Who Are We Asking to Die? with Beto O’Rourke
Today, 18-year-old Zach and his dad talk about how to get broader points of view on the podcast. To that end, they reach out to former congressman and presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke, to hear how Texas’s approach to COVID-19 is going. Andy and Beto chat about how people’s own experiences dictate their views on the crisis. Then Peter Morley, an advocate for people with chronic illnesses, shares his lens on the crisis. And we hear from fan-favorite, Andy’s mom/Zach’s Nana, who has a special Mother’s Day message.
Want to do more?
- Support the work of World Central Kitchen at www.wck.org/donate
- Support local food bank El Pasoans Fighting Hunger at https://elpasoansfightinghunger.org/
- Find Peter Morely and support his advocacy work at https://morethanmysle.com/ and follow him on Twitter @morethanmySLE
- Join Beto O’Rourke in supporting Texas food banks at https://poweredxpeople.org/ and follow him on Twitter @BetoORourke
- For Mother’s Day, follow Andy’s mom on Twitter @ASlavittsMom
[00:39] Dan Patrick: There are more important things than living, and that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren. And saving this country for all of us. And I don’t want to die. Nobody wants to die. But, man, we gotta take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.
[00:57] Andy Slavitt: All right. Welcome to In the Bubble, it’s Andy Slavitt
[01:28] Zach Slavitt: And Zach.
[01:30] Andy Slavitt: So, you know we have Beto on today. Beto O’Rourke. Is he popular with your generation or is it slightly older generation?
[01:38] Zach Slavitt: Well, I think I don’t really know because we’re not even from the same state as Beto.
[01:44] Andy Slavitt: He ran for president. But, you know, I’ve known the guy for a little while, he’s a really good guy, interesting guy. The thing I think is cool about the conversation is just talking to him about what it’s like being in his part of the country where they’re just experiencing the whole coronavirus thing differently. I think the thing that we don’t talk enough about on the show is just how there are some different points of view out there. There’s a lot of sameness of thinking around this coronavirus and the response. And so I think we got to do a better job of getting more diverse opinions out there.
[02:19] Zach Slavitt: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of people just looking for confirmation bias about whether or not we should reopen. Finding something that says we should, finding something that says we shouldn’t, and picking the one that fits what they want to say. So we could have other opinions.
[02:34] Andy Slavitt: Yeah. I mean the opinion we opened the show with, for those of you who don’t know, that was Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick from Texas offering, I think, a provocative opinion, one that I think has gotten widely played. That suggests I think if you get down to the nub of it, that at a certain point we may be in a situation where — what’s the expression? The cure is worse than the disease? He said it in a provocative way. And I think he says some somewhat ridiculous stuff sometimes, if you want to know my opinion, but probably not the only one who holds that opinion. So we got to figure out how to make sure that people who are, you know, understandably pulled in that direction don’t feel this isn’t a valid thing to discuss.
[03:18] Andy Slavitt: So we should go after Beto for like being a Texas guy today and just see how how much he owns up to the kind of points of view coming out of Texas. Or really whether or not even those are points of views that are representative of what’s going on in Texas. So last week you were making salmon in the middle of our podcast. The reason I bring that up is because Zach and I cooked an awesome, awesome Mother’s Day dinner for Lana and for Caleb, who didn’t do any of the work, but who also enjoyed the dinner. So you wanna just tell them what we cooked?
[03:57] Zach Slavitt: Well, we only almost burned the house down once. We made lamb. You could see on the Instagram, @AndySlavitt, and you could see there’s a picture of us making lamb. And then also made a cake.
[04:16] Andy Slavitt: You made some chocolate cake. I didn’t get lunch today and I went in and I got a piece of the chocolate cake, which was kind of a bad idea. Too bad you couldn’t see your grandmothers, and I couldn’t see my mom. But at the end of this interview with Beto, we will see if we got a hold of my mom. Now here’s Beto O’Rourke, former congressman and Senate candidate from Texas.
[04:44] Andy Slavitt: Hey, man. I want to introduce you to my son, Zach.
[04:51] Beto O’Rourke: Hey, Zach. How are you, man?
[04:53] Zach Slavitt: I’m good.
[04:54] Beto O’Rourke: Are you in the graphic for the Bubble?
[04:57] Zach Slavitt: Yeah, I’m kind of in the background.
[04:58] Beto O’Rourke: That’s you. OK. Good to meet you in person, or virtually.
