Diane talks with Ari Berman, senior reporter at Mother Jones and author of the book, “Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle For Voting Rights In America.”
John Hickenlooper, the Democratic Governor of Colorado, did not take a traditional path to politics. In the 1980s, he was laid-off as a geologist in Colorado. He decided to open up a micro-brewery in Denver. The company played a key role in gentrifying downtown – and made him a popular businessman. He was persuaded to run for mayor and won. Hickenlooper’s knack for striking a deal appealed to democrats and republicans and helped him get elected governor. But he narrowly won re-election two years ago. Diane talks with the governor about his attempts to overcome the partisan divide in a swing state.
- Governor John Hickenlooper Democratic governor of Colorado; former mayor of Denver and beer brewer
Read An Excerpt
Watch: Gov. John Hickenlooper On Beer And Politics
Today, John Hickenlooper is in his second term as governor. Nearly 30 years ago, Hickenlooper had just opened a brewery - not a likely path to the statehouse. But beer and politics have more in common than most people think, Hickenlooper said in studio May 25.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. John Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor of Colorado, struggled to win reelection two years ago, but his appeal in a swing state has lead to speculation that he might be picked as a vice presidential running mate. He's out with a new memoir, a move that has increased curiosity about his ambitions. The title is "The Opposite of Woe: My Life In Beer and Politics."
MS. DIANE REHMGovernor John Hickenlooper joins me in the studio. You can see live video streaming of our conversation with Governor Hickenlooper at drshow.org. If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or you can send us a tweet. Governor, it's good to have you here.
GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPERIt's great to be on. Thanks so much for having me.
REHMTell us about "The Opposite of Woe." Where did that title come from?
HICKENLOOPERWell, it's funny that as -- when I first decided, I'd, you know, had been a geologist, got laid off, couldn't find a job, opened this brew pub in Colorado and, you know, worked 70 hours a week. And suddenly, after six or seven years of paying ourselves 24 grand a year, took off and it's kind of a long story, but I ended up running for mayor. And I'd never run for a student council or class president or anything. And, you know, in the beginning, it was a non partisan seat. There were five professional, lifetime public servants running.
HICKENLOOPERSo I was at 4 percent in the polls and it wasn't moving much. You know, I thought small business experience, common sense, I'd jump to the, you know, l that people would embrace it and it didn't happen. So I had all these young volunteers. And to keep them kind of inspired, I had this kind of tattered clipping I'd carry around and I kind of modified it from -- to be more Western. But I would tell the story about a professor of public speaking at the University of Wyoming who was, you know, convincing her students the importance of using opposites to create emotional impact.
HICKENLOOPERYou talk about the worst of times. You talk about the best of times. Talk about the agony. You talk about the ecstasy. And so she asked her class, well, what's the opposite of woe. And a kind way in the back goes, "giddy-up." And, you know, it's a funny joke, but it also, if you think about it, the opposite of woe, when things are really tough, the opposite of woe is to giddy-up, to work harder to push your shoulder.
REHMAbsolutely, absolutely. So you've chosen that. But then, your subtitle, "My Life in Beer and Politics." And we have to say I have right here in front of me a bottle of, I gather, some pretty good beer and it's called the Hopposite Of Woe, I really like that, with your photograph on there. That's a pretty neat send-off.
HICKENLOOPERIt's almost like the book cover. As my old partner at the Wynkoop, a brew pub I started and, you know, he bought me out in 2008 so I have no self interest, but -- and it’s not sale. It was just -- he brewed it and made the label look just like the book cover as a way of celebrating, you know, the book launch.
REHMBut I want to make sure when I chill this and open this, I'm going to like this beer.
HICKENLOOPERI guarantee that you are gonna -- it's an IPA, a golden IPA. It's got lots of hops in it, but it's smooth. I taste tested it to make sure it was suitable for a book expert.
REHMOkay. And I will share it with all my producers. You can be sure. I'm not gonna drink that whole bottle of beer. You know, timing is everything and there's been a lot of speculation that, I don't know who has created, that you might be a vice presidential person, someone may choose you if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. Where did that speculation begin? How real do you think it is?
HICKENLOOPEROh, I think -- people are talking about a short list. I think the list is probably pretty long. I'm gonna guess most of the people in the campaign haven't had time to even focus on it at all. And my guess is my name is probably pretty far down that list.
REHMYou've been a Hillary supporter for quite a while.
HICKENLOOPERI have. I think she's the only person in either party that has the right blend of experience to be ready to be president from day one. I think she's been in so many situations, she's managed large complex enterprises. She's hired and fired people. And she has a wonderful way of listening to people intensely and helping resolve disputes and find compromises. In a funny way, you know, that's not the greatest skill to have in a campaign, right, to be a great listener, but it is a remarkably important skill to have when you're governing.
