This conversation was hosted by Mary S. Hartman, University Professor and Director of the Institute for Women's Leadership consortium, Douglass College, Rutgers University and Ruth B. Mandel, Board of Governors Professor of Politics and Director, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University.
HARTMAN: Let's start out with your imagination as a child. One of the things that we're always interested in when we talk with achieving women such as yourself is how did it all get going. What do you regard as the key influences on your life and the way you saw the world when you were a child? Who made that difference in giving you the aspiration and the confidence to begin to do what you've done?
BRAUN: Well, I think that, well, my family, of course, but my father and my aunt were the adventurers who convinced me that I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I just had to set my mind on a goal and work to get there. I wanted to be an adventurer. I loved the swashbucklers, the old Errol Flynn movies, you know, and even remember having an early conversation with my mother in which I said I was going to stow away on a tramp steamer and see the world. She responded with, "Girls don't do those sorts of things."
BRAUN: I was furious. Like, "What do you mean girls don't stow away on tramp steamers and see the world?" I mean, why not? That "why not" question has driven everything, the "why not." If it's right, if it's proper, if it's appropriate, if it fits and comports with what you believe then why not? For me, I think the part of the blessing and the curse has been that I have never let race or gender be part of the "why not" for me. To say that you can't do something because you are a black person has never been an excuse, a legitimate reason in my world view. To say you can't do something because you are a girl has never been a legitimate reason in my world. I say both blessing and curse because you have to be mindful of those boundaries. You have to be mindful of convention sufficient even to position yourself appropriately when you are going to defy them.
HARTMAN: When did you first have the sense that, Hey, you know, I could be a leader, or some version of that? When you were in grade school?
HARTMAN: When you were in high school? How did you view yourself or what you could do?
BRAUN: I will tell you something. That has been one of the more difficult aspects of my own sense of self because I never really saw myself as a leader.
HARTMAN: In our interviews, this has been a common theme -
BRAUN: Has it?
HARTMAN: -with incredibly achieving women such as yourself - I never saw myself as a leader. Pat Schroeder said, "I don't see myself now as a leader."
BRAUN: Yes, yes. That was not something that I aspired to be or that was, again, the goal. It was always a matter of what can I do to express my vision, my world view, my sense of propriety. What can I do to contribute? What can I do to reach out? What can I do to help other people? Quite frankly, I think that helping others came very much out of the kind of moral upbringing, to use the word, because we were raised to believe that that was how you found value in this life, was what you gave back.
MANDEL: Did you have, am I right, a brother and a sister? Were there three of you?
BRAUN: No, there were four of us.
MANDEL: There were four of you?
BRAUN: Yes. I have one brother who is deceased. My brother who is with us is a police detective, Chicago Police Department.
MANDEL: Is that following your father?
HARTMAN: Your father was, too, yes.
BRAUN: Joe is the detective. He is a sergeant now so that's, like, got rank in the detectives or whatever that's called. My sister, Marsha, is a lawyer also. She does consumer protection law.
MANDEL: She is younger than you?
BRAUN: She is younger. Both of them are younger.
MANDEL: So she was inspired to—I mean, when you went to law school, not that many women were going to law school yet. It was that moment when the idea began to appeal to more women or at least the idea that it was possible.
BRAUN: Well, in my case, it's funny. I actually wanted to be an art historian. That was my interest. My father, who was himself a frustrated lawyer. His mother, in fact, never forgave my mother for marrying.... When my father married my mother, he was in law school, and the fact that he never finished law school was like a major deal in our family. My grandmother, paternal grandmother, never forgave my mother for it because as far as she was concerned it was all Edna's fault that he didn't become a lawyer. So, this is kind of floating around in the house so when I got ready to graduate from college and didn't know what I was going to do next—
MANDEL: What did you major in?
BRAUN: Political science and history and economics and sociology. I took all of those kind of...but I had wanted to go to UC in art history and had started talking about it because I liked history. I liked history and art history just fit with the other interests that I had. My father convinced me that I couldn't make a living as an art historian. That is where, frankly, the law school idea came from. He kind of nudged me in that direction.
MANDEL: It's interesting how many of us, even back then, had fathers who thought that we, as daughters, would have to make a living and didn't assume that a living would be made for us. I mean, majored in English and I loved to read. My father was the one who said to me, it is great that you love to read, but you can't make a living majoring in English.
MANDEL: I did it anyway, but he said that and he assumed I had to, I guess.
BRAUN: Well, again, remember, that culturally in terms of the black community, it was an automatic assumption. That is actually kind of an underlying theme that even has some problematic aspects to it because no black woman starts off with the notion that she is going to be taken care of, not even in the fairy tales. It was just not, right? So the assumption always was, in fact, if anything, the pressure on the girls in black families often is more severe than it is even on the boys, which is tragic because what it winds up doing is giving you men who are themselves—well, I'm not going to go down this road, that is going to get me in trouble, but you see what I'm saying. It is very difficult. So for all of us, the idea that you had to get yourself ready to take care of yourself was, like, just an assumption. Now, how you did that was the ultimate question. In my case, like I said, my father just couldn't envision me making a living doing art history. Now, he's wrong. In hindsight, I could have gone to work for Sotheby's or Christie's or something and gone around the world and hung out with all these high-flown art people, but at the time that's what he saw.
HARTMAN: Did you have a circle of friends in law school? Were there women among your classmates or others with whom you were able to relate and help you get through some of the tough moments there, and then how did you, it's not automatic if you are training in the law, that you think, "government"? How did that happen in your life, too?
BRAUN: Well, there weren't many women in my class.
MANDEL: What year, let's state it on the record the year you entered law school. The early 70s?
BRAUN: No, '69.
BRAUN: Yes. I graduated law school in '72 so I started in '69. There weren't a whole lot of women. One of the women, in fact, who I kind of lost contact with, is actually very active in Washington D.C.—Esther Ferster, she was at the time, Esther Lardent, was a friend in law school. I made friendships, yes, with women in the class, some of which remain and stayed active and others which fell by the way. But, the other women in the class were very helpful. We also had a woman—at the University of the Chicago we had a slightly different situation because we had a woman professor. Her name was Soia Mentschikoff. In hindsight, I think Soia really did mentor me in ways that I don't think I fully appreciated or understood at the time. I think having a woman professor who was able to be both supportive and critical. Soia was a tough, the old Brunhilde mold. At the same time, having her pay attention to what was going on with me and my legal training was very important. Then you mentioned the government, well, that actually happened—that was largely serendipity. I had an offer coming out, obviously the law school was a very prestigious one, and I had an offer from a big, prestigious firm when I came out of law school that I turned down so as to do community work, or what I thought was community work. I signed up with a little boutique law firm, and we were going to do work, housing stuff for poor people. It turned out that they weren't really doing housing stuff for poor people, they were just building houses and making themselves not poor people. I went, "Wait a minute, what's wrong with this picture?" I bombed. It was a horrible, not horrible, it was just a work experience that didn't really fit. The people were very nice, but it was just not a go on any level. Then my husband, I met my husband at the law school. He knew a guy who was an assistant United States attorney. The U.S. Attorney's office was run by Republicans at the time. I didn't realize the politics of it, frankly, but they were in a hiring mode. He said, "Well, come on down and apply at the U.S. Attorney's office." I did, and Michael, my husband—we weren't married at the time —Michael encouraged me to do it. When I went for the interview, I sat across from the fellow who was the U.S. attorney and later became a very famous lawyer, actually served on the 9/11 Commission, one of the members of the commission.