[05:05] Andy Slavitt: His cartoon face is pretty good. He’s our co-producer, co-host. He’s full of facts. He talks to his grandma. He does all kinds of cool stuff on the show because, you know, we’re really talking to families about what we’re going through. Speaking of which, how’s your Mother’s Day?
[05:20] Beto O’Rourke: It was really good. So I made Amy my famous blueberry scones to start things out. The idea is to make sure they’re flaky and crumbly. Some people make the mistake, and I’ve made this before, of baking them, setting them out and then putting them in a Tupperware, which then, you know, concentrates the humidity or whatever and makes them kind of gooey and wrong. So, yes, we kept them out to maintain their flakiness. And then baked a bunch of cookies for my mom and Amy’s mom and my sister and delivered them to their houses. You know, maintaining the appropriate physical distance and all that stuff. But that was the extent of it. But it was a nice, slow, easy, lazy day. And then we topped it off with some chicken coop construction that we’re just at the beginning of. We ordered all the, you know, all the wood. And I had to buy a drill and picked all that stuff up and have begun building out our chicken coop. We have four chickens.
[06:31] Andy Slavitt: The kids love them?
[06:32] Beto O’Rourke: Oh yeah, my daughter Molly has kind of created this menagerie of animals. She’s got two snakes. She’s got a lizard, turtles, a cat, a dog, fish, probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. And now she has these four chicks that are becoming chickens.
[06:54] Andy Slavitt: If we run out of food, you guys gonna be ready. You got the lizard, you got some eggs.
[06:58] Beto O’Rourke: We could subsist off of Molly’s pets for a while. No, we actually have been so extraordinarily fortunate in all of this, in just, you know, our ability not to have to worry about too much of this stuff. But it is nice to have the chickens both as a distraction for Molly and now for Amy and me building the coop. And then, yeah, it’ll be nice to have eggs in a couple of months.
[07:26] Andy Slavitt: I was trying to think, where did we first meet?
[07:28] Beto O’Rourke: I don’t know. But I remember when I was a member of Congress, this would have been in 2017, I reached out to you because, like every other member of Congress, or at least all the Democrats, we were trying to figure out what the next iteration of the Affordable Care Act was going to be. Or if there was a way to go beyond that completely. And I knew you were the smartest guy that I could talk to in the country. And we have a common friend in Joe Kennedy, and he had met with you earlier in the day. And I said, Joe, is there any way you can hook me up with Andy? And you were kind enough to have a meal with me. We had dinner. And you shared your perspective. And one of the things that drew me to you even more than your experience and your brilliance on this stuff was you were really candid about what you didn’t know. And I thought that was so refreshing because as a member of Congress, everyone comes to you with the solution. Look Beto, just do this and we’ll figure this stuff out. And, you know, you definitely had recommendations and you definitely identified areas that we needed to work on. But then you were also like, look, on some of this, we just don’t know the best path going forward. I thought that was so impressive and refreshing. And I’ve now found that to be the mark of people who actually do know what the hell we should be doing. And those are the folks that kind of end up following or I’m drawn to.
[08:50] Andy Slavitt: I remember that dinner. I don’t remember all the details, but it was somewhere on the Hill. I think the two things that stick out for me, one was there’s several different ways that political people like the representatives ask you questions. Some of it is I just want to confirm what I already know to be true or what I’ve already said publicly. And I’ve got a narrative. Can you give it to me? Another way is some version of give me some great soundbites so I can make a speech on the floor, or give me an original idea for a bill. But we had this conversation like how do we think about this issue? Like, what’s the right way to balance the needs of people in the situation? Who gets hurt, how should I think about it? And like I could tell you wanted to be stimulated with facts, and that like what my opinion was, was like, that’s great, you can tell me. But I am figuring out how this fits with my view of the world. And I thought that was great.
[09:50] Beto O’Rourke: That is one of the undisputed benefits of being a member of Congress is you are given the opportunity to meet extraordinarily brilliant people and ask them really big questions and come a little bit closer to the answer. And health care is one of those where I don’t know that anyone has found the silver bullet. I don’t know that one exists. It’s such a massive, complex, historical challenge. But you can only get better or smarter at trying to address it by meeting amazing people. And as a member of Congress, it is one of the few jobs outside of, you know, maybe if you’re at a think tank or you’re a leading journalist, where you get to ask people like you these kinds of questions. And to your credit, not just receive a soundbite or a talking point or a ten point list, but a real thoughtful conversation with questions going back and answers going back both ways. So I really, really loved that about being in Congress. And now, like everyone else, I’m trying to get smarter by reading the news, reading books, listening to podcasts like yours, seeking out those who seem to be really thoughtful about what faces us. And I had a chance to talk to José Andrés — you mentioned him, about how we meet this challenge of feeding tens of millions of people who are food insecure, or literally cannot feed themselves or their kids, most alarmingly of all, in a country that exports more food than any other country on the face of the planet, that definitely has the resources and the wealth and the capacity. And that guy is such a — his whole life has been about feeding people and bringing them together. And so to be able to listen to him for a half-hour, it changed how I look at food.
