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Why Marianne Williamson thinks she can defeat Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson called climate change the country’s greatest moral challenge in an interview Thursday, spotlighting an issue at the center of the 2020 primary race.

The author and activist told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff that investing resources to combat climate change now would pay off in the future.

“I’d rather pay with money now than pay with our inability to breath 25 years from now, 50 years from now,” said Williamson, who supports the Green New Deal.

Williamson also said the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion services, needs to be repealed.

The remarks come as several states have pushed controversial bills limiting abortion services. The debate over abortion is playing out in the 2020 primary race as well. Former Vice President Joe Biden made headlines Thursday by reversing his support for the amendment.

Other highlights from the interview:

  • On military spending: Williamson criticized U.S. military spending as excessive, touching on an argument she makes in her new book, “A Politics of Love.” “Anybody who thinks that our military budget is based only on military considerations is fooling themselves. It is based at least as much on short-term profit maximization for defense contractors,” she said.
  • On creating a Department of Peace: Williamson reiterated her call for a new agency with the name the “Department of Peace,” which would deal with domestic peace-building efforts, including in neighborhoods grappling with violence. “We do not spend money and put our resources behind the factors that create peace, like expanding education for children and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering,” Williamson said.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we continue now our series of conversations with the candidates competing for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination.

    Joining us this evening is activist and bestselling author Marianne Williamson. Her latest book, "A Politics of Love," is on bookshelves now.

    Marianne Williamson, welcome to the "NewsHour."

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Thank you so much for having me.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So why are you the right choice for Democrats? I guess my first question is, won't Democrats want someone with elected office experience after President Trump?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    What Democrats want is someone tough enough to beat Donald Trump.

    And I think anyone who thinks it's as simple as someone tough enough to beat Donald Trump is very naive about the nature of the opponent. There are some people who are going to vote for Trump no matter what.

    But the presidential election, that is not enough to reelect him. What we have to get to are people who might have voted for him, but are at least disturbed enough to be open, and we need all those people who didn't vote to vote, and all those people who voted for Jill Stein to vote for us.

    And the only way to do that is to touch people's hearts. You know, the part of the brain that rationally analyzes an issue is not the same part of the brain that decides who to vote for.

    Donald Trump has had a psychological effect on people. He has had an effect on the human psyche within people, but it's very dark, and it is not amenable to change by strictly rational argument.

    I am someone who has had a career moving audiences. I'm someone who has had a career moving crowds and moving movements. I have a sense of what he has done. And the only way to defeat big lies is with some big truth.

    And so the skill he has, the light side of that is what I can do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me move you quickly through some questions.

    In this book, "A Politics of Love," you write that that is what the country needs right now, a politics, you write, that pays attention to the inner life and — quote — "Only in transforming our hearts will we be able to transform our world."

    What does that mean?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Well, Donald Trump won by touching the inner life. He harnessed fear. He harnessed hate.

    The only antidote to that, the only thing that can override that, is if you harness love for political purposes. There are far more people of decency and dignity and compassion and sense of mercy and justice in this country than there are haters, bigots, anti-Semites, racists, et cetera.

    But those people hate with conviction. The only way to override that is if those of us who love, love with conviction, are as willing to take a stand for the things that are right as some people have been willing to make a stand for things that are wrong.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, people who would say what you're talking about is something that belongs in the personal realm and the private realm, and not in the realm of politics, what would you say?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    I would say that that's a very new aberration, that, traditionally, the right ring focused on more on issues of private morality, but the left always focused on issues of public morality.

    Traditionally, issues of war and peace were seen as a pub — as a moral issue. Issues of unfair taxation, unfair economics, that's a moral issue.

    There are public issues that have just as much moral significance as private issues do. And it has been to the detriment of the Democratic Party that the Democrats have seemed to have forgotten that in the last few decades.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just quickly, The Washington Post, in writing about your decision to run, said it wasn't really a decision, after they talked to you. They said it was more like an epiphany. You were sitting on your bed. It was two years ago when a feeling washed over you.

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Yes. Yes. Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What does that mean?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Well, it means that somebody was trying to be snarky and minimize and marginalize and take me out of context and make me appear silly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, well, move on to some issues, climate change. You just saw at least part of our report on the different candidates.

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Many of the Democrats running do support the Green New Deal. You have said…

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Yes, I do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … you support it.

    But there are people out there, including Democrats, who are skeptical that the country can afford it right now, that it's going to take either higher taxes or it's going to come out of current funds somehow.

    So, my question is, where does this rank in all the things that you would like to do? You have got a pretty ambitious list out there, including health care, and I could go on down the list. Where is climate change in your list of priorities?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    It is the greatest moral challenge of our generation. I would rather pay with money now than pay with our inability to breathe 25 years from now, 50 years from now.

    I would rather pay with my pocketbook now than pay with my grandchildren's asthma 25 years from now. So, this is — this is nothing that we can afford. Some things — if you hear that your house is on fire, you don't get to say, well, I don't know if we can afford the damage. The house is on fire.

    And that is what is going on here. There is an urgency and an emergency to the issue of climate crisis that I think the American people will understand, with the right leadership to guide them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So many issues to ask you about.

    You say you are 100 percent pro-choice when it comes to abortion.

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Absolutely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Does that mean that you believe that government funds should be meant, should be available to poor women who are seeking an abortion?

    And I'm asking because…

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Should we repeal the Hyde Amendment?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … as you know, the Hyde Amendment prohibits this. This is something that Joe Biden says he agrees with.

    Where are you on this?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    I feel that we need to repeal the Hyde Amendment, and I disagree with Joe Biden on this.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, is that a disqualifier for him, do you think, for the nomination?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Well, I'm running, so the voter has to decide on whether or not it disqualifies him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me ask you about foreign policy.

    You also write in your book about what you call the militaristic madness. You say it's gripped this country since World War II, and it's become a — quote — "American character defect."

    My question is, do you think American military forces today are the right size? Should they be decreased? Should the United States always seek to have the strongest military force in the world?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    I have great respect for the military. My father fought in World War II. I think every American or any thinking person believes, of course, we have to have a strong military.

    I see the military like I see a surgeon. If we have to have surgery, we need to have the best surgeon. But, of course, a sane person tries to avoid surgery, if possible.

    I want what the military would say that they need to be the strong military that we need. Anybody who thinks that our military budget is based only on military considerations is fooling themselves. It is based at least as much on short-term profit maximization for defense contractors.

    Remember, the current head of the Defense Department was a 30-year executive at Boeing. This is not military decisions I have a problem with, with our military spending. It is political decisions that have nothing to do with U.S. security.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Separately, something else you write about — and you speak about this often — the need for a Department of Peace or peace creation. What does that involve?

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Even Donald Rumsfeld said, we must learn to wage peace. And General Mattis said, if you don't fully fund the State Department, I'm going to have to buy more ammunition.

    We have a $718 billion military budget and a $40 billion State Department budget. You can't just take medicine. You have to cultivate your health. You can't just endlessly prepare for war and hope you back up into peace.

    War is the absence of peace. Peace is not the absence of war. Diplomacy, mediation, development, the factors which, when present, statistically…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But aren't there other — I guess my question is, aren't there other departments already doing…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Well, no.

    What we have, within the $40 billion at the State Department, only fewer than a billion is spent on peace-building agencies. And USAID is $17 billion, and then the U.S. Institute of Peace is $36 million.

    You know, you — it's where you spend your money and where you put your resources. And we do not spend money and put our resources behind the factors that create peace, like expanding education for children and ameliorating unnecessary human suffering.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Marianne Williamson, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, thank you.

  • Marianne Williamson:

    Thank you very much.

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