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tv   After Words Andy Slavitt Preventable  CSPAN  July 4, 2021 11:00am-12:02pm EDT

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many ways to talk like a great book. >> guest: great to be with you again, senator tremor , lm excited to talk about your book just out, "preventable: the inside story of how leadership failures, politics, and selfishness doomed the u.s. coronavirus response" a great book. it's an insiders account behind the scenes look to say painful at times but a real eye-opener. there's so much we can talk about but let's jump right in and start with the big picture. what is the top line overview, 30,000 foot look, and why why did you write this book? >> guest: well look, handling to find in his heart and we all ought to be forgiving of kind of honest mistakes in people with
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good intentions who just don't know what the facts are until they come up. this isn't a book about finding flaws. in fact, in apposite in the book are getting an a in prevention infighting pandemic is hard, getting a b is relatively easy because if the show empathy and if you work hard and if you mean well and try to save people's lives and keep things balanced with business and so forth, but there were a few things that happen in this pandemic at least in the u.s. that a think works towards an area and above and beyond simple miscalculation.
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the stock market went down, he minimized to. if the president would it simply said we have a problem, early as soon as he knew it we would have been in better shape. he insisted that narrative pushed through his team as well and i think the dangers thing i think we observe is just -- so when you and i both know, the health secretary was actually pulled off of "fox and friends", this is relayed in my book, because he something wanted to use the phrase things could change rapidly. he wanted to say things are okay but they could change rapidly. katie miller white house communications pulled him off
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"fox and friends" and said he couldn't speak to the media for 45 days. so imagine this, when the middle of a global pandemic just starting at her own department of health and human services isn't permitted to even communicate with the public. it wasn't all a horror show and the good people in there for you and i were probably both working with who were trying to do the right things but they were hobbled, in large part by the person they worked for. the book contains, the reason ii wrote as i spent a fair amount of time with jared kushner and tony fauci and others, and there's an inside account of things that i felt needed to be told. i will also tell you there are things we learned about our country above and beyond who is in the oval office that a think were also important to tell because there are things we need to look at. >> host: when people work for the president, you worked, in an
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out of government and familiar with with both sides of the outcome democrats and republicans. you have worked with -- take us a bit into when you're working for the president of the united states who is the elected commander-in-chief, commander-in-chief's implies just what it is, and that is you are in charge. you do dictate. how hard is it? you mentioned and in the book you go into a whole slew of examples. how hard is it for the, whether it's deborah birx where wo great detail about, and traveling with her, but how hard is it and what is your responsibility and working for the commander-in-chief to take those borders, even though those orders may be different than what you feel rex take us a little into that world because i know it is challenging tragedy the president sets the tone, and
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i imagine some presidents are more sticklers than others about that tone. if you're going to work for the president you better will reflect what he or she wants, or you're going to be finding yourself out. one of the things were done with many of the scientists that eventually started to question some strategy, whether it's fda or cdc or tony fauci or deborah birx come if he didn't that storyline. i want to make one comment first which is this is not in my view a partisan issue in terms of how this was managed. in other words, george w. bush presidency, a bill frist presidency would've been i think much closer to a joe biden response to the pandemic as many republican governors around the country showed. i think this is more specific to a populist president, a
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president who wanted to play to the crowd, not make tough decisions. i just want to be clear that this is it anyway a democrat versus republican issue. in my mind. there are so many competent democrats and republicans who could've been running this pandemic for mick romney that it think we would have seen that. i'll tell you the answer to the question by way of relating something to happen to me when work for joe biden, is, i relayed this in the book. he called into the oval office and he was talking about how,, because i was really in charge of public medication for the pandemic. he wanted to make sure i understood something, which was we need to explain things simply to the public. and he said, i quoted him in the book as saying, don't worry
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about making me look good. give the public the information they need. remember, this was late january when the people were dying, people unable to get the vaccine, they don't know when they will be able to get it. they are scared. we don't know when this come to an end. that made my job so much easier. if get to go out and perform for the present and make sure the president sees you casting him and a favorable light, it sometimes gets in a way of which were trying to communicate. i didn't have that problem. i had it much easier test because the present essentially said we need to fix this. the application is we will get judge whether we fix it or not, not that was it you say anything that makes me look good. and indeed, i think as we know president trump was very careful about what people said about him in public and deborah birx face that and so did others. >> host: in the book, and i will read, which has in the book
