In a live taping of The Intercept’s Deconstructed podcast, host Mehdi Hasan is joined by two of America’s leading progressive voices: first-term Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and documentarian Michael Moore, whose latest film “Fahrenheit 11/9” takes an incisive look at the 2016 election and the crisis of American democracy in the Trump era.
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Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan. Welcome to only our second live show here in Washington DC. Tonight, with the impeachment inquiry intensifying and the 2020 Democratic primary heating up, I’m going to speak to two of America’s leading progressives, I think it’s fair to say, with very strong views on the future of the left more broadly, and the Democrats in particular, how we can continue to resist the ongoing Trumpification of U.S. politics, and what regular citizens can be doing to make their voices heard. So without any further ado, I’m going to introduce my two very special guests here at George Washington University in Washington DC for this Deconstructed live show. My first guest, give it up for author, activist, campaigner, general troublemaker and Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore.
Michael Moore: Thank you!
MH: And our other guest, who’s come straight from voting on Capitol Hill is a certain Congresswoman from Minnesota, Representative Ilhan Omar.
MH: Michael, Ilhan, thanks for coming on Deconstructed. So lovely to have you here in DC. You’re from New York. You’re from DC. You’re in DC.
Ilhan Omar: A little bit. I work here.
MH: You work here.
IO: From Minnesota.
MH: Minnesota. You’re happy to be here in DC? Do you like coming to DC Michael?
MM: Um, yeah, actually, —
MH: Said with such enthusiasm.
MM: Well, no, I was just — Because I made “Roger and Me,” my first film, two blocks from here and actually right on this street where it meets I Street remember? Used to be a Tower Records there? That’s where I made “Roger and Me.”
IO: You gotta ask if they know what records are first?
MH: Yes. I asked my daughter what MTV is the other day and she had no idea.
MM: I spent three years here making my first film.
MH: Okay, so we’ll get into the chat. I was planning to start this discussion, this show by talking about what else do we talk about in this town, but the narcissist in chief, the tangerine tyrant in the White House, Donald Trump, but before we get to Trump, there have been some very interesting event in the last few days. And both of you, Ilhan and Michael came out and endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States for the Democratic presidential nomination.
MH: There’s a small handful of Bernie supporters I see in the crowd, and let me ask each of you then to kick off, why Bernie Sanders and especially for the progressives listening here in the room and at home? Why Bernie Sanders and not Elizabeth Warren? Ilhan?
IO: Well, let me just say why Bernie? For me, you know, I am one of those people who is inspired by the movement Bernie built. That’s what initially inspired me to run for office. Bernie is someone that I share incredible values with. And as you know, we have been doing a lot of work together, we introduced our student debt cancellation together, and this week, we introduced another revolutionary bill together to make sure that there are universal school meals for all of our kids. You know, when I think about Bernie, I think about someone who’s building a movement and not just running for president. There was an America that I dreamed about. There’s an America that I think we deserve, and Bernie is the only one who shares that vision for the America we all want.
MH: I have to ask though, Ilhan, just over a year ago, you were on the show, I interviewed you, you were running for Congress. And I asked you if Bernie Sanders should run for president again. And you said, “I actually believe that ship might have sailed.” I asked you what you made of Elizabeth Warren, and you said “I think I would be excited about a Warren candidacy. I’ve always thought of myself as part of the Warren wing of the party.” What changed for you in the 12 months since then?
IO: Mehdi always comes with receipts.
MH: Well, it was my show so I couldn’t really forget.
IO: Sometimes you have to be reminded about the vision you truly believe in and where your core values lie. And for me, I know that there are people that I have to switch some things around and there are people who are just easy to believe in. And I was reminded that Bernie is one of those people —
MH: Do you think Warren has switched things around?
IO: For me, what I also believe is that there is a Warren wing of our party and I would say that’s most Democrats, I mean, it’s the one thing that everybody accuses us off. We think we’re the smartest in the room. We are very policy-oriented. We care about the details. Just today, we were, you know, fighting about a lot of things that most people can’t understand. And there is that aspect of Warren that is exciting. She has a plan for everything. But there is I think an expansion of what universal values are and how we should be thinking about what kind of revolutionary ideas this country needs in order for the structural changes that Warren talks about to be implemented and that person who will carry that out is Bernie.
MH: Okay, Michael, you were at the big rally in Queens with Bernie and AOC at the weekend. You spoke. You endorsed Bernie Sanders. Why did you back Bernie over Elizabeth Warren? Because you’ve heaped praise on Warren in the past. You’ve had her in, I think two of your movies. You’ve said in the past, “she should be president one day,” but I guess just not today.
