TIME john kasich

John Kasich Tells TIME: The Republican Party Is My Vehicle, Not My Master

GOP 2016 New Hampshire
Jim Cole—AP Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H. on April 18, 2015.

Yet another entrant in the presidential race tells TIME that he plans to run as his own man

Ohio Governor John Kasich turned heads in political circles earlier this month when he announced the hiring of a pair of GOP operatives with checkered histories to run his presidential campaign.

John Weaver and Fred Davis were the strategists behind former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman’s ill-fated 2012 campaign for the presidency. Before that, they worked for Sen. John McCain. But to those who know Kasich, their hiring made perfect sense—he’s planning to run a similarly unconventional campaign for the White House. “Here’s the thing you have to realize, the Republican Party is my vehicle, and not my master,” he tells TIME.

Casting himself as a “change agent,” Kasich has overseen an economic revival in Ohio, and won re-election in the swing state by a 31% margin over a weak Democratic opponent. It was a sharp reversal from 2011—his first year in office—when Kasich’s poll numbers plummeted amid a failed effort to curtail the power of state public sector unions in an effort to control the state budget.

Kasich unsuccessfully ran for the White House in 2000, where he was edged out by another Bush’s well-funded campaign. “The issue was money-M-O-N-E-Y,” he told the New York Observer in 2001. Kasich now says he was too young that time around, pointing to support he is receiving from those who backed Bush over him in 2000.

He endorsed George W. Bush, calling him “a soul brother” for his support of compassionate conservatism, a theme at the center of Kasich’s campaigns. “I think that it’s important for the GOP, must most important for me to be able to talk about the kindness of conservatism,” Kasich says.

To that end, he defends expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, despite vigorous opposition from Republicans. “I’ve never thought anything about it. It was the right thing to do,” he says. “We’re helping the drug addicted, the working poor, the mentally ill. I didn’t see it as standing up to my party really, I just saw it as carrying out something that I thought was important for my state.”

A former investment banker, he has no regrets about his time at Lehman Brothers, but says he supports capital requirements for large banks. Kasich tells TIME he opposes increasing taxes, but that he will not sign any pledges to that effect.

TIME caught up last week with Kasich in Utah, where he was attending the E2 Summit organized by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Here is a transcript of the interview.

TIME: You’re having fun out there.

Kasich: Most of the time, it’s fun. I get tired once in a while, and that’s not ever fun to be tired, but you know, I’m enjoying it.

TIME: You did this in 2000 running against another Bush.

Kasich: It was a different time. I was just a young man, and you know, people said, look we like you and come back another day.

TIME: But you also lamented at the time running against Bush money. You’re set to do that again against Jeb’s $100 million.

Kasich: Our goal, if I become a candidate it’s going to be because we have enough resources where we think we can at least compete in the early states. We’re not going to get anywhere close to that, but could we have enough to put gas in the plane so it could take off the ground, and that’s an assessment that we’re in the process of making.

TIME: If you had to put odds on it?

Kasich: We don’t know yet. We’re getting close. We’re going to have to decide things relatively soon. And how do I feel about it, I feel pretty good. I feel like we’re making progress.

TIME: Was this meeting helpful in that regard?

Kasich: Not yet, we’ll see. We have lots more meetings. I came here because Mitt invited me, I didn’t come to some of the other ones. I thought it was important to get out here and let people—a lot of people said we know of him, but we don’t really know him. In that regard this was helpful. I hope. I don’t know what the people were saying. I don’t know.

TIME: You talked about your approval rating taking a hit your first year as governor. What did you learn from that?

Kasich: Got crushed! The one thing that I really learned from that is, you really want to unite. And if you have to fight and you divide, that’s okay, but just don’t do it all the time. Look, we were $8 billion in a hole, we had many things we had to do to climb out of that. And once we started climbing out, we were in a better position. I’m also a change agent. And when you’re a change agent, it shakes people up. Why do you think when people hear me talk they get like, what is this guy, who is this guy. Why doesn’t he say what we expect him to say. That kind of message, it rattles people. And then peoples started to get used to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if my poll numbers went down again. That’s just the way it is. You can’t worry about it.

