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  • Thanks for joining us one more time; I really appreciate it.

  • Great to be with you, Steve.

  • Over my shoulder here is Theodore Roosevelt.

  • In 1884, Theodore Roosevelt was frustrated about an election and wrote a letter saying

  • the voice of the people might be the voice of God 51 times out of 100,

  • but the other 49, it may be the voice of a devil or of a fool.

  • Which do you think it was this time in 2016?

  • Well, it's hard to assess because we know for example that Hillary won the popular vote

  • by a sizable margin.

  • We know that there are a substantial number of voters out there who not only voted for

  • me twice but currently support me who also voted for Donald Trump.

  • So I think we have a scrambled political landscape right now.

  • There are some things that we know are a challenge for Democratsstructural problems.

  • For example, population distribution, oftentimes younger voters, minority voters,

  • Democratic voters, are clustered in urban areas.

  • And on the coasts, sure.

  • And on the coasts, and so as a consequence you've got a situation where there're not

  • only entire states but also big chunks of states where, if we're not showing up,

  • if we're not in there making an argument, then we're going to lose.

  • And we can lose badly, and that's what happened in this election.

  • Is this just a matter of showing up, or is there something wrong with the argument? - Well...

  • No, well, I don't think there's something wrong with the core argument

  • that the Democratic Party has made for years.

  • And the reason we know that is because on the individual issues that Democrats talk

  • about there's strong support.

  • For example, the minimum wage.

  • In every survey across the country, people support a higher minimum wage.

  • There are clearly, though, failures on our part to give people in rural areas or

  • in ex-urban areas, a sense day-to-day that we're fighting for them or connected to them.

  • Some of it is the prism through which they're seeing the political debate take place.

  • They may know less about the work that my administration did on

  • trying to promote collective bargaining or overtime rules.

  • But they know a lot about the controversy around transgender bathrooms because it's

  • more controversial, it attracts more attention.

  • I think that on something like the Affordable Care Act, you have people who are benefiting

  • right now from Obamacare who either don't know it's Obamacare or consider that as a

  • given and then end up voting on Second Amendment rights.

  • So part of the reason it's important to show up, and when I say show up, I don't just mean

  • during election time, but to be in there engaging and listening and being with people, is because

  • it then builds trust and it gives you a better sense of how should you talk about issues

  • in a way that feel salient and feel meaningful to people.

  • And I've said this before.

  • Part of the reason I got elected twiceand part of the reason why in a lot of these communities

  • I still have pretty strong support.

  • It was the incredible benefit that I had in first running for the United States Senate

  • in a state that has a lot of rural communities and has a downstate that typically is suspicious

  • of Chicagoans in the city.

  • And just sitting down in people's living rooms and VFW halls and at fish fries and

  • listening to people.

  • And then in Iowa, spending months traveling around the state and hearing people's concerns

  • and them hearing me and getting a sense that I get it.

  • So that even during my low points in the presidency, when, you know, poll numbers were bad and

  • news cycle was critical, people always felt as if I still cared about themwhich meant

  • that in 2012, I might still lose the overall vote and some of these counties or some of

  • these voting districts, but I might lose 55-45 or 60-40 rather than 80-20.

  • That's as a consequence of not only them seeing me in these places but it's also a consequence

  • of me actually being there and hearing them.

  • Were Democrats failing to do that at every level because your party has lost the majority

  • of races at almost every level at this point?

  • Well, you know, I think that we haven't done it as well as we need to.

  • For example, we know that the Republicans, funded through organizations like

  • the Koch brothers, have been very systematic at...

  • Building from ground up.

  • Building from the ground up and communicating to state legislators and financing school

  • board races and public utility commission races, and, you know, I am a proud Democrat,

  • but I do think that we have a bias towards national issues and international issues,

  • and as a consequence I think we've ceded too much territory.

  • And I take some responsibility for that.

  • You know, when I came into office, you know, we were just putting out fires.

  • We were in a huge crisis situation.

  • And so a lot of the organizing work that we did during the campaign, we started to see

  • right away didn't immediately translate to, wasn't immediately transferable to,

  • congressional candidates.

  • And more work would have needed to be done to just build up that structure and, you know,

  • one of the big suggestions that I have for Democrats as I leave, and something that,

  • you know, I have some ideas about is, how do we do more of that ground up building?

  • Do you intend to be involved or just give advice?