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"preventable", again just out,, fantastic read, it says, the book chronicles what you saw and what could've been prevented, and unflinching investigation of the cultural, of the political and economic drivers that led to unnecessary loss of life. that's a pretty powerful description. my question is, was there a moment for you in the midst of this overwhelming pandemic for all of us that really crystallize the need for you to tell the story? was there a moment where you said okay, i've got to share this with the american people? >> guest: yes. i think the thing that was so concerning, again, you are going to have pandemic, you're going to lose a lot of lives. it's going to be horrible
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situation that oftentimes those are occasions when the country can pull together and do their things. but for that to happen it does take extraordinary excellent leadership. in my conversations, my interactions with the widest those appointed time when a new people in the white house were quite optimistic that the person was going to start to take this seriously. this was in the second half of march, and started putting together a plan that would help the country balance its reopening, save lives, still focus on people's economic needs. needs. i think everybody from deborah birx to jared to others felt like that may be the direction the president goes, but that ended in this series of events where the president saw protests in michigan, in minnesota, and saw that there was this i think populist sentiment. and from that moment on i think you really, he decided to
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advocate leadership and he did this a couple ways. one was something he called, where they basically decided to put together a plan to try to get claims for success for opening the country but put any blame for anything that went wrong of the state governors he did that by not acquiring testing, allowing states to just bid against one another for testing. from that moment on the staff,, berks, others have been working quite hard were very disheartened because i think they believed that they could gain on it. but the president wanted no part of that. what he was presented with options, with a lot of times with for the booker does all of the analysis for the president, a fasting women, when she was putting together options for the president she wasn't even in -- she didn't even put together a
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single option that had the federal government shown accountable for running this pandemic. she was not asked to put together an analysis showing what's the way we can do what most of the countries and will do, which is to get how to say the most lives and create the most battles. whether not the president selected it. it was clear to me in the spring that he believed he could get reelected if he kept the stock market, or at least that seemedo be the path he was going on, and then the pandemic he would be able to push blame onto others. at that point i felt like that's the story but probably should be told. i'll tell you, i started telling the story come in the end i would say the book is about president trump. the book is not about president trump the book into fighting bouts on the cultural economic and other issues that come about who we have become that in some
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respects even more interesting. >> host: i did want to come back to those. throughout the book although right now it's interesting because the book really does put in perspective that it's not just the president of the united states that caused so many of the challenges that we've seen, that is this large ecosystem. will come back to that but in the book and just for our listeners, i've had an opportune to work with you in so many ways and some issues in the past, but you worked with democrats and you worked with the republicans, people who know andy slavitt is you are very forthcoming and in the book it's painted that way, it's in your tweets, it's in social media. but continually you work closely with republicans to say the trust you, they know who you are and with democrats, you work with both democrats it out. it's important for listeners of
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people read the book to know that. you advise members of the top administration to you would describe much of that in your book, and in the book it says, i'll read this, i was one of the few people and certainly one of the only democrats, you say in the book, who was talking to the trump white house on a regular basis during the first year of the pandemic. and i had developed a clear understanding of what was wrong with their response. anything else to elaborate just a little bit more? already introduced, but where was the central failure? you mentioned that things were turned over to the states and the fact that much of the signs was squelched to the side. was there any one central failing that would encompass everything else we talked about? >> guest: maybe i will answer it this way, and appreciate your
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comments. when i went in on january 20 to work in the biden administration for the last 130 days to turn things around, the one decision the president made that i think was responsible largely for any success with that in the vaccination program was his decision to be 100% fully accountable. no fights with governors, no distractions, no excuses. we had a bad weather weather event, as you recall, it struck down or distribution plants. it closed down episodes, a lot of vaccination sites. i was able to go out in the public and say this is what this means, these are the doses were behind. this is a long it will take us to catch up. i was able to report everything because there were literally no excuses. with a crisis like this which is so difficult to manage, and i've
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seen this from state governors, republican and democrat all over the country, not all the made perfect decisions, but nobody made all perfect decisions, but when it took accountability, tell the public the truth, not promised them fictional miracles, but just level with people, they gained respect of everybody. it's not an easy thing to do. it's not a popularity contest. maybe some of them will not be reelected. making decision between bar and restaurant owners on one hand and hospitals and people closing apostles on fn, it's extraordinary difficult and maneuver against these are easy decisions have had to make them. but usually that open but you have to make them to put your -- you're at a a time where a gon the country will help. when he was in that spot in february or march when the