MM: Yeah, I actually, as a director, I discovered her. Nobody had put her in a movie or on TV or anything before I did. I’m serious. I met her in 2005, at Harvard, and I thought, “Wow, she gets it. She has it.” And I’m proud and honored to have had her in my films. Bernie though, I didn’t decide this week to endorse Bernie. I flew up to Burlington, Vermont in 1990, the first time that he won for Congress up there, and I told the story on Saturday of how he couldn’t get any celebrities, like real celebrities to come out there and endorse a Democratic socialist in Vermont. And I got there and all he had were two Vermont guys who made ice cream and one guy from Michigan who ate ice cream. So that was it. That was my first rally. I’ve seen no need to change my mind about endorsing him in these 30 years because he hasn’t changed. He’s never sold out. He’s never gone back on his word. He’s never let people down. He’s never cashed in in the way that so many politicians do. And he comes from the working class and it’s rare that we get to have and you know, he’s so humble about this.
He won’t — Shaun King, when he introduced him back in January when he announced at Brooklyn College, told his whole story, his family, the family of Holocaust survivors and how — It’s like anytime I talk about Bernie, I like to have on the screen behind me, the picture of him from 1963 in Chicago, where the police are violently arresting him, because he is demonstrating against segregation and for civil rights. And that’s who he’s always been, a fighter. So 30 years before I even endorsed him in 1990, he’s out there fighting for the people. At the fundamental core of both of these problems I’ve made movies about and I decided actually 10 years ago to stop making films about issues like health care, guns, industrial, you know, General Motors, because all those problems had one consistent core denominator throughout all of it and that is an economic system that’s unfair. It’s unjust and it’s not democratic. He will never say I’m a capitalist to my bones.
MH: Yeah, which Elizabeth Warren has said. He does say he’s a socialist. I want to put this point to the —
MM: Democratic socialist.
MH: Democratic socialist. I want to put this point to Ilhan. There was a poll earlier this year that found only 47% of Americans would vote for a socialist as president compared to 66% who said they’d vote for a Muslim as president. And if you’re less popular than the Muslims, when it comes to voting, can you really be president the United States can you really get a majority?
IO: Well, I mean, I think most people whether they love or hate Muslims at least have an understanding, I will say now, of what a Muslim looks like. There is still a clear misunderstanding of what it means to be a Democratic socialist. And, you know, Bernie is having the opportunity to explain that. There are other members of Congress now who identify as such who have gotten elected by the majority of their districts. And I think there is an opportunity —
MH: You do identify as a socialist?
IO: I do not.
MH: But you’re supporting Bernie as a Socialist. Michael, do you identify as a socialist?
MM: Yeah, yes. But you see, here’s the thing —
IO: I think the reason is because there are too many labels on me. And I don’t want to add an extra one.
MM: Right, because to just say that — I was on Hannity’s show, and he said, he asked me the same question you asked.
MH: That’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to me. That I asked the same question as Sean Hannity. I think I’m gonna retire from the interviewing business tonight.
MM: Well, okay, but you threw shade on her for the Elizabeth Warren comment from last year. So I’m just, I’m just wanting to, I want to challenge you.
IO: Michael has my back.
MH: Oh yeah, I’ve never had your back.
MM: Yes. I just want to challenge you on the way you posed the question because you posed it the way the corporate mainstream media poses that question.
MH: I don’t agree because I’m actually probably to the left of both of you. I’m from the UK. American left is nothing. Let’s be clear about that. I would nationalize all the industries in this country in a second. That’s not the point. The point is you have to live in the real world. And I’m saying the reality is a lot of Americans don’t like socialism or socialists. I’m not defending that as Sean Hannity does. I’m saying that’s just a reality.
MM: But as you pointed out, 47% said they would vote for a socialist and actually, the number amongst 18 to 35 year olds is much higher. But that again, quoting those statistics, there was similar poll a couple months ago that showed that the — What’s the portable, the Roomba? The Zumba? What’s the thing that vacuums your —?
MM: No but if you had your choice of voting for a Roomba or a Muslim that beat Muslims. So it’s a Roomba, muslims, socialists.
MH: So now the Republicans need to know what to put up in Ilhan’s district next year.
MM: I’m just saying.
IO: But I think also a huge point we’re missing is that if you say “I live in the real world, and polls prove what the real world looks like,” I wouldn’t be here, right? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wouldn’t get elected. None of the people that are shaking up Washington would exist.
MH: And very quickly, I’m just going to ask our audience here because I’m guessing it’s a largely progressive audience, although Trump supporters, if you’re here, welcome. It’s a safe space. Quick poll of the audience. It’s a podcast, so make some noise. If you want to see Bernie Sanders as the next Democratic presidential nominee.
MH: If you want to see Elizabeth Warren as the next nominee of the Democratic Party, make some noise.
[Crowd cheers, slightly quieter]
MH: Marianne Williamson.
MH: No, nobody? Okay, Joe Biden.
