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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript: Interview with Pete Buttigieg

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MADDOW:  I`m very pleased to say, joining us now for "The Interview" is Pete Buttigieg.  He is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and now, officially, a candidate for president in the Democratic primary.
 
Mr. Mayor, it`s really nice to meet you.
 
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Thanks for having me on.
 
MADDOW:  Your speech this weekend was very moving. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Thank you. 
 
MADDOW:  Your husband says you wrote it yourself that morning. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes, I`d been working on it a little more than that.  But I was polishing it off until the other day.
 
MADDOW:  When you think about big moments like this in your life, are you a guy who likes to work alone or do you like to work with a team?  Are you a collaborative person?  Are you sort of a hermit?  How do you -- how do you work for big stuff?
 
BUTTIGIEG:  You know, I have a great team.  I love collaborating with them to get things set up.  But there`s a line of poetry, I can`t remember where it`s from -- the final decisions are made in silent rooms. 
 
And, you know, when I got a big decision or big body of work, once I consulted with the team and gotten advice, that`s when I like I spend a little time with myself and just put my head down, think, reflect and often that -- that or sometimes in the shower when I`m just thinking to myself in more laid back fashion or when a lot of best ideas come. 
 
MADDOW:  Ninety percent of my best ideas have come in the shower.  That`s why I spend too much time in the shower. 
 
In terms of how things have gone so far, obviously, you`ve had -- you got a lot of very good press early on in this run.  And now, you`re getting a lot of good press about getting good press. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  And you are polling very well.  Your fund-raising numbers are really big.  The response, according to your campaign, in terms what the fund-raising response was yesterday to your formal announcement is very impressive.  Is this what you planned?  Are you surprising yourself? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  The trajectory of it is a lot faster than what we expected.  So, we`re pleased.  I mean, we certainly believed and hoped that the message would land, that we would get traction, that people would be excited about the idea of a new generation of leadership and somebody coming from a different background like a mayor.  You know, all of that is as we hoped. 
 
But the pace of it has been extraordinary.  At the same time, you know, I`m trying not to fool myself, right?  Obviously, it`s no small thing to find yourself third in the polls related to the American presidency. 
 
On the other hand, when I go out on the street after this, the majority of people who pass by will not recognize me.  And it`s April.  We`ve got a very long way to go in this process. 
 
MADDOW:  How do you scale up?  How do you learn how to scale up to running a national level campaign?  You have do that not just for the general but in order to win the primary. 
 
I know that you`ve -- you know, you have worked on presidential campaigns before, Kerry, Obama.  And so, you`ve seen them in operation from a ground level perspective. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  But how do you learn how to run when you`ve never done anything remotely like this before? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  We`re very conscious of what we don`t know.  And so, we`re trying to take on advice from people who have seen some version of this movie before, from people who were involved in the Obama campaign, to people who are involved in the Gary Hart campaign, just to learn as much as we can about how this works. 
 
And at the same time, recognize that each cycle is different.  It has different dynamics and we`re also determined.  I mean, somebody like me shouldn`t do something like this unless we`re prepared to do it in a novel way, in an original way. 
 
And we want to make sure we`re writing our own playbook.  You know, organizationally, some things, you`ve just got to get muscle memory of people who`ve seen it before -- ballot access in early states, organizing in different constituencies.  And there are other things that I think the playbook really is changing.  Digital is a good example. 
 
You know, we Democrats like to think of ourselves as the sophisticated ones.  But in some ways, we`ve got outclassed on digital persuasion in 2016.  I`m not just talking about the cheating and the nefarious stuff.  I`m also just saying if you look at how much we spent on digital versus on traditional television, for example, in so many races, it was actually the Republicans who were seeing more of what could be done with digital involvement. 
 
And from a tactical perspective, you know, you don`t have the sort of firms that you have around TV organized in quite the same way in the digital space.  So, we`re going to build up some of this talent and capacity in house.  So, it`s a mix of building a great organization that you think can power you through in those early states and listening to people who have some insights because, you know, we -- as you said, we have never been doing something like this in this way.  And we need to learn from those who have seen these things before. 
 
MADDOW:  On policy, you have floated some big idea policies.  Yet when you go to your website, you go to the issue section, you compare the way you are running to somebody like Elizabeth Warren is running, you`ve been a lot less specific on a lot of policy matters. 
 
