The national debate over guns spills into the streets with student-led protests planned for this weekend. Then, a conversation with Lisa Genova, author of "Still Alice." Her latest novel tells the story of a family grappling with ALS.
Sixteen candidates are vying for the 2016 presidential nomination, but the pool for Democrats isn’t as large. On their far shorter list is Martin O’Malley, the former two-term governor of Maryland. He’s struggling to gain traction in a race that, at the moment, is dominated by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to decide whether he’ll launch a campaign. But as the Republican contest has so far demonstrated, voters are not necessarily throwing their support to the presumptive nominees. Democrat Martin O’Malley talks with Diane about why he thinks he should be the Democratic Party’s choice for president.
- Martin O'Malley Former, Maryland governor
Video: Martin O'Malley On Gun Control
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland, is running to be the Democrats 2016 presidential nominee. It's a long shot. So far, he's barely registering in early state and national polls, but as he'll tell you, it's still early in the race. Martin O'Malley joins me to talk about the 2016 Democratic nomination race and why he's in it.
MS. DIANE REHMYou're welcome to offer your own questions, comments. Join us by phone at 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Governor O'Malley, it's good to have you here.
MR. MARTIN O'MALLEYDiane, great to be with you.
REHMGovernor O'Malley, I must say I'm somewhat surprised that you could not make it here in time as you had promised to.
O'MALLEYWell, Diane, you can't believe every promise every politician makes.
REHMI guess not.
O'MALLEYI sincerely apologize. I am on Military Road right now and are following all of the applicable rules of the road, but we do not control the traffic accidents. I should have left even earlier.
O'MALLEYMy sincere apologies.
REHMWell, I am disappointed because, as you well know, it's a national interview on NPR and I do expect guests to live up to their promises. Having said that, why enter a race when the odds are so stacked against you?
O'MALLEYWell, I kind of like tough odds. I think there's a lot of people that say the odds against the American dream being alive and well and able to be passed onto our kids are tough odds, too. So I've been in tough races before, Diane, but I clearly feel and what I clearly sense in the public is a desire for new leadership and an ability to get things done.
O'MALLEYAnd that's what I've done through 15 years of executive experience, not just making progressive promises, but actually accomplishing progressive things, or statements. You need to pass a living wage, passing marriage equality, passing the DREAM act, passing comprehensive gun safety legislation. These aren't things we just talked about. These are things I did as an executive with an ability to pull people together, forge a new consensus and get things done.
O'MALLEYAnd that's what your country needs right now and that's why in the fullness of consideration, I believe that the people of Iowa and New Hampshire will be attracted to what I have to offer.
REHMAnd, you know, it's really interesting that on the Republican side, Donald Trump and Ben Carson are sort of leading that race and many people are saying that what they're doing is tapping into the "we don't want another politician in the White house." So how do you respond to that?
O'MALLEYI think they -- I think your analysis is -- or that analysis is partly accurate. I think what people don't want are the established leaders of either party. In other words, there's sets out there that -- big money, powerful, wealthy special interests have taken over both of our parties and therefore there is a lot of anger and a lot of resentment towards the established leaders of both parties and therefore, people are gravitating to those candidates in both parties that most represent a repudiation of the established leaders.
O'MALLEYBut I do believe that this is part of a search for a new leader. And at the end of the day, people never nominate angry. Anger and division and fear never built a great country. Thinking, caring, compassionate people and new leadership is what moves our country forward in every generation and that's what people are looking for.
REHMSo how would you tap the mood among Democrats? Is it very similar to that of Republican primary voters who are out there saying, you know, we want something new, we want something different?
O'MALLEYIt's somewhat similar, though in our party, we don’t have the sort of racist, anti-immigrant sentiment that Donald Trump seems to adept at tapping in the ranks of the Republican party. So but absolutely, Democrats are -- that I've talked to, living room after living room, town after town across Iowa, where, by the way, we're pulling higher now than John Kerry was before he won the Iowa caucuses, what people are looking for, the ideas and the solutions to the problems we face as a nation.
