This is a rush transcript from "Life, Liberty & Levin," June 9, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARK LEVIN, HOST: Hello, America. I'm Mark Levin. This is "Life, Liberty & Levin." We have a great guest, Mark Penn. How are you, sir?
MARK PENN, HARRIS POLL CHAIRMAN: Pleasure.
LEVIN: You worked on the Bill Clinton campaigns. You worked on the Hillary Clinton for Senate campaign. You worked on the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign. And yet, you came to my attention, I think to the attention of a lot of people because you have persistently objected to the way this particular President is being treated. Explain.
PENN: Well, I spent a lot of time with President Clinton, and I spent an entire year, 1998, on an impeachment that didn't happen that tore the country apart.
And I thought at that time, "Never again." And then I see all of those things developing again. In fairness, even worse.
Investigations of the President, of the campaign, of the administration of the President's family, done with methods that were really meant to investigate people, not crimes, and things that seemed to me to go way over the bounds of the Constitution.
And I decided to speak out. And so one day, I'm actually at my kid's basketball game, and I said, "Should I do this piece? Is anybody going to read it?" And millions of people read this piece.
So I said, "You know what, I can be a voice to stop this kind of thing, this kind of abuse," which we've got to remove from the Presidency. No one can be an effective President, or as effective as they could be, if they are under constant threats and investigations.
LEVIN: What kind of response have you gotten in the Democratic world?
PENN: Well, you know, I get a lot of people who respond to me that they admire what I'm doing. They appreciate it. They know that it's about the country. It's not about the party. And I tell them, "It's not about a party."
I worked for a party for 40 years. I worked with presidential campaigns, Senate races, and mayoral races back to Ed Koch. I believe in the party. I just don't believe in this investigation. I don't believe in this special prosecution. And I said so.
And sure, a lot of people can get angry at me about that. But, you know, I also got some really heartfelt letters from people who had been persecuted by other prosecutors. And it said, you know, I'm touching people with it. And I think I wanted more Democrats to come over and say, "Yes, we oppose Donald Trump. Yes, we want to have another President. Yes, we will vote for another President. But you know what? Our Constitution is first."
These investigations are really -- were started on the basis of no real evidence, and look how they were allowed to tear our country apart.
LEVIN: And yet, Nancy Pelosi and Jerrold Adler and Adam Schiff and so forth, they say they're defending the Constitution. They say it is their constitutional duty to issue scores and scores of subpoenas about private information on the President, on his family, his tax returns, his banks, bank accounts and so forth and so on.
Do they have a duty to issue subpoenas and demand this kind of information?
PENN: I think the duty would have been to look at the Mueller report, understand that Russia collusion was not found. That finding obstruction of something that wasn't obstructed is ludicrous. And to move on, to get onto infrastructure, to get on healthcare. Get on the issues they care about.
And I think that they were caught between the politics of the Democratic Party that they helped create, moving voters in a frenzy, along with certain members of the press as though this Russia collusion was real when it was ludicrous from day one.
LEVIN: Do you think the Democratic Party as an entity and the media as an entity, have created such an emotional fiery base that they can't even control what they created at this point?
PENN: Well, they created a base built on a fundamental mistruth here that started with Christopher Steele and the GPS Fusion dossier that created a huge echo chamber. They went everywhere.
They went to Democrats, they went to Reed, they went to the CIA, they went to the FBI, and they went to foreign intelligence operations. They went to the State Department. It all came in as though it was real.
And then that created a frenzy within our FBI and our own -- and then that created a frenzy within the public. It's the biggest lie that I've ever seen perpetrated on the American public, and it's whipped everyone up.
I would have liked to have seen our politicians at the end of the day after the Mueller report came out, get together and say, "We thought maybe there was something there. But there wasn't." And they didn't.
LEVIN: Why is there not -- to my knowledge -- a single Democrat in the House or Senate who sounds like you? Do you know of any?
