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tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  April 8, 2022 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT

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david: this is my kitchen table, and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of mankind, i've often thought, was private equity. and then, i started interviewing. i watch your interviews, so i know how to do some interviewing. i've learned how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked how much he wanted. he said 250. i said, fine. i did not negotiate with him. i did no due diligence. david: i have something i would like to sell. [laughter] and how they stay there. you don't feel inadequate now,
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being the second wealthiest man in the world, is that right? ♪ perhaps the toughest job in washington is not being president of the united states. it is actually being chief of staff to the president of the united states. the average chief of staff lasts about 18 months. i sat down recently with ron klain, the current chief of staff to the united states, -- to the president of the united states, and asked him what this job entails and why it is so difficult. for those who don't know his background, it is quite amazing. he has served his country for many, many years. among those positions are chief counsel for the senate judiciary committee, under then chairman joe biden, associate counsel for judicial selection under president clinton, chief of staff and counselor to the attorney general, janet reno. worked in the democratic leadership committee and chief of staff to vice president al gore. he also served as assistant the president and chief of staff to vice president biden in the
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obama administration and returned after serving several years in that position to serve as the white house ebola response coordinator. you have the perfect resume for this job, but my question is, you know so much about being chief of staff and you know so much about the white house, don't you know that being chief of staff to the president of the united states is a difficult job to do and usually the tenure is 18 months? so when you were offered the job, did you say i normally going to do this for 18 month or did you say, i'm going to make it for all four or 18 years? ron: thank you for that very generous introduction. i appreciate it. i was honored and flattered and humbled when president-elect biden asked me to come do this. it is a grueling job. there is no question about it. i think it is easy to understand why the average tenure is 17, 18 months. i'm here every day working away. i'm honored to be part of this team. i have probably the most experienced group of colleagues who have ever served at the senior level in the white house. i'm very lucky.
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i have a lot of people who carry the load every day. it makes the job a lot easier than it would be. we are facing a lot of hard challenges. no question about it. difficult situations on the international front. a lot of challenges at home. but i am really lucky to be part of an a+ team tackling these challenges every day. david: let's talk about the job of being the chief of staff. and how the white house works. the president, does he get up early in the morning and call you on home and say what's going on? what time does he get in and what time do you meet with the staff people and what time do you see him? at the beginning and the end of the day? how does that work? ron: i'm usually in the white house by 6:45 a.m. i talk to the president early in the morning by phone. we have our morning staff meetings. before the president comes downstairs, we have a number of different kinds of alignments and meetings. depending on the day of the week and whatnot. we go over what is going to happen the day. what the key questions are. that need to be put to the president. what are the key things we need
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to resolve? as a team. i worked in the white house many times before. but i think this is the most team oriented staff i have seen. usually the president comes downstairs around 9:00 a.m. i am his first meeting of the day, every day. i go through where things are. some key priorities. i get his reaction to the materials he has been reading overnight. the president takes with him upstairs every evening a thick binder of materials to read. decision memos and briefing memos. he usually comes in with questions. i try to come in with answers. we have a conversation. then he proceeds to a number of different staff meetings. i see him a number of times during the day, for different kinds of meetings going on, and then usually at the end of the day, i come in and wrap with him on -- what are the key outstanding things? what are the things he is going to see in his book that night he really needs to focus on?