[11:35] Andy Slavitt: His logistical mind, like how he understands the distribution of food is incredible.
[13:14] Andy Slavitt: Now I want to talk about Texas. You people in Texas really like yourselves, don’t you? You’re proud of your state.
[13:19] Beto O’Rourke: Totally. Absolutely. Yeah. I was born and raised. There is a stereotype that you in Minnesota have of Texas that in many ways couldn’t be further from the truth. You know, for example, a lot of people may not know that we are one of, if not the most diverse states in the union. Houston, Texas is the most diverse city in the country. Houston, Texas’ public schools, they speak 142 different languages. We are a minority-majority state. We are where this country connects with the rest of the world. And Texas is also not as reliably red as everyone else might think. So, yeah, there’s an everything’s bigger in Texas mentality, but there’s also underneath that some really exciting things that are happening and have been happening for a long time unnoticed to the rest of the country.
[14:14] Andy Slavitt: Plus, it’s just a huge state. So, you can be in Laredo, on the border, you can be up near Oklahoma, or you can be near Louisiana, or you can be in Dallas. And there’s a lot of different places. Maybe you could describe to me a little bit about how you see the state, both political leaders and the people in Texas, responding to the Coronavirus. Because one of the things that I think we’re trying to get across to people on the podcast is it’s sort of different everywhere. And you know, what people are experiencing in New York City and in California and Texas and in Kansas and Minnesota, people are having different experiences. Give us a sense of the great old state of Texas?
[14:50] Beto O’Rourke: You know, on the positive side, I think we’ve been relatively fortunate, relative to some other states, in the number of cases and the number of deaths. So as of this conversation, we’re at a little bit over 40,000 cases and a little bit over 1,100 deaths. Now, those numbers alone are alarming, but when we look at other states that have much higher rates of infection, much higher levels of death, I think relatively speaking, we’ve been somewhat fortunate. One of the things related to that, that is a little bit disturbing, however, is that we are also a state that has tested fewer people per capita than almost any other state. I’ve seen rankings where we’re 48, 49 or 50th. But we are down near the bottom, which, and this is something I’ve asked for your guidance on, leads me to believe that we may not have a full understanding of the number of cases that we do have in Texas. And we may not be accurately enough reporting the number of deaths related to Covid-19.
[16:00] Beto O’Rourke: In the midst of that, our governor made the decision, now a week and a half ago, to reopen the state. And to do so with some qualifications and conditions. Restaurants, movie theaters, retail shops, malls all can reopen as long as they keep their occupancy at 25 percent or less. The real-world ability to verify and hold, you know, restaurant owners and movie theater managers accountable for that is pretty limited. And it also flies in the face of the science and the public health advice that I have heard. And also the public health recommendations that our governor, Greg Abbott, said he would use before reopening the state. He wanted to see at least two weeks of declining caseloads and infections and hospital stays. And we’ve had none of that in Texas. In fact, we are one of those states that has seen at least a steady level of new cases or have begun to increase a little bit. We have not seen them go down. And in fact, the day before the governor announced that he would reopen — or the day before the state was to reopen, we had our highest number of deaths. And I think one of our highest numbers of new cases reported in Texas. So I’m really concerned about that. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who, yes, unlike most other states, our lieutenant governor here in Texas wields extraordinary power, some would say more than the governor himself. Our lieutenant governor on Fox said that there are some things that are more important than living.
[17:34] Beto O’Rourke: And that then begs the question, who then is he asking to do the dying? We know in those states that have tracked deaths and the demographic information related to them have shown that black Americans are dying at a far higher rate than white Americans. In a state like Texas, where the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, those we are sending into harm’s way when these retail shops reopen are, by and large, the working poor. There’s a bartender who lives down the block from me. And the week that the state was set to reopen, we happen to be walking our dog by his house. And he said, “hey, Beto, I just got a call to go back to work this week. And I’m really struggling because I need the income. I won’t be able to collect unemployment if I refuse the offer from my boss, but my wife really doesn’t want me to go back. We have a young child, we have older parents, and I’m really struggling with the decision.” I think he ended up not going into work and is, I guess, going to try to find some way to meet, you know, the payment on his mortgage note and put food on the table in his house. But it just shows you the predicament into which this governor placed this guy and many of my fellow Texan. So that is the state of play right now here in this state.
