The Candidates: Pete Buttigieg – The New York Times

pete buttigieg

I remember in history class, must have been a junior, it was during the impeachment process of President Clinton or all the scandal, everything that was going on. And I remember the teacher was just kind of riffing on this, and he said, you know, would anybody here ever want to be president or want to run for office, seeing what a mess and what an ugly place Washington was? And I just — maybe involuntarily, my hand went up. And from then on, it became that the running joke of the class that I’d wind up running for president.

And then by the time I got to college, they had this Institute of Politics at Harvard, and every day, there’d be a different speaker who would come through. And I remember when I was there as a freshman, people like Donna Brazile who had just come off managing the Gore campaign and Rick Davis, who had done the same thing for McCain. And the former president of Ecuador, he’d been deposed in a coup. You’d just kind of hang around and watch them and see what they were like. The biggest realization was that they’re just people. These people who were shaping the world, people I was seeing on TV were obviously very impressive people, but they were just people. I think it changed my awareness of the fact that, on some level, I could be part of that world, too. But in a very simple sense, especially coming from Indiana, it seemed that it was a choice. You could be in elected office, or you could be an out gay person, not both, at least not where I was from.

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”

archived recording (cory booker)

I am running.

archived recording (amy klobuchar)

I announce my candidacy —

archived recording (elizabeth warren)

— for President of the United States of America.

michael barbaro

Part one in our series on the pivotal moments in the lives of the top four Democratic candidates for president.

archived recording (joe biden)

I’m running for president.

archived recording (pete buttigieg)

And I’m running for president.

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[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

archived recording (kamala harris)

President of the United States.

archived recording (bernie sanders)

President of the United States.

michael barbaro

Today —

archived recording (pete buttigieg)

I’m a proud son of South Bend, Indiana, and I am running for President of the United States.

michael barbaro

Pete Buttigieg. It’s Friday, November 22.

So Jeremy Peters, you cover politics for The Times, and you’ve been closely tracking Mayor Buttigieg. And in order to better understand the Democratic field of presidential candidates, we’re trying to figure out the most revealing moments in their lives. So when it comes to Pete Buttigieg, what moment should we focus on?

jeremy peters

Well, Mayor Pete has always been a candidate for whom his story, his biography is very central to his appeal to voters, and he’s got a great story to tell. He’s been elected mayor of this medium-sized town in Indiana before turning 30. He has an Ivy League pedigree. He’s been a Rhodes Scholar. He’s worked at a prestigious consulting firm. He’s gone off to Afghanistan as part of the Navy Reserves. So he has all of these components that you kind of think if you’re a voter, wow, he really stands out. There’s something unique about this guy. But at the same time, for most of his adult life, he had this nagging secret, the secret that he couldn’t confront because he thought that it would mean the end to this political career that he had spent so much time perfecting, basically since he went away to college and decided, hey, you know, I can run for president. And he doesn’t see how it’s possible for the politician with the perfect background, the perfect resume to also be open about their sexuality, in his case. So how he reconciles this inner turmoil with his very public ambition I think is a defining moment in his life, if not the defining moment.

michael barbaro

All right. Welcome to the studio.

pete buttigieg

Thank you.

michael barbaro

You’re going to sit there.

pete buttigieg

All right.

jeremy peters

So that story begins in 1982 in South Bend, Indiana where Peter Buttigieg was born.

michael barbaro

Mayor, tell me about the kind of kid that you were, growing up in Indiana?

pete buttigieg

Well, I think I was, safe to say, a little on the nerdy side. I lived in a neighborhood kind of in the middle of South Bend, close to a park where you would have as much as possible what you’d call a prototypical Midwestern kid’s upbringing, you know, playing in the park with friends, a lot of time in the house. I was really interested in baseball cards, but I was more interested in categorizing them than I was in baseball, I think. I loved science and science fiction. I loved reading, plus I was an only child. So I think it’s safe to say I had a lot of interior life going on in a fairly quiet house where it was a dog and my parents, who were both academics, and me.

michael barbaro

What was your introduction to even the idea of politics?

pete buttigieg

Politics was always in the air in our house just because my parents were very politically passionate. They really cared about what was happening.

