Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Trump, Islamophobia, and His Presidential Bid

“Mayor Pete” is turning heads with a slate of radical political reform proposals, including expanding the Supreme Court and eliminating the Electoral College.

Photo illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, AP

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When Mayor Pete Buttigieg launched his presidential exploratory committee in January, the general reaction was: Who? The mayorship of South Bend, Indiana, with a population of 100,000, is not a traditional launchpad to the nation’s highest office, and most saw little reason to credit his longshot bid. But recently Buttigieg has turned heads with a slate of radical political reform proposals, including expanding the Supreme Court and eliminating the Electoral College, that may help differentiate him from the crowd. He also earned plaudits for a statement addressed to the South Bend Muslim community issued in the wake of the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings which contrasted sharply with President Trump’s equivocations on the subject of Islamophobia and white nationalism. “Mayor Pete” joins Mehdi Hasan on this week’s Deconstructed to talk about his path to the White House. Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief Ryan Grim follows with thoughts on an increasingly crowded Democratic field.

Peter Buttigieg: It’s no secret that this president came to power largely by turning people against one another and by taking advantage of the use of white nationalism. He doesn’t want to acknowledge that it’s a problem, probably because he’s sympathetic to it.

[Music interlude.]

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. My guest today is not just a rising star of the Democratic Party, he’s running for president:

PB: I think we’re in a moment of tectonic change in where this country is headed. The 30 or 40-year era of conservatism that both Democrats and Republicans have operated in for most of my lifetime has come to an end.

MH: That’s Peter Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana; Rhodes Scholar, army vet and just 37 years old. But he’s making a lot of noise in the Democratic presidential race right now and has won a lot of new admirers in recent days — especially for his response to the terror attacks in New Zealand.

So, on today’s show, Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Donald Trump, white nationalism, Islamophobia and how radical the Democrats need to get in order to win in 2020.

Mike Embley: Police in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand say they are responding to reports of gunshots at a mosque, possibly at more than one.

Alyana Gomez: The suspect is a white nationalist extremist who posted a racist manifesto online and streamed the attacks on Facebook.

Anoushah Rasta: The death toll has risen to now a total of 50 dead. Dozens more remain hospitalized.

MH: It’s been a truly depressing few days. The news out of New Zealand since last week has been difficult to absorb. Each story that emerges, of each one of those 50 innocent victims, those Muslims in those two mosques, seems more horrific, more tragic than the one before. A 3-year-old boy, a PhD student who was set to graduate in May, a young father, an older mother, a son who devoted his life to looking after his elderly parents. All of them killed. Gone. Taken from this world by a heartless and brutal racist. And as a Muslim, I can’t help but see myself, my parents, my wife, my kids in a lot of those victims. What can I say? It’s very personal for me.

And I’m not just a Muslim, I’m a Muslim immigrant. I have two Muslim American kids. And yet hours after a terrorist attack which killed 50 Muslims, many of them immigrants to New Zealand, in the midst of Friday prayers, by a white nationalist who put out a manifesto in which he referred to those Muslim as “invaders,” just hours later, President Trump decided to use the exact same language.

Donald J. Trump: People hate the word invasion, but that’s what it is. It’s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people. We have no idea who they are but we capture them because border security is so good.

MH: Should we be surprised? I would call him shameful but he has no shame. And Donald Trump of course has been mainstreaming white nationalism and Islamophobia since he first declared his candidacy back in 2015. He literally retweeted a guy on Twitter whose handle was @whitegenocideTM. He told CNN —

DJT: I think Islam hates us. There’s something there, there’s a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it.

MH: Perhaps above all else, he encouraged and incited the white nationalists and Islamophobes and conspiracy theorists who turned up at his rallies, even the clearly violent and deranged ones.

Rally attendee: Amen, okay. We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.

DJT: Right.

Rally attendee: We know he’s not even American.

DJT: We need this question.

Rally attendee: But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question. When can we get rid of them?

DJT: We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. And you know a lot of people are saying that. A lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.