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president was, i think he would've made a very smart move for him politically as well as from a human standpoint is a we've got a problem, we need to pull together, and i'll accept help. that's the reason i called gerrit is because i have some experience in running a government crisis, some experts in health care, experience in government. i knew what he was going through. it feels like the world is against you when you're into one of to say hey, there's a reason for this to be political. let's pull together. that became increasingly challenging to do but i didn't stop because at the end of the day i'm like you i'm not a physician i can't say people's lives. but what i do know is that, and am on this apart from you as well, senator, is the power of government if you're into doing things right, fighting for people, you can make a difference. >> host: let's go a little bit deeper on that issue because it's really interesting, it's kind of a sub theme in your book, "preventable" but is more about you here in the sense that
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you seem to respond to government, whether it's democrat or republican, and sacrifice and participate. and i think back to the early obamacare, affordable care act, when things were terrible. right now the exchange, was crashing computers and nobody could get on. you kind of stuck up your hand and will come back to some earlier stories on that, did you dedicate a time of your life there. in the midst of covid and you write about it in "preventable," again back in the private sector but you raise your hand and republican administration. you called jared. you die then hugely, actively, being critical, being objective, telling the story and then newly began to go back to the private sector. and then president biden and ron klain and others call a few
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months ago and say, well, the transition is done, now we are in your but we have hundreds of thousands of people still dying and we've got to reverse this course here once again you raise your hand and jump in. amanda is apparent to me. it is this public servant private sector in an out citizen legislative but not really legislated. what drives his raising a hand in the time of need? >> guest: well, on the one hand, i don't know how this sounds but if you like i own this country so much. i live and take advantage of so much freedom and privilege and opportunity, so to some extent it's not a stretch to say it feels like it's a duty but also feels to me like it's sort of in some ways people do it on
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different scales, different levels, different places. some no different than bringing your neighbor, something when they are sick or checking in on them. it's sort of what you do. makes you feel good because you are contributing. the older i get, the clearer it is that you don't get your good feelings from just kind of free will fun-loving stuff but from contributing. but i will also tell you, you may you made me think when he asked me this question, these things are terrifying to. i'd be slightly lying if i told you that i go in and they don't have these fearful moments. going in to do this now with the biden team where thousands of people were dying every day andd i was a clue what the path was, it was a very heavy feeling. i don't mind telling you i went in and i didn't sleep. not just because i was working
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around the clock quite hard, but then i didn't get back to my apartment which was a black-and-white us and there was no way i could shut my eyes. i told myself that that was okay because the country expected us to lose sleep until we solve these problems. i'm not saying this to say there's a cost to me, because as you know better than most anybody i know it's an extraordinary privilege and it feels like an extraordinary privilege at the time when you're in the white house or in these kinds of places, but if you do it you got to really not forget why you are there. fortunately i have been called in situation where it's very clear with what the job isr it's assisting the computer system behind obamacare whether it's getting the country vaccinated. i have a very single-purpose and
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just basically, you can do that in a crisis. because you don't have competing priorities. this is the priority. go get it done. then i can kind of focus, we don't need to go too much into the personal aspects of it but i find it interesting to explore. you do it in the book in sort of subtle nuanced ways, but effect on family just example. i loved my use in public service, and for years and years i had to let my family go to mission trips in africa as part of medicine. want to explore with you more, you dedicate the book to your wife and to your to make it and referred to them throughout. is there a price that they pay with its money back and forth to washington, d.c., of these middle of the night tweets and the obsession that you have in responding to calls by your
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country, whether it's during the republican administrations but democratic administrations? >> guest: i don't know what you found, maybe this is a reflection on me, but when i is coming from washington for four days and i was just too eager to see my kids, and i've got to like boys, i walk in the door and i would get maybe a head nod and a hey, dad. because when they are teenagers, young adults, their parents are not the center of the universe, nor should we be. and lana is just an extraordinary mom, the best they could hope for. so i miss them terribly much more than they miss me and i thought like i missed out some my older sons high school years that i will never get back, and there's no way of saying it differently. but i think as he gets older he knew what i'm doing and why i
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was doing it, and i think hopefully he will have that kind of -- hopefully he will look at it that way maybe he won't, maybe he will but for me, selfishly those are extraordinary experiences that i feel like i probably -- but if so question i traded off time with my boys during this period of time that are quite valuable. >> host: it's interesting and the reason i bring it up, because people do wonder what motivates people to go in and out of government to contribute in some of these selfless ways but also wonder the impact on family here in the book you handle it beautifully and the dedication is there and the descriptions of going back and forth. it's really quite beautiful in many ways.