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what are the big decisions he is going to have to make and the meetings he is going to have the next day. david: does anybody have the right, or the senior staff -- who has walk-in privileges? are you the only one that can walk into the oval office without an announcement, or are there a couple who can do that? ron: any of the senior advisors -- senior policy advisors can come in and see him. he has to not be in another meeting or whatever. but we run the white house here where a lot of people have access to the president. and a lot of people are able to talk to him directly about what they think, without having to go through me. david: the president seems like an even-tempered person, but everybody gets upset from time to time. it does he yell or scream, or he is not a screamer? how does he show his displeasure? does he write a note to you, or how does he say he is not happy? >> i think one of jode biden's greatest strengths as president is he has lived a life filled with incredible triumphs and
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incredible tragedies. and people know his biography. they know his background. they know the successes he has had. they know the grave personal setbacks he has suffered. one thing that is true is, there is never a morning i go in with news that is as bad or worse than the news someone else has had to deliver to him at another time in his life. i think that gives him a very even keel. when things are going well, he does not get too hyped up. when we are having tougher days, he maintains that composure. that demeanor. and i think that is one of the hallmarks of his temperament. one of the things he brings to the office. that steadiness, that experience , and a life that has been filled with triumph and tragedy. that has seasoned him and prepared him for this moment. david: some people say at 79 years old, that is old to be president of the united states. do you see signs of his age? is he in better shape than you
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are, in terms of exercising? how do you deal with the fact he is older than anybody has been to be president of the united states? ron: a, he is definitely in better shape than i am. that is for sure. he is very fit. he works out on most everyday in -- almost every day in the morning before he comes down to the oval office. i think the american people saw for themselves last night the president stand to give an hour-long address filled with passion and power and wisdom and energy. they saw him hold the longest press conference in the history of presidents a couple weeks ago, at the start of the year. a two-hour press conference, where he took questions from all kinds of reporters. i think his fitness, his vigor is beyond question. people see him on the job every day. and what they see is a person fully capable of doing the job, fully vigorous, great mental and physical health, and taking on the burdens of the office and executing them well. david: so, today, you would say the president is enjoying the job, or is he saying i wish i
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had not done this? ron: i don't know enjoying is the way he would describe tackling the responsibilities of being the president of the united states, and particularly now, where he has emerged as the leader of the free world, the person leading this coalition, confronting vladimir putin. but i think he is glad he ran for president. i think he has been well- prepared for the challenges he -- well-prepared for the challenges he is tackling. more importantly, i hear from people all around the country, democrats and republicans, they are very glad he is the person in the oval office right now. he is the person with the background, the experience, the judgment to tackle these hard problems. and i think there is a lot of confidence in him as the person who should be where he is. ♪ david: is the build back better bill likely to ever see the light of day in the senate, or are you committed to breaking it up and passing individual pieces? ron: what we are going to try to do is try to get as many of the president's initiatives enacted
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as possible in the best way possible. ♪
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david: let's talk about intelligence for a moment. usually, the intelligence that comes into the cia is not declassified and given to reporters in a public way. clearly, in this process, somebody, i assume the president of the u.s., thought it was a
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good idea to declassify the satellite photos and to declassify the information we have about what putin was thinking or saying. was that a difficult decision to come to, and do you think it worked or did not work yet? ron: i think it was the right decision, given the kind of environment we were facing. we knew that president putin had a reputation for disinformation. we have certainly seen that all around the world. we knew that has most likely -- his most likely approach would be to create some kind of disinformation campaign, a false flag attack, potentially, a false provocation, out and out lies to justify his invasion of the ukraine. as it became clear to us that is what he had planned, we thought it was important to strip him of that advantage, by making clear what we knew his plans were and making it clear to the world what we thought would happen. and i think that decision by president biden in conjunction
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with our nato allies, our other allies, a coalition of a shared decision has been one of the reasons why there has been such a unified and uniform world reaction to what president putin has done. there is no ambiguity about who is the aggressor. there is no belief in any of the false stories about what "provoked" this invasion. that transparency, that sophisticated use of intelligence has served the allies very well. i also think it stripped president putin any element of surprise in the attack and helped the ukrainians be ready for what has hit them. david: how do you respond to the critics that you have, and you have some critics sometimes, i'm sure you know, who say you should have sent armaments to the ukrainians before the invasion, so they were better armed than they are now that we are now sending them after the invasion, and you should have imposed the sanctions before the invasion occurred? how do you respond to those