MH: Y’know, I did a lot of media in recent days, CNN, MSNBC, etc, talking about all this stuff, making these arguments about Trump and white nationalism, and anti-Muslim hatred, and so it’s been not just physically exhausting but emotionally exhausting too. Depressing, as I say.

But one of the few glimmers of light, though, for me and many others in these darkest of days, was a letter that Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, sent to his Muslim constituents, in which he wrote that “this city is absolutely committed to your safety and well-being” and wrote that “The diversity of our community is its strength, and the members of the Islamic community have greatly enriched this city, in your worship, in your service, even by the diversity of nationalities among your number. We would be poorer without you,” he wrote.

That letter went viral online. And rightly so. But here’s the thing about Pete Buttigeg, in case you weren’t aware. He’s planning on running for president.

And I know what you’re thinking: not another one. Yes, it’s a crowded field. But Mayor Pete, as he’s known, is making a lot of new friends and supporters with his eloquence, his decency, his progressive positions on a lot of issues from climate change to healthcare to political reform.

Still he’s got an uphill struggle. Democratic superstar Beto O’Rourke declared his candidacy for president this past week and raised 6.1 million dollars in his first 24 hours, more than any other candidate so far, including Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden, by all accounts, is about to throw his hat into the ring. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been struggling a little bit in the race so far, grabbed a lot of positive press on Monday night when she said this, at a CNN town hall —

Elizabeth Warren: We can have national voting and that means get rid of the electoral college —

[Crowd cheers.]

MH: I think taking on the issue of political and constitutional reform, of challenging the system of minority rule that the Republican Party has basically set up in this country and profited from, is crucial to the 2020 race and to Democratic prospects post 2020. And I think my guest today thinks so too.

Later in the show I’ll be speaking to my good friend Ryan Grim, the Intercept’s DC bureau chief, about all the latest 2020 developments. But first: Peter Buttigieg.

MH: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana for the past eight years, but also a veteran of the Afghan war, an openly gay elected official in Indiana, a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes scholar, a pianist, fluent in multiple languages including Arabic, and including Norwegian, which he only learned so he could read a particular book that happened to be only in Norwegian — I kid you not. The son of an immigrant father from Malta. And, just 37 years old. The first millenial to ever run for president. It’s an impressive resume.

[Music interlude.]

Mayor Pete, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

PB: Thanks for having me. Been looking forward to this.

MH: First question, important question: Am I saying your name right, Buttigieg?

PB: You got it, yeah. Rolls of the tongue, right?

MH: I’m really bad at pronunciation. I’m impressed with that that I got that right. Is it true that your name is from the Maltese — I think this is made up — and means lord of poultry?

PB: Yeah, that’s right my father immigrated from Malta in the 70s. If you try to get a literal meaning out of the word it will be something like that.

MH: So you would be president lord of poultry. Love it. Look forward to it. So, I want to talk about the presidential bid in a moment. Just before that, let’s talk about terrorism. Big story right now. We saw 50 Muslim worshippers gunned down in cold blood, massacred last week in New Zealand. You wrote a very powerful letter in response to the Muslim community in your city, South Bend, Indiana, saying you were committed to their safety and you wanted them to know “this entire city has its arms around you in love and peace.” Do you believe that Islamophobia has been mainstreamed in the United States and not just by Trump, who in my view is much more of a symptom than a cause, but by a whole range of politicians, pundits, media organizations going back to 9/11 and beyond?

PB: I think so. You know, unfortunately it has become far too acceptable to trade in Islamophobia and of course, cynical politicians have stoked it in order to gain some kind of short term political advantage which only plays into the logic of terrorism that is designed to distance us from our own values and undermine pluralism in our country. Obviously, this current presidency creates even more problems around it but it didn’t begin with this president. I’m afraid it may not end with it either.

MH: And you’re right it certainly didn’t start with Trump but he has put it on steroids. He’s kind of boosted it.

PB: Yes.

MH: And the white nationalist shooter in New Zealand cited Donald Trump by name in his manifesto as a “symbol of renewed white identity.” What is your view Mayor Pete of Donald Trump’s role in this global white nationalist resurgence — that he denies is happening, by the way? Is it that he’s an enabler and a promoter of white nationalism or is it worse than that? Is it that he’s a card-carrying white nationalist himself?

