Go Big or Stay Home? (with Senator Tina Smith)

Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content

When Tina Smith was lieutenant governor of Minnesota, she was asked to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy created when Al Franken resigned in 2018. She’s been a force to be reckoned with ever since, fighting for abortion rights, mental health care, the environment, and much more. In this conversation taped before a live audience for MinnPost Festival in Minneapolis, Sam asks Senator Smith how she decides which issues to advocate for, why she believes that reproductive freedom is indeed a winning political issue, and which fellow senator she gets mistaken for frequently.

Follow Senator Smith online @SenTinaSmith on Twitter and @SenatorTinaSmith on Instagram.

Keep up with Samantha Bee @realsambee on Instagram and Twitter. And stay up to date with us @LemonadaMedia on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

For a list of current sponsors and discount codes for this and every other Lemonada show, go to lemonadamedia.com/sponsors.

Joining Lemonada Premium is a great way to support our show and get bonus content. Subscribe today at bit.ly/lemonadapremium.



Tina Smith, Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee  00:00

There is definitely something special about those who choose to answer the call to go into public service, especially these days when we’re so fractured, especially especially, especially when you’re a woman. This is Choice Words. I’m Samantha Bee. My guest today is the junior senator from Minnesota, Tina Smith. Tina is a champion of women’s rights and fighting climate change and is smart and funny and most importantly, gets shit done. We definitely need more leaders like her in DC and I got to talk to her in front of a live audience in Minneapolis as part of MinnPost festival. So take a listen and make good choices. Oh, my goodness, thank you so much. Lovely. Introduction. First. Okay, so I want to start by asking you a question that only you would be able to answer just to make sure you’re not actually Tammy Baldwin. Is it true? Is it true that you get?

Tina Smith  01:30

I am kidding me. Currently, Tammy and I are frequently mistaken for one another. In fact, we actually did a video once where we were exactly the same blazers and we looked exactly the same. And so I just so if you want to just verify my identity, I would be.

Samantha Bee  01:48

Your social security number, if you don’t mind. Thank you for all jotting it down. Is she also known as a velvet hammer house.

Tina Smith  01:58

I don’t know she could be but I have to tell you a quick story. I as I’ve, I’m frequently people confuse us. And one day I was walking across the plaza in front of the Capitol. And there was this really great enthusiastic group of students. And they shouted out to me, we love you, Senator Baldwin. And so I’m torn. I don’t know exactly what to do. I’m in kind of a hurry. So I said, I’ll just accept the compliment. And I will pass it on to Tammy. Right, right. And so I said, I just go thank you. And they continue to engage with me. And then I started to feel like I’m living a lie. Right? So I’ve been I feel I have to confess. And I said, Actually, I’m Senator Smith from Minnesota, and they go, Oh, we love you too. So it worked out about.

Samantha Bee  02:55

I used to, if I ever would meet anyone, and they would say I feel like I know you from somewhere, I would say, um, Katie Couric? Right. And they were like, you don’t seem impressive. I’m like, I’m not. don’t worry.

Tina Smith  03:07

Oh, yeah, this is a whole other. You will be amazed what people say to me when they see me and they can’t quite figure out who I am. And it’ll be like, you know, how do I know you? This happened to me this past weekend? I know who I said, Well, I’m, I’m a senator from Minnesota. And he goes, Oh, and it goes, now. What’s your name? Yeah. That was from Wisconsin.

Samantha Bee  03:33

Wisconsin, we know about Wisconsin. Now, I think there might be I mean, everybody in this room, everybody here just knows you. So well. They know your work. I think there are probably people listening to the podcast who aren’t quite as as familiar with your work, but you really are a person who gets it done. And I love that so much about you. How do you personally decide what to throw your weight behind? How do you personally decide what is going to become a passion for you?