BRAUN: Jim Thompson. I remember sitting across from him, and you get to the questions, "Are there any skeletons or anything that we ought to know that might be embarrassing to you or to the government?" I said, "Well, my father was an activist." "No, that's not a problem." I forgot what the second thing was, and then I said, "And I'm living with a guy." That was the second thing, I'm living with a guy. They were like, "Oh, my God." I hung my head and said, "And he's white." Thompson jumped out of his chair and said, "That's all right, that's all right." For the next couple of weeks, it was, "When are you guys getting married? We can't hire you until you get married." I said, "We're planning to get married anyway, in August," and we did so we got married and I started work the Monday after I came back from my honeymoon.
MANDEL: What did your husband do?
BRAUN: He's a lawyer. We met in law school.
MANDEL: Oh, okay, that's right. Sorry.
BRAUN: He's actually from this part of the world. He's from Westfield, New Jersey.
MANDEL: Is that right?
MANDEL: You had a son?
MANDEL: Get that on the record, too. Who is now...
BRAUN: He's in graduate school at U of C. He's a computer scientist. He's in computer science.
MANDEL: He hasn't so far, at least, followed in the steps of his parents?
BRAUN: I think he will. I'm convinced that he will. I keep telling him that, and his father keeps telling him, "Go get a job, you don't need to go to school anymore." I keep saying, "Matt, go to law school and get it over with."
MANDEL: So you worked for the U.S. Attorney's office and tell us, because I do want to make sure that we talk about the various elective and appointed offices, because you have a broad experience and a very important one and an historic one. You started out in that favorite of all places, the legislature. How did that happen? How did you go from–
BRAUN: From the U.S. Attorney's office?
MANDEL: How did you get the idea to run for state legislature?
BRAUN: Well, I didn't exactly. Again, this is all just life. This is my own path, I guess. I worked in the U.S. Attorney's office, I think I stayed there for almost four years, left when I was going to have my son. I became a homemaker. I wasn't a homemaker—it's funny because you look back and when I look at the actual dates, I wasn't at home as long as I thought I was.
MANDEL: It felt long.
BRAUN: Felt long, well, not even felt long, but I actually enjoyed it. It may not be politically correct to say it, but I really liked that stuff. I enjoyed having dinner parties and spending my day taking the baby out in the stroller and walking in the park. We lived in an area of Chicago that was surrounded by parks so I would go up to the park with the baby and go to the museum and piddle around in the neighborhood. I was running a household. It was a lovely part of my life. It was a lovely time. I was pushing Matt down the street one day in his carriage, and one of my neighbors, who was also a stay-at-home mom, came out and said, "We're going to protest the park district's decision to build a golf driving range up in Jackson Park." I said, "Oh, really?" She said, "Yes, why don't you come over tomorrow and join us?" It turned out the park district was going to build a golf driving range in this area of the park where the species of ricebirds who were very rare in Chicago—I say "who" and not "that"—they were very rare in Chicago where they lived, the bobolinks. It was going to run the bobolinks out and destroy their habitat so we were all very upset about this. We went out and, in fact, I still have a picture of a local community newspaper that shows me with a sign: Park District No, Bobolinks Yes. We were protesting the bobolink removal. I joined the protest with my neighbors, including some of the birdwatchers and the people who were interested in park issues and that was the end of that. We lost. The park district built the golf driving range, but we did what we could. Some people say we chained ourselves to trees; we didn't, really, but it was one of those things. But then our state representative retired a few months later. I was sufficiently not part of the political establishment that when the same woman had a retirement party for the state rep, I wasn't invited. She had a party at her house for Bob—Bob Mann was his name—for Bob Mann, and I wasn't part of that circle so I found out about it the next day. I'm pushing Matt down the street again, and she says, "Oh, you know I had a party for Bob Mann last night. He's retiring as state rep." I said, "Oh, that's really nice. He's a good guy." She said, "Oh, yes, he's terrific. We're going to be looking for a candidate to replace him, and I think you'd be terrific." I said, "Not me, what do you mean?" I had all these excuses: I don't know anything about politics, I've got a young baby, white husband, and all these things.
HARTMAN: You were how old?
BRAUN: I was 30, maybe 31.
MANDEL: I can fill that in for you, I guess, because we had just done a project about young elected officials. Taking a look for the first time at how many people come into office, elective office, under age 35. I'm attuned to this now, and when I was looking at the chronology in preparation for this conversation, I thought, there she was at age 31. She was in the legislature. You were part of a very small group of people—not only a women, not only African-American, but also you went into office at an early age. You were elected to the legislature when you were only 31.
BRAUN: That is about right because I date it in connection with when I had Matt, you see. I was young. The naiveté is just, when I look back, it is just stunning.
MANDEL: What was the most naïve you were about it?
BRAUN: The politics. I had no idea about the politics. I knew policy, see, from my years in the U.S. Attorney's office. I did a lot of work in policy issues that we're still debating. I handled one of the first cases defending Jimmy Carter's health care reforms so I really got into the weeds of health care policy. Frankly, that has stood me in very good stead these many years later. I can talk about health care policy and debate it with anybody. I actually read the early statutes. I know the law and knew the policy, the basics, because we had this litigation. I had a lot of health policy. I did a lot of litigation in housing and so got a chance to understand the architecture of national housing policy in the United States because of those cases. Environmental law, I did some environmental cases and at the time when we were just beginning to have environmental laws written. In fact, we had one case where we had the Calumet River, one of the rivers in Chicago that had been so badly polluted. I remember one of our exhibits was this fish that had tumors all over its head. He was in a jar that we put at the end of the counsel table for the judge to look at this fish. I could tell stories about that. I'd done these things so I understood the policy because of my father and his influences and just the kind of the conversations at home, I understand a lot of the philosophy underneath the policy and knew where the philosophical divides were. The politics, however, were absolutely foreign to me, alien even. I had always voted, but my father wouldn't vote in primaries, for example, because he didn't want to have to declare his party so he may have voted in the general elections, but he didn't vote in the primaries. I didn't identify in a party sense at all, and so when—Kay Clement was the woman's name—made the suggestion, when Kay first came to me with this idea, it was like, "Oh, well that's interesting." I went back to Michael, and I told Michael about the conversation we'd had. I said that I just told her that I didn't think so. He says, "Why not? I think you'd be good at it," was my husband's response so I didn't, you know, really, still didn't bite. Then two things happened back to back. Some friends of ours, who I had always thought we had a good relationship with, called to say could they come by for coffee. It was kind of strange. They came by and we spent some time that evening talking with them, and they were trying to convince me that I shouldn't get involved because the independents, you had the Democratic machine in Chicago, the Daley machine, and that was really kind of it in Chicago. There was no Republican party to speak of. There was, and in fact, that's an important footnote in telling my story as a legislator because Illinois at the time was one of the few states that had a cumulative voting multi-member district system. We had a proportional representation system in our state, which meant that every district had both Democrats and Republicans. While, theoretically there were Republicans around, in fact, it was the Democratic machine. I had no connections to the Democratic machine, didn't know my father had been a civil rights activist and so that was absolutely outside of what the machine was about, but the independents, apparently, the leadership, had decided on who they wanted to be the candidate, and it wasn't me. In fact, it was another woman, which was okay because in the end it came out fine. It came out great, but at the time it wasn't me. It was this other woman who was more tied into the university and things like that. The second conversation left me a little perplexed as to what was actually going on. Then the third came when the local independent voters had their meeting. There was a political pundit who still, to this day, doesn't miss an occasion to say something nasty about me, but anyway, he stood up in the meeting and said, "Don't run. You can't possibly win. The blacks won't vote for you because you're not part of the Chicago machine. The whites won't vote for you because you're black. And nobody will vote for you because you're a woman." When he said that, it was like, "Oh, yeah, you just turned on all my jets." I went home that night and told Michael what happened, and he offered to give me the seed money to start a campaign. That's how it started.
