“He’s just being a freak.”

Enough people use Twitter to get their information that politicians have to be there, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says. But on the latest episode of Recode Decode, she said the way President Trump uses Twitter has “cheapened the presidency.”

“He’s just being a freak, I mean, he’s just terrible,” Pelosi told Recode’s Kara Swisher. “There’s more of a responsibility for a president to communicate his point of view, which we should respect, he’s the president of the United States, whether you agree with him or not, he has a point of view. But to use the office of the president as an attack vehicle … for his market, it seems to have worked.”

She criticized the sometimes-obsessive coverage of Trump’s Twitter outbursts in the political press, particularly the stories about a recent weekend in which the president tweeted more than 50 times in just two days. Pelosi said that time could’ve been better spent talking about health care, prescription drug prices, infrastructure, government transparency — or really, anything.

“All they want to talk about is, how on Earth did he do 50 tweets in 48 hours? I think the press is an enabler of him,” she said. “And I think on the other hand, they are the best defense of him. The freedom of the press is the guardian of the gate of our democracy.

“He makes assaults on them and they strengthen him by just talking about that and that’s what an authoritarian wants you to be talking about him,” Pelosi added. “Even if they don’t like what you’re saying, if they’re talking about him, they’re not talking about us.”

You can listen to Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Overcast.

Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Speaker Pelosi.


Kara Swisher: Hi. I’m Kara Swisher, editor-at-large of Recode. You may know me as the sponsor of the Red Chair New Deal, but in my spare time, I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode from the Vox Media Podcast Network.

Today in the red chair is Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives. She’s been on this podcast before, back in 2016, which seems like a lifetime ago. Today, we’re going to talk about privacy, hate speech, and whether the big tech companies should be broken up. We’re also going to talk about Trump on Twitter and Nancy Pelosi’s red coat as a viral sensation online.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, thanks for talking to me.

Nancy Pelosi: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thank you.

So we have talked before. We talked before the election last time, and it was when we didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know so much of what was happening with social media and everything else. So we’ve got a lot to talk about. We have a lot of things to discuss.

I look forward to it.

So let’s start with what you guys are doing here. You’re meeting with House Democrats to do …

We’re having a … Some would call it a conference. We call it a massive workshop, because it’s such an interaction among the members, hearing from outside folks, the grassroots level, the evidence-based level of science and the rest on different issues, challenges that we face. During the campaign, our theme was “For the People.”

Right.

To lower healthcare costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increase paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way, and cleaner government by HR 1, our resolution to do that. Now we are following up on all of that and going beyond, so …

And discussing that, sort of the strategies …

Yes.

… and things like that. All right. Let’s talk about what you’re doing. I’m going to focus a lot on the tech stuff, ‘cause that’s what we talked about last time. Before the election, let’s go back, then, at the time you thought Hillary was going to win, and you said …

Oh, you’re talking about the election-election?

Yes. Election-election. The big election, not the one you really won.

The one … Oh, yeah, yeah.

Not the last one.

No, for sure I thought Hillary would win. Yeah.

Yes, and one of the things that happened was the intervention of foreign influence on the social media platforms. You’re from San Francisco, represent some of these companies.

Yeah.

Talk about how you think about that now, given … and we’ll get to the Mueller report and everything else, but how do you look at that when you look back on it, what you were thinking at the time and what you think happened?

Well, first of all, we were totally shocked that Hillary Clinton did not win. Now, we know that there were interventions that stood in the way of that, but, again, you take responsibility for your race and you always have to just be prepared for the unforeseen. Little did anybody know, the unforeseen would be Russian intervention into our election, a real disruption of the basis of our democracy.

That’s what’s so frustrating, now, because we don’t see a commitment on the part of this administration to get to the bottom of it. But we are awaiting the Mueller report in that regard. But it did … But the Russian intervention did have an impact on the election.

What do you think you, as Democrats, should’ve done? ‘Cause President Obama was in charge of the country at the time. What was unforeseen, and, when you look back on it, what were the mistakes that were made?

Well, I don’t know if there were any mistakes made. I think that President Obama, in his judgment, talked about not interfering into an election, which is what you shouldn’t be doing. We did try to get the Republicans to join us in taking a harder look at it, but they would not do that.

But, again, I don’t know that anybody had a full grasp of the extent and the impact. The election happened. We found out it is the high-level, high-confidence consensus of all elements of the intelligence community that the Russians disrupted our election, and they have specific ways. We look forward to seeing the Mueller report to see more specifically what that is.