[one person claps]
MH: One guy, Joe Biden’s got one guy at the Deconstructed podcast. I love it. Very quickly before we move on just on the Democratic race, Michael, talking of throwing shade. You said in August that any of the Democrat candidates, the leading candidates could beat Donald Trump, but none of them could crush him. The person who could crush him was Michelle Obama. Do you still want Michelle Obama to run for president?
MM: Well, I want to crush him.
MH: Would you like her to crush him or Bernie Sanders to crush him?
MM: When the polls are showing that Biden can beat him. Buttigieg can beat him. Kamala Harris can beat him. Then I’m like, okay, that’s right because Hillary beat him. Hillary beat him, okay. So obviously beating him as long as we still have the Electoral College —
MH: So then why Michelle?
MM: Because she’s beloved across this country. I’ve watched her book tour on C-Span. She’s out in Iowa. Ten to fifteen thousand people are showing up. They’ve had the move her from bookstores to arenas.
MH: She’s not going to fix the economic system that you want fixed that you just said in the same way that Bernie Sanders will.
MM: Yeah because I don’t have a litmus test that you have to follow along with everything I believe in. I also believe she has a heart and I don’t think that she’d ever make a decision to hurt people, to hurt children, to hurt those who are without, to hurt the other. And would she win like that? Of course. Would Oprah win like that? Of course. I believe Tom Hanks would win.
MH: You’ve pitched Oprah and Tom Hanks in the past.
MM: I have twice met with Tom Hanks to convince him to run. I said it’s illegal in America to hate Tom Hanks.
MH: You can hate his movies, just not him.
MM: No, all his movies are great, but I think yes, everybody I think pretty much agrees that job one is to remove him. Hopefully the House and the Senate will do that.
MH: But just to be clear, you’re happy with Bernie as your choice right now? You’re not still waiting for Michelle Obama to enter the race?
MM: Yes, I know she’s not going to run.
MH: She hates politics, apparently.
MM: Yeah, of course. No, Bernie will crush him. Bernie will — I’m telling you, the heart attack, the only heart attack we need to worry about is the one Wall Street’s going to have when he’s inaugurated as President of the United States.
MH: So, okay, so let’s talk about defeating Trump and resisting Trump. Before we get to the election, obviously, there’s this impeachment hearing finally happening in Ilhan’s institution in the House of Representatives. It’s focused on Ukraine. Is it going to bring Donald Trump down? Because in an interview earlier this month, Michael, you were asked if Trump was going to win in 2020 and you said, “if you’d asked me that question two weeks ago, I would have said yes, if the election were today. Now after he’s so brazenly committed what I think is an act of treason so publicly and admitted it, I don’t even know if he’ll be on the ballot at this point.” Do you really think he’s going to be removed from office?
MM: I said that before yesterday. Yesterday was our Alexander Butterfield moment. And if you’re not old enough to remember, he’s the one who sat there in that House Committee, the Watergate committee and said, “Well, Mr. Nixon had me set up a recording system to record every conversation in the Oval Office.” At that moment, boom, done.
MH: Boom, done because the Republicans at that moment had principles. Today Senate Republicans are not going to vote for —
MM: No they didn’t.
MH: Well, more than today’s Senate Republicans.
MM: Well, what does that mean “more than”? They supported the Vietnam War. Nine boys who went to high school with me came back in a box.
MH: That’s not what I meant. You know what I meant. I meant that they didn’t line up behind Nixon in the way that this party lines up behind Trump.
MM: Yes, Mussolini is better than Hitler. What does that mean?
MH: That wasn’t my question. My question was — I’m confused. I love Hitler references.
MH: I’m talking about the Republicans in the Senate. Do you believe they’re gonna vote to convict Trump? I don’t see it. These people have no principles.
MM: Okay, I can tell you how I think it could happen.
MH: Please tell us. That’s what you’re here for.
MM: Okay. Listen, you shouldn’t necessarily listen to what I’m saying here. I’m just —
MH: Trust me, we want to. We want to, please.
IO: After today, this is what I needed.
MM: I know. But I’ve learned to live a life where — I mean, I win the Oscar and 30 seconds later, I’m booed off the stage, because it’s the fourth night of the Iraq war. And I just say on the stage, you know, they’re not going to find any weapons of mass destruction. We’ve been taken to war on a lie. And I’m not a weapons inspector. I didn’t know if they were going to find them or not. I just had a hunch. And so, I have to deal with the repercussions of saying Trump’s gonna win. And he’s going to win by winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
MH: And you were right.