I can remember the Democratic Convention. It must have been 1988.

archived recording

NBC News continues its coverage of America’s convention.

pete buttigieg

I would’ve been six years old and my parents explaining what a convention was. I remember Jesse Jackson giving a speech.

archived recording (jesse jackson)

When I look out at this convention, I see the face of America — red, yellow, brown, black, and white. We are all precious in God’s sight, the real rainbow coalition.

pete buttigieg

And I remember my parents thinking it was important to watch the Republican Convention, too. I mean, you would stop — even though I don’t it ever crossed their mind to ever vote for a Republican.

archived recording

Now let’s go down to the podium. Here is George Herbert Walker Bush addressing his convention.

pete buttigieg

Everything in the house would kind of stop when it was time to watch what was playing out.

archived recording

Thank you.

michael barbaro

At what moment in this early phase of your life did you go from just watching this and maybe finding it very fascinating to feeling really drawn to it?

pete buttigieg

Well, when I got to college, it felt like the Republicans and the Democrats, at the time, it’s crazy to think about now, polarized as we are. But what it felt like when I showed up as a freshman on campus was that the two parties were converging and not necessarily in a good place, that you had this kind of center-right and center-left, both of them very committed to growth in business, but it seemed not very committed at all to some of the questions of how we take care of vulnerable people around the country. And I think there’s a moment for any kind of well-spoken or intelligent young person watching the news when you see a senator or a candidate saying something or doing something and you think, well, that’s not right. I could do that. I could do it different. Now, you might be wrong. They might be way more sophisticated than you are, and you can’t see it. Or you might be right, and it might well be the case that what they’re saying is just not right. But I certainly had that feeling reinforced when I saw these figures come to campus, some of whom were extremely impressive, but none of whom seemed like they were on a different plane of existence. They were just people.

michael barbaro

So at this point, a year or two into Harvard, have you made up your mind that you were probably going to find a way to have a career in politics?

pete buttigieg

I knew I wanted a career that involved policy. I don’t think I’d figured out for sure that that meant running. Plus, you know, when I thought about it, even well before I was coming to terms with the fact that I was gay, I knew that I had no political connections at home. I had an unpronounceable name, and I was a Democrat who lived in Indiana. So it was not obvious that I could overcome some of the obstacles toward running. But I think it’s safe to say by the time I graduated, I had some sense that I could see myself doing it.

michael barbaro

Well, I want to talk to you about that realization of your sexuality in particular. Obviously, your candidacy is historic in a couple of different ways, and among those is the fact you’re the first major party presidential candidate who is openly gay. And so I want to ask you about that part of your identity. When did you sense that you were gay? When did that realization start to dawn on you?

pete buttigieg

I think it depends what you mean by realization, right? There are things you could point to going way back, certainly a fascination I had with a classmate when I was about 12 that, in hindsight, is very obviously a crush. But I was not willing to think of it that way, although some part of me must have — I mean, I wasn’t stupid either, right? So you have this kind of awareness that was definitely there by the time I was hitting middle school. But taking a word like gay and applying it to myself, I was still years away from being able to do that, even in my own mind.

michael barbaro

Well, what did you do with those feelings?

pete buttigieg

I guess I packed them up, yeah.

michael barbaro

Packed them up —

pete buttigieg

Not much would be the best answer.

michael barbaro

Pack them up and put them where?

pete buttigieg

I don’t know. I don’t know how these things work, even in your own mind. I just didn’t explore them. That’s for sure. First of all, there were not a lot of out gay people that I knew as such growing up. I mean, in high school, it was exactly zero. There was just no sense of gay life or a gay community. And when I got to college, that’s when the kind of internal battle was starting to heat up.

michael barbaro

Why?

pete buttigieg

I think because you just can’t escape it. I mean, my god, you’re in college, right? I mean, any feelings you have, especially in the romantic department, are going to start asserting themselves even more fiercely than they have when you get to college. For a lot of people, it’s a big part of what you spend college on.

michael barbaro

Right. So how did you deal with it?

pete buttigieg

Same way I dealt with it up to then, just packed it away. Dated women, remarkable women. Because I enjoyed these relationships, I think I could defer facing the fact that that wasn’t the same as what it was to be in love with somebody.

michael barbaro

And your political ambition was already solid at that point?