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going back in the book you write that a response resembling what germany and the other developed countries mustard would have saved 70-80% of the lives we lost. what do you mean by that? what the u.s. and needs to have done as a country to save 70-80% of the lives lost in the reference to germany? >> guest: this of course is a very theoretical concept or if you look at the countries around the globe and you look at how well they did, and the book does this not in a way that's perfect soil but a way that is more gettable and colloquial hopefully. what you see are two patterns that emerge. one is that countries that have experience fighting pandemics or public health crises before you
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better than countries that didn't. very interesting, you got places like hong kong and japan, thailand and so forth that are very close to china, a lot of cross-border travel, yet their death rates have been incredibly low. in large part because in africa would be another example, 14% of the per capita deaths in africa of the u.s. and africa is a poor country and we are a wealthy country. we have better defenses and so forth but it turns out no, the second factor is actually well equity it turns out. if you look at the spread between the top 10% income earners and the bottom 10%, countries countries that have extremely wealthy and extremely poor do much worse than countries that are more balanced. so brazil, russia, the u.s., those are -- india, , countries had extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and a big difference between them. some of this can be explained by
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the fact that we in the u.s. very simply designated about half or more of the population to be essential workers and say you all need to grow the beast, for the vegetables, deliver the trucks come work in the warehouse is come work in the grocery stores and drive the truck and all those things, deliver things to our house. other people, myself included, did not have much of a hardship. but from a safety perspective we were able to get deliveries. there's a chapter called the room service pandemic which draws of these stark lines, and so the results you have people in the black and brown to produce an older communities and in labor camps camps and order tumors and navajo nation, die in record numbers and people in suburban areas and more
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well-to-do areas being basically i wouldn't say untouched because that wouldn't be true, but touched to lesser degree, and the feeling when the population starts to feel relatively safe, when a lot of population doesn't, is one of the things to talk about and to look at. but countries that have a more egalitarian structure and is more of a common good in the society, have much, much lower death rates. germany is quite the middle country. it's got a lot of characteristics of the u.s., it's a complex country, increasingly diverse. it has some experience in public health crises but not a lot and have some experience and it has slightly more egalitarian but not to the extreme, and their per capita death rate was about
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20% of the u.s. again it's all theoretical. it's in some part theoretical but it does say why shouldn't we do better? why shouldn't we have the same kind of death rate, particularly an island nation, we've got big borders, , we've got great defenses, we've got all kinds of resources. so why is it that five times more people died in the u.s. per capita than germany? >> host: continuing this same schematic, the way we begin much of the book was about the trump administration, the responses they are, right in the book you also covered nations we're just talking about. you also say we should also consider that, and i'll quote, our nation's growing distrust of expertise, a media addicted to promoting controversy, and of people long out of the habit of shared sacrifice for the common
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good. those are your words. tell us a little bit more about that. >> guest: i think people generally understand in the novel penned in the experts are not always going to be right. what was interesting here in the u.s. was the degree to which people any sort of money villages and somewhat bad faith fashion would find a scientist saying something that turned out to be incorrect and use that as a way to further their own opinion and say see, that expert was wrong, therefore, you can't trust these experts. we became, for whatever reason, for a variety of reasons, very suspicious that the people that were telling us things didn't know there were they were talk about. the problem with that, if this were a hurricane and you could look at your window and you can see trees swaying and you can
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see the dark sky, you know what is going on and you would need an expert. you have your own eyes. the problem with the pandemic like this one is there's a few things going on that you never see with your naked eye. one is the asymptomatic spread. so the fact you could be passing this disease on to other people without knowing it, that's something that scientists would have to tell you and you would have to believe, or not believe. .. >> that 50 turned into 100,000 pretty fast. if you don't trust scientists, if you don't trust expertise,
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it's hard to even believe that they're studying the data and they'll give you the best information they have at the time. so a question, why have we become so substituted against experts that way -- stilted against experts that way. another you raised is there is, there were other structural things, inequality in our society. we've talked about that a little bit, but i think those things came home to roost and to hurt us. certainly you've seen in the numbers where people were dying, where people weren't dying. the book, "preventable," focuses on the lives of certain people, a guy who worked in an amazon ware and what happened -- warehouse and what happened with hum. you could see, it sounds preachy, he couldn't get a covid test because there weren't enough, amazon stopped paying him. he lives in a two-bedroom apartment with five kids, wife with breast cancer, one of the