MM: Yeah, when I said it, and I said it on Bill Maher I was booed, you know, by the audience of liberals. So, I preface to say what I’m going to say here is that there are 53 Republican senators. For the vote to happen, of course, every Democrat would have to vote to convict, and then you got to convince 20 of the 53, 20 of the 53, not the majority of the 53, but 20 of them. And Mitt Romney will lead one faction of the moralists who have had enough. The people that truly believe in their religion, and right and wrong, and they are going to desert Donald Trump. They’ve been wanting to do this for some time. The other 10 are the ones who are going to be scared shitless for their own hide because they’re going to be thrown out of office. Because of the states as they’re changing —
MH: The Susan Collins’s of this world.
MM: The country is changing. We now have three states that are not white, three non-white states, Hawaii, New Mexico and? Texas is 57% not white. Last month, in September was the eighth year in a row that the majority of six-year-olds, first graders went into school and the majority of them were not white. That’s eight years in a row now. In the 2040s, this will be a white minority country. So those who get that and in those states that are flipping now. They’re switching, Arizona, probably Georgia. It could be Texas if there wasn’t voter suppression. But this is all happening and the ones who are smart, the Republicans who are smart, are going to see the writing on the wall and do the right thing, and be on the right side of history. The crazies that went into Congress today —
MH: I hope and pray you’re right. Although I would note that you added the context of Republicans who are smart which, small, you know, narrows the pool.
MM: Smart in the sense that they have enough self interest.
MH: Self interest. Do you agree with that, Ilhan? Do you think there’s a Senate conviction, possibly around the corner?
IO: I hope there is. I hope there is. What we’re trying to do in the House is do the work for them in trying to convince the public and we hope that there are enough people paying attention to pressure them to do the right thing. I mean, most of these people, if they are not driven by conviction, they are driven by their need to keep their seat. And if we have public sentiment turning, as it is now, towards impeachment. We hope that they will, they will as well. We have on the record that there are 33 Senate Republicans who if it wasn’t public would.
MH: That’s when Jeff Flake, the former Senate Republican said yes.
IO: So we hope that they will have enough courage to take it publicly.
MH: In the House, the impeachment Inquiry that’s going on is focused very much on Ukraine. There’s been reports that the House leadership, Nancy Pelosi and Co. want to keep it focused on Ukraine. They think it’s clear. It’s clean. You can get it all done and dusted before Christmas. There’s another school of thought that says actually, you need to go big. This is the most corrupt, criminal, reckless president in modern American history, if not in all of American history. Don’t let him get away with kids in cages at the border, Emoluments Clause, corruption, threats to the press. I interviewed Beto O’Rourke on the show a few weeks ago, and he said that if the House doesn’t impeach him on everything that he’s done wrong, then he can go into an election next year saying, “Well, I didn’t do anything wrong. They only impeached me on Ukraine.” Do you agree with that view that the House should go big or stick to just Ukraine because it’s clearer?
IO: A part of me agrees with the fact that we should go big. But realistically, this is our best option. It is clean and clear. We have an opportunity to show the American people what we are impeaching him on. And I think it is going to move through the process in a timely manner. I mean, there’s like lists of reasons why this president should be impeached. I printed them out. I think there is like hundreds of impeachable offenses that he has committed since January 20th of 2017.
MH: Aren’t you worried that they’re giving him a pass?
IO: We can go through all of these things —
MH: Isn’t there a worry that they’re giving him a pass?
IO: And do the process, right? But if you think, Al Capone got convicted of tax evasion. That doesn’t mean that none of us knew of all the other crimes that he committed and why he deserves to be in prison. And so I’m confident that we will impeach this president on this particular account in Ukraine. But the American people are going to know every other reason he deserved to be impeached.
MH: I love the fact that tonight we’ve already had references to Hitler, Mussolini and Al Capone, just in context of talking about Trump and the republican party.
IO: A lot of those shoes fit into what this president represents for most of us.
MH: Michael, a lot of liberals and people on the left when you say impeach Trump, not a lot, but there’s a faction of people I hear over the last couple of years, but impeaching Trump, if he was to be convicted, you get President Mike Pence, who’s worse in many ways, the idealogue. Do you share that view?
MM: Pence is caught up in the Ukraine crime, and Pence will go too.
MH: Oh wow, so you’re calling for President Pelosi?
MM: Pence and Trump — Well.
MH: That’s what happens next, right?
MM: Well, yes. I mean, remember Agnew went before Nixon. Agnew was Nixon’s vice president, but that was about a year before the Watergate impeachment boat. So, there may not be enough time. But what the Constitution says has to happen is Pence becomes a president and then, you know, the next in line is Nancy Pelosi. But he may go with Trump. I think this will probably end up in the courts or at least, at the Supreme Court.
MH: I’m with, Ilhan, this is what I needed to hear today after a very long day.
MM: But that makes it also possible that we really don’t know who or what’s going to be on the ballot next year. I mean, we may be running a contest against Mitt Romney. Bloomberg may decide to go back to being a Republican. I mean, this could go any of a number of ways.
