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Town Hall with Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) Presidential Candidate. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 10, 2019 - 22:00   ET



BLITZER: Good evening, and welcome to a CNN Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Governor Inslee is framing his campaign around a single issue: Climate change. He says this is the 11th hour to solve the problem and if elected he'll make climate change the number-one priority of the United States.

Tonight, Governor Inslee will take questions from Democrats and independents who say they plan to participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Please welcome Governor Jay Inslee.

INSLEE: Hey, buddy.


Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right, thank you.

BLITZER: Please be seated. Governor Inslee, we've got a lot of questions for you from this audience, questions on climate change, a lot of other issues. I want to get right to the first question. That's from Edward Cascella. He's a student at American University here in Washington.

Edward, go ahead.

QUESTION: As a college student who studies environmental science, I don't understand why the White House has openly denied science and willingly proposes initiatives to bolster the United States production of coal. I'm afraid of what is to come if we don't act on climate now. I've yet to decide who I support for president in 2020, but what can you say to me and others in my generation that are on the verge of losing hope due to political inaction on climate change?

INSLEE: Well, Edward, let me help you decide who to vote for, for president of the United States.


I have some kindly words of wisdom. Before we do that, though, could we thank CNN and Wolf for what they're doing to help us make a rational choice for president?


Thank you, Wolf. Thank you.

Well, Edward, here's what I would tell you, and this is a little bit of personal advice. We know how dire this situation is. We know -- you and I know that we are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation, literally, who can do something about it.

So we know that this is a unique moment in American history, and actually in human history, because it's a moment of urgent peril, but it is also a moment of great promise where we can build a clean energy economy and put people to work by the millions defeating climate change.

And I believe it's actually very important -- and I appreciate you coming here tonight to talk about this -- because at the same time we have to be scientifically literate, we also have to understand something basic in the American character, and that is that we are a can-do people. We are an optimistic people.

We are the people that defeated fascism and went to the -- went to the moon. And people who have the capability of rallying to great challenges now can do the same thing, if we get inspiration from the White House like we got John F. Kennedy.

Now, I've been fighting this battle, Eduardo, for 20 years. So I know you've got to keep your spirits up. I will tell you something I've learned. You know what the most important renewable energy fuel is in America? It's perseverance. And we've got this big time. And now when we get a president of the United States that understands that wind turbines don't cause cancer, they cause jobs, OK -- they cause jobs...

BLITZER: Governor...

INSLEE: We'll know what to do.

BLITZER: Governor, you've called the Green New Deal, in your words, an "aspirational document." You embrace it in sentiment, but do you fully endorse it?

INSLEE: Well, I endorse exactly what is going on here, which is this has done three really beneficial things for America. Number one, it's got people talking about climate change. You know, this is one of the reasons I'm running. There was only four minutes of climate change in the last three presidential debates. I'm going to end that.

Number two, it has also raised people's ambition as to the scope of the challenge. Look, we have to decarbonize our entire economy in the next several decades. This is massive re-industrialization of America. And I think the Green New Deal has succeeded in helping people understand that. And third -- and this is really important -- it has led people to

recognize that we have to not -- to have not just a transition, we have to have a just transition to clean energy, where the first victims of climate change, which are marginalized communities, get help and communities of color. That has been a very successful thing.

BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Juliet Henry from Texas. She's studying communications at American University.


QUESTION: Hi. I was wondering if you could describe what a transition to a greener economy would actually look like? And also, what would you have to say to Americans who live in coal-, gas-, and oil-dependent economies?

INSLEE: Well, what it would look like is a presidency where we have someone who has made a pledge to the American people, that I will make you this pledge right now, if I am elected to this high honor, I will make defeating climate change the number-one priority of the United States.

And I believe I can accomplish that. And the reason is, is that now people are understanding the loss that people are suffering from this. It's interesting, I met a woman named Marsha Maus, I was at Seminal Springs, it was community -- beautiful little community of mobile homes that got devastated, over 100 homes. And after I was done touring it, this woman named Marsha Maus asked me to come to her house.

She showed me what was left of everything she owned. And she showed me, "My house is destroyed. I only have two things to sustain me right now. One is my driveway, because I built it." She had this beautiful little rock inlay she did. "And I'm proud of that."