What are you doing yourself? There will be the Mueller report, but what do you see yourself as your duty to protect elections, going forward, especially on social media platforms? I want to get into the various social media companies.

Just a step before that, what we tried to do last year … and we didn’t have the majority. Now, this year, we will be able to do it. But last year, we tried to allocate resources for the states, in order for them to protect the integrity of the mechanics of the election. The Republicans refused to do that. They absolutely refused to do that, in the House and in the Senate.

This is with voting machines, with everything?

Voting machines and all of that.

Voting machines, uses of social media?

Yes, and they absolutely would not put the resources there. The states need the resources. States run elections. They run at the state level. Even a federal election is conducted at the state level. So we wanted to make that … It was strange to us that they would not want the states to have the wherewithal to protect elections.

The issue of going beyond that, to the social media, is a much more sophisticated and challenging initiative for us, because you have to always keep ahead of them …

Right.

… no matter where you are. They’re resilient, and they can get ahead of you, but at least we know this: to be vigilant, to be on the lookout for any strange interventions, which were not really looked into or prevented last time. And so that makes a difference.

But more importantly than us being aware of it, it’s really important to inoculate the public against some of this, to say to them, “While we want you to participate in every way and the way you enjoy doing so, whether it’s social media, traditional media, or whatever, your own activism, you should be alerted to the fact that there are those who want to play with your mind, really.”

Behavioral. Including the companies themselves do that all the time, but that’s another topic.

That’s another topic. It’s an important topic, but it is … It’s a moment of truth, really, for our country to say what the beautiful advantages we have from technology … and I’m a big believer in technology. Tasked for a solution, let’s look to technology. However, it isn’t without collateral damage.

Right. What is your relationship with the social media giants – Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others? They’re not your constituency, but they’re in California, and obviously …

Yeah, they are. They’re in California. They’re our friends, on many good things. Some of them are now in San Francisco as well.

Right.

But, even so, in Silicon Valley, they’re our neighbors, and so we have a good rapport with them on some issues. But we also now have a questioning attitude, especially toward Facebook, in terms of how they have … not only what happened, but how they are addressing it, and let’s hope that they’re addressing it correctly. We see different reactions around the world. We see the EU giving people, what, one hour to get something off.

Right.

We see Australia …

Australia, New Zealand will be acting soon.

New Zealand taking the actions that they are, being very suspicious of any improvement on algorithms being disingenuous, as has been proposed by Facebook.

So I think that they have … I don’t want to say a wake-up call. It’s more than that.

Right.

It’s a big alarm that they’re hearing, that there has to be some kind of behavioral change in how … I don’t want to say business, but the regular order of things are conducted.

Well, it’s more than that. I think the question is what you all are going to do as regulators, as in charge of regulators, and also Congress, is going to do. Right now, there’s a lot of activity in Europe – very stringent and strong and quite hard. There is stuff happening in Australia and New Zealand. There’s stuff happening in France. California is going to put its …

Yes. That’s right.

… privacy bill into place, and that’s just privacy. I’m not talking about misinformation …

That’s privacy.

… and disinformation. Right now, what’s happening is they’re making real actions, and these companies … I was on a panel last night, and several reporters — Maria Ressa, who’s being attacked in the Philippines, a reporter that’s being attacked in India, Carole Cadwalladr, who broke the story about Cambridge Analytica — they turned to me and said, “It’s not our companies. It’s US companies that are doing this. What are you going to do about it?” So what are you going to do about this?

Well, you mentioned several countries and what they’ve said. In the UK, as you know, they’ve said the era of self-regulation …

Is over.

… of these companies is over.

Is it over in this country?

It probably should be. Yeah, I mean, I think we have to subject it all to scrutiny and to cost-benefits and all that, but I do think that it’s a new era, and we … I mean, there are people who have superior technology credentials, shared values, who could help us weigh in on legislation. We’re very proud of California’s legislation. They tried to weaken it. At our federal level, people are working on … Committees of jurisdiction are working on privacy. We haven’t seen anything in writing — that is to say, for review yet. I’m sure they have it in writing someplace.

But it is … We cannot accept anything … For example, the Republicans would want preemption of state law. Well, that’s just not going to happen. We in California are not going to say, “You pass a law that weakens what we did in California.” That won’t happen.

Right.

So perhaps if they want to say, “We’ll have a federal law, but nothing that weakens state laws” …

Right.

… to have an impact on state law, but nothing that weakens it.

I think there are ten states working on privacy legislation, but nothing out of the federal, the federal government.

