As Donald Trump moves into the West Wing and the GOP takes control of Congress, what will become of California’s environmental trailblazing?
Christine Pelosi, Superdelegate for Democratic Party; Political Strategist
Duf Sundheim, 2016 Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate
Tony Strickland, Former California State Senator; California Chairman, The Committee for American Sovereignty
Tony Thurmond, California State Assemblymember (D-15)
This program was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club of California on December 1, 2016.
Speakers at this Event
Greg Dalton: From the Commonwealth Club of California, this is Climate One, leading the conversation about America's energy, economy and environment. I'm Greg Dalton. In the election, Hillary Clinton carried Orange County, long the hotbed of conservatism in California and where Richard Nixon went to retire. California is now bluer than ever. Republicans don't hold any statewide offices. But the country's biggest and bluest state is on a collision course with the emerging administration of Donald Trump on immigration, trade, the Supreme Court, social issues and fossil fuels. California and Trump Tower are on different planets. On the show today, we’ll explore how President Trump will get along with California, which is long shaped international culture and technology, as a bastion of progressive coastal politics. Can Republicans and Democrats find common cause around California roads that are used to truck toys made in China that are then slipped under Christmas trees around the country? Can Republicans and Democrats find common cause around California's water system that nourishes food that lands on kitchen tables even in the heartland? Can Republicans and Democrats agree on anything else at all in the wake of an exceedingly nasty campaign fueled by anger, hate and racism?
Joining our live audience at the Commonwealth Club today, we’re pleased to have with us two Republicans and two Democrats. Christine Pelosi is a member of the Democratic National Committee and a superdelegate. Her mother, Nancy Pelosi has led the House Democratic Caucus for 14 years. Tony Strickland is the California Chair of a Pro-Trump Super PAC, The Committee for American Sovereignty. He served 10 years in the California State Legislature and he’s close to both Mitt Romney and Kevin McCarthy the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives. Duf Sundheim is former chair of the California Republican Party and a former member of the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee. Earlier this year, he ran for an open seat in the United States Senate in a race that ended with two Democrats duking it out under California's top two primary system. Tony Thurmond is a Democratic member of the California State Assembly from Richmond, a city along the San Francisco Bay. He previously served on the Richmond City Council. Please welcome them to Climate One at the Commonwealth Club.
Thank you all for being here. Duf Sundheim, I want to start around 2003 when an entertainer who had not ever held political office was elected governor of California. He came in and said he's going to blow up boxes. Lot of people were shaking their heads. And then the ironic twist, of course here is that he is the new celebrity apprentice. He’s taken Donald Trump’s old job. So what parallels do you see between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump?
Duf Sundheim: I think the main thing is that they are not ideological and they are not based on personalities. So what they're – in terms of who's around them. So their focus is going to be on getting things done. For Schwarzenegger, the comparison was the movie. Okay, there is a finished product that we get out there and that we sell. For Trump, it's the realization that there is a product that is built, real estate, a building is built. So I think what you'll see throughout this process, and you've seen within the first three weeks is it's about results. And he is putting on his team people that know how to get things done.
Greg Dalton: And that big ego and big personality, in the case of Schwarzenegger. He had some difficult relations with his own Republican Party. Some people thought he was a party of one and some people think Donald Trump is a party of one.
Duf Sundheim: That's right. I think the people that see him as an ideologue, is wrong. But they are going to be susceptible to pressures that other politicians would not. I remember one time where Schwarzenegger came up with a big proposal and his daughter opposed it and it got switched that weekend. So, you know, there are unusual factors that come into play as to how decisions are made.
Greg Dalton: People trying to read those Trump kids, right. Where are they and how could they get to daddy. Tony Strickland, is California on a collision course with the Trump administration?
Tony Strickland: No, and in fact, quite the opposite. I think you have leaders in the Republican House Kevin McCarthy being the number two, the majority leader. Jeff Denham is in mind to be the transportation infrastructure chair which Donald Trump has now said that there's ways on common ground on some issues and some issues there’s disagreements. That's what happens in the legislative body. But I think Donald Trump's investment in infrastructure I think is going to be very important. That hopefully on those issues that Republicans and Democrats from California can come together in some of those issues to bring some of those dollars back here to California.
But we have, you know, Ed Royce is chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. So there’s many Californians that are in very important positions back in Washington. And Darrell Issa who just got across the finish line is extremely close to the new president. So I think that it is key that what we can do is work together hopefully as a delegation. Not different than Texas, I mean Texas sticks together a little bit more than we do here in California in terms of fighting for your state. And I think we should do that a little bit more here in the state of California.
Greg Dalton: Long tradition of Californians serving in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Ronald Reagan took lots of Californians, Condi Rice serving George W. Bush. Christine Pelosi, big fight recently in the Democratic caucus. Your mom run again but one-third of the supporters, one-third of Democrats said that they wanted someone else. Is it time for fresh new leadership in the Democratic caucus?
Christine Pelosi: I think there is fresh, new leadership in the Democratic Party. And you see that in the number of people that were appointed or nominated. Yes, my mother Nancy Pelosi won overwhelmingly which was terrific. She said they wanted you to win by two thirds, she won by 68%, she knows how to count. And, so I’ve never been against her ability to count and as one of five children, I know she can see through a head fake. So I take it from personal experience, she knows how to do that. And build coalitions, some of which are will necessarily be transpartisan and a lot of them come from younger members. Eric Swalwell from, close to your neighborhood Tony T, is a young member in his 30s came to Congress with $100,000 in debt. She put him in charge of the future forms so we could talk about that, that student loan debt, get out of the culture of shame and into the culture of talking about why it is that we have so much crippling student debt. And what that means to people's personal economies and deferred dreams.
So I think, you know, Eric is a strong example as do Cheryl Bustos, the bulldog from Illinois who’s now in the communications message team. And Matt Cartwright from Scranton, Pennsylvania, where perhaps we could have done a little bit more of campaigning last month. So you will see fresh, new leadership and a chorus of voices going out and reaching out to the American people.