Tina Smith  04:16

Well, so I mean, part of it is just intrinsic, right? What I care the most about what is what I feel the most fire for the most passion for but it also, you know, at my heart, I’m an organizer. So I started out in politics, yeah, you know, going door to door with Sam and Mason in a stroller knocking on doors and talking to people. And so that passion for engaging people and getting, you know, helping them to understand how powerful their voice is, is still a big part of how I think about my job as senator. So I also feel real passion for the things that people tell me that are really important to them. I mean, there are so many examples of that. You know, I’m really passionate right now about how we can make sure that people that are working growing food, especially new farmers, beginning farmers farmers of color, that they have a path for having a business that actually works for them. I don’t know that I would have known that if I hadn’t talked to people who transmitted their passion, you know, back to me, right. So that’s a big, that’s a big part of it. And then there are things that I care so much about, because I mean, for example, I do have done a lot of work on mental health. Yes. And that is yes. You know, just then appreciating the power of being a United States Senator and speaking openly about mental health, about the challenge that people have talking about my own experiences with depression, when I was younger, you start to appreciate the power that that has for freeing people up getting rid of some of the stigma around mental illness and mental health challenges and then figuring out what to do about it, right, how to how to pull a coalition together to take action, right? I mean, that’s what makes this job. Like that’s, that’s, that’s what makes putting up with Ted Cruz everyday worth it.

Samantha Bee  06:06

I don’t know how you do it. I don’t think I could find it within myself. You dig deeper? Oh, my God, you when when when the the tape stops rolling, you need to tell us some Ted Cruz gossip, need to pledge that you will do that? Is there a decision that you made a choice that you made in your life that you really think was such a signature moment that changed everything for you?

Tina Smith  06:39

It’s such an interesting question. Because you before we did, we started to do this in front of all these people. We were having a conversation, just the two of us. And you were telling me about your your daughter, who is very clear about what it is that she wants to do. Yeah. And we’re saying, Well, you know, what a blessing that is that, you know, you’re like so clear about your, your purpose, your your passion. And I was never that way. Okay? I just wasn’t. And, you know, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to work with somebody that many of the people in this room know Artie Ryback, who was the mayor of Minneapolis, a great mayor of Minneapolis. And our tea tells a story about like being nine years old, and going up to the top of the forshay tower in downtown Minneapolis and looking out over this beautiful green emerald city and saying one day I want to be mayor of this town. Wow. Which is kind of incredible. He was nine years old, a little weird, but it was still it was still good. But so I never really had that moment. You know, I think, for me, it was all about improvising in the moment. Like, like, here’s an opportunity. And here’s something that looks interesting. Those people look like they’re really passionate about what they’re doing, and I want to go and help them. And it doesn’t feel like one like big decision. It feels like pivoting in the moment of seeing where there’s work that needs to be done. And you have a real purpose. And, and that’s how I went to work for the City of Minneapolis. That’s how I ended up going to work for Mark Dayton when he became governor. And when Mark asked me to be lieutenant governor, that’s that’s a lot of what happened. And then when there was a need for somebody to step in and serve in the United States Senate, right. Those were all like, really, I mean, I knew those were big moments when they were happening. But it felt like a moment to improvise what the next thing was going to be given what was happening is interesting. As a comedian, you probably know something about this.

Samantha Bee  08:30

I think it’s like improvising, but also find saying yes to things. Yes, exactly. Without really knowing what the hell you’re doing. Without really knowing the trouble, you’re going to cause yourself that is exactly right. Leaping without looking.

Tina Smith  08:48

Let’s just see what happens.

Samantha Bee  08:51

Go on an adventure. Yes, exactly. Do you think that you would have run for office? If the appointment hadn’t come? Do you think that this would have been no, are you?

Tina Smith  09:02

I don’t really think so. I mean, I ran for lieutenant governor. And when the DIS when the conversation came up about me running for lieutenant governor. I literally, I said, That’s ridiculous. I walked away. Right. And then it was like, Well, maybe it’s not so ridiculous. Yeah. And then running for the Senate. Yeah. It was a very concentrated like 72 hour. What to do, you know, owl, it was always going to step down. It was very painful. There was a lot of there was a lot of luck going on. And I get a phone call from Chuck Schumer, who I don’t know. It’s like, it’s like Darth Vader calling me on the phone. Right. You know?