REHMWhat about Bernie Sanders?
HICKENLOOPERWell, I am a great admirer of Bernie Sanders. I mean, Senator Sanders has really crystallized a lot of the issues and the things that people have been upset about for, you know, growing -- in a growing manner for many years. But, again, Senator Sanders, while being inspirational in many ways, he hasn't hired and fired. He hasn't managed a big complex enterprise, which is a lot of what the presidency is about, is how do you manage this giant behemoth. It's not all just about inspiration.
HICKENLOOPERAnd I think as much as I admire him, and many of my friends -- many of my very good friends are strong Bernie supporters -- I think Hillary's goals are almost identical to his and I think her way of achieving those goals while slower, are probably more highly likely to succeed. And, you know, that's why I got behind her.
REHMGovernor, you begin your book by talking about the death of your father and couples therapy with your first wife. Why did you start there?
HICKENLOOPERWell, you know, I ran for mayor. I got into politics and decided I'd give, you know, 15 years of my life to public service partly 'cause all my customers in my restaurants were so cynical and hated every elected official. And, you know, American democracy is kind of a fragile institution.
HICKENLOOPERPeople have to believe in government. And I kept saying, hey, they are us. Right? And if you hate them, you hate us. You should run for city council. You should run for Congress. And somehow, they flipped that on me and got me to run. I mean, really, so a big part of why I ran was to get people to believe in government. Well, if I'm gonna write a book like this, I think it can't be glossy and kind of smooth over all my blemishes. It's got to be authentic. I've got to show the warts and all.
HICKENLOOPERI mean, all my bad, you know, the things I did that were so stupid that I regret at various times in my life so that people hopefully will say, oh, this isn't just a typical guy, another politician trying to look good. Someone said the timing of this book coming out right before the election or right before the selection of a VP, you know, it's like an audition. Well, if I was really trying to audition for VP, there are a lot of things in that book, as you know...
REHMYou might've left out.
HICKENLOOPERYeah, that I probably -- anybody would've advised me to leave out, but then it wouldn't have been that same -- that authenticity that I think people need and deserve from their elected officials.
REHMI agree. Tell me about the death of your father.
HICKENLOOPERWell, the -- I mean, he was -- my mother's first husband died at the end of World War II. She had two kids. And she met my dad who was from Cincinnati, Ohio, and just was a funny, gregarious guy who was an engineer and kind of a science pragmatic-oriented person, but loved life. Great storyteller, wrote short stories and would send them off to magazines.
REHMDid he ever get published?
HICKENLOOPERBut it turned out, you know, I found out years later when I was 45 that he had been great friends with Kurt Vonnegut at Cornell. I mean, what are the chances?
HICKENLOOPERI mean, and I learned that just by coincidence and Kurt Vonnegut ended up telling me more about my father than I'd learned almost from anyone else.
HICKENLOOPEROh, my gosh. It was such a freak experience to have that happen. But anyway, when my father died -- he got sick. He had intestinal cancer and went through a long illness for, I mean, a couple major operations and my mother would -- in those days, he kept the bedroom door pretty much closed -- she did. She wanted to protect us kids from the sadness and the difficulty of his illness.
REHMHow old was he?
HICKENLOOPERHe got sick when he was 37, died when he was 40.
HICKENLOOPERSo it was...
REHMYou were how old?
HICKENLOOPERI was about -- just about to turn 6, 5 and a half when he first had his first operation and then, two weeks after my 8th birthday, when he died and it was a prolonged illness. Actually, one of the -- my mom always said the greatest gift she ever got in life -- and this is buried in the book somewhere, but one of her best friends was a woman named Agnes Nixon and Agnes Nixon wrote all the soap operas, "As The World Turns," "The Guiding Light," "All My Children."
HICKENLOOPERAnd she saw my mother doing laundry nonstop 'cause every night, my father would wake up with infection. He had a lot of infection so he'd wake up in a cold sweat. The sheets would be drenched and so my mother would kind of roll him halfway over, roll the dirty sheet up, put a clean sheet down, roll him back on the clean sheet, get the dirty -- so she was doing laundry nonstop. And Agnes came over one time and one asked her, she just observed my mother doing all this laundry.
HICKENLOOPERShe had four kids and was doing, you know, two sets of sheets or three sets or sheets a day. And she sent a linen service to deliver us clean sheets every day, which my mom said that's the greatest gift ever -- anyone ever gave her, which is kind of reflection of how tough it was on my mom.
REHM...means a lot.
HICKENLOOPERWell, my mom's -- one of her -- and, again, we grew up in a house that was kind of sad, obviously, even after my dad died, but my mom was resolute that you can't control what life throws at you, but you can control how you respond and that part of -- she said it didn't matter whether it was sports or drama club or reading, whatever it was, you had to embrace it and it created friendships by throwing yourself into stuff.