MH: Just if it goes the way of Trump being impeached, I want to get a sense of the room here. How you stand on a Trump versus a Pence presidency, I’m just fascinated by a crowd of liberal leftists. Who would prefer a Trump presidency, would rather he stay and not be impeached and not get Pence? Make some noise. Who would prefer a Pence presidency to a Trump presidency? Make some noise. I just wanted to get a room of lefties to cheer Mike Pence.
MM: You were being set up. But can I say something about this, about this point? Is that here’s actually what is better about Pence over Trump. Pence has an ideology. Pence believes in things. Trump has no ideology. He only believes in Donald J. Trump.
MH: Pence is also stable. Pence is also mentally stable. So I’d take Pence over —
MM: Liberals, they’re afraid of Pence or Pence could win because liberals are just frightened people.
MH: Got the charisma of a cardboard box.
MM: Well, not only that, don’t be afraid of the Pence or anybody like him, that we can’t beat him.
MH: Did you just give him a nickname, the Pence? The Pence is here.
MM: Well, New York City created a nickname for Trump called the Donald because they thought he was entertainment. They should have taken him down 40 years ago. He never would have lasted in Detroit. The fact that New Yorkers unleashed him upon us and didn’t do their job. I want to make a film just about that. I want to go around asking New Yorkers, what the fuck were you doing?
MH: Hold on, hold on. Hold on.
IO: And then you gotta go around America ask them the same question.
MH: Serious question though. You say New Yorkers helped give us Trump, right? You’re a New Yorker.
MM: No, I’m not. I’m from Michigan. I live in Michigan. I vote in Michigan.
MH: Sorry, you live in New York now. You made your most recent movie in which you were actually quite self critical in a way. You basically showed us clips of you and Trump on Roseanne Barr’s show. You showed us you and Jared Kushner at the Sicko party for your movie.
MM: I’m giving Jared a shoulder rub.
MH: Indeed and you’re almost telling the viewer that you got it wrong too. You were a part of that. Understandably, people think he’s just a joke like Obama thought at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Did we all get it wrong? We all just thought he was a joke until he wasn’t?
MM: No, first of all, here’s what’s interesting about Trump. So I was asked by Roseanne, she had an afternoon show after the Roseanne Show was over. And she asked me to come on, and he happened to be one of the guests on the show. The way he tells the story, I have a clip from Fox News. He said he and I had been out to dinner two or three times, Trump and me. I’ve never had dinner with the guy. It’s just the level of lying with him is so amazing. To him, just that he met me at Tavern on the Green on the Roseanne Show is the same as having dinner with me twice. And the thing with Jared Kushner is what’s so funny about that is that was a movie of mine that was released by The Weinstein Company. All right, so Jared owned the New York Observer. He put up the money — nobody told me this — he put up the money for the big premiere at the Ziegfeld in New York
MH: For Sicko.
MM: And who got him to do that? Harvey Weinstein. And so we’re at the party afterwards and Harvey comes up to me, he goes, “Jared’s a little upset you’re not giving him any attention because he paid for this whole thing.” I said, “he paid for this whole thing?” “Yeah, just go give him some attention.” And so, you know, alright, so I walk. I’m Michael Moore. I made the movie. Oh, so happy to see you. And I’m like, okay, and, you know, it’s a longer and funnier story that I’ll put in a movie someday.
MH: But just on the question, do you think we didn’t take him seriously enough? You yourself did you take him seriously?
MM: No, I took them. I didn’t understand. When I did get an apartment in New York and I started working in New York, I didn’t understand why this town saw him as entertainment when he such a cruel person to his employees to the —
MH: He had done the full page ad on the Central Park Five.
MM: The whole thing was just so awful. So how did he get away with it for that long?
MH: And not just how did you get away with it, how does he continue to get away with it? Ilhan, we’re talking about impeachment, he can’t handle it. I remember Nancy Pelosi saying, “Oh, he’s goading us into impeachment,” which is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard her say, because he’s clearly having a meltdown now that he’s being impeached. The tweet this week, where he compared his impeachment or impeachment inquiry to a lynching. What was your response when you saw that?
IO: We have a president who — it’s been hard to call him a president — who understands I think the way in which his words incite particular people to act in ways that are not in line with the values that we have. And he constantly feeds them. He sends them messages and my response to the press when they first asked me — They told me about it. I didn’t see the tweet. — was that he’s the chief in command of white supremacists in this country and I believe he’s constantly feeding them. And that’s why I think he’s using that word lynching because it’s a way to excite them.