PENN: Well, it's a shame because I also worked as a political consultant for 40 years, and they would soar in the race. America wants somebody to bring it together. And the politicians, I think, have the wrong attitude that they've got to keep America a partisan and apart.
And I think that if they just got together, as we did in 1996, and all the way up until what I thought was a wrong impeachment, come together around a balanced budget, around welfare reform, around immigration reform, around one thing after another. The public wants that again.
Every time I and my polls run a question, do you want investigations or infrastructure? Eighty percent, I want infrastructure. Do you want that people should stick to their principles, no matter what, or compromise to the other side? Sixty, seventy percent say compromise. Get things done. Right?
The legislature is supposed to get things done. Our Congress has a 23 percent approval rating because the American public wants them to solve infrastructure, immigration, healthcare, all these issues that are sitting on the table, and they're -- every party is looking for the day that they control everything. That's not going to happen.
LEVIN: You say Congress has a 23 percent popularity rating?
LEVIN: What is the President's right now?
PENN: The President is at 48. The Republican Party is 42. The Democratic Party is 44. The Supreme Court is about 62. Right? All the political --
LEVIN: So Congress is the worst?
PENN: Well, the Congress is the worst of the political institutions and every political institution is under water. And that's why what they really want is the political institutions to function better. But most of all, they see Congress as no longer functioning and they fired the Republicans from Congress and they were hoping to get better.
LEVIN: Let me ask you a little bit more about the Democratic Party. As a lifelong Democrat, and an activist, and an adviser, there are elements of the Democratic Party that are really concerning me right now, sort of an anti-Semitism wing of the Democratic Party.
We've heard Omar. We've heard Tlaib, among others, and the Democratic Party doesn't seem to know what to do about it. They passed a resolution some time ago, that was very broad. They didn't name the particular culprit who had said a number of anti-Semitic things. Do you think this is a growing problem for the Democratic Party and a growing problem in the country?
PENN: It is a definite problem. I'd like to see the party more in the center because its voters are more in the center. I think that the activist wing right now has had enormous visibility out there. And I think you take a look at what happened with the resolution on anti-Semitism -- that should have been a resolution about anti-Semitism.
Why couldn't our party after the comments that were made by Representative Omar passed a simple resolution against anti-Semitism?
LEVIN: Why couldn't they?
PENN: Because of too many forces trying to make a compromise and didn't want to make a strong statement. Right? Very easy to call everybody else anti-Semitic. But how about getting behind the resolution that condemns anti-Semitism by itself clearly, and without condemning every kind of bias? I think that was wrong.
LEVIN: Do you think -- see my concern is, this as a growing problem. And that if it's tolerated, or if it's sort of smothered in general statements, it's going to get worse. And I'm quite concerned that the House of Representatives didn't handle this properly.
And I also think the media is partly responsible for this. They have a high tolerance for it as well. And in fact, they keep promoting these people. We wouldn't know about Omar if the media weren't promoting her. We wouldn't know about Tlaib if the media weren't promoting her. We wouldn't know about AOC if the media weren't promoting her. Why are they promoting them? These are backbenchers who know very little.
PENN: Well, in fact, Omar is on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. And I think the Speaker had an option whether or not to take her off that committee, whether to assign her that committee in the first place.
And I think she made a statement that she is one of the emerging leaders. I think in the long run, it won't happen.
You know, the Democratic Party rights itself. The Republican Party has had a lot of breakouts of extreme wings, too. And it typically has also, most of the time righted itself.
Most of all, politics rights itself. We have an American public that's in the center with growing extremes in politics and that's what's holding our country up from progress. The Democratic Party, I think will fix itself over time.
LEVIN: You know, one of my concerns, what's going on the House of Representatives is you have at least six committees that are spending tax dollars on opposition research against the President of the United States, that's the bottom line.