pete buttigieg

Yeah, I still didn’t know exactly where it would take me or what it would mean, but I think by then, I knew that there was a good chance I was going to be running for office in my adult life. But at that point, I’m still clinging to some kind of hope, however vanishing, that maybe I’m straight or I’m bisexual and I can just not worry about the gay part. I think when I thought about my career, certainly when I talked about my future and how I was going to be involved, I wasn’t even thinking about the possibility that that would come into contact with this developing side of me. But I’m sure to the extent that I thought what it would mean to come to terms with the fact that I was at very least different and, as became increasingly clear, gay, that one of the things that would have kept that in its corner was the simple fact that that didn’t fit with any of the other things I wanted to do in life, not just a career, but a family. I wanted to get married. I wanted to have kids. From my perspective, you could be married and have kids or you could be gay, not both.

michael barbaro

You graduated in 2004. That — correct me if I’m wrong. That’s the year when Massachusetts —

pete buttigieg

That’s right.

michael barbaro

— legalizes gay marriage.

pete buttigieg

Yes.

archived recording

The court today, as you know, in a 4-3 advisory opinion to the Senate has a rule that in a November 18, 2003 decision, they meant marriage. They meant equality. They meant that the Commonwealth may no longer deny marriage rights to same-sex couples, including —

michael barbaro

So I say that only to try to understand, are you falling behind the culture, in a sense? Are you ignoring some of the signs that these things are changing?

archived recording

Marriage and only marriage will be enough to satisfy the requirements of the Massachusetts Constitution.

pete buttigieg

Well, the thing is I wasn’t from Massachusetts. I was in Massachusetts for a while, but I never felt like I was from there. And nothing against Massachusetts, but I realized pretty quick after turning up at Harvard that I didn’t belong there either.

michael barbaro

Why not?

pete buttigieg

It was just — it was just a different culture. I didn’t realize that. I didn’t realize that I was Midwestern until I left the Midwest. And just little things, cultural things, the way — I don’t know, the way people interact, what’s expected of you. Once I got there, I realized that socially, I was way more Midwestern than I thought.

michael barbaro

So take me from graduating from Harvard to your decision to join the Navy Reserves.

pete buttigieg

Yeah, so it starts with 9/11. Actually, it starts before 9/11. There’s this family tradition of serving in the military. There’s a painting hanging on the wall of my parents’ house of a relative, a great uncle who I kind of idolized in theory. He was an Army Air Corps pilot. And so I had this idea, this maybe romantic idea, of being in the military, and then it never really became real. But I remember on 9/11 thinking, oh, well, war isn’t just a thing that happens in other places or in other periods of history. Like, war has come to my generation, toom and thinking, at least in the back of my head, that that might mean I would be involved, but not taking any steps to do that. But that turned into more and more of a nagging feeling when some friends of mine started to serve. A friend of mine from college shared with me just before we graduated that he had decided to join the Navy Reserve. I was fascinated. And then when I was talking to someone about applying for the Rhodes scholarship and how I wanted to talk about my interest in public service and to the faculty member who was giving advice to students, and just said, pointedly, like, you might want to really think about how you’re going to say that, knowing that you’re going to be competing against people from the military academies. Oh yeah, that’s true. Like, my chest thumping about caring about public service feels a lot smaller held up against what others are doing.

michael barbaro

Do you think that was one of the things that might have drawn you to military service, knowing that to get a Rhodes, to be in that world, in that league, you know, it might be a good thing?

pete buttigieg

I think definitely that it was part of how you’re true to a culture of service. And also the Kennedy presidency kind of hangs over certainly the Kennedy School, as you might imagine. And that can’t be separated from his military career.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm.

pete buttigieg

I mean, really, it was almost an expectation that you would’ve served, up until roughly the time when I came of age when everything shifted.

michael barbaro

An expectation that you would serve —

pete buttigieg

Well, when you’re looking at the history of the people we were studying —

michael barbaro

Of presidents.