Greg Dalton: But a lot of the brand name Democrats from Elizabeth Warren to Chuck Schumer, et cetera. They’re all in their 70s. Now, age discrimination is illegal in this country, but a lot of them are much more senior and there’s a question whether they are representing the millennials and the younger people. Is that fair?
Christine Pelosi: Well, I think that age is but a number. Look at Bernie Sanders. He’s 75 years old and he was the darling of the millennials and remains to be. So I think, look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg, people are wearing her notorious R.B.G. t-shirts and, you know, waving coffee mugs. So I think we have to be careful when we talk about, there’s a difference between being old and being stale. So the California Democratic Party, I used to be the executive director the senior caucus had used to have a slogan, “If you're lucky, you'll get old too.” So I think we have to be, I think we want to be mindful of bringing all of the voices together, particularly when the first order of business of the new administration is supposedly to repeal Obamacare, throw 20 million Americans of healthcare and voucherize Medicare, which will deeply affect seniors. So if we start to say we can only put young faces out there that may also say to America's seniors, we don't care about you. So I think you need to have a balance in age, a balance in ideology, a balance in race and gender and in every way so that you are a legitimate authentic national party.
Tony Thurmond: And experience too. Who more importantly to help us really beat back some of the awful things that we've heard from President-elect about, you know, repealing Obamacare that Ms. Pelosi, who has the experience, who knows how to move within the caucus. We should be focusing on her experience and her ability to help us push back where we can within the Congress.
Greg Dalton: So Tony Thurmond, you're in the state legislature in California. California has a Democratic governor, two-thirds control in both chambers, super majority. That means they can kind of do what they want. What are California Democrats going to do with that cherished power in Sacramento?
Tony Thurmond: Well, let’s just say I'm glad I'm in California, right, as we all are. On election night, it was just devastating for everyone. When they said that the website for people who wanted to move to Canada crashed, I was thinking that was probably just the people in California saying that. We have the ability to push back on, you know, if Trump decides to cut funding for Medi-Cal. We have the ability to shore that up through the budget. And having a two-thirds majority gives us the ability to do that. California has led the way in LGBT rights, protecting women's rights, immigration issues, education. And because of what's happened we’re going to have to continue to lead in all those areas in California. And having the two-thirds majority will give us the boats that we need to protect everything that we've done to work against climate change. What we’ve done with SB-350 to make sure that we move away from oil and use more renewables. We’re going to need that two-thirds majority to bolster what California can do and hopefully be a shining example for the rest of our nation.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, where do you see is the areas of agreement mentioned in the introduction, water, infrastructure, where can Republicans and Democrats agree in this new political landscape?
Duf Sundheim: Well, I think those are two of the major areas. But first of all, let me just correct one thing. Throwing 20 million people off of healthcare is not on the agenda, not what we’re trying to do.
Christine Pelosi: That’s what would happen if you repeal the affordable care act and then –
Duf Sundheim: And didn’t replace it with something else. I mean, but we have a system where we've increased the number of people in the state that are on Medi-Cal by 74%. And yet the quality of the healthcare that those people have been provided has not increased at all. So what I think what we’re trying to say is that look, it’s not about spending money, it's about the health of the people. It's not about access to insurance; it’s about access to quality healthcare.
Christine Pelosi: But you have to give them that. If you throw them off healthcare, they’re not going to have that that access.
Duf Sundheim: That’s what I’m saying, that there’s no plan to throw 20 million people off of healthcare. That you have to given any thought to myself, cannot affect the same answers no plan to throw 20 million people off of healthcare.
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland, in Donald Trump’s interview –
Tony Strickland: By the way, that was the question on how we get along.
Greg Dalton: That’s an example.
Tony Strickland: Just get right to it.
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland, on 60 Minutes, Donald Trump said he would keep two provisions of Obamacare. One is the, you know, the one that people with pre-existing conditions and allowing people to stay on their parent’s healthcare until 26. Repeal and replace has now been replaced with repeal and transition. So they’re walking aback a little bit. What is the path on Obamacare because it’s complicated; it’s going to take –
Tony Strickland: Well, it’ll take Democratic votes on the replacement side, there's no question. In the conference, you're never going to get all the Republicans to agree just like you don’t get the Democrats to agree 100% on certain issues within their conference. And so the repeal among the House and among the Senate is there. But it's the replacement side that quite frankly, if I was there, I would reach out to as many Democrats as possible to try to bring in a coalition to try to get something done on the replacement site.
Greg Dalton: Exactly with what, because this is a system that's for profit based on for-profit insurance companies. There's a mandate that people don't like. There’s two provisions.
Tony Strickland: Well, I’ll tell you there’s some Democrats that believe that "Obamacare doesn’t go far enough.” They wanted more of a government run –
Christine Pelosi: Single-payer.
Greg Dalton: Sure.
Tony Strickland: Single-payer system. Correct, yes. So there's different factions within even the Democratic Party on what that look like.
Greg Dalton: But that’s not happening. What’s the Republican plan?
Tony Strickland: The Republican plan right now is being drafted. I know Paul Ryan is going through a lot of that. And the new Health and Human Services appointment Mr. Price is, Congressman Price is going to be at the forefront.
They’re drafting that right now. So, but really there's no final product because quite frankly, you're not going to have 100% Republican support on the replacement side. And quite frankly, you know, the members of the house and the members of the Senate on the Republican majority side are going to have to reach out to Democrats to get some input. It might be some of the blue dog Democrats to bring them over to see what that final product looks like.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, is it possible that this would be just rebranded and that it would essentially under the hood. It would be basically the Affordable Care Act, but it would have some Republican ornaments around it. That it would have some of the main elements? Because the Republicans have had years to say what their alternative plan would be, they’ve repealed, voted to repeal Obamacare dozens of times in the House and yet they aren’t able yet to say what they’re going to replace it with because I think the replacement might be a lot like what they're replacing.
Duf Sundheim: Well, you know, the conference football college championships are this weekend. And you can turn on any sports show and you’ll get these prognostications as to what's going to happen this weekend, and nobody knows.
Greg Dalton: You don’t know.