"But the other thing that sustains me is hope that we're going to build clean energy future so that we reduce carbon dioxide so that the Western United States is not consumed by these forest fires." And she was happy that I provided her that hope.

That's what an administration looks like, 100 percent clean electricity, millions of new jobs, a just transition, and this, it is time to end the gravy train of giving $27 billion to the oil and gas industry of hard-earned taxpayer money. That money needs to go...


BLITZER: Governor, you just said 100 percent clean electricity, clean energy.

INSLEE: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: So what happens to the approximately 1.2 million Americans right now, still working fossil fuel extraction and power generation?

INSLEE: Yeah, and I appreciated her question, because I wanted to ask the second part of your question. It's a very important question. Look, one of the things we talk about in this is that we need a just transition. This is going to be a huge transition. We are a fossil fuel-based economy largely right now, and we know we're going to have to go to clean energy sources by the midcentury. This is just a scientific fact.

But while we do this, we have to make sure that people during that transition have opportunities along with everyone else. So we need to do the kind of things we've done in Centralia, Washington, where we are closing our last coal-fired plant, to have about a $55 million fund to help those employees in training and transition assistance, to help businesses where we can make sure that local economy continues to thrive, and give a transition period of several years so that there's not, you know, trauma for these families.

This is very important. But we know we can do this. And I'll tell you why. We are a country of unparalleled innovative talent. I know that in my state. We've invented digital, you know, economy, the first successful jet airplane, the artificial kidney machine. We even invented the $4 cup of coffee in Washington state.


And we know that there are going to be jobs aplenty. It's interesting, there are 3 million people -- you mentioned a million in fossil fuels -- there are 3 million people tonight working in clean energy in the United States. It's growing twice as fast as the rest of the U.S. economy. The most rapidly growing job in America is solar installer, and second is wind turbine technician.

This is a future that I believe is our destiny to grasp. And when we do it, we're going to bring everybody along. That's the American way, and I'm pledging that tonight.

BLITZER: Governor, we've got a question from Evan Brooks.


He's studying environmental science as a member of the College Democrats at the University of Maryland.

QUESTION: Hello, Governor Inslee. One of the strengths of your campaign is the environment. Unfortunately there's not been much information about your stances on several other issues. Recently, Nipsey Hussle, a well-respected community leader, activist and artist, was attempting to do good in his community, was tragically gunned down. How will attempt to fix the gun epidemic? And how will you improve gun violence in urban areas where gun violence is entrenched?

INSLEE: Well, this is something that is near to my heart, that I've been fighting now for over a quarter of a century. I've known that it is time to confront the NRA and develop commonsense gun legislation for a quarter of a century.

And I'll give you an example of that, because, you know, sometimes politicians talk and don't back up with action. Have you noticed this? Well, in 1994, when I was a freshman legislator, I was representing eastern Washington. It was a very Republican area, very agricultural area.

And a lot of hunting folks, a lot of racks in pickups, but we needed just a few votes to pass the assault weapon bill. And I knew if I cast that vote, I was probably going to lose my seat in Congress, which is hard to do because I liked it at the time.


And people said, look, you're going to lose your seat if you vote for this. I voted for that bill. I provided one of the critical votes to get it over the top. I lost my seat. But I have never regretted that vote because I do not believe any congressman's or politician's seat is more important than any child's life. And I fundamentally believe that.


BLITZER: Governor...

INSLEE: But we've done a lot more. We've passed three -- we have passed three major gun safety legislations by initiative in our state and we're not done yet. We are not going to back up against the NRA. We have them on the run. This country's moving forward to commonsense gun legislation. I'm glad to be part of that.


BLITZER: All right, we've got a question. Deanna Reder is a student focusing on psychology at Catholic University.

QUESTION: Given that Washington state has legalized marijuana, what is your view on legalizing marijuana across the country?

INSLEE: Thank you. And I missed your name. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Deanna Reder.

INSLEE: Deanna, listen, I appreciate that, because I'm happy to share Washington's experience, which is that we legalized marijuana several years ago, and the fears of a number, including myself -- I actually did not support the initiative when it came up several years ago because I was concerned about youthful usage -- but what we have found is that those fears have not come to pass.