PB: Well, at best I mean, even on the most charitable interpretation, he is failing to protect us from the clear and present dangers that white nationalism poses.

MH: Why?

PB: And that’s the most generous interpretation.

MH: Why?

PB: I think because he doesn’t want to acknowledge that it’s a problem probably because he’s sympathetic to it. Look, it’s no secret that this president came to power largely by turning people against one another and by taking advantage of the use of white nationalism as a sort of version of extremism that can provide a sense of identity or community in the most ugly fashion to people who are wondering whether they have a sense of belonging today. Like all extremisms, it’s born out of the ability to take advantage of people who may be anywhere on the ideological spectrum but are looking for where they fit in. And instead of trying to call people like that, people who are vulnerable to being radicalized to being productive members of our society, he’s exploiting it often reinforcing the worst racist Islamophobic or other hateful elements that can be could be used to appeal to folks like that.

MH: And just to be clear if you’re elected president in 2020, you come to office in January 2021, would you make lifting the Muslim ban an early priority of your presidency?

PB: Of course, the Muslim ban is something that really cuts against our values and does nothing to make us safer. Look, I take counterterrorism and security very personally and very seriously as somebody who was in the military as an officer working on these issues and I could tell you that a blanket ban on people of a certain faith or a, you know, the fig leaf over that isn’t really you know, targeting certain countries in a way that isn’t really any better, is not making us safer and it’s also undercutting the very sense of American moral authority that we are trying or at least hoping to protect.

MH: Let’s talk a bit more about your dark horse presidential bid. You’re 37 years old. You’re the first presidential candidate I’ve ever interviewed who is younger than me which is kind of painful for me to have to admit. You’re openly gay, a veteran of the Afghan war and a mayor — not a senator, or congressman, governor — you’re mayor of South Bend, Indiana. It’s a pretty unusual, unorthodox background for a presidential candidate. What makes you think you’re the person to be president and not a former vice president or a senator or a sitting governor?

PB: Well, that unorthodox background is in many ways the point. Why not have someone who comes from outside of the Washington establishment at a moment when people are so suspicious of all the present problems in our political system? Why not have somebody from the industrial Midwest at a time where my party, the Democratic Party, has struggled to connect in these parts of the United States? And why not have somebody from a new generation? Someone who actually belongs to the generation that grew up with school shootings as the norm and is going to be on the business end of climate change for as long as we live —

MH: Not that I want to compare you to Donald Trump. But didn’t Americans try an outsider in 2016 and it hasn’t worked out so well?

PB: Well, certainly not somebody like him. I mean, it helps to have somebody who actually has experience bringing people together and serving in government. And I have more years of government experience under my belt than the president and for that matter, more years of executive experience under my belt of the vice president. But I do believe that if we simply go back to what we were doing before, we will continue to see the kinds of problems, and distortions and disappointments in our system that made this presidency possible. Remember this president is a symptom not just a cause. Somebody like this should never have been able to come up within cheating distance of the American presidency —

MH: And that’s partly because the Democrats never really had a reckoning with the downsides of the Clinton years, or the Obama years. That’s fair to say, is it not?

PB: Yeah, I mean presidencies from both parties let people down, especially in places like the part of the country where I come from. Communities that did not see the kind of economic benefits. Even as the topline numbers for America were looking better and better, the distribution got worse and worse and so many people were left out of it. There is a reckoning to be had for that and whatever is coming next cannot be for Democrats a restoration of the 90s any more than it could be for conservatives a restoration of the 1950s.

MH: And how are you going to win, Pete, given you’re polling at one percent right now in Iowa? What is your path to victory in these primaries against big names like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, maybe even former Vice President Joe Biden in the coming days?

PB: I just don’t think this is the sort of environment or dynamic where being a longtime establishment figure is necessarily to your advantage. Obviously, I’ve got some work to do getting known. Although just in the days since the CNN town hall that introduced me to many Americans we’ve seen an explosion in support online, at the grassroots level, and financially.