Duf Sundheim: So we have a situation where we have a new head of Health and Human Services price that Tony mentioned who has his own plan that he has in writing. Now how much of that gets adopted by the administration, we don't know. And then like when we had Obama Care in the first place, there was a certain set of ideas that Daschle came up with and most of those ended up not being part of the legislation. So even though you may go in with an idea of where you're going to take the program, once you get into those hearings and as Tony mentioned, you get those votes, it's by design a process that will involve a lot of people. And Tony and I may end up agreeing with a lot of what's there and we may be arguing that some of the things need to be changed. But it’s going to be a healthy discussion and it's a top priority for this administration.
Tony Strickland: But isn't it dangerous to repeal something when you don't know what the plan is for what you're putting in place?
Duf Sundheim: Well, right. But nobody is saying that they're going to do that. I mean, if you – what President-elect Trump said on 60 Minutes is that we’re not going to just repeal it without something to go to. So that's what the baseline is, is that we’re going to have something in place all the time. You're not going to find 20 million people without any place to get healthcare.
Tony Strickland: There’ll be a legislation that is like a continuing resolution as we’re drafting this document to make sure that there's a smooth transition between the repeal and replace.
Greg Dalton: Christine Pelosi, on infrastructure that’s some place the unions would like a lot of those jobs, the investment, is infrastructure – we all know there's crumbling rib roads and bridges in this country, terrible third row infrastructure in some places, is that an area where Democrats and Republicans can agree?
Christine Pelosi: Well, let me take this to the issue of the American worker because a lot of people talked about whether there was or there wasn't an economic message that came out or that was heard through the clutter of the other elements of the campaign. Interestingly enough, I saw Hillary Clinton here in San Francisco and there was a crowd of 5000 people who gave her a standing ovation when she said we’re going to fix the electric grid. And I thought that’s because we’re in San Francisco, we’re going to give that a standing ovation. So yes there is absolutely a need for jobs and absolutely you need jobs and infrastructure, but we have to start with talking to the workers. Talking to the workers about the work that they do and what they need.
So if by infrastructure we mean we’re going to have a jobs plan that puts money in the pockets of workers then yes we can agree with that. But if by infrastructure plan you mean a tax credit for people who already have projects in the pipeline, that's not going to succeed because Democrats won't support it and a fair number of Republicans won't either. I was interested by the title, Tony S., of your American Sovereignty PAC because I want to take this to trade for a minute. The issue is most of us who oppose TPP and will forever lament the fact that the final year of Obama's presidency was based on Democrats majority of whom did not support TPP.
Tony Strickland: And some people were on one side and another side on that issue.
Christine Pelosi: Yes. Having to then go out and tell American workers we’re putting you first but our president signature issue is something we don't like either because we don't think it involved you. I think you have to start with the workers. And that was our argument against TPP, the trade promotion authority argument first which is why are you having an agreement that does not protect American workers, health and safety standards and climate standards that we fight so hard for here in California and here in the country, why are we giving up our sovereignty, if you will on those issues. So I think that when it comes to infrastructure, when it comes to trade, when it comes to jobs you have to start with the workers.
On infrastructure, it's pretty simple. The American Society of Engineers has a list, they have a list where they’ve graded everything, you know, eight Fs. One of the Fs, by the way, was Doyle Drive before the Reinvestment and Recovery Act put the money in and now it's a beautiful entrée. It was like the third worst in the country. So I do think that there's a way to get along, but you have to start with talking to the workers and filling the need. And if people don't immediately cease shovel ready jobs, that’s going to fall apart and I think the voters will rightly turn on Democrats and Republicans if we don’t explain jobs.
Greg Dalton: If you're just joining us we are talking about infrastructure in the Trump administration and climate change. I'm Greg Dalton. My guests are, you just heard from Christine Pelosi a Democratic strategist, we also have Duf Sundheim, former chairman of the California Republican Party, Tony Strickland, California chair of a pro Trump Super PAC and Tony Thurmond a member of the California legislature.
I'd like to go ask Tony Strickland on infrastructure. Is this going to be new money into infrastructure and how is that going to happen without busting the budget?
Tony Strickland: Well, I think you'll see a few different things. There will be some new money and there has to be offsets obviously in terms of new money.
Clearly, Donald Trump has built things his entire life. He looks at where we are in a crumbling infrastructure and he wants to invest in the crumbling infrastructure. And on top of that, you'll have public-private partnerships in a lot of these areas. There isn’t enough federal money to fix how far behind we are in terms of infrastructure. So he will invest some public money into it, but he will also be innovative and come up with public-private partnerships. And quite frankly on some of the trade issues, that's where Donald Trump will agree a lot with some of the Democrats that maybe some of the Republicans won’t be there. You know, you're never going to agree with someone hundred percent of the time and there will be policies that Donald Trump has that many of the members of the Republican Congress may not support as much as the others.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim.
Duf Sundheim: Just with respect to infrastructure. I agree with Tony a hundred percent, but there are also other sources of funding. One is going to be all the trillions of dollars that are offshore, that are going to be brought back by the 10% tax on offshore holdings and in addition you're going to have what I call revenue bonds. So for water projects, there are people that will pay for the water so that won't require a tax to be imposed on the people. You will have revenue that is generated from the use of that water which will go to pay for those bonds.
But one of the key things I'm concerned about and a lot of people are concerned about is whether California is going to get the same level of infrastructure spending because of our very onerous regulations on water, on roads, on the various infrastructure projects. You know, Governor Brown has tried to do a transportation bill, he's not able to get that through. He's tried to do a housing bill, unable to get that through. So they're very strong regulatory, we don't want to get things fixed, we don't want to build things in the state that are going to have to be overcome and that's much more difficult here than it is in the other forty-nine states
Greg Dalton: Which means I think what you're talking about is relaxing environmental regulations possibly. So I want to go to – a while back I interviewed former Secretary of State George Schultz who served as Secretary of Treasury under President Nixon and also Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan.
Here is Secretary Schultz.
George Schultz: So I have been creating the EPA and I watched it over the years and it seems to me it has proven itself as a very useful nag to keep after us and we have better cleaner air, cleaner water. You would much rather breathe the air in any American city than breathe it in Beijing. Thank you EPA.