[18:49] Andy Slavitt: I want to make sure to emphasize something you said, because it’s a nuance, but it’s so, so, so important. What is the real effect of a state opening up? Well, of course, if people don’t go out of their houses, you can say, OK, maybe there’s no effect. But what you said is really important, which is that if your employer decides to open up shop, and you decide it’s unsafe for you to go — and a lot of people are in those situations, as you know and as you’ve talked about. 130 million Americans have preexisting conditions. Many people in Texas don’t have insurance. The predicament that you’re talking about, you said it so well. It’s like, who is he asking? Who is being put in the situation? Because if you make a salary that you need, an hourly wage that you need, and you’re all of the sudden open and you can’t get an unemployment anymore. It’s a really crummy situation.
[19:37] Beto O’Rourke: And it’s already the least insured state in the United States of America. So we still have, obviously, for many, insurance tied to employment. And so if you are both threatened with no longer being able to apply for unemployment and losing your health insurance, this is a really tough situation. Add to that, Andy, we do not have no-fault absentee voting, or voting by mail. And so there’s a real need right now because we have an upcoming election. Not not too unlike what we saw in Wisconsin, July 14th, statewide runoff elections. And our attorney general, Ken Paxton, in this rogue’s gallery of statewide leaders, has threatened extreme prosecution for any group or individual who promotes mail-in ballot as an alternative to in-person voting. It’s really interesting. Our state law says you are qualified to request a mail-in ballot if you have a physical condition that would run the risk of producing a physical injury or a threat to your life or to your health by voting in person. And the argument that many of us are making is that we all share the physical condition of lacking immunity to Covid-19. And because we lack that immunity in the midst of an extraordinarily deadly pandemic that has killed 1,100 — that we know of — of our fellow Texans. All of us are qualified to request a mail-in ballot.
[21:06] Beto O’Rourke: So what they’re trying to do, unfortunately — you asked about the legend of Texas. I mean, part of what we are are known for, should be known for, if the truth is to come out, is the fact that we are one of the most voter-suppressed states in the union. We prior to the 2018 campaign, we ranked 50th, dead-last in voter turnout. Not because we love democracy less than you do in Minnesota, but because if you’re black or you’re brown, there’s a good chance you will be drawn out of your congressional district to minimize the likelihood that you will vote. We in Texas have dispersed the votes of black and brown Texans and concentrated the power of white Texans. The Republicans in charge believing white correlates with Republican, black and brown correlates with Democrat. But this is, make no mistake, this is racist gerrymandering. And the federal courts have found that to be the facts. So threatening prosecution for requesting a mail-in ballot is intended to be a shot across the bow to basically say stay at home if you care for your health, or if you’re willing to risk your life, come and exercise your right to vote. Because remember, also, there’s an economic dynamic. There are some, like Amy and myself, who own a car and can drive ourselves to the ballot box. But if you’re poor in Texas, it’s a good chance you can have to ride the bus. You’ll be next to other passengers. You just run a far greater risk of infection and death by voting in person, especially if you’re poor in the state. So it’s terrible. It’s cynical, but there’s a remedy to all of this. And that is that very same election we’re talking about on November 3rd, which is what I’m going to spend a lot of my time working on over the coming months.
[22:44] Andy Slavitt: People ask me, what’s the number one thing you do for healthcare in this country? I’d say just get a democracy to function the way it should. Get people represented in our healthcare laws will probably take care of themselves more quickly. How do people in Texas, are they generally responding or behaving? Do you see people still quite cautious? Do you see them taking the cue from the governor and being much less cautious in getting back at it? Can you tell?
[23:06] Beto O’Rourke: It’s really a mix. I’ll tell you, here in El Paso, I’ve been really impressed by the way that everyone seems to be focusing not on their own self-interests, but on the common good and the public health. And so we’ve seen a pretty strict following of the public health guidance. And that’s a bright spot. You know, unfortunately, there was a shooting yesterday at a public park in Fort Worth in Tarrant County in the northern part of the state. And in one of the details, beyond the fact that five people were shot and three were critically wounded, the fact was that the shooting took place at a gathering where there were 600 people together in the park, which really concerns me. And then you also have these jackasses — and we see this in other states — but who are showing up where a place of business is going to resist the law, and the limited orders of the governor. So, for example, I believe that, you know, tattoo parlors and beauty salons are not allowed to reopen along with other retail establishments. Well, some beauty salon owners have defied the order and decided to open up nonetheless. And then there are people who show up with AR 15s and AK 47s and body armor and tactical gear who stand guard in case the police come and try to enforce the stay-at-home orders against the beauty salons.