They want all of his financial information -- you couldn't get this if you were in the private sector, right? To use tax dollars, use the form of the House of Representatives, you get the information, you basically keep pounding away, pounding away, pounding away, really with no end in sight, except the election to try and drag down the President's ratings and the press keeps pushing it, pushing it and pushing it. Is this what's turning off the American people?
PENN: Well, I think that there's now investigation fatigue. I think, you know, it's interesting American people go yes, go on and investigate our politicians. They don't like politicians all that much, Republicans and Democrats. They're willing to investigate them.
They're actually showing fatigue for the first time in the polls we're picking up, well, if you go to foreign investigations, we're going to be less likely to vote for you. And I think they understand that two years of an all-out independent counsel investigation is enough.
And they are now saying, "Hey, let's get some of these tax returns," "Oh, let's get the tax returns of their children, their family. Oh, let's go back in history." That's government financed opposition research. That's not legitimate legislative inquiry. And it'll be very hard, I think, for the courts to sort this out.
But let me tell you, if the courts were willing to use some statement that Donald Trump made on the campaign trail. They have hundreds of hundreds of statements that these congressmen and particularly Nadler and Schiff have made that that really indict the purpose of these investigations is nothing more than going after people who are associated with Trump just because they're working for the President, and going after Trump and his entire family in ways that are unprecedented, in ways that we would normally have impeached people for.
If the President of the United States did the reverse and ordered up all the tax returns of everybody in Congress, and started to look into all the business affairs of those folks in Congress. How long would he be President? He'd be impeached right then in there.
LEVIN: When we come back, I want to ask you about the role of the media are playing in all this.
Folks, don't forget, you can watch LevinTV, LevinTV most weeknights, go to blazetv.com/mark, blazetv.com/mark and sign up. We'd love to have you and don't forget, here's the number one book in America. I hope you'll get your copy, "Unfreedom of the Press." We'll be right back.
LEVIN: Mark Penn, you've been around politics, you said 40 years?
LEVIN: Forty years, that's a long time. So you've been around the media for 40 years. And you've dealt with the media for 40 years as a pollster, as a consultant, as an adviser to Democrats. Have you ever seen the media treat a President the way the media today in the aggregate is treating this President?
PENN: I don't think I've ever seen this treatment. I've seen a lot of difficult treatment. Look, I was inside the Clinton White House for five or six years. So what I used to do is every week present to the President and we had our weekly strategy meeting, I'd say, here are the headlines out in, then, "USA Today," and most of the papers of the country. Here's what the beltway headlines are.
And the beltway would have a world of its own. Right? The story that would be about the inside politics and backbiting out in the countryside. They'd be looking at real crises whether it's the crime crisis of the time or real issues.
Now what's happened is the beltway has become the whole country. Right? And if even if you're out in the country, most of the stuff you read is about the infighting in Washington, and I've never seen kind of the lack of standards that are really applied so that you don't know what's true and what's not true anymore, because they selectively pick out things according to the storyline that they want to tell.
LEVIN: In the mix of news and opinion, it's getting harder and harder to tell who the journalists are and who the commentators are. And as I researched my book, there's a reason for that, because that's the way they want it.
There's not a lot of diversity in newsrooms anymore. There's not a lot of independent thinking. There's even a school of thought that is spreading throughout journalism that they're social activists, and they need to push their agenda through the progressive mindset. And people have written about this. People have admitted this.
They said, "Why do we keep pretending we're objective, let's just explain who we are and why it's important," because but for us, they say, there wouldn't be a Civil Rights Movement, or there wouldn't be Obamacare or there wouldn't be this and there wouldn't be that.
But now, you know, myself having served in the Reagan administration, going through Iran-Contra, you served in the Clinton administration, for all intents and purposes, went through his impeachment. I've never seen anything like this, day in and day out. One news operation after another news operation, you see these montages they put together where they're all saying the same thing. Have you ever seen those?
PENN: I have seen it.
LEVIN: Because they're all saying the same thing. Is it different now?