And I am happy to share that with the rest of the world. We have not had adverse health results with our young people. We've not had ramping criminality in the distribution of marijuana. And it has been helpful by providing about $700 million of revenue so that we can help the health of our children in schools for our children.

So it has been an unalloyed success in the state of Washington. And it is my belief that it's time for the United States to decriminalize and legalize marijuana. I believe that very, very firmly. Now, this is just part of our effort to right some of the injustice in

our judicial system, too, because the drug war has been one of the elements of such racial disparities in our judicial system. And we need to bring justice back into the justice system. That's one of the reasons I was the first governor to offer pardons to over 3,000 people with marijuana convictions because the drug war has resulted in too much racial disparity.

So I hope we get the whole country to follow Washington's lead. By the way, I think that sounds like a theme: Follow Washington's lead. Look West for success. I kind of like that.


BLITZER: Governor, you mentioned the crime bill.


When you were a U.S. congressman, you voted in 1994 for the 1994 crime bill, which included stiffer penalties for drug crimes, contributing to the mass incarceration of a lot of people of color, as you know. Do you now regret that vote? And if elected, what would you do to make up for it?

INSLEE: Well, listen, that was a situation where many Democrats, including myself, believed that we needed some response to the epidemic of crime at the time. But I will tell you that -- this, if I knew then what I know now, I would not have cast that vote, because it has resulted in racial disparities in our system.

So since then, I have been very dedicated in helping to right the disparities that exist, and they didn't happen just because of that bill. They've been very deeply ingrained in our society. I'll just give you an example of the things I've done.

We know that the drug war has been one of the reasons for racial disparities. We know that having panels of just white folks when you've got a black defendant on a criminal trial is not a healthy thing, so we've changed our rules to try to get more diverse jury panels.

We have adopted what I think could be the template of a law to try to reduce police violence so we don't get so much police violence, particularly against people in the communities of color. And we are training people, police officers, in de-escalation tactics so they do not get involved in violence against communities of color.

All of these things are very important. Now, we're doing a bunch of other, more long-term efforts, as well, which we can talk about.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask you. As president, you would have the pardon power.


BLITZER: The power to pardon individuals. How far would you take that pardon power on this specific issue?

INSLEE: Well, I'd be very pressed to take it to Donald Trump, I'll tell you that. That would be very challenging.

No, on this issue, no, I have used the pardon power to try to right wrongs probably more aggressively than certainly my predecessors, where we have found untoward sentences, and I've also been working to reduce the time period of sentences.

I will tell you in my state, I think we have people for property crimes that are serving too long in jail when they could be having rehabilitation and training so that they don't have recidivism. And I've been frustrated because I've not been able to get my legislature to join me yet. But this is an ongoing effort. And I look forward to future success.


BLITZER: Governor, we've got a lot more questions for you. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee. Stay right here.



BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee. Governor, we've got another question, Sam Intrater, a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park. He's studying theater and politics.

QUESTION: Good evening, Governor.

INSLEE: Good evening.

QUESTION: Donald Trump ordered thousands of children to be permanently taken from their parents in an evil act of intentional cruelty. How can the Democrats justify failing to impeach Trump for this? And haven't the Democrats normalized this conduct by failing to impeach him?

INSLEE: Tough question. This is a tough question, because we know his multiple outrages. Look, when I heard about this child separation, my blood just wanted to boil. And you ask Trudy, she's been married to me for 46 years, and she thinks that was the hottest I've ever been, so -- in a bad way.


So, I mean, really, this just makes you so angry. I had the same thing when I heard about the Muslim ban. I was actually getting on my bike to go for a ride and my chief of staff called me and said they're banning Muslims from coming in from Seattle International Airport. I just said, you're kidding me? And that -- so I got off, went down to Sea-Tac, tried to help those families to become reunited. And it was quite a scene, too, because there were actually like

husbands 50 feet away from giving their wife a hug after not seeing them, and then Donald Trump's policies have separated them. So this is a really hard issue. And I have not faced it, because I'm a governor. I don't exactly have that.

I believe the current situation right now is we should have a dramatic, engaged, concerted, energetic, and successful effort in November 2020 to make Donald Trump a blip in history. That's what I believe. And I believe that is today -- today.