Well, we’ll have something. I mean, this takes time. This is … It’s complicated. It’s one piece of it all.

Right. We’re going to talk about the other pieces.

You want to do it right, because there … What are some of the criteria? What information of mine do you have? How are you using it? Are you paying me for it? Are you at least informing me that you’re using it certain ways? What accomplishes our goal in the strongest possible way that we can pass this?

What would be your goal, if you were thinking of it? You’re not an expert on privacy, but for the …

No.

… privacy, for example, what would be your … What do you think the most important parts of that are?

Well, I think that what — we have overarching goals about the Internet, that it be accessible and free and the rest, and we’re very proud of what happened with net neutrality yesterday.

Yeah. This was about … It was pretty … It was …

It was 100% of the Democrats voting for it …

Right. Exactly. Right, right.

… and a few Republicans, but I bring it up because of the fact that over four million, maybe up to six million, people watched the committee hearing and what happened on the floor. That is extraordinary for a committee hearing.

Right, right.

So the public interest in this, especially among young people, will have an impact on the passage of net neutrality, whether their Senate thinks it’s going to pass or not. But that also then transfers.

So Mitch McConnell says we’re not going to take it forward. What do you do then?

He doesn’t know. I mean, I’m a big believer in public sentiment. Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything; without it, practically nothing.” So we’ll have to weigh in. But there were millions and millions of comments when the FCC was acting upon net neutrality, both during the Obama administration and then the Trump administration and now in this legislation.

But I only bring up net neutrality, not as a necessarily privacy issue, but a values issue, in terms of access, that it be accessible, that it be free …

Right.

… that it would be a place where there’s communication, and not just the will of the …

The cable companies.

… platforms. The platforms that say, “We’re cutting you off.”

So passing it, knowing that it wasn’t going anywhere …

No, I think it’s going to go someplace.

You do?

I don’t think they understand the power of public sentiment …

Right.

… on this.

Right.

If they are not going to pay attention to the public will, I think there’ll be a price to pay. We wish they would. We’d rather have the bill passed than them play a political price for not passing it. So they will weigh in, and it is a barrage, a storm of public opinion that just bombards the Capitol like they have never seen.

What had happened is that it goes back and forth in the FCC, and it changes with every administration. That’s the problem. It’s got to have a legislative answer.

That’s why we have to codify that.

Right.

We need to have this be legislation. Now, Republicans, from time to time, would say, “We’re going to have the legislation.” But they wanted the weakest possible version of the story, and, again, with all these things, you ask, “What is our relationship with the tech companies? What is our relations with the platforms?” So we have relationships with them. This is a kaleidoscope. Sometimes you’re in the design together, in terms of advancing communication and that. Other times, you’re not.

Right.

With this, we work with the platforms on some issues. But on this, in California, for example, some of them were calling seniors and telling them their phone bills would go up if net neutrality …

Right.

It wasn’t their best behavior.

Right, right. Well, this has been a fight that’s been going on for a long time.

Yeah, but this is the public process. This is what it’s about. It’s about a democracy, and I believe we’re crossing a threshold, in terms of how laws are passed. We had promised, as Democrats, a transparent Congress, transparency and openness, so the public can see, in time that gives them time to understand it, what is at stake.

Right.

When they see that, what it means to them and that they can weigh in. So we’ll try to have it open. We’ll try for common ground. Hopefully, we will have it, bipartisanship. If we don’t, stand our ground, and then we go to a place in which we try to be unifying.

Now, this is really a good thing for the country, even though the platforms may not think it’s in their financial interests, and they have some sway with the Republicans. But I think this is going to be an example of …

Net neutrality will be?

Net neutrality will be, but it will apply, again, to other aspects of the Internet, of privacy and the rest.

I want to get to some of the proposals of too powerful tech, that tech has become too powerful.

Right.

Hate speech.

Right.

They’re moving so hard in Europe and everywhere else about this, and we were just having hearings on whether white supremacy is bad.

Oh, we just got the majority.

Right.

The Republicans were not having hearings about that.

No, not at all. No, no, I got that. I got that part. But we move so much slower on these things, and I get the free speech elements and things like that, which you’re always pushing back against. The right to be forgotten is not going to happen in this country, for example. But when you think about what has to be done on that area, you do run into free speech issues very quickly and who should be tolerated on the Internet and who should not.

The issue is a lot of these companies are private companies. It’s not the public. The Internet is not the public square. It is owned by private companies, many of whom’s founders are billionaires. So it is not a public discussion, precisely.