REHMGovernor John Hickenlooper of Colorado. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk more, take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. John Hickenlooper is with me. He is, of course, the Democratic governor of Colorado. He narrowly won re-election.
HICKENLOOPERWait, it wasn't that narrow.
REHMIt was narrow.
HICKENLOOPERFour percent, four percent in the end.
REHMFour percent, that's pretty narrow, that's pretty narrow.
HICKENLOOPERWell, it seemed narrow at the time for sure.
REHMWhy do you think with such support the first time it was a little more difficult the second time?
HICKENLOOPERWell, we had taken on some tough issues. Gun safety was a very divisive issue. We passed universal background checks. And even when we got the facts out to folks, you know, it's funny. My -- I came home from the difficulty of trying to do the legislative stuff around gun safety, and I was kind of -- I made the mistake of complaining to my 11-year-old son in sixth grade, and he said, dad, what do you do at work all day that's so hard, make decisions? He says, dad, get the facts, make a decision, check, next. He goes every day I've got to go into school and learn something completely new I didn't know existed the day before.
REHMI like this kid.
HICKENLOOPERIf I don't get it completely right, my next day is misery because everything is based on the day before. But I went in the next day to get the facts, right, and we have the national facts but on universal background checks we were getting to 50 percent of the gun purchases, and we went back, and in the previous year, in 2012, there were 38 people convicted of homicide who tried to buy a gun, and we stopped them, 133 people convicted of sexual assault who tried to buy a gun, and we stopped them, 620 burglars, 1,300 people convicted of sexual assault who tried to -- or a felony assault where somebody goes to the hospital, and they tried to buy a gun, and we stopped them.
HICKENLOOPERMy Republican friends, many of them, said, well, crooks aren't stupid, they're not going to get a background check. Well, it turns out crooks are stupid, and, you know, 420 people when they came to pick up their gun, we arrested them for an outstanding warrant for a violent crime. You just -- it was so logical and made so much sense, but it was very divisive, and it obviously cost me many points in the re-election.
REHMNow there's another question posted on our website by Anonymous. How does the governor feel marijuana legalization is working? Comment on concerns from neighboring states, particularly Utah, regarding criminal activity, and what is your position on hemp legalization? What needs to be done?
HICKENLOOPERWell, hemp obviously doesn't have any THC, doesn't have any psychoactive ingredients. So I think hemp is fine, always have. The marijuana legalization, which I and almost everyone I know opposed, just because you don't want to be in conflict with federal law, you don't want to have to create a whole regulatory system from a standing start, right. Even Denmark and Copenhagen, they just decriminalized it, they didn't legalize it.
HICKENLOOPERBut in the end when people vote 55 to 45, I think we have an obligation to try and implement their will, and that, you know, that has been challenging, but I think we've made tremendous progress. And there are issues with the neighboring states, Oklahoma, Utah, Kansas, and we are focusing. We take that very, very seriously on trying to find any possible export or people that are using legal grow houses and trying to export it to try to make a better profit. I mean, we're going to throw the kitchen sink at them.
HICKENLOOPERBut we are seeing, after several years, you know, we were worried about a spike in young people.
HICKENLOOPERAnd we haven't seen that yet. And we're beginning to get anecdotal evidence of a lessening, fewer number of drug dealers, right, which makes sense. If a drug dealer is selling various drugs, and 40 percent of their business or 50 percent is pot, and you take that, you know, you legalize it, you lower the price, it makes sense that you'll have less salesmen, right, for whatever product it is.
HICKENLOOPERSo, you know, we're still worried about edibles, you know, these -- we passed a law this session that -- this spring that you can't put marijuana or THC in things that look like kids' candy, like gummy bears, animal shapes, things like that. But again, we're making progress enough so when other governors ask me what do I advise them, I say let's wait a couple years. Let's make sure there aren't unintended consequences, but if I -- you know, if I'd had a magic wand in the beginning when it first passed, I would have waved the wand and reversed the election. But if I had that same wand, I'd keep it in my desk drawer now, and I think I'd wait a couple years, just to see if we can make it work.
REHMYou know, it's interesting, we just had a report that cigarette smoking has gone way down. Do you see a connection between that and legalization of marijuana?
HICKENLOOPERWell, they're -- they're very different.
HICKENLOOPERAnd there might be some correlation there, but I haven't seen it yet. I think marijuana really, the reason I think it got legalized in Colorado, I mean, we're a -- we've been for the last seven or eight years a major destination for young people, young professionals, millennials. You know, we have these outdoors -- you know, the Rocky Mountains. Metro Denver has 1,000 miles of bike trails. There are now more live music venues in Denver than there are in Austin or Nashville.