Today, I think that is the most fruitful and potentially successful, because just filing articles of impeachment, as you know, doesn't solve the trick. You have to have a conviction in the Senate. So for my money at the moment, we're doing what we should do, which is to get ready to remove this person from this high office and remain very vigilant about getting information, because it may turn out a lot more dark things that we don't know about yet. We're not done with this investigation.

You know, for instance, they just discovered a black hole. Did you see the picture, the first black hole they've ever taken a picture of it? We think Donald Trump's tax returns are in there somewhere. So...




INSLEE: That's why we need those tax returns.

BLITZER: You mentioned the travel ban. Your state, Washington state, has been very aggressive in confronting President Trump on the travel ban, family separation at the border, weakening of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. Do you see yourself as part of the so-called resistance?

INSLEE: Not just part of it, but I like to think of myself as a leader of it, because he has offended so many values that offend my state and injure my people.

Look, this is serious business. We have provided 800,000 people health insurance because of Obamacare, thanks to the leadership of President Barack Obama. And we have 20,000 people who are getting treatment for opioid problems. So we have this opioid crisis, and this person in the White House, for only political reasons, wants to strip my citizens of health care.

And I have trouble thinking of a more venal thing to actually try to do. And I hope he's not successful. So we have been fighting him. We have sued him as much or more than any other state. And I'm proud to stand here to tell you that we are 18-0. We have beat him 18 times in a row in the courts.


BLITZER: Governor, continuing on health care, which is obviously so critically important, I want to bring in Laura Kaplan-Weisman, a family physician from Maryland. She's member of Our Revolution, that's a political group aligned with Senator Bernie Sanders. Laura?

QUESTION: Yeah, I'm a primary care physician. Many of my patients who have survived life-threatening illness have subsequently experienced medical bankruptcy, some even having to move to a homeless shelter, due to exorbitantly high medical bills. On review of your public option plan for Washington state, it is unclear how this crisis can be prevented. How would you reform our health care system to prevent medical bankruptcy?

INSLEE: Well, as you noted in our state, Laura, we are going to be hopefully the first state to have a public option, and it's one step -- just one step forward, which would provide the state to provide a mechanism to get insurance for those who don't have access to the private markets or Medicaid. And I'm very hopeful that this can be an example for the rest of the country.

And I do think there is a little bit of a refrain tonight, because I do believe my state can be a template for a lot of things, including health care. But that won't be the end of it. We will have to expand federal health care dramatically. I believe we should lower the age for Medicare. I believe we should allow people to buy into Medicare so you can have Medicare for people who want it right now. I think we should explore potentially enrolling, you know, new folks into health care when they're born.

So there is much more to be done in the health care realm. But I will share this with you. We are not going to be able to get health care done, or anything else for that matter, unless we get rid of the filibuster. And I was the first candidate in this race running for president to be very unequivocal about this. If the filibuster is still in Mitch McConnell's hand come 2021, all hope is sort of down the tubes to be able to do real, significant reform.

So I am telling you, if I am given this high honor, I will lead the charge to end this senatorial privilege, which is an ancient artifact of a bygone time, and let's get some health care reform and climate change legislation and reform the United States of America. That's what I'm pledging to do.


BLITZER: Governor, we have a question from Julia Wunning-Zimmer. She's originally from Missouri but now a sophomore at American University, studying political science and public relations. Julia?

QUESTION: Hi. As a student working three jobs to pay for an incredibly expensive school in order to have a successful career in the future, I am terrified about how I will pay off my loans in the future. So how will you help me and the hundreds of thousands of other students like me with our growing student debt?

INSLEE: Julia, I know how tough this is. It's such a burden. I can't imagine -- it's tough enough going out into a job market looking for your first job and having to put on a clean shirt, and that's a lot of anxiety. So having this burden is something I know your generation is really struggling with.

What I would suggest is that I would hope the things that we have done in our state, again, could be a model for success in the United States. So one of the things we've done is we've reduced tuition. And tuition is one of your burdens. We haven't cut it in half, but we've reduced it. This is a small help.

Secondly, we have dramatically increased access to financial aid, and we've done it in a really smart way. We've probably 20 percent or 30 percent increase eventually we will have as to the number of students who are getting financial aid.