MH: Hey, wait till the show goes live, Pete. Wait till this show goes live.

PB: I’m counting on this one to put me over the top. Look, a lot of this is also old-fashioned quantity time in places like Iowa where we visited and had a wonderful reception since we brought out our exploratory committee and we’ll be continuing to be in early states, Iowa, New Hampshire. We’ll be going to South Carolina soon and looking forward to get in to Nevada. It’s simply a matter of introducing ourselves. What we know so far is that the more people hear the message, the more we find it’s resonating. We’ve just got to get it out to as many people as possible.

MH: There is no doubt about the resonating. I wanted you on the show since I saw you on the town halls, since I read some of your interviews. There is no doubt about it that what you’ve been saying has been very impressive and that’s why we want to have this conversation. Different candidates are finding different ways to stand out in this crowded field. Senator Warren this week on CNN in her town hall called for the abolition of the electoral college, have a national popular vote instead. I know we’ve only got you for a few more minutes. I just want to do a quick lightning round with you: yes or no questions. Nice and easy. I know politicians love yes or no questions. I just want our listeners to understand where you stand on some crucial constitutional issues, Democratic issues.

PB: Sure.

MH: So, abolish the Electoral College? Yes or no?

PB: Yes, been saying that since day one.

MH: Abolish the Senate filibuster, yes or no?

PB: We should consider it. I mean, that’s something the senators have to figure out but it’s got to be on the table because our sense of fair play among Democrats has bitten us far too many times for us to be naive about it.

PB: Add new justices to the Supreme Court to balance it out given the stolen seat?

PB: So, we definitely need to do structural reform on the Supreme Court. Adding justices can be part of the solution but not in and of itself, it’s not enough. It’s neither necessary nor sufficient. What we’ve got to do is depoliticize it and one solution that I’ve been discussing in recent weeks is structuring it with 15 members but five of whom can only be seated by a unanimous consensus of the other 10. Anything that would make a Supreme Court vacancy less of an apocalyptic ideological struggle would be an improvement.

MH: Okay, a rider on that then: term limits for Supreme Court justices?

PB: Potentially. But it’s not a cure all because it creates some problems too.

MH: Okay, statehood for Washington D.C.?

PB: Absolutely.

MH: Statehood for Puerto Rico?

PB: If they want it.

MH: Lower the voting age to 16?

PB: I’m not sold on that but I think we could have the debate —

MH: Hey, you’re the millennial candidate, you don’t want to lower the voting age?

PB: Look the rationale from 21 to 18 made a lot of sense, young Americans who were old enough to be sent to war but weren’t allowed to vote. I think a lot of things change at 18 that are different things that change at 16 but I wouldn’t close off debate on the topic.

MH: Okay, I know this is a much trickier one for a yes or no, but just to get a sense of where you stand on this. You’re a veteran who served in Afghanistan, America, the United States of America is still at war in several countries. Yes or no to the forever war?

PB: No, we’ve got to put an end to forever wars and I think anyone who served in them understands that.

MH: And I do want to ask about kind of, the nature of the race. Beto O’Rourke has said he’s running for president now. He’s a popular candidate. He’s raised a lot of money. He said that if he wins the nomination, he’d prefer to have a woman as his vice presidential candidate. This is the most diverse field of candidates ever. Is that your position too that the Democrats cannot go into the 2020 election with an all-male ticket?

PB: I don’t want to prejudge things that are a long way off but I certainly agree that diversity, gender diversity, in addition to racial diversity has to be a top priority for us at the highest levels. Put it that way.

MH: And on racial diversity, how about all-white ticket? Can the Democrats really have an all-white ticket in 2020?

PB: I think that would be problematic for the same reason.

MH: Okay, and last question and it’s a question every politician gets asked but I’m going ask you. Here’s your chance for the listeners. Why are you running, Pete Buttigieg?