Well, I think we take it to a different place. We take it to a place that says, “What is the advantage of this technology?” It has opened so much opportunity for conversation to so many people, and they want that access. On the other hand, if somebody is engaged in hate speech and the rest, should you shut it down or should you have a discussion? And I think that …

Where do you stand?

I think we have to stand in a place where there is a discussion. It just depends on what the speech is, but who’s to be the judge of that? At least there should be some sequencing of it. Somebody says something, okay, let’s hear it out because otherwise the haters — because that’s what they are — the haters would just make themselves victims. And the fact is, is that with a conversation, which the technology enables to happen, and can enable to happen in such a way, it can be ended up to be a plus.

Can be a plus, but at least in hearings on white supremacy, they had to shut off comments on YouTube because the antisemetic comments, all kinds of things, just overwhelmed the system-

Well, it was what? 42,000 comments, some antisem … some bad, some not. We don’t know the difference between some are not. We’re talking about millions here. Perhaps there was a path of discussion even there. I mean, we all get a steamed up about hearing comments that are antisemitic or white nationalist and the rest of that. But I think people have to see it for what it is. And that ends up to be a plus in the discussion. 42,000, it sounds like a lot, but …

It isn’t on the Internet, but do you think the company should be making these decisions? They took a long time, for example, to remove Alex Jones from the platforms. And even though he had broken their rules numerous times. Should they be the ones … They don’t want to decide actually. So they’ve decided to create a free-for-all on these platforms, which I think many people feel is damaging and then we’ll get to the real damage, which is what happened in New Zealand.

But do you feel like you should be doing this as regulators or should it be these companies? Who is responsible for something that is an unprecedented level of human communication and it’s not going well?

Well, I do think that that … he has painted himself outside the circle of a civilized discussion and he’s been given the chance to be part of a discussion and he’s defined himself. And so I think that I would support a decision that says that he shouldn’t be on there. In addition to that though, talking more in terms of the technology, when for example, Facebook says they’re going to improve the algorithms and the rest, you see the New Zealanders have said that that is disingenuous and that’s … “Don’t take us for a fool.”

Right. Right.

Again, there’s this subjective decisions that have to be made and on-

But should it be you making, not you Nancy Pelosi, you Congress people?

No. I think they have a responsibility. I think they have a responsibility.

But they have been unable to meet the demands of the task as it becomes more complex and as they make more money from these things.

Well, they have to make a decision. It’s a decision. In other words, this is not, “Oh, I didn’t even realize,” or “it drifted” or “happened.”

That was the first excuse. But go ahead.

Everything is a decision and everything is an opportunity. And so how do they use the considerable power that they have to have discussion, which can defeat some of this, or at least have these people understand this is not going to be your comfy, cozy home to spew forth your venom without there being a response to it. But the haters are very well organized.

Certainly.

It’s almost as if they’re ever-alert. Even if they don’t know something is coming, when it comes, they’re ready and they’re there. And so others have to be ready as well.

Well, something I always say is, the Russians didn’t hack Facebook, they used it the way it was built. They’re using as tools.

They used it.

Do these companies have to be more … You all went after Microsoft when it was monopoly power, you went after AT&T, IBM. There’s been a history of throttling back these powers. How do you look at that? Like Senator Warren put forward a … One, she’s focused on antitrust, not just laws. The idea of breaking them up, that they’re too powerful. Do you think they’re too powerful?

Well, I have to hear a range of opinions. I hear a range of opinions that she didn’t go far enough!

Yeah. Yeah. What do you think? What is your opinion?

I haven’t actually studied her. I mean, I know that there could be some clear lines that we see right in our own community, companies that maybe could be easily broken up without having any impact, one on the other, one on the other. But I think, well, I’m a big believer in the antitrust laws. I think that’s very important for us to have them and to use them and to subject those who should be subjected to it.

I don’t know, again, I don’t know how all of these should be painted with the same brush, but I think that’s a look that should be taken.

Should these companies be allowed to buy more things? I’m talking about Facebook, the FAANG companies. I guess Facebook, Amazon. They include Netflix, but it’s probably doesn’t belong in there, and Google. Essentially it’s Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Yeah. Netflix is different. That is to say it depends on what they’re buying. Is it horizontal? Is it vertical? Is it just power? Is it an antitrust violation? You have to make a judgment about each of them, but I think they should be more cautious. I mean, now they’ve free reign.

That’s right.

Nobody’s ever even said, “What are you doing that for?”

That’s a good question, Nancy, why hasn’t anybody said anything?

