sanders, you guys clashed on free college. And you made the argument that you did not want to be subsidizing the tuition of Donald Trump’s children, and fair enough.
But that argument could also be made on public elementary school, on public high school, on public libraries. So how do you think about when a policy should be universal in nature and when it should be specifically targeted at the needy?
I think about that in the following way: We have always had a mixed public-private higher education system. And although we do have private schools within elementary and secondary education, they have not been as big a factor as private higher education has been.
So what we’re really talking about already is a hybrid system. Because even Sen. Sanders is not talking about subsidizing private higher education. And I think that’s a significant difference. The cost of higher education has always been an individual family responsibility aided by scholarships, grants, work-study programs — the whole mix of ways we enable people to go to college.
But we don’t pretend we’re going to do anything for those who choose a private college. Now we let the GI Bill go to either public or private schools; we let Pell Grants go to public or private schools. So we do help to subsidize individuals at private colleges or universities, but we have never taken the position that there is no difference between the two of them. Just like we have a big fight in federal and state legislatures about: Will we subsidize private elementary and secondary education? And with very few exceptions, the answer has been no. That we do believe in the importance of a public education system, so we have adopted these approaches.
I had several concerns about Sen. Sanders’s program. I thought it was hard to justify claiming it was free when it was going to have to be paid for by state governments, by a lot of state governments — up to a third of the cost — that were not particularly well-known for supporting higher education. They’ve in fact been disinvesting. And I think it’s more important that we incentivize reinvestment in public higher education.
So rather than holding out the promise of free college — which wasn’t really free; it was going to be paid for by state and federal dollars — I think it’s important that we say: We’re going to subsidize as far as we can responsibly go. But we’re going to expect states to reinvest in higher education. And I know the arguments that have been made, and [Sanders] was an eloquent advocate for the argument that it should be like Social Security. It never has been; it’s not how we view it; and it would be incredibly expensive to do that as he had proposed. And even he relied on states which had been disinvesting, and we need to reverse that so they start investing.
So I want to go as high up the income scale as I can to make sure that middle-class, working, and poor families don’t have to borrow money to go to college. But I don’t want to add the cost of subsidizing me, or subsidizing Donald Trump, at this point. I don’t think that’s a sensible way for us to approach this.
To ask about another interesting fissure from the primary: You often said that your preference was that we built on Obamacare to get to true universal coverage. And I’ve read your plan around Obamacare, and it doesn’t do that yet. So what would be your approach for taking that program from the roughly 90 percent covered that it’s at now to 100 percent?
Well, let’s celebrate that we’re at 90 percent coverage. And I think that is one of the differences: I see the glass at 90 percent full, not empty. And [I believe in not] starting over again — either by repealing it, as the Republicans advocate, or by coming up with a whole new plan.
So I think it’s tremendous. There was a new Robert Wood Johnson study that pointed out that just in the five years since it’s been implemented, health care spending has gone down $2.6 trillion from the projection that they originally thought it would increase by.
So we are really making progress, and I think it is important to build on that progress. We have 20 million people who are now in the Affordable Care system. We’ve expanded Medicaid, which I want to see expanded in every state that hasn’t, because I think that was an ideological rather than economic or moral decision. And I want us to build on the Affordable Care Act.
Now, how are we going to do that? We’re going to have to be clear about the competition that is needed to keep costs more reasonable. It is going to require us to take a hard look at premiums, copays, deductibles, and see what we can do to limit the kind of additional costs — particularly for prescription drugs — that policyholders have under the exchanges.
We have got to encourage more competition. Not just by working with the existing insurers but really trying to open the door — more successfully than was achieved — to other forms of insurance. The cooperative insurance plan hasn’t worked in most places, but it’s worked in some places. What are the lessons we can learn from that?
So I’m actually very excited about this, and I think we will get to 100 percent coverage. And I think we will do it by building on people spending their own dollars and by our subsidies.
And it is a much more acceptable, less disruptive approach than starting over and trying to impose a single-payer system — because, remember, the vast majority of Americans are getting their health insurance through their employment. There’s very little evidence they are unsatisfied by it. I certainly saw that firsthand when I was working on this back in ’93 and ’94. And I favor a public option so we can try to lower the costs even further for people who have a larger risk of bad health problems.
Should that public option be able to link with Medicare to bargain down prices?
I think it’s going to be something we’ll have to look at. I have long been in favor of giving Medicare the authority to bargain. And I voted for it; I’ve spoken out for it—
You mean on prescription drugs?
On prescription drugs. And if it were to be a broader public option, maybe there as well. Because it is clear that we don’t have enough bargaining power yet to deal with some of the big cost drivers, like prescription drugs, that are still not reacting the way we had hoped that they would.