And I'm proud of our state because I think they've done it the right way. We have targeted the financial aid to those who were really most in the need, which are the lower, you know, quintile or quartile of our students. And we've given them not just free tuition, but we've given them the full meal deal, because it takes a lot more than tuition -- free tuition doesn't solve the problem. You have to be able to eat when you're going to school and you have to be able to buy books and take care of your transportation needs.


So our plan is really probably the richest in America, and that is a template for success that I hope to follow as president of the United States.

BLITZER: Governor, when you finished high school, you got accepted to a great school, Stanford University, California, you went there for a year, but you couldn't afford to stay there without taking out some student loans, so you decided you would leave rather than take out the loan, why?

INSLEE: Basically, I'm kind of a cheap guy when it gets right down to it.


Really, I loved Stanford. I had a great year there. Got to play freshman basketball but did not win a scholarship. So that was out of the question. And I actually don't know if I could have obtained enough student loans. I didn't really check, to be honest with you.

But I did go up then to the University of Washington, which is another great school, and majored in economics, then went to Willamette Law School, and then went to -- tried to build a school in Selah, Washington, and we had trouble passing the bond issue, and we passed it on the seventh try. And as soon as we passed it on the seventh try, the knuckleheads in the legislature cut the funding, like in half. And that didn't seem right to me. So I decided to run for the legislature. And I was prompted by this

issue of education. And that's why I can tell you that one of my proudest, really, achievements I think is in the last few years we've had huge increases of early childhood education, huge increases in financial aid, and maybe the best of all, I've made sure that our teachers get an average of a 12 percent wage, so we can keep those great teachers in the classroom. They don't all go to Amazon or Microsoft. That's an educational agenda that started back here at the University of Washington.

BLITZER: Companies close to your heart.


BLITZER: We're going to take another quick break. We're going to be back with much more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee. Stay right here. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee. Governor, we have another questioner, Robert Norwood, he's originally from Iowa, now studying at American University.

QUESTION: Good evening. When it came to the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the U.S. was one of the last countries to do so. If you were in President Trump's position, how would have you handled the situation?

INSLEE: Robert, I really appreciate that question, and it's a difficult one, because this has been very difficult. I come from sort of a Boeing neighborhood and families. My best friend's dad was a Boeing engineer on the 727. My uncle was a manager. My cousins are Boeing. So this has been a very painful thing for the people who make these airplanes.

But I have to tell you, I would have grounded these jets much sooner. And don't hold me totally to this, because I didn't have all of the briefing, but I would have given serious consideration to grounding them after the first loss. And the reason is, is that it appeared to me at the time that there was sufficient evidence of a significant malfunction to warrant that.

I do not believe the administration acted with the alertness that they should have. And I just feel terribly about this loss. I'm very hopeful that the Boeing Company will succeed in fixing this problem. I know that they will make every commitment to do so.

And I just have to tell you that one of the kind of overlaying concerns about this incident is that this administration has so frequently turned over the entire federal government to lobbyists for the regulated industries that it's very difficult to have confidence in anything they do. Look, in the Interior Department, they turned over our favorite public

lands to a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, and now we're seeing wholesale removals of laws that protect us in the United States. And that has created such justifiable doubt that in any hard decision like this, how could you trust this administration? I think it's time for a change in the White House so that you can trust somebody there to make good decisions.


BLITZER: Governor, we have a question from another -- a question about another big employer in your state, Washington state. I want to bring in Christian Quigley from Massachusetts, a student at Catholic University. He's also the vice president of the school's College Democrats. Christian?

QUESTION: Sir, as the governor of the state where multiple multibillion-dollar companies have been founded, such as Amazon, how do you feel about these companies going out to districts and saying they want to provide jobs, yet they really want to receive tax breaks?

INSLEE: Very disturbed by this. And I have to tell you that we have a very unfortunate situation for citizens across the United States, and that is large corporations now can basically threaten the taxpayers, saying if you don't give me a few million dollars' tax breaks, we'll move your jobs to a different location. It can also force communities to compete against one another to see who can give them the sweetest deal on tax breaks.

I just do not believe that's healthy for the economy. And I do not believe it is just for citizens and taxpayers. So I believe we have to find a way to stop this pernicious process.