Samantha Bee  09:45

Jim waits and called you?

Tina Smith  09:49

Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, I flew out to talk with him and I started and I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be in place for me to be able to be successful in this endeavor. of accepting the appointment and then running right away in 10 months and then most likely running again, not even two years later, right. And so I decided to do it. And I jumped even though I didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like. But I’ll never forget, it was the announcement we are in Minnesota’s beautiful state capitol. Mark announces that it’s me. I speak briefly. And then we take questions from reporters, and there was a reporter in the back of the room. I can’t remember who he was.

Tina Smith  10:33

But and he’s basically said, Lieutenant Governor, you know, you’ve never run statewide before really, and you know, this is you’re going to have to raise a lot of money. And this is going to be a big project, like, Do you really think that you can do this? And I just remember that, like, I felt this, like, I’m trying I know, you said we could swear on this podcast.

Samantha Bee  10:52

We’re actually obligated to swear,

Tina Smith  10:59

But I looked at him, and I just said, I should not be underestimated. And, you know, I don’t know where he is, but I know where I am.

Samantha Bee  11:15

Oh, I just got such a there’s so much just, there’s serotonin coursing through my body. Do you ever I mean, do you wake up in the night when you make a really big when you make a really tough call? Does it wake you up at night? Do you wake up in a cold sweat as I do? Or do you just go you know what, once I make the decision, I’m going I follow that trajectory?

Tina Smith  11:40

Well, you know, the thing that is difficult is when you are making a tough decision, and you know that no matter what you do, somebody is going to be disappointed. Or somebody you know that you sometimes have choices where everybody thinks you’ve done exactly the right thing, and nobody thinks otherwise. And those choices are few and far between rightly and so. So I think about that. But it’s I can’t say that I’ve ever made a decision, where I was like, Oh, that was just a terrible decision. I shouldn’t have done that, you know, but I mean, I have stayed up all night long, trying to figure out what to do. Sure. And then you go, Well, you know, it’s this is this is the this is the next step.

Samantha Bee  12:20

I mean, it is definitely you’re making decisions for millions of people. That’s a big, that’s a heavyweight? I would imagine that takes some serious deliberation.

Tina Smith  12:30

It does. It does.

Samantha Bee  12:33

We’ll be right back with Senator Smith after this. No, okay, I want to ask you about your time as vice president of Planned Parenthood. So for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, I’m so curious about that cross section of states and how that, my goodness, and how the conversation around abortion has evolved in that cross section, because things are certainly dire.

Tina Smith  13:24

Well, so first, I just want to note that in the audience tonight, we have the current president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, Ruth Richardson, who is carrying on the torch of, of work, yes, for all people. I am so grateful for the time that I had working at Planned Parenthood. And the thing about it was that I mean, every day, I saw people walk through the doors of our clinic, who were fully capable of making good, responsible, healthy decisions for themselves about their own health, right and their own lives. And including decisions about abortion. And so when, you know, fast forward all these years, and I’m sitting at a restaurant in Washington, DC, and the word comes out that this decision on the Dobbs decision has been leaked, yes, six weeks ahead of time, and I read this, and I was just so furious to think that these Supreme Court justices, this Supreme Court justice in particular, but really, you know, six of them, somehow felt that they were in a better place to make decisions for people whose lives they’ll never know. And that is, to me the crux of this. What this is all about and it isn’t for the for the women and men who are walking through the doors of Planned Parenthood and clinics all over the country. This This isn’t a political thing for them. It’s their lives. It’s their health. And how dare those people think that they know better?

Samantha Bee  15:08

Years ago on full frontal, we did a really funny, really pointed piece. That was sex education for Senators? Because, it really is, I think, I mean, what do you think is the what percentage of the Senate Do you think really knows anything about our bodies or abortion? How pregnancy works? I feel like, I feel like there’s a large percentage of them that think that babies grow and your stomach still.