TIME: What’s the better metric?

Kasich: Results. Harry Truman did not run for re-election because people thought he would not win. He didn’t think he was going to win. It turns out he was one of our great presidents. It’s results. It’s not polls, and popularity. They ran Winston Churchill out of politics for a while, but look at what he ultimately did. It’s results that matter, nothing other than that.

TIME: You got your results. You left Washington. You went to Lehman. You were there during the financial collapse. What did you learn from that, in terms of how banks and financial institutions should be regulated.

Kasich: On the biggest issue, they’re already imposing capital requirements now. But one of the things you don’t want to do is treat the big boys the same way you treat the regional boys, because you then start snuffing out opportunity. When you step on the air hose and people can’t loan money, that’s like the kiss of death for business. Business has to have capital. At the same time, I think Wall Street is a necessary ingredient of the global economy, but you know, you’ve just got to keep people realizing that helping clients is the most important thing, not helping yourself.

TIME: Any regrets from that period?

Kasich: It was fantastic. Are you kidding? Regrets? I thought it was a fantastic time. I traveled all over the country. I got an incredible education. I worked my tail off. It was great.

TIME: What did you learn?

Kasich: I worked with private equity. I worked with venture capital. I worked with many different times of companies. I learned about how America works, how free enterprise works, how business executives think, how decisions get made. It’s an incalculable thing that I learned.

TIME: Last time around, candidates were asked whether they would take a 10-1 deal on spending cuts to tax increases. Would you?

Kasich: Right now, I just don’t think that revenue is what we should be talking about. I think that, look, I ran the budget committee. I was one of the architects of the balanced budget. We actually cut taxes then. I had to remain President Obama that early in my tenure as governor. I think let’s focus on changing these programs and making them more efficient. I worry about spending more money, because you know what happens, every time you put more money into the system, they spend it and they don’t do what they’re supposed to do.

TIME: Would you sign something like the Americans for Tax Reform pledge?

Kasich: I’m not signing any pledges. I’m not signing any pledges. I’m just not going to sign any pledges. My record speaks for itself.

TIME: The debt ceiling will be hit this fall. What should Republicans in Congress do?

Kasich: They should be working with their colleagues, working with the administration to put something together that’s going to get us to balance over time.

TIME: Should that be a prerequisite to raising the debt ceiling?

Kasich: I’m never going to say what should be happening regardless. I’m not going to respond to that.

TIME: What did you learn from standing up to some in your own party on Medicaid expansion?

Kasich: I’ve never thought anything about it. It was the right thing to do. We’re helping the drug addicted, the working poor, the mentally ill. I didn’t see it as standing up to my party really, I just saw it as carrying out something that I thought was important for my state. Here’s the thing you have to realize, the Republican Party is my vehicle, and not my master. My job is to try to figure out how to fix things, and I’m going to fix things as best as I can. I’m going to get a team together to fix things. And I can’t sit around and worrying what the heck the chairman of the Republican Party thinks about what I’m doing. I have to do what has to be done to bring improvement. What would I do? Say, oh well, the Republicans don’t like this therefor I shouldn’t do it. What kind of a government would that be. We’re not a parliamentary system.

TIME: In 2011 you signed an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, putting you on the forefront of states controlled by Republican governors. What did you think of the RFRA debate in Indiana and elsewhere?

Kasich: We don’t have that issue in Ohio, and I just don’t think we should discriminate against anyone, plain and simple.

TIME: That executive order did not include protections based on gender identity. Is that something you would be open to?

Kasich: I put the executive order out and it covers who it covers. And if I saw a reason to investigate something else, I’d look at it.