Greg Dalton: So that's George Schultz, former Secretary of Treasury under President Nixon and a cabinet member of President Reagan. Duf Sundheim, thank you EPA; but EPA is in the crosshairs of this new administration.
Duf Sundheim: Well, we don't know how that's going to play out, but Secretary Schultz is one of my mentors and one of the things – and he did the Montréal Protocol which was critical for fluorocarbons, he's done a lot in terms of providing for a cleaner water and cleaner air, but he has been very critical of the degree of regulation versus innovation. So the question is what can be done by private industry in terms of developing new technologies to address these issues and what is the role of regulation? Clearly he and I both favor regulation, but the question is the balance between providing for the innovation versus the regulation which prohibits the activity.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond, your district has one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters of pollution in California, the Richmond Refinery, the Chevron Refinery. How concerned are you about relaxing environmental standards which affects the air that your people breathe?
Tony Thurmond: I'm very concerned about it, you know, and it's disturbing that anyone would question the true science behind climate change, and even if you don't believe the science you just have to pay attention to what we’re seeing all around us and we see flooding,
We know that we're going to face sea level rise. We know that there are huge challenges and for someone who has lived minutes away from a refinery, I’ve watched that refinery when you it had a fire, I'm aware of the kind of danger that exists. There are children in my district to have some of the highest rates of hospitalization for asthma related to particulate matter in the air. We cannot deny that there is a physical cost to not acting and I'm so proud of what we've done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this state and I think California can continue to lead in those areas. We monitor methane, we’re doing more and it is a misnomer that restrictions are strangling the economic development in the state. You know, as a councilmember I helped to start a job training program that focuses on solar panel installation in a construction job training program.
We’re seeing some of the fastest growth around renewable energy and clean tech opportunities and I always say, you know, we all want jobs but we don't have to have jobs that are going to kill us. And in California we need to continue to promote the opportunity for clean tech and green tech jobs, you know. And some things were said about our infrastructure, that it’s crumbling. California, I believe that this is the year that we’re going to see something get done for infrastructure and for our roads. But we’re going to have a real serious conversation. The California state budget cannot handle the kind of cost that we need to take care of our roads without having a conversation about a possible increase in the gas tax and generating $8 or $9 billion to work on the crumbling roads that are in Democratic and Republican areas. And so California is leading in infrastructure and we should continue to protect around these climate change issues.
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland, there are more Americans now who work in the solar industry than extracting fossil fuels. As a Republican, do you see promising green tech or is it just that –
Tony Strickland: Absolutely. I voted for the renewable energy standard when I was a legislator in Sacramento. I do believe that we are transitioning into a more green technology. I believe that private enterprise has invested a lot of money along with public into newer technologies.
But I also think that government sometimes creates regulations where the technology doesn't exist. One of the things that CARB, the California Air Resources Board tried to pass for these crane operators over in my district in Santa Barbara, they went to the hearing, they say, look what you're asking for us to do as a government saying that we have to meet these regulations, that technology doesn't exist and the answer was, well if we have these regulations then someone will make it. What does that do to the person who is trying to create those jobs? Those cranes that cost $7 to $8 million for those operators had to do a garage sale and send them over to Nevada. I believe there's a responsible way of doing it and I also believe that we can work public and private together. I do believe in the renewable energy standard. I do believe that we can transition California into more of a renewable energy technology and that can be the model for the rest the country. But to say that we’re going to just flip it around and in such a short time isn’t sensible. It just won't happen. We are making strides. There's no question we’re making strides and we can be the model for the rest of the country.
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland is the California chair of the Pro-Trump Super PAC Committee for American Sovereignty. I'm Greg Dalton. This is Climate One. A while back I interviewed Marvin Odum; he is the president of Shell Oil Company, one of the largest oil companies in the world. And here's what he had to say about climate change.
Marvin Odum: It's very clear for us as a company and that is that climate change is real, that humans have an enormous impact on that and that it requires some sort of action going forward. So we see it as a big enough issue and a big enough risk to where we need that sort of global framework to then drive this market to somewhere different than it is headed right now.
Greg Dalton: So that's Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil Company. I want to roll another clip. This is former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush.
Hank Paulson: Climate change poses a massive threat to the world. It's a huge economic risk. And like any other major economic risk – and I think this is the biggest economic risk the planet faces – climate change deserves to be understood and managed as the risk that it is.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, that’s the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, head of an oil company saying things that very few Republicans will say in America right now. Why is the Republican Party out of step with pillars of its support, Wall Street and energy companies?
Duf Sundheim: Well, I can't speak for other Republicans. I mean, I agree with him, I agree with Steve Schmidt, I agree with Secretary Schultz. It's a major problem and we need to move forward and you have two Republicans on the stage that agree with that statement. So we are within our party just as Tony mentioned there are differences within the Democratic Party, we’re fighting very hard to have those issues addressed. I think the major difference that we have with the two people on the stage is what is the balance. So I was in meetings with Governor Schwarzenegger where the leading energy producers would come in and they’d say, Governor we’re glad to do this, we’re glad to do this, but we’re told if we do do this we’re going to be sued. And we’re told at the same time by this other agency if we don't do this, we’re going to be sued. So just tell us what we need to do.
And that's the type of regulation that we’re talking about. It’s just common sense regulation that addresses this issue because that's the balance we’re trying to strike. And Tony and I have been working hard to find that balance because we do need cleaner air, we do need cleaner water, but at the same time we also have to understand that there's an economic earthquake in this state. We’ve seen the greatest accumulation of wealth in the history of civilization, but on the other side of that fault line there are 8.9 Californians living in poverty. There are more people living in poverty than there are people in 39 of the 50 states. So we just want to make sure as we make this transition we take into account all those people that are being left out of the American dream.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond, is California's green push hurting poor people, working-class people?