pete buttigieg

— who have made history. Yep, as presidents. And then the thing that put me over the top was this experience knocking on doors in Iowa with a couple of buddies from college who went out. We took a week off and rented a car, and it was the last few days before the Iowa caucuses, and we were volunteers for Obama. They sent us to this very rural area, some of the lowest income counties in Iowa. And it felt like any time I met a young — especially young man — it was somebody who was serving or was about to serve. And I started to realize, we had service that used to be something that bridged people together. Now it’s completely different, that if you were rural or low-income, you were highly likely to serve. If you were from a background like mine, which was middle class economically, but I’d had the chance to go to an institution like Harvard, almost nobody with that background was serving. And I began to feel like it wasn’t just this kind of thing I thought about that I hadn’t gotten around to. It was that I was part of the problem. I was part of the divide. That was the thing that kind of propelled me that last few inches toward being ready to yank open the door of the recruiting office in Indiana and say, hey, how do I sign up?

michael barbaro

I wondered, do you think you joined the military in part because you knew what it would mean for a political career?

pete buttigieg

You know, I wrestled with that because as soon as I get that question, there’s a part of me that thinks, if the answer is yes, does that mean the service wasn’t pure in some way? And I remember at the time asking myself if being in the military was as unpopular as it is today popular, would I still do it? And I want to believe the answer is yes, but there’s no way to go back and prove it. I’m not somebody who thinks that it’s, like, a prerequisite that if you want to run for office you need to have served. But I do think if you have a heart for elected office, one way to put your money where your mouth is to have been in that kind of service, too.

michael barbaro

That strikes me as a very candid answer because of course, you could just say, well, of course I would have done it, even if there was no possible —

pete buttigieg

Yeah.

michael barbaro

— political benefit.

pete buttigieg

And I want to say that. I just can’t prove it.

michael barbaro

So I want to talk about this run for mayor for just a little bit. Whenever you run for office, your character is on display. And at this point, you are keeping something quite elemental about yourself secret. Did it feel like you were hiding something?

pete buttigieg

Not really. The only time it felt that way was when there was small talk about whether I was dating, and I would crack a joke or something. We’d be sitting in a studio like this one and a radio host would ask a question. And I’d say, well, if anybody listening is into economic policy and long walks on the beach, go ahead and reach out and just kind of play the busy single person, which is what I was, except for the fact that I wasn’t actively looking for love. I was going out of my way to avoid it. But if somebody who is straight up asked me on the record, to this day, I’m not sure what I would have done.

michael barbaro

Do you think that that would have potentially cost you the mayoralty, might have kept you from being mayor or staying mayor?

pete buttigieg

Yeah, I think there’s a good chance of it. There’s a reason why no — as far as I know, no out gay person had ever run for mayor of any place in Indiana.

michael barbaro

This is a state with strong Christian values, and —

pete buttigieg

— not known for progressive social outlooks on politics. And here I am, rocking up, 29 years old saying, trust me, support me. Never mind this state legislator who has earned tons of credibility in this community. Never mind this county councilman who’s the party favorite. Go with me instead. If there had been anything that looked like a skeleton or a vulnerability, I think it probably would have sunk me before I got anywhere at all.

michael barbaro

So I want to now move into this notion of you reconciling these things.

pete buttigieg

Yeah, so when I first joined the Reserve, the message was kind of you’re pretty much going to go to one of these wars, and we’ll let you know which one. And so I knew that, at a certain point, it was coming. And of course, I didn’t want to take office in South Bend without a plan for this. So we had gamed it out with my team, if I get orders, here’s what you do. And when I received my orders and knew I was going for sure, I don’t think even then it occurred to me that it would have much to do with my sexuality. If anything, I was thankful that I was single, right? The hardest thing for people to deploy is the fact that you’re leaving behind somebody you love, in addition to all the professional complications. But then, the more I started getting mentally ready for going over and really thinking about what it meant, the more it started weighing on me that I didn’t have a — wasn’t coming back to a family, my parents, of course, but I wasn’t coming back to a household. And more than that, I had no idea what it was like to be in love. And the idea that I’m — here I am. I’m a grown-ass man. I own a home. I’m the mayor of my city. I’m a military officer. And if I get killed over there, I will go to my grave not knowing what it’s like to be in love. And that just made me realize how untenable the situation I was in really was. And up until then, it didn’t seem untenable, I guess because I was so busy, and I might have deferred coming out and having a dating life forever, if not for this moment where I’m thinking, shit, I could die.

michael barbaro

You wrote a letter I want to ask you about.