O'MALLEYAnd none of them really is bigger than the growing inequality, growing economic inequality that's undermining the truth of our American dream. It used to be a covenant among us and between us, if you will, that wherever you start, you start, but you should, through your hard work, be able to get ahead. And that's not true for a lot of us today. In fact, 70 percent of us are earning the same or less than we were 12 years ago.
O'MALLEYAnd people extrapolate out what another 10 years of stagnating or declining wages would mean and it's not a pretty picture. So people are looking for the solutions that will make wages go up rather than down in our country.
REHMI'm going to read you some polls that are from this morning's consult and they show Hillary Clinton, of course, leading the Democratic field with 54 percent of the vote, Senator Bernie Sanders has 20 percent, 24 percent, actually, and you and Senator Jim Webb, who was in the studio a month or so ago, take 2 percent each. That sounds to me as though you've got a long way to go.
O'MALLEYWell, yes, I do and so (unintelligible) Jimmy Carter, so, too, did Gary Hart, so, too, did John Kerry and any number of other people. The difficulty in those national polls, Diane, is that it's impossible for them really to reflect what's going on in Iowa. I've spent -- I've visited more counties in Iowa than either of my two opponents, was endorsed last week by 12 county chairs in Iowa and that's the way this process works.
O'MALLEYAnd it's a good thing, actually, for the country because were it not for the very intimate one-on-one, one living room at time campaigns that are run in Iowa and New Hampshire, the individual voter wouldn't matter much in our country. It would all be determined by big money and the commercials and the air waves. But fortunately in Iowa and New Hampshire, the individual matters and right now, after Labor Day, people are only now focusing on this race.
O'MALLEYSo I'm encouraged by everything I see and I hear. Crowds are getting larger, more people committed and what they say again and again and again is that we need new leadership and that's what I have to offer with executive experience that none of the other candidates in my party has.
REHMWell, now let's talk about that experience because, of course, you were mayor of Baltimore and Baltimore has been certainly in the national news lately for both its homicide rate, poor police relations. What would you have done differently if you had been mayor of Baltimore when all of that went down?
O'MALLEYWell, what I can tell you I did when I was mayor of Baltimore was that I worked every day to improve police and community relations and, in fact, I did put Baltimore on a path for the largest reduction in crime of any major city in America, Diane, over the next 10 years after my election of 1999. And, well, also managed to reduce to 3 of the 4 lowest years of police-involved shootings for years during the time that I was mayor.
O'MALLEYAnd so that was my record and I've laid out a new agenda for criminal justice reform in our country that could apply many of the lessons we learned during those times, like a civilian review board, like our own -- by giving the civilian review board its own independent detectives to investigate cases. These and I've also called for all departments to report to the federal government the discourtesy, excessive force and lethal use of force incidents so that we all know whether we're doing better than we were before.
O'MALLEYBaltimore clearly suffered a setback a couple of months ago, but we are a more resilient city than we were and we will recover and move forward.
REHMSo you've released a plan for how the entire criminal justice system needs to be reformed. Give us a brief outline.
O'MALLEYSure. I mean, (unintelligible)
REHMAnd here is Governor O'Malley. He finally made it into the studio. I'm glad you're here.
O'MALLEYThank you. So am I. Well, I spoke to the Urban League about three weeks ago and I laid out an agenda for criminal justice reform in our country. I believe that we should do the things that have actually been proven to work and we should stop doing those that do not. What am I talking about? By the end of my term as governor, we had reduced violent crime in Maryland to 30 year lows and at the same time, we reduced our incarceration rate to 20-year lows.
O'MALLEYHow? By doing things that worked on reentry, by decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, by restoring voting rights to 52,000 people with old felony convictions.
REHMWhat do you think about solitary confinement?
O'MALLEYI'm opposed to it. I think there's an overuse of it in our country and...
REHMWhat do you think about the death penalty?
O'MALLEYI repealed the death penalty in Maryland, not the first time I tried, not the second time I tried, but as an effective executive, I never give up so we got the votes, thanks to a few Republican votes, on the third try and repealed the death penalty in Maryland.