TIME: On foreign policy, some in your party have taken a more isolationist approach, the Rand Paul model—

Kasich: No. I don’t think America should be the policeman of the world, but we have to be engaged and we have to be a leader, and that comes from strong economic growth, a strong military, good diplomatic efforts, and integrating our business community. I just think it’s a whole new paradigm. And Gen. Jim Jones has been proposing sort of—that our military commanders, combatant commanders, work closely with our diplomatic corps, and including the business community in all this. People would say we’re already doing it. I don’t believe it. I think there needs to be more of an integration, so that we look at these issues holistically.

TIME: Soft power?

Kasich: I would say some soft, and some really tough power. Let’s think about how we can bring economic development, let’s see if people could learn a little more of the rule of law, rather than the rule of man, which is kind of what you see in China now. And business people have a a good view of what’s happening internally in countries, and they can be a positive force. And so I think there needs to be a full integration of all of that. But you have to have a strong military and it needs to be rebuilt.

TIME: You spoke about the need to reform the military. How would you go about doing that?

Kasich: The whole thing needs to be looked at. We still have systems we don’t need, we have infrastructure we don’t need. Is there a way to preposition equipment. Are there technologies that can take the place of more expensive, traditional military equipment. Can we get our allies to become more robust. It’s a whole series of things that you need to do. But the building itself—I mean, why do you have over 900,000 bureaucrats working in one way or another in all these systems. It becomes complicated. It’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done.

TIME: Are there specific programs that you have in mind?

Kasich: Well, that’s a process we’re going through right now. And I’ll have more to say about that in the future.

TIME: There are a number of military bases in Ohio, you mentioned base closures, should they be—

Kasich: I think that bases should be closed on the basis or opened on the basis of what they contribute to our national security. I went through when I was a congressmen, one of my operations shutting down. Look, I was at Pease Air Force Base, it got shut down, and they turned lemons into lemonade. The Pentagon needs precious resources to build the strength of America, and we can’t say, ‘this is really important to this community, and it’s really not vital to the national security, but we ought to do it anyway.’ So, I think we have to have a discipline on this.

TIME: What is the greatest impediment for you, as you potentially go down this road? Money? Name-ID? Convincing voters you have the right vision?

Kasich: I don’t really see — I’m pretty optimistic about what I’m seeing. I know that the world would shudder, if I were able to clone me, but it would be great if there were more of me to go around so you could get to more places to talk to more people. I would say, I don’t kind of look at life that way. I’m not looking at impediments right now. I just look at opportunities. As Arnold Schwarzenegger told me one time, “Love the beatings.” [in accent] As Arnold told me one time, “Going down the slope, love the moguls.” I think that’s right, that’s a good attitude about life, and it’s a good attitude about politics.

TIME: You have something of a reputation for having some rough edges. Do you see that in yourself sometimes?

Kasich: I’m from Pittsburgh, we’re pretty direct from outside of Pittsburgh.

TIME: That’s like the Chris Christie response.

Kasich: I don’t know about that. But look, we build teams of people and we’ve had really great results. And we’re just going to build good teams o people. One of the great, most heartening things was, being in New Hampshire many years ago, many of the people that I touched back then are with me today. They want to help. Isn’t that a great thing?

TIME: John Sununu being one of them.

Kasich: John, but Bruce Burke, and there’s a host of them. There are people who said, hey, if he’s doing it again, I want to be involved, and that’s really, really cool.

TIME Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham Shoots Clay Pigeons, Offers Tax Increases to Democrats

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shoots skeet in Kamas, USA
Jim Urquhart—Reuters Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shoots skeet in Kamas, during a break at the E2 Summit held by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, at the Deer Valley Resort outside Park City, Utah.

Between shotgun pulls at a remote Utah shooting range, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham gives a crowd of reporters his political first-principle.

“Don’t shoot yourself in the foot,” the Republican presidential hopeful says, “is the first goal of shooting skeet, and the first goal of politics is to just survive.” For ‘Bernie Sanders,’ the clay pigeon he just named after his liberal opponent, the goal was met, as the disk flew clear of the shot from Graham’s double-barreled weapon. Other pigeons were nicknamed ‘Elizabeth Warren’ or ‘al-Baghdadi,’ for the ISIS leader.