MH: It’s without a doubt the most offensive thing he’s probably said, the last offensive thing he said, which is regularly but I think it’s the most offensive thing I’ve heard him say since the summer when he did his whole “Send her back” chant at the rally and the tweets about the four of you to go back to where you came from. When you came on the podcast a year ago we called that episode “Is Ilhan Omar Donald Trump’s worst nightmare?” Which we thought was a fun title. Little did I think we realize how apt that title would be. Did you ever think that you would get under his skin in that way? And not just his skin, you’ve become a fixture in the psyche of the far-right in this country. They’re obsessed with everything that you say, you do. Everywhere you go, whatever positions you take, it becomes a headline on Fox News, image on Breitbart. How do you deal with that on a daily basis?
IO: I don’t really care. I mean, the Breitbart thing is actually funny because, you know, my comms director, and I often joke that they actually cover the policies that I am putting forth the most. They think it’s bad, but you know, like —
MH: She wants to give everyone healthcare and free lunches!
IO: They give the best advertisement really. I could run ads off of them. Their headlines and it’s so perfect because my constituents get to read about it because no other paper really is writing about —
MH: Headline from tonight’s show: Ilhan Omar endorses Breitbart News!
IO: They’re not writing about my debt cancellation, Breitbart is and I appreciate them for doing that. I just wish people that they were a reputable news outlet so that I could share it.
MH: Indeed and look, I think the best way to deal with these people often is humor. And I think also people here, I think it’s fair for me to speak for people in this room and for people at home, many people admire your boldness on this and your stoicism in the face of this stuff. But at the end of the day, it’s also a very serious issue in the sense that people have been arrested who are trying to kill you. Just this week, North Dakota state’s Republican senator put out a fake image of you at Al Qaeda training camp.
IO: As an adult, four years before I was born.
MH: Indeed in Somalia in 1978 and you pointed out in a tweet in response, you said that this is stirring up hate and violence. You said, you know, Facebook are not doing anything about this. I mean, I want to ask you two linked questions has Donald Trump put a target on your back? And has Mark Zuckerberg helped people put a target on your back?
IO: Yes and yes. Ambassador Rice said something recently about a conversation she had with a Fox producer, Fox News Channel producer. And she said he told her that they get their viewers by finding someone to make a villain out of and that is something that they have perfected. And what Trump does and what the GOP is doing is making me into their villain. And we have really seriously deranged people in this country who —
MH: With lots of guns.
IO: Yes, but will send their threats with the exact words that the president uses to describe me, that folks on Fox News use to describe me. And, you know, my trolls repeat the same talking points that the president does. And when people say, you know, the president is not doing that. No, he’s clearly doing that. He clearly is trying to make sure I no longer exist or have an ability to speak or do the work that I do.
MH: And just very briefly, Zuckerberg is not doing enough to stop that.
IO: No, absolutely not. We have done everything that we can to engage them in a conversation about how they’re putting my life in danger and lives of people —
MH: I think he’s a bit busy having dinner with Tucker Carlson, maybe.
IO: I mean my life and the lives of people who share my identities right when they describe me as a terrorist, every single Somali girl or Muslim girl that’s walking down the street that resembles me, her life is also in danger. And you know, it’s bigger than that, right? Because for me, I’m not afraid. I know that I am only here because God had a plan for me. I would have died, you know, when I was eight, living through war, but I made it here because there is still things for me to do. And I know that I will be here as long as God has that plan for me. But what I am afraid of is what the messages that they’re putting out there could mean for every young girl who looks like me.
MH: Michael, Ilhan mentioned that Trump is the commander in chief of the white nationalists and the far-right. He’s emboldened them. When you and I spoke before the 2016 election, I remember we had a kind of back and forth about Trump voters and what motivates them and you very eloquently made the point about what’s happening in the Rust Belt, people being alienated, jobs being outsourced, people being angry. And I remember I was talking about racial resentment and fear of non-white people and racism. And there’s been this debate amongst academics, journalists over the last few years, is it racial resentment? Is it economic anxiety? Seeing what you’ve seen over the last few years with the “Send her back” rallies and the white nationalists at Charlottesville, have you switched it all on that position? Do you now think actually, the racist part of his base is a bigger part than the economically anxious base?
MM: I’ve always said that. Bowling for Columbine is not a movie about guns. It’s a movie about race. The racial fears of white people who have purchased all these guns. The mass shootings don’t take place in our urban areas. They take place in the suburbs and in rural areas, mostly by white boys, rarely if ever by a girl and we don’t talk about that. What I’ve tried to explain is that I’m sick and tired of the media talking about the working class as being some, you know, angry white guy from suburban Detroit, lunch bucket Joe. That’s not the working class. The majority of the working class are women. The majority of the working class or people of color. The majority of the working class are young people. They’re paid the least amount of money. When you hear the words working class, all of us need to stop thinking about this Trump demographic of the angry white guy over 50 with just a high school education, in other words, me.
