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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  November 19, 2021 11:30pm-12:01am PST

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>> opportunity knockcks this wek on "firing line." >> i felt like there was no hope in this country for a little black boy like me. >> he grew up in poverty in south carolina wi a single mother. senator tim scott is now the only black republican in the united states senate... >> congressman scott earned this seat. >> ...he's a rising star in the gop... >> the next american century can be better than the last. >> ...who delivered the rebuttal to president biden. >> hear me clearly. america is not a racist country. >> scott is passionate about school choice... >> i want you to be empowered. >> ...police reform... >> hands up! >> don't shoot! >> no one living in the communities where i grew up is asking for defunding the police. >> ...and opening up economic opportunity zones, facing a re-election campaign next year, and questions about what
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else his future may hold... >> and there's a buzz about tim scott for the presidency. >> ...what does south carolina senator tim scott say now? >> "firing line with margaret hoover" is made possible in part by... and by... corporate funding is provided by... >> senator tim scott, welcome to "firing line." >> thank you. it's good to be here. >> america is divided. but you are an eternal optimist. >> yes. >> and you have used your personal story often as evidence of the good news. >> absolutely. >> a story of the american dream realized. >> yes. >> you grew up in north charleston with a mom who was a single mom, a nurse's assistant... >> yes. >> ...who'd work 16-hour days.
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tell me, what is a lesson you learned from your mother that got you to this historic place you are now as a u.s. senator from south carolina? >> thank you, margaret, for that great question. number one, i love my mom, and i'm literally living her american dream. she probably provided me with two or three really important lessons, and to pick one would be hard, so i won't. first lesson she taught me was that there's dignity in all work. the second lesson i'd say i got from my mom is that sometimes encouragement isn't enough. so she was always very encouraging. but every blue moon, she would pull me to the side and look me straight in the eyes and give me a southern form of love and affection and encouragement that came through the form of discipline. third lesson that came from my mother is to be an eternal optimist, that if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, she would tell me a thousand times my freshman year, "you'll be among the stars." that has stuck with me so when i'm signing pictures to interns, i always tell them, "dream big."
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>> there are two men who are also important figures to you growing up. >> absolutely. >> you talk about your grandfather... >> yes. >> ...who picked cotton as a young man. and in his elder years, you learned, never even really learned to read or to write. >> yes. >> you also write in your book about john monise. >> yes. >> two men, two different political persuasions, perhaps. >> my grandfather, who was a lifelong democrat -- he voted for me. thank god for that part. and john monise, who was a lifelong conservative who died way too young. but they both put their ideology in the back seat as it relates to impacting other people. my grandfather didn't spend a lot of time talking out republicans versus democrats, conservatives versus liberals. he talked about being the right person at the right time, living your life in a way that you're an example or a model for others. john said, "it's better to create jobs than have a job. it's better to have a profit than just an income." he was a business owner,
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a very successful guy. so merging those two people together where their ideological differences were always in the back seat, and what was in the front seat was the potential they saw in people? what a blessing for me. >> so, you describe yourself in high school as a student who was floundering a bit. >> yes. >> and there were some key teachers who focused on you and encourage you to work harder, to be better. you have called education "the closest thing to magic we have in america." >> yes. >> so, at the federal level, senator scott, you know, president bush had no child left behind. >> right. >> president obama had race to the top. >> yes. >> president trump supported an education tax credit, though it never passed. >> yes. >> what could this ministration do? >> well, there are a couple of things that i think we should look at in education. and let's start with those kids in title i schools. these are typically the kids that are living in the poorest
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zip codes in america. if you're not in those zip codes, typically, you choose the house that you want to live in based on the school that you want your child to go to. it's only those kids going to title i schools that are not afforded any options or any choice in this nation as it relates to education. and so let's start with title i schools and let's do what we're doing right here in washington, d.c. d.c. has something called the opportunity scholarship program, supported by cory booker, dianne feinstein, ron john, and myself. about 9 out of 10 of those kids that graduate go on to a four-year college through an opportunity scholarship program. if we did that all across america, if we just basically replicated the success academy in new york city or the meeting street academy in charleston, south carolina, we would have the vast majority of kids living in poverty, single-parent households, 95% getting free lunch,
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they would be performing in the top 20% of kids,o matter the color of their skin, no matter their economics. in this country, we're proving that it can be done. let's replicate that throughout every single title i school in america, and our oecd competitors would say, "oh, my gosh! life has changed permanently for the world," because we will be educating our poorest, underserved communities in a world-class way. >> you mentioned that democrat cory booker d democrat dianne feinstein support opportunity charter schools in washington, d.c. >> yes. >> do you think they'd support it nationally, the way you suggest should happen? >> well, they certainly should. >> but will they? >> if we would do it in one place, why won't they do it every place? >> but they won't do it somewhere else? >> mayor booker did support charter schools as mayor in new jersey, so i'm hoping that we could find the path forward. >> so, republican glenn youngkin... >> yes. >> ...just won a race
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to be governor of virginia, and one of the central issues of that campaign revolved around what is being taught in schools and whether parents should have a say in what's being taught in the schools. and in your response to president biden's joint address to congress back in april, you said... so explain what you see happening. >> well, here's -- here's what i'll tell you. in education, we should never teach people that any form of discrimination is okay. it's kind of that simple. and as a kid who went to public high schools and who understands the challenges of race in america intimately and personally, i can tell you that i benefited from not having curriculum designed around racial outcomes or oppressed versus oppressors.