“Giving me a gun at six in the morning is not really a good idea,” he joked the day before.

It is Graham’s humor, his hawkish foreign policy and his willingness to negotiate with Democrats that has made him a standout a Republican cattle-calls for months. Quick with a one-liner or a self-deprecating joke, he’s combining his irreverent style with dead-serious policy to significant effect, waking up sleepy audiences and dominating the cable television line-ups.

Graham envisions himself as the voice of reason on the debate stage, advocating for compromise with Democrats on climate change and immigration, while pushing an aggressive foreign policy, including putting 10,000 troops back in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS. He also told TIME in an interview that he is willing to buck party orthodoxy and cut a deal with Democrats to reform entitlements with both cuts in spending and increases in tax revenues, in the form of eliminated deductions. “If the entitlement reform is real, I’ll do the revenue,” he explained.

Speaking at a Republican donor retreat in Utah organized Mitt Romney, Graham joked about the ‘perfect’ Romneys, at his own expense. “Good looking, smart, nice, great family,” he said of the 2012 nominee. “Vote for me, we’re not going down this road again”

“He’s got a natural gift,” Sen. John McCain, Graham’s longtime friend, told TIME in an interview. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus proclaimed, “he’s totally hilarious…But he’s also a serious guy, talking about serious things.”

Graham would be a potent threat on the debate stage, with a quick wit to throw zingers. That is, if he can make it. He languishes near the bottom of national polls, and acknowledges he has little chance of making the stage unless the party caves to calls to allow more than the top 10 candidates to participate.

In the meantime, Graham is doing what he does best. During a break in the shooting, Graham told reporters that his campaign will be deemed a success as long as “I’m the same guy afterwards that I was before.” At the moment, he is in no danger of doing otherwise.

TIME sat down with Graham at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah during the Republican donor retreat. A transcript follows:

TIME: What’s your reception in these private meetings?

GRAHAM: Good. People are curious. They are looking for somebody that can win. They’re trying to check me out. And I’m thinking I made a pretty decent impression. I am trying to get some more investors, and I give it my best. I just really appreciate the opportunity to be here.

TIME: Did Mitt Romney give you any advice out here?

GRAHAM: He just, just be yourself. Be funny, be Lindsey, be serious, you’re a really good guy. He wouldn’t have had me out here if he didn’t think I had some talent.

TIME: Comedic talent or political?


TIME: You’re one of the few candidates who can tell a joke.

GRAHAM: You’re in a business where you risk danger telling any joke or making any glib comment. I’m not going to live my life that way. You know, I try to be appropriately funny, sometimes I maybe miss the mark. I’m not going to take myself too seriously, certainly, I don’t take my critics too seriously. I try to make it entertaining, but informative. If I’m going to sit there and listen to somebody for 30 minutes, then it’s okay to laugh. Ronald Reagan was pretty good. Humor can really make a point sometimes better than any other talking point.

TIME: Any of the other candidates funny in your view?

GRAHAM: Marco [Rubio]’s pretty funny. I’m not hanging around ’em, but Trump’s funny. I think he’s very funny.

TIME: You think he’ll get in?

GRAHAM: I don’t know. He says he will.

TIME: Do you have to win over converts to win this election? On climate change, and immigration reform, a lot of the GOP disagrees with you.

GRAHAM: That’s not true, over 60 percent of the Republican primary vote would support a comprehensive immigration solution with a pathway to citizenship if they were convinced it wouldn’t lead to a third wave of illegal immigration. People are all over the board on climate change. I’ve been to the arctic, I’ve been to Alaska. I think CO2 emissions are heating up the planet. How much, I don’t know. But if half of it’s true, that’s pretty serious. I just want a pro-business way to fix it. Young people, to their credit, are very environmentally sensitive.

TIME: You think that there’s a silent majority out there?

GRAHAM: Loud doesn’t mean a lot. I had six primary opponents. The slam on me is that I work with Democrats too much. I vote for their nominees because I want them to vote for ours. Qualifications should be the standard, not ideological alignment. I did very well in a red state.