Tony Thurmond: Absolutely not. The jobs in the cleantech sector pay much better than any of the low-paying jobs that often have been offered. And, you know, of course there are some restrictions, but we also have a system like cap and trade that says, look you can either reduce your greenhouse gas emissions or you provide money that’s going to help offset the impacts to those communities that are negatively impacted environmentally. And so there are opportunities to work with the business community. You know, I authored a bill that was signed by the governor that puts higher fees on companies that have oil and gas leaks.
We invited the industry to be at the table and have conversation. So when businesses are responsible and willing to work with us, we can do that. We want to support California businesses, but when they’re doing the right thing. And too often the argument from some Republicans and some business leaders is we know it's the right thing to do but it just costs too much money. Well we’re saying, what’s the cost to not act. And so we’re happy to have those conversations, we want support California business, but we cannot put our head in the sand and say that climate change is not real or because it costs too much to address it we’re not going to do anything.
Greg Dalton: Michael Bloomberg, and others, Hank Paulson did a whole project on the cost of inaction. There’s often – we can’t do something because it will cost too much. So there’s a cost of doing nothing. We’re talking about climate change in the new administration at Climate One. I'm Greg Dalton. The guests are Democratic strategist Christine Pelosi, Duf Sundheim former chair of the Republican Party in California, Tony Strickland is a former member of the California state legislature and chair of a Pro-Trump Super PAC and Tony Thurmond you just heard from is a member of the California state legislature.
We’re going to go to our lightning round, a series of true or false questions for our guests today beginning with Duf Sundheim. True or false, gay marriage is settled law in the United States?
Duf Sundheim: True.
Greg Dalton: Christine Pelosi, Hillary Clinton's campaign showed hubris and entitlement?
Christine Pelosi: True.
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland, Joe Biden would have beaten Donald Trump in a landslide.
Tony Strickland: True.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond, Ku Klux Klan support for Donald Trump is deeply troubling?
Tony Thurmond: True.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, the Electoral College should be reformed so electoral votes are aligned with popular votes in each state?
Duf Sundheim: Within each state? Keeping the Electoral College but getting rid of these electoral –
Greg Dalton: Winner takes all. Make it proportional.
Duf Sundheim: Per state. Because – so I'm not for the popular vote but I’m for getting rid of the electoral college in going so California –
Tony Thurmond: Like a congressional district type system, this from other states.
Christine Pelosi: Only if you have universal nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
Tony Strickland: I'm for those two and support of that in California and support it nationwide.
Greg Dalton: And yeah, that’s fine. Actually we found some various agreements there in terms of reforming and protecting the democracy. Christine Pelosi, the next two years will be your mother's last as the leader of the House Democrats.
Christine Pelosi: False.
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland –
Tony Strickland: That would’ve been a story if you said otherwise.
Tony Strickland: That would have been a front page story.
Greg Dalton: You gotta try. Tony Strickland, do you watch MSNBC at least once a week?
Tony Strickland: Absolutely true.
Greg Dalton: Christine Pelosi, you watch Fox News at least once a week.
Christine Pelosi: True.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, burning fossil fuels contributes to rising seas and temperature.
Duf Sundheim: True.
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland, carbon pollution contributes to climate change.
Tony Strickland: True.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond, California's drift toward one-party rule is unhealthy for its democracy.
Tony Thurmond: False in the current sense.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, Donald Trump is the only elected leader, world leader who publicly doubts that human activity is changing the climate.
Duf Sundheim: Recent comments not clear. I think he is showing that he is open to new ideas in that area.
Christine Pelosi: He is the only one who has tweeted it. Put it that way.
Greg Dalton: That’s – yeah, the only one who has – yeah. Tony Strickland, Republicans are afraid to stand up to Trump for fear of reprisals.
Tony Strickland: False.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, are more Republican men in the gay closet or the climate closet?
Tony Thurmond: You get good ones.
Tony Strickland: He’s getting all the good questions.
Duf Sundheim: Well, I think that the gay issue here is pretty much settled. So I would say by default more in the climate.
Greg Dalton: Okay. Christine Pelosi, federal earmarks were useful lubricants for getting deals done in Congress and they should be revived.
Christine Pelosi: False.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond, Democratic politicians should spend less time sipping Chardonnay on verandas with well-heeled donors and more time drinking beer in dive bars.
Tony Thurmond: Well, I don't drink Chardonnay.
Tony Thurmond: I’m going to say false.
Christine Pelosi: I want to say true because we’d have campaign finance reform and we wouldn’t have to drink with any donors.
Tony Thurmond: Well, I’m saying false for the implication that Democrats aren’t serving the people; they’re just sitting around drinking with donors. So that's why false.
Greg Dalton: This is – I would mention a statement and want to ask from each of our guests two or three words, first words that pop into your mind. Donald Trump statements. So I’m going to ask each of our guests, I’ll mention a Donald Trump statement and get their immediate response, the first two or three words that come to their minds. Christine Pelosi, Donald Trump banning lobbyists from his cabinet.
Christine Pelosi: A false promise.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, breaking with 65 years of bipartisan tradition and appointing a military officer James Mattis as secretary of defense.
Duf Sundheim: Great move. Historic move.
Greg Dalton: Even though it will require a changing federal law because we want to have this a tradition of civilian control the military in this country. Tony Strickland, Donald Trump statement to Billy Bush that he sexually assaults women.
Tony Strickland: False.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond, Donald Trump's plan to have Muslims register.
Tony Thurmond: Shameful behavior that doesn't belong in our country.
Greg Dalton: That’s the end of our lightning round. Let’s give them a round of applause –
[CLIMATE ONE MINUTE]
Announcer: And now, here’s a Climate One Minute.
The election may be over, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to shut down those important – perhaps uncomfortable - conversations. In fact, it may be more vital than ever to keep a dialogue going for the next four years. Sociology professor Kari Norgaard of the University of Oregon says that talking about climate change within our communities is the first step toward political action.
Kari Norgaard: We need to have discourses about what it means in our place, how the things that we are seeing are about climate change. And that I think helps to make it real and helps to motivate people. And we need to be talking to each other also, so the people understand that they are not alone in caring about it, in taking stands and so forth. It’s important all of these different ways that we can make climate change visible in public space, letters to the editor, all of these kinds of things matter. Just talking about it in simple conversation helps to make it real, which is part of how the democratic process needs to work.