PB: I think we’re at a moment of tectonic change in where this country is headed. The 30 or 40-year era of conservatism that both Democrats and Republicans have operated in for most of my lifetime has come to an end. And if we want the next era to be a good one, we’ve got to be willing to embrace bold ideas, a new generation has to put forward leaders and we can’t simply restore what we’ve been doing before. So, I think it takes a voice from the middle of the country, someone who lives a middle class lifestyle in a middle class neighborhood in middle America who can speak with a different vocabulary on the highest values and the biggest issues of our time. And I think that I offer a voice that no matter how much I appreciate or admire the others, my voice is simply different.

MH: And last, last question if you win this primary and you are the Democratic candidate for president and you’re on stage with Donald Trump in those debates in 2020 what is your strategy for handling Donald Trump one-on-one?

PB: You know, at the end of the day, it’s not about him. We will draw a contrast and call him out every falsehood and every wrongdoing. But we need to be on that stage talking about voters, talking about the rest of us because if we make the message about him, and for that matter if we make the message about me, we’re missing the point. Part of how he got elected was that my party was obsessively talking about him and a lot of folks in the part of the country where I live were saying okay but who’s talking about me? We have to have a message that will make sense in 2030, 2040, 2054 when I get to the current age of this president. In order to do that right, we’ve got to talk about the core issues at stake and not play his game by serving up even more attention to him than he’s already getting.

MH: Mayor Pete, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

PB: Pleasure, thanks for having me.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That was Mayor Pete or Pete Buttigieg. I’ll try one more time with the pronunciation. Interesting interview, interesting guy. To discuss Pete and to discuss the 2020 race, I’m joined now by my good friend Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief. Ryan, how are you?

Ryan Grim: Oh, never better.

MH: Never better, listening to that conversation. Pete Buttigieg, do you rate him?

RG: I mean, he’s obviously one of the smartest, probably after Elizabeth Warren of the candidates in this race and that comes off in every interview. The positions he’s taking now are bold and that’s what the Democratic electorate wants right now. You know, he does leave you asking the question of how sincere this is. You know, this is a guy who, you know, Harvard to Rhodes scholar then to serving in Afghanistan.

MH: Also, worked for McKinsey.

RG: And worked for McKinsey. So, that should inform everything else. There is an entire class — I’m not saying that Mayor Pete is necessarily in this — but there is an entire class of people who after the Iraq war saw that the path to advancement in Democratic Party politics was by serving in the military. And you had a whole bunch of folks, people might think that Seth Moulton or somebody like that is in that class, enlisted and put their lives at risk you know in pursuit of this journey.

MH: Pete was a naval reservist in Afghanistan.

RG: Right. And so, in other words, this is not somebody who has been kind of living and breathing the kind of leftist political revolution for the last 15 years or so. But does that matter? That’s the question. You know, this is somebody who absolutely understands what the country needs right now and what the party wants or what the primary electorate wants. And you know, there’s a philosophical debate to be had. Does it matter what he believes in his heart of hearts? If he gets it, good.

MH: If he gets in and he can sell it as well to a broader audience. I mean, look, I came to Pete Buttigieg not wanting to like him. I heard him a few months ago back when he was, you know, obviously heard of him during the DNC race, but as a presidential candidate, I wasn’t really paying attention to him. I thought he was kind of irrelevant and then I started seeing some of his interviews. A lot of us watched the CNN town hall. He’s now going to be on the debate stage because he got his 65,000 donors in the wake of that. And I have to say as someone — look, when I look at the candidates, I want to see people who are willing to challenge economic political power, challenge the bankers, challenge the establishment in all sorts of ways. Obviously, I want to see that. I’m sure a lot of listeners do too. But I also want to see someone who’s going to deal with the politics of it.

So, for example Bernie Sanders has been very strong in going after Wall Street for years, for decades. But if you ask Bernie Sanders about political reform, he doesn’t come across as that radical. He hasn’t been championing some of the causes that we’re now seeing people like Elizabeth Warren coming out for in this week’s CNN town hall saying abolish the Electoral College. Pete Buttigieg been strong from day one I think of his campaign as he reminds me in the interview. He said get rid of the Electoral College. He talked about court packing which I’ve written about for The Intercept. So for me, I look at that and think wow I may not have wanted to like him. I may have thought you were the kind of ex-McKinsey consultant who went to serve in the military as part of that political rise, mayor of some you know, not a very big town, let’s put it that way South Bend, Indiana. There’s never been a mayor as president United States and if there was, you would expect it to come from mayor of New York or mayor of L.A. Having said all that though, I do like what I’m hearing and having just had that conversation with him, I finished that conversation and I like him more.