Are you doing that strategically because you`ve got some idea of all the policies you want to roll out, you just want to do it later? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  Or are you trying to avoid being pinned down on stuff at all? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Part of it is sequencing thing, but I do want everybody to understand where I stand on any important policy issue.  And we`ve tried to make that clear in interviews, in statements.  You`ll start seeing more of a web presence that will make that clear, too. 
 
I do think as Democrats, we sometimes have a tendency to lead with the policy minutia.  Of course, it`s important for people to know where we stand.  But I also think -- you know, one thing conservatives did effectively was they claimed the idea space.  They talked about values and kind of won a lot of the arguments or at least won a lot of media space for their values, beginning with the Reagan administration, in such a way that even Democrats were compelled to do what I would consider largely conservative things, when they took office really at any time in my lifetime. 
 
And so, it`s very important to me to make sure that we`re winning a values argument, too.  That`s why I talk about things like freedom and why freedom can`t just be property of the conservative movement to the Republicans.  But that means, you know, constructive freedom. 
 
So, to me something like the work that goes on on consumer financial protection is freedom, because you are not free if you are prevented from suing a credit card company after they rip you off.  Health care is freedom.  It secures our freedom to have access to healthcare, which is why I`ve been clear about Medicare-for-All the desired destination for us. 
 
But also, I believe that politicians who talk about things like Medicare for all should have some account of the glide path to get there.  That`s why I described how I think if we design it in the right way, making a version of Medicare available on the exchanges for people to buy into as an option will be the pathway to get there. 
 
So, I feel that I`ve been specific about the goals and about the outlines of the policy design I think helps us get there.  But I also am looking forward to an iterative process where we continue to find the best way to articulate some of these and to define some of those and have some humility about what happens when all of your campaign statements collide with the reality of governing. 
 
You know, you look at something like the New Deal.  That didn`t happen because it was completely formulated by FDR as a campaign promise, brought in in a briefcase to the White House and then deployed.  It happened because there was a set of values and priorities that encountered the reality on the ground. 
 
And when we think about the Green New Deal, which I think we should admit, even though it`s very attractive framework, I think we should admit that it`s more a set of goals right now than it is a fully articulated policy.  We`re going to need to continue laying down the left and right boundaries of what we think we ought to be part of that, but also recognize that that`s going to evolve when we actually hit the ground in the policy context, hopefully, after a Democrat comes into power in 2020. 
 
MADDOW:  I think that one of the values that Americans are talking about more and realizing we have more of an emotional attachment than we thought we did was the idea of our constitutional norms, our non-legal mores about how we govern -- 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  -- because this president has been radically dismissive of so many of them. 
 
In that context in which we`ve got a president who is revoking security clearances against his political enemies, in which he is talking about banning Muslims from the United States and campaigning on that, doing sorts of things that are unimaginable even in a dystopian fiction version of American governance, but we`re living it now, I think the idea of radically changing structural things in the American government, especially when the Republican Party is now led by Donald Trump and his supporters, that is -- that feels different than it might coming out of President Obama or it might at any other recent time. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  The idea of abolishing Electoral College, as you suggested.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Right.
 
MADDOW:  The idea of expanding the Supreme Court to 15 seats, with a different method of picking judges.  I feel like those are bold ideas, bold structural ideas about protecting our democracy.  It also feels like we`re sort of balanced on tiptoe right now in terms of our constitutional inheritance. 
 
It feels like a time where we might not be able to take a shove on either direction in this stuff.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  It sounds like a paradox, but in many ways, I think actually those two observations go together.  In other words, it`s at moments when the soundness of our democratic setup, especially at its seams, moments when it`s being tested that we need to pay the most attention to the structure. 
 
I would argue that a presidency like the one we are living through wouldn`t have even by possible unless there were a lot of structural problems in our economy and in our democracy that a candidate like he was was able to exploit.  I think this is actually the exact moment where we`ve got to look at how we shore up our democracy. 
 
You think about some of the concern and anxiety and maybe grief over the stability of our system that happened in the `70s which led to some reforms in the Watergate era.  You look at various moments, various seasons, if you will, for structural improvement.  They aren`t the most kind of stable or easy times for our country. 
 
The question before us is, can our democracy accommodate the forces that are hitting us through the 21st century?  I think it can.  But o get there, we`ve got to use some of the most elegant features built into the Constitution like the ability to amend it to make our country stronger.  I think we ought to have that level of ambition. 
 