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kids with cerebral palsy, and he had to recover at home in one bedroom while his wife and five kids slept in the other bedroom. and this was a very common if occurrence in public housing in minnesota. but out of the naked eye of many of us. stories that happened all over the place that weren't being told x. so the book asks the question, you know, are there things we could be doing differently. we should have a dialogue. it doesn't preach if answers as much as it says what have we learned about ourselves. i'll give you another example. we learned, many of us, during the pandemicking that there's a lot of kids that weren't eating lunch except if they could go to school. and when they went home, they didn't have internet access. now, that was true before the pandemic, it was true during the pandemic. and it was up to us whether it'll be true after the pandemic. do we take those things that we learned and do we say, hey, now
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is a good time to fix 'em, because we learned the real problems. so to some extent, how we react today -- to the pandemic and as important as how we reacted during the pandemic. >> of the things, and i want to make that -- you bring the book, your book's just out, but president biden certainly is moving much more into infrastructure, anti-poverty moveses, recent legislation, recent bulls, recent acts -- recent bills, recent acts which to do more holistically address some of the issues around inequity, inequality, implus sit bias -- implicit bias that are being addressed today. and we we don't know how effective they will be, but it does look like our government is responding addressing many of
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the issues in a more aggressive fashion than in the past around these equity issues. conversations are beginning with discussions around equity not because of the pandemic, because they pre-existed, as you point out, but were exacerbated with that light on it. maybe if we have time, we'll come back to that. what about the things that dud go well -- that did go well? were there things in there that are done -- [inaudible conversations] you mentioned the, you know, briefly about the china and the transportation and closing down the borders. were there things in the bigger picture in terms of operation warp speed or the trump team did right during the pandemic. >> yeah. so there's an extraordinary story in the book that is actually the real story of warp speed which is fascinating and is really driven by three career
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civil servants, peter marx and the fda, barney graham who worked for tony fauci at the nuh and rick wright from barta which is a government agency that invests in biodefenses. so, first of all, you and me, the taxpayers, for the last two decades have been funding basic research into this what we now all know is an mrna platform. and tony fauci at the nih has been funding it, and it's been going on during democratic and republican foundations going back to the george bush administration. mostly at moderna, if we look at the last three letters, messenger rna, and it was one of those things been investing in and never used. but what happened was this platform was there because of
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sars and mers and those threats. and when the pandemic hit, on the first day we downloaded sequence, the genomic sequence on january 11th. tony fauci and his team downloaded it on the 13th. they sent that over to moderna, and the vaccine work began. and what operation warp speed was, peter marks at the fda is an extraordinary guy, unsung hero. "star wars" fan, apparently that's why he called it operation warp speed. he decided that rather than the typical fda process where a company goes and does some studies, gets data, is sends it in to the fda and evaluates it, he said why don't we send fda, barta people and nih people directly to the pharma companies that are working on these vaccines, and they can observe
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things with them realtime so we don't have to go back and forth. we can save -- we don't have to cut corners, we can just save all the administrative time and paperwork of the bouncing back and forth. and he brought this proposal together, and they brought it to alex azar who was trump's health secretary, and azar liked it. and they went, and, of course, congress funded it. so this is truly a situation where it's a feel-good story. everybody had a hand in the success. career civil servants, the political leaders who funded it, people all the way from george w. bush era all the way up through the trump era including obama who continued to fund it and support it. the private sector, the public sector. and we ought not be chintzy with credit. we ought not say, well, this person contributed 18% and that person corrupted 13%, or that -- contributed 13% or that person
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didn't contribute very much. when things go well in this country, we ought to be general rouse about it. i -- generous about it. i was on fox news and was asked the question do you adestruct any of the success of the vaccine to the trump administration? i said, absolutely. i tip my hat to the trump team. and it became a politico alert, and i said, okay, i'm going to hear about this inside the white house, for sure. so the truth is -- [laughter] i don't know if you relate to this having gone to medical school, but i think we damn near aced the hard sciences, and we probably close to failed all the soft sciences. sociology, psychology. when it came to hard signses, we have -- sciences, we have so much to be proud of. >> ann -- andy can, one of the
