Ep. 90 - Tim Kaine

Update: 2016-10-24


Tim Kaine, the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee and senator from Virginia, talks to David about his experience doing missionary work in Honduras with the Jesuits and the liberation theology he was exposed to there, why Congress should pass a new military authorization to fight ISIS, and why it’s better to choose optimism over pessimism.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

the board for the acts files comes from rockin' mortgage my Quicken loans lift the burden of getting a home loan with rockin' mortgage and get a secure transparent home loan approval in minutes skip the bank of the waiting then go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files This podcast is brought you by sixty DB listen to conversations that go beyond the headlines business sports politics today's news plus all of your favorite podcasts download the free sixty DB at Today The The The The and now from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN The X Files with your host David Axelrod the the the here's a disclaimer at the top of this podcast Tim Kaine as a friend of mine I've known him since two thousand and eight when he was an early supporter of Barak Obama in his presidential race he was a candidate for vice president even then and have a chance to talk with him in that context and get to know him he is one of the most ebullient public spirited people that I've ever met so I was happy to catch up with them on the campaign trail last week to talk about his life his career this campaign and what the future holds should Hillary Clinton get elected president in November of the the We're here with Tim Kaine welcome were coming to you by the way from the boardroom and for you Apprentice fans not that bored board room at a hotel in North Carolina where you're about to begin your campaign they are now in touch about the campaign but first I want to talk to a little bit about yourself you come from Kansas you you in Kansas City I do and David all my family is still there I'm kind of the One That Got Away thirty two years ago moving to Virginia we mid Westerners sense that Midwest new but what tell me I'm your dad was in the welding yes my gal who's alive eighty two my mom and dad both healthy eight years old he had a union organizer iron working and welding shop in the stock yards of Kansas City it was a classic American small business or five employees in a in a tough year and maybe nine or ten in a good year and my mother and my two brothers in May so we all grew up working in tat shop and you know my dad great work ethic never cut corners really preached excellence and doing a good job by customers and then my mom was home sick teacher but by the time the three boys came in quick succession three boys is a handful yet very much and so she ended up after that we were done you know going back to work a little that has always been very involved in charity and philanthropic work but my parents are great Irish Catholic Catholicism is big in your in your story was it something that was a very big presence faith in your home yes my mom and dad are both very devout Catholics and we had you know neighborhood parish that we are part of in fact really growing up it was sorta like I hardly knew that there were non Catholics in the world we really were very much in the in the Catholic know you I went to elementary schools public elementary schools but then when I was getting ready to go high school my parents over my objection decided that I should go to an all boys Jesuit high school rockers High School in Kansas City which is connected with rockers college and while I resisted the notion of especially single sex education and I like the public schools I was and I hadn't been at that school for a week when I realized wow this is really fantastic why the Jesuits at the time and still um and I just find this all over the world and as I talk to people who had Jesuit education they confirm this they have a tradition that merges intellectual rigor and social justice and they just kind of put both of those together in a magical way this was certainly the case in the nineteen seventies when I went to the rockers high school and I love the intellectual challenge but I also really liked the spiritual dimension that was in it that was trying to express itself in practical works of mercy trying to help other people you probably saw the Archbishop from Kansas City called you the other day a cafeteria Catholic meaning that you pick and choose those those doctrines that you that you practice and that you don't it was a reference to the comments you made in the debate about that choice yet which is something you've been dealing with throughout your political crowd you feel when you saw that I wasn't surprised look there's this my church also doesn't mind vigorous debate I mean that's something that that's the church I was raised in doesn't mind vigorous debate about things and you know the way I look at my own church experience and then my responsibilities as a public official is going to live in accord with the doctrines of my church and the church has the right to demand that those of us who call ourselves Catholics or whatever religion live in accord with their teachings but I feel very strongly that the First Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees everybody the right to worship as they please or not and that says you can't establish one religion over others it means that in the public sphere were not supposed to just legislate Catholic Church doctrine and tell everybody you gotta follow it so I live in accord with my face but I don't think my job as an elected official is to dictate to others how they should solve important moral questions abortion is an important moral question and I think churches should be active in kind of talking about what they think about it but at the end of the day I don't think we ought to use the criminal law to criminalize and prosecute and even jail women for making