So now, just let subjected to the scrutiny. And I would say without making any specific mention, some are worse than others.

Yes. Could you make a specific?

I won’t.

Why not?

I think that some are a little better behaved than others. Maybe it’s just that they haven’t had the opportunity.

Have you had discussions, strongly worded discussions with them about this of where it’s going?

I’ve had conversations. Yeah.

And? Do they think that they hear you?

They make their case. I mean, it’s in the context of a full range of issues that we would be talking about. I haven’t had the conversation of, here I am the speaker of the house “now, you come in and justify your existence.” No, I haven’t had that conversation, but we’ve had conversations about the drift of it all.

“The drift.” Is that what you call it?

Well, whatever. The direction they’re going.

I call it the giant traffic accident. They’re going a hundred miles an hour and don’t have any governance.

Oh, that could be. That could be it. And what is the intention? In other words, is this just commerce and they see a market opportunity and decide to take it on? Or are they in competition with each other, buying something before somebody else doesn’t buy it and then all of a sudden, three or four firms dominate the marketplace and engines of search and the rest of that? It’s a challenge. It’s an interesting one. It’s one we have to have.

What about the Communications Decency Act, section 230, that gives them broad immunity? That’s really what’s allowed them to have a free-for-all.

Well, 230 is a gift to them.

That was a gift. Yes.

It is a gift to them and I don’t think that they are treating it with the respect that they should, and so I think that that could be a question mark and in jeopardy.

In jeopardy for them and that it would be removed or it’s been sort of chipped away at on certain topics, but now brought more broadly, you think there could be…

Well, they just love 230.

Why wouldn’t you? I would like broad immunity, I do a lot of things that …

When we come to 230, you really get their attention. But I do think that for the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it. And it is not out of the question that that could be removed.

All right. So the Democrats’ relationship with tech used to be quite warm. How do you characterize it now?

Again, we all live in a kaleidoscope. There are different interactions.

It used to be pretty tight. They used to be their big donors.

Not to me!

Okay. How do you characterize it now?

I’ll be very honest with you. The community of people that I love and know and we’ve known each other for as long as they’ve existed and we have interactions on many things, whether it’s immigration, gun safety, women’s right to choose, LGBTQ, climate change, issues, they’re all out there on those issues and take pride in their involvement there. But I think all of that — you’re maybe not going to like what I have to say, they won’t. I think all of that interest, and I believe it is sincere on their part, is trumped — pun intended — by their interest in a tax cut.

Right. They did like the tax cuts.

That’s it.

And like getting back their money from abroad.

The repatriation, all of that. And I wish that they had used some of their support for the tax cut, which I think is a scam. It’s taking us deeply into debt, giving 1% of the people 83% of the benefit of it. I think it’s a disgrace. But if they believe in it, then they should have said, “Can you cooperate with us on something else?” Whether it’s immigration or gun safety or LGBTQ or the rest of … But, boom.

Boom.

Didn’t mean anything.

Well, those sweatshirts cost a lot of money, Nancy. What on immigration, let’s move to immigration and then I want to get to Twitter and Trump and stuff like that. But immigration, where can they help you there? Because this is an area they stood out on and then seem to have fallen back.

Well, on their nonprofit … certain people there. Laurene Powell Jobs, she has been wonderful on immigration, sincere and fully committed and …

Creative.

… creative and recognizing talent and allocating resources there. That is a pillar of our fight for … Well, what we’d hope would be comprehensive immigration reform. So again, some of them talk about it, some of them do something about it. And I do think the employees care about it. I do know this … on this I agree with Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan said the most beautiful things about immigration. I’ll read ‘em yo you on my phone if you want me to.

Sure. Please.

But because it applies to the Valley, because so much of the talent, what is it, like 30% of the IPOs …

It is. And you could name all the CEOs, they’re all immigrants.

They’re are immigrants and some the start ups …

Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai.

And they’re the big names, but there are many … I’ll just read you this about him. It’s a big, long thing, but I’ll just read you the ending. This is Ronald Reagan. I quoted him more than any other president during the campaigns. “Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we are a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”

Are you worried about that? Especially in tech, which we’ve dominated.

Well, you may recall that when we did in 2005, 2006, our innovation agenda, we said right then and there, staple a green card to the diploma for one piece of it. Of course, we want comprehensive immigration reform, on H-1Bs, H-2Bs, all of that. But in order to do that, you have to have … I’m going to just see if there’s something else that it goes … Well, he talks about the Statue of Liberty and …

He was a good talker.