This is how people developed a sense of what’s real, what’s normal, what’s happening, what could be done about it. It’s, you know, the starting point of, you know, of solidarity of some kind, of having a political imagination, of sharing ideas, all of these kinds of things. And so talk is a big part of, you know, how democracy needs to work. Not just the kind of talk in a public space but even talking, you know, amongst families and friends and these kinds of things. And then it can go on from there.
Announcer: That’s Kari Norgaard, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Oregon and author of Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life. She spoke at Climate one in 2015. Now, back to our live program from The Commonwealth Club.
[END CLIMATE ONE MINUTE]
If you're just joining us, we’re talking about climate change and clean energy in California, the new administration. I'm Greg Dalton. My guests are Duf Sundheim, former chair of the California Republican Party. Tony Thurmond, member of the California State Legislature. Christine Pelosi, Democratic strategist and superdelegate and Tony Strickland, who chaired a California pro Trump Super PAC.
Greg Dalton: For getting through that. Tony Strickland, let’s look to the California governor's race in two years. There's an interesting mayor in San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, navy town, more conservative part of California. He came out with a climate action plan, something that no member of Congress has been since John McCain 10 years ago has dared to do. What does that say about the politics to the future of climate and the Republican Party in California?
Tony Strickland: Well, Kevin Faulconer is one of the very few Republicans that represent a big city and so I think he's a star within our party. If I was advising him I would advise him not to run for governor. I think that we as Republicans didn't get here overnight and I think it would be very difficult for any Republican to get across the finish line and we have to look from within and figure out, look we lost Orange County where we used to win a million votes. When I say we, Republican Party. But, you know, we have to go around the state and do whatever we can. I would hate to see Mayor Faulconer run and get beaten by a huge margin because I think he should be looked at as someone that can go into the administration later on down the line after he’s termed out. I think he loves his job. He is doing a great job as mayor of San Diego
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim, who's on the bench for Republicans in California? I mean, is the party slipping into irrelevance? I mean, we just heard someone – one of the stars – we just heard Tony Strickland say to one of the stars don't run.
Duf Sundheim: Well, we have the same problem in California that a lot of people think that Democrats have nationally. I would say the people that I'm very impressed with in addition to Kevin Faulconer, the mayor who just stepped down in Fresno, Ashley Swearingen, is a real star. Right in the East Bay, Catharine Baker is a future star. So we do have people that are coming up. But clearly there is a lack of leadership on the Republican side here in California.
Greg Dalton: Christine Pelosi, how about fresh faces. You mentioned some earlier; fresh faces in, you know, the rising stars in the Democratic Party either California or nationally.
Christine Pelosi: Well, obviously Kamala Harris our brand new U.S. Senator will make a – be effective from the start. Nobody can fill Barbara Boxer’s shoes but she will be a tremendous leader and a force in her own right. I think she's a rising star.
Linda Sanchez, newly elected vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, first woman of color to be in the leadership of either caucus, Republican or Democratic, in the U.S. Congress. She is terrific.
Greg Dalton: The Republicans control the White House, congress and what, 2/5 or 3/5 of the state legislatures and governorships. That’s a pretty tough field for Democrats
Christine Pelosi: Well, I would say this, as a member of the Democratic National Committee, I’m heading to the next couple of months where we’re making decision on a new chair. And I’ve made it clear to all the candidates who are running who have called me to ask for my support and my vote that we need to have a reform and a revival. Now, I’m a superdelegate as you mentioned but I’m a superdelegate who campaigned for re-election on a campaign of eliminating my superpowers. Because I don't think that, pardon the pun we should trump the will of the voters. So I have been, you know, on that track for eight years, Bernie Sanders joined us a year ago. So we have a little more push for that. But I think we need to reform the Democratic Party from within in terms of making little d democratic reforms. And I've done campaign boot camps in 41 states around the country over 10 years. So I've been part of building the bench but we need to commit to doing more of that.
And when it comes to the money, part of the reason I think Democrats are losing races is that our party used to be the convener. When I was a young Democrat and running the state party as the Executive Director, we were the convener and everybody came to the party. Now, post Citizens United, but it started before that, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party per se, they do a little bit, but it's mostly the Super PACs who have the most influence. And so if you want to restore the Democratic Party and the Republican Party for that matter, I think what you really need is to overturn Citizens United. You need to kick out the Super PACs and say we’re going to start with members of the party. Build those people up and then we'll go out and build coalitions and these groups should all have seats at the table. But you have to start with revitalizing the Democratic Party and say we’re going to make people-based decisions and not donor-based decisions.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim.
Duf Sundheim: I think I agree with everything you said. The one thing I would add is that the role Obama played in 2008 of undermining the federal election system that we had in place, where he committed to live by the constraints and then decided to go against those constraints. And I think that also had a material effect. In addition to everything else that you said.
Christine Pelosi: Well actually I would say it was a different decision. I think it was decision to do OFA and not put that into the DNC, Which was the capitalization.
Greg Dalton: Organizing for America; that’s some inside baseball there. Tony Strickland, you headed the Super PAC, are you favor of doing away with Super PAC?
Tony Strickland: Let’s just look at if money was the difference, Hillary Clinton would have been president of the United States. I mean she outspent Donald Trump tremendously. In Super PAC money, party money, money into their campaigns. So if money was the key of winning, she would have won a landslide.
Greg Dalton: He got tons of free media.
Christine Pelosi: No, but it’s the kind of money that you’re spending. Priorities USA wasn’t talking about an economic message. They were talking about the Billy Bush tapes. So it’s the Democratic Party [crosstalk] –
Tony Strickland: Well, if the Democratic Party spent their money not wisely, that’s the issue that you have to deal with. But end of the day, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party and the Super PACs on the Democratic side dramatically, dramatically it wasn’t even close – outspent the Republicans. I'm one that says that you have to have a message that appeals and you can have less money. You just got to be in the ballpark, but you have to actually go out and reach out and talk to people eye to eye.