In fact, there’s a lot of new gimmicks to try to drive up the cost of prescription drugs. But I’m actually optimistic. I think we’re on the right track with the Affordable Care Act. And of course we’re going to have to make adjustments. We did with every other program that people now defend and love, and we're going to do it with the Affordable Care Act.
What skills does a president need that campaigns don’t test?
We’ve talked about a number of policies here — but not so much about how to get them done. What are the qualities you think you possess that are needed for an effective presidency that aren’t rewarded or revealed by the campaign trail?
Well, I think a lot of governing is the slow, hard boring of hard boards. I don’t think there’s anything sexy, exciting, or headline-grabbing about it. I think it is getting up every day, building the relationships, finding whatever sliver of common ground you can occupy, never, ever giving up in continuing to reach out even to people who are sworn political partisan adversaries.
I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen it work. And I’ve been part of seeing it and making it work. I really believe there’s no shortcut; there’s no quick answer. Now, if there’s a major national disaster — like the Great Recession — you could get things done that you couldn’t otherwise. And you have to seize those moments, and I think President Obama did that.
But I think you’ve got to try to push forward as many different issues as you can all at the same time, because you never know what’s going to turn the tide. So I just think it’s getting up every day and working on it. It is not flashy, and you don’t telegraph everything you’re doing, because that would be breaching the relationship and the negotiation that you may be involved in.
I certainly saw my husband do it, and he did it with people who were trying to destroy him. Every single day, he’d meet with them at night; they’d hammer out deals; they would negotiate over very difficult things; they’d shut the government down; he’d veto them; they’d come back. You just keep going.
Because we’re dealing with a hyperpartisan opposition who has decided their ideology is more important than actually getting results — either for their constituents or for their country. They really have put ideology above everything else. I don’t know all the reasons — I’m going to wait for a smart political scientist to explain it all to me — but it makes the negotiating harder.
Back in the ’90s, after criticizing Bill all day, Newt Gingrich would come over to the White House at 9 o’clock and they’d negotiate for a couple of hours.
And certainly with the work that I did on the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the work I did as a senator — I worked with people who were very much political opponents, but we found that common ground. And the same as secretary of state. I had to round up, I think, 13 Republicans to pass the New START treaty. And you just keep working at it. It takes a lot of effort, but if you’re persistent you can get things done.
The background for that is a real structural rise in partisanship and division. Barack Obama is the most polarizing president since we began polling; before him, it was George Bush; before him, Bill Clinton.
Both you and Donald Trump begin as the least favorably viewed major party nominees since we began polling. What do you think are the background drivers of the higher polarization, higher bitterness, that seems to afflict politicians of both parties now?
I think there are a number of factors. Again, I’m not sure I totally understand it all. The media environment — particularly the social media environment — drives negativity. It’s what captures eyeballs. It’s what gets people to tune in or log on. It is just human nature.
Saying something negative about somebody, whether it was a negative ad 30 years ago or a negative tweet or other allegations today — there’s just a really rich environment for that to capture people’s minds and change their attitudes.
There’s a lot of behavioral science that if you attack someone endlessly — even if none of what you say is true — the very fact of attacking that person raises doubts and creates a negative perspective. As someone Exhibit A on that — since it has been a long time that I’ve been in that position — I get that. I get it.
And it’s always amusing to me that when I have a job, I have really high approval ratings; when I’m actually doing the work, I get reelected with 67 percent of the vote running for reelection in the Senate. When I’m secretary of state, I have [a] 66 percent approval rating.
And then I seek a job, I run for a job, and all of the discredited negativity comes out again, and all of these arguments and attacks start up. So it seems to be part of the political climate now that is just going to have to be dealt with.
But I am really confident that I can break through that and I can continue to build an electoral victory in November. And then once I’m doing the job, we’ll be back to people viewing me as the person doing the job instead of the person seeking the job.
Look, I’m not making any special plea, because it’s just reality. But every recent study has shown that if you take all of the media and all of the Republicans and all of the independent expenditures, tens of millions of dollars of negative attacks have been run against me. And that’s just something I’ve learned to live with, and I don’t pay a lot of attention to it anymore.
Do you think you get pulled along that slipstream? I think here of the debate when you say you were proud of having Republicans as enemies.
Do you think part of this environment has put you in a place of feeding it and running more negative campaigns?
Not very much. I mean, you can go back and look at how I’ve worked with Republicans, and I think I have a very strong base of relationships with them and evidence of that. But, you know, they say terrible things about me, much worse than anything I’ve ever said about them. That just seems to be part of the political back and forth now — to appeal to your base, to appeal to the ideologues who support you.