Well, it was his last speech as president of the United States. His last speech.

He was talking about immigration.

He was talking about immigration.

Do you imagine there’s going to be any way to bridge this gap? It’s so-

On immigration?

Yeah.

Well, has to be, of course we have 11-plus million people in our country who are not fully documented. They may have been when they came here, overstayed or whatever it is. Not all of them came here illegally. They came here and stayed and then we had the DREAMers and we have the temporary protected status folks again who came here in a documented way. I do think it’s possible. Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate had a bill a few years ago, when President Obama was president. The House Republicans would not bring the bill up.

My conversations with the president are, I think he knows we have to have comprehensive immigration reform, but for the moment it’s his red meat that he feeds to his right-wing base. And I don’t mean to paint them as any kind of bad people. They have their own economic insecurity. They’re afraid of innovation, they’re afraid of globalization.

Job change.

They’re afraid of newcomers to the country and all of that. So what do you do? You scare them with trade, you scare them with immigration, which is a giant plus to our country.

And when the president just recently said, “we have no more room,” it just reminded me of Christmas, it was “there’s no room in the inn.” Of course there’s room in our country and in fact our birth rate and replacement rate and the rest as such, we need immigrants. And if you have economists come before our committees, then you ask them, what’s the best thing we could do to grow our economy, they will say comprehensive immigration reform.

Are you worried about the lack of education towards innovation and what’s going on in China, where there’s a lot of focus and a lot of money put to that idea of education, innovation, building new companies? I think we’re at one of the lowest growth rates of startups in history right now.

Well we are, but some of that, I think, is just lack of confidence. Let’s hope that that will change. But let me go to your initial point there. We have to do something now in terms of, as I said, lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. And the cleaner government piece, HR-1, is essential to our conveying to the American people that the decisions that we make are in the people’s interest, not the special interest of dark, special interest money. So when we’re talking about the three things we’re saying, build the …

The infrastructure.

… the infrastructure of our country. Build the human infrastructure of our country with education and research and health care and build our democracy, strengthen our democracy, which is being weakened by the challenges that are placed there. Some by the Russians, some by the president of the United States. And so part of all of that is workforce development.

Right.

Especially the first two, building the infrastructure, healthcare research and all of that. Workforce development, to a greater or lesser degree of education, some of it is vocational, skills training and the rest, where you can be a tradesman, a person, a plumber, an electrician and the rest. And even when we do scientific research and we’re investing in a university at the highest level for a scientist, that physical structure requires a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter. People to support all that, so it’s all job creating. But you have to have the skills development, you have to apprenticeship programs and the rest of that in addition to higher education.

Are you worried, though, about … I’m going to talk about these tonight, these issues around automation, robotics, self-driving, AI, very job replacing types of technologies.

Well, you just have to see everything as an opportunity.

Okay.

I just came from Las Vegas and when I go there I meet with the carpenters there. And they’ve been building robots, robotics for a long time. People are taking it to the next step.

They are.

Certain things are inevitable.

Right.

Globalization is inevitable. Innovation is inevitable. So it’s not a question of saying, “let’s protect you from this” — no, let’s introduce you to this. And again, with job training and all the rest, how do we have workforce development that matches up with all this private sector tasking for certain skills coming out of schools. Because we have jobs … I heard somebody say today they had, I don’t know, such a huge number of job openings even for truck drivers. Even for truck drivers.

Mm-hmm. But the directional changes are really clear.

Yeah they are. Of course, part of that is self-driving trucks.

Right.

You can’t avoid the future. And I always believe, as I said earlier, in technology. Let’s task for it, what is the mission? What is the purpose?

And whose job is that, Congress, is that the private companies? Is it …

I think we all have … It’s a public, private, non-profit partnership in all of this, educationally. One of the fights, I guess I should call it a fight, that we have is over the budget.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, I noticed there was some sort of fight over the budget you had with the president, wasn’t there?

Everybody’s having a fight over the budget because it’s all priorities whether.

I meant the shutdown.

Oh that. Yeah. But see, the Republicans will say …

Oh, that?

“We’re going reduce the debt by cutting, freezing Pell grants and cutting the assistance we have on interest on student loans or this or that.” With stiff competition, and I say this frequently, with stiff competition, their cuts in education to reduce the deficit are one of their dumbest proposals because nothing brings more money to the treasury than investing in education. Early childhood, K through 12, higher ed, post-grad, lifetime learning for our workers. We have to … The inevitable is coming upon us, we have to train for it and it doesn’t mean everybody has to be a Ph.D or even college grad. Most people in our country aren’t, but we have to respect what they bring to the table and have the technological skills whether it’s for vocational or whatever it is. So to cut education, is to do a really bad thing when we’re looking at-

The future, where things are coming from.