Tina Smith  15:43

I you know, there are 26 women in the Senate. And I think most of us are pretty clear. Pretty pretty, you know, otherwise? Yeah. I think. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s such a it’s such a great point. And not only that, but like how people make decisions. And I don’t know if any of you have noticed this, but it’s like some of the language in the way people on the conservative side are talking about this issue right now. I mean, it’s kind of like, Sam, what do you think about this term abortion tourism?

Samantha Bee  16:15

The unchecked claim that Democrats are Abortionists who kill babies 30 days after their?

Tina Smith  16:26

No idea. No. Bodies worked, how they make the snow blue? I mean, talking about things that just are not real. Yes. And so, yeah, there’s there’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of work to do.

Samantha Bee  16:38

Well, tell me what you need your colleagues to do to help you.

Tina Smith  16:44

I need them to get the hell out of the doctor’s room, doctors examining room Yes. With women who are making decisions with their families and their doctors about what is going to be best for them in their health. Yeah. And I need them to listen a lot more. And not be so sure that they have the right answer. There’s a lot yeah, there’s an arrogance in that that I find, I think because I’ve had a America this Yeah, I had a dad who like treated me like I was a full grown human when I was four years old. You gonna be like, Tina, but what do you think you want to have for dinner? You know, he was. And so I get like, kind of huffy when people are patronizing. Right.

Samantha Bee  17:25

it’s a winning political issue. Do you think that it’s?

Tina Smith  17:29

It is an issue about that? It is a core freedom issue? Yes, it is. And there are two big I mean, there are many issues in our country right now. But there is the freedom issue, and there is the democracy issue. And these two things go together. And, and that is what that is, what all of this swirl of messiness is that we are experiencing in our country right now, which I think is probably one of the toughest times that we’ve had in our country. Probably since the Civil War.

Samantha Bee  18:03

I mean, you just said the words civil war. But are you? Are you an optimist? Do you believe I’ve been because definitely, I wake up some days, and I think I don’t I don’t know what the path is out of this. I don’t know. You know, I look into the faces of the people all around here. And I see and I meet people who are doing incredible work. And the but sometimes you can fall into you know, when your news consumer when you’re in I’m sure that you I’m sure that your news diet is expansive, and you can stumble, you can think Oh, my God, I don’t know what to do. Do you have those days? Are you just eternally reaching for the stars?

Tina Smith  18:41

Well, I am by nature, an optimist. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t know how I could do this job. If I’d wake up every day thinking that like something good was going to happen, right? And then when something bad happens, I’m like, Okay, well, maybe tomorrow, it won’t be so bad.

Samantha Bee  18:54

But I mean, my I’m in comedy, and you do you do? I don’t have to think that way.

Tina Smith  18:59

You can’t just be a blind optimist. You can’t just like hoping for the best you have to be working for the best. And, you know, that is what? That’s the you know, that’s the work of democracy. And so, sure, sometimes I get tired sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes I look at you know, I think my God, you know, what happens in my life is directly determined by what Mitch McConnell wants to do today. But the you know, you you can’t always see the end of the path, you just have to see the next step in the path. They have to commit to following.

Samantha Bee  19:35

How do you focus your feeling of urgency, I guess, because we feel, you know, the climate is is falling apart before our very eyes, women’s rights, democracy, how do you, I guess, how do you take the urgency of the issue and your optimism and move forward in that?

Tina Smith  19:54

Yeah. So I think about the work that I do in the Senate is kind of a combination. Should have think big and think big and be incredibly opportunistic. Oh, so what that means is, for example, we had to think really big about how to take action on the climate crisis. And we did that when we passed the largest single legislation to reduce carbon emissions that we have ever passed in our country with the inflation Reduction Act, that was big thinking, and we succeeded, right. And you look for those options. But those options don’t those opportunities don’t come around like every week, that’s not the way our system works. So then you have to really be opportunistic about where’s the place where you can find a little you can you can find a gap, you can find an unlikely partner, you can sort of seize the moment, even if it might seem like it’s not the biggest moment in the world, but you still seize it. So for example, right now, I’m working really closely with Mike rounds, Republican, conservative Republican from South Dakota, to advance this legislation to make a big improvement in rural housing, there’s huge shortage of housing and rural communities. And Mike wants to work on this, I want to work on this, it has a big impact on our tribal communities in Minnesota and South Dakota. And so we put together a big reform of the Rural Housing Service, and we’re gonna get it passed. And it started out. You know, it started out as a small thing, right? Like, how can we make this one program work better, and it has turned into something that will have a meaningful impact on the 1000s and 1000s of very affordable places that people have to live in rural communities that could go away if we don’t get this done?