And the difference between us and this president is we`re proposing using the Constitution`s processes for a kind of self-healing.  If we realize that this would be a fairer place if everyone`s vote counted the same and if the way we picked our president was to tally the votes and give it to the person who got the most votes, then now is a moment to make that change through a process that is deliberative. 
 
MADDOW:  Are you worried that you are giving the Trump era Republican Party an idea that they ought to start amending the Constitution right now? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Whoa (ph) -- you know -- 
 
MADDOWE:  Or they ought to start changing -- radically changing the structure of the Supreme Court? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  They already have.  You know, the Republicans in the Senate changed the numbers of justices on the Supreme Court, they changed to eight, until they took power.  And then they changed it back to nine. 
 
So, you know, a lot of what we`re talking about is no less a shattering of norms than what the other side has done.  But we`re proposing it to do it in a way that is more inclusive, I would say more constitutionally sound, more appropriate, and will just by the nature of the checks and balances in our system, have to go through a very thoughtful and rigorous process. 
 
I think that if they try tinkering with the system -- again, they are doing it under the table in so many ways.  If they try to do it more nakedly, they`re going to encounter resistance, because most Americans don`t want this.  Most Americans don`t want the conservative agenda that we`re now seeing -- the extreme agenda that we`re seeing in Washington. 
 
In fact, it is precisely for that reason that they have to interfere with democracy with things like voter suppression or clinging on an Electoral College that overrules the will of the American people.  It is precisely because the American people by and large don`t want what they are selling that they are relying on manipulations of our political structure in order to keep their agenda in play. 
 
MADDOW:  Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, will you stay here? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  I`d love to. 
 
MADDOW:  We`ll be right back with Mayor Pete right after this. 
 
Stay with us. 
 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
 
MADDOW:  Back with us now is Pete Buttigieg.  He is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a Democratic candidate for president who has made a lot of press in recent days for the ways that he has been rising in the polls and putting up very impressive fund-raising numbers and for the media tour that you have been doing that is making everybody learn how to say your name. 
 
Sir, thank you for being here. 
 
I want to ask you about an almost of your resume and your background that is rare.  There`s this gigantic field of Democratic candidates.  It`s literally like two baseball teams at this point.  You could play each other. 
 
But besides you and Gabbard, there aren`t candidates running thus far who have military experience.  You enlisted at the age of 26, 27?
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes, right around then, yes.
 
MADDOW:  After grad school?
 
BUTTIGIEG:  That`s right.
 
MADDOW:  Can you talk about your decision about why to do that?  Why did you pick the Navy?  What were you -- what`s going on -- 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes, there had been kind of a family military tradition.  But I also had some excuse for not serving at any particular moment when I was in college.  I was in college when I got the chance to study overseas.  You know, I was tied up in that.  Although there were several Americans at Oxford who were in my class of Rhodes Scholars who were graduates of the Naval Academy.  I just admired those people so much that it made me think a little harder. 
 
The thing that put me over the edge was actually a campaign visit.  I was knocking on doors as a volunteer for Barack Obama in some very low income, very rural counties in Iowa, and was blown away by how many times I would knock on the door, talk to a young person who was on their way to basic training or on their way into recruitment. 
 
I began to realize just how stark the class and regional divides had become that I could count on one hand the number of people I knew at a place like Harvard who had gone on to serve.  I began to feel like I was part of a problem. 
 
You know, I grew up on the tradition of people like John F. Kennedy, a young John F. Kennedy, experienced in military service the most probably racially integrated environment that he could have been in at the time, found himself on equal terms with the sons of farmers and laborers from the Midwest.  George H.W. Bush, the same thing, as the scions of wealthy and powerful families who`s expected of them that they would serve and it helped them get to know people of different backgrounds. 
 
I was by no means the scion of a wealthy or powerful family.  But I did have the privilege of this amazing education, and began to think like, maybe that`s a reason I should be contributing and should be as liable to getting called up as anybody else in this country, rather than one more thing that kind of separates me from other people I knew from my region or hometown who had served. 
 
So, I went in for the commission in intelligence in 2009.  I thought -- I studied Arabic.  I thought that might be useful.  A letter came back to me that the recruiter wrote down that I had studied aerobics. 
 
(LAUGHTER)
 
MADDOW:  Which would also be useful. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  I actually wound up as a command fitness instructor for my year in deployment.  But I supposed that would have been useful.  But I`m really glad I did get a chance to serve. 
 