[24:32] Beto O’Rourke: And we see these protesters, these armed “protesters” in Lansing, Michigan. We see them really throughout the country, in large part inspired by the president who talks about liberating these states from stay-at-home orders. Andy, that really concerns me, because with that level of threatened violence, you just don’t know what is going to happen next. And without clear leadership from our president, or from our governor — and our governor, in one case of a beauty salon owner who was arrested and sentenced to jail for seven days, he made it the cause celebre of conservative circles in Texas to free her. Took it all the way to the Supreme Court in our state. What a terrible signal to send to other potential lawbreakers here when the issue is really not your personal freedom. It is really the public health and whether my, you know, 73-year-old mother is going to be at greater risk of infection and death. So it’s really a mixed bag, but it could really use some clear leadership right now, which we’re missing.
[25:32] Andy Slavitt: Yes. You know, it’s funny, I was in front of Ways and Means today, and I was asked why the CDC was being ignored. And I said, look, I write my opinion is that I think we’re trying to do to public health scientists what we’ve been trying to do to climate scientists. And say that they are getting in the way of the president’s agenda. They don’t care about the economy. They’re out to wreck jobs. And they’re not the people you’d let make decisions. Dr. Birx was referred to as the school nurse by the economic team. There is this sort of question that we’ve been living with for the last several years, which is, should you trust and believe in scientists or should you not? And by the way, you made Minnesota sound like it wasn’t as cool as Texas with your comments earlier. We have the same stuff going on here. The gun rights groups are marching. Storeowners in many parts of the state are opening here. People are in a tough position. I mean, like, it’s not — I mean, you and I both get the fact that, like, it sucks to have your business shut down. And especially if you personally aren’t feeling the public health crisis, but you are feeling the economic crisis. And there’s no easy way out. And so it’s exactly why you need leadership to say, yes, there are tough things we’re going to have to do. But the best way to get past it is not to ignore it and pretend it’s not here. It’s to sacrifice for one another. It’s to help each other through this. And quite honestly, we’ll be at this a shorter amount of time — history shows we’ll be at this a shorter amount of time and recover better if we deal with the crisis as opposed to ignoring it. And, you know, there are Republican governors in all parts of the country that are doing just that. And there are definite Democratic governors that are caving in to political and public sentiment in a way that they probably shouldn’t. So point is, we have different cultures in different parts of the country. And it seems like we can’t stray too far from your culture. Like if you’re independent minded, not trusting government — that’s in you pretty deep, right?
[27:40] Beto O’Rourke: Yeah, I think there’s something to that. And, you know, Texas has a very limited form of government. Our state legislature meets once every other year. Power is decentralized and not really concentrated in any one place by design. And I think some that’s borne out in the leadership, or the limited leadership, that you’ve seen so far in Texas. Some of it is the personalities and the politics of the moment, of course. But I think you bring up a really, really important point. It does not get brought up often enough. And I had not brought it up, which is the need for us to be empathetic and understand, or at least try to understand, what it must be like to have started a small business with, you know, your family or a small team and had grown that over the years. And now to see all of that undercut by a mandatory stay-at-home order. Your revenue has dried up. Your clients and customers have gone away. You’ve had to fire your staff. That’s your family. You’re worried about them and you want them to be OK. And so you have every reason to be anxious or afraid or even angry and frustrated. And so what is the best remedy? And, you know, I think you and I would argue that there’s a political process through our representatives and through elections and through the legislation, which has already produced an outlay of more than $2 trillion to begin to address some of this. But we should not write off that feeling or that anger, that anxiety that so many have out of hand, because that’s absolutely unprecedented. You’d have to go back to the really the Great Depression to see this kind of economic contraction, job loss, hunger that we are seeing today.
[29:23] Beto O’Rourke: It really calls for Lincoln-esque leadership. That whole idea that there’ll be malice for no one. Like I’ve got to somehow do a better job of just thinking through, now what would possess me to take a weapon of war and challenge police to defy my defense of the beauty salon? Like, I’ve got to find a way to connect with that guy.
