Why Sen. Michael Bennet Is Running For President: 'Washington Won't Fix Itself'

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (John Locher/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (John Locher/AP)

Sen. Michael Bennet is hoping to bring his successful legislative track record to the White House. We hear about vision for the office.


Sen. Michael Bennet, Democratic senator for Colorado and candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination. He serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee. (@MichaelBennet)

Interview Highlights

On his new book, "Dividing America: How Russia Hacked Social Media and Democracy," which trolls Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Sen. Bennet has vowed to send a copy of the book to McConnell for every donation he receives.

"It's really a book about the Russian hacking of our election, because I thought that nobody in America really understood what the Russian propaganda looks like. And there's a reason for that, by the way — it's propaganda, and they didn't want to be discovered. So, for a year, it was in the bloodstream of our political system, and nobody here knew — including our intelligence agencies, much less Facebook — knew that it was here. And as I've traveled the country, I've realized that people still don't know what it looks like. I had a guy in New Hampshire the other day say to me, in a nursing home, 'Just make sure Obama's not taking money from veterans and giving it to refugees.' That comes straight out of the propaganda. So I've tried to put the book out there so people can see what it looks like, and they can go to, and anybody can look at it or download it if they want. And if they want to, they can send a copy to Mitch McConnell and demand that the majority leader of the United States put the election protection legislation on the floor. He's blocked it eight times, and I think it's an outrage."

On his fellow Coloradan, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has withdrawn from the 2020 presidential race, but sits poised to enter the race for the Senate

"I didn't really give him so much advice as just describe what it was like to be in this, what the challenges are [in the Senate]. Our exercise in self-government is under extraordinary strain. It was before Trump arrived, it's worse since he arrived. And I think it's up to all of us, every single one of us, no matter what role we have to play, to try to salvage this democracy and restore it. And so we talked a lot about that."

"I'm the only candidate in this race who has won two national races in a purple state, in the middle of the country. I think that's really important for the next Democratic nominee, to be somebody who can win."

Sen. Michael Bennet

On promising a return to normalcy with his presidency

"People are desperate to have a competent president again, and they would like to go on with their lives. This is not a reality TV show. Donald Trump thinks it is. It isn't. And for people like the kids I used to work for in the Denver Public Schools, when I was their superintendent, and for their parents, Donald Trump has literally done nothing since the day he crossed the threshold of the White House. And I don't anticipate he'll do anything useful for them in the next two years. And I think that's how most people feel about it, at least folks that think that we all have a responsibility and a job to do. And they also have jobs to do, that's the other thing. People have to live their lives, they've got to figure out how to pay for school, they've got to figure out how to build their small business, and every day to wake up with a guy in the White House who at least plays the part of a lunatic isn't helping America. I mean, today we woke up to the news that he's been talking about trying to buy Greenland."

On his plans for health care

"I'd rather have somebody focused on, for example, giving universal health care to people in this country, and that's that's where my policy proposals come in. Because I think the public option that I've proposed, that would finish the job we started with the Affordable Care Act, feels to me like a way to get to universal health care much more quickly than, for example, Bernie's plan, which, I respect his ideological commitment to the plan, but I don't think it's where most people in America are. I don't think banning private insurance and putting a $23 trillion tax on the American people is going to be something that people are going to want to sustain as the price for getting universal health care coverage, which we desperately need."

On how he plans to gain momentum. Sen. Bennet has not yet qualified for the third round of Democratic debates in September.

"I am putting one foot in front of the other. I'm the only candidate in this race who has won two national races in a purple state, in the middle of the country. I think that's really important for the next Democratic nominee, to be somebody who can win. And it goes back to the conversation we were just having about policies, because it's about winning in unusual places in order to both beat Donald Trump and restore a Democratic majority to the Senate. That's going to require us to win in places like Colorado and Iowa and Nevada and Maine and Arizona. And I think I can do that.

"I'm not as well known as some of the other candidates, and I wasn't well-known before I started running, but I do feel like I'm getting a good reception in New Hampshire and in Iowa and South Carolina. And I'm just going to keep doing it. There's a whole campaign that's going on out there that isn't associated with the debates that we're having once a month to give everybody on the stage five minutes to try to express to the American people stuff that I think is much more important and much more complex than that forum can provide. And I'm just going to keep going and try to outwork everybody. I think, in the end, the fact that I'm well-aligned with where the base of the Democratic Party is, and then can also reach out to independents, I think will be a strength."

From The Reading List

Newsweek: "2020 Candidate Michael Bennet Trolls Mitch McConnell With Russian Meme Book" — "Colorado Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bennet released an e-book on Wednesday that highlights a number of memes which were allegedly posted to social media by Russian trolls during the 2016 presidential election to create political divisiveness amongst Americans.

"'The propaganda Russia drove into our social media feeds is shocking, but what's even more frightening is that we didn't recognize these divisive images as distinct from our own political rhetoric for over a year,' said Bennet in a statement.

"'This book makes crystal clear what Russia did and how they did it. The 2020 election is around the corner, yet the Trump administration has done nothing to protect our democracy from these attacks again. We must demand that Mitch McConnell see these disturbing images and act now.'

"The book, which includes a lot of meme imagery, pieces of Robert Mueller's report about Russian meddling in the election and multiple sections penned by Bennet, is largely intended as a way to raise campaign funds while pressuring Senate Leader McConnell to act on election security. For each donation, the Bennet campaign said they would send McConnell's office a printed copy of the book in the donor's name."

Washington Post: "A goal for Democrats: Make the White House boring again" — "All Brian Fisher wants is to make it through Season 2 of HBO’s 'Westworld.'

Fisher, 65, retired from Silicon Valley to Alicante, Spain, where he imagined he’d spend his time catching up on television and enjoying the beach. But now, he jokes, he can’t seem to do either — and for that, he blames President Trump.

"'You think, "Well, I’ll have my coffee and see what happened overnight in the States," ' he said, before describing a morning ritual that includes copious cable news and scrolling through the news alerts on his phone. 'I can barely find time to go out to the beach. I live on the beach in Spain — that’s the whole point — but by the time I finish the news, it’s already getting dark.'

"Fisher is not alone. Mary Ingham, 52, described a similarly disrupted television viewing routine, spurred on by the negative impact she fears the president is having on her 7-year-old niece. 'I used to go home at the end of the day and watch "The Big Bang Theory," ' Ingham said. 'Now I go home and watch MSNBC. Then when I wake up, well, my TV is already tuned to it.'

"Interviews with more than a dozen voters, at the Iowa State Fair here and elsewhere, reveal a Democratic electorate wearied by Trump’s near-constant stream of incendiary behavior and racially tinged — and at times overtly racist — invective.

"Democratic hopefuls are making a pitch seemingly geared directly at these voters, promising to offset their anxieties and concerns with a return to normalcy via a president who is everything they believe Trump is not — measured, predictable, responsible. Or, at its most reductive, they’re offering an unofficial pledge to Make America Boring Again."

Anna Bauman produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on August 15, 2019.

This segment aired on August 16, 2019.



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