REHMGovernor Martin O'Malley, two-term governor of Maryland. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, your calls, your email. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Former two-term governor, Martin O'Malley is here. He moved back to Baltimore after he left office. And he is now a Democratic candidate for the nomination to the office of the presidency. And, Martin O'Malley, it's good to have you now here in the studio.
O'MALLEYGreat to be with you, Diane. I'm a huge fan.
REHMThank you. You've also promised to make gun control a big, central focus. How will you do that?
O'MALLEYI believe that there's a growing consensus in our country for common sense gun legislation that requires background checks and that bans the sale of combat assault weapons on our streets. We have a sickness in our country and that sickness is gun violence. And as president, I would seek to cut gun violence and gun death in half within the next 10 years. And a part of that will require common sense background checks, a ban on combat assault weapons and also allowing law enforcement to actually share information in order to track illicit gun trafficking and gun sales that happen now in ways that we would never allow when it comes to trafficking of narcotics.
O'MALLEYBut certain impediments have been put in the way of the ATF, FBI and other law enforcement when it comes to sharing basic information.
REHMHow do you think we got to this place?
O'MALLEYOh, I may not -- I think it's -- I think this has been a long time coming. I mean there is a culture of violence and there's a culture of guns in the United States of America. And...
REHMHas that been revved up by particular groups?
O'MALLEYI don't -- I think that -- I think there's a sickness within us and it's a sickness of violence and a devaluing of lives. It is intertwined with our legacy of racism that has been with us as a nation since the first days of our founding. And while all of those factors that have led to this are very complicated, there are some things that are very simple that most people, I believe, would agree upon. And one of those is that we should require background checks in order for a person to be able to purchase a firearm.
REHMSo you wouldn't cite the NRA, for example, as promoting gun ownership, gun use, gun violence.
O'MALLEYWell, look, I'm glad to take on the NRA. They've said that I am public enemy number one in their eyes because we actually passed comprehensive gun safety legislation in Maryland. And more than that, we built a public consensus such that they didn't even bother to petition that bill to referendum because they knew they would lose in referendum because of the arguments we made, which is that we can respect hunting traditions and at the same time require common sense steps like background checks, limiting the sale of magazines of more than 10 rounds, and combat assault weapons have no place on the streets of a civilized society. And so that's what we did in Maryland and that's what we need to do as a country.
O'MALLEYAnd, yes, the NRA will not be supporting my campaign. And it's a free country.
REHMLet's move to another subject currently in the headlines and that is the Syrian refugee crisis. How do you see our moral obligation?
O'MALLEYI believe that we should step up in the face of this human suffering. And I believe we should do what has been asked of us by international rescue organizations, and that is accept 65,000 Syrian refugees to our country. It is akin, Diane, in a nation of 320 million, to -- it's like making room for six more people in a baseball stadium that already holds 32,000 people. So this is something we can do as a nation. And make no mistake about it, people of other nations, people of Muslim nations in the Middle East, are watching how we act. A nation is defined not only by how it acts in times of conflict and warfare, but also in how it wages peace, how it steps up to the moral challenges of our day. And I believe we need to do more as a nation.
REHMPresident Obama has said 10,000. Have you spoken to him?
O'MALLEYNo, I have not. But I understand that Sister Simone Campbell sent the president a letter and said he needs to add a zero. Ten thousand is a very, very small amount for us to take when you consider the size of this calamity. And hopefully the president will continue to round up that number.
REHMWhat responsibility do you think the United States actually bears for what's happening in Syria.
O'MALLEYOh, well I think all of us, as -- I think, as Americans, we have a responsibility to act in the face of humanitarian crises. In terms of collapse of the nation state of Syria, what sort of responsibility do we have? Well, certainly we have a responsibility where, when we look at Iraq, I believe we have a responsibility in the region because of what we've broken there when we were led, under false pretenses, into war by President Bush. And so we have to stay engaged. But I believe we have to search for ways to be more collaborative in our engagement and with other nations of that region. And one of those ways is on the humanitarian front and alleviating this refugee crisis.
REHMWhat about on the military front?