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kinds of criticisms? ron: we did sent armaments to the ukrainians before the invasion. we sent more military systems to ukraine in the past 12 months than any year since 2014. we did send a variety of kinds of military assistance to the ukrainians. that assistance continues to be coming into the country. we did send plenty before this happened. in terms of the sanctions, we thought that the best way to make sure we had the most unified and powerful set of sanctions was to make it clear that those sanctions would take effect, when and if president putin invaded. the results that we have seen illustrate that. you have seen -- there has never been an effort to impose sanctions this stringent on a country as large and complex and interconnected to the world economy as russia. it is an astonishing effort you are seeing underway here. and the impact of those
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sanctions has been devastating. they are devastating, because it -- because there is such a powerful group of countries unified in their application. i think doing it the way we did is what has made all that possible. david: when you impose sanctions, let's suppose russia says, we made a mistake. we are sorry. we are pulling back. do the sanctions go away, or are there penalties that are subsequent to the withdrawal? are there ongoing penalties for having done these things or dp -- or do the sanctions go away, or has that not been decided yet? ron: it has not been decided, if the russians withdrew. sadly, this is a hypothetical question. we see no signs the russians have any intention of withdrawing right now. unfortunately. and indeed, there military -- their military operations in
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ukraine continue to escalate. they continue to attack more civilians, civilian sites. the fighting continues to get more fierce. we offered president putin a number of diplomatic off ramps in the run-up to this invasion. we offered him a number of ways and arrangements, in which he could meet with members of the coalition and the ukrainians. a number of different kinds of structures to do that. at every juncture, president putin rejected the path of diplomacy, continued on the path of invasion, and that is what we are seeing unfold. david: let's talk about the build back better. i wonder, who came up with that tongue twister? it is hard to say that quickly. was that something that you came up with that. were you the one who came up with that? ron: i don't who came up with that. it was the principal slogan for the president's campaign. in 2020. it was the slogan for most of his policies that he ran on, the umbrella for most of the policies he ran on, build back better.
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it has gained some traction around the world. a number of european countries have now adopted build back better initiatives. i think it is a slogan that has resonated with people. it is a bit of a tongue twister, but it does have some resonance and it comes from the campaign. david: is the build back better bill that passed the house likely to ever see the light of day in the senate, or are you committed to breaking it up and passing individual pieces? ron: i think what we are going to try get as many of the president's initiatives enacted as possible and the best way -- in the best way possible. the senate has the option to do reconciliation as a procedural device that takes only 50 votes to pass a bill that has tax changes and other kinds of economic changes. and that would be the vehicle we would use to move some legislation like this through the senate. we are obviously in conversation with a number of senators about what elements have the most support, what elements are the most effective to get past the senate.
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you hear the president talk about a number of those. people are very concerned about inflation, and very concerned about what inflation means to everyday families. and that means they pay too much for things. and so, key parts of the bill back better plan address that directly. bring down the cost of childcare. bring down the cost of prescription drugs. bring down the cost of elder care. bring down the cost of health care. we are looking for, and most importantly or equally as important, bring down the cost of energy by moving us to a clean energy economy. so, you look at those proposals, they are proposals that meet the moment of higher costs, and we are going to continue to work with the senate to find a formula that moves that agenda forward. ♪
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david: so, you have been criticized by some for saying that you are so powerful, that you really are effectively running the whole government. how do you respond to that? that you are like the prime minister. ron: that is ridiculous. i am a staff person.
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i have been a staff person my whole life. i have never run for anything. i have never been elected to anything. i have been proud to work for some distinguished public servants. president biden being one of them, at several points in my career. president obama, of course. president clinton. that is who i am. at the white house, not only am i a staff person, i am a staff person who works with a number of enormously staff people. this is a team effort here. team on the policy side, team on that strategy side. my job is to coordinate those people and get the advice to the president. that is how i see my role. david: how do you respond to the other criticism some people have had not necessarily of you but of the president that he governed -- he campaigned as a moderate, but he is governing more to the left than people expected? what is your response to that criticism some have made? ron: i think that criticism wipes out the history of the 2020 campaign. there is nothing the president said to capitol hill he did not
