The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Martin O'Malley

Published: Sat 19 Aug 2017 01:01 PM
On The Nation: Patrick Gower interviews Martin O'Malley
Patrick Gower: OK, welcome back. Well, racism is well and truly back on the political agenda in the United States of America, with President Donald Trump roundly criticised this week for his lack of reaction to that attack at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Now, our next guest came third in the race to be the Democratic presidential candidate last year. Earlier this year, he was criticised for some comments that ended up looking like they linked Trump to the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Martin O'Malley joins me now.
Governor, you were criticised earlier this year for these comments that ended up comparing Donald Trump in some senses to the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. What do you make of that criticism now?
Martin O’Malley: Yeah, I believe it was— I forget the great statesman; maybe it was Edmund Burke who said, 'It's enough for the success of evil that good people fail to speak up and say anything.' So we must call it out for what it is. I think, in the hindsight of history, people realise that the vision that they saw — the reality that they saw on their television set — of people marching in torchlight parades in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the United States of America, was a scene that was more reminiscent of Kristallnacht than it is of Thomas Jefferson's Virginia. So, that didn't happen overnight. There was a drumbeat that many people ignored. It was an appeal to division and fear. And it met, in many cases, all of the markers of what fascism is — an appeal to a militant white nationalism, a celebration of an aggressive masculinity, a vilification of the Other, be they immigrants or people of colour or what have you. And we need to recover the true spirit of our nation and the goodness within; and I believe we will. But this is an extremely painful period for all of us in the United States.
And do you feel that President Trump has built that — to use your words — that drumbeat? Do you think he allowed that to happen, in terms of his actions and attitude going right back to the last president?
Oh, Paddy, he absolutely has. I mean, just in the recent hours he fired — finally, under pressure — a man named Stephen Bannon, who will likely go back to his great publication online, Breitbart, which respectable journalism all over the planet refers to as a platform for neo-Nazis, for anti-Semites and white supremacists. That was the first time, and probably the last time, we'll ever see a president of the United States appoint someone with that reputation and that ideological and racist belief system to be a chief adviser in our White House. So he's absolutely perpetuated this drumbeat. What many people saw as 'Make America great again' many others heard as 'Make America white again'. What some saw as hateful speech from Donald Trump, others heard as permission to act in violent ways. And we even saw him, in some of his rallies, the thinly veiled appeal to Second Amendment gun supporters to 'take care of Hillary Clinton', the encouragement of people at his rallies to rough up protesters. These are all the hallmarks of a sort of base and fascist politics that has no place in the prouder traditions of the United States of America.
So, you're saying what we saw in Charlottesville, which actually led to the death of an American, you're saying that was almost directly caused in some ways by this environment that President Trump has created — that he effectively incited this?
Yes, I sure am. And I think that most reasonable people would look at the events and see that this was the logical conclusion of giving cover and encouragement to people with that sort of hateful belief system.
Yeah. I mean, as you said earlier, you essentially compared him to Nazis, to the Ku Klux Klan themselves.
Well, in fairness—
Those are strong words.
Well, they are. And look at his failure to repudiate the violence of the Klan and neo-Nazis. You know, some of my friends— I mean, the actual quote was, I said that this was not a time to reconcile with people who spew hate. We should take as our inspiration Bonhoeffer, who never negotiated or looked for compromise or reconciliation with the Nazis; Bishop Romero, who never looked for reconciliation with the oligarchs of El Salvador; and we should look to Dr King, who never looked for reconciliation with the KKK. However, Dr King also said we just have to 'love the hell out of them' — people whose opinions you can't change. And I do believe that peaceful action, and I do believe that our institutions of law, including the Mueller investigation of Donald Trump and his campaign for colluding with the Russians illegally and in violation of American criminal statutes, will eventually allow us to return to the more moderate and forward-looking America that the rest of the world has come to appreciate and depend upon.
Yeah, I want to pick up on that. Because, you know, out here, we look at what the United States calls its 'checks and balances'. Now, are there going to be, or are there the checks and balances in the American system to stop Donald Trump if it's needed to stop his presidency? Because remember, we're not even one year into it yet.