O'MALLEYYeah, well I -- in terms of ISIS or in terms of Syria?
O'MALLEYBoth. I believe that in terms of ISIS, we need to contain, we need to degrade, we need to interrupt their -- the propaganda of ISIS. We can't do that if we're sitting back on our haunches and saying we're not going to play a leadership role when it comes to alleviating the Syrian refugee crisis. In terms of Syria, itself, I believe the time is ripe for us to lead a brokered settlement to the crisis in Syria. I believe that all of the nations of that region and indeed across Europe and the world have a common interest in wanting to see stability in Syria. And I would hope that, as the Iran nuclear deal is approved by Congress, we can move on and perhaps focus our diplomatic energies on brokering some greater stability for -- in Syria.
REHMWhy would anybody think the U.S. could broker that peace deal?
O'MALLEYWell, because we are the United States, because we are a moral leader of nations when we act in accordance with our principles. And I believe that there is no more powerful nation on the planet than the United States. And certainly, there's a lot of countries that have an interest in seeing greater stability in Syria. And we've stepped up in other instances. There are many people that said that the United States had no role to play in bringing a peaceful resolution to a 700-year-old conflict in Northern Ireland, but we did. Because we are a moral people and we have the ability to wage peace. In fact, we have more credibility when it comes to waging peace than, I think, any other nation on the planet. And we need to be about it.
REHMWhat about our own immigration problems, from South America, from Mexico? What are your thoughts there?
O'MALLEYYeah. I come -- my people, Diane, are almost all immigrant people. In fact, all of my people are, depending on how far back you go. But on my mom's side, they were mostly German immigrants who came here in the 1870s. My dad's people, God bless him, were 100 percent Irish. We all have our crosses to bear. And so that awareness of my family's history makes me aware of our own country's history, which is this: We are made stronger every generation by the arrival of new American immigrants.
O'MALLEYWhat we have right now, however, is a broken immigration system that traps 11 million of our neighbors and new American immigrants in this no-man's land, where oftentimes they're forced to live in a shadow society, off the books in a shadow economy. And if we want wages to go up and we want our land of opportunity to be real and alive for all, then we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And I have proposed going even further than the president in extending executive action, as we forge a consensus, to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
O'MALLEYAnd I am opposed to the xenophobic, racist rants from people like Donald Trump, who want to take away the birthright of American-born kids and all the rest that goes with that sort of resurgence of the know-nothing party.
REHMWhy do you think you'd be a better president than Hillary Clinton?
O'MALLEYI believe that I would be the best president for these times because I have a track record of 15 years of executive experience as a big-city mayor at a very troubled time in Baltimore's history and also as a governor, leading my state through the recession, and in many cases making us stronger than we were before it: number one public schools in America, making college more affordable by freezing tuition four years in a row.
O'MALLEYI also have a different perspective on this world. It is not bogged down in the Cold War. It is a perspective that sees our nation's role as a leader of nations, a more collaborative and engaged foreign policy, a more far-seeing national security strategy that identifies risks before they rise to a level where it seems our only options are military options.
REHMOf course, she has Senate experience, experience as secretary of state. How does your experience trump hers?
O'MALLEYWell, that's for the people to decide. I believe that executive experience is critically important to the most powerful executive office in the land. I'm not taking anything away from the valuable experience that her candidacy has to offer from being secretary of state or being the U.S. Senator. But I have been an executive. I was chosen by my colleagues, the mayors, Democrats and Republicans, and governors, Democrats and Republicans, to be one of their leaders on homeland security and preparedness every single year since the attacks of September 11.
O'MALLEYSo every candidate offers a different mix of experiences. Mine is heavily executive and I've been about getting things done -- not just talking about them but actually accomplishing things, pulling people together.
REHMOne of the issues currently on Capitol Hill that could lead Republicans to shut down the government is funding for Planned Parenthood. How do you feel about that?