Samantha Bee  21:39

I feel like you’re saying that bipartisanship can be possible in some ways, which is breaking my brain. I does exist so hold that thought more with Senator Smith after one more break. Do want to come back to the climate because I know that me, you know, I’m a big composter. And but my little composting bin, it’s actually a large bin and it has a crank and it’s he does good work. But even still in my lifetime that will never counterbalance one like Elon Musk rocket ship into outer space, or Jeff Bezos is superyacht. And yet again, and again, individuals are called upon to make small changes in our lives, when really meaningful climate action hack can only come from giant corporations. What in the world can we do about that? Well, one person clap. Yeah. It’s fine.

Tina Smith  23:11

Was that like a write a clap for? Big corporation. So everybody in this room has probably heard of Warren Buffett, but you might not have heard of Charlie Munger, who’s Warren Buffett’s partner. The reason I’m bringing this up is because he said something that’s really smart. I think that if you want to understand the outcomes, you have to look at the incentives. Okay, so if you think about this problem we have of reducing carbon emissions, because if we don’t the earth is going to warm to a place where probably I mean, we can we can’t exist, right? It’s an existential crisis. The incentives have to change in order for us to take the big action that we need, all of the incentives have been aligned in order to literally fuel fossil fuel. And so what we did with the inflation Reduction Act is we checked, we started in a significant way to change the incentives so that we have more clean electricity. Electricity is a huge source of carbon emissions. We said we’re going to in Minnesota, think about what we did here in Minnesota, we said we’re going to be 100% Carbon Neutral electricity in the state by 2040. That’s a big deal. And it wasn’t just like, oh, let’s do that. Let’s like wouldn’t that be wonderful? It’s like there’s like a plan in place to accomplish it. So that would be a big systems change. Right. And that’s what we also it couldn’t happen but for the legislation that we passed last year in the inflation Reduction Act, and it involves individual action to you could put solar panels on your composting shed.

Samantha Bee  24:58

Senator Smith, they have I have solar panels on my house. It is great. It’s just not, you know, it’s not it’s impractical for like, our New York apartments and stuff like that, well, actually, not really.

Tina Smith  25:17

It’s changing. And you know, if you’re, if you think about Minnesota, which is an agricultural state, renewable energy is becoming a very important revenue stream for especially for small and midsize farmers who are not making that much money. But now they can start to make more money because of renewable energy. So it’s some I could go deep with.

Samantha Bee  25:37

I feel like what you’re saying is that good governance does good stuff. Now we just have to pray that we have more good governance in the future.

Tina Smith  25:49

More good governance, more good, more good legislators, more good leadership.

Samantha Bee  26:02

What are you most proud of in? In your Senate tenure so far?

Tina Smith  26:11

I think I’m very proud of the decision that I made to speak out on mental health. Yes, I think yet. You know, I had been I was doing policy work on mental health. When I first came to the Senate, I serve on a committee that does a lot of work in that area. And I was getting ready to make a speech on the floor of the Senate about the importance of focusing on mental health. And I gathered my whole staff team around and I said, you know, I don’t really talk about this that much. But when I was in high school, and then when I was a young mom, I had some pretty serious problems with depression. And I said, I don’t know, do you think I should talk about this? Right? And, you know, we just said, we talked about, we said, I should, right? And I think I was probably one of the first people who in a long time, at least, who would openly talked about their own personal struggles with mental health and, you know, in that way, and it was unbelievable. The response that I got as a result of that, and I mean, they’re, you know, I remember this young woman who came up to me in the airport, you know, like a year and a half later, and she said, she said, Senator Smith, I just want you to know what that meant to me, because it made me realize that I wasn’t all by myself. What Senator Fetterman has died. Yeah, is really incredible. Right is incredible. And, and John is, you know, he’s, he’s doing great. And he, he and I have become very good friends. And we share that, you know, that experience, you know, mine from quite a few years ago, him from his from quite recently. So, I think that was a good thing to do.