healthcare decisions and that's that was what the rule was before Roe versus Wade was decided so I think Roe versus Wade says keep this in the moral realm but don't use the criminal law to punish women for their healthcare decisions and I feel that that is that's the right thing for civil society and I don't think the bottom line don't think the church any church can demand that civil society just enact its own laws for everybody it's such a If rated issue you know I mean I consider myself pro choice but I but I'm always troubled by the sort of ease with which people on both sides talk about this because it's it's a very very complex issue and probably more complex as medical science advances it is although you know one of the one of the things I would hope folks who call themselves pro life or pro choice could unify round has the number of abortions in the number of on its planned pregnancies in the nation is reducing effect fairly significantly that's been you know something during the Obama presidency that I I think doesn't get enough attention I think if you make health care access available to women I think if women have easy access to contraception what you see is that the statistics here and elsewhere suggest and unplanned pregnancies and abortions reduced and I think that that's good there are so there are some things where we can agree I think we ought to be able to agree um and but this issue as a moral issue it's not going to go away but I don't think it's the job of elected officials to mandate that women may make choices women can make this for themselves so Faith was big in your home what about politics or politics discussed very little you know my parents were classic Kansas Republicans in the day when that meant Bob Dole Nancy Kass a bomb very moderate Republicans and we didn't really talk about politics at all those baseball church school the Chiefs you know what our neighbors do and I remember virtually no discussions about politics but the news was on at night and it was a Vietnam War civil rights movement so I remember sharply the assassinations of JFK Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy when your kid right those are so grammar of the same age challenging right I remember those and a sense that the combination of civil rights movement in Vietnam there is a real sense of Wow it's there's times of turmoil and challenge in the country and so that was probably part of an early political consciousness for me being aware of these big social things going on even if they seem removed from the neighborhood I was live and you were off to Harvard and you did an unusual thing because once you get the Harvard Law School people I don't mean to impure and I don't say this up the jet way but most young people are looking for law firms to become associate sad and summer associates and so on and advance their careers you took a year off in the middle of that today to do missionary work in Honduras what prompted you to do that I went through University Missouri in three years and went right to harbor an eye a couple of things happened I got there and I was probably the youngest person in my class of five hundred and fifty because of having gone right to school after three years of college I met a lot of people had taken time off to work or pee in the Peace Corps you know do all kinds of things and I started to ask myself why why am I rushing but then secondly David there is a big flurry of activity in the in the first semester of my first year law school of a wow we can get jobs at law firms in the pace eight or nine hundred hours a week you know we've never gotten that much money and there's a lot of excitement about that and I just knew that's not what I'm interested in I don't exactly know what I'm interested in but I know that that's not what I'm interested in and I didn't because I didn't really know what I wanted to do I decided to take a year off and maybe work with these missionaries and terrorists who had a connection to my high school my Jesuit High School well maybe I'll figure it out so that the first of December I mean I've been on campus maybe three months and I liked I liked law school fine but I just need to figure things out so I wrote these guys down Anderson said Can I just come and volunteer and they wrote back and said sure and you know we just set up to date that I would show up and I showed up not knowing what I would do and not knowing Spanish at that point I knew four years of high school Spanish but it never been in any in any setting where it had to use it other that in my classroom so it was a very kind of going out on faith experience but I felt like it would be good for me and I arrived there like OK what do you do while I'm at Harvard Law School that's completely irrelevant as I can help us all my dad runs a welding shop ok now we got a plan for you there is a technical school they had just started that was teaching carpentry about twenty five kids there and the principal was leaving to go into the priestess we had to go to his studies they say you run the school so within two weeks of arriving I am now basically the principle of this tiny fledgling Technical School and over the course of the year that I was there I added welding to it added an AI program for adults recruited more students but it was an amazing it's more how were you Americans were around well the Jesuits I were there are three interesting make sure that there is not a big at that point native priesthood in that part of Honduras the Oro Province of under so the Jesuits and agreed will staff the churches in this rural part of the community and the Jesuits were either from the St Louis the Missouri Province of the Jesuits which at that point stretch from Denver St Louis so kind of Midwest or they were from the the the area of Spain the Basque Country An the leash and northwest corner of Spain Spaniards and Americans Spaniards were super liberation theology really intellectual and I better explain liberation theology well it was it's a