I think one of the big reasons why Hillary Clinton lost is she stayed in Brooklyn she didn't talk to individuals. She didn’t talk to voters. You asked me the question about Joe Biden. Joe Biden’s life story is unbelievable life story. He connected with people in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He would have connected with people in Michigan. Hillary did not go and connect. She stayed in her campaign headquarters. She lost because she did not identify those economic issues that people were starving for in those swing states. And it wasn't money; it was a lack of a message and lack of a candidate and a campaign.
Greg Dalton: Christine Pelosi, some truth in that?
Christine Pelosi: Well again I think, I think two things. First of all, I’m a fan of show up everywhere. I mean, I was the original person who asked the question in 2004 to the then Democratic National Committee chair aspirants. What is your 50-state, 447 member strategy to unite the Democratic Party?
The 50-state strategy question was answered best by Howard Dean, which was put the money back in the states, so he got elected. So I’m a big fan in showing up everywhere. I do think Ready for Hillary was a 50-state strategy. And I think the campaign did a lot of good work. My complaint was there weren't enough debates. I wanted more debates. We fought for more debates, they weren't enough. I think that the campaign protected Hillary from herself to her peril.
Tony Strickland: You mean in the primary.
Christine Pelosi: In the primary. There were not enough debates and every week we could have had a Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton could have shown her stuff, show them how smart she was. Bernie could’ve shown more of himself, the other people too. But when you only have five debates and the Republicans are having something like 18. Guess who gets 18 news cycles and guess who gets five.
I do believe that having that economic message and showing up is critical. I was introducing Keith Ellison recently to my California Democratic Party Women's Caucus and I said, he and I have something in common. Because in July of 2015 we were both sneered at on national television for saying Donald Trump could win the nomination. I was sneered at, he was laughed at. Two different networks but within three days of each other. But we saw something in Donald Trump and the aspirational message.
And I think that’s what the most frustrating. And as I told you all backstage, I told you so is not a strategy but I did tell them, so. So I got to find different people to tell. But the reality is it’s always the economy; that is always what people voting on. When you're talking about climate, you’re talking about pollution, you're talking about health. It comes down to the pocketbook. Poverty is expensive. School is expensive, student loan debt, meaning that you have to defer the job you really want that you got the education for, that’s expensive.
Housing is expensive. The two biggest donors in San Francisco to the supervisor races, Super PACs were Airbnb and Uber. So everybody, the world over they want to talk about coastal elites but we’re not living in an elite situation here in San Francisco in terms of lacking a lower middle class. And lacking my daughter's public school teachers can’t afford to live in San Francisco. So we have a problem if we’re not talking about those issues and instead we’re talking about the sexy issues of the day. And I think that's where Democrats really need to get real with ourselves and Republicans if you’re going to beat us in California, need to be able to do that too.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond.
Tony Thurmond: By the way, in California we are doing a housing bill this year. We’re going to have a major housing bill because of the lack of affordability in California. I agree with Ms. Pelosi, if we took all the money that's been all these independent expenditures and put it toward something like education where California still ranks 41st in the nation in per-pupil spending. If we put that money in the right place, and by the way President Obama showed that you can win with small donations. He largely won with very small donations when you looked at the number of donations that he ultimately won. He showed that there is a path in doing that.
Duf Sundheim: He won Wall Street. Wall Street funded his campaign.
Tony Thurmond: As his campaign got underway, it was $15 donations and $25 donations –
Duf Sundheim: At the beginning absolutely.
Tony Thurmond: – en masse and engaging people who hadn’t ever voted before. And so we make money less about the conversation and more conversation about what the people of America want.
Greg Dalton: We’re talking about climate change and clean energy in California, the new administration. I'm Greg Dalton. My guests are Duf Sundheim, former chair of the California Republican Party. You just heard from Tony Thurmond, member of the California State Legislature. Christine Pelosi, Democratic strategist and superdelegate and Tony Strickland, who chaired a California pro Trump Super PAC.
Let's go to our audience questions. Welcome.
Male Participant: Sure. Thanks. So to Mr. Sundheim. You gave a really eloquent discussion on climate and the nuances between Republicans and Democrats in California. And Mr. Dalton asked you as pointedly as he could the disconnect that I just don't understand. So try and explain it simply, since this is all about communication. Why can't mainstream Republicans from Mitch McConnell, on down just accept climate change? Say exactly what you said, we have a different view of how to get to it. Whether it be regulation, innovation all the things I might add that California has done. Tell me how, why they are so frightened to even say it.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim.
Duf Sundheim: Yeah, I'm sorry I can't answer that question. Other than that's a discussion that Tony and I have. And I think that we’re making progress in that and I think that again you’re seeing it even in the Trump administration where they started out with, you know, a very flat statement and they’re being much more nuanced. So the thing about this administration again if you have the evidence I think you're going to be able to make your case and that's what we’re going to continue to try to do.
Greg Dalton: Christine Pelosi, some people say that the answer to that question is partly money, fossil fuel funding. California Democrats recently said they're not going to take money from fossil fuel companies. Is that going to hurt?
Christine Pelosi: It’s going to help. I think it's a terrific idea. I wish that our legislators individually wouldn't take that money either. Because I think the worry is not that we’re sliding into one-party rule in California, I think what you’re going to see in the legislature where you’re going to have progressive Democrats versus the so-called Mod Squads who are getting money from big business. That's what hurt us some of our climate efforts earlier this year.
So yes, it's the money. If you’re the Koch brothers and you have shale oil investments that are worth billions and billions of dollars, then giving even $1 billion in campaign contributions to protect that is a very successful return on investment. And that's why you have to clean up polluted politics by cleaning up the ability for unlimited money to be spent and showered on these legislators.
Greg Dalton: Duf Sundheim.
Duf Sundheim: And I think that's a good answer to the question that you asked. I mean there are people that are tied whether it's coal or oil and they’re tied to those industries and so it's a matter self-interest. So I think that's it.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond.
Tony Thurmond: I was merely going to add to your wish list that legislators wouldn’t take oil money; you’re sitting next to one of them. I think there are many of us in the state as well and I totally agree with you.