O'MALLEYI think it's -- I think it would be an ill-considered step. Republicans, sadly, in this particular Congress, don't need much of an excuse to shut down our government. They've shown themselves very capable at shutting down our government. They haven't shown themselves very capable at improving our government. So I think this effort to turn Planned Parenthood into a football is wrong. 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is preventive health care for women. And so I think they should leave Planned Parenthood alone.
REHMThey -- apparently, someone videotaped an individual at Planned Parenthood talking about the selling of fetal tissues. How do you feel about the use of fetal tissues in experimentation?
O'MALLEYDiane, I have not see that video and I'm not in a position to react to the video. I will say this, that I think that Planned Parenthood or any health provider should abide by whatever the applicable laws and the ethical rules are in the particular state.
REHMAnd as far as abortion is concerned, are you comfortable with the fact that Planned Parenthood does, no matter how small the percentage, continue to provide abortions.
O'MALLEYAnd there are restrictions on the use of any federal funds in those...
O'MALLEY...which already exists, which is why this ploy by the Republicans to make this the throw-down issue over which they would shut down the government is wrong headed. I believe that there are some decisions that government is no good at making and among them are decisions that should be left to women and their doctors.
REHMFormer Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We've got some callers waiting. Let's go to the phones, 800-433-8850. First, to Charlotte, N.C. Gwen, you're on the air.
GWENHi, Diane. Hi, how are you guys?
REHMFine, thank you. Go right ahead.
GWENGood. Thanks. First of all, I want to say I'm a huge fan. But my question is, I am 26 years old and married and I'm finding myself at college for the first time. And I wanted to get your thoughts on how you plan on making college more affordable, if not free, for students? And especially older students who are finding themselves having to work full time while going to school full time. So I just wanted to get your thoughts on that in detail.
O'MALLEYGreat. Gwen, thank you. You can check out more on martinomalley.com. But, in summary, what I have put forward is a plan to move us to a point within the next five years of making a debt-free college degree an option for every family. One of the reasons tuition has gone up so much in recent years is our federal government and our state governments have been cutting their funding of higher education, kind of washing their hands of it and saying, well, those tuition costs are things that other people do.
O'MALLEYSo some things that I would like to see us change is that I would like all students to automatically go into repayment plans on their student loans that are income based. That is to say that one would never have to pay back more than 10 percent of your income in the course of that. And at the end of it, as they do in Australia and other nations, that the remainder would be forgiven. I believe that we need to invest more in our community colleges. And I believe we need a new block grant program for states that is funded by the federal government, but that keeps the states actually funding this important common good of higher education.
O'MALLEYIn my dad's generation, he went to school on a GI Bill, because his nation understood, the more their people learned, the more their people would earn and the better the economy would do. And we need to do the same thing in our own time. I also believe that, especially for people that are returning learners, that our universities and higher education needs to become a lot more flexible in offering students different paths to attaining their degree, with online courses and the ability to move ahead at their own pace and have the university certify that they've reached a level of competence, rather than paying universities based on how long they can keep students in seats.
REHMThanks for calling, Gwen. Let's go to Benjamin. He's in Bethesda, Md. You're on the air.
BENJAMINHi, Diane. Thanks.
BENJAMINI just, I wanted to ask Governor O'Malley, as a prosecutor, he put a lot of people in jail over marijuana. And as a governor, he was notably hostile to those reforms. He did eventually sign decriminalization, but only reluctantly. And every year, even to this day, Joe Vallario, the head of the Judiciary Committee, refuses to allow a vote on legalization. But the governor seems now to sound a little bit more positive towards reform. And I'm just wondering, what changed? Or if he still thinks marijuana is still a gateway drug, just a position without scientific backup?
O'MALLEYYeah. Benjamin, the -- as a prosecutor -- I mean, maybe you can go back and research this -- I don't recall ever sending anybody to jail for marijuana. I mean, maybe, perhaps, but I doubt it. In other words, marijuana, the possession of small amounts, had already become kind of de facto decriminalized in terms of any value that you put on it in the courts of Maryland.
O'MALLEYIn addition to having been a prosecutor for a couple of years, I was also a defense attorney for eight years. And I would commend to you, Benjamin, that I have been on a search for 15 years of looking for the things that work and that don't work. And I am open to a discussion about marijuana and how we treat it in our country, in order to save and redeem more lives.