RG: In whatever way he arrived at the place that he’s at now —

MH: It’s a good place to be.

RG: — Extremely valuable contribution to the conversation to have people talking about things like reforming the court. And he talks about it in the right way. You could call it packing the court, you can call it structural reform of the court. He’s right that it does require some structural reform, as well because otherwise you pack two justices on then, Ivanka Trump comes along and she packs two on—

MH: President Ivanka, that’s a scary thought. First man Jared. on the constitutional stuff, were you surprised by any of the answers he gave in that lightning round?

RG: The funniest to me was his hesitancy at the 16-year-olds getting the franchise —

MH: It wasn’t hesitancy, he was opposed!

RG: Right, no, no!

MH: I’ll pack the courts, and I’ll abolish the Electoral College, but kids voting, that’s not for me. And he would be the first millennial president, if he was elected and the first gay president.

RG: Generations never like the ones right after them.

MH: I get to run young, you don’t get to vote. Do you think he could be the first millennial president, the first gay president? Any chance? I mean anything’s possible.

RG: Anything is possible. You know, somebody could catch fire but in such a crowded field when you have you know, Beto O’Rourke certainly doesn’t help him.

MH: No, he takes a lot of that young, energy dynamic white dude.

RG: Right and if you want somebody really smart and you’re not sexist, you’ve got Elizabeth Warren.

MH: But what’s interesting about Beto is since he’s entered the race and since he talked about entering the race, there’s been the scrutiny of his record. People started saying “He ain’t that progressive.” He’s said it himself. He doesn’t like these labels and I just think when we talk about being progressive, it’s not just as you say about economic policy positions, it’s also about democracy, the constitution how you get stuff done. This idea and I do hope in the debates some of the moderators will ask some of these kinds of questions that I asked Mayor Pete because I do want to know. It’s all very well saying ‘I’m going to bring in Medicare for all’ or ‘I’m going to do this on climate change’. No you ain’t If the filibuster is still there and Mitch McConnell is still in charge, nothing’s going through. You can’t get any of this stuff done realistically. And interesting on the filibuster what he said it should be on the table. He said that’s up to the senators to decide. I think that’s so important. People forget. It’s all very well having these grand progressive promises. But you can’t have Medicare for all, if the Supreme Court is going to shoot it down. You can’t fight climate change, if you’re allowing a bunch of climate deniers to have a veto.

RG: Right and that’s a huge problem for O’Rourke in that his theory of change is we’re going to get everybody in the room together.

MH: It’s like Barack Obama 2004.

RG: Right, it’s like, and in other interviews — that’s what’s so frustrating about O’Rourke is that in other interviews you’ll hear him say the Republicans are just going to be against everything so we have to stop compromising with them. We have to stop pretending like we’re going to bring them along. And then in the next one he’ll say you know, we need to bring everybody together.

MH: You know who else says we’ve got to be friends with Republicans to get stuff done? A man who might be throwing his hat in the ring any day now.

RG: Mr. Vice President?

MH: Joe Biden. His friends, his allies brag that he’s friends with Mitch McConnell. Why do you want to brag you’re friends with Mitch McConnell before declaring your nomination for the Democratic—

RG: Strom Thurmond.

MH: Spoke at his funeral.

RG: Spoke at his funeral and praised him for advocating for separate but equal. And he emphasized equal because Strom Thurmond was committed —


MH: He’s also good pals with Dick Cheney, our colleague Glenn Greenwald was just tweeting a video I saw the other day on Twitter of Biden speaking alongside Cheney saying he couldn’t find anything bad to say about Cheney.

RG: Never a bad word with Cheney.

