Q&A With Joe Andrew
Andrew was elected National Chair of the DNC on March 20, 1999. He had previously been the Chair of the Indiana Democratic Party. Elected to that office in January 1995, Andrew became the youngest Democratic State Chair in the United States. Under his leadership, says his official DNC bio, the State Central Committee was the most diversified in history, with more African Americans, Hispanics, the disabled, gays and members of organized labor representatives at state and national conventions than ever before.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Andrew, 39, is a lawyer and entrepreneur with business interests in bio-technology and several internet companies. He is also the author of "The Disciples," a spy novel published by Simon & Shuster.
Here is a transcript of today's session:
Springfield Twp, Burlington, Co.,NJ: I believe the Rev. Jesse Jackson would be a valuable person to be a running-mate for Sen. Bradley or Vice President Al Gore. What do you think? What is they time-frame for the two candidates to come out publically with a VP?
Joe Andrew: Reverand Jackson is and has been a valuable member of the Democratic family for a long time, and is a personal friend of both Vice President Gore and Senator Bradley. I Believe that both of them will seriously consider making Rev. Jackson a valued and senior member of their team-- and he is already an advisor to both.
Bob Levey: Lots of pros on both sides of the aisle are surprised that Al Gore hasn't been opposed by more Democratic presidential would-be's. But there's still time. Do you think there will be more Democratic names on the ballot once Iowa and New Hampshire roll around?
Joe Andrew: The Vice President is clearly a stong candidate with tremendous support from Democrats and Independants, which is probably why he has only one challenger right now. However, there is a long time before filing deadlines in the key primary states and I wouldn't be surprized if many people, some you've heard of and many you haven't, file to run. For example, I'm sure we will have several candidates fighting for interglactic peace, missions to Mars, and other "down home" issues, as we do every Presidential race.
Washington, D.C.: Senator Bradley was a moving force behind the 1986 Tax Reform Bill. Since that time, the tax code has gotten much more complex. The Republican party obviously stands for lower taxes. Does the Democratic party like the tax code as it is? How would the Democratic party improve it or simplify it?
Joe Andrew: We all praise Senator Bradley's leadership on tax reform and the Clinton/Gore adminstrations leadership on making your taxes fairer and simplier.
Hope, Arkansas: When-should Gore start distancing himself from Clinton?
Joe Andrew: Every presidential election this century has been about a couple of things-- the economy and who is the optimist. With the best economy in a generation, caused in party by the leadership of PResident Clinton, there is no reason for anyone to distance themselves from the President. In addition, he is the great optimist and the optimists will win!
Bob Levey: You make no bones about your closeness to Al Gore. Of course, that exposes you to charges of favoritism on his behalf. Any reason for concern?
Joe Andrew: I'm proud to be a friend of both Al Gore and Bill Bradley. My job is to make sure the the DNC is in a position to help whomever is the nominee win in November and there is very little way that I could influence any primary campaign even if I wanted to.
Herndon, VA: Are you concerned that both Vice President Gore and Senator Bradley are widely perceived to be boring?
Joe Andrew: Great question, and as one of those boring political types let me tell you about the advantage of being perceived as being not quite as exciting as your average toaster. First, it's easy to exceed expectations. Second, I believe voters are starved for real conversations about real issues, which both Bill Bradley and Al Gore will have.
how long before are we
Joe Andrew: As long as the Republicans control Congress they won't let it happen. We will.
Bob Levey: To the issue of fund-raising: If I said Joe Andrew will be hunting for dough primarily in three places--Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley--would I be right?
Joe Andrew: I wish that was true. Unfortunately, I'm looking for resources every way, instead of practicing my typing so that I look and sound good on this show. The DNC is not a money bank. It is a data bank, a phone bank, and a blood bank for the new politics of inclusion and information. Republicans will always out raise us, and yet we continue to win because we are fighting for the issues that American's care about.
