2020 Candidate Joe Sestak Takes His Campaign To Iowa

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak speaks during the West Des Moines Democrats' annual picnic, Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Sestak speaks during the West Des Moines Democrats' annual picnic, Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

With David Folkenflik

Former Pennsylvania congressman and three-star admiral in the U.S. Navy Joe Sestak is running for the Democratic nomination on a platform of global experience.


Joe Sestak, 24th Democrat to announce a bid for the presidency, in June. Former Pennsylvania congressman and retired three-star admiral in the U.S. Navy. He served on the National Security Council under President Clinton. (@JoeSestak)

Interview Highlights

On whether it’s appropriate for President Trump to visit El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio after the weekend’s mass shootings

"It is appropriate for him to go. In fact, it's absolutely necessary for the president, the commander in chief of our nation, to be there. But, yes, I would also say that it’s unfortunate that, at times, incendiary language has sometimes fomented an atmosphere from the White House where some people have acted upon dark impulses. Perhaps we'll take a lesson from this and understand that the president of the United States of America's most precious asset is the ability to unite, not divide, like the captain of a ship."

On what his first 100 days in the White House would look like

"The very first day, I will hold a town hall in the middle of America, open to everyone who can fit in. Former Trump supporters, former Clinton supporters, because I think what people most want in their leader is someone who is accountable to them above party, above any special interest and above one's self. And then I'll fly over to France, and convene the nations — preplanned — of the Paris Accord, and increase, as well as enforce, those types of national commitments that begin to stop the world's greatest threat to humanity: climate change.

"And on my way back, I will announce 'training for a lifetime.' I understand the challenge with student loans. But what about the labor force, the enlisted men and women, so to speak, of ships. Those who work with their hands and their minds. We need to do what we do in the military, is we train and retrain. When an airplane goes out of service, we don't kick them out, like out of a coal mine. We train and retrain them.

"And then when I land, I'll probably walk along to a gun show, and just walk through, maybe with retired [United States Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Oliver] North … and I'll state upfront how I feel about [gun control], but I know [guns are] valued. And finally I will go walk into a mosque. I want people to understand that their president values every member of the ship, because we don't get to choose who comes aboard a ship. We work with everyone."

"Perhaps we'll take a lesson from this and understand that the president of the United States of America's most precious asset is the ability to unite, not divide, like the captain of a ship."

Joe Sestak on the recent mass shootings

On his stance on health care and insurance

"For a public option, I voted for that when I was in Congress, and the Senate couldn't stand up to the health insurance industry and took it out. That public option is a transition of choice and it works towards one of two roads. I would like single-payer, because even when my daughter's brain cancer came back this past year, which delayed me from getting in [the presidential race] until recently, I could not get the drug approved for her, and I would have to pay $300,000. I want the insurance companies out of the business, but I want to make sure it works. And so therefore [there are] transition choices. Either go to private hospitals or … 'Medicare for All,' or you go toward the VA model, which if you read the book 'Wounds of War,' is rated by the New England Journal of Medicine as better or as good as any private or public way to do it. So, therefore, at the end of the day, I want this to be a transition choice for those 255 million Americans like me — even though it was the military — that have some form of private health care insurance underneath them, so they get a choice to go into it."

On why he's the best choice for the presidency

"The bottom line is I want to serve Americans because they are yearning for someone to be accountable to them. Above party, above self, above any special interest. That, more than anything, is why I'm running. Second, to provide global leadership — that we can restore U.S. leadership in the world to protect our American Dream of home, like both Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy understood. And third, if I have the trust of people, then we can move forward policies, where too many see only the growth of inequity, not the growth of economy."

From The Reading List

CBS News: "Joe Sestak, former congressman and 3-star admiral, joins 2020 presidential race" — "Former Pennsylvania congressman and retired three-star admiral Joe Sestak announced Sunday that he is running for president, becoming the 25th candidate to seek the Democratic nomination. Sestak, a Vietnam War veteran who also served in Iraq and Afghanistan, made his announcement in a video posted to his campaign website.

"At his first campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, Sestak told an audience of four caucus-goers that 'Americans want someone they can trust.'

"'Americans want someone who is accountable to them above self, above party, and above any special interest,' Sestak said. 'They want a President that has a depth of global experience to restore U.S. leadership to the world and to protect our American dream at home.'

"Sestak, who served in the Navy for more than 31 years, joins a historically crowded field of Democrats looking to take on President Trump in 2020. In a recent CBS News/YouGov poll of registered Democrats in early primary states, 71% said there are too many choices."

National Review: "Joe Sestak: The Most Interesting Democrat You Forgot Was Running" — "Joe Sestak already missed the first two nationally televised Democratic presidential-primary debates and appears to be a long way from the threshold to qualify for the third.

"When the 67-year-old retired admiral and former congressman Sestak announced in May that he would be joining the already crowded Democratic field, there was little fanfare. He wasn’t the subject of a long cover profile in the New York Times Magazine or invited to hang out on the couch of Stephen Colbert before a national television audience. Nor did he boldly declare from the cover of Vanity Fair that he was 'born to run.'

"The odds are good that you haven’t seen Sestak on television at all this year. The candidate says he’s seen an email from a cable-news producer at one of the big three networks — that he doesn’t want to name — declaring that the channel simply isn’t interested in having him on at all, on any of its programs. To a lot of folks, the Democratic field is not just full, it’s overflowing, and there’s no need to pay much attention to the guy who entered the race on the astonishingly 'late' date of June 23.

"'I understand it, I don’t complain about it,' Sestak says in a phone interview. Instead, his plan is to doggedly outwork the rest of the field, particularly on the ground in Iowa — by campaigning, at one point, in the state for 36 straight days."

Des Moines Register: "Opinion: Iowa Caucus First Impressions: Joe Sestak's life of public service extends from Navy to Congress to Des Moines' Econo Lodge" — "Joe Sestak is a retired three-star admiral who served in the Navy for 31 years. Then he represented Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District, becoming the highest-ranking military officer elected to Congress.

"In June, he became the 24th Democrat to announce a bid for the presidency.

"Now he’s campaigning in Iowa and staying at the Econo Lodge in Des Moines for less than $50 per night. The hotel, which he shares with many construction workers, offers a continental breakfast, which his wife, Susan, insisted on.

"Sestak isn’t much of a breakfast eater, and he runs every morning at 5:30 a.m. His discipline was evident during a recent meeting with Des Moines Register writers and editors. So was his passion for putting this country on the right track in the global community.

"Sestak says he’s running for president to heal this nation’s soul. 'If we have a leader who is trusted, maybe we can then move policies forward here at home,' he said."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this segment for broadcast.

This article was originally published on August 06, 2019.

This segment aired on August 7, 2019.



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