All of the innovation that you’re gonna talk about.

Let’s turn, we have about 10 more minutes, to what’s happening to politics with social media and everything else. You have some members, such as AOC, who are excellent at these things.

Yes.

And you gave a quote last week about, “it’s not Twitter followers, it’s how many votes on the …”

You have to have both.

Right.

You cannot just say, “I’m in Congress, so that I can get Twitter followers.” You’re in Congress to get results.

Right.

And so some members are there to get results and some to get Twitter followers and some to get both. And God bless them, God bless her because that’s really important to attract. So what she’s doing is very valuable and very successful.

Right, she’s good at it.

She’s good at it and she’s focused. She’s a good member. She’s prepared, she does her work and that was not to put down having Twitter followers, but it changes kind of how people conduct their hours in the day.

Right.

And it might even change how some people characterize other people’s motivations.

Right, right.

You get Twitter followers for a reason. There’s a message there.

Do you think it’s an effective communications tool? Because that’s just one member who uses it beautifully. I call her a native internet speaker.

That’s great.

Ocasio-Cortez, she knows how to speak and she knows how to go back and forth. Do you think …

That’s generational, too.

How do you look at that as other members …

It’s great, no, well, we depend highly, up until now, in terms of with a purpose that is connected to our mission. Ted Lieu for example, he really gets under the president’s skin.

Yeah he does. He’d say, fire up another tweet. And Adam Schiff, shifty.

Adam Schiff does. Many of them do but Ted is really focused on social media to do that. And Adam attracts because of — so does Ted — but Adam has a position, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He’s one of their main targets. Therefore, he had a big venue to not only respond but to initiate his comments. No, I think that all of it, as I said to you before, everything is an opportunity. And the social media is how some people get their … communications, I don’t know if you want to call it news, but their communications, their news, whatever. And that’s where we have to be. It’s interesting, what we’re finding out is there is a lot of older people are on the social media.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely.

Young people-

Chuck Grassley’s really good. Dingell was excellent. There’s some that are better than others.

I’m not talking about members, I’m talking about the public.

Public, yeah.

They’re really important, the VIPs. The public. In addition to that, there’s some who are just not there. So you still have to have a mix in terms of the communication.

How do you assess your ability? You’ve been pretty good, you’ve had some good ones.

Yeah, they’re good, they’re good. Ours is kind of a serious-

Mm-hmm. You take a slap every now and then though.

Yeah, every now and then. But the more slaps you want to take, put out there, the more followers you’ll get. But ours is mostly informational for our members and formative in terms of legislation and the rest. And every now and then, a slap, yeah.

Yeah, yeah, that was a good one, you did a couple at Trump that were pretty funny. You’re funny, they’re more funny than anything else. How do you assess his use of that? ‘Cause he’s used it as direct communications vehicle to his base and to the whole country, really.

Yeah, you have to give him credit for, if in fact he is the one doing it, but even so, the fact it’s being done-

It’s him or the caddy guy, yeah.

… in his name. I think that, very honestly, with all due respect to the social media and that, that the president’s tweets have cheapened the presidency. Because they’re not as if he’s delivering a message of any facts, truth, evidence or data. It’s just being-

A troll.

A smart aleck.

A smart aleck! It’s called a troll.

That’s an old fashioned word. But he’s just being a freak, I mean, he’s just terrible. There’s a more of a responsibility for a president to communicate his point of view, which we should respect, he’s the President of the United States, whether you agree with him or not, he has a point of view.

Yeah.

But to use the office as the president, as an attack vehicle … But again, for his market it seems to have worked and-

Does it knock you off because it gets so much attention-

Nah, well, I do think that the press has … And I’ll say this to the press. He does 72 tweets in … What was it, 48 tweets-

Yeah, that was that one weekend.

50 tweets in 48 hours.

Yeah, that crazy weekend.

For the next three days all the press would talk about is that. Meanwhile, we’re having hearings on lowering prescription drug prices, preserving the pre-existing condition, massive hearings on building the infrastructure of our country. Passing bills that relate to how we implement HR-1 for good governance and the rest. All they want to talk about is, how on Earth did he do 50 tweets in 48 hours? I think the press is an enabler of him.

Mm-hmm. Right.