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things in the book you do in the book stress and just by writing the book it represents, and that is the emphasis on communication. how important that is all of the time, especially in times of crisis when people have a tendency to panic when the world is chaotic. and messages may be confused because of social media and the wrong news that's just factually incorrect and unscientific. but again, you come back to communication. it takes years, it takes months and years to build public trust, and once you lose it, it's gone and it's hard to regain. something that i emphasized a lot back in 2005 i had a pandemic preparedness plan. i was still in the united states senate, i put it forward. it failed to get any congressional action at all. we even talked about 100,000
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deaths at that time, how unimaginable it would be, how inevitable it was. but in the recommendations that i made and we made at that time -- this was 2005, 16 years ago -- and we knew a pandemic was going to come, is unfilter ored information, how do we handle that? covid-19. share with us what you've learned about communication. you committed early on to be out there regularly, every night tweeting or tweeting during the day to share information in realtime what the reality is unfacility ored, getting -- unfiltered, getting it out. so share with us what you have in the book "preventable" about communication but also the why, why you've been so active. why is it so important for the american people to hear in realtime what is going on. >> is so when i got asked to lead the briefings with fauci
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and rochelle walensky from the cdc at the beginning of biden's term, the thing i was so focused on is exactly what you're talking about which is, you know, only 40% of people said they were going to take the vaccine at the time. people were impatient, untrusting, they couldn't get a vaccine appointment, angry. and i was out -- [inaudible] and it's actually one thing i said that was so minor at the time that i learned was so important. i was asked a question by a reporter about people being frustrated, etc. and i said, look, we have a shortage. of vaccines. we did speak very plainly. we have a shortage of vaccines. the shortage is going for weeks, maybe a couple months at the outside. when that shortage done, there will be an abundance of vaccines, but in the meantime it's going to be frustrating, going to be aggravating because
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we in the u.s. are used to having what we want when we want it. and for the next few weeks or months, that was exactly the case. so i thought that was a direct answer to a good question. the response i got was overwhelming. nurses, doctors, ordinary citizens saying basically i felt for the first time this a long time like i was treated with respect, treated like an adult, given the facts that helped me set my expectations. and while i don't feel like what you said was optimistic, all of a sudden i feel more hopeful. because i feel like, i feel like you'll tell us the truth. and, like i say, there was nothing extraordinary about what i said. as you know, it was just very plain. but i think the lesson for me
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was so powerful from that conversation that people just want the truth. good or bad. they want, they want to feel hopeful, but they want to also know when you're concerned, and they want to know what they should be concerned about. and they want to know that they can -- and that, we bullet back some trust -- built back some trust. and, obviously, it's a very divided country and you can't build trust with even, but you can do the best you can. and, you know, it's dangerous, i mean, you know far more about washington than i do, but it often feels risky and dangerous for people to show vulnerability or say something that's not quite demonstrate thing that you've got it nailed. and it's very tempting at all times to, when someone asks a question, to reassure them. but i never ran for office. i was there to do a job and tell
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the public the truth. so maybe, you know, i wasn't as subject to what people who are elected politicians have to deal with. but in your paper or in 2005 that i think an important lesson and i think azar knows this is you don't play pandemic response by intuition. and you don't have to. there's kind of a rule of the right wayed to do things, including what you say. because during a pandemic until you have a vaccine, public communication is your medicine. right? how we in the public respond is going to have the most direct impact on how many people live or die. so it's not a mart of pr. a matter of pr. there's a science as you know and as you laid out around what you say to the public and how. and because you can confuse people very, very easily.
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even with the best of intentions. and so, you know, no doubt mistakes were made all throughout, no doubt i i made my own mistakes, i'm sure. but if you -- the sort of um proves national of trump worked against him, in my view. >> you opened, early in the book you talk about -- [inaudible] and i bring it up only because as people listen to you and me, they say what drives people out of their normal lives to go to this period of public service, 1 years like i did in the senate, or your -- 12 years like i kid in the senate, or your time come in and out. share the story of jeff and how that -- it's in the book "preventable." >> thank you for asking.