pete buttigieg

Yeah, you know, it’s a thing you do. I assume everybody does it. I don’t know. But it’s the thing you do when you go to war, right? You want to make sure that you have the last word on your life and leave a few instructions. So I wrote up a letter, put an envelope, put just in case on the outside. Put it in the desk drawer, would’ve been pretty easy to find if worse comes to worst. And that’s a real moment, too, because you’re sitting there staring at the screen trying to figure out how to give a short accounting of your life.

michael barbaro

And what did you say?

pete buttigieg

Well, what I said was that I wouldn’t want people to think that I’d been cheated, that obviously it’d be terrible if I didn’t come back, but I also had this amazing life where I have wonderful friendships, and I got to serve my community in a way that very few people get to do, let alone at my age, and that I’d had this very fulfilling life. And of course, it’d be too bad if something happened to me, but to keep that in perspective. But if you’re asking if there was, like, P.S. I’m gay, no.

michael barbaro

That’s kind of what I was asking. So you are deployed.

pete buttigieg

Yeah.

michael barbaro

You do not die.

pete buttigieg

Right.

michael barbaro

You come back, and you’re mayor.

pete buttigieg

Yeah.

michael barbaro

And how do you decide that it’s time to come out?

pete buttigieg

Well, I think by the time I hit the ground and I was back, I knew that I was going to come out and then it’s just — it was more how and when. I remember resenting the idea that you’re supposed to have to come out, right? Straight people don’t have to come out. Why do I? And then, while I’m in the process of figuring this out —

archived recording

Thank you all for coming. It’s been a tough week here in the Hoosier state, but we’re going to move forward.

pete buttigieg

We have this explosive controversy over Mike Pence, the Governor Mike Pence and his so-called Religious Freedom Bill.

archived recording

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was about religious liberty, not about discrimination.

pete buttigieg

So suddenly, we’re on national television, my state, as the most officially anti-gay state in the country.

I’m fighting him on it, of course, because it’s a terrible policy. But now, I’m fighting this terrible, anti-gay policy putatively from the perspective of a straight ally, wondering whether I’m more effective because people don’t know that I’m gay. And at the same time, knowing that this just kind of speeds things up even more that, like, it’s just a really weird position to be in, to be having all these hypothetical arguments about discrimination against gay people, when it really means me. Meanwhile, this is also the period when we realize that soon the Supreme Court is going to weigh in on marriage. I mean, all of this was happening in that early part of 2015 while I’m wrestling with how to do this. And so oddly enough, it was — [INTERPOSING VOICES]

— as busy as I was as mayor. Military duty actually felt like, kind of almost like a break because it was eight hour days, 40 hour week. I wasn’t used to having that much time, and so is a lot of time to sit and write and think and call friends and get advice.

michael barbaro

So you produce a plan.

pete buttigieg

Yeah, well I produced a letter, an op-ed I guess.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. What was the essential line that I’m sure you remember that you wrote?

pete buttigieg

I remember saying that it’s just part of who I am and that it has no bearing on how I do my job, that the way I do my — did my job either as an officer or as a mayor or in business had nothing to do with the fact that I was gay and that —

michael barbaro

It still sounds a little defensive.

pete buttigieg

Yeah.

michael barbaro

Or maybe a little scared.

pete buttigieg

Probably. Yeah, I mean, you know, I didn’t feel like I was coming out guns blazing. I felt like I — again, part of me was bothered that I had to share this at all. Then part of me knew that it would do some good if I did, I mean, not just in my own life. That I — my main agenda was, personally, I wanted to get out there and start dating. But also that it would mean something, might mean all kinds of things to a whole bunch of different people when I came out and said this.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

archived recording

To Kill a Mockingbird is unmissable and unforgettable, raves Rolling Stone. Five stars. The New York Times declared it a critic’s pick, saying this is a Mockingbird for our moment. A beautiful, elegiac, satisfying, even exhilarating new play about justice in America, New York Magazine calls it majestic and incandescent. This Mockingbird is filled with breath and nuance and soul. This is the most successful American play in Broadway history, says 60 Minutes. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a new play by Aaron Sorkin. Tickets at tellacharge.com. A very personal announcement coming from South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg today. In an essay published in today’s South Bend Tribune, the mayor announced he is gay. Currently in the midst of running for a second term, Pete Buttigieg penned an essay in Tuesday’s South Bend Tribune revealing he was gay. A lot of people wondering why he chose to make this announcement now. It comes just months after the state’s religious freedom law thrust the state into the national debate on gay rights. As for the mayor himself, he says nothing is different, nothing has changed, and his focus is on South Bend.