HARTMAN: That's how it happened.
MANDEL: That's great. I intended to go into all kinds of responses about how that compares to other women and the decisions that they made and the way they were encouraged, but we don't have time for that at the moment, but it's....
BRAUN: It's a pattern.
MANDEL: Well, some of it. I mean, the fact that you didn't wake up in the morning and say, "I'm going to run for office," the encouragement from others, and it's just very much a part of a pattern. Even when you say - you talked something about being a woman, and I'm thinking about Shirley Chisholm and what she said forever, running for Congress, running for the presidency, that being a black woman, race was less of a problem than gender in people's reactions. Nobody wanted that. Nobody wanted the woman. There were people who didn't want a black woman or a black man, but nobody wanted a woman.
BRAUN: And what you find is that those, what Kimberle Crenshaw calls the intersectionality of race and gender can mitigate negatively or positively. There are times when being both black and female is a positive thing. There are times, however, when they both come together in a negative way. As a result, for example, in that first campaign, because it was then an open seat since Bob Mann had retired, there were ten candidates, ten candidates for that seat. Eight of them were black males, me, and Barbara Flynn Curry, who right now is the majority leader in the Illinois legislature. The black men all ran against me. They didn't lift a glove in terms of Barbara, but it was all running against me. I was really mad. I was like, "Why are they doing this?" I felt really put-upon that I had to put up with not just campaigning and getting elected in the kind of bigger sense, but I was the one that was the target of everybody's arrows, if you will. As it turned out, what had happened was, and it was almost ironic, and this is the good ending, was that I won. I came in first. Barbara came in, actually first she came in third so the incumbent, the other incumbent Democrat, thought he had won the election. She thought she had lost. She went off on vacation. They did an official certified count on the vote, called her in the Bahamas to come back because she won by however many votes, 34 votes or whatever it was. She won that election. In that election, two women went to the Illinois legislature from our district alone and there were other women elected around the state, both Democrat and Republican, and they called it The Year of the Woman in Illinois politics.
MANDEL: Well, you know, I'm tempted to ask you lots more questions about the experience in the legislature but mindful of the time and also you've just given the lead for making that jump to the next level...
BRAUN: The Year of the Woman.
MANDEL: ...which was the so-called Year of the Woman. In 1992 when the press started to talk about it the way, I fought it because I didn't like the designation. I thought it was our century and our time and nothing was going to get turned around in one year, but in fact, 1992 turned out to be a remarkable year.
MANDEL: Yes. We don't want to say we only have one year, but it turned out to be a remarkable year, and you were a remarkable part of that. The story of what happened with the hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill were all part of the story that year, but then in the elections in November you stepped forward and you decided to challenge an incumbent United States senator and enter a primary, and then I think it wasn't the same story but, in fact, in the end you benefited from the fact that another man entered the race and voters split their votes and you marched forward and won a seat in the United States Senate and became the first woman from Illinois in the United States Senate, the first black person from Illinois in the United States Senate, and I think the list goes on of the barriers that you broke and the whole country knew about Carol Moseley Braun. I didn't want you to have to say that about yourself. I wanted it on the record. You were a national figure and certainly to women around the country, and those of us who were excited about these strides for women in politics in 1992, and they were in the House and with you in the Senate. But then it became a very complicated experience those six years in the Senate. They ended up only being six years, much to certainly my disappointment, and I think a lot of other people's and probably yours, too. I want you to talk a bit about that Senate experience: the highs, the lows, what it all means looking back from the vantage point of 2004.
BRAUN: That's a lot of story, but to summarize, I think that in the first instance, again, a lot has to do with the politics. You know, all politics is local. I don't think truer words were ever spoke, frankly, because it starts with what happens and what happened in Illinois. I took on and defeated an incumbent Democrat, which had ramifications that I frankly should have foreseen more looking forward in terms of my position in Illinois politics and how I would be regarded, supported, or opposed by other Illinois politicians. I ran, essentially, against the party to get elected, and I won both a primary and a general election. In the primary, remember, of the women who ran, I was the only one who ran against an incumbent, who defeated an incumbent Senator and as much the point, our primary was first in the country if you look at that. Because ours was first, it gave a boost to women candidates across the country, many of whom—I'm told one of the other women senators got a 20-point bump in her poll numbers just by virtue of the fact that the people could see that it was possible that a woman could. If that black girl over in Chicago, in Illinois can do this then we certainly can do this out in whatever. Because of that, I think women across the board—it became the fashion to vote for women in that election.
HARTMAN: Talk a little bit about the courage, or whatever it was, that motivated you initially to make that leap.