REHMAll right. Short break here. When we come back, more of your calls, your comments. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. We've got lots of calls, lots of emails for former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who is a Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination. Here is an email from John in Pittsburgh. Please speak about your conflicts with the DNC establishment, in particular in reference to the number of scheduled primary debates.
O'MALLEYHey, thank you. It comes down to this. I believe that we should be having more debates and not fewer debates. What's happened right now is that the chair of the DNC has issued this decree, apparently without consulting the members of the DNC. She believes it within her own prerogative to limit the number of debates that the Democratic Party has. So we are told that there will only be four debates throughout the country before those first critical contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
REHMAs compared to the number in the Republican Party?
O'MALLEYAnd Republicans are already beginning their drumbeat for their second round of debates, with all the promos that go with that. By this same time eight years ago, Diane, we had already had nine debates in the Democratic Party.
REHMAnd maybe people got tired of them?
O'MALLEYWell, I think somewhere between having 20 debates and having just one in New Hampshire before the New Hampshire primary there's a happier medium to be struck here. I mean, the one that they're having in New Hampshire, they've actually scheduled, cynically, for a Saturday night, December 19, at the height of holiday shopping and party season. I wonder what's next. They'll make us subscribe to Netflix if we want to see the Democratic presidential candidates offer their ideas.
O'MALLEYI think this is bad for the party, and it's bad for the country. We owe the country more. We can't blame -- you know, when the Republicans are polling higher than our known candidates, we have only ourselves to blame because we haven't been having a debate and talking about the ideas that actually serve our country.
REHMIf you are at two percent at that point of the first Democratic debate, will you be on the stage?
O'MALLEYI would think so.
REHMYou don't think there's going to be a cutoff there?
O'MALLEYI would - I would think that given the number of people seeking the Democratic nomination, surely the Democratic Party is organized enough to be able to accommodate those candidates who've announced, especially if they've served before in the U.S. Senate or as governor.
REHMHere's an email from Dylan in Durham, North Carolina. Bernie Sanders is experiencing a huge surge of populist sentiment for his distance from the Democratic Party establishment and related political gridlock and focusing on income inequality, campaign finance reform. Describe your position on these issues, what you would specifically do regarding them if elected.
O'MALLEYYeah, thank you. Dylan, I have laid out 15 strategic goals for our country in order to rebuild the American dream, make our economy work again for all of us. Specially on income inequality, I was the first candidate in our party to call for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour however we can and wherever we can. I also was calling before the president did it for many months for us to start paying overtime pay again for overtime work.
O'MALLEYI believe we should make it easier for people to bargain collectively and not harder. I believe that we should also expand Social Security and not cut it. And also I have put out, as one of our strategic goals, my strategic goals, moving to publicly financed congressional elections within the next five years. Money is corrupting our process, and it's not even under the table. It's on top of the table.
O'MALLEYAn I need -- and as a people, we need to push back against that, and I believe that the public's actually way ahead of the politicians on this one.
REHMAll right, to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Joe, you're on the air.
JOEGood morning, Diane.
JOEGood morning, Governor.
O'MALLEYGood morning, Joe.
JOEI have only one question. How would you establish a productive relationship with the Congress?
O'MALLEYYeah, this is a question I receive everywhere, all across Iowa and New Hampshire and other places. One of the things I learned as an executive for seven years, as a big city mayor and as a governor, is that you never know exactly where the next combination of votes are going to come from. Therefore you must get to know every one of your legislators. You must call them all the time, and you must find ways to strengthen what de Tocqueville called the strength of soft ties to understand where these legislators are coming from and to constantly, constantly reach out, pick up the phone.
O'MALLEYSome of the things we got done in Maryland were only accomplished because of some Republican votes. And I'm thinking specifically of repealing the death penalty and passing marriage equality. And so as an executive, part of the job is that you have to get to know, and you have to call all the time even those members that aren't likely to vote for many of your measures. And you also have to be strong in your own party, which is another piece of this. You have...