PENN: Well, every study that's done shows that 90 percent of the coverage on the administration is negative. I would say when I was doing Clinton, I would have counted it 50/50, 60/40 against us.
Interestingly, it wasn't a left-right phenomena in 2008 when I worked with Hillary Clinton. It was quite clear a lot of the media was biased against Hillary, and so they would never print the stories that that had facts that were adverse to our opponent at the time.
And so this started maybe 20 years and it grew and grew and grew. Now it's just open. Now, hey, we wear our partisanship, really on our stories, and in everyday coverage, and that's why America is at such a loss. That's why, if I look in my polls, almost every fact is seen in a partisan light.
That is, Democrats will agree or disagree, you could take almost any fact and depending upon whether it's perceived associated with the administration or not, it will be perceived positively or negatively. Right? Even just something like how is the economy? Everyone knows that in fact, unemployment is quite low. And in fact, even on the economy, 62 percent now say that -- give Trump approval on the economy, a record number in modern time.
We used to have that back in the Clinton years. We used to have up to the 70s, but even if you look at it, it's all partisan. And it's partisan, in terms of how it's used because the media is partisan. And so it's dividing our country. That's the problem.
LEVIN: Pew Research just came out with their survey of thousands of adults since February, and it came out the other day. A significant percentage of Americans believe that the news in this country is fake, or that there's a lot of fake news and it needs to be double checked.
It's not so much because that the President is saying fake news. It's because I think the media do not understand how intelligent the American people are. We've talked about -- and you think so, too, that they're far more intelligent than they think.
And yet, sometimes when you watch some of these shows, news shows, even Sunday shows, they talk down to the audience. They talk down to the American people. They're pushing an agenda even by the guests that they choose and the repetition of impeachment, impeachment. What do you think about impeachment? What do you think about impeachment?
I think people are sitting there looking at this and saying, "This is pathetic," so they shut it off.
PENN: Look, I was reading a book one day called "The Responsible Electorate," by V.O. Key. And he says, "The simple thesis of this book is that the voters are not fools." And I did all my polling, and all my campaign work on that basic theory.
And so it's a very complex polling about issues. Even in last month's poll, I asked people about China tariffs, they narrowly favored the President's policy on China tariffs. And then I asked them, "What effect do you think that will have on jobs?" Oh, there will probably be increased jobs. "What effect do you think it will have on prices?" Oh, it'll probably increase prices.
I'm saying, you know, Americans are pretty savvy here. They know what's at stake. They're trying to get their jobs back from China, they're willing to pay maybe a little bit more and prices, and they are willing to go along with tariffs as a tactic to stop what China is doing with our technology and with taking our jobs away. That's a pretty sophisticated view. Right?
And did the American public have all those views? Yes. Could you tell that from the way they're treated on cable TV? No.
LEVIN: And what about the fact that there's an awful lot going on in the country and an awful lot going on in the world, and if you're in the media, and you're spending three days talking about the word "nasty" as it applies to a Princess in Britain, and the Associated Press White House correspondent even said that show that the President was a racist. And I still don't understand what he was talking about.
Isn't that detrimental to a society? Isn't the point of a free press to give us information so we can make decisions about our lives? About our community? And about our government? Rather than being pounded day in and day out with trivial nonsense and name calling and attacks on the President of the United States?
PENN: Exactly. Look, the press has to tell the American public what's going on, and then provide some analysis. And then opinion folks like you can provide the different sides of the opinion. But if job one isn't done, then the public is confused.
Look at what happened. The biggest problem recently is that after Trump's election, the country didn't come together around that election because they were divided, because the press maintained this Trump-Russia narrative for two years.
And so typically after an election, in a democracy, we want the country to come together and say, "Hey, we're going to recognize that result." We may be dissatisfied about the President along the way, but our country's not coming together when it should. It's been kept apart by a press that stays 100 percent partisan, and it is really destructive to the country.