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why don't we spend more time talking about the windshield as it relates to race than the rearview mirror about race? in other words, why don't we talk about the future of race relations and what we're doing to make this country better for everyone as opposed to looking back? here's what i think. number one, we've made more progress in the last 50 years than we did the first 190. number two, we still have a ways to go. both can be true because both are true. and if we were to celebrate the progress at the same time, looking for ways to address the problems, i think most americans would lean into that position. but what we don't want is to have our kids indoctrinated on any topic. we want to teach our kids how to think, not what to think. and that's what's missing. >> you know, you just mentioned the oecd rankings... >> our competitors. ...where american students are ranking in reading, writing, and arithmetic, compared to our competitors, and it strikes me, senator, that in an era where educational content is so
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politicized... >> yes. >> ...how do you focus federally and then, at the state and local level, on simply getting the basics right? >> that's a great question. i think we get there by focusing on reading, writing, and arithmetic. i would throw in there focusing on stem. if we're not doing that, we're losing the ball, so to speak. margaret, let me ask you this question. do we have -- the answer is yes, by the way. do we have the best colleges and universities in the world? >> no question. >> so why don't we make sure that our k through 12 reflects the same quality of opportunity? we shouldn't deny that to the poorest kids the poorest zip codes by having a broken system in their neighborhoods. so improving the plight of our title i kids is to improve the output of our nation. and it's the best and most effective way and the most cost effective way
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to create a global competition where we're in charge. >> i read this one part of your book, which i loved -- the story about how you went as a young aspiring political candidate to the democratic party in south carolina. >> yes. oh, yes. >> and it didn't go as you expected. >> no, it did not. >> tell me what happened. >> well, you know, as a young african-american kid growing up in south carolina, almost everybody i knew that was black was a democrat, so all my leanings were conservative. and i said that very consistently. interestingly enough, what i came to the conclusion very quickly was, i should give the democrats a try. i mean, this is what everyone that i know is doing. and so i went to the democrat -- they had a convention, downtown charleston. i walked in there, and i saw a state senator. i'll never forget. i walked up to him and said, "hey, i'm tim scott. and today i'm looking at running for county council. a seat's just been vacated, so it's an open seat." he's like, "you know, young man,
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you may have some potential there, but you need to get in the back of the line, serve your way to the front of the line." i was like, "that sounds terrible." if you've got the burning desire to run, you should run. i went back to my friends who i'd been talking to already within the republican party. they said, "tim, you do realize that there's never been a black elected countywide as a republican." i'm like, "i know." and he said, "well, if you're willing to try, we will support you. your philosophy and your values matches ours. let's do it." and grace of god and the voters of charleston county, i was able to win that first race comfortably, and it worked out really well. >> you say you're called to serve all americans, not just black americans, and you emphasize the progress in america. talk about the progress. >> okay. well, i'll tell you what. when i was in high school,
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the n-word was a weekly, every other week experience. i mean, i heard it a lot, so we had tension in high school. >> directed at you personally? >> oh, yeah, i used to have locker notes -- we used to call them n-notes -- left in my locker. it was -- it was -- it was -- it was painful at times, so we had some racial challenges. but at the same time, i had black kids who thought i had too many white friends, so they would call me oreo. and so i'm talking about an environment where the racial tension was thick. i could feel it walking down the hallways. fast-forward to 10 or 15 years later, i'm in business. i'm working for myself. i'm meeting people. lots of my clients are white. lots of my clients are black. and so i started experiencing that, economically, there was opportunity for someone who works really hard, shows up, and asks for the sale. i'm not sure that was true for my grandfather. my grandfather, born in 1921 in south carolina, experienced
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a very different south carolina. he had to get off the sidewalk when a white person was coming. he couldn't look you in the eye. my mother was born in 1944, during a time where all the water fountains were colored or white. but by the time i am in high school where we had tension, you also had people sitting together and hanging out. fast-forward to my nephew, who is just graduated from every school in the world, georgia tech, duke, emory, and now he's at tufts in his second-year of residency, right? and here's a kid, when i brought all of his friends to lunch after graduation, it looked like the united nations. i can't look at that and say, "boy, we're going backwards." it's absolutely not true. we are going forward by leaps very quickly. i look at the fact that we've elected the first african-american president. i'm the first african-american to be ever elected to congress and the united states senate