movement of Christian theology that was very prominent in Latin America when I was there and still is that basically looks at the Gospel as good news especially to the poor and so let let let me I mean maybe I can give you an example when I first realized what liberation to out us here there's a great new tests on Stella left and it was left was left and it was funny the Spaniards are that way or the American guy's a saint was guys are like you know super practical like we want to get into theology that liberation theology would look at readings in the Bible and just give them a fundamentally different there's a wonderful story in the New Testament call about the woman at the well Jesus is disciples Go into a town in some area and there's a woman getting water fire self because she's kind of a She got bad reputation so shouldn't go when the other women go to the well she Jesus getting this big dialogue and the disciples are mad Jesus she's a Samaritan and she's a woman and she has a bad reputation why spend time with her I'd heard that message preached in churches in the United States all the time and the message that was preached to us was Don't be like the disciples looking down on other people you should be more welcoming like Jesus now that's a very good reading of that story so in Honduras one of the For some reason I was there there's the reading and the message that the priest preaches maybe feel like that woman at the Well you feel like you're an outcast you kind of been kicked around you can feel down who's Jesus go to even go to the high tide he goes to the woman at the well so where you are in the story that's kind of what liberation theology was about and it tended to take virtually every story and centered in the experience of the person that was kicked in at the side of the road in the Good Samaritan story or that was the outcast in the woman to well or the leper that gets healed and sort of where you see yourself in the story gives you a very different interpretation of kind of what the messages and these are great stories that are susceptible to many reading so they're very light jet but the guys I was with the Spaniards were really they were left they were persona non grata with the government was a turbulent time down there in fact you you were influenced by the love of figured out there who is to disappear no there there it was a it was a very turbulent times military dictatorship some of the Jesuits I lived with were arrested by the military and let go but there is a Jesuit from Saint Louis had been kicked out of Honduras that at one point I had to go to Nicaragua to get my passport renewed just take a bus you go to the other nation to get a renewal at the Honduran embassy in Managua and I spent time with this one American priests Guadalupe Carney James Carney from St Louis and about two years after I left hundreds to come back here he was murdered by the Honduran military under very suspicious circumstances I had met some of the priest the Jesuits who were killed by the Salvadoran death squads that universe of Central America November of nineteen eighty nine there were civil wars in Guatemala civil war in El Salvador military dictatorship in Honduras the US was using Honduras as a staging ground to build up the folks to take on the sand in East as in Nicaragua so it was a very complicated time and I kind of walk into it is a naive twenty one yet was what this this was it was definitely different it was when Kansas City and as I was standing there with my kids what the noise of everybody hammering and sawing I was like this a Harvard law school either as a school where I'm about as far away from our house for movie wasn't for you that whole experience it was very very form of I think about it every day there were a couple of the Jesuits the guy who started the school hermano Jaime Larry great kid from St Louis Academy was probably forty five when I was there he is now deceased he had started the school might be run a wonderful wonderful guy probably in just life and values other than my dad and my father in law and my my parents the great hero of my life another priest Patricia Wade who is a guy who taught me alot but also my students and their families I have had a teacher that I worked with at the school again a memo Guillermo and he came in was really down and I was like Hey what's going on now for my children died this week you know he was just shown on Monday for work and I said Well what did you know what is your child Ivey said diarrhea and you just think of you know when they can do it the sanitary conditions are so bad that that just dysentery and normal diseases like that that we take Pepto abysmal or something that would be nothing here can be fatal and so I learned a tremendous amount from my students and their families about faith about hard work about like about ever city oh yeah I know which is a spin to work has been kicked around as a kind of pejorative in our politics but it's an important quality it is is putting yourself in somebody else's shoes and you know the classic experience I think many of us have this you go I think I'm going to go help somebody out and find out you're the one that's likely we're going to take a short break we'll be right back with Tim Kaine rocket mortgage by Quicken loans proudly supports the X Files when it comes to the big decision of choosing a mortgage lender it's important to work with someone you can trust leisure best interests in mind with rockin' mortgage you'll get a transparent online process that gives you the confidence you need to make an informed decision skip the bank of the waiting and go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files equal Housing lender license in all fifty states and MLS consumer access dot org Number thirty thirty when you left Harvard obvious you are influenced by your experience you didn't go as may harbor soon xD oo onto a law firm Corporate work yeah you became a civil rights lawyer he returned to Virginia with your wife yet and who was who