MH: Dick Cheney, it’s so hard to find bad words in regard to Cheney. Biden has been touted as a big front runner for a while now. If he throws his hat in the ring, where does that leave the 2020 race? We’ve already had what 13-14 candidates? When Biden comes in, A, he becomes the automatic frontrunner overnight, maybe, probably. B, where does that leave the Beto’s, the Buttigieg’s, the Kamala Harris’ who are kind of, “centrist, center left” versus the kind of Warren, Sanders?

RG: You’ve already seen Biden sliding a little bit and in the latest Emerson poll has him 26-26 or 28-28, Biden and Bernie tied with everybody else way behind. So, you know people have been predicting that Biden would would lose steam once he got into the race. But actually, he’s losing steam before he’s even —

MH: There’s been some pretty damning pieces about him recently. The Washington Post went back and looked at an interview he did in the 70s where he talked about why he was opposed to school busing in Delaware, because he didn’t feel that his blond-haired, blue-eyed kid should have to sit next to a black kid against their will in order to undo something that happened 300 years ago, he said. It’s not fair. It’s racist, he called it.

RG: And there was some speculation that the reason he didn’t get into the race yet is that he’s waiting until the quarter passes, the FEC financial reporting quarter, March 31st, which means that he wouldn’t have to declare his fundraising until the next quarter, June. And that goes back to one of his liabilities which is that he’s a terrible fundraiser. People think of Biden as this guy who’s going to come in with all this corporate cash and all the big money people behind him. And it’s true that the big money people are behind him. But the big money people need to be asked for their big money. And Biden hates to do it and historically, Biden has been terrible at that. And it’s not clear how he’s going to raise a small donor base. Although it may be the case that he has legal access to Obama’s list. And so, if he can get some residual love off of Obama’s e-mail list, whatever’s left of that those hotmail accounts.

MH: Okay, let me ask you this before we finish. If you had to predict right now, horrible question —

RG: Oh, God.

MH: Who wins the Democratic nomination as of this week, if you have to predict?

RG: I guess, if I had to put money down, maybe split it between Bernie and Beto.

MH: Interesting, interesting choice. That could be a ticket. No, that couldn’t be a ticket.

RG: No, I don’t see that as a ticket.

MH: Well, it’s interesting though, just to kind of wrap up by talking about Mayor Pete. He’s polling at one percent in Iowa. He made the point that he needs to get his name out there more. Biden is polling 26, 27 percent almost, not completely, but a lot of the reason is because of his name recognition. He’s the most well-known and well-liked former vice president. But I mean, the irony is Biden’s run twice for president. People forget this. Twice he got smashed, came nowhere near, left the first race in 1987 in humiliation over a plagiarism scandal, left the second race after crashing, I mean, I think fifth in Iowa. It’s ironic that he’s the frontrunner and we dismiss this kind of young fresh-faced mayor who’s actually saying really, really interesting things as he’s got no chance. But I would argue in this current race Buttigieg probably has almost as much chance as Biden does.

RG: I think that’s probably true. And he also has a long career ahead of him but that career is not in Indiana. And one thing he’s benefiting from —

MH: Not many great political careers are in Indiana, with the greatest respect to the people of Indiana.

RG: One thing he benefits from is a kind of coastal chauvinism where people hear that he’s from Indiana and think that well, he must be able to talk to them hicks and it’s like well, no, any Democrat is going to win in South Bend. Stop it. Like everywhere in Indiana is not like French Lick.

MH: I thought you were going to say people think he’s a hick and then they hear him speak, so the bar’s rather low. But actually, as we heard, he’s super smart and let’s see what he’s like on the debate stage. I’m actually looking forward to the Democratic debates this year. I’m especially looking forward to the foreign policy angles. I wish I could have spoken a bit more about foreign policy with him. But there’s going to be a lot of time for that. And Ryan, I hope you’ll come back and join us to talk about all this stuff over the coming months.

RG: I can’t wait.

MH: Well, that’s our show! Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Dina Sayedahmed is our production assistant. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Leital Molad is our executive producer. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

And I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps new people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at Thanks so much!

See you next week.

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