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in the htory of the country. we've seen so much progress. we have so much to celebrate. we're also, by the way, the only country, i think in the history of the world where the majority population fought each other to make sure that all people living in america were recognized of equal value and intrinsic worth. that has never been done anywhere in the world. and so we should celebrate all those areas of progress, but those are hopefully some signs of the progress that i see in the country. >> senator, here's something that struck me about your book. you describe the shock and the hurt that your staffers have felt... >> yes. >> ...when they have encountered racism directed at you. and you describe that you have been pulled over by police 18 times... >> now 22. >> ...as evidence of profiling. and i wonder, as you look in the windshield... >> yeah. >> ...what more needs to be done? >> well, listen, the police reform and criminal-justice reform are two hot topics
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that i've worked on for the last more than half a decade. criminal-justice reform, first step, i actually got signed with president trump. i am so thankful that we started to recalibrate our justice system to make it more fair in its sentencing. on police reform, i think there's still too many stops that are simply "driving while black." i think the vast majority of officers are doing their jobs and doing it very well. i thank god that people do it as a mission that they believe that their life's work is to protect other people. when we find those bad apples, we should find them and get rid of them, get them out of the police work, because a good cop wants to get rid of a bad cop more than any other person in the country. and so i want to make sure that we continue to shine light in the area and then provide the resources, be it money or training, to make sure that only the best wear the badge. so i think the whole footprint of the justice system still needs work, and we should continue to work on that. it's a very important part of realizing your full rights
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as an american citizen. >> can i ask you, i mean, you were working very closely with karen bass in the house and with cory booker in the senate to pass police reform in the wake of george floyd's murder. and it petered out. >> yes. >> what happened? i think there's very little visibility. >> two things. i'd say that the first time the democrats walked away from the table, they said, "this is a negotiation. we're leaving," and one of the democrats got up, and she walked out. and so, truth be told, i don't know why they keep walking away from such an important table. i've set my -- my setting is out. i'm here for the long haul. i think that this is something we have to get done. let me give you some good news, though, on this topic. there were like four or five areas that we both -- we all agreed on. >> everybody agreed on. isn't something better than nothing? >> that's exactly the question i was gonna end with. so you got there faster. you're smarter than i am. so this is exactly where we should end. is something better an nothing? the answer is absolutely, it is. but they wanted even more.
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and what they wanted was, essentially, federalizing lol law enforcement and still fighting over the funding that office -- that departments would be eligible for. those two, i hope we can find paths around. i'm not going to reduce funding, and i'm not going to federalize local law enforcement. >> so, you tell a story in your book about meeting congressman jack kemp. >> oh, yes. >> and this program, "firing line," is a reboot of the original "firing line," hosted by william f. buckley jr., and jack kemp was a guest on that program. >> yes. >> let me say, as a republican and as a bleeding-heart conservative republican, that we need democrats. they're on this earth to redistribute wealth. but that presupposes, ladies and gentlemen, that there will be a party in america that understands how to create wealth, create opportunity, create economic growth. my friend gary hart suggested that government is the engine of economic growth.
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with all due respect, it is not. free men, free women, free markets, free enterprise, private property, and unleashing the potential for entrepreneurial activity and opportunities for people to work and to save and invest and produce, and, yes, take a risk, and, yes, make a profit is the single greatest engine of economic growth the world has ever known, and it will work wherever it's struck. >> so, jack kemp... >> yes. >> ...was also an early advocate of what he called "enterprise zones." >> yes. >> which are probably maybe a precursor to the opportunity zones, right? which you, i think, get too little credit for what a prominent role and leadership role you took for that piece of legislation, that part of president trump's tax cuts and jobs act. explain for our audience, what is an opportunity zone? >> well, margaret, first, let me just say, watching jack kemp
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talk, i was like, "man, i wish i was that good." i literally crafted the legislation off of his enterprise zones. he believed that people living in marginalized communities deserved e right to make decisions for their own communities, for their own lives, and that required resources. he wanted the government to come in and do more. the one thing i changed about his approach was instead of having the government do more, let's get the private sector -- because what he said was 100% right. it's the private sector that is the economic engine of change and opportunity. so i wanted to take that concept and put it in legislation, and opportunity zones is that legislation. it attracts the private sector when they make a profit to come back to marginalized communities that are disproportionately majority minority and invest money long term. what i do not want, what i did not want, and what i will not ever want is for people to come into a community, make a profit off the community, and run away with their money.