Columbia, MD : I'm interested in knowing how aggressively the Democratic party will use the impeachment issue against the Republicans in 2000. It seems to me it should be a major issue--and the overriding issue for Democratic candidates running against the leaders of the impeachment effort, such as Reps. Bill McCollum -R-Fla.-, Bob Barr -R-Ga.- and James Rogan -R-Calif.-. The frivolous and partisan impeachment of a president is not something any Republican should be permitted to live down, and I hope the party doesn't let them do so. [edited for space]
Joe Andrew: I believe that we won't have to work hard to remind voters about two things: what Republicans did during the impeachment process and what they didn't do. They didn't work on securing social security, furthering the goals of public education or raising the minimum wage.Instead, they focused on partisan investigative process that ultimately had a partisan result. That's not progess, that's partisanship.
Buenos Aires,Argentina: Congrats on being elected DNC Chairman! Has the DNC crafted a strategy for winning back both houses of Congress in 2000?It seems that winning back at least the House is possible.
Joe Andrew: I'm a big believer that the DNC has to have a vision, a mission, and a plan. We have all three of those things in place and ready to battle to take back the House and the Senate. Both can be done and must be done.
Bob Levey: I know this sounds like the kind of question we used to chew on back in college, but..... What does it mean to be a Democrat in 1999?
Joe Andrew: I think the differences between the two parties have become starker at the same time that their policy presciptions and programs have blurred in many people's mind. The difference is one of attitude and aspiration. Democrats are the optimists, Republicans are the pessimists. Democrats believe that America is great and getting greater. Republicans believe we are slipping into some miasma of moral decay. We want to embrace new cultures, new people, new technology. Republicans are trying to protect and promote a way of life that never really existed in the first place. We demand inclusion. They allow intolerance.
Mt. Rainier MD:
Dear Mr. Andrew,
Joe Andrew: The Democratic National Committee has a plan called America 2000 that describes not all we do, or even what we do best, but what's next. Because we must always be the party of what's next-- new ways of communicating with people, new ways of including people, new ways of making sure that our message of working for America's working families gets out to all of you on-line today. Go to democrats.org and down load a copy of the plan today. Let us know what you think.
Monticello, Arkansas: Do you believe Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa will seriously be considered for Vice President by either Bradley or Gore?
Joe Andrew: Yes.
Half an hour remaining with our guest, the national chair of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Andrew
bethesda,MD: most polls suggest that if there was a race between Gore and Bush, Gore would lose. What is being done to change his image? [edited for space]
Joe Andrew: Ultimately, Democrats will take back the House, win the Senate, win Governor's races, state legislative races and the White House because we are right on the issues. American's know that Democrats are fighting for them-- for people who work hard and want a better country for their children and grandchildren. That is why the Democratic nominee for President, whomever it is, will win.
Bob Levey: Back home in Indiana (how very original), you made it a point to include organized labor in the top councils of state Democratic politics. Can you do the same nationally? Will you try?
Joe Andrew: Working families are who the Democratic Party is all about. Whether you are at work now in front of a keyboard, or at an assembly line, the Democratic Party is focused on your concerns. I was the state chair in Indiana for four years when we elected more new Democratic office holders than any time since FDR was President because everyone was around the table, including my friends in organized labor.
Washington, DC: I'm invited to attend a fundraising dinner hosted by the First Lady in New York in June. The invitees are memebers of the gay and lesbian community. Will the DNC openly court gay and lesbian voters during the campaign and will promises made be kept this time?
Joe Andrew: We will openly court all voters-- we don't care whether you are black, white, brown or a nice shade of purple, you are welcome in the Democratic Party. We don't care what gender you are, or what gender you want to hold hands with, as long as you want to hold hands you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
Washington, DC: With each election, fewer and fewer candidates address the issues important to veterans of the armed forces. Will the Democrat party reach out to veterans in the upcoming elections?
Joe Andrew: Absolutely, as the son and grandson of veterans, I know first hand that all we are proud of, and sometimes take for granted, is here today because of the sacrifices of those who came before us. We are committed to making sure that the concerns of American Veterans are heard loud and clear.
Bob Levey: The Littleton shootings have once again raised the gun issue. Will the Democratic nominee TRULY take this one on in 2000, or will it be the same old call for less gun violence without real teeth?
Joe Andrew: All of us who have children know the fears that parents across America feel everyday when they send their kids off to school. Democrats have fought not only for real gun control, but for programs and policies that deal with violence in our schools. We've been rebuffed by Republicans at every turn, we fight on because we know that we must address this very real problem.