was a student at Harvard as well were you did you have her father had been governor Republican first Republican governor of Virginia and did you go to Virginia with politics in mind now I really went I mean to be a civil rights lawyer I decided when I was in hundreds let me use my legal skills to help others I read the great Martin Luther King quote when I was in Honduras the most segregated hour of the week is eleven o'clock Sunday morning and being a church kind of person that really struck me and so I just decided to try to be a civil rights lawyer battle for Afghan Americans basically was kind of what I want to do and started working on that law school Matt and Anne's family has a real interesting Civil Rights pen down and we decided to go back to Virginia to Father Linwood home would help to de segregate schools in Virginia now this is one reason why I never claim any parties got a monopoly on vice or virtue the Democratic governors of Virginia had maintain segregated school sixteen years after Brown versus Board maintaining segregation through all kinds of tracks everything they could lend got in and within ten months he had basically said no we're going to integrate Virginia schools and used his own kids kind of as an example no you know there's a great front page picture in your times of when escorting my wife's sister into what had been previously essentially an all black high school with a big smile on his face there's a lot of pictures in the times of Southern governors blocking after American kids from walking in the schools but there's only one of a Southern governor walk in His own child into school with big smiles and education for everybody and my wife was part of the generation of kids that integrated Virginia schools not a huge impact on her so we went back to Virginia to do civil rights work I practiced in private practice for seventeen years to instill rights work recorders what I did civil rights of mostly housing discrimination and was a legal aid lawyer you know help and especially families and kids you know big class action suits against government agencies that were pushing families and kids around and the and this is what I thought I'd be doing my whole life but I also was representing a little homeless shelter enrichment would occasionally have things up before the Richmond City Council and I would go to City Council meetings and I would see my city council very divided along racial lines and at some point I'd loved in return for about ten years I just like cash I think I can do better I think I can be a bridge builder in a city with a painful past and that was what got me to run the first race in nineteen ninety four and you became a U S accounts member and then you became mayor elected by the city council as mayor what is the what were the racial war the demographics of Richmond when you became a city is about sixty percent minority and the City Council was meant majority African American and in you know and I was treated in a very graceful way by that council because the City Council Richard in majority white for like two or fifty years and had never allowed in African American to be mayor and so the city had become majority African American only in the mid late seventies and here was not only was I white guy in from Kansas City and I'm not really a Virginian and I'm making my case to my colleagues hey you know I think I'll be a good mayor and there was some controversy frankly about whether the mayor should be white given the previous history of the white community never trusting the African and African American to be mayor but I had a reputation because my civil rights work the district that I represented was a real interesting mixture of the biggest mansions in Richmond and the biggest public housing community between DC and Atlanta and people thought I think I can be fair and so my at the African American leadership of Richmond extended a privilege to me that they that they had never been except when you very humbling did you have to confront what we see today in terms of police community relations is not a promise only knew because now the rest the world sees what the eff comm and yet community is seen for a long huge we had huge problem I got City Council second highest homicide rate United States and the homicides were concentrated in our minority communities and so in we had the police chief go and get somebody in who we felt could help turn around and we basically used a strategy David the good news is to solve these problems today we have to recreate the wheel we used a strategy community policing the whole goal was really build up bonds of affection and trust between the police in the community if you do that it's not just a feel good thing then somebody in the community is going to feel comfortable calling the police and saying have something going on down the block that I hope you'll come check out or if there's a crime and somebody is witnessed it somebody will be willing to testify when you build up those Pines then it gets easier to solve problems in the community feel safer but there's a competing won four straight model in so many cities that's an adversarial model zero tolerance when it cracked down on little things well for these communities are also ravaged by crime not just these incidents but you need strong police and they need security state they do but there is a philosophy of policing I mean I'm not a police professional but I can look as a mayor governor and sassy two competing philosophies around policing community policing is one and a zero tolerance model is another but that model is inherently adversarial so it doesn't mean you should tolerate small things but if you define the mission is what we're going to crack down on little things before they get to be the big things then you end up widening the gulf between the comedian police and that golf is dangerous to the community and its dangers to the police you think back into the nineties probably when you are mayor the community the crime bill