TIME: Last time around, all of the candidates got the 10-1 spending cuts to tax increase question. Would you take that deal?

GRAHAM: Yeah I would, if the spending cuts are real, you better believe it. We’re not talking about raising rates, we’re talking about eliminating deductions and taking that revenue to pay down the debt. The only way you get Democrats on board for a Simpson-Bowles deal is for us to eliminate some deductions and take the money to pay down debt as well as lower rates. And in return, they have to just agree with us to adjust the age of retirement and means test some benefits cause we’ll become Greece if we do not. So I would do it. If the entitlement reform is real, I’ll do the revenue.

TIME: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge? Would you?

GRAHAM: No. Nope. What I’m going to do is sign a pledge to be the best president that I know how to be. Be as honest as I know how to be. Put the country ahead of the party. Be a good Republican. But at the end of the day, I just don’t see how in the world you do a big deal without Democrats. And the revenue I’m talking about is eliminating deductions, and I won’t do that until I get a commitment on entitlement reform.

TIME: What’s your path?

GRAHAM: Just to build momentum. To exceed expectations in Iowa. Finish in the top tier in New Hampshire. Win South Carolina. And I’m off to the races. But the only way I’ll do that is to convince people that I’m the best person to be commander in chief on day one. The only way I will win anywhere is to be able to convince people that I am the best person to be commander in chief, and the problem solving skill set that I bring to the table and willingness to work across the aisle is an asset to the party.

TIME: Even if this doesn’t work out, that this is a worthy effort. Do you think you’re bringing the voice of sanity and reason to this debate?

GRAHAM: Well, I’m not saying that people who disagree with me are insane. I am saying I am comfortable with who I am and what I believe, and I think I have a strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL. And I certainly have the willingness to work with Democrats to do the big things that somebody needs to do. And, at the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Radical Islam hates us all, whether you’re a Republican or Democrat. The baby boomers are going to wipe out Social Security and Medicare if somebody doesn’t do something about it. And I’d like to be the person to get this together. I think I’d be good at that. I think I’d be a good president, bringing people together.

TIME: Are you worried that other candidates don’t have foreign policy experience?

GRAHAM: I am telling you they are going to have to convince people that they do. I am going to support our nominee. I think we can beat her. If somebody else wins the nomination, then I’ll be in their camp.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy Is Ready to Rumble

CT Gov. Dannel Malloy Signs Broad Gun Control Bill
Christopher Capozziello—Getty Images Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy speaks during the gun-control-law-signing event at the Connecticut Capitol on April 4, 2013, in Hartford, Conn.

"When we run as Republican-lite we lose"

Governors tend to pull their punches when it comes to criticizing their peers. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy is playing a different game.

Attacking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie by name, taking a shot at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s concern over terrorist attacks in Milwaukee, and mocking Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s presidential aspirations, the New England Democrat has no qualms about taking the fight to the GOP. “Such a charitable man,” Malloy said of Christie, with a proverbial tongue in his cheek. “He has spread goodwill to so many places. He’s really quite remarkable, isn’t he.”

Moments earlier, in an interview with TIME on Thursday, he muffled a laugh as he described Jindal, whose remarks he once called “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard,” as the “toughest one to beat in the Republican field.”

Seizing an opportunity in a party depleted of household names not Clinton or Obama, Malloy is rising to the occasion, positioning himself as one of the party’s top attack dogs as the 2016 cycle approaches.

But Malloy is also envisioning a larger role for himself within the party too.

Addressing the winter meeting of the Association of State Democratic Chairs on Thursday he delivered a fiery speech, imploring the party to refocus on its core values.

“When we run as Republican-lite we lose,” he said. “Let us be Democrats once again,” he added, earning a standing ovation and whooping cheers.

Malloy was one of the few Democratic success stories of 2014, expanding his margin of victory in a repeat of his 2010 grudge match with Republican Tom Foley. He holds up his support of gun-control laws and minimum-wage hikes as a model for other Democrats.