HICKENLOOPERAnd these young folks come, and they don't see a difference between marijuana and beer, and, you know, and I worry about kids. You know, the teenagers are our big concern because almost every brain scientist says when you're a teenager, your brains are growing so fast, and this high-THC marijuana could, you know, forever take away a sliver of your long-term memory, you know, even just a couple times a week.
HICKENLOOPERSo we are spending $5 or $10 million a year advertising, letting teenagers know that this is real, they should be very, very careful. But the, you know, the kids in their 20s and 30s, if they want to relax, it probably isn't that much harmful than having a couple beers, and we tried -- you know, we're trying to -- we're trying to treat, in the legalization, be just as strict as we are with liquor, and we're pretty darn strict with liquor.
REHMI asked you a while ago not only about your father's death but about the couples' therapy you and your first wife went through. How are the two connected?
HICKENLOOPERWell, it's -- again my father's death, and it's funny writing a book like this, I'm one of those guys, I'm always looking forward. You know, I'm doing two things, three things, four things at once.
REHMAnd this is looking back.
HICKENLOOPERYes, this forces you for a year to go back and really examine all the connections in your life, which is a little bit what the couples' therapy did. And for many men, and I don't think I'm that unusual, it was like pulling teeth. I mean, going in once a week and having to talk about your innermost thoughts, and it just is tough for a lot of folks.
REHMDid you agree to do it right off the bat, or did you get pulled kicking and screaming?
HICKENLOOPERNo, I agreed. I mean, both my wife Helen -- and Helen, Helen Thorpe, she wrote "Soldier Girls," which, you know, in 2014 was the number one nonfiction book according to Time magazine, I mean, she's a really good writer. And she -- you know, we were already divorced, and she dedicated it to me. I mean, we are still best friends.
HICKENLOOPERShe lives a block away. Our son Teddy runs up and down the alley. I remarried this last January, and she came to the wedding. We both wanted to do everything we could to make the marriage work. We never had fights. We didn't have -- there was no cheating or anything. She just hated being in the public eye, and I just love being a public servant. And she, you know, she's a writer. She likes small groups of people.
HICKENLOOPERYeah, and small numbers of people and deeper conversations, and, you know, I'm good with that, but I also like to meet lots of people and get the energy from all those folks, and we just couldn't figure out how to make it work so that we would both be happy. But I think we're -- we still love each other, we are still supportive of each other every way we can be.
REHMHow did you meet your second wife?
HICKENLOOPERI went to a gala for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, and a friend of mine had bought a table. He runs a large media company, Liberty Media, so they're, you know, like a $45 billion company. And the woman to my right was the vice president of corporate development, you know, what do we buy next, or how do we manage our properties we have. I sat down, I was just getting ready to start running for re-election, and she said a couple things. It was so funny, and just -- and I just laughed.
HICKENLOOPERI'd gone through four years, I'd been to 62 funerals, we'd had droughts and wildfires and floods and...
HICKENLOOPEROh my gosh, those first four years, I mean, the worst droughts in history of Colorado, and that led to wildfire. We had, you know, an incredible flood in 2013, the shooting in the Aurora movie theater, you know, military guys and men and women coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, I mean just a very hard time with this couples' therapy and the separation and the divorce. It was just very tough.
HICKENLOOPERAn I sat down next to -- and Robin made a couple jokes, and I just, I kind of laughed from a deeper place than I had laughed in so long, and we just, you know, laughed and had this wonderful -- at one point my friend Greg Maffei just kind of shouted across the table, went hello, there are other people at the table, hello. But I didn't -- you know, she's 20-some years younger than I was, and I didn't think anything of it, and she wrote me an email the next day or maybe a couple of days later, just said we were talking about this, I was thinking, let's, here, what about this.
HICKENLOOPERAnd she kind of continued the conversation. So then we met for a cup of coffee after a few days and then a couple more emails, and then we met for a glass of wine and then a couple more emails.
HICKENLOOPERAnd we fell in love. I mean, it's -- in this funny way, after four of the hardest years that a person could have, I mean more woe than I thought possible, although obviously a fraction compared to what my mother went through, but after those four years, suddenly everything started going well. And I mean, my friends look at me, and they say my God, I've never seen you happier. And part of is you -- it's like the sun coming out after, you know, 11 days straight of rain. You appreciate that sun in a very different way.
REHMWe've had 18 straight days of rain.
HICKENLOOPERI've heard that. I should've said 18 days.
REHMI'm telling you, I'm telling you. Well, we talked about Hillary Clinton. We talked about Bernie Sanders. Tell me your thoughts on Donald Trump.
HICKENLOOPERWell, you know, he's obviously...