REHMWell certainly, absolutely, and Maryland delegate Jamie Raskin recently held a hearing on death with dignity. If you were governor now, what would your position be on medical assistance for those who are ready to die?
O'MALLEYYeah, Diane, the -- I believe that the most responsible course for all of us to take is to execute living wills. I -- this is a tough issue, and I cannot sit here and tell you that I have figured out all of the ramifications on this one. It is -- it is a truth that I hold to that there is dignity in every life, and I believe that the best path forward for any individual is to make sure that they make their plans known to family members and execute living wills because to sustain a person on life support without any dignity for months and months and months, long after, you know, all the vital signs have ceased, doesn't seem to be a life with dignity, either.
O'MALLEYSo this is a very tough ethical issue of our time, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jamie Raskin. In fact as I was fighting the traffic on the way here, I saw lots of his congressional yard signs all across the back cuts of Tacoma Park. So he's a very good man, and I'm sure the hearings will be enlightening for all.
REHMAll right, let's go to Spring, Texas. Michael, you're on the air.
MICHAELDiane, thank you so much. Governor O'Malley, best of luck to you in the race.
MICHAELBottom line, there's an obvious lack of civility in our political process today, and as a leader and no doubt a good man, how can we bring all these disparate people together during a time of economic crises and obviously world crises so that we can work on this as Americans, not as a bunch of splinter groups, to get these problems solved?
O'MALLEYThat is the -- that is the challenge of these days. I'm going to do my very best as one candidate to bring that about. Every -- every election is an opportunity for us to actually, rather than shouting past each other, to talk with each other and hopefully to reach a deeper level of understanding, the sort of understanding that proceeds the better actions we need to take with one another and for one another.
O'MALLEYSo I don't believe there's any magic formula here, but I do believe that a big part of it is speaking to the goodness and the generosity and the compassion and really the ambition that, was it Michael from Texas, just voiced, that as a good people we should be able to get along and accomplish things for the sake of our kids. And that's the positive campaign that I seek to run.
REHMWhat's your thinking about Vice President Biden? Do you think he is going to get into the race?
O'MALLEYWell, I think if he were to get into the race, he would certainly bring a wealth of experience and knowledge from his years of service in the Senate and then as vice president. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and affection for him. You know, being the United States senator from Delaware, he was -- I consider Joe Biden a neighbor. And he's a very, very good man. Whatever he and his family decide, I will have -- you know, I would welcome his entrance into the race, and I think it would actually make it more difficult for the cabal at the DNC to deny debates.
REHMIf you had to pick or choose between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, what would your choice be?
O'MALLEYAs far as -- as far as staying in the race, or...
REHMNo, as far as being elected president.
O'MALLEYOh, I would support the party's nominee, Diane. There you go. Next caller.
REHMTotally, all right. And here's an email from Ben, who describes himself as a former Wisconsin resident. He says Governor Scott Walker yesterday issued a proposal comically called power to the people that would ban federal employee unions and collective bargaining rights. What is Governor O'Malley's opinion of that plan? What does he plan to do to block attacks on workers' rights at the federal and state level?
O'MALLEYYes, I believe that in order to get wages to go up, we need to reject the sort of policies that Scott Walker has embraced that would outlaw unions and make it harder for people to organize. Instead, we should be taking actions to make it easier for people to organize. I believe that if you look at the disconnection, when wages started to dip, even as productivity went up, that dipping number in wages also corresponds and correlates to the declining union membership.
O'MALLEYSo I would do everything in my power to appoint good people to the National Labor Relations Board to push back against employers who seek to undermine or break the law in thwarting union membership, and I would -- and I think we also need to have a discussion about how we upgrade our National Labor Relations Act to make it stronger and easier for people to join unions rather than harder.
REHMAnd Chris in Cincinnati says, the next president needs to understand technology, cyber-security, cyber-privacy. Does the governor understand these issues? What is his policy?