michael barbaro

I want to talk about the timing, the exact moment of the op-ed because my sense is that at this phase of your career, you’re up for re-election, right? You’ve won the primary. And winning the primary, in a sense, means you’re standing a very good shot of winning.

pete buttigieg

Depending on the year, but yeah, in South Bend, it should be.

michael barbaro

So does that mean you deliberately chose a — like, a safe, low-risk time to do this?

pete buttigieg

I don’t know. I would think that going into a Democratic primary would be a safer time than going into a general election. And I think also the decision to do this came by way of realizing that there is no such thing as a safe time. I was just done with not having the kind of personal life that I wanted to have.

michael barbaro

So once you come out, how does your personal life change?

pete buttigieg

Well, I started dating, and that kind of changes everything. I mean, I still had this very demanding job. You’re the mayor, and so anybody in town that you ask to have a cup of coffee is —

michael barbaro

It’s a thing.

pete buttigieg

Yeah, it’s a thing. It might be misinterpreted. You could cross some line without meaning to. I mean, most of the people I interacted with were either people who needed something from me, people I needed something from, or people who worked for me. So it’s not, like, a very healthy pool for dating is what I’m saying. And I remember thinking there were all these kind of city fathers who, early on in my time as mayor, seemed determined to fix me up with their daughters. And I remember just thinking, like, where are you now? Did none of you have, like, a son or a nephew or something? So I did what millennials do. I went online. Turns out there’s apps for all of this. There was O.K. Cupid, Tinder. The one that actually came through for me was called Hinge. And it’s supposed to serve up people that — I don’t know how the algorithm works. But I find this guy, this cute guy with a big smile, and I’m like, I want to know this guy. So we start chatting. Well, I was chatting with a lot of people, but obviously, he’s the one I remember because that was Chasten.

michael barbaro

Your future husband.

pete buttigieg

Yes.

michael barbaro

So your story, to many people, is particularly compelling one, everything we just discussed. You are a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, you’re a veteran. You’re gay. You’re religious. And from your own description of yourself, it feels like you have been thinking about politics and preparing, to some degree, to run for president for a very long time, even though you’re quite young. And I’m sure you understand this and have heard this. That has led to this perception of a person kind of, perhaps, orchestrating a political biography. Do you ever question whether that, no matter what your intention, is — could possibly undermine the power of the story itself, however genuine?

pete buttigieg

Yeah, I mean, I think we’re conditioned to not like the idea of somebody who sat around thinking all their lives about how to become president. And I don’t view myself that way, although I get that that story has been written around me. Although, I also don’t know what it is we expect, that somebody kind of gets struck by lightning and then they turn into somebody who might become president. We all have these paths, right, that bring us to where we are. And I think anybody in professional life or even social life thinks about the story that you tell about yourself. At the end of the day, I’m not doing this because I have this personal need to be in elected office or to be the president. I’m not coming at the presidency as a thing that I’d like to occupy. I’m coming at it as this way to do something that I think I’m able to do. And I think it’s helpful in the sense that I could also have a very happy life doing something else. And oddly, I think that — that helps prepare me to do what’s required to do this. And this is advice I give talking to students, too. Imagine somebody is being sworn in, an ambitious, talented person kind of in the middle of their career is being sworn in as an assistant secretary in the State Department for the Middle East. And then imagine if that person has got there one of two ways. In kind of universe A, it’s a person who woke up one day in high school and said, I want to be the Assistant Secretary for the Middle East, and took the right courses and got the right jobs and had the right fellowships and wrote the right papers and did everything in order to occupy that title. And the other person is somebody who said, my — woke up in high school and said, I want to be the person who makes the United States a force toward peace in the Middle East. And they don’t know what that’s going to mean, and maybe it means they start out becoming an activist or maybe they’re an academic or maybe they’re a civil servant or whatever. But by whatever winding path, they wind up in this job, right? Which of those two scenarios is going to lead to somebody who’s better equipped to take that job they’ve been handed? I’ve got to think it’s the latter. And so what I’ve tried to do in my life is to prepare myself to be useful to others. And yes, I think that, in all likelihood, means in a form that involves holding office or seeking office or at least public life where I speak to lots of people, sometimes millions at the same time. But it’s not about, necessarily, having one title or another. And so I think if you overthink it, that’s where you start to lose the fidelity to what it is that would guide you when you actually get what you’ve been chasing for a long time.