And, when you hear the words working class, you need to immediately in your head have the image of a 30-year-old Black woman. That’s the working class. And that’s the majority of this country now. Next year, 70% of the people eligible to vote in this election will either be women, people of color or young people between the ages of 18 and 35, or a combination of the three. That’s 70% of the electorate. No time should be wasted trying to convince angry lunch bucket Joe to come over and vote for Bernie or Elizabeth Warren or whatever. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about him. We care about him to the extent that now he’s gone from lunch bucket Joe to opioid Joe. And unlike when it was crack, a different race, that was a crack epidemic, you know, but when it’s opioids for white people, it’s a health crisis that we have to fix.
MH: We talked earlier in the show about Michelle Obama running for president, outside the box candidates running for president. A lot of people want to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — she’s too young, of course — run for president at some stage. You, of course —
IO: That would be an endorsement I’d like to make.
MH: You, of course, can’t run for president because of the natural born citizen requirement.
IO: I would never want to run for president.
MH: That’s not what I was going to ask. If that was to be amended, would you like Arnold Schwarzenegger make your own run for President of the United States one day?
IO: Absolutely not.
IO: I have no interest in being in executive office of any kind. I would never run for mayor, governor, or —
IO: I like to be able to create trouble. And I don’t think you can do that when you’re the executive. That’s something somebody should tell Trump.
MH: Have you seen the current chief executive?
IO: That really is not the model.
MH: It’s not the model. But just on a serious point, okay. You don’t want to run for president legally in the Constitution, you can’t run for president. But just for people listening at home, you mentioned earlier, you know, young Somali women who bear the brunt of Trump’s racism and threats, not just you but others. The people who look like you, sound like you, have similar backgrounds to you how long till someone like that is in the Oval Office, do you think?
IO: I mean, we have not had a woman as president and I think —
MH: Let alone a woman of color or a Muslim woman.
IO: I think it is still really hard for a lot of people to envision our country being run by a woman. People have a hard time respecting and believing in the leadership of our speaker because she’s a woman. And so I know how difficult it was for the man who was presumed to be Muslim to be in the White House, so I can’t really imagine a hijabi getting elected to be our president. I think for as much as we’ve made progress in this country, many of the people in this country have not fully accepted.
MH: Socialist, yes. Hijabi, no.
IO: Well, we’re hoping socialist, yes. And we can dream about the hijabi someday. My little one certainly wants to run for president. Rashida told her that you could be in Congress and Ilwad my youngest said no, no, I want to be president. I want to be the person who runs this. And so she has aspirations of being in executive office.
MH: Fantastic, okay, good to hear. Politicians, I interview a lot of politicians. And I ask as tough questions as I can, and often they dodge the questions, or they give politicians’ answers, non-answers. So just tonight before we finish, Ilhan, I wanted to specifically ask you, if you would join me in a quick rapid fire round, where you just have to give one answer spontaneously without thinking about the politics of it. And just say whatever comes into your mind, the first thing that comes into your head.
IO: Let me read a prayer first.
MH: It’s very straightforward. Just a few. Here we go. Batman or Superman? You gotta be gotta be quicker.
MH: Batman or Superman.
MH: Okay, here we go, quicker. Batman or Superman?
MH: Don Jr. or Eric?
MH: Hillary or Tulsi?
MH: That is the right answer. That is the right answer. Popeye’s chicken sandwich or Chick-Fil-A’s?
IO: Popeye’s chicken sandwich.
MH: Crowd’s got strong views here.
IO: They don’t have a drive through. That’s the only problem.
MH: Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg?
MH: No, if you had to pick one. If you had to pick one. I’m not letting this go. If one of them is the candidate for your party, who would you rather be?
IO: Oh, you didn’t say that.
MH: I’m rephrasing. I’m pausing the rapid fire to explain. Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg as the nominee?
IO: So you’re saying if something tragic happened.
MH: I’m not saying anything. I’m saying if you had to pick.
IO: And they ended up being the nominee.
MH: Yes, one of those two is the nominee. Only two left in the race.
IO: I went to Michigan and Ohio to stump for Hillary so I am going to be completely fine in doing that. Because I believe —
MH: So, which one of them? This is called medium fire.
IO: I don’t know. It’s hard.
MH: Just say whatever comes into your head.
IO: None comes to my head.
MH: Okay. Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham? If you want context, “who’s worse?” is my question.
IO: Why are you doing this?
MH: Who’s worse? That’s the question. Who’s worse? Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham?
IO: You said honest answers. You didn’t say torturing answers. False advertisement. I don’t know, it’s hard to choose between people you have no respect for.
MH: Okay, up until yesterday, I’d have said McConnell, but after yesterday and the lynching, Lindsey Graham. Socialism or liberalism? I don’t know why I called this rapid fire round. Socialism or liberalism? Whatever comes into your head.