[29:43] Andy Slavitt: No, you don’t. I mean, without the AR 15. Someone marching peacefully, someone protesting, someone carrying a sign. I have no problem with that. I think it’s how we learn what people are going through. But you take a weapon of war there, and that’s not what you’re trying to do or it changes the equation.
[32:35] Andy Slavitt: You’ve got a rhetorical gift, which I think you described the core of better than it being a rhetorical gift, which is that you say what you believe and you let the chips fall where they may. People get that. They like that. They find that they end up agreeing with you more because they can see where it’s coming from. So in this moment, if you were to address people as you addressed crowds, as you addressed people that are both supporters and not supporters, and give them a message that you think they need to hear. What is that message?
[33:07] Beto O’Rourke: It would begin with empathy and understanding of what is common to all of us. And we are all concerned about our families, our kids, our parents, our grandparents. And we want them to be OK. We’re all understandably concerned about our livelihoods and our future and our career and our purpose on this planet. You know, if I’m a hairdresser, and I’ve done that for the last 30 years, and you’ve now told me I cannot do that anymore, I think it’s important for all of us to understand what that must feel like. But we also are faced with this common threat, the deadliest pandemic that we’ve seen in this country in a century at least, and one that we don’t fully appreciate or understand yet. We’re still discovering how it attacks us and infects us and what it does to our bodies and to our families and to our communities. And so at this moment, we need to come together. We need to understand and hear one another. There’s got to be a way for us to share our opinions, no matter how forcefully or deeply held, and no matter how divergent they are from those that others hold. But we must, absolutely must, come together and face this and fight this in common. And if we do and if we are successful, the benefit to all of us is that we will have saved more lives than we otherwise would have. We will have prevented more suffering than we otherwise would have. And we will also have done this: we will have shortened the duration of the pain that that salon owner or that small business owner or that unemployed Texan is feeling right now.
[34:44] Beto O’Rourke: To fail to face this in common and to fracture along geographic and party and economic and racial lines in this country means that we prolong the length of this pandemic, the destruction that it does to this country, including to our economy, and the number of deaths that we are going to face. And so all of us must come together. We must come together as Americans and human beings before we are anything else, Republican, Democrat or otherwise. And I think if we do that, we are going to be successful.
[35:15] Andy Slavitt: That’s great. Well, look, you can’t speak in front of crowds now, I guess, but hearing you say that just reminds me why you had those viral moments. I just think the country needs to hear that and it feels less divisive. Like, why do we have to be divided in this moment? I mean, this is a threat to all of us. Last question. My last questions are always a little bit off the charts. So you just gotta, like, brace yourself, Beto. So Coronavirus strikes, and you’ve got to quarantine in place and you happen to be with Ted Cruz. So you guys are quarantining together. How does that work? Do you guys get along? Do you share the duties? Do you fight? Six months later, what’s it look like?
[35:55] Beto O’Rourke: Ted Cruz is an extraordinarily intelligent guy, right? Like he went to the best schools. He was, you know, debate champion of America, or at least a contender for the debate championship. He’s obviously been able to master some dynamic of American politics. You had not heard of Ted Cruz prior to 2012. And from winning that long-shot Senate race, he almost won the Republican nomination for the presidency. I’d love to pick that guy’s brain and just say, tell me what drives you, what moves you, how you made this decision. And then I would love to have, if possible — I think quarantine would offer us the perfect conditions in which to do this — an intellectually honest conversation. Like Ted, do you really believe all that stuff when you were shutting down the government of the United States in 2013 over Obamacare? Like, does that make sense to you? Because it doesn’t — explain how that would have made this country better. And I bet you he could ask me questions, too, and say, hey, Beto, do you really think that we should not sell AR 15s or AK 47s? Tell me the basis for that. And maybe I would learn something, certainly I would learn something from him. And maybe, hopefully, he would learn something from me. But I think that could prove to be really interesting. And yes, I think there’s a possibility that we would drive each other absolutely nuts. But, you know, I competed against the guy for the better part of two years, and I’ve served with him. And though I really abhor so much of what he fights for or stands for or worked against, I do have some respect for him. And he’s my fellow American. And so you know what? Why not try to make the most of it?
[37:43] Beto O’Rourke: I do have one thing I’ve got to say, just in case you left anyone with the impression that I don’t think extraordinarily highly of Minnesota. When you and I first met and I found out about your connection to Minnesota, I remember — and then I felt embarrassed afterwards. And I was like, God, what an idiot. Because I said, hey, do you listen to The Replacements? Do you listen to Husker Du? What do you think about Prince? Bob Dylan? I like named every amazing Minnesota artist I could think of because that state has, you know, produced an outsized share of musical genius, just those four musicians and bands alone. So if I were stuck on that Covid island with Ted Cruz, I would do my best to introduce him to the great music of Minnesota.