REHMAnd I should preface that by saying that you have a reputation for bridging divides.
REHMFor helping to see the differences but join them between Republicans and Democrats. So now tell me your thoughts about Donald Trump.
HICKENLOOPERSure, and I do have that natural inclination. You know, I grew up a skinny kid with thick, like, Coke-bottle glasses.
REHMSo where are they now?
REHMWhere are your glasses?
HICKENLOOPERI got Lasik. I got Lasik surgery 14 years ago.
REHMOh I see, all right. Okay.
HICKENLOOPERIt changed my life.
HICKENLOOPERIt was a strange thing. Anyway, I grew up, my dad told me if you can't talk your way out of fight, you probably deserve to get whipped. I mean, he was -- he was a great one of, you know, listening to the other person and certainly the restaurant business teaches you there's no margin in having enemies. If that customer is really unhappy, and you just say I don't care, get out of here, they go out and ruin your reputation for months.
HICKENLOOPERAnd so I'm a convener. I'm someone who tries to bring people together and resolve the differences. I think Donald Trump is almost the opposite, right. He's I think kind of a bully and a blowhard. It's all about me, I'm the best, this is my way, you better do it this way, or I'm going to build a fence, or I'm going to throw out that contract, that trade agreement.
HICKENLOOPERAnd I think two things. One is that at some point people are going to look at him and say, you know, as a president, probably the person that young children most admire and want to emulate and is that who we really want our children, do we want them to be -- to grow up thinking that the Donald Trump is the right way for people to act.
HICKENLOOPERAnd the second thing is, you know, Colorado is one of those hotbeds of startups, entrepreneurs, all these young people have come there. And, you know, business likes predictability, they like certainty, both big business and small business. And I think when you have someone who's changing their position, going back and forth all the times -- all the time like Donald Trump has, it creates real uncertainty, and I think the business community is going to say, well, you know, if this guy actually got elected, the markets, I mean, look at every year during an election year, when there's a presidential election, about six months out, the amount of investment in capital expenditures, you know, where companies actually buy heavy equipment, buy real estate, really look at investing for the future, it slows down because there's uncertainty.
HICKENLOOPERWell, if you ended up with someone like Donald Trump in office, I think you'd really end up with, you know, increasing that uncertainty dramatically, and, you know, it would slow down our economy, the opposite of what most people kind of expect.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And we've got a number of callers. We're going to open the phones, hear from Sammy in Houston, Texas. You're on the air.
SAMMYHi Diane and Governor. I've got a question for the governor. I'm a petroleum geologist, of course in Houston, and my question is, as you probably are well aware of, the petroleum industry exploration and production is fairly conservative and leaning toward the Republican side. So what swayed you to become a democrat?
HICKENLOOPERWell, it's funny, and as you probably have heard, I have a master's in geology. I worked five years in the oil and gas business. It's funny, all my -- all four grandparents were Republicans, all my aunts and uncles were Republicans, but my mom -- my father was a Republican, but my mom was widowed twice, as I said, and she felt government should be smaller, but it had to work. And she felt her siblings and their spouses really just didn't believe in government.
HICKENLOOPERSo she raised four Democrats. But I've tried -- you know, I tried to science wherever I can to -- you know, on things like oil and gas issues. We got the oil and gas industry to come together with the Environmental Defense Fund, we had Anadarko and Noble Petroleum, large, independent oil companies in Canada, and we negotiated with the environmental community to create the first fugitive emission rules, you know, methane regulations, in the country.
HICKENLOOPERAnd our commitment to them, to both sides, was we would not create red tape. Every dollar spent would actually reduce, you know, would make the air cleaner and that we would -- both sides would share the credit for whatever success. And it took about a year, but I think that's more important than whether you're a Republican or Democrat is getting people together and work through these issues on a collaborative basis.
REHMAs a geologist, how do you feel about fracking that's going on in this country?
HICKENLOOPERWell, fracking in conjunction with directional drilling has opened up a huge amount of hydrocarbons, especially natural gas. And I think, you know, I get criticized a lot for this, but I think natural gas is the natural transition to a green economy, and it is in real time allowing us to convert many, many coal-powered electrical generation plants into natural gas. They're dramatically cleaner, and I think if we can figure out some way to get some of that natural gas to China and accelerate their conversion away from coal, I mean that's -- in terms of real time, in the next decade, a big opportunity.
HICKENLOOPERAnd that transition to coal and wind is going to -- you know, it's happening rapidly, it's going to continue happening rapidly, but it can't happen overnight.
REHMWhat about the earthquakes in Oklahoma, apparently caused by pumping back in that wastewater?
HICKENLOOPERRight, exactly, and we've seen a couple of those in Colorado. I think you stop pumping that wastewater back in.