And one of those ways, and we're still thinking about this, but we may be able to use the federal tax code to make it that corporations can't do this because they'd essentially have some tax exposure if they ended up gutting taxpayers because they've threatened them with this sort of extortion. So I think we've got to think about ways to attack this.

BLITZER: Governor, I want to go back to Boeing for a moment. It's a sensitive issue. In 2013, you offered the company, Boeing, based in Washington state, an $8.7 billion tax break to maintain and grow its workforce in Washington State, but what followed was four straight years of job cuts at Boeing.


Even with a slight uptick in 2018, Boeing still has fewer employees than it did before you enacted that tax break. Did you make a bad deal?

INSLEE: I made an unfortunately necessary deal. And this is one of the things we just talked about, this question. Boeing should not have been able to threaten the state of Washington to move 20,000 jobs out of our community. We're the best place to make airplanes and have been for many decades. But they threatened my state and 20,000 jobs unless they got certain tax benefits. I liken that as kind of extortion, in a sense. And I don't think that's right. I think we should be protected from that type of behavior.

Now, my job is to help grow jobs in the state of Washington. And fortunately, we're doing quite well. We've been listed as the best place to do business by CNBC and the best place to be an employee by Oxfam. And we've got the greatest GDP growth and the greatest wage growth in the United States. So we have been able to be successful because we have had successful job-creating opportunities in part through clean energy.

Just one other comment of something I think the rest of the country will find of interest. You know, the Republicans basically say that if you do anything for working families, you'll crater your economy. Well, guess what? Washington state, since I've been governor, now has the highest minimum wage in the United States with the most rapid period of GDP growth in the United States.

We have blown up the Republican theory of trickle-down economics. We're building a middle class. We know that we build an economy the middle out, not the top down. This is what we're doing in Washington state, and it's working big time.


BLITZER: Governor, I want to bring in Joseph Kitchen. He's an administrator at a school here in Washington, D.C. He's president of the Young Democrats of Maryland. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2016 for Hillary Clinton.

QUESTION: Good evening, Governor.

INSLEE: Good evening.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about your state. In 2013, your legislature failed to pass a budget agreement on time. You and the legislature were forced to call two additional legislative sessions to get to agreement. It happened again in 2017. And as of today, with a deadline of April 28th, you still have not reached a budget agreement. After 34 hard days of failing to reach a budget agreement here in Washington, why should we believe that you would do better?

INSLEE: Well, I will tell you one thing for sure, Donald Trump would not have done better in Washington state. I will tell you that for sure. And there is no reason to believe that he would have been more successful corralling legislators to reach an agreement.

This has been very frustrating to me, in part because I've had the great pleasure of having a Republican majority in my Senate until very, very recently, and that has made reaching agreement very, very difficult. And I have found you just need to be persistent to make sure that you finally get consensus.

But I will tell you something that, as far as the nature of your question, why you should be confident I can get this job done, well, I've been a leader with a Republican Senate. We were able to pass the largest transportation package in the history of the state on a bipartisan basis. Even though the Republicans said no for four years, I just kept at it.

We were also able to pass the largest educational budget where we put several billion dollars with a teacher pay increase of 12 percent a year into our budget, again, on a bipartisan basis.

So I am able to work where necessary and where appropriate for Republicans. But I will tell you this, I'm never going to surrender a woman's right of choice to the Republicans. I'm never going to go backwards when I've eliminated the death penalty and I'm firm in my conviction. I'm not going to go backwards when they want to repeal gun laws. I'm not going to go backwards when they want to repeal minimum wage and the best paid family leave in America. I'm sticking with that.


BLITZER: All right, Governor. We're going to take another quick break. We'll be right back with more from CNN's Democratic president town hall with Governor Jay Inslee.



BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee. Governor, I want to bring in Micah Cohen. He's getting a master's degree at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies here in Washington, my alma mater. Go ahead.


QUESTION: Governor Inslee, President Trump has taken a sledgehammer to the global security order established by the United States and its allies decades ago. He's attacked NATO, undermined our alliance with South Korea, and cozied up to dictators around the world. What will you do to restore American leadership and credibility in the international arena?

INSLEE: Well, defeat Donald Trump, which I'm ready to do. That's number one. It's the first thing we've got to do.