And so I hope that they will begin to bring back some of the standards and tone down some of the partisanship so they can let America come together because the country doesn't come together and we're just at odds with each other.
No matter how good our economy is, our democracy won't work, democracy is supposed to solve disputes.
LEVIN: All right. We'll be right back.
AISHAH HASNIE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Live from "America's News Headquarters," I'm Aishah Hasnie. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report will be on the agenda this week in Washington. House Democrats have scheduled a series of hearings. They'll mainly focus on two topics: obstruction of justice and the Russian election interference.
And then on Tuesday, the House is scheduled to vote to authorize contempt cases against Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel, Don McGahn for not complying with subpoenas.
A brush fire forcing the evacuation of an amusement park in Valencia, California. Authorities had to reopen roads closed by the fire so visitors at the Six Flags could escape the heavy smoke.
The fire broke out about noon today and it quickly grew to about 30 acres. The amusement park stayed close for the rest of the day. It will reopen tomorrow.
I'm Aishah Hasnie, now back to LIFE, LIBERTY & LEVIN.
LEVIN: Mark Penn, I want to get back to the press briefly here. I don't think the modern mass media is capable of policing itself. And I think it's destroying itself.
I make a distinction between the Free Press and many in the modern mass media today. And here's what I mean by that. CNN's ratings are tanking. They tried to play to a particular segment of the political world and they are tanking.
"The New York Times" had to be saved by a billionaire out of Mexico, a telecommunications billionaire. The "Washington Post" had to be saved by Jeff Bezos of Amazon because they were going broke and he got it at a fire sale $250 million. When I was young, I remember it was worth $2 billion or $3 billion or $4 billion.
Now, technology is some of that. But maybe people just have had enough when they know they can get it on the internet, whether it's reprobates and all kinds of things. But there's also smart people and smart websites, and people all over the world who are providing news and video and so forth.
It's my contention, that if they don't reform themselves, they're going to destroy themselves. And thanks to new technology, and newer technology, we're not even aware of down the road, news platforms and so forth, we will continue to have a Free Press in the country, just not that press. What do you think of that?
PENN: Well, the marketplace for news is there, whether or not we have the organizations that can fulfill that marketplace is different. In my polls, look at people and I say well, if I break them up, there's news junkies, sports junkies, entertainment junkies --
LEVIN: And just junkies.
PENN: And couch potatoes. So about half the country is couch potatoes. About 23 percent of the country, news junkies, meaning they really want several times a day to check the news. And they want to get news and information that's accurate, that's fast, that tells them what's going on. And I think they know that the press is really getting the lowest rankings that it's ever gotten. And it's becoming so partisan, that they can't trust it.
Look, the press missed the Trump election. They missed that there was no collusion. They missed even weapons of mass destruction. So when you when you talk about the quality of the news, the first and foremost, did they get the big stories right?
The fact they didn't get the big stories right, and they've now become kind of driven by clicks in a partisan way, far too often, right? It has taken them from, "hey, I'm here to objectively report the news." Now, they want to get out and be press celebrities. And that means they want to get into your business of pushing opinions. And then they want to take those opinions more extreme. And then they want to throw them on Twitter.
And so you don't have somebody saying, "I don't care if anybody reads my story. I'm going to write it the way it is." And then eventually, I think the marketplace for that is real. If standards don't get restored. You're right, the press will destroy itself. We will have a free internet, but we won't have a real press that is fueling public opinion the way it should.
LEVIN: And one of the things I see here is after -- you would think after the Russia collusion disaster, it's a scam. After that, that the press would be, you know, there'd be like a Gestalt session, a major Gestalt session, like they'd get together and say, "How do we fix this?"
Instead, Jeff Zucker comes out and praises the magnificent reporting of his people. The top editor of "The New York Times" does the same thing. In other words, they dig in, and nobody gets fired. Nobody gets reassigned. The people at the top, Zucker gets an expanded responsibility under AT&T. Nobody is talking about removing anybody at "The New York Times" and that's not the way the rest of the real world works.