BRAUN: I was actually preparing before. When I left the state legislature, I served in the executive office in the county government. I did that at the behest and almost as a favor to the late mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington. He was a reform mayor. I was going to leave politics. I was going to go and practice law. I'd had it with the legislature, my marriage had broken up, I was now on my own, a single working mother. Matthew at the time was still in grammar school. I determined that it was time for me to just go get a private life and attend to my personal affairs. But Harold wanted me - between Harold and Bobby Rush, the congressman, said, "Oh no, you can't leave. You're too important to us," this, that, and the other. They convinced me to stay in Chicago, that I wouldn't have to travel—that was the inducement, that I wouldn't have to travel to Springfield anymore, I could stay at home, attend to Matt, and hold this job as part of Harold Washington's reaching out into the county. And so I took a job in county government as a recorder of deeds. No woman had ever been elected countywide in Illinois, just to show you the politics. Nobody had ever been elected countywide so Auri Pucinski and I were the first women elected to executive office in the county ever in that election. Harold Washington died shortly, actually before the election happened. He died right after we had been nominated, but I went through and took the job and did what I was supposed to, and I liked to think performed the office and made it better for the people who worked there. But after four years that was it. I was done. Again, going back to the private sector, I had lined up a job with a law firm. That is when Bush won, nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. I had been close enough to the legal community to know Clarence Thomas' reputation and where he had been as a jurist, as a public person, and frankly, for someone whose whole life had been made possible by Thurgood Marshall and the Warren Court and the legacy of the Warren Court, it was just incomprehensible to me that this would be the new Thurgood Marshall. I was so offended, and I know this is going on the record and he's still a sitting Supreme Court justice, but I was offended. So, I took on the Thomas nomination at home on the grounds that he was not Supreme Court material and that Bush could find a more competent, more qualified, and certainly less extreme, member for the court. When that happened, people started to tune in on my criticisms of the Thomas nomination. Then, if you recall, there was this two-week hiatus when the Senate shut down its hearings and then when they reconvened that is when we learned about Anita Hill. I wasn't close enough to the action to know about it. Then the Anita Hill hearing started. I don't have to go and explain that to you. I mean, that was such a hideous—women everywhere were just outraged at what was happening. I went and had a conversation, a personal conversation, with our incumbent Democratic senator. Paul Simon had been very clear that he was not going to support the Thomas nomination, but Alan Dixon was one of the waverers at the time. I had a conversation with Alan Dixon in which I said to him, “Senator, this is very important for a variety..." and I talked about the Civil Rights Movement and the Warren Court and Thurgood Marshall and the legacy and as much to the point I talked to him, because he was always a practical politician, I talked to him about what it meant to black Democrats, that for us to see someone like a Thomas promoted by the Republicans, just a huge slap in the face for those who had been laboring in the vineyards of the Democratic Party. Dixon didn't listen or didn't care about that and, frankly, probably—I don't know what his motivations were, but anyway, he not only voted for Thomas and supported the nomination but then went on holiday and shut his office down for the couple of days following. The Columbus Day holiday was that Monday, I think, or that Friday. It was either a Friday or a Monday, I forget, but it meant that his office was closed for four straight days. The result was that people who were calling in to protest his vote got no phones answered. I mean, they got no responses, nothing from all over the state. So by then, the women in the state particularly, a lot of people in general, but in particular women were just furious with the incumbent senator. There was this other rich guy who vowed he was going to put $5 million of his own money in the race running so he was the one who took out on Dixon. I just campaigned, took the high road and campaigned based on what I believed was the right message for the state. Lo and behold when the votes were counted, I won the primary. So that was step A, and then, of course, Republicans around the country saw a window of opportunity to take the seat with the fellow who right now is the undersecretary of the United Nations. Rich Williamson was his name. Republican money and the operatives started pouring into the state, but because it was a presidential year, and I think this does make a difference, it was a presidential year so Bill Clinton was running. The result of that was that he kept the Democrats home mostly so I didn't have to have an internecine fight within the party for the general election because there was too much at stake, a presidency, and winning Illinois was at stake. They stayed home. The Democrats stayed home in the general. I then won the general election. Like I said, the blessing and the curse was that I was able, I mean I was maybe the second African-American in the twentieth century to be elected to the Senate. There were only two in that century.
MANDEL: And the other one was a Republican.
BRAUN: The other was a Republican, Ed....
MANDEL: Ed Brooke of Massachusetts.
BRAUN: That's right.
MANDEL: So you were the first Democrat and a woman?
BRAUN: First Democrat and woman and the first woman from Illinois, first lots of stuff. I got there, got to the Senate, I think even before I got to the Senate, the brick bat started almost immediately. That's where I think I'm convinced that a lot of that was as much gender-based as having anything having to do with race. Being a single woman, I think, made a huge difference. I think if I had been married, I would have had the Gerry Ferraro problem, obviously, in terms of what your husband does, this, that, and the other. But when you're single, what you have instead of an answer to all of the questions that get raised, you have a big question mark. People can play on mystery easier than they can on a certainty. The fact that I was a single woman, that I was involved with, my fiancé at the time was the fellow who managed my campaign, who had helped me get elected and all that did, and he was not an American, so all of those things mitigated in favor of my personal life being made this big deal. I am, to this day, I really think that that was a lot of what drove a lot of the negativity. The press was hideous, as you know. I couldn't get a good press review on even the best thing. I got appointed to the Senate Finance Committee. The first woman in history to get a permanent seat on the Finance Committee of the Senate, which is, you know, one of the most powerful committees in the Senate. It got negative press. I got no positive press getting appointed to the Finance Committee. From the beginning, it was just one thing after another. The accusations of misuse of my campaign funds and not showing up to things when I was there, stories ran for a long time. I didn't show up for Senate orientation. In the meantime, there are pictures of me on the front page of the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the LA Times at the Senate orientation—it was that sort of thing. It was just one negativity after another being rolled out that contradicted anything having to do with the facts. I mean, at the end of the day on the campaign finance thing, which dogged me through the first part of the - it came out that we had accounted properly for every penny except we had over-reimbursed somebody by $311. Out of $10 million, that's not too bad. But, by then, it was in the water. It was out there, and it made it very difficult to run a re-election campaign. I am grateful that in the reelection campaign I did—I mean, I lost that reelection by less than two percentage points. I was outspent by 3:1. Which is another thing to the press. It never got talked about really in the context of how much money was spent to beat me in that election, but the guy I ran against was a multimillionaire who used his own money, raised some money, and acknowledged that I was outspent 3:1. I was the first Karl Rove victim outside of Texas. He came into Illinois to do this guy's campaign. It was some real heavy guns. Again, I only narrowly lost that election. In hindsight, I feel really good about my state and the people of my state because they not only made it possible in the first instance, but in spite of all of that drubbing, really were largely were able to see through it. I think the proof of the pudding in that is that Illinois has just recently elected Barack Obama as the new senator. I think that speaks volumes about the state, about its people and that makes me very proud.
MANDEL: I heard all about this from a distance, read about it from a distance, never went to Illinois and heard up close, but it was tough. It was tough to hear because it was coming at you in a number of different ways. What I'm hearing you say now is that there was not a shred, you didn't make any mistakes. You wouldn't do it differently?
BRAUN: Oh no, I'd do a lot of things differently. I'd do a lot of things differently, but there was not a shred of truth to any of these accusations of wrongdoing. That's a different statement. To the point that I have been so often vindicated, my integrity verified by so many different official bodies, I don't even bother now when a reporter says something, I don't even get defensive about that stuff anymore. Because anybody with any interest at all in the truth will look at it and discover what the record is. The record is very, very clear, Ruth, on all of this. That is how it was when I got confirmed, I got a funny Jesse Helms story, but when I got confirmed, I got a 98-to-2 vote on confirmation. The only people who didn't vote for my confirmation as ambassador was Jesse Helms and Peter Fitzgerald, who had spent so much of his own money to beat me. That was after all of the issues had been raised in the press, had not only been raised, brought out, revealed, documented, I mean, all of that, so we went through the case, if you will, bit by bit, step by step. There was no there there ever. I just knew that all along, but when you are in the hole with people dumping stuff on you, it's a little hard, you know, to break through.