It helped me connect with very different Americans, people, especially when I was deployed to Afghanistan who -- I had almost nothing in common with them, different politics, different generation, different racially, different regionally.  But you learn to trust each other with your life, because that`s what the job requires. 
 
And I want more Americans to have that.  I don`t want you to go to war to get it.  That`s one of the reasons I think national service will hopefully become one of the themes in the 2020 campaign, because if we really want to talk about the threat to social cohesion that helps characterize this presidency but also just this era. 
 
One thing we could do that would change that would be to make it if not legally obligatory then certainly a social norm that anybody after they`re 18 spends a year in national service.  So that afterwards, whether it`s civilian or military, it`s the first question on your college application if you`re applying for college or it`s the first question when you are being interviewed for a job if you go right into the work force. 
 
Now, to do that, we`re going to have to create more service opportunities and we`re going to find a way to fund it.  But I think it`s worth approaching. 
 
MADDOW:  I feel like that point and you discussing those difficulties with it sort of strikes me on that because it`s always -- it`s always really resonated with me, the civilian and military divide that you`re talking about is something I have been interested in a very long time.  I wrote a book about it.
 
And it`s something that I have struggled with because the easy answer is that there should be a draft.  And the easy answer that there should be a draft is easy and sounds like a great solution to everybody except the military who doesn`t want to deal with a lot of conscripts who don`t want to be there, because it`s a high skills, high tech environment, voluntary service, professionals. 
 
But this idea of national service that`s not necessarily a draft, I heard so many smart people left, right and center talk about that for the last 15 years.  And I feel like it`s this constant drawing board idea.  Nobody ever
* somebody pilots a thing here or there.  There doesn`t seem to be any appetite for it at the federal level in terms of actually making it happen because it will involve some sort of level of raising expectations if not creating a mandate for people and we seem wired as a country to reject that at every level. 
 
I don`t have faith that something like that gets off the drawing board. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Well, I think it`s a bit like some of the democratic reforms we were talking about earlier.  It`s one of the ideas that everybody likes.  It was always important and never urgent, right?  I mean, how would that ever kind of hold its own in a policy debate where we`re dealing with kids in cages and we have to deal with climate change and all these pressing, burning issues? 
 
But, again, one of the things I`m trying to have us have a conversation about are, what are the conditions that made this moment, this presidency possible?  And one of them I think is a fraying in the social cohesion that we experience.  And some of that kind of stewardship, kind of housekeeping of our society, I think requires policy intervention that to me makes something like what national service could bring us a little more urgent than we maybe have given it credit for. 
 
I get the obstacles.  I get that it would be challenging.  But if we made it more of a priority, I think we could establish that as a norm by the time that my kids are going to college.
 
MADDOW:  Are you going to have kids? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  I hope so. 
 
(LAUGHTER)
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Don`t have any yet. 
 
MADDOW:  Do you have plans? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  You know, this whole running for president of thing has kind of slowed down the path a little bit but --
 
MADDOW:  Are you guys talking about it? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes, Chasten, my husband, is -- he is made for a lot of things.  He is a great educator.  He has become a great public figure, kind of coming out of the gate. 
 
But he is going to be an amazing father.  And I can`t wait to see -- I hope I`ll be good at it, too.  But I can`t wait to see him have that chance. 
 
MADDOW:  Well, let me -- I want to talk about a lot of these things in more depth.  On that point, actually, let me ask you -- I will acknowledge that this is an awkward question. 
 
I was a Rhodes scholar, too.  I went up in 1995.  You went up a decade later.  So, I was the first openly gay American Rhodes scholar. 
 
And I got there and I had come out in college.  I applied for the Rhodes scholarship as an openly gay person.  It definitely came up in the selection process and I got there.  And I learned that I was the first American that ever been out. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Wow.
 
MADDOW:  That was a decade before you.  And you went through college and then the Rhodes scholarship process and the getting the Rhodes scholarship and going to work for McKinsey and joining the Navy and deploying to Afghanistan and coming home and running for mayor in your hometown, and getting elected before you came out at the age of 33. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  And I bring this up.  And I acknowledge it`s a difficult question not because it`s bad that you didn`t come out until you were 33, but I think it would have killed me to be closeted for that long. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  I just think about what it takes as a human being to know something and to have to bifurcate your public life.  And for you to have had all of those difficult transitions and experiences and to be aiming as high as you were all of that time, and not coming out until your early 30s, I just wonder if that was hurtful to you?
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  If it hurt you to do it? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  It was hard.  It was really hard. 
 