Samantha Bee  28:03

Do you have Republicans joining you in that fight?

Tina Smith  28:08

There is increasing willingness to do? Yes, absolutely. There definitely are Republicans that are joining me on this fight in this fight. And I honestly believe that after everything that people have gone through individually, and collectively and often in very isolated ways during the pandemic, has meant that conversations about mental health are much more accessible than they were even just three years ago, four years ago. And when we were first when the pandemic was first happening, and I would have people come up to me when I was out in you know, great small towns, rural places in Minnesota, and people would come up to me and say, Senator, Senator Smith, I think we should be talking about farm stress. Ah, so interested they didn’t want to say mental health, but they wanted to say farm stress, stress. So let’s like okay, let’s talk about farm stress. What can we do about farm stress? How can we get some how can we get some farm stress counselors, you know, and so that’s it the thing that’s cool about that is it’s about meeting people right where they are and realizing that this isn’t you know, this is an all of us problem not just to some of us problem.

Samantha Bee  29:23

And breaking down those those shame structures around talking yes about speaking your truth.

Tina Smith  29:29

Yes, that’s exactly right.

Samantha Bee  29:31

I applaud that. What is it like to work in as calculating a place as the Senate where everyone’s always like looking up to the next higher office or looking to the next big prize? When you’re someone who doesn’t who pretty openly loves the job you’re and lives the job you’re and you openly don’t seem to really care too much about that. It does that make you that? Make It seems to make you so much more free to say things such as that’s bullshit to match. What you have done?

Tina Smith  30:11

I did do that. I was proud of that too.

Samantha Bee  30:14

Yeah. I, that made my heart swell with gratitude, to be honest. I mean, do you feel like you’re I mean, this is a podcast, so I’m legally required to swear. Is it fun being in your I don’t give a fuck yours? Because I love it. Fuck yes.

Tina Smith  30:43

Thank you. You know, the thing about it is that I mean, I think that this is actually a way of thinking about politics that I attribute to this, you know, amazing state that is my adopted state. But you can think about politics and power in two ways, kind of you can think about it as the process of amassing power. Or you can think about it as the process of building power. And a lot of people in politics, tend to be thinking about how to kind of hoard their power, or, I don’t know, save it for a rainy day, or, you know, I might need it later, as opposed to using it to accomplish good things. Right. And to me, that’s what it’s all about. I mean, what is the point otherwise? I will just point to the work of the Minnesota Legislature and our governor and lieutenant governor who won elections in 2022 did a lot of organizing and a lot of power building. And then what did they do? They spent that power to accomplish the things that they promised in the election. And, you know, paid family leave, expanding voting rights. I mean, I could go, I could list the the things that they have accomplished. But that’s like the reason for all of this.

Samantha Bee  32:03

I’m thinking I’m starting to understand why post pandemic so many people are flocking to Minnesota. You okay, you mentioned paid family leave? I do. I want to talk a little bit about that. Because I mean, so it’s a decently good summer for women, at least on paper, Taylor Swift, you know, Barbie, they’ve written $9 billion, you know, mainlined into the economy. And yet, we can’t seem to pay for nice things like, like paid parental leave. Do you think that we will ever decide to do the right thing for American families?