MANDEL: To be, you know, Eleanor Roosevelt said in her autobiography when she was named to go to the U.N. that when a woman takes on something, she takes it on for all women. She is seen as representing all women. That is true for any pioneer, really, so you have a whole audience of people everywhere for whom you become something that is almost unfair in terms of the burden and the responsibility at the same time that it's wonderful and inspiring. You really were that, and you are right. As you told the story, I remember that moment now in the elections when you won, and so then it affected, as I recall, the Pennsylvania race, Lynn Yeakel after that and then Patty Murray out in the state of Washington. It just went around the country. Women running for the Senate that year, and it was your victory, your story out of Illinois that inspired so much of what happened the rest of that year. You were carrying that with you.
BRAUN: Well, yes, and again, I paid the price, but the fact is that, and you're right, I think there is a disappointment on my own part. It's that, it wasn't just me going through that, it was my family went through it. It affected my family in just horrible ways, and I won't go into the weeds on that part of the story. It affected my family very badly, and I felt so bad because I had not adequately lived up to the political, small P, challenge of what I was doing that people were disappointed and to the extent there was disappointment I felt, again, I felt...what's the word I'm looking for? On the one hand because I knew that there was no substance to any of the accusations of wrongdoing, I could rest easy in my own virtue, if you will. I could stand on the solid ground of knowing I had done the right thing. I had not made any mistakes. That part, personally, was very edifying. But, the perception was otherwise. It was in the perception that the embarrassment to me personally and to all the women who had invested emotionally in my victory, that's where that came. That's what was so hurtful to me and still continues to be on some level. I don't think it will ever go away.
HARTMAN: Do you think that the recent discussion, when you were talking about how the brick bats started almost as soon as you got there and the negative press, I remember a little bit later, but it was this same episodic beating up that Hillary Clinton, in a moment of exasperation, called the vast right-wing conspiracy. I remember at the time people laughed at that. Now, David Brock has written his book about the Republican noise machine and has had his conversion and he's getting out all of his story, and what we are realizing is that the apparatus that had been assembled seemed to be in operation and just generating story after story. Do you feel that you were part of that?
BRAUN: There's no question about that, but what made it worse, and again, the larger part of the disappointment, I mean, Hillary Clinton dealt with it from the perspective of being First Lady and kind of on top of the heap for the Democratic Party. I was getting it from other Democrats as well, you see. That goes back to the whole Alan Dixon thing and coming in the way I did, that it wasn't just the vast right-wing conspiracy, there was a conspiracy, if you will, they were joined in the conspiracy by folks in my own party who, to use a Southern expression, had no problems with throwing a rock and hiding their hand.
HARTMAN: There were a number of incredible moments in your career in the Senate, but I think that one that galvanized a lot of us was the story of your encounter with Jesse Helms. We'd love to hear you tell it, and we want to get this recorded because it was so special and so extraordinary.
BRAUN: Yes, well, the first one, it counters with the best, but the first one and the one that was the most famous really came about on one of those days—you know you have the days you wake up and say what did I do to deserve this day? We were in the confirmation hearings on the Judiciary Committee for Justice Breyer. Orrin Hatch had started a debate with the Justice around the whole issue of choice. You know I've always been adamantly pro-choice. As a legislator I believed in a woman's right to make her own reproductive decisions, etc., but I'm a lawyer, too, and had legal training so Hatch made a comparison between the judge's decision in Rowe v. Wade with the Supreme Court decision of the nineteenth century called Plessey v. Ferguson. That was a decision in which the Court said that a black man has no rights that a white man need respect and gave rise to the beginning of what was really American apartheid and Jim Crow segregation. For me, I'm sitting there on the committee, and here's a senior member on the Republican side comparing Rowe with Plessey v. Ferguson. I was beside myself. So I'm trying to be calm because I knew this was on television and everything. I'm trying to be senatorial and debating Orrin Hatch, which was a big step. I'm a freshman. I knew this was like tugging on Superman's cape as far as the Senate was concerned. I start this debate with Orrin Hatch. In the middle of the debate with Orrin Hatch, my staffer comes in with a note to say that Jesse Helms has just picked up a bill that I thought I had defeated that had been originally handled by Strom Thurman. Strom Thurman had a bill to give a patent to the Confederate flag. I defeated it in committee. Jesse Helms revived it and went to the floor to try to revive it and I needed to come to the floor right then to take on Jesse Helms. I had to leave the committee having just had one fight with Orrin Hatch, make my way over to the Senate, and get there and Helms is holding forth about the nice little old ladies of the South that do fundraising and this, they deserve this, they've had this patent before and there's no reason we shouldn't give it to them again. I made the point, well, wait a minute, this is a Confederate flag. Why would the United States Senate be giving its imprimatur to a Confederate flag? I make the kind of dispassionate legal argument, and I lost. The Senate voted to grant the patent whereupon I said, "Oh no, this can't happen." So I decided to filibuster, which of course is the nice thing about the Senate rules. I kept the floor and proceeded to start a filibuster. The filibuster itself became very emotional. That's what most people saw, was the emotional debate that happened during the filibuster, part of that argument. It was all extemporaneous. It was just that, it was a filibuster. Happily, the members of the Senate hearing that this thing had just exploded, if you will, on the floor started to come back and change their votes. One legislator after another changed his vote. I think the moment that almost brought me to tears on the floor was when Hal Heflin, who was the senator from Alabama, got up and said, "My grandfather fought for the Confederacy and I'm proud of my heritage, but this symbol is a divisive symbol in America and we need to get past race. We need to get past this." When he made that statement, that gave cover for some of the Southern senators to come along. It was almost like we were re-fighting and helping to resolve the Civil War in a nice way on the floor of the Senate, in the context of….
HARTMAN: It was over three-quarters of the vote finally, wasn't it?
BRAUN: It wound up being 76, 75-76, something like that. It was three-quarters of the members came. The other thing, which I think isn't recorded as much for posterity so I'm glad we're doing this, was how good people felt. It was like for the rest of that day, for the rest of that week, really, or the session, people were walking around with a sense of real pride and spring in their step. There was almost a lightness and a gaiety and a joy by the senators that we had done the right thing and we had sent a positive signal to the country by what we had done. That was a really good thing. Then a couple of days later, I met Helms, it was during that same week, I was getting on the elevator—
HARTMAN: The elevator story.