O'MALLEYYeah, this is a whole new dimension. Just when we figured out how to -- when we thought we had figured out how to protect ourselves from land, sea, air and space, we have this new dimension of the Internet. I was appointed the Democratic co-chair of the Council of Governors, whose job -- by the president, whose -- and created by act of Congress. And the job of this council was to work with the secretary of defense and the secretary of Homeland Security on defending the homeland.
O'MALLEYAnd one of the issues that I pushed during that time was to give a new mission to our National Guard of cyber-security and defending our networks here at home. I believe that the National Guard is better equipped and actually has an ability to stand up a cyber-force much more quickly than other branches of the service, and it could serve a civilian role here to protect our networks in the homeland, as well.
O'MALLEYWe did a bit of that as a state, and we need to do it as a nation with some greater forethought and greater intention.
REHMNumber of people are referring to the pope's visit next week and the issues on which he's been outspoken, one of which is climate change. What's your position? How would you deal with that?
O'MALLEYYeah, I am the first candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination to put forward a plan that would move America to a 100 percent clean, electric energy grid by 2050.
REHMHow would you do that?
O'MALLEYYou would do it in the ways that we already see many other states doing it. In Iowa, Diane, they now produce 30 percent of their electricity from wind. And the great thing about those big blades and those big turbines is that they're too damn big to import them from China. So they have to be manufactured in the United States. There are 4,000 people employed in that. So you do it, and we are moving to a much more distributed energy future in terms of energy generation.
O'MALLEYIt's going to require green design. It's going to require harnessing the wind, harnessing solar, and it's also going to require a different way of thinking about our built environment, green homes, net zero buildings. And this is all -- these are all things that will create millions of jobs in our country. And we need to square our shoulders to this challenge.
O'MALLEYAnd I love what I've read so far of the pope's encyclical on our common home, the Earth.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Scott in Rockville, Maryland, you're on the air.
SCOTTThank you very much, Diane. And hello, Governor O'Malley.
SCOTTI had a -- I had a question about immigration. It seems that in our parents' and our grandparents' generation, when immigrants came to the United States, they strove, they tried really hard, and they worked to assimilate into the American culture. That doesn't seem to be the case now. With immigration, I see more and more immigrants setting up their own communities and not assimilating, not bringing the benefits of their cultures and enriching ours but instead staying separate, very consciously and deliberately. And I wanted to know your thoughts on that and what ought to be done about it.
O'MALLEYI haven't -- I haven't noticed in that in my observation, Scott. Maybe we just need to give them another generation. In other words, I know when Irish people first came to this country and signs in shops and windows read no Irish need apply that they very much stuck together and supported one another. And -- but in subsequent generations, the -- that, you know, that assimilation takes place.
O'MALLEYSo maybe we just need to give our new American immigrant neighbors a bit of a break and give them another generation.
REHMFinally, Governor O'Malley, where's your money going to come from to really compete head to head?
O'MALLEYFrom listeners like you. Did that work? Are they calling?
REHMI doubt it. I doubt it. I doubt it.
O'MALLEYDiane, the good -- the good thing about this presidential contest is in the early states, Iowa and New Hampshire, it is very much a county-to-county operation. People expect to see you two or three or four times. And so in an era when we think big money maybe has taken over our politics, it is so refreshing to be able to actually talk with people about the issues of affordable college, getting wages to go in the right direction, how we can be more effective and collaborative leader in this world in terms of our foreign policy, and that's what I'm doing, and that's what I intend to do.
O'MALLEYAnd history is full of examples where candidates that weren't necessarily attracting the big establishment, special-interest money nonetheless made their case for the national good, town to town across Iowa, and emerged as the choice and the voice of a new generation of leadership.
REHMSo what happens with, say, the crowd on Wall Street?
O'MALLEYThe -- I welcome support from all across the country, but I have been very clear about the need to re-institute Glass-Steagall, the need to put robust prosecutorial efforts back in place on Wall Street. It is not too much for us to expect that our federal government should protect Main Street from excesses on Wall Street, especially when the too-big-to-fail, too-big-to-fail mega-banks are such a threat to our national economy.
REHMFormer Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, now a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Good luck to you.
O'MALLEYThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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