If you screw something up for two and a half years, day in and day out, where you're connecting dots when they are never dots. You know, it's all for their head. And yet the media just keeps chugging along.
You talk about they want clicks, but they're not getting them. CNN is -- I mean, may I say, it's dying, ratings wise. And again, the others had to be propped up by billionaires. So is it ideologically driven to, do you think? I think it is.
PENN: Well, of course it is ideologically driven, but people are creating narratives. They want to fill those narratives with the stories, but the big narrative really has been opposing Trump, and so they look at everything through the glass of opposing Trump. That's why today, the big story was that, wow, people of all sides actually praised the President's speech at the D-day Anniversary. Okay, that's a change.
Maybe that's a glimmer of change, because you've got to recognize when things are good, you've got to hit administrations when they're bad. Can we get back to that to that kind of press? I don't know. Look, we're a First Amendment society. To me -- and I've written a lot of articles on we have got to have the First Amendment in the workplace. You've got to have the First Amendment so that people can't be fired, boycotted, ostracized, because they think or believe things and we've come a long way from that.
But part of the problem is that the press isn't providing objective, continuous information that people can rely upon the way they used to.
LEVIN: And clearly, Pew shows, and it's not just Pew, there have been other studies over the course of the last 10 years, but especially now that the people don't trust the press. Eighty percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Republicans don't trust the press. A significant percentage of Democrats do, but doesn't that tell you kind of everything you need to know?
PENN: Well, they don't trust the press. They don't trust Congress. They don't trust politicians. They don't trust the banks. So we do have a trust crisis, and it's led by the press. So who is going to lead us out of this crisis? Right? Only the Supreme Court and the military are the only major institutions that people trust right now.
LEVIN: And the Supreme Court numbers from 20 years ago are down significantly, too.
PENN: Yes, they are.
LEVIN: All right, folks, don't forget almost every week now you can watch LevinTV, I hope you will. It's a great show. I should know, it's named after me, LevinTV. You can go to blazetv.com/mark, blazetv.com/mark to sign up or give us a call 844-LEVIN-TV, 844-LEVIN-TV. And don't forget, and "The New York Times" hates this. Twice, number one on "The New York Times" hardcover nonfiction and e-book list, "Unfreedom of the Press." I hope you'll get it and I hope you newspaper people out there, you read it and learn from it. We'll be right back.
LEVIN: Mark Penn, one of your areas of expertise, certainly what is trends in America, say 20 years ago to today you've written a book on it, "Microtrends Squared." Tell us some of the significant changes and trends that are taking place in this country.
PENN: Well, I go back to having identified in 96 what became known as soccer moms. And so I picked --
LEVIN: You're the one who did that?
PENN: That's what we did, we changed --
LEVIN: Soccer moms.
PENN: We changed the whole target of the Democratic Party to be soccer moms in the 96 campaign. And today, however, it's quite different. You know, if you look at trends in America, what I say is, for every trend, there's a counter trend. So we're in the age of information and we're in the age of misinformation, right?
We're in the age where everything is about youth, and the frankly, the country has never been older, which is why all of our politicians are also so old. And actually older voters have been winning the elections over the younger, right?
When Kennedy was elected, we were two to one, 18 to 29, over 65. Today, we're one to one, right? And I say, clearly you look at this, and the election can be seen as the fight of the Silicon Valley voters, those people who have benefited from the new economy against the old economy voters. Voters who were left behind and felt that in fact, policy -- and I think this is true, that half the country that voted for Trump lived on a third of the GDP, whereas the half that voted for Hillary Clinton lived on two-thirds of the GDP.
LEVIN: Let me stop you. That's fascinating to me. Because if you listen to the press, or the stories that go on out there, the logic that is argued, it is that the Democratic Party or Hillary or people like her represent the little guy. And what you're telling me is, really, it was the little guy who voted for Trump this time?