  • Well, I think it's appropriate for me to give advice because I need some sleep.

  • And I've promised Michelle a nice vacation.

  • My girls are getting old enough now where I'm clinging to those very last moments before

  • they are out of the house.

  • But there was a political organization that was built around you that still exists.

  • Well, I'm less likely to get involved in all the nuts and bolts of electioneering.

  • In that realm, I'm much more likely to just give advice.

  • What I am interested in is just developing a whole new generation of talent.

  • There are such incredible young people who not only worked on my campaign, but I've seen

  • in advocacy groups.

  • I've seen passionate about issues like climate change or conservation, criminal justice reform,

  • you know, campaigns for a livable wage, or health insurance, and making sure that

  • whatever resources, credibility, spotlight that I can bring to help them rise up.

  • That's something that I think I can do well, I think Michelle can do well.

  • That's part of what makes me optimistic about our future because I know those young people

  • are out there ready to lead, and

  • when they start moving into more and more positions of authority,

  • then I think the issues that I care most deeply about are going to be well served.

  • You want to be a talent scout and build the bench that Democrats have admitted they don't have.

  • Well, not only a talent scout but I think also, you know, a coach, a friend,

  • somebody who can build on the incredible work that has already been done by young people and

  • that to a large degree was responsible for getting me elected.

  • Did the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committeeand other targetsactually

  • affect the results of the election in your view?

  • There's no doubt that it contributed to an atmosphere in which the only focus for weeks

  • at a time, months at a time, were Hillary's e-mails,

  • the Clinton Foundation, political gossip surrounding the DNC.

  • And that whole swirl that ended up dominating the news meant that number one,

  • issues weren't talked about a lot in the coverage.

  • Huge policy differences were not debated and vetted.

  • It also meant that, what I think would have been a big advantage for Hillary objectively,

  • her experience, her knowledge, her

  • outstanding reputation around the world as secretary of state,

  • all that stuff got lost.

  • And I think in that scrum, in that swirl, you know, Donald Trump and his celebrity and

  • his ability to garner attention and obviously tap into a lot of the anxieties and fears

  • that some voters have, I think, definitely made a difference.

  • Now know how you would, this ...

  • Could you say the election could have turned out differently?

  • That's what I want to know.

  • Well, elections can always turn out differently.

  • You never know which factors are gonna make a difference.

  • But I have no doubt that it had some impact just based on the coverage.

  • And by the way, I'm talking about mainstream news coverage.

  • I'm not talking about a whole separate set of issues around fake news.

  • I'm talking about what was in the New York Times and the Washington Post and

  • on the nightly news and even on NPR.

  • And it meant that the field where I think Hillary shone, the field of substance and talking

  • about how we're actually gonna increase people's wages and how we're gonna provide health care

  • coverage to people and how we're gonna deal with major issues like climate change

  • that wasn't the field in which the campaign was ultimately decided.

  • Was that the media's fault for focusing on the wrong things or the candidate's fault

  • for not finding ways to get her message through?

  • Steve, you know, I'd say that Monday morning quarterbacking is always easy to do.

  • And what I've said already publicly, and I'll repeat:

  • There is something about our current political ecosystem

  • and we're all part of it, the parties, the candidates, the media,

  • the votersthat leads us to avoid going deep into the issues that are really gonna

  • affect people's day-to-day lives, that put a premium on what here in the White House

  • we call the shiny object: the faux scandals, the trumped up controversies, the...

  • you know, the insults that are flung back and forth.

  • So that it ends up being covered like a reality show orat best, a sporting event.

  • And we lose track of the fact that this has an impact on some family that's trying to

  • send their kids to college, or some veteran who's trying to get their benefits, or

  • whether or not some of our young people get sent to a far away land to fight a war.

  • And if we don't, you know, do some hard reflectionall of uson how that happens,

  • then we're like a body that is already weakened and then becomes more vulnerable to

  • foreign viruses, becomes more vulnerable to manipulation and demagoguery

  • and that's something that

  • I'm also going to be thinking a lot about in my afterlife, my post-presidency.

  • You talked about this with the comedian Trevor Noah the other day.

  • And you said a number of things in a row.

  • You observed that there had been contacts between members of Mr. Trump's staff

  • and Russian officials.

  • You noted that Trump benefited from the hacks.

  • Your spokesman, Josh Earnest, has gone on to say this week that it's obvious that Trump

  • knew what was going on.