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so when i was 31, one of my closest friends who was a doctor, actually, also 31, married, twin 1-year-olds, started experiencing numbness in his arm which turned out to be a brain tumor. it turned out to be very advanced. and between january and july, he passed away july 2nd. his widow and their twins came to live with my wife and i. in fact, these kids now are 20 some years old. we just put them through college. they're both out of college. that's how long ago this was. but out of the facts of that -- that's really what threw he in the health care system when i saw what happened to jeff and what happened to lynn afterwards, and people tried to push her into bankruptcy because of the five months of medical costs. i decided to start a business that was focusing on helping the
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un-and underinsured. this was in the late '90s well before obamacare when things were even harder for people. so i think a lot of people in health care are motivated by personal stories of some sort, i find, and i also find you have to find ways to keep it real if you're in the health care system. and be connected to those kinds of stories. >> andy, your leadership style, you and i have worked with the bipartisan policy center, we've worked with a foundation that you founded that looks at appropriate transformations going on at the state level and in so many ways. your leadership style, it's nuanced through the book "preventable," and you referred to it. but in the book you said that when you ran cms, medicare and medicaid, you always started your day by reading and even responding to individual e-mails
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from medicare and and medicaid beneficiaries. they'd write you an e-mail and you'd respond. people wouldn't think that -- you don't have time. you're dealing with these big issues trieding to do your -- trying to do your best, but you described that as being very important to you. tell us a little bit about that. >> yeah. i mean, look, you can imagine is the situation you must have to be in to send an e-mail to the administrator of cms. nobody even knows who the heck -- if you're a medicare been fishery and you're sending the cma administrator -- cms administrator, and often times -- i got some, bill, i got one once that said, andy, my -- i'm in my kitchen, and my wheelchair battery has run out and i can't move. he sent it to me. and i got some that were extraordinarily sad and challenging, people who had disabled children who they
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thought were the subject of abuse. and i just decided, you know, i'm going to spend my day getting yelled at by the white house or senators or lobbyists or whoever, i'm going to, i want to ground myself in and the agey in the work we're doing. taxpayers give cms a lot of money to provide benefits for people. people save their whole lives to get medicare. so, you know, i calm to the private sector -- i came to the private sector. i didn't want to private sectorize the federal government, but i did want to -- [inaudible] which i knew was inside the agency. so i would read these emails, and then i would reply -- even if my reply was i read this, i hear you, someone will get back to you. i hope it's as quick as you need it to be, but i will stay on it. and people would just be, the responses were hilarious because, you know, you you to
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this government bureaucrat, you've probable fired off 50 letters, and you can't get a response. you feel helpless, you feel like the government's nonresponsive, so people would just jaw drop, i can't even believe you responded to me. and then the i had a liaison, we would follow up and try to solve the problem. it was really fun. >> yeah. it's good for people to hear. and it's also good for policymakers and people within washington, state government to hard. the immediacy of being able to talk to real people, it's hard to do when you're in washington, d.c. and you're surrounded by people everything seems to so big. but it's good to hear that there are people like you and other policymakers who search for that intimacy to bring things back to home and to color what policy that we're doing. just a couple more things. i know we need to wrap things up, but in the book you talk
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about covid-19, that we should review it as a starter bug, that when another pandemic comes as it will, as we know. it's biology, and it's been around for millions of years, a lot longer than human beings have. do you believe we'll respond differently? and if you're leading, if you, for example, were leading response at that time, what would you do differently? >> well, so look, there's some technical things that we've got to be better at. and and i'm fairly confident we will. we'll invest in vaccine manufacturing capability. i think we can cut even this very fast time of development even further. we will presumably have a strategic stockpile of ventilators and masks, everything we ran out of well in hand. and i think we can -- manufacturing capacity in the country. we need to up our game in the
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cdc. cdc is an invaluable resource. we immediate to reform it -- we need to reform it. not complain about it. but that means we need rapid response capabilities, and we need the ability to spot things quickly on other sides of the globe. but occasionally even the best cdc couldn't get it done. sometimes the bug's going to be too powerful, too overwhelming. and when that happens, you know, there's two features to a bug that you worry about. one is how contagious is it and the second is how lethal is it. there's other things, but those are sort of the important ones. and on the scale of things, you know, i think covid-19 is moderately contagious, not extremely. i mean, the measles is seven or eight times more contagious. and there are bugs that are far more lethal like bowl la and others. -- ebola and others. so you could end up in the situation where the reason we
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call it a starter bug is that ought to be the way we look at it. we ought to say there's a different kind of bug to come, what if it hits kids next time? what if it's more deadly? the habits and patterns we did this time around and all the fights we had over individual liberties versus the collective good versus, you know, mask mandate versus stay at home orders, all the things people protested against, what's going to happen next teem? and i think -- next time? and i think the answer is we don't know. that's the harder part. it's till the soft science of stuff, bull. are we going to have -- bull. are we going to have a real dialogue in the country? led my community leaders, locally, churches, civil leaders, others, can we have a real dialogue about some of those things so that we think about them? because i think that's the only way that we get better and get
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better as a cup. i think one thing -- as a country. i think one thing you and i both know is when the country puts its mind to it, we can do anything. welcome do anything. we can do anything. i have eminent confidence we can defeat it. but we have to be sometimes willing to look at the hard lessons. >> and in 30 seconds, optimistic or pessimistic? you've worked with multiple administrations. your value system is very clear in terms of it gets reflected in the policies you propose and articulating the principles behind you. but optimistic or pessimistic? >> well, i'm always optimistic. i think that my optimism is a little precare yous because i think so many things in the country are, you know, wavering on imbalance. but, you know, the reason we should all be optimistic is because we're willing to do the
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work, you know? if we set back and there weren't extraordinary people like senator frist and others in this country that had the capability and the knowledge and many others to do the work, there'd be no reason to be optimistic. but i'm optimistic because of all of us and the power of what we can do. and i think as the book closes, it says, you know, a couple of things. one is we have to include everybody. grief and suffering don't need to be ranked. if you've lost a job, if you've lost a business, if you've lost a family member, your grief ought to be treated the same. secondly, being in the majority is no excuse for not including the minority in the conversation because that's just not a right of the majority, shouldn't be a right of the majority. and the thursday is even if you try to in-- third is even if you try to include everyone, guess what? there's still bad people out there. and sometimes we're going to run into those bad people at the wrong moment. and we need to defeat them. good needs to defeat evil.