passed and community policing was part of it in the federal government provided the funding grants yeah new police do think we need another initiative like that I do I think we we definitely do because here's the other thing to do community policing right it's not just about the number of police it's also about training you can't do this automatically when we went through the collapse of the economy in the two thousands what is the first thing in the agency does a three under budget pressure they don't want to lay people off they don't want to cut salaries so they cut training anything else that seems like well I can do without it so um we we cut training budgets and so many police departments and this is not the police department's fault obviously there's a recession they're trying to manage that and so a lot of the support for community policing went by the board so I think and Heller and I both believe this very deeply what we need to do it's not necessarily the hundred thousand cops but we really need to support the police departments are doing community policing and show others that aren't here's how you can do it and it's definitely going to be training and technical assistance yuan yuan to get elected lieutenant governor of Virginia by a slim margin that's my that's my specialty slim margins well Virginia was the was a more competitive stay when you they're still competitive in state elections apparently a little less competitive this year in the presidential election I'm going to jump forward in the story and say that in as good and you you you have a fine record as governor here so I let stipulate that for purposes of time yeah um when I met you I was in two thousand and eight you were the first major elected official outside of Illinois who endorse Barack Obama for president in late February of two thousand I told him I would do it in October of those sex and then when he announced in February five seven I got a known Barack for the first time I met him I said Hey you given the speech about you know my dad's from Kenya miles from Kansas where her mom from he said Elder radio sets for my mom's from so my mother and maternal grandparents are from the same town as says and then there's just something about that that has sparked a connection and I just I I have huge admiration and affection for the president it's not like we you know hang around or you know we're chum around a lot but I just I know how his mind works I think I understand the guy and he definitely gets me well will you know my first actual conversation with you was when David Plouffe and I came to the governor's mansion in two thousand A because you are a finalist for vice president then I don't know if you remembered you remember the first thing that you said to me you probably don't know well I'll tell you what you said is you know I'm really honored that you guys are considering in that rock is considering me but I wouldn't pick me if I were him I use is becos i'm too much like him too much land and ultimately that's you know that's what he thought to use it how many Harvard educated for civil rights when you have of on a ticket so unlike him in another way I've thirty two years of marriage in a whole lot of teamwork and a whole lot of different venue has taught me something important I think the best teams are similar values and different temperaments black eye or similar values and similar temperaments but I actually think the reason that the that the Obama Biden relationship has worked well since they have similar values but they have different temperaments what the different temperaments kids use the ability to look you know that all sides of a challenge and you know make sure you're seeing all the sides of it and that really in Sep being a strong team and so I thought a present a bomb would be the national security expertise that I didn't have gonorrhea to recover right yeah yeah no I yeah I must say that was a very impressive though that was what we expect when we when we came in do you think he's been treated differently because of the fact that he is an African American I do I do I think there's there's been a level of disrespect shown him that I find saddening um but that's not by everybody I still view his presidency as in every way not just his election but also his presidency as an advance beyond what we were before the very fact of his election the very night he was elected he created a class of success or as you've never been able to see themselves as Prez United States who now could and then he's done a number of good things there have been ways he's been treated that I you know to make me feel bad but still net net to their surprise you based on your own experience no absolutely not I see that I see the world is through the perspective of guys minutes of Rights are in the south I haven't been surprised at it there been some things about it that you know they they disappoint me but still if you put net net his election the people's reaction to him If you look at his approval rating right now popular yeah it's been an advance beyond what we had before in terms of our our ability to work together the obvious question is um you're now running with the woman who he was running against yeah at the time I presume you would make the same decision again it's really interesting I was a hard decision back you know in two thousand and six in one sense because I didn't really know Hillary very well back then but I knew you know what amazing public servant she was and so in that sense it when I felt like I'm choosing between two really great people but I knew peroxide well by then and I didn't really know Hillary and so that made it a little bit easier but I think this I'm so excited to be Hillary's running mate one of the thing I can let you yeah I I I thought those artful I'm very hurt but but but do you feel you made the right decision I wouldn't I wouldn't change anything
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Ep. 90 - Tim Kaine

The Axe Files with David Axelrod