As the chair designate of the Democratic Governors’ Association, it will be Malloy’s job next year to try to pick up seats from Republicans, who now hold a near record 31 governorships.

Speaking to TIME, Malloy wasn’t shy about attacking his GOP colleagues, and expanded on his call for the Democratic Party to stop being “Republicans-lite.”

Below is a lightly edited and condensed transcript:

My message is first of all we’ve got to elect a Democratic President. Otherwise the hard fought gains that we made under this president will be swept away. We’ve got to begin the process of changing the Congress and each election we need to pick up seats and we need to be on the offensive. What I’m hoping to do is see Democrats get elected. That’s what I’m trying to contribute to.

But you’re saying the right type of Democrat, right?
I think any Democrat is better. But I think what my message is, it’s about running as a Democrat. It’s about talking about Democratic values. I think we have to talk about Democratic values in this country again, because I think Republicans and their allies on Fox and elsewhere have done a good job of confusing people about who is actually pulling for them. You know and I know and economists know that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. But we’ve got all kinds of people in this country who are confused by what they hear on Fox everyday or elsewhere everyday and actually believe that somehow that’s going to trickle down to them even though during the last 25-30 years when trickle-down has been so often rolled out by Republicans, the middle class has not gotten bigger, wages are not up, quality of life for many of our citizens is not increasing the way that it should. So I think we need to be talking about our values vs. their values. Listen, I’ve got rich friend. I don’t mind the rich getting richer, but the poor shouldn’t be getting poorer and there should be more people moving into the middle class.

Are some Democrats in Washington not doing enough of that? Did that contribute to the defeats in 2014?
I think there are a lot of people who consciously or unconsciously, ran away from the President and the ideals of the party, and I’m not going to name names, but I think it’s important that we do what Republicans do, and view elections as a portion of the continuum, not as a stand-alone event. And every election needs to be built in part on the prior one and every new success needs to be built upon a prior success. And if we do that I think we’ll be stronger.

Looking ahead to 2016, should there be other Democrats entering the race to have this sort of dialogue?
That’s up to other people. I think people have to make their decisions about whether they want to run. I think there are a lot of Democrats who want Hillary to run and I think she would be an extremely strong candidate for the nomination and to be elected. I’m glad we don’t have 23 people running for President right now, although, as I said, I think the toughest one to beat would be Bobby Jindal. So we have to worry about him. People are either going to run for President or not, she’s going to either run for President or not, I think it looks more and more like that she’s going to, but she’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it.

Have you ever given it any thought?
No. Whenever people say you should President, I say, ‘I thought you liked me.’ Listen, I thought being mayor of Stamford was a wonderful job. Being governor of a state for a period of time is a wonderful job, and I’m not sure I’m at all attracted to Washington.

Governor Chris Christie to your south seems to be having a bit of a rough turn.
Such a charitable man. He has spread goodwill to so many places. He’s really quite remarkable, isn’t he?

He’s been facing some budget issues and dealing with pension reform …
Dealing with pension reform. He’s in the process of destroying public pensions, which by the way comes out of the Republican playbook. He hasn’t told the truth about what he’s doing, but that’s what he’s doing. The level of defunding that’s taken place under his administration is remarkable and I think the state’s bond rating will pay perhaps not a permanent price, but a long-term price. He’ll saddle that problem to some unfortunate Democrat who’s going to have to come in and do the right thing. That’s the hard part about being a Democrat, you have to clean up after Republicans.

Are you concerned that momentum Republicans are showing?
Yeah, that’s why I gave a speech. That’s why I think we have to rise as Democrats. I understand that everybody’s got to make tough choices in elections, but to defund your pension system by billions and billions of dollars, which is what New Jersey has done is not the right thing to do. To take away people’s rights to collectively negotiate their contracts, that’s not the right thing to do. And neither one of those things is going to help the middle class of those states. It’s just not going to. In some states it works to bash people who are a little bit better off than you to maybe make you feel better, but it is not a proven way to raise up the middle class, to raise the size of the middle class or to raise people’s standards of living.