REHMWhat do you do with it?
HICKENLOOPERWell, you can have it -- let it evaporate in big basins, you know, create these kind of large, flat ponds. I think the better thing, I mean, this is the age of innovation, right. Our productivity increases right now are at a level only back to the 1920s and 1930s, when we electrified factories, have we seen this kind of level of innovation. That's water we need, right. We are -- everywhere in the world we're short water. I think we need, and I think we're close to getting, some innovation that will allow us to clean that water up and not have to reinject it.
REHMGovernor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, his new book is titled "The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics." Short break, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd if you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call, 800-433-8850. And don't forget you can see the Governor by going on live video stream to drshow.org. Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado. Let me go to Della, in Manhattan, N.Y. You're on the air. Della, are you there?
REHMOkay. Paging Della. There she is.
DELLAI want to say hello to Governor Hickenlooper. And I want to ask him, you say you supported Hillary or you support Hillary because of her experience. But her experience, she has experience in making bad decisions. Her decision to go to war with Iraq -- as you know, we're coming to Memorial Day -- cost the lives of 4,500 Americans. And there were no weapons of mass destruction. Now, you don't vote to go to war and say, whoops, I'm sorry, I made a mistake, which is what she says. She says it was a mistake. But this is what she caused.
HICKENLOOPERWell, I can't argue. Certainly I wasn't supporting that decision. I think that -- I think Hillary's been very candid. Secretary Clinton. I shouldn't call her Hillary. But I think she's been very candid that that was a mistake and in many ways she was misled. And I think, you know, we hold our elected officials to an almost impossibly high standard that they can't ever admit to making any mistake without a tremendous amount of political fallout.
HICKENLOOPERAnd I think she's been very, you know, up front about it. That -- and I think we've got to accept that people aren't gonna be perfect if we want them to be honest and transparent. So I don't argue with you that that was a mistake and a difficult one for -- not just for the country, but for the world.
REHMTo John, in Ocala, Fla. You're on the air.
JOHNPardon me, Governor, but your host is the empress of informational radio and I'm a little overwhelmed.
HICKENLOOPERYou and me both.
REHMGo right ahead, John.
JOHNThe question that I wanted to ask is the connection between being a successful man and being a politician. With some people -- I don't want to mention any names, but…
REHMOh, go ahead.
JOHN…you know who I'm talking about. What do you see the important connection between those two things?
HICKENLOOPERWell, I think that -- A, I think that having been in the restaurant business was amazing preparation. As I mentioned earlier, you know, you learn service. And part of public servant attitudes, I mean, so many people in public service really don't get that. When you're in a restaurant -- on a busy day The Wine Coop would do 1,100 dinners. And when you're with a group of people, on a team under incredible pressure, giving people something that need and that they want, it is -- in a funny way it's an act of love, it is.
HICKENLOOPERAnd you're, as a team, you learn to rely on each other. It doesn't matter who -- who's male or female, how old or young they are, you're gonna do everything together. And that sense of service, really is form a love, should be at the root of, you know, local government, state government. And I think sometimes we've lost that. I think one of the issues, we should have more people -- I talk about this all the time.
HICKENLOOPERIn a funny way, this book is a call to action for nerds and geeks everywhere to get involved. And, you know, we need more people who've been in business to come into even local government, but whatever level they want to rise to or work toward, they can be involved in addressing some of the most challenging issues and work with some of the smartest, most wonderful people that you could ever imagine. So I will repeat it, nerds and geeks, you know, you can help. You can be part of solutions, rather than just standing on the sidelines.
REHMTo Joelle, in Ellicott, Md. Hi, there.
JOELLEHi, there. I have a question for the governor. I really appreciate what you have to say about government giving people what they need and want. And I understand you're talking about that in terms of your restaurant business and your experience there and bringing that to government. So with that in mind, I was wondering what the government's thoughts were on the recent decision in Colorado not to allow towns, such as Fort Collins, to protect their water and air and ban fracking?
HICKENLOOPERWell, the tricky thing with banning fracking is our -- the Colorado constitution treats the mineral rights, you know, the -- who owns the underground resources, as private property. And if you ban fracking you are essentially are banning people the right to get what is theirs. Think about the guy -- I met this -- a husband and a wife and they were in their 70s.
HICKENLOOPERAnd they had owned mineral rights way out east of Greeley, or west of Greeley. I take that back. But in -- and they'd owned for 25 years. Someone had just built a house out there about, I don't know, 1,000 feet away from where now an oil and gas company -- or least a year and a half ago -- where this company wanted to drill. Now, just because someone built a house out there, does government take away their rights and give them nothing?