PENN: Well, that is what Trump did. He took the little guy, so to speak away from the Democratic Party. When I worked with Hillary Clinton, we went to upstate New York, and we took -- we will call the little guy back from the Republicans. We used to have a theme, no one should have to leave their hometown to find a good job. Because families were being split up by the information age.
And I think Trump went in and he took those voters away and put them in his column. That was a shock. That was a surprise. That's the real reason he won the election.
LEVIN: And yet, the Democrats were spooked by that. But they seem to think that they know that now, and so they're going to have a fight in Michigan. They're going to have a fight in Wisconsin. They're going to have a fight in Pennsylvania -- in a lot of these blue, bluish color states now. And at least this is the theory behind the rise of Joe Biden, is that correct?
PENN: I think that's right. I think part of the reason that so many people, including myself think Biden is probably the most formidable candidate if he can get through the primaries is that he relates to the working class voter in a way that say, Bernie Sanders really doesn't.
Bernie Sanders talks about socialism. But that's not what the American worker wants. The American worker wants a job, wants a future and wants a family. He wants a set of values that they believe in, quite different from something that Bernie Sanders wants.
LEVIN: Is it a possible danger for Biden -- I know, I've been watching his positions modified. He is moving left with the Green New Deal, climate change, immigration in order to try and get the nomination. So he has to be fairly careful, doesn't he?
PENN: That's the primary two step right there. The famous step move over to the left that -- look, Al Gore lost the election because he moved to the left after the Democratic Convention. You're supposed to move to the left before the convention. And then you're supposed to focus on other things.
But look, as you saw Biden, in the last couple of days said, "Hey, I'm going to vote for the Hyde Amendment to keep the Hyde Amendment in place." That's a major statement to the Democrats.
LEVIN: The Hyde Amendment?
PENN: The Hyde Amendment is --
LEVIN: It says no government money for abortion.
PENN: Exactly. That's sent tremors through the Democratic electorate, but what he is saying is, not so fast. I'm going to keep some of my moderate credentials and that could be pretty powerful if he stays there.
LEVIN: And yet they're hiding him a lot. Why are they doing that?
PENN: I don't -- I think that that they're letting the others fight it out because on the campaign trail, everybody goes after the front runner. He is the front runner. So they're saying, let them fight it out a little bit. Let's see what they get. Let's not expose the candidate.
LEVIN: You're a centrist, you're a moderate. There's a lot of moderate Democrats out there. You would not know it watching the media, by the way. What would they do if there's a Bernie Sanders nominee? Would they abandon the party like they did last time?
PENN: I don't know what will happen if there's a Sanders nominee. But you know, we might wind up with a brokered convention, too. I think Biden could come in first, Sanders second, Harris and --
LEVIN: But nobody will have a majority.
PENN: No one will have a majority and then --
LEVIN: Then what happens?
PENN: Well, then folks like Harris might have the swing votes and she'll either say we're moving to the left with Bernie Sanders, we're moving to the center with Biden and I think that's actually the most -- the single most likely outcome at the moment.
LEVIN: I agree with you. Ken Cuccinelli was here and he said the big story is that nobody is going to walk in to that convention with a majority of delegates. You think he's right?
PENN: It's going to be hard to do because of the system of delegates is proportional and no winner take all. It's going to be hard, but you know, we'll see. You also have to see what happens in Iowa. Will a surprise candidate have come out of Iowa?
LEVIN: It seems to all the time. we'll be right back.
LEVIN: Now, these microtrends, a lot of people are scared of technology. And I think to myself, well, where in the world would we be without technology? Where would you cut it off? Before the Industrial Revolution? After the iPhone? Who makes these decisions? Are we going to have a police state make all these decisions? Isn't as a general rule, creativity, free will, the mind developing things a good thing?
PENN: Well, there's a lot of fear about technology. And I think fear that separates Silicon Valley from old economy voters. But the truth is, we've never had as many people employed in our society as both a number and a percentage as we do today. And we've never had so much technology, so just as technology kills some jobs, hey, there's no elevator operators. Maybe they're going to do something on driverless cars. I'm really doubtful.