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put before the voters in the 2020 campaign. our economic agenda is the economic agenda you ran on and 81 million americans voted for when they elected him. if anything, we have trimmed that agenda back. the voting rights bill is something he campaigned on. the voting rights bill is something he campaigned on. the covid relief package we started the administration on is something he endorsed after the campaign. he was very straightforward with voters about what he would do if he were president. that is what he has done. and look, the proposals put forward are substantial. why? because the problems we inherited were substantial. it is not any grandiose vision. we inherited an economy that was dead in the water. 50,000 jobs a month. just 50,000 jobs a month the three months before we got here. a virtually dead economy. government had not bought enough vaccinations to give one vaccine
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to every american, let alone two vaccines to every american, let alone booster shots. we had no system to distribute those vaccines. we faced a climate crisis. we faced other challenges in europe. so we have put together proposals to meet the moment, not out of some effort to do something bigger than we should, but because we inherited very big problems. and you have seen a lot of progress. we then went and crated more -- created more jobs in one year than any administration in history, or any administration since 1939, according to a new york times fact-check. any administration since 1939, we sustained the fastest economic growth in 40 years. it was the first time in 20 years our economy grew faster in a year than china's. so we put in place the kind of measures that were needed. we fully vaccinated over 220 million americans. these were big tasks we took on this year. i'm proud of what we have done to achieve them. david: usually, after the first
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year of an administration, you see some turnover in the cabinet or something, but you have not had any turnover, and you have not had any scandals either. how come you have not had any scandals and how come you have not had any turnover? >> i think the president did a good job of picking a cabinet and senior officials, and the lack of scandals reflects that. the lack of turnover reflects the fact these are men and women who are eager to serve, who are doing a great job, who are making a difference. it is the most diverse cabinet in history. it is the first time in history the cabinet has been evenly divided between men and women. it is the first time in history the majority of the cabinet is not white. it is an incredibly talented cabinet. we are very lucky to have their service. david: the president's favorability ratings are not as high as i assume you would like. i wonder, how do you in the white house deal with that? ron: the most important thing is for the president to do the right thing. and i think what you are seeing
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right now is a mood in the country that is impacted by the fact this pandemic has lasted longer than anyone thought it would, and while we have had tremendous growth in the economy and jobs, we are having a problem with inflation, and i think those things contribute to a generally -- a mood in the country that is not as upbeat or confident as we would like. in the case of president biden, he made a lot of hard decisions in 2021 to put in place a new economic strategy. you heard the president talk about last night in the state of -- about it last night in the state of the union. a new covid strategy that we are again updating today with new steps on covid. and those hard decisions, i think, are starting to show results. i fully accept the fact that the american people are more show me and not tell me. and what they want to see is we have reached a new way of managing covid. they want to see we have not just created jobs, but the jobs are going to stay and the wages are going to go up.
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they want to see the economic recovery is real and sustained. i think the political credit will follow from that. i was here with both president clinton and obama. we saw the recovery ahead of the politics, and i think you're seeing that now. so i think our approval rating will go up in the months ahead as the economic recovery and the progress on covid become more permanent, more lasting and internalized more by the voters. david: one of my former partners at carlisle was jim baker. he was considered the gold standard of how to be chief of staff, may be up until you, but he did not like that job very much and he wound up as secretary of treasury and a secretary of state. -- as secretary of state. do you have any aspirations to any of those jobs or something like that? ron: i don't think so. i'm going to finish my tenure here, i'm going to take a month of sleep, and then i will figure out what i will do next. secretary baker, i got to know him a little bit during the
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florida recount, when we were at opposite sides of that. he has been unbelievably gracious. he sent me the kindest note, when i got this job. he has sent me a couple notes since then. he is such a wonderful person. and he is the gold standard of doing this job. i could not even aspire to that. i just try to the best i can every day. david: whenever you do finish this position as chief of staff, and a friend calls you and says "i have been offered the job to chief of staff to the president of the united states," would you tell him or her to take that job or not? ron: i would tell anyone to take this job. it is a hard job, but it is a unique opportunity to work with first of all, an incredible president and vice president, at a time that is very important to our country, and to work with an amazingly talented group of people, here in the white house and throughout the agencies. they blow me away every day and they learn something new everyday. -- i learn something new
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everyday. it has been the culminating experience of my career. i could not be more grateful for the experience, and whoever replaces me in this job whenever my time in the job ends, i hope has the same kind of experience. ♪
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emily >> is a everyday day one like on amazon. >> we don't want to break anything. but we are very much at the beginning of a long journey. we think the vision for the company is incredibly exciting and we are just getting started with this big digital transformation we are seeing in the industry. emily: do you have your own motto, like your own sort of mantra? fidji: one in particular i like is grow the pie.


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