BRAUN: The elevator story. I was getting on the elevator and Orrin Hatch, who is a very amenable guy and I got along with Orrin Hatch fine, it was different on the issues, but Orrin Hatch and Chris Dodd were on the elevator, and the elevator door opened and Jesse Helms starts to get on. He says to Orrin, "Orrin, I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing Dixie 'til she cries." And instinctively I just responded, "Senator, you could sing Rock of Ages and I would cry." It must have been Chris Dodd that went to the papers, I'm not sure, but whoever it was, it became a little blurb in the Washington Press, and of course, that became the joke of the country. Now Helms is doubly mad at me. He proceeded to—back to your right-wing conspiracy statement—he proceeded to make me an object of his fundraising. I actually saw him on television one time saying, "Yes, she had her hands in the cookie jar." I mean, just awful stuff, things that you would not do to a colleague under any circumstance, I mean as a senator, just beyond the pale. But that was the kind of - I have no problem saying he was just a nasty old man and proof positive that the good die young. How's that for on the record? But yes, that was—he became my nemesis, but in a funny way. A nemesis in a way that everything he did kind of came out okay for me because it was his efforts to stop my confirmation that brought to light a lot of the documentary evidence that, in terms of campaign finances and all the other garbage that had been thrown at me, it had to be documented because he sent out subpoenas in an effort to stop—well, actually, go back. I'll tell the whole story. When I was nominated for ambassador by President Clinton after I'd lost reelection. President Clinton nominated me as ambassador to New Zealand, but Helms wouldn't call my nomination, also unheard of. This cub reporter from Roll Call, the newspaper, came over and asked, "Why hasn't your nomination been called?" I said, "Don't ask me, ask the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee." Of course, tongues had already started wagging, oh there must be something wrong because she hasn't been confirmed yet. Helms responded to the cub reporter, "I'm not calling her nomination until she apologies for what she did to the Confederate flag." The kid went back and printed this. All of Washington was horrified, of course. He was forced to call my nomination. Then his next statement was, "Okay, I'm going to give her a hearing, but she won't get confirmed because she has legal and ethical baggage." That's when he sent out the six subpoenas. Sending out the six subpoenas was the best thing that could have happened because even things I didn't even know about that were in the files, the exculpatory, exoneration, or whatever you want to call it, vindication. Things came out. I didn't know, for example, $311 was all the FEC found quirky in terms of the campaign finances. We over-reimbursed somebody. I didn't know that until Helms' subpoenas came back. It turned out to be a good thing, and I got a 98-to-2 vote on confirmation and off to New Zealand.
MANDEL: Which was paradise?
BRAUN: Which was paradise, which saved me.
HARTMAN: Talk a little bit about that experience. We know that it was an exciting period in your life. We know the New Zealanders love you, that you became an honorary Maori, all kinds of good things. How did you—talk a little bit about the background. Were you interested in New Zealand as a place? How do get to be an ambassador?
BRAUN: I knew nothing about New Zealand. This is kind of a Hillary Clinton story also because I think it was her idea, at least I'm told it was her idea. I had no idea that there was an opening, a vacancy, in New Zealand, an ambassadorship. Some of my Pakistani friends wanted me to be ambassador to Pakistan and actually started a petition drive to have me be the ambassador to Pakistan, but New Zealand was available so I did my homework before I went. I hadn't had a previous interest in that part of the world. I didn't really know anything about it, but I did my homework. I studied. It turns out that the Chicago Field Museum has one of the only Maoris outside of New Zealand in location in the world. We have, in Chicago, one of the foremost experts on not just New Zealand but that part of the world. In fact, the Maori in Chicago is called Ruatepupuke. It's one of the only ones, there are two, I think, outside of New Zealand, one in Germany. I went down to the Field, I'm on one of the committees there anyway, and went down and got the information and the schooling and the books and all the rest—I did my homework. And then went there. In a funny way, you know, you always try to play out your last battle. One of the things I did, I worked so hard as ambassador there and got around to the whole country largely because I wanted people to be able to see that the United States was not just sending them a problem child but rather someone who was genuinely interested in the country and genuinely interested in making sure the relations between our nations were good ones. That is what I did, and I worked very hard, but it was all so worth it. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience.
MANDEL: How long were you there?
BRAUN: Two years.
MANDEL: Two years.
BRAUN: Two years. In that time, I was able to, again, recover. The other thing, the relevance of New Zealand and that experience to what I did when I came home was, New Zealand was on its second woman prime minister. Both political parties have had a woman, both Conservatives as well as the Labour Party. Its Supreme Court justice is a woman. Its now, she was not in place when I was there, but the governor general is now a woman. They have women in place, and they are very proud of the fact that women got the vote in New Zealand like eight years before we did here in the United States.
MANDEL: And they are a nuclear-free zone.
BRAUN: They are a nuclear-free zone. It was paradise on every front. It just couldn't have been nicer. Seeing women in positions in politics particularly, women in the cabinet, women in the parliament, society was totally integrated with women, with Maoris. They didn't have the race issue that we have here. They have issues of income. The politicians there care about income inequality. I mean, it was a dream for someone who had been involved with policy all these years. Seeing that as part of the New Zealand experience and then to come back home to find business as usual here was really largely what inspired my decision to run for president.
MANDEL: Is that right? You had never thought about it before?
BRAUN: I really hadn't. In fact, Ruth, I was going to go and restore my family farm in Alabama. That was my first plan when I came back home because New Zealand is so agricultural. My family has had a farm since 1870, and the last of the relatives who lived there died just as I was coming back home. I had all, I mean literally, I went out and we took farm experts and looked at the soil and what I could do. I had worked up a business plan to actually go into the type of agriculture. Then September 11 happened. When September 11 happened, I had been teaching over at one of the colleges there and just instinctively I went over and the president of the college and I walked the grounds to try to console the kids and bring some order to the situation because everybody—there were a lot of kids from New York and the like. It was awful.
MANDEL: Which college was this?
BRAUN: Morris Brown. Morris Brown and Delores Cross was the president there. We walked around and talked to the kids, and I would up giving an impromptu speech in the gymnasium to the assembled students and then in the following days, obviously all of this was focused laser-like on what was going on and watching our politics develop and watching the response of our government and then following the—what's the Democratic response going to be and saying to myself, "These guys are not getting it," in my opinion. At that time, with the exception of Howard Dean, all of the Democratic candidates—well, no, Howard Dean and Bob Graham were the only two who had not supported the decision to go to war in Iraq. So I just kind of, at that point people back home in Chicago were encouraging me to come back to Chicago and run for office again, to run for the Senate again, and to run for this, run for that. I had been there done that, literally. I was not inclined to get embroiled in a Democratic Party fight over whether or not I would be the Senate nominee. It just didn't make any sense to me to do that. The Senate had been such a hideous time in my life anyway. I said, you know, I've got this in place, so I started thinking about it myself, but of course, it was almost too big of an idea for anybody to respond to. I remember, this is a very true story which Claire, I hope, will never fail to tell her children. My little niece is 11. We were sitting around in the kitchen talking with her father about politics and about the fact that some folks had been talking to me about what about a presidential run. My brother said, "No, you don't want to do that. Go back to the Senate. You can win your Senate seat." My brother had a point of view.
HARTMAN: This is your brother's daughter?