MADDOW:  Coming out is hard, but being in the closet is harder. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  That`s what I mean. 
 
It was and it wasn`t.  First of all, it took me plenty of time to come out to myself.  So, I did not the way you did or the way my husband did figure out at such an early age that -- I probably should have.  I mean, there are certain -- plenty of indications by the time I was 15 or so that I could point, like, yes, this kid is gay. 
 
But I guess I just really needed to not be.  You know, there`s this war that breaks out I think inside a lot of people when they realize that they might be something they are afraid of.  And it took me a very long time to resolve that.  I did make sure as a kind of final way of coming out to myself to come out to at least a couple of people in my life before I took office because I knew that I didn`t want that psychological pressure, of at least not being out to somebody. 
 
MADDOW:  Are you sort of swore them to secrecy?  Or you --
 
BUTTIGIEG:  They understood, yes -- 
 
MADDOWE:  Yes.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  -- that this was a very sensitive thing. 
 
They also pointed out, as your friends do, you know, patting you on the back, that I hadn`t made it easy on myself because at that point, professionally, I had two things in my life that really mattered to me professionally.  One of them was being an officer in the military, in the reserve.  And the other was being an elected official, in Indiana. 
 
MADDOW:  Uh-huh.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Neither of which is exactly LGBT friendly.  In fact, both of which I assumed were totally, totally incompatible with being out.  Both of which were meaningful. 
 
One of the risks that I think people with meaningful jobs have -- especially people in politics actually -- is because your job is meaningful, a lot of the meaning in your life comes from your job, which is a real problem because part of what is needed I think to be good at your job in politics is to have something worth more to you than winning.  You have to be ready to walk away from that job in order to deserve it. 
 
But I did get a lot of meaning from that work.  And in some ways because it was so demanding, I almost didn`t mind for a inordinately long time -- 
 
MADDOW:  That that was --
 
BUTTIGIEG:  -- that I didn`t have much of a personal life. 
 
MADDOW:  Yes.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  And I did not have a dating life while I was closeted or anything like that. 
 
The city was a jealous bride for a long time and kept me busy.  But it was really the deployment that put me over the top.  I realized that you only get to be one person.  You don`t know how long you have on this earth.  And by the time I came back, I realized, I got to -- I got to do something. 
 
MADDOW:  Were you sure when you came out it would cost you reelection? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  I was pretty sure it was going to be a big complication.  But I had no idea -- I mean, I felt like things were going well in the city.  I felt like I had done a good job by the people of South Bend.  I had some level of trust that I would be -- that I would be rewarded for that with a reelection. 
 
But there`s no way to really know.  There`s no playbook.  I mean, no executive in Indiana that had been out.  And so, it was kind of a leap of faith.  I just -- I had -- I wrote it all down, put it in an op-ed, dropped into the "South Bend Tribune" and saw what would happen. 
 
MADDOW:  And then got re-elected with 80 percent of the vote. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  And then, there you go. 
 
MADDOW:  Yes.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  So, you treat people -- you trust people and at least in this case, they reciprocated that trust.  You know, that was more than I got elected in the first place.  And so, I guess it`s one thing that gives me encouragement.  I mean, don`t get me wrong, as you know, there`s plenty of ugliness from all over the place. 
 
But most people I think are either supportive or even enthusiastic about the idea of the first out person going this far.  Or they find a way to let me know they don`t care.  And that`s historic, too. 
 
I mean, one day the way this will work is if a mayor is trying to figure out how to come out, you go to the next rubber chicken dinner you`re going to and your date`s the same sex, that`s that, right?  People shrug, figure it out and get on with the evening. 
 
It didn`t feel that way in Indiana in 2015.  But one of the things I think I can do before the first vote is cast is maybe make it a little easier just by being here -- 
 
MADDOW:  Right.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  -- for the next person who comes along. 
 
MADDOW:  Yes, you`ve written the history in some ways about how to do it and the next person gets to live it. 
 
I have a couple more questions for you.  Will you stay? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Please. 
 
MADDOW:  All right.  Mayor Pete Buttigieg is our guest.  He is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.  He`s running for president. 
 
Stay with us.
 
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
 
MADDOW:  Back with us for the interview is Pete Buttigieg.  He has announced his run for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.
 
Mr. Mayor, thank you again for sticking with us. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Good to be with you.
 
MADDOW:  This administration has embraced dictators and strong men in a way we haven`t seen before this in this country.  I`m thinking about President Trump`s failure to rebuke the Saudis for killing Jamal Khashoggi.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Right.
 