It creates continual new jobs, all the time, all the people who work in advertising and public relations information, people are getting to enjoy work for much longer period of time, because there's less and less physical labor and more labor that involves technology.
And the new generation is the most optimistic generation you've ever seen. For all the pessimism you hear about, and I call it -- I say America is a country now of happy pessimists. Right? You've never had it so good when you ask them about their own lives. They've never been more pessimistic about the country.
But don't kid yourself, the youngest generation, they're really sitting there looking at their parents, who are saying, "Oh, you're never going to have it like me." And they're sitting there, "Oh no, no. We're going to live in a whole new world."
LEVIN: Why do you think that is? And this is on the populist left and the populist right. It is a constant effort to tear down the country. I mean, this is one of the things that separates us from a lot of these backward countries. That is advancement, progress in technology. It makes life easier for more people. It brings down prices, it creates more medicines, more drugs. It improves the quality of life, more luxury in life.
I mean, people aren't struggling with rocks in the rivers to clean their clothes anymore. You've got washing machines, you've got dryers, you've got toasters, and you've got all these things.
People need to make them. You need assembly lines. People need to maintain them, right? It's not as if it's an attack on Middle America or blue collar America. It's because Middle America and blue collar America want these things.
PENN: Well, they do. They want technology and look, broadband should be in every corner of this country. When we talk about infrastructure -- roads, bridges -- look 80 percent of the public wants more infrastructure, but that includes cyber infrastructure. It also includes technology infrastructure so that good jobs that involve the new economy can be in every part of the country. I think that's essential.
I actually think the last couple administrations didn't realize what was happening to the middle of the country. They live in Washington. They focused so much on the coast. They saw a whole new standard of living, everybody in America, 90 percent have sophisticated smartphones that could launch rockets years ago, right?
But they missed what was happening in the middle of America until Trump came along and said, "You know what? We've been giving too much to the Chinese. We've been giving too much low wage workers in competition to you." And he seized them back.
But had these other administrations really spread technology to every corner of the country, I don't think you'd see the middle of the country as left behind as it is.
LEVIN: And transition is difficult, sometimes depending on what the industries are, in so far -- but as you say, we've never had more jobs. We've never had a bigger percentage of jobs in this country. We have resources flowing into this country. We're finally energy independent.
I remember when we were saying we will never be energy independent. We were -- you know, OPEC had us around the throat. Now, we have OPEC around the throat and people want to move away from that. It's an amazing thing. We'll be right back.
LEVIN: Mark Penn, you've been around politics many decades. You look at these microtrends, you do polls, you really stand out as a centrist who speaks your mind about what's going on in this country, so I'm curious to know, given what's going on in politics, given what's going on in the media for the rest of the country, where do you see us five or 10 years from now?
PENN: Well, I'm an optimistic about America because when you look through American history, even if things really got out of whack, we come back. And I think we know things are getting out of whack.
Our Constitution threatened the First Amendment. Investigations are all over. Partisanship is too high. The big tech companies are providing platforms that enable kind of hostility against each other. I think we're going to come back to basic principles.
The First Amendment, free enterprise, and a democracy that we respect, and I believe we will have leadership that will come along and bring us together. That's where I think we're going to be, and I believe it and I believe in that.
LEVIN: Will it get worse before it gets better?
PENN: Yes, it is going to get worse, as it often has to get worse before it gets better.
LEVIN: I generally agree with you. I mean, we're a country that went through any wars, World War II, we're talking about; a Civil War, and other events, and yet here we are, the greatest country in the face of the Earth where millions of people are trying to sneak in through the southern border.
Thanks so much, Mark Penn. God bless you. It's been a pleasure.
PENN: Thank you.
LEVIN: Don't forget to join us again on "Life, Liberty & Levin."
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