BRAUN: My brother's daughter, Claire. In the middle of the conversation, she said, "Aunty Carol, Aunty Carol, come quick." So I went to her room thinking there was a problem. She is sitting there with her social studies book open to a page that had all the presidents, and she looked at me and said, "Aunty Carol, all the presidents are boys." She just was, how can this be? Where are the girl presidents? She didn't get it. She didn't understand. All the presidents are boys. I said, "Claire, that's right all the presidents have been boys, but a girl can be president if she wants to." That kind of satisfied her. I went back into the kitchen, and I was just chuckling. I told my brother the "all the presidents are boys" story. We got into a little family exchange. Well, that just kind of kept nagging at me and nagging at me. I thought, Well, you know, I can go out in much the same way the Senate race happened. I can go out here. I can stand up for what I believe in. I can make a point. I can give people a point of view that I think is a positive one, and I can make certain that girls like Claire will see that girls can be president, too, that people, Americans, will see that girls have something to offer. I can make a statement just by my candidacy, just by being a candidate it will help move this agenda that I fought for all my life. It was like the pieces just kind of click, click, click, came together. Once that happened, I was real clear about what I should do. Then the problem came, could I do it? Which is another side of the issue.
MANDEL: Where did you get—where did the biggest support come from? Because I remember when Shirley Chisholm did this in 1972. Of course, we haven't had anyone since then, really. Pat Schroeder gave it a bit of a try and Elizabeth Dole, and they pulled back. I think you stayed in longer than both Pat and Senator Dole. Shirley Chisholm, it was a different moment. She stayed all the way to the floor, but those were in the days when you took some delegates to the floor and traded. Now, of course, the primary system has changed that so we have really selected the nominee before. In that moment in 1972, there was so much excitement about women in politics. The feminist movement was in full force, which you can't say was true in 2004. The women's community, and it has been written up, was very split because they wanted to go with someone who was going to win because they wanted to have some leverage. They wanted to have something to take the table, and at the same time, here was this woman who was running and they wanted to support her, too. They were torn, the Democratic women. What happened this time?
BRAUN: Well, it was several things. There is one more aspect of this that can't be overlooked. That is that we were in the middle of a war and the whole idea that a woman can't speak to issues of security—which again, we can have another conversation about that—but the whole security issue, both domestic as well as international. The good thing about—one of the things that gave me, again, a platform, was because I had international experience, I actually had more international experience than any of the men. The general has a different kind of experience, but as a diplomat having done that and having traveled extensively. I could hold my own with them in terms of international exposure. I could hold my own with them as a policymaker having served not only in the Senate but in state and local government, which was another whole thing. On the credential side of the equation, it was all going on. The downside was being both black and female and actually not even in that order but being female and black, or black and female in that order. It came—remember when I said that intersectionality can mitigate for you or against you? In this case, the intersectionality mitigated in a way that would have tubed the effort regardless, I think. We stayed as long as we could, and it was a fabulous experience, don't get me wrong. I want to talk about why it was such a wonderful thing. But, that, I think, in that regard, was doomed from the beginning but nonetheless important to do, important on several levels, the support, you see. The nice thing was that there were women's organizations like the National Organization of Women, National Women's Political Caucus, who were willing to beard the lion, literally, and say, "We're going to stand pat on wanting to see a woman in this race." That the days where there can be a presidential campaign on the Democratic Party side and have no woman at all, we just take the backseat or take low when we have talent to contribute or something to say, those days are over. I think that the fact that they were willing to step up and do that was very important. They took some heat for it. The New York Times wrote a nasty editorial saying how silly they were being and this, that, and the other. By the way, the New York Times never even bothered to give me an editorial board interview. I qualified for more ballots than any woman in history, and I did not get an interview with the editorial board at the New York Times, our nation's leading newspaper.
MANDEL: Did all the other Democratic Party candidates?
BRAUN: All of them.
MANDEL: All of them except for you?
BRAUN: Al Sharpton twice. Yes. Right. Yes, it's pretty shocking. But anyway, those women's groups were prepared to step forward. There were women such as the woman down in Florida who literally, I mean we were able to pay her expenses, but she came up and volunteered her time, full time, to help put it together out of commitment to seeing women involved and included in our political processes. The little fundraising we were able to do, and of course, it was the money in the end that really just killed us. We couldn't raise the money, but people responded to me personally based on the fact that they had seen me do it before. It was kind of the old "we've done it before, we'll do it again" and sit on the sidelines and be surprised if you want to. So there were people who contributed out of the sense of, yes, this is an important voice that ought to be heard. I think it did make a difference. I think it made a difference in the issues that got raised. It made a different in the way that the issues were debated. One of my favorite moments from the campaign was at a debate in which the question of the draft, whether or not women should be drafted, came up. All the fellas said, "Yes, yes, women should be drafted." I said, "Well, you know, I wouldn't have a problem with drafting women if women weren't subject to violence in the military and weren't being raped at the academies," which, as you know, is an issue that nobody wanted to talk about in these wartimes, but that is a real problem. It was that sort of thing that made a difference, I think, in terms of the way the debates happened and the way the conversation developed. While it wasn't enough to take us over the top, and as you know, we lost, the Democratic Party lost to George Bush for a variety of reasons, but at the same time I think it really did help us break through and to set up what I call a positive resonance in the American people about where—in the American political conversation—about where the Democrats were and would likely do if elected.
MANDEL: You know, just to reinforce that, it's a good news/bad news comment, but I mean, it's sort of a polling but I have to report it. Any number of times during that primary period when you were part of the lineup and one of the candidates who appeared in these debates on television. Now we're talking about who watches those. It's political junkies for the most part who turn on C-Span and watch all of these debates. I can't tell you among these political junkies I encountered how many people who said to me, "Oh, I'm very impressed with Carol Moseley Braun." It was said, both good news—very impressive, very impressive performance; bad news—why aren't they saying this, that it's still in 2004 sort of surprising to people that a woman knows how to walk and talk at the same time and how to have thought and have some knowledge and get into something like that. There is no question that that reaction, I think, was underlying some of that surprise.
BRAUN: I think that's right. The good news: I came away from the whole thing inspired by the experience largely because I experienced that divide also in a way that among the political class, the political junkies as you said, there was this A) surprise that a woman could even dare have the temerity to do it, B) who does she think she is. She is not that anointed or called by any of us to do this. So you ran into brick wall after brick wall, and you know, has she lost her mind, is she crazy. I mean, a lot of that on that side. Among the people, however, there was a much more genuine receptivity. I heard more often than not, well, you know, it's time for a woman, the men have messed it up. It's time for a woman. I had people, farmers in overalls in Iowa who would come up to me and say, "You know, young lady, I didn't know about you before this, but you'd make a fine president." For me to be able to go around places and see people willing to overcome both race and gender and give me a hearing, whether they thought I could win or not. And interestingly, I wish I'd had the money to hang in until Iowa because, I tell you, because I had more than one person come and say, "We wish you had stayed in. We were prepared to caucus for you. We were prepared to caucus for you in Iowa. We wish you had stayed in until it got to our state." I ran into that among the people outside of the political class much more than I did among the so-called experts. That, I think, really left me feeling very good about the direction this country is headed on the issue of gender and on the issue of race.