  • To what extent are you suggesting some kind of cooperation between the president-elect

  • and Russian officials here?

  • Well, I'm, I'm not suggesting cooperation at all.

  • Keep in mind that those statements were in the context of everyone now acting surprised

  • by the CIA assessment that this was done purposely to improve Trump's chances.

  • And my only point was that shouldn't be treated as a blockbuster because

  • that was the worst kept secret in this town.

  • Everybody understood that.

  • It was reported on.

  • Steve, if you go back and look at your stories, if you read any mainstream publication, you

  • would see that if you have a hack of the DNC and a hack of Hillary Clinton's most senior

  • advisers' e-mails, and those things are then released in drip-drip-drip fashion over the

  • course of months, and that seem to generate consistently negative coverage despite the

  • fact that there's nothing in there that's particularly controversial, that it's mostly

  • just, as I said, political gossip or routine emails between folks who are working in a

  • campaign environment, then it's a pretty clear inference that people would draw, and

  • did draw, that this was helping the Trump campaign and it was hurting the Hillary campaign.

  • That doesn't mean that the Trump campaign was coordinating.

  • It just means that they understood what everybody else understood, which was

  • that this was not good for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

  • And when you combine that with the fact that the president-elect has been very honest about

  • his admiration for Putin and that he hopes to forge a more cooperative relationship with

  • him and focus on the threat of Islamic terrorism, then

  • my only point was we shouldn't now suddenly act as if this is a huge revelation.

  • In October, we said, after being very careful about it because we had no interest in appearing

  • as if we were putting our thumbs on the scales, we did what was almost unprecedented which

  • was, every intelligence agency in the federal government arrived at a consensus,

  • that the Russians had hacked the DNC.

  • And the information that was now being released was as a consequence of a decision by Russian

  • intelligence and Russian officials at the highest levels.

  • So what the CIA is now assessing, which was it was done purposefully to tilt the election

  • in the direction of a particular candidate, shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.

  • And in fact isn't a surprise to anybody.

  • And as I said before, the issue now is not relitigating the election.

  • The issue now is for us to learn lessons so that we don't have an ongoing situation in

  • every election cycle where you have substantial foreign influence in our campaigns.

  • There's another issue going forward.

  • Is it necessary for the security of the United States that Russia pay some price for doing this?

  • ... if, as you said, they did it?

  • I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of

  • our elections that we need to take action and we will, at a time and place of our own choosing.

  • Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.

  • But Mr. Putin is well aware of my feelings about this, because I spoke to him directly about it.

  • And there is ... among the big powers, there has been a traditional understanding

  • ofthat everybody is trying to gather intelligence on everybody else.

  • It's no secret that Russian intelligence officers, or Chinese, or

  • for that matter Israeli, or British,

  • or other intelligence agencies, that their job is to get insight into the workings

  • of other countries that they they're not reading in the newspapers every day.

  • There's a difference between that and the kind of malicious cyberattacks that steal

  • trade secrets or engage in industrial espionage, something that we've seen the Chinese do.

  • And there's a difference between that and activating intelligence, in a way that's designed

  • to influence elections.

  • So we have been working hard to make sure that what we do is proportional.

  • That what we do is meaningful.

  • One of the things that we're going to have to do over the next decade is to ultimately

  • arrive at some rules of what is a new game.

  • And that is the way in which traditional propaganda and traditional covert influence efforts are

  • being turbocharged by the Internet and by the cyber world.

  • And so the whole issue of cybersecurity and how we play defense, how we think about offense

  • and how we avoid an escalation of a major cyber war, or a cyber arms race,

  • is something that some of our smartest folks in government and

  • in the private sector are spending a lot of time thinking about.

  • Because there is an asymmetry here.

  • We are more digitalized.

  • Our economy is more advanced.

  • It's much wealthier.

  • And it means that we have certain vulnerabilities that some of our adversaries don't have.

  • And this is actually a good example of where, in addition to whatever actions that we take

  • bilaterally against Russia, we've got to spend some time working at an international level

  • to start instituting some norms, the same way we did with things like nuclear weapons

  • because ultimately we can have a situation where everybody's worse off.

  • That's what we did with China when we were seeing repeated hacking primarily for

  • industrial espionage purposes, commercial purposes.

  • They were stealing, you know, technology and ideas.

  • And I had a very blunt conversation and President Xi saying, "If you don't stop it,

  • here's what we are going to do."