[38:30] Andy Slavitt: That’s awesome. Look, if you would do me just some justice with the people in Texas, I will get your cred back with the people of Minnesota. So, Beto, if this whole thing turns out to be like just a really terrible movie, this whole pandemic, I think the way it ends is with you and Ted in a house together coming to some armistice and coming out and speaking together. And like then the credits roll. Because it will be the ultimate symbol that we are all Americans, that we have lots of differences. But when the chips are down, we can be at this together. And I haven’t given that up. I know that there’s discord now and I know there’s a lot of stress. But the truth is, I actually think people love being in it together. They want to be back in it together. They want leaders that’ll keep us in it together. And you’re one of those people. And so it’ll be just fun to keep watching how you continue to lead. Do one more thing. Promote a local El Paso business. Either the name of your food kitchen or anything else you want people to support, because people who listen to this, they want to do something to say thanks.
[39:37] Beto O’Rourke: Absolutely. So our food bank is called El Pasoans Fighting Hunger. And they have seen a 400 percent increase in demand for food in a city that was already very food insecure. We’re one of the poorest metro counties in the country, one of the poorest urban counties in the country. And you now have, in the last two months, more unemployment filings, twice the number of unemployment filings than we did in all of 2019. So demand for food, especially since Congress has failed to expand SNAP, at our food banks is off the charts. And they literally don’t have the resources to meet that. So anyone who wants to support getting food to people in need in El Paso, it’s ElPasoansFightingHunger.org.
[40:26] Andy Slavitt: Ok. We will post that and then we will promote that when we promote the episode. Thanks so much for coming out In the Bubble and hanging out with Zach and me.
[40:36] Beto O’Rourke: It was my pleasure. Thanks. Thanks for having me on. And thank you for all the work that you’re doing out there. I’m a close follower of yours, and I really appreciate the guidance that you’re providing to the country right now.
[40:46] Andy Slavitt: Thanks, buddy.
[40:49] Andy Slavitt: So that was Beto O’Rourke. Zach, you think we got what we wanted out of that interview?
[40:54] Zach Slavitt: Yeah. And even more.
[40:58] Andy Slavitt: You’ll really like this one, Zach, just sort of in this sort of mode of making sure we hear different people’s views, I asked a friend to come on. His name is Peter Morley, and we talked to him a little bit earlier about what it’s been like for him. This is an incredible guy, really inspiring, lives in New York, he has lupus, he has a number of other medical situations, too. But he’s always been incredibly positive. The thing about being on lupus these days is he takes hydroxychloroquine, which for those of you who have heard that name before, might recall that it’s the drug that President Trump was trumpeting for people to take for Covid-19. Unfortunately, that created massive shortages of the drug. And as that happened, that affected Peter pretty hard. Peter also, while he’s quite modest, has done an incredible amount of advocacy work on the Affordable Care Act and a bunch of other things. Just sort of telling his story. Really speaking for people with chronic conditions everywhere. I think people with chronic illnesses are particularly scared during this time. So we caught up with Peter a little bit earlier in the week.
[42:05] Peter Morley: My name is Peter Morley, I’m a patient and a patient advocate. I’m also a lupus warrior, and May happens to be Lupus Awareness Month. Reopening the economy, for me as somebody with chronic illness, the first word that comes to mind is “safety.” The safety of my own health and the safety of the health for millions of Americans who have underlying conditions and preexisting conditions that they live with every day. So to me, I don’t look at it as an economical issue. I look at it as a health issue. And, you know, I was asked by several of my doctors to remain indoors and to protect myself as much as I could. But I’ve been trying to venture out as well just to, you know, get some exercise and be in the world. But I say be patient. I can understand the cabin fever that’s been described, because there are times where I want to feel “normal.” I want to be that contributing member of society. I want to be able to be spontaneous and do the things that I want to do whenever I want to do them. But, you know, once the Covid-19 crisis is over, that’s still not going to be my life.