MADDOW:  The praise, the declarations of love, in fact, for Kim Jong-un, the weirdness of Vladimir Putin. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Uh-huh.
 
MADDOW:  What would your posture be towards those types of world leaders that this president has embraced?  Would you meet with people like that?  Would you not meet with people like that? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  There certain conditions where maybe you would meet with them.  But I actually think the emergence or the reinforcement of figures like that are an example of why it`s so important to have America be credibly defending our values.  And right now, we`re not credibly doing anything in the international scene. 
 
Look, I still believe strongly in American values.  And anytime we as a countries have tried to do something that we thought was in our interests but went against our values, sooner or later, it caught up to us.  So, I think the core of American foreign policy in the future as the next president is trying to re-establish U.S. credibility and do things like make clear what the standards will be for the commitment of U.S. troops in unilateral military action in the future -- which, by the way, I hope is a much higher bar going forward.
 
But as any of that is being resolved, it has to begin with the idea of American interests and American values are inseparable.  And so, when we`re encountering these often competitors or adversaries, we`ve got to recognize that, look, the American model is not quite -- is not viewed as convincing as it used to be, you know, because of instability here at home and because of the embarrassments coming out of the White House. 
 
There are a lot of people around the world who might say, you know, the Chinese model isn`t looking so bad right now.  You got the Russian model throwing its weight around.  The Saudi model, as you mentioned.
 
I think it`s precisely because they`re throwing their weight around that we need American values out there.  But it has to be credible.  And that means you have to have a U.S. leader who`s willing to draw lines, who`s willing to hold leaders accountable when they do murderous things and who is extremely selective with when you use the prestige and power of the presidency either through a meeting or through a favorable comment to elevate or lift up a leader of any other country. 
 
MADDOW:  The relationship between this president and Vladimir Putin in particular obviously has its own dynamics. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.
 
MADDOW:  The redacted version of Robert Mueller`s report is going to be released to the public on Thursday according to Justice Department.  Do you have expectations what`s going to be in it, or how we should react?
 
BUTTIGIEG:  I have expectations that are expectations we`ll be frustrated just because of the redactions and because -- you know, so often we`re I think we still have this instinct as Democrats horrified by the abuses and the failures and the character of this presidency that there will be some kind of piece of evidence out there that demonstrates conclusively to everybody that he`s not a good guy. 
 
And what I hope we can remember is that there are a lot of people, certainly in the Industrial Midwest where I live, who already know that he`s not a good guy.  They didn`t vote for him because they think he`s a good guy.  They voted for him for a whole different set of reasons.  And this isn`t going to change that. 
 
So, I think we need to separate the importance of the Mueller report for our country and for clarifying what happened to the extent that it will, and we just don`t know yet, with what we think or wish it would do politically. 
 
At the end of the day, on the political side, I think the only pathway to getting to be a better country is to very decisively defeat Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.  And as for the report, that`s for Congress and the American people to figure out once we`ve gotten a look at it. 
 
MADDOW:  In terms of what`s going to happen over the course of your campaign for president, what`s going to happen between now and 2020, one of the ways Democrats are going to make national news every day between now and the 2020 elections is by pursuing various investigations of this president, including a whole bunch of subpoenas that just went out to Deutsche Bank, a fight right now for whether the president should be handing over his tax returns, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. 
 
Do you think that Democrats in Congress are doing the right thing by pursuing that course of action? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Yes, I think we need to have accountability, and the American people need to know what`s going on.  We just can`t confuse that with the message.  Even as we`re pursuing that, and that`s just part of our oversight responsibility to ensure good government, we also need to have a message that will make sense as I often say in 2030, 2040, or 2054 when I get to be the same age as the president is now.  And by definition, a message that makes sense then would have to be one that does not revolve around the deficiencies of the current occupant of the White House. 
 
MADDOW:  Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, almost exactly half the age of both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.  Am I right you won an essay contest from high school for writing about Bernie Sanders being a good congressman? 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Profiles in courage essay contest.  I was 18. 
 
MADDOW:  You know, the world spins faster and faster every year. 
 
Sir, thank you for being here. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Thanks for having me. 
 
MADDOW:  Really good to have you here.
 
BUTTIGIEG:  Appreciate it.
 
MADDOW:  First time we`ve had you on the show.  I hope you come back. 
 
BUTTIGIEG:  I hope so.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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