Christine Pelosi: Who do not. Thank you.
Tony Thurmond: Who do not take oil money. Thank you.
Greg Dalton: So Tony Thurmond, just to clarify, you represent a district where there’s a big oil refinery and you don't take money from that oil company.
Tony Thurmond: Absolutely not. I’ve made that a statement, my politics that in my campaign we welcome anyone to contribute, but we don't take contributions from oil companies, from tobacco. We believe that those who cause harm in the community should be taxed to help offset those harms and that's the position that we take.
Greg Dalton: Let’s go to our next question. Welcome.
Greg Dalton: Let’s go to our next question. Welcome.
Female Participant: This question is for Tony Strickland, mainly because I disagreed with you the most on stage.
So like many Californians in this room I was shock when Trump won. And how do we as Californians eliminate the enclaves in American society. How do we shake the coastal elite reputation and connect with the rest of the nation?
Greg Dalton: Tony Strickland.
Tony Strickland: Well, you know, I think it’s important to connect with and we have a diverse country. Look, I was Mitt Romney’s California chair both in ’08 and ’12. I spent a lot of time with Governor Romney traveling this country. People in Texas are far different; they have different life experiences than people in California, than people in Alabama, than people in New York. The greatness of this country is we are diverse. And but you have to understand that you have to have a candidate that can fit anywhere else. And let me talk to what I mean. In my lifetime, I think the two best elected presidents that fit that mold are Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. Let me give an example. You could go from Wall Street to Hollywood to the south to the Midwest Union steel town and Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan would fit in wherever you went.
And I don't think that that was the case of the two candidates that we had. But I will say in the swing states in that Rust Belt, Donald Trump was able to connect. And unlike you, I thought Donald Trump had a shot. I thought it was inside straight, but I always thought he had a shot at winning the presidential race.
Greg Dalton: Let’s go to our next question. Welcome.
Male Participant: One of the past members of the CIA was interviewed on a television program. And he mentioned that a portion of white America is afraid of the browning of America. And after Donald Trump's election we had white nationalists in Washington DC doing Heil Hitler salutes. Does a Republican leadership have any response to that and should you address people of color who are now fearful in this country. Does Republican Party need to step up to that?
Duf Sundheim: Absolutely, and I will go wherever you want me to go to make that statement. I'm saying here publicly that has no place, not only in the Republican Party but in our political process.
Male Participant: Well Donald Trump renounced it himself.
Duf Sundheim: Yeah, he did it in 60 Minutes. But we need to do it continually. You know, it’s kind of like when I have an argument with my spouse. I mean, you know, when they're upset, you have to listen. And people are genuinely upset. So we need our responsibility as being part of the party that won the election is to sit and listen and to work with you until you're comfortable. That's our responsibility. And until that happens, we haven't fulfilled that responsibility.
Greg Dalton: Tony Thurmond.
Tony Thurmond: I would agree with you that there needs to be from the Republican Party–to disavow the things that we have been hearing in the public since the election. Southern Poverty Law Center, said there had been some 700 some hate crime incidents reported just since the election. Sadly, a young man in my district was killed, an African-American man was shot and killed by three white men and it’s being investigated and reported as a hate crime. There's something about Mr. Trump’s election that has sent a mssage to those who apparently have felt this way to be emboldened and that they can now say these things publicly.
And I agree with you, we need everyone to disavow this kind of statement. Talk about hate is not accepted, we need to strengthen our relationships. We need Mr. Trump to do that, we need the Republican Party to do that, the Democratic Party to do that, everyone together. And some of this is related to some of the policy things that Mr. Trump talked about during the campaign. Making statements about Muslims, making statements about, you know, immigrants, building the wall. All these things have had a toll on our communities and we have to rebuild the fabric of our communities. And I agree with you, the Republican Party has a responsibility to help with that rebuilding.
Greg Dalton: Let’s go to our last audience question. Welcome.
Female Participant: Hi, this question is for Mr. Thurmond. So you mentioned that right now in construction job training that there are solar panel installation trainings as well. And I was just wondering like since as Ms. Pelosi said that people vote either like personal pocketbook and climate change is also an undeniable threat. And so it seems like one of the best solutions is to retrain workers who are currently in the fossil fuel industry to work in clean tech. And my question for you is, what are the biggest roadblocks right now to having like more widespread and robust retraining programs. And what can like lay people like activists do to like empower their local representatives to get that kind of funding?
Greg Dalton: Thank you. The only time climate came up in the debates was a guy who works at a coal plant.
Tony Thurmond: You know going back to the gridlock in Congress. The federal government has reduced the amount of money that we get for our workforce development programs. And those are exactly the dollars that we use to train and retrain individuals. We have a great community college system that really can help to prepare people for, you know, sectors that are really seeing growth, you know. Clean tech is seeing growth, technology. We’ve got to start working with our students while they're in school to make sure that they get access to all the computer science training that they can.
We’re going to see maybe a million jobs in coding that could go unfilled in California because we’re not preparing our students to be that workforce of tomorrow. These things require dollars to provide that training. And quite frankly, we've got to also consider that there are roadblocks in the way of the candidates who often can't get to the training. Whether or not they have been formally incarcerated and there aren’t reentry programs to help them. Whether or not they’ve struggled in school and they need more support to be prepared to take those jobs. These are the kinds of things that we’re working on in the legislature. We’ve put more money into our community colleges, into our apprenticeship training programs. So that when we have a transportation package that that money can go to creating good paying jobs for individuals who can work in them and have the training and we’re committed to doing more of that here in California.
Greg Dalton: So we have to end it there. We've been talking about clean energy in California, the new political administration. I'm Greg Dalton. My guests have been Duf Sundheim, former chairman of the California GOP. Tony Strickland, California chair of a pro Trump Super PAC, the committee for American sovereignty. Tony Thurmond, California legislator democratic from the San Francisco Bay Area and Christine Pelosi, Democratic strategist. I’d like to thank our audience here at the Commonwealth Club and those listening online and on air. You can join the conversation on Twitter using our handle @climateone at the Commonwealth Club. So I’d like to thank you all and thank our guests today for joining us.