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all of those things, i think, can be cured at the same time. >> andy slav visit, it's all about the -- valve it, it's all about the conversation. the book " preventable," a huge contribution, andy, that you given all of us in lessons about this cup, about our values and what we can do better in the future. thank you very much for being with us. >> thank you, senator. >> "after words" is available as a to podcast. to listen, visit or search k span "after words" on your podcast app and watch this and all previous "after words" interviews at just click the "after words" button near the top of the page. >> in a virtual event hosted by the competitive enterprise institute in washington, d.c., financial if analyst steve sue
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cup explains why he believes corporate america has been changed in recent years by progressive ideology. >> i've worked at the nexus of politics and financial markets for my entire professional career, for almost 25 years now. i have always known that the idea that wall street is owned by republicans and owned by conservatives is a myth. my own experiences in the financial serviceses industry taught me that. but over the last several years, it's become more and more obvious to me that there's been a very significant push to the left from the industry more generally. and in speaking with friends, clients, other people in the business, it became clear that they too saw this push to the left x they were frustrated by it. roughly two years ago i had a
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conversation with the director of the free enterprise project at the national center for pluck policy -- for pluck policy research. -- public policy research. and justin shared the work work with me the -- with me the work that he does in fighting back -- it wases a very interesting anden lightening discussion. as i said, i'd worked in the business for almost a quarter century, and i was not aware of just how thoroughly left-wing politics had invaded what was once upon a time free and fair capital markets. so i was very intrigued by the issue and very bothered by it. i shared that information with my clients. i believe we even put together a conference call with justin to shower the information directly to -- share the information
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directly with our clients x. if a lot of them, and, again, these are sophisticated asset managers, people who have been in the business a long time, and they were very surprised how thoroughly left-winkle politics has captured financial markets -- left-wing. so from that point of, i made it my if personal mission to expose this. at at some point in this discussion, i would imagine we'll get around to the question what do we do now. and the first part of the answer the that question is raise awareness. and that's been my job in this battle against the politicization of capital markets, is to raise awareness. and so that's what set me down the track, and that's what pushed me to write the book. >> you can watch the rest of this program online at surgery for stephen soukup or the title of his book, the dictatorship of woke capital, using the surgery box at the top of -- search box at the top of
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the page. >> booktv on c-span2, every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. funding for booktv comes from these television companies and more, including -- >> the world has changed. today the fast, reliable internet connection is something no one can live without, so wow is there for our customers with speed, reality, value and choice. now more than ever, it all starts with great internet. the wow. >> wow, along with these television companies, supports booktv on c-span2 as a pluck service. ♪♪ >> and now on booktv, we're live with best selling author, harvard university professor and historian annette gordon reid who over -- annette gordon reed. her books include the pulitzer prize winning the hemingses of
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monticello and the recently published, "on juneteenth." >> host: annette gordon-reed on the 225th anniversary of 1776, are we that exceptional nation we often tell ourselves we are or hear? >> guest: well, we're certainly trying to be. >> host: in what way? >> guest: well, i think that there are a number of people in society who are working to make the ideals of the declaration a reality, the ideals that are expressed in the preamble about equality and about the pursuit of happiness. so i think we have that idea, and we're trying to reach that potential. >> host: would the founders -- and this is one of those silly questions, but would the founders recognize who we are today? >> guest: no, of course not. [laughter] i mean, some aspects of it they would, but some, women participating in the politics, blacks participating in politics, all those kinds of


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