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Former senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has the perfect word to describe President Trump: Reckless. That certainly would apply to the White House announcement late Sunday that the United States was abandoning its Kurdish allies by pulling U.S. troops out of Northern Syria. And it applies to other actions, foreign and domestic, undertaken by the president.

“The first reckless act was pulling out of TPP,” Heitkamp said of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “The United States has to lead globally, and how we lead is we lead in multilateral trade agreements.

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“You cannot lead a party of one. The United States has always been a global leader, certainly since World War II. We want to continue to be a global leader,” Heitkamp told me. “That doesn’t mean just taking care of yourself, it means taking care of democracies across the world, leading the world to better conditions for everyone, which will lead to better economics in this country.”

I sat down with Heitkamp during the Aspen Ideas Festival in June in Aspen, Colo. She had just launched the “One Country Project” with former senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), an organization formed to put issues affecting rural voters on the national agenda. And Trump’s recklessness at home has been particularly harmful to rural America.

“The president’s trying to unilaterally dismember the Affordable Care Act, take away your protections on pre-existing conditions, take away your kids on your health insurance.…So health care is a huge issue in rural America, and he’s reckless with people’s health care,” Heitkamp told me. “You can point to any number of things like his budget, where he dramatically cuts the rural electrification program, where he cuts broadband. So the lifeline that we hope we will receive, which is the ability to attract tech employment, work away from home, the new artificial intelligence work that can be done, that can expand opportunities to rural America if we educate kids for those opportunities, he’s not building the infrastructure to do that.”

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Listen to the podcast to hear Heitkamp talk about her vote against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and why that cost her her Senate seat in the last midterm election. And she has advice for her fellow Democrats running to defeat the president in the next election.

“Don't be cautious. This is not a time for caution. This isn't a time to parse your words. This is a time to say what you mean, which was what was attractive to many people about Donald Trump,” Heitkamp said. “You may not like what he says, but, damn, you know what he's thinking. And that's the truth, you do. He's not thinking much, but he's talking a lot.”

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

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