MH: Brexit or Trump? What’s better? What’s worse? You choose.
MH: Okay, is that Brexit’s worse or Brexit’s better? I think Brexit’s worse because it’s for life. At least you can get rid of Trump.
MH: That’s why I think Brexit’s worse.
IO: I was just saying it’s easier to bear the burden of it.
MH: Facebook or Twitter?
IO: Twitter. I have no Facebook.
MH: Kim or Kanye?
IO: Kim Kardashian, you mean?
MH: That’s normally what we mean.
IO: Kim Kardashian. Okay, yes, yes Kim, Kim.
MH: And last but not least, Ellen DeGeneres or George W. Bush? You pick. Some people like his painting.
MH: What is your message to people listening to this both here in the hall at GW and around the country and in the world who want to do something to stand up to the Trumpification of politics, to the rise of the far right and these “populists,” but are exhausted, beaten down by the daily craziness, the daily hate, how do you get them to stay energized, stay hopeful, stay inspired?
MM: Well, in the words of Mick Mulvaney, I’d say get over it. There’s no, this is not the time to be exhausted. We are all in the French resistance. You know, you don’t get to say jeez, I’d like to come and help out at the demonstration but I gotta, I gotta take the kids to soccer. No, from now till next November the kids can walk to soccer. All right, you know, I mean, nobody in the French resistance ever said jeez, I’d like to go help you blow up that Nazi bridge but I got couples therapy at four. No, no get along with your spouse or whoever you’re with for the next year. Focus all your attention on not just getting rid of Trump but getting rid of that which gave us Trump. The system that gave us Trump whether it’s the electoral system, whether it’s the economic system. This is what we have to focus on. We all have to pull together. It’s not about whether you’re for Warren or Sanders or Buttigieg or —
MH: Marianne Williamson.
MM: God bless her. Everybody needs a little zen in their life.
MM: No, not hope. I’m against hope.
MH: Last minute of the show, a curveball from Michael Moore. I’m against hope.
MM: I know this is where people like listening to this on the podcast are like “No!!” Hope is dead. Stop hoping. Do what Great, the 16-year-old from Sweden. You know what she says? She says I’m sick of all you adults telling me to hope. I want action. No more sitting around hoping we all have to act. We have to act now. And if I will leave people with one thing who are listening to this in their buds or the people who are in the audience. The good news is that the majority of Americans in 2019 have come to us. I never thought I’d live to see this in my lifetime where all the things that Bernie started fighting for back in the 60s. He was a crazy man for saying you should be able to marry the person you’re in love with regardless of what gender that person is. You know, that climate change is real. All the issues the American people, in all the polls support us. Mass Incarceration, death penalty.
MH: Universal health care.
MM: Minimum wage. Go down the list. They believe in what Ilhan believes. They believe in what I believe. They believe in what you believe. Quit feeling like “Oh, what are we going to do?” We’re the majority. We’re the country. We have to do the work now in these next 12 months to actualize the things that we’ve already — Geez, I mean, think about this Martin Luther King and the early feminists, they had to work so hard to get people. They had to convince people that Black people were equal, that women were equal. And I know the young people say, what do you mean they had to convince people? No, seriously, like 20% of the country supported the feminist movement, 15% supported the Civil Rights Movement. That was such a climb up a hill to get people to change their minds. We don’t have to convince anybody of anything. They believe there’s climate change, they believe $7.25 an hour is wrong.
MH: So, it’s action now.
MM: It’s action and it’s the belief in yourself and the people with you that you can make this happen. We will make this happen. Don’t hope for it. Act on it.
MH: That’s the stump speech you could have got if Michael Moore had run for president as he once suggested. He might have. Ilhan, last word what is your advice to people who want to know how do we resist this bigotry, this populism, this nonstop gaslighting?
IO: Do everything Michael just said. No more couples therapy or taking your kids to soccer practice. No, I mean, we are doing it. You know, people are actively engaging with our democracy. People are voting in higher numbers than they were before especially in my state of Minnesota. People are donating to candidates that people didn’t before, believe they could win and were worthy of their funds. People are actually demanding and not asking people are not just being hopeful and are not just wishing They are actively fighting for the things that they care about. There are young children, you know my daughter is one of them, who does not believe that she has to wait for others to act on her behalf. That it is, you know, her turn to do that herself. I think it is important for us to realize that we are here today because we have been complacent in a system that did not work for us. And as long as we are no longer willing to be complacent, we’re going to have the America we deserve.
MH: On that note, Ilhan Omar, Michael Moore, give them a big round of applause. Thank you for joining us on the Deconstructed live show.
MH: And that’s our show! Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. 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 theintercept.com/deconstructed 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 Podcasts@theintercept.com. Thanks so much, see you next week.