Well, that remains to be seen. None of us has a crystal ball. Very few of us would predict what we've done to ourselves as a nation, with his election. But I do believe the special prosecutor, the two grand juries empanelled in Northern Virginia and also in Washington, DC, and the team that former FBI director Mueller now heads as special counsel will have a... they have an opportunity-rich environment, shall we say, to trace undisclosed sources of cash and collusion and other things. And I think that ultimately our public institutions will prove strong. I mean, I guess, looking at the glass half full or half empty, we've been in existence for 250 years and this is the first time we've elected a man like this. So great people aren't great because they're imperfect — sometimes they make mistakes. But great republics correct those mistakes. And the other bulwark, really, is, if you look at cities all across the United States, there are actually really positive and good things happening. Public trust is actually increasing, quality of life. This whole new way of governing that I came here to New Zealand to talk about, thanks to Eagle Technologies and a user conference. The way you all recovered in Wellington and in other places after earthquake tremors — it's the ability to take technology, as a democracy, and actually deliver better results. I mean, ultimately the sort of appeal that someone like Donald Trump has, it's only because people give up and throw in the towel on their own democracy.
Yeah, so, in terms of that, if there are these good things happening, how do you stop what is essentially a block to it, which is the President of the United States? Can you see a scenario where Donald Trump doesn't make the full term? Is that realistic to you?
Sure, I think it's very realistic. I mean, just watching it lately, the whole thing has kind of turned to custard, hasn't it? I mean, the number of people that have resigned at top positions, and the business community and business leaders who withdrew from business advisory groups because of how ashamed they were—
And the number of Republicans that we've seen — Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz — the level of opposition from the Republicans is higher than ever before. But what is the realistic way, in your view, to get Donald Trump out of there before that full term is served?
Well, I think these various criminal investigations will move, and are moving probably very fast. And probably faster than most of us have seen, given our grand jury process and those proceedings being secret. In fact, those grand juries had been empanelled for several weeks before news leaked out that they were even empanelled.
So you think we could see an impeachment?
Oh, I think you'll... Before you seen an impeachment, I think you'll see criminal indictments. And... You know, I think there's a lot of Republicans of good will in the Republican Party who would much rather head into the midterms with a President Pence at the top of their ticket than Donald Trump.
Well, then, how ready — you're a Democrat — how ready do the Democrats need to be to mount some sort of challenge, mount another presidential campaign?
Yeah, this is the great challenge, isn't it? As a party, we have to do a much better job of bringing every question back to the economy hope and the economic anxieties that so many Americans who voted for Donald Trump — and others — experience every day. As a nation, we used to make sure that when you worked harder, you earned more, that wages went up, that we could, in every generation, give our kids opportunities for fuller lives with more security, more well-being. And in a lot of places, and around a lot of homes in America—
Are the Democrats ready to get that message out if you need to — if there's a challenge before 2020?
I think we're going to have a very robust and contested primary; there will probably be 20 people running. And out of that primary, I believe a much more crystallised and focused message on making pay go up, wages go up, opportunity for all, is what we need to articulate as a party. And we also need to nominate a candidate who was the credibility to speak to that.
And we're coming to a very sort of personal element of that, Governor. I mean, will you be putting your name forward to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 or before?
Yeah, I just might. And I haven't made that decision yet. I mean, I gave it my very best, Paddy, tried to open a better lane for our country. But between the relationships and the respect that Hillary Clinton had within the party establishment, and the very angry and long-burning flame that Bernie Sanders was able to light, I couldn't open a better lane. But things change, and things change quickly. And in politics, many times it's all about timing. And I've usually—
The time might be right for you now.
Yeah, it's hard to say. I think a lot of events will transpire in the course of the next year. I certainly believe that things we stood for — opportunity for all and the actions to make wages go up — are still relevant today.
All right, that's a good place to leave it. And I know you weren't going to announce it in New Zealand.
Hey, thanks a lot.
Thank you so much, Governor.
Good being with you.
Transcript provided by Able.

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