Tina Smith  32:47

I totally believe that you do hotel me believe that? Oh, no, the reason is that we were only one or two votes short of accomplishing that, at the federal level, paid family leave, paid family and medical leave for everybody in this country, regardless of who you work for. Right? I mean, we were and we were that close. So we need to I mean, this is why, you know, it’s the cliche, but it’s true elections matter. You got to you got to win elections, you got to build a support like we did in Minnesota, we need to continue to do that at the national level. And that’s the, you know, that’s, that’s what we have to do. There are a lot of powerful forces that are aligned to say, no, no, it would be better to not do that would be better to give more tax cuts to big corporations. Right.

Samantha Bee  33:36

I worked so great. Really wonderful. I mean, I literally just saw a video yesterday of a British woman going, how much do you pay for asthma inhalers in America? And our jaw hit the floor? Yeah, that’s right. So choices we make. Yeah, we make some pretty weird choices. I will, how do you get that issue over the top? How do we get universal child care? I mean, I know that you’re deep in this fight. But can we really have meaningful hope?

Tina Smith  34:10

Yes, absolutely. I mean, again, absolutely. I mean, this is the possibly the number one economic issue in our country right now is the lack of access to affordable childcare for for families, and the the other side of that, which is that childcare providers are not even making enough money to take care of their own children. Yes. And so you know, in this country, we don’t say, Oh, you want to send your child to third grade, I mean, you’re okay, that’ll be $38,000. And you can choose to spend that amount of money on third grade if you want to, but we have universal third grade. And we yet we seem to think that young families who haven’t who are just starting out who don’t have any savings like you know, should be in a position where they want to have to Holderness going to be 35 or $40,000, to pay for childcare. So both parents can work. And what happens is one of the parents decides it can’t work. Or maybe there aren’t two parents, like most families in this country, there aren’t two parents, right? So um, we know we can define the problem. And we also can define the solution. And during the pandemic, we put significant resources into supporting and expanding childcare. And it worked. Right, it worked. Just like we put significantly what we did with the child tax credit, right. And we lowered child poverty in this country by almost 50%. So there’s not a mystery right? Into what to do. The only mystery is why, why more people don’t want to do it.

Samantha Bee  35:50

I mean, where do you how do you help people to find the look of deep within themselves and find the political will to make these changes? It’s so frustrating, these are very, these are very basic issues, in my mind, caring for the population in a meaningful way, is it’s amazing to me, that you would get and that you would be swimming upstream.

Tina Smith  36:14

So part of it is you have to unselect the people that don’t want what most people want.

Samantha Bee  36:20

Yes, you do have to Unimax.

Tina Smith  36:25

That would make it that way, get a lot of use out make it a lot easier. I don’t know that I’m ever going to be able to convince Ted Cruz.

Samantha Bee  36:31

I think he’s lost. I think he’s lost. I read that you love Atomic Fireballs. Did you know that I got my start in an all female comedy troupe called the Atomic Fireballs.

Tina Smith  36:51

We are like, you know, kindred spirits.

Samantha Bee  36:53

I’m just adjusting. Yeah, they were a collaboration. In the cards for us.

Tina Smith  36:58

I keep a bowl of Atomic Fireballs in my office, in my little hideaway office in the capital just for those like moments when I just don’t know if I can find it through another day.

Samantha Bee  37:09

And you I read that you ate like a whole bowl of?

Tina Smith  37:12

I was doing one of the reconciliation battles, which is basically this all night voter Rama a vote after vote after vote. And I did I ate a lot of Atomic Fireballs. And at the end of that when we were about to pass the inflation Reduction Act, all of us had been up for 24 hours and we go into one of the rooms in the capitol to have a little breakfast. We’ve literally been up well over 24 hours. Yeah. And, and I sit down next to Joe Manchin. And Joe Manchin says to me, he says, you would. You said, bullshit. Tina, I didn’t know you talk that way.

Samantha Bee  37:55

And you’re like your teeth are red, eating 1000 Atomic Fireballs. That should be that should be everybody’s diet right before they talk to Joe Manchin, just like 4000 calories worth of spicy cinnamon candy. Who do you seek counsel from? Do you seek counsel from others? Who do you go to?