HARTMAN: Let me add another optimistic note here. We are so thrilled here that you did this and stayed in the race. We have such evidence in the young people, many of whom you'll be meeting later on in your visit here. I teach a class called the Leadership Scholars class. Several of those students will be here. In fact, they have competed for places during various parts of your calendar today. They wanted to be able to meet you. But the very fact that you were there, I think, for these young women, made it possible for them to imagine the future. I think that is so critically important. One of the things that surprise me when I go out and talk about women leadership: I ask groups, what percentage of people in the Gallup poll in 2001 do you think said they would vote for a woman candidate for president? The answer was 92%, but the students, even rather well-informed students, will say 10%, 20%. Even now, when they think it's at least a possibility they have no idea that there is such a large group of people who are willing to tell the Gallup folks, anyway, that they would vote for a woman candidate. I think it has partly been the whole war situation and the way those guys conducted the campaign to make it almost unimaginable that a woman could run for president or for, goodness knows, that women could even get out there and vote. It has been a very discouraging time, but you were a bright light in all of that.
BRAUN: Thank you. Thank you. Well, it is also a matter of being able to visualize it. I go back to Claire—Aunty Carol, all the presidents are boys. The American, particularly those of us of a certain age, when you get to the post—the '70, '80, people born in the 1980s—for them it is less difficult to conceive of a woman being president. Claire was shocked that there hadn't been. For those of us over a certain age, it's difficult to conceive a woman as president. Again, particularly a black one. Remember, our generation went through the civil rights movement, went through the women's rights. We were part of the struggle that created the reality that these kids now take for granted. Having created that reality, we still are carrying some of the baggage from the old days of our own mindset. The mindset says, well, okay, black people just got integrated with society at all. It's a real leap for me to imagine one as president. Women just came out of the house, out of the home. It's a real leap for me to imagine her as chief executive of the greatest country in the world. It is really a matter of perception and perspective and the ability to visualize that really kept me going on the days when I was really, really, really, really tired because campaigning is the most rigorous thing—for president. It is the most rigorous thing you can imagine. It is truly an endurance test. It is something that is physically taxing, more than you—than I—ever imagined. But, having done it, I now know that people will be less surprised to see a woman candidate for president. People will be less surprised to see an African-American candidate for president. The political class will come kicking and screaming to join up with where the people are.
HARTMAN: On the basis of what you've just said, I am drawing the conclusion that you are an optimist about what is likely to happen in the future. And yet, I think some of us who are looking at the political scene right now can understand the young people who say, "Oh, it's so awful out there. Can you really make a difference?" Or is politics the arena where the most difference can be made when they are making choices about their lives and what directions to go?
BRAUN: That's a hard one because it is nasty. If it hadn't been for New Zealand, I would probably be in a padded cell right now somewhere. It is nasty and it's hard, but again, as I said kind of off the record, for me it is an expression of my love of country, my own patriotism, because it is a sacrifice. Yes, it's horrible, it's nasty, it's ugly, it can destroy you if you are not careful and lucky, but it is something that has to be done if we are going to keep faith with the sacrifice that brought us this far. If we are going to keep this country on track, you know, again, everybody's got their own moral view. It may be a function of ego as much as anything else that you say my world view is the correct one, but if you are going to express that moral view then there truly is no better arena in which to do that than in politics. The fact that it takes such perseverance to get through the ugliness of it is something that women have to understand is just part and parcel of the contribution that they are being called on to make. It's harder sometimes for women to volunteer to go into somebody's alley. As you point out, women often have to be asked. Even if asked, having looked down the alley and seeing what's there, a lot of women will say, "Oh, well, you know, the delicate side of me doesn't want to beard that, the delicate side of me doesn't want to have to take that on." My response to that is, but if you don't take it on then who will? Or if you don't take it on, will that mean it won't be taken on at all? The progress that we've seen and that we believe has been woefully inadequate and slow will be even more inadequate and slower. You have to contribute. You have to get in there if you are going to continue to move this country in the direction that I believe is central to its most fundamental values and ideals. The goodness of this country, of America, is that we start off with the notion that individuals have a role to play in self-governance. That has inspired people all over the world. It is with that as a foundation that all of us are called, I think, to move it in the direction of actually realizing that ideal. It wasn't the case when the Constitution was written. Women couldn't vote. Blacks were slaves. Even if they weren't slaves, couldn't vote. Poor people couldn't vote, couldn't participate. But the whole American history has been about moving in the direction of giving life to those ideals. And we are challenged in our time to take that next step in the direction of the inclusion and integration of women, minorities, of all people into the whole American society and that means its policy leadership as well.
MANDEL: That is beautifully expressed.
BRAUN: Thank you.
MANDEL: And wonderful. It is. It is the vision.
HARTMAN: What about Carol Moseley Braun? What's next for her?
MANDEL: That was mine, too. You must end this by telling us. I know, you're planning to go and open a shop and the next thing we know you'll be running the U.N. or something.
BRAUN: Well, no. No. I'm still called to agriculture.
MANDEL: You're going home? You're going to the farm?
BRAUN: We're going to the farm. We're going to the farm.
HARTMAN: For the time being.
BRAUN: No. I mean, I'm excited about it. Providing healthy food for people is a good thing. That's still a way of contributing, and it's a way of giving back. It is particularly in these times, don't get me started on my agriculture speech, but I'm excited by it.
HARTMAN: You know what you remind me.... Voltaire, who managed to overturn most of Europe, said that he was just going to cultivate his garden, and maybe that's the sort of thing you're going to do. You say you're just going to be cultivating your garden. It'll turn out to be the world.
BRAUN: Well, listen, listen, that's wonderful. Thank you for putting me in such august company, but I'm looking to do agriculture and that's what I'm -
MANDEL: Does this mean you're moving to Alabama?
BRAUN: No. Okay, you want to get the speech. Okay, here we go. I'm getting involved in what's called biodynamic, or organic agriculture. It is a way of creating healthy food that also restores the soil in which it's grown so it becomes a cycle. We're looking at doing a company. I've been having meetings and putting together the financing, and I'll use farm—the farm can be part of the base out of which this operation takes place, but I can do it...with the technologies, I can do it out of Chicago just as easily.
MANDEL: Good luck.
BRAUN: Yes, thank you. I'm very excited.
MANDEL: We'll be wondering what happens with that and then eating the food.
BRAUN: It's healthier for you. It tastes better.
MANDEL: I'm looking forward to eating that kind of food. I reminded my daughter that she's got to feed it to her children.
BRAUN: That's right. I'll tell you something, particularly given the kind of nutritional problems that our young people are having and—I should talk about obesity—but the issue of obesity among young people and all the disease processes that come from the fact that our diet is so out of balance. The biodynamic agriculture, I think, holds great promise in this country. People are expressing a preference for organic foods. I think that as that grows, it just provides more and more opportunity to do neat stuff.
HARTMAN: Well, thank you.
BRAUN: Thank you.
HARTMAN: This has been wonderful.
MANDEL: Thank you so much.
BRAUN: Thank you very much.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bDqq9skoSg.