And I think on the other hand, they are the best defense of him. The freedom of the press is the guardian of the gate of our democracy. Freedom of press is something that is sacred. But he makes assaults on them and they strengthen him by just talking about that and that’s what an authoritarian wants you to be talking about him. Even if they don’t like what you’re saying, if they’re talking about him, they’re not talking about us.

Is that gonna change, or have we reached the sort of rubicon of that’s the way politics are gonna be done?

No, no. It can’t be a rubicon in that respect. But I will say this, there is another rubicon that we are crossing and the die is cast when we pass the HR-1, John Sarbanes’ legislation. We have to take the role of big, dark, special interest money out of politics. It has too much of an impact, people have to believe that we can pass gun safety because the gun lobby is not … Doesn’t own the Congress. That the fossil fuel industry is not dominating any decisions about climate change, which is the generational challenge that we have to protect the planet for future generations. And you name any subject, look at Wall Street and all that, the role of money is-

Do you think they should take all political … Someone presented an idea to me last night, that you should take all political advertising off the internet because it can’t be tracked easily and the dark money, they brag about it, Brad Parscale brags about they use them.

I don’t know.

You can govern the airwaves but it’s harder to …

It’s hard enough to get them to take foreign ads off the air. I mean, really? Really? Like they say after the election, “Oh, we didn’t know they were foreign.” They were paying you in rubles.

Rubles, yeah, yeah.

So anyway.

So should there be none on these platforms?

I think you have to set some standards for it. I think there’s a way to set some standards for it. Just as you have some on the regular communication. If somebody is putting something on TV that is not true …

Yeah, but that’s pretty much in control, this is not.

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean it just should run rampant.

No.

But I do think that one of the things that I would like to see this Congress do and especially when we win the election in 19 more months…

Uh-huh.

It’s less than that now. Is to, just cross the rubicon in terms of, it’s a new world in terms of we’re gonna have transparency, we’re going to have small donors and grassroots voices being stronger than anybody. And people then have confidence that their voice will be heard. And that they trust decisions that will be made because they won’t be made in the interest.

Do you like the Democratic field? There’s a lot of people …

Oh, I think any one of them would be a better president than the current president.

Yeah.

And they have a variety of points of view and that’s worthy of discussion. And we’ll see how that goes. And the people will decide. The people will decide, not the leaders or anything, the people will decide who connects with them. I say to them all and I say to my own members as candidates when they were running and now other candidates, know your “why.” What’s your purpose? What is your vision for America? What’s the subject that you know about, is it climate, is it technology, is it education? What is your vision? What is your knowledge and therefore your judgment to be trusted because you know what you’re talking about? How do you think, strategically? People think, okay, I see the goal, I know the territory, they have a plan, but all of that is important. And all of them have it. The question is, who’s gonna connect heart to heart with authenticity with the American people.

Why didn’t you ever run for president?

I like what I’m doing, I’m a legislator.

Yeah, pretty powerful.

I really enjoy what I’m doing. People asked me to and they always have asked me to, but I like what I’m doing.

Lastly, you’ve become somewhat of an internet phenomena. You were so attacked by the right wing, you were sort of their-

137,000 ads just in the November election.

Yeah about you were a lizard, you were an alien at one point.

I had horns.

You had horns.

Cloven feet.

Cloven feet. Now you and you’re coat seemed to have turned the tide, what happened? On the internet, now you’re cool again.

Cool again? Who knows.

Why do you think your coat went viral?

I don’t know.

It was a badass coat.

That coat was for the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2012. I hardly ever wear it because I’m from California, I don’t really wear a coat. So that day, I just pulled a coat out of, usually I wear a raincoat, just pulled that out and wore it and didn’t even know that we would be going …. We didn’t know that the president was gonna make a total fool of himself by having the meeting in the Oval Office be exposed to the public and therefore generate more interest as to what happened afterward. Some people said, “Oh, you wore that coat on purpose.” I said, “No, I wore that …”

You weren’t thinking of the internet implications or any of the viral …

I was just wearing that coat because it was clean.

Okay, all right.

That’s my standard.

All right, okay, all right. Nancy, I really appreciate it, thank you so much. I’m looking forward to addressing you all tonight.

Well, we are so honored that you are here.

I’m gonna say some things.

It’s a treat for us.

Are you ready for some things?

That’s what you’re here for, you are ever provocative and that’s what we’re looking forward to. Thank you so much.

Okay, thanks Nancy.

Thank you.

Recode – All Go to Source
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Eric Johnson

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