HICKENLOOPERWhat my suggestion has been is that, I mean, government -- you -- if government wants to take rights away or take something from someone, it's called imminent domain and they usually have to give some value in exchange. Maybe the state and the local governments should chip in together in some way and see we can compensate people for the loss of their private property. Many of the mineral leases are owned by, you know, couples and it's part of their retirement.
HICKENLOOPERObviously, many are owned by corporations. But it doesn't matter who owns it. We generally try not to take stuff -- we don't want government taking stuff that belongs to people without some form of compensation. And I think the state's job is really to make sure that if it is drilled and if there's fracking that's going on, that industry reveals what's in the frack fluid, that we monitor every -- in every way possible the -- any possible pollution.
HICKENLOOPERWe, you know, we increase the fines for spills from $500 a day to up to $15,000 a day and suddenly the number of spills goes down dramatically. I mean, that's -- our job is to make sure it's done safely. But if we want to deny people the right to access those minerals, we probably have to figure out some way to compensate them.
REHMBut at the same time, going back to this issue of earthquakes, which have multiplied many, many times in…
REHM…in Oklahoma. Now, you've said you've experienced a couple…
REHM…in Colorado. Until we can figure out this water dilemma, shouldn't there be some kind of a pause?
HICKENLOOPERYeah, well, again, I'm not the governor of Oklahoma. So I'm not…
REHMI know that.
HICKENLOOPERWe governors don't like to tell other governors…
REHMBut it could be coming to your neighborhood.
HICKENLOOPERWell, certainly if we saw that level of activity, where you're actually getting buildings shaking, I'm pretty sure we would pause injection.
REHMSo what's been happening in Colorado with those couple of earthquakes?
HICKENLOOPERWell, we had a couple of tremblers, temblors. And we said slow down the injection. We went to the companies that were injecting water and we said we think these are connected. And we think you have to slow down what you're injecting. And if we see more, we're gonna ask you to slow it down more.
HICKENLOOPERAnd if we see another tremblor, you know, we're gonna get back to zero. Because, again, just because it's such a low level now -- it's not really hurting buildings -- doesn't mean it's not gonna build up to a bigger tremblor. So I think it's important that we do monitor it and make sure that if it's -- if we're seeing an increase, that the injection decreases.
REHMWell, what would it take to construct the kind of water hole you're talking about?
HICKENLOOPERI don't think it would be that expensive. I think it's unsightly and people aren't crazy about it. We have to make sure that, I mean, this is very salty water.
HICKENLOOPERThis is ancient -- a lot of this produced water is ancient oceans, you know, from, in many cases, 150 million years ago. It's brackish, it's salty. You know, it's unsightly. But I think there's ways to deal with it. And certainly, you know, if you can't pump, if you're gonna get earthquakes when you pump it, then that affects what's economic. 'Cause not all wells produce all this water, just certain wells. And so we would have to slow down production on those wells that produced a great deal of salt and brackish water.
REHMAll right. To Raleigh, N.C. Hi, there, William.
WILLIAMHi. Governor, I like your style so much. I have a question for you regarding the legalization of marijuana. If you're gonna experiment with legalizing marijuana, can we also experiment with a system, a societal system that puts more emphasis on personal responsibility? The point I'm getting at is, sure, go ahead, smoke the pot if you want to.
WILLIAMBut don't make me, who's decided I don't want to smoke it, pay for people who mess up, get addicted or go into other things that they knew darn well they were getting into. So I'm a former Democrat. I kind of left the Party because of this personal responsibility issue. I'm interested in your thoughts on that.
HICKENLOOPERWell, certainly in this instance you and I agree strongly. And we have fought very hard that the tax revenue that comes in from the sale of marijuana, that that doesn't get used for daycare centers or, you know, the -- our constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana, recreational marijuana, said that the first 40 million would go to schools.
HICKENLOOPERBut after that we're using it for the regulation of marijuana and also for, like, drug treatment centers so that the normal taxpayer is not paying exactly what you're saying, is not having to pay for the unintended consequences. Where, you know, kids, you know, try marijuana, it leads to them doing more drugs, they get into real trouble. And that's very expensive to get them back. That's a lot of counseling, that's a lot of time. To get them back on a constructive path is expensive.
HICKENLOOPERAnd we're making sure that we're -- that the money we're using from that, comes from the sale of marijuana for the very reason you're talking about. It should be a question of personal responsibility.
REHMHow's that for an answer, William?
WILLIAMI appreciate it. And I appreciate, Diane, you allowing me to vent that out there. Thank you.
REHMOkay. Thanks for calling. I want to ask you about your thoughts on the president's trip to the Far East, hoping to open and expand trade, his pivot to the Far East.