Sacramento, CA: What role do you think California's earlier -March- primary will play in the 2000 elections?
Joe Andrew: The primary process should be about learning about every candidate for President and allowing us to see them in different lights, in different places, with different people who have different issues. The quick pace of next year's primaries, including California's early date, will mean that all of this "learning" will happen quicker. I'm not sure that is good or bad, but it is surely different.
Columbia, MD : As you know, probably the most critical activity going on right now affecting the 2000 elections is candidate recruitment. It seems, frankly, that the party's recruitment failures in past elections have severely hampered its effort to retake the Congress. How do you feel recruitment is going so far? Who is involved, and what arguments and inducements are being used to persaude promising candidates to run? Which potential nominees is the party most excited about? The political enviroment would seem to be quite favorable for recruiting top Democratic candidates, but then why is the party scrambling to find a strong contender for the Senate in Ohio, and in other important congressional races?
Joe Andrew: While Democrats are ahead in the idea campaign, you can't beat a real live Republican with just good ideas-- you have to have a good candidate. That is why we have stepped up our recruitment efforts this year and are spending more time and resources than ever before to encourage women and men to run for office. Our efforts so far, particularly for state legislative and Congressional offices are going great. There is a tangible excitement about running as a Democrat in 2000.
Bob Levey: Last week, the Democratic National Committee filed a shot across George W. Bush's bow--charging that he has been hiding from the press. What's the real scoop on this? Just an elbow in the ribs, or the beginning of a more craefully orchestrated political campaign?
Joe Andrew: Americans know astonishingly little about George W. Bush but that he has a middle initial. But it takes more than a middle initial to win the hearts and minds of this country's voters. My job is to hold all the Republican candidates accountable for the crazy things they say, or the crazy times they don't say anything. George W. isn't saying anything and people should know that.
Richmond, VA: What are your thoughts on what some are saying is the most dangerous race for Democrats in 2000--the Senate race in Virginia between Senator Chuck Robb and former Governor George Allen?
Joe Andrew: Every race is dangerous for all Americans in the year 2000. So much is at stake. Will we settle for the limited, exclusive vision of this country that Governor Allen has, or will we embrace the optimistic, forward-looking America that Senator Robb has helped champion? That's the quesiton, the answer is to work hard and vote for the Democrat.
NY,NY: If they convention was held today, would Democrats go Bradley or Gore?
Joe Andrew: If the convention was held today no one would show up because we all think it will be in Los Angles next August. But seriously, both Senator Bradley and Vice President Gore have the respect and support of many Democrats.
Bob Levey: The country is crying for campaign finance reform. How loudly is the Democratic National Committee crying for it?
Joe Andrew: Democrats want and are fighting for real campaign finance reform. Republicans always outraise us, and use those corporate dollars to try to convince people who are otherwise leaning to the Democrats that they should be concerned about some tangential issue, something that is not at the core of their concerns about the future, so that they vote Republican. They need the money to win. We need the people to win.
Bob Levey: Bill Clinton will clearly have some role to play in the 2000 campaign, but it isn't clear what it'll be. Will he be welcomed on the campaign trail? Merely tolerated?
Joe Andrew: President Clinton is a great campaigner and will be welcomed by giant crowds on the campaign trail. He has helped broaden the appeal of our party and will be remembered for many great accomplishments-- not the least of which is the one that will win the election in 2000-- the best economy in a generation.
East Lyme, CT:
In a race between Gore & Bradley who do you see as the
Joe Andrew: The winner will be the American people. These two men are people of integrity, honesty, and of ideas. They are Democrats and Democrats are optimists who believe that together, we can find ways to address this country's challenges. Democrats believe that this great country deserves compassionate, inclusive leadership that cares about all of us and all of our future. That's why we're here. That's why I'm here. That's why I thank all of you for talking with me today.
That's all we have time for today. Many thanks to our guest, Joe Andrew. Be sure to join us next Tuesday, May 11, when our guest will be the chief of police here in Washington, D.C., Charles Ramsey. On May 18, our scheduled guest is the new foreign editor of The Washington Post, Bob McCartney. Don't forget about the freewheeling Friday edition of our show, "Levey Live: Speaking Freely." It appears from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time.