We have become so divided, and we’ve got to try to get people back listening to each other and trying to roll up our sleeves and solve these problems that we face, and I think we can do that.
What’s on Hillary’s bookshelf?
I know we have to let you go, and I’ll ask you this one final question. What are three books that have influenced how you think about policy that you think everyone should read?
Oh, my gosh, there are so many I’ve read over the years. I wrote one called It Takes a Village, which I highly recommend—
You can’t plug your own book.
[Laughs] I think there’s a lot of wisdom in Bob Putnam’s latest book, Our Kids. I think there’s a really great story that he tells about going back to the town he grew up in outside of Cleveland, where kids of all different backgrounds, economic family standing, and they’re all together and everyone was in it together. And there was so little distinction, and there was so much economic integration in that small town.
Now he goes back to it, and it’s so divided. It’s divided on income; it’s divided on race; it’s just a very different environment. And winners and losers are preordained at a very early age. So I think that’s a book that people should read right now.
I think that a lot of Christopher Lasch’s work and Alan Wolfe’s work and Habits of the Heart — that wonderful old sociological work that was led by Robert Bellah — are also really helpful. Because we need to be reminded of what is unique about the American experience. De Tocqueville saw it. Habits of the Heart came from his writings, and you can see how more difficult it is in a 24/7, 360-degree media environment to find the time to think, to breathe, to spend relaxation hours getting to know people.
We just don’t do that. We don’t build relationships; we don't, on the Republican-Democratic divide in Washington, spend any time with each other — even less than what I did when I was there, and that wasn’t that long ago. So I think looking at writings both by political scientists and sociologists about how America worked well and trying to sort through what did we lose that has made it so hard for people to even listen to each other.
And I do think — and I keep saying this, because I believe it — I think the media environment where people are rewarded for being outrageous, for yelling at each other, for saying things that are untrue without being held accountable for it has contributed to this attitude of divisiveness and separation. And I regret that.
I think people — maybe it’s not the media’s role to say, "Well, wait a minute, that’s just not right." I mean, it was shocking when CNN fact-checked some of Donald Trump’s sayings the other day. But it’s hard for the average viewer or listener to do that himself, and there is no guide any longer. It’s just not easy to sort out what you’re being told.
And if people are being addressed in their fear — as opposed to their openness, their tolerance, their hopefulness — it just creates an even more hardened view about whether we can work with each other or not. And I worry about that; I worry it is undermining our democracy.
A democracy relies on the glue of trust. You don’t have to agree with me. But I do have to believe, whether it’s an economic transaction or my vote, that there’s a certain expectation. That, yeah, there are people who go off the rails — everybody’s not what they pretend to be, we all know that. But in general, there’s got to be that rock-solid belief that this transaction between us as voters and citizens rests on something deep and sacred. And I don’t know how we get back to that.
Why America stopped trusting elites — and what elites should do about it
The invocation of trust there I think is really interesting. You bring up the media. We are one of many institutions that the public, if you look at the polling, has lost trust in tremendously over the last 50 years. They’ve lost trust in their politicians; they’ve lost trust in business; they’ve lost trust in the media.
So when you say that there are gatekeepers who should fact-check — and at Vox, we do a lot of fact-checking — but one issue is that people don’t listen anymore. Why do you think there’s been such a systemic loss of trust across so many different institutions all at once? How do you explain that change in America?
Well, because I really believe that none of us has done what we should have done in being really straightforward about what we know and what we don’t know. And being willing to say, "We reported that story last week; it turns out we were wrong." Or, "We didn’t tell you everything you might have needed to make a decision."
I’ve argued with network executives for 25 years that somebody is going to really figure out that running a news program where you actually say, "Hey, we got that wrong," or, "I’m not so sure what he just said was right, and I don’t think it is and let me tell you why, and here’s the evidence to that effect." [A program] where someone is trying to pull the curtain back, as opposed to everyone going back to their corners, whether it’s ratings or whether it’s an ideological position — that’s really what we’re about.
As opposed to, "We have a really solemn responsibility, and we’re going to level with you. You may not like what you hear, but we’re going to try to the best of our ability not to get it wrong. And when we do, we’re going to be the first to tell you."
I think politicians — look at the nonsense that people say running for office, just ridiculous stuff, and they get away with it because there’s no big gong that rings; "Oh, my God, look what so-and-so just said." But there should be some reward for trying to get it right and for trying to correct it when you get it wrong. And maybe it’s just too threatening — whether you’re in politics, business, media, wherever you are — maybe it’s too threatening to admit that.
I don’t know how we’re going to rebuild the trust, because it really starts with saying, "Hey, I made a mistake," or, "I didn’t get it right," or, "Hey, I’ve got more information, and let me tell you," and just doing it in a very matter-of-fact way.