HICKENLOOPERWell, the trade issue is hotly contested in both Parties. It's, you know, unusual that where you see both Parties kind of moving away from trade. Historically, it's always been Republicans. And now it's the Democratic president who has been criticized as being fiercely too liberal and he's…
HICKENLOOPEROn trade. And I think his point is -- and I think he's right in many ways -- that if we don't have these trade agreements we're gonna still have competition from -- and, you know, products being imported into this country, but there'll be no restrictions on how workers are treated or how -- what kind of environmental pollution comes. And whatever restrictions are agreed to, it'll be on the terms of probably China -- is our largest competitor in the East.
HICKENLOOPERAnd they are obviously much less concerned about the condition of the environment or the condition of workers' circumstances than we are. So we're much better off making sure that we dictate -- or don't dictate, but that we negotiate those terms of international trade agreements on -- more according to our values then leaving them to, let's say, the Russians or the Chinese where our values clearly are in conflict.
REHMRepublicans argue that what he's doing is giving away the store and not getting enough in return, in the way of truly specific agreements.
HICKENLOOPERAgain, Michael Froman, who's done a lot of the negotiations on these agreements, one of the smartest people I know. You have to trust these guys that they are doing the best that can be done. And historically, this country and every country, you select your trade negotiators for their skills at listening, at trying to shift the discussion, at doing the best they can. And again, they've gotten to the best deal they can. We can always make it tougher, if it's possible. There's no reason -- but let's take what we've got and make sure that we don't lose this opportunity.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." During the break, Governor Hickenlooper, I asked you about your thoughts on the right to die, which is an advocacy that I have written about in my own book. You talked about your concern of the greedy nephew…
REHM…the mythical greedy nephew.
REHMWhich has not happened in our Oregon with two-thirds, only two-thirds of those people being given medication to take their own lives having used it. The other third having said, now that I have it I feel in control. You talked…
HICKENLOOPERThat's interesting. I never heard that.
REHMYou hadn't heard that?
REHMTell me about your mother.
HICKENLOOPERWell, my mother, who was a -- just a fiercely independent woman, her mother, my grandmother, had a massive stroke when she was in her early 60s. And then had several more strokes. So for almost nine years my mother and four younger sisters rotated going out and attending to my grandmother in a home, an assisted living home, where, you know, my mom and her sisters would change the bedpans.
HICKENLOOPERAnd my mother felt that was so diminishing, not so much to her and her sisters, but to my grandmother.
HICKENLOOPERAnd she felt so strongly. So she made very clear, if it ever comes to that, she wanted no part of that kind of a life. And she had a massive stroke herself. She was 83. And we all flew out. It was right when I was running for mayor, my first campaign in 2003, first campaign I ever had for anything. And my sister was living in England. My brother was in California. We all flew to her bedside and she came out of her coma.
HICKENLOOPERWe had dinner together. She recognized us all. A wonderful, wonderful moment, which I will remember for the rest of my life. And then she went back into her coma. And the next morning the doctors said, well, she's gonna probably be in that coma. We can go up through her thigh, get the blood clots out of her brain, and we think it's a high probability that probably we can restore two-thirds of her mental capacity.
HICKENLOOPERThere's a 65 percent chance that she'll get two-thirds of her mental capacity, but it'll take six to eight months. And all four of us kids looked at each other and we said that's not what she'd want. And the doctors, you know, they said, well, it's Medicare. It won't cost you anything. And we said, you don't understand our mother and we do. And I think that's a big issue is we need more families to have that discussion.
HICKENLOOPERExactly. And understand in these different situations what it is that our parents want. Too often we're fearful of talking about that.
REHMThe country is death-averse.
HICKENLOOPERIt's so true.
REHMAnd if we do not talk about it within our families, if children don't talk to their parents and parents don't talk to their parents, it really is a problem. Especially for baby boomers who are reaching that age when they have both their parents and their young children.
HICKENLOOPERRight. It's a -- and it puts you in a situation that if you haven't discussed it, it's an agony -- and I've watched friends go through this -- an agony that no one should want. So much better to have the frank discussion. You know, my mother was so dead set against this. And she had some old antiques. She put…
HICKENLOOPERShe put tags on the bottom of every piece of furniture saying which child would get it so there wouldn't be fights after she died.
REHMSo why are you not in favor of the right to choose?
HICKENLOOPERWell, because I have been cautioned by a lot of advisors over, you know, the potential for mischief and the greedy nephew. And I haven't seen the results from Oregon. I need to…
REHMWill you please talk with the governor of Oregon?
HICKENLOOPERI will do that. And I will…
HICKENLOOPER…read your book. I give you that commitment.
REHMThat would be great. John Hickenlooper, he is governor of Colorado. His new book is titled, "The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics." Thank you so much.
HICKENLOOPERNo. What a treat. Thank you so much.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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