And by the way, I'm pretty confident about that. I believe that I'm a perfect matchup against him, because I'm a very optimistic person and he's a very pessimistic person. I believe in the ability of America to do big things. He thinks he wants to crawl down and just put a wall around us.

I believe we're technologically oriented, and he refuses to invest in new energy technologies. So I do believe actually I'm a very good contrast. But in answer to your question, I have a fundamental disagreement with Donald Trump. He has a worldview, if I was going to categorize it, of thinking that for him to win, somebody else has to lose. And I really believe he extends that to our international policies, so that the only way he believes America can succeed if another country somehow is subjugated or loses some treaty right or isn't able to exercise their dignity.

And that's just a really dangerous policy, because it has, as you've indicated, damaged us in our international relations.


The decision to void the Iran deal, which was a very carefully calibrated effort, to rein in and is our best hope to prevent a dangerous Iran.

His effort to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, you know, he's made this big argument that, you know, China and India should do more for climate change. It's not exactly going to be inspiring them for them to do more if we decide to do less.

So this is really a dangerous position he has put the United States in, not to mention the national security threats associated with climate change. I met with admirals and generals in Seattle a few weeks ago, and they were telling me that the Pentagon's hair is on fire about the mass migrations that are going to happen because of climate change creating political instability.

So I do believe he has reduced our national security, not increased it. I would have a diametrically opposed position.


BLITZER: Governor, I want to bring in Matt Fitzpatrick, an associate professor of ecology at the University of Maryland, the Center for Environmental Science. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Wolf. Governor Inslee, some people have argued that nuclear power as a proven low-carbon energy source should be part of our strategy to fight climate change. Do you see nuclear power fitting into the U.S.'s strategy for addressing climate change? And if so, how do we develop nuclear safely, affordably, and with proper waste disposal?

INSLEE: Well, I think the question shows why you're a good professor, because you know what the issues are here, which is -- look, I believe that the urgency is so great and the time period so short to decarbonize our economy that we need to be open to any low-cost or low-carbon or zero-carbon technology. That includes nuclear.

But, as you've pointed out in your question, there would have to be four things happen before nuclear power would be able to become a major part of our portfolio. It would have to become cost-effective, which it is not. It would have to be much safer with passive safety systems, which have not yet been developed. It would have to solve the waste problem with the waste stream. And it would have to win public acceptance.

So my view is, it is appropriate to make R&D investments to determine whether any of those or all of those can be surmounted. I think that's a proper investment. And I'll look forward to your thoughts after the show.

BLITZER: Governor, I want to ask you about an idea to fight climate change that sounds sort of like science fiction, it's called geoengineering. This could be sucking carbon from the atmosphere or reflecting heat away from the Earth to cool the planet. Should taxpayers pay, taxpayers fund these potential ideas?

INSLEE: Well, as I've indicated, this is such a challenge that we are going to need to do research and development on things that may not have a probability of success. We're going to have to make some R&D investments like we do frequently on technologies, some of which don't pan out.

I do believe that carbon sequestration measures, for instance, finding a way to sequester carbon in topsoil, so that farmers can be part of this effort to do no- and low-till drill so that we can get carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere into the topsoil, for instance, or into our forests and our timber. I think those things make sense.

And we need to dramatically increase our R&D. Look, a few years ago, I checked, we were spending more money on R&D on one Jeep than the entire clean energy budget of the United States. This has to be an effort like when we defeated fascism and like we went to the Moon, which required major, major R&D.

Now, can I take a minute and tell you why I'm running for president? Is this appropriate?

BLITZER: One minute.


INSLEE: Look, I have loved being governor of the state of Washington. It's a very successful state. I've been a very successful governor. I think it's a template for how we can build an economy in the U.S.

But this -- this is such a threat to my grandchildren. I've got three grandkids. And I know they're going to live a very degraded life and will not enjoy what I have enjoyed in the state of Washington, which is salmon in the rivers and clean air to breathe and snow in the mountains and being free from infectious diseases. And I know to a moral certainty that they will live a degraded life.

So I've decided to run for president to make sure that this is the number-one priority of the United States and to make sure that the Democratic Party has this in its sights when we nominate a person to run for this esteemed office. And I've committed myself body and soul to that effort. That's why I'm running for president of the United States.