Tina Smith  38:21

So I totally do. And I mean, I suppose like you like a lot of people. I seek counsel from my husband from my family. I asked my kids what they think, right? Sometimes I randomly seek counsel from people, I just run into places. Okay, which is kind of interesting, right? Like your view. You know, I one of the great things about my job is I get to travel all over the state and I get to talk to people everywhere. And I almost I always ask people like what do you think, you know, what do you think? What should I do? What how would you know? Right? Tell me what you think. And I get more out of that than counsel from sort of the wise ones. Right? Yes. Right. Say I that’s my favorite part.

Samantha Bee  39:04

Yes. Yeah. And what do you what is your news diet? Can you describe that?

Tina Smith  39:09

So I wake up in the morning and I read the summary news from Politico and Punchbowl news. And the New York Times and political and Punchbowl is sort of like reading the high school newspaper. Okay. That’s your like, it’s I mean, it’s, you know, because really, Congress is like high school. And so it’s like, I had no idea that must have happened in the fourth period, and I wasn’t paying attention, you know. And it’s, you sort of figure out what’s happening for the day, and then I used to pay a lot of attention to what was once known as Twitter, right, but now it’s called x. And I don’t really spend that much time on X anymore.

Samantha Bee  39:54

I don’t think it’s as it’s not quite as fruitful.

Tina Smith  39:57

No, I mean, I you know, I still sometimes see, like the cute animal things popping up on my page. But Uh huh. And I watched very little cable news to tell you the truth I watched. I watched the PBS news hour. And cable news is a little bit like if your high school had like an ATV room and all, you know, it’s just like, I mean, it’s just, it’s just like this sort of, oh, kind of cycle of talkers. And if something really important is happening, it’s good. But I think it’s sort of magnifies the negativity bias that we that we have. And so my advice to all of you for what it’s worth, is put yourself a little bit on a cable news diet, and you’ll feel a lot better about your own work or to change the world.

Samantha Bee  40:46

That’s 100% true, it’s actually it’s very, it’s kind of I don’t know what it is it dismantles my brain a little bit, it kind of breaks me down. So I tend to stay away from it as well. Yeah, I feel that I can’t think clearly if too many voices are just speculating about things that they.

Tina Smith  41:05

And I, of course, forgot to mention MinnPost.

Samantha Bee  41:10

It wasn’t even a trick question. It wasn’t even a trick question. It will. How do you choose which press to engage with I guess, how do you choose? How do you decide who and what to engage with? Because I assume that people are reaching out to you across these various platforms all the time? How much do you How much do you engage with people who have negative things to say to you, how much do you engage in those arenas?

Tina Smith  41:35

Yeah, well, um, you know, one of the things that I’ve found is that when I’m out walking, and I’m, you know, hanging around in Minnesota, talking to people, it’s actually pretty rare that somebody you know, the people who like you, people who like me, or you know, will or will come up and Yeah, they’ll sort of like it’s Minnesota.

Samantha Bee  41:58

Is that what Minnesota post is?

Tina Smith  42:01

Or they’ll come up and say thank you for your service, or thank you or, you know, I’m gonna say nice things that people that don’t like you will usually not take the time to tell you. So, which is why some politicians think that everybody loves them. When that’s not actually the case. That’s funny.

Samantha Bee  42:19

Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you for being here. Thank you to Senator Smith.

Tina Smith  42:23

Thank you so much, Samantha.


That was Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota. We talked live at MinnPost festival in Minneapolis. And good news, there’s more Choice Words with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like a rapid fire trivia based off my interview with Laura Dern and Diane Ladd subscribe now in Apple podcasts. Thank you for listening to Choice Words which was created by and is hosted by me. We’re a production of Lemonada Media, Kathyrn Barnes, […] and Kryssy Pease produce our show. Our mix is by James Barber. Steve Nelson is the vice president of weekly content. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittles Wachs and I are executive producers. Our theme was composed by […] with help from Johnny Vince Evans . Special thanks to Kristen Everman, Claire Jones, Ivan Kuraev and Rachel Neil. You can find me at @Iamsambee on Twitter and at @realsambee on Instagram. Follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.