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i wanted them to plant roots for 5, 7, 10 years. and frankly, $75 billion in just three years has been committed to opportunity zones where, on average, we've seen property values go up double digit, which means that we're closing the wealth gap because the gentrification rate is under 5% in those zones, meaning that the people who are there are benefiting from what's happening in their backyards. >> so as the author of the bill, you're in the best position to take on some of the criticisms of it. >> yes. >> and president biden argued on the campaign trail that there were elements of opportunity zones that needed to be fixed. >> yes. >> what needs to be reformed about it? is he right? >> well, i think the first thing that we need to know -- we don't know whether he's right. what we've seen is, most of the information that we've seen is very positive. here's what else we can do. we should require every single opportunity fund to report what they're doing
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with the money to the irs so we can actually measure whether these are boondoggles, cherry-picked, or are they hitting the target like we know that they are. and that would give us a chance to then, if there are reforms that need to be made, let's do it. but this is a -- this is a program, by the way, celebrated by mayor bowser here in the d.c. area, compton, california, to my good friend john gettys, a democrat mayor, in rock hill, south carolina. the only place where you will not find that people say it works -- here in washington, d.c., where they want to take more of your money, control more of your life, and make the decisions for you. >> you wrote at the beginning of the book about standing shoulder to shoulder with the late john lewis. >> yes. >> and crossing the edmund pettus bridge on the 50th anniversary of bloody sunday. and you say that voting rights are personal, particularly as a black voter in the south, and that republican support should be making it easier
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to vote and harder to cheat. >> absolutely. >> what needs to happen to make it easier to vote? >> well, i think if you look at the georgia law, this is a classic example of something that's actually making it easier to vote. most of the people who have demonized the law didn't really read the law, so they're going on headlines, and god bless headlines, but they're not always the most accurate. before the pandemic, it was illegal to have a dropbox where you could drop your votes off. in the georgia law, it codifies and makes it legal to have dropboxes. there's a big debate over early voting, and i think it's a worthy debate. in georgia, there are more early voting days than in blue states throughout the country. so more days to vote early. and they call it souls to the polls, right? so what does that mean? it means, on sundays, you can vote because it's a day that a lot of people have off.
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so they made that available, and they aed an additional saturday within that window before you go vote on the election day to be able to vote. the federal law, h.r. 1, which is the way that the democrats wanted to take it, says tax dollars should go into my personal campaign account. that's wrong. why would we compel democrats to put money into a republican campaign account or republicans into a democrat's campaign account? number two, we should not make ballot harvesting legal. we shouldn't allow for one person to pick up hundreds, if not thousands, of ballots and decide which ones they turn in, which ones they don't turn in. that's the kind of stuff that we don't need. >> so that's the harder-to-cheat part. >> exactly. >> do you believe that voter fraud is a widespread problem? >> i don't. i think that voter integrity is a widespread issue. i think voter fraud versus voter
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integrity are very different. let me explain to you what i mean. in pennsylvania, they chan-- they allowed for mail-in ballots for essentially -- widespread mail-in ballots for the first time, and they didn't build a system for it. so that wasn't voter fraud. it may have led to fraudulent activity that we had legalized. what went wrong, in my opinion, is that we simply had a new system of voting without a whole lot of safeguards in there. >> but you disagree with this notion that it's a widespread problem, in terms of fraud in our election. >> i absolutely think that we can secure our elections better. and one of the ways that we do that is by passing the laws that you're seeing across the country. >> final question. just last month, you had said of course you would support president trump if he runs for president in 2024. is he your top choice? >> well, i don't know who's going to run. the question is, would i support president trump or would i support any other republican nominee to be president of the united states versus someone who believes that the road
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to socialism is the right way to take this country? i would support any republican that ran for president who won our nomination, without any question. that was an easy decision to say. >> but if other republicans are in the race, is he your preferred candidate? >> well, here's what i have to say. i think president trump is a force to be reckoned with within the republican party. i won't pretend that he's not, and i won't suggest that there's somebody who can take him out. so at this point, i'm hopeful that, a, i get re-elected to be the senator of south carolina, and, b, that we have a united republican party running to change and bring optimism and hope to this nation. >> senator tim scott, thank you for joining me. >> absolutely. thank you, ma'am. >> you're welcome back any time. >> look forward to coming back. >> "firing line th margaret hoover" is made possible in part by... and by...
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corporate funding is provided by... >> you're watching pbs.
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