[22:50:00] Yes, this is an economic growth issue of clean energy. But it is a moral issue very close to my heart. And that's why I'm in this race. And I mention this because if any of you happen to share that view, I hope you will make sure I'm on the stage in the debates in June. And to do that, we need 65,000 people to make some financial contribution at to make sure climate change is on the debate stage in June.

If you believe it should be on the debate stage, tell your friends they can go to and we'll get this debated. Thank you.


BLITZER: Governor, we're going to take another quick break, but we have more that's coming up, more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Governor Jay Inslee. Governor, I want to bring in Maureen Coffey. She works in consumer financial protection in Virginia. She's also a member of the Arlington Young Democrats.

QUESTION: Hi, Governor Inslee. So, recently several foreign countries have stopped purchasing our recyclable plastic waste, which means that a lot of what we're putting in recycling bins now never actually gets to the point of being recycled. How can we fix our broken recycling system?


INSLEE: Maureen, you know, I thought I had the answers to every question, but I do not have an answer to that. But next time we meet, I'm going to have a better approach.

I know that I have a team of people who are looking for options on this. We know how important this is.

But I will say, just to riff on the kind of nature of your question, we've got to stop making products that end up having to be recycled, much less in a landfill.


And that involves -- and that involves redesigning our systems, our packaging systems. I know that some of the big companies in my state are starting to do some major research to do that. We would like to support that research.

We know that plastics are such an enormous environmental problem. The horrific stories we hear of our whales who are ingesting plastic in this regard, it suggests we have a lot of work to do. And I believe I'm up to it.

BLITZER: Governor, I want to bring in Mario Santo Domingo. He's studying government and politics at the University of Maryland.

QUESTION: Hi, Governor.


QUESTION: Primaries often involve litmus tests that assess whether or not a candidate is ideologically pure enough to be nominated. But it is possible for a candidate to agree with some part of the opposing party's platform. I'm going to ask you a contrarian question. Is there any policy from the Republican Party platform that you agree with? Why or why not?

INSLEE: Yes. I firmly believe in the Republican's approach that they insist that we have elections every four years for president so we can get another president, OK?



We need one.

Mario, if I can, if I can, let me come back to this issue. Both of a filibuster and why we have such -- I have such prioritization on climate change, and it has to do some degree with the Republican Party.

We have to understand, it's been very disappointing. The Republican Party has refused to embrace any meaningful way to combat climate change. We know we have a climate denier who calls climate change a hoax in the White House.

And so because of that resistance, I know this with a political certainty. If this is not job one of defeating climate change, it will not get done. This cannot be just -- you know, you have a to-do list on your refrigerator? We just can't have our nominee just have it on the to-do list. It's got to be on the top. Otherwise we will not succeed in doing this, because we have to understand that we don't have any support from the Republican Party at the moment.

I would hope that will change. Won't it be a great day when a Teddy Roosevelt appears in the Republican Party? I would like to see that.


BLITZER: You know, very quickly, Governor, former President Barack Obama said the other day he was worried about rigidity among the Democratic candidates, the progressive Democrats. He said sometimes Democrats create a circular firing squad when someone has strayed from purity on the issues. Is he right?

INSLEE: Well, I don't know what President Obama was referring to, so I'll withhold judgment. But I do think President Obama, who -- look, he's a hero of mine. What he did for health care was truly magnificent. That was an act of leadership. What he did for climate change in his executive orders now and making

sure we get off coal power in an appropriate transition period, protecting clean water. By the way, the Trump administration today tried to announce they're going to take away -- try to take away our state's ability to protect clean water that has been historically the state's. 333

So I'm a huge admirer of his. I think he ought to be given the privilege of assuming a little bit of senior leader status, which on occasion allows you to drop pearls of wisdom before folks and hope that they will follow them.

And I think it is appropriate to kind of ask us all to be in a consensus-building mode in all groups, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives. This is how you get things done. So I'm going to follow his advice, and I look forward to singing his praises everywhere I go.

BLITZER: Governor, thank you so much for joining us at this CNN Democratic presidential town hall.

I want to thank our studio audience, as well. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Don Lemon will moderate our next CNN Democratic presidential town hall with former Housing Secretary Julian Castro. "CNN Tonight" starts right now. (APPLAUSE)