[43:45] Peter Morley: I’m still going to be the person who will be staying home the majority of the time for my own health, and going to doctors offices. And that is the majority of my life. So I do understand it very well. Hydroxychloroquine was first mentioned by President Trump as a rumor of a possible treatment for Covid-19. And for someone like myself, it couldn’t get any more personal. The people that normally take hydroxychloroquine are usually members of the autoimmune community. So for me, hydroxychloroquine prevents my organs from becoming inflamed and definitely slows down that progression. So for me, not having access to it could be deadly. I know we heard him speaking about Lysol and injecting bleach and UV rays and people thought that was ridiculous. But to me, that type of advice with the hydroxychloroquine was more horrifying and extremely personal. You know, in March, the day after President Trump had announced hydroxychloroquine as a potential magic bullet for Covid-19, there were 31,000 new prescriptions written. I’ve been on hydroxychloroquine since 2014 and I’ve always received it in 90-day supplies. And shortly after that press conference, I received 30-day supply. And I asked my pharmacist at that time or what happens in 30 days? And he said, I don’t know. And at this point, I’m in the process of getting it through an alternate method, through mail-order prescription, and I have not received it yet. And I never thought I would be somebody who would have to ration their medication. But here I am.
[46:13] Peter Morley: And sad to say, that I’m one of the lucky ones, because there are people in March who didn’t get even a 30-day supply. I try to do my best from my little apartment in Manhattan and trying to protect, you know, every American that I can with a preexisting condition and who is worried about getting their hydroxychloroquine. The Affordable Care Act protects 135 million Americans with preexisting conditions. Covid-19 is going to be a preexisting condition. And can you imagine how ironic that is? That Covid-19 will now be a preexisting condition, that if the ACA gets torn down, will not be covered? I just want everyone to remember this is only temporary, that we will get through this. We will persevere and we will rise above. Because we are all going through this together. And that’s the only way that we will get through this is together.
[47:38] Andy Slavitt: That was my friend Peter. Before we go, I want to just mention a couple of other things. First of all, we tried to do a FaceTime thing with my mom. It didn’t quite work out. I did get her on the phone, however, and she had a bunch of messages I think that she wanted to get out. So as our first recurring guest on In the Bubble, here’s my mom, Zach’s nana.
[48:03] Andy Slavitt: Hello. It’s your son and your grandson. Happy Mother’s Day.
[48:14] Andy’s mom: Thank you. Thank you. And please wish Lana a happy Mother’s Day.
[48:18] Andy Slavitt: We will. We’re sorry we can’t be with you today.
[48:21] Andy’s mom: Well, you’re always with me, whether we’re talking or looking at each other.
[48:27] Andy Slavitt: You watch me on the news.
[48:28] Andy’s mom: Always. I get to see you, I get to see your fashion sense, and admire all the brilliance that comes out of your mouth.
[48:37] Andy Slavitt: Well, thanks for making me change my jacket. I was getting lazy with that jacket. Anything special we can do for Mother’s Day?
[48:44] Andy’s mom: Well, I wanted to put a message up on my Twitter account. Whether someone’s a mother or not, today is a day for celebration for everyone, not just for mothers.
[48:54] Andy Slavitt: I think people will like that. And I will get you more followers for Mother’s Day. That will be our present.
[49:03] Andy’s mom: That is the best gift. I am really upset about people not having enough to eat. And I have donated to food banks. And I would love you if you did that for me, to chef José Andrés, I would think that was fabulous. I mean, I don’t like to see people suffer like this and it really breaks my heart.
[49:26] Andy Slavitt: We can do that. He does an amazing job. We’re going to have him on the podcast in a couple weeks, too. But yeah, that’s a great idea. We’ll make a special donation in your name to World Central Kitchen.
[49:35] Andy’s mom: Good. From all my family.
[49:41] Andy Slavitt: Well, we love you.
[49:42] Andy’s mom: I love you, too.
[49:52] Andy Slavitt: Thanks for joining us. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Beto and the episode this week. We have two great episodes next week, as we’ve been doing. We drop a mini-episode on Monday and we have a full episode next Wednesday. On Monday’s episode we have Kumail Nanjiani, comedian and actor. He’s great. And on Wednesday, we have Chelsea Clinton, who’s wonderful. And don’t forget to go back and listen to some of our old ones. Thanks for joining Zach and me here on In the Bubble.
[50:26] In the Bubble is a production of Lemonada Media. Niccole Galteland is our producer and Ivan Kuraev is our editor. Music is by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill. Zach Slavtii is our co-producer and my co-host. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me on social media at @ASlavitt on Twitter, @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you liked what you heard today, tell your family and friends, but tell them at a distance. For now, stay safe. Share some joy. We’ll get through this together. And #StayHome.