Jeremy, what do we learn from Mayor Pete Buttigieg about the way he reconciled his political ambition with this essential fact about himself that he feared would endanger that ambition?

jeremy peters

I think we learn a lot about his decision-making process, not just how he internalizes decisions personally, but how he thinks about them in the longer arc of a political career. And he’s been very intentional all along the way about choosing certain endeavors that he thinks would benefit a long-term political career. Now some people would think, on the one hand, that’s too calculating. I don’t want somebody who’s thought about being president since he was a teenager. And, you know, in the era when voters seemed to prize authenticity in their political figures, they could see that as inauthentic. On the other hand, the decision that he made to wait seems to have borne out to his benefit. I mean, here he is, the first openly gay candidate for President of the United States who has a legitimate shot at being his party’s nominee. Look at where he is in the Democratic primary right now. He’s rocketed to the top of the polls. He’s brought in all this money in large part because he’s gay, and that opened a lot of doors with Democratic donors. He’s heading into the Iowa caucuses in the lead by some measures. But we won’t know if his decision to wait actually was the right one until people start voting. So it seems to have worked out well for him right now, but no one’s cast a single vote. And we don’t know how voters in the Democratic primary are going to react. We certainly don’t know how voters in a general election are going to react. So we’re just not going to know until Democratic voters have their say.

michael barbaro

Mayor, when you think back to your younger self —

pete buttigieg

Yeah.

michael barbaro

Not just your teenage self, but even your college self and your post-collegiate self who was so fearful about telling the world that you were gay, what do you kind of wish you could tell that person, that version of Mayor Buttigieg?

pete buttigieg

Well, back then, I would have thought this other fact, if I dared to unpack it, this fact about my life, this way in which I was different, was the thing that could multiply all the other stuff by zero, in terms of the impact I was going to have in the world, that I might very well choose that path, but that the price would be that I wouldn’t get to make a difference in public life. And if you want proof of God having a sense of humor, one of the things I’m seeing now, especially in the interactions I have on the campaign trail and the fact that this campaign is historic in a lot of ways, is that that same fact that I thought would mean never getting to this point might actually be one of the things that makes it matter the most.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm.

pete buttigieg

It’s a strange thing to think about that the one thing that I couldn’t control, the one thing that might have meant that it would be better not to have any aspirations related to politics at all could be the very thing that anchors the moral and emotional purpose of this entire campaign.

michael barbaro

Thank you very much.

pete buttigieg

Thanks for having me.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

York Herald Tribune. The New York Times Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording (fiona hill)

And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up, and here we are.

michael barbaro

In the latest public testimony before impeachment investigators, Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, recalled her growing frustration with Ambassador Gordon Sondland, as she realized he was pursuing a political agenda in Ukraine on behalf of President Trump.

archived recording (fiona hill)

He was being involved in a domestic, political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy and those two things have just diverged.

michael barbaro

Hill testified that when Trump and Sondland pressed Ukraine to investigate the discredited theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, they were playing directly into Russia’s hands, since Russia wants to deflect attention away from its interference.

archived recording (fiona hill)

This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. These fictions are harmful, even if they’re deployed for purely domestic, political purposes.

michael barbaro

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery and fraud after a long-running corruption investigation, throwing his political future into doubt at a moment when neither he nor his chief rival have been able to form a governing coalition. The charges involve allegations that Netanyahu accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts in return for political favors and performed favors for Israeli media tycoons in exchange for favorable news coverage. The Daily is made by Theo Balcomb, Andy Mills, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Chung, Alexandra Liung, Jonathan Wolff Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc George, Luke Vander Ploeg, Adizah Eghan, Kelly Prime, Julia Longoria, Sindu Gnanasambandan, Jazmin Aguilera, MJ Davis-Lynn, Austin Mitchell, Monica Estatieva, Sayer Cavedo, Nina Patek, and Dan Powell. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderlo. Special thanks to Sam Dulnek, Mikayla Bouchard, Julia Simon, Stella Tan, Lauren Jackson, and Bianca Gaver.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you on Monday.


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