On gun control, do you see a path to revitalizing the national conversation around gun control?
There will be more and more events like Sandy Hook. Look at the number of children that have been killed in schools since Sandy Hook. I’ve stopped counting, it’s astronomical when you think about the killing of children or babies. This discussion is not done. People actually understand that mentally ill people should not be able to buy guns, that people with violent-felony backgrounds should not be able to buy guns. They understand that. It’s when the other side wraps it with rhetoric like ‘they want to take your gun away.’ Well, no one wants to take your gun away, unless you’re, you know, a violent felon or you’re mentally ill, or you’ve threatened someone with it. That’s not happening anywhere. This conversation’s going to play out over a long period of time, and then the states that have done something about it, like my state, we continue to see a precipitous drop in homicides, and crime falling in Connecticut at three times the national average.

Where do you stand on the legalization of marijuana?
That’s not something I’m interested in. I decriminalized marijuana. We have 6,000 fewer arrests as a result of decriminalizing it, and we passed medical marijuana and I’m comfortable with where we are. I think it would be a mistake to become involved in the sale of marijuana for income purposes. It should be a stand-alone decision, it shouldn’t be based on whether you’re going to get a little money for it.

You’re taking over as chair of the DGA next year, what are you hoping to accomplish?
There are not a lot of Democratic governors, and we need to go our and fight the fight and take some of those states back and lay the groundwork for taking others back four years from now. I’ve always played a leadership role in any organization I’ve been apart of and I certainly have been the beneficiary of other governors, so I want to pay that back. I think this is important work. I think what Republicans pulled off in state legislatures following the census and their wins in 2010 has been very hurtful to the country. We have too few districts in the country that are in play, and as a result the Congress of the United States doesn’t do what it was intended to do, and that is to actually represent the majority will of the people. They’ve in other words, been gerrymandered.

Do you plan to step up your role in the party?
Obviously I’m here, and I was asked to speak, and there weren’t a whole lot of wins, so they’ve asked me to participate. And yes I’m going to play a role in trying to get more people elected as Democrats to the Houses and Senates and Assemblies, and more governors, and I’m on the lookout for good candidates for governor in the 2016 cycle. Some of those are pretty well set and some of those are going to be pretty wide open.

Have you started the recruitment process?
We are engaged in the recruitment process. That begins with talking to people who are expressing interest and making sure that people understand what it is to be a candidate in a statewide election. You have a lot of folks who want to run who’ve never run statewide and it’s not an easy thing to do. Part of our job is to make sure people understand and are sufficiently committed to doing that.

What are your thoughts on the Republican governors who have warned about the threat of ISIS as their party is embroiled in a shutdown fight over the Department of Homeland Security?
Those Republican governors should talk to the Republican members of Congress who are threatening to defund the agency that they are otherwise relying on. You know, it’s a wonderful thing, Republicans have both sides of their mouth and they’re able to use them well. The governor complains that there is a threat of ISIS in Milwaukee, but the Republican members of the Congress vote against funding the agency that’s charged with protecting us from it because they have a disagreement with the President over the ability of the people who were brought to this country as children and who have graduated from our school systems, to stay in this country. When they only speak English. That’s what this fight’s about. Republicans — they want to have both sides of the immigration issue, they want to have both sides of the job issue, they want to have both sides of the healthcare issue, and it’s incumbent on some of us not to let them get away with it.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Gov. Rick Snyder Explains How Detroit Was Saved

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder holds a rebate check for $1.2 million dollars to hand to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan during a news conference discussing the city of Detroit exiting from bankruptcy in Detroit
Rebecca Cook—Reuters Michigan Governor Rick Snyder holds a rebate check for $1.2 million dollars to hand to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan during a news conference discussing the city of Detroit exiting from bankruptcy in Detroit, on Dec. 10, 2014.

'It was a tough call to decide to go into bankruptcy'

Four years after taking office, the bookish Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder marked the completion of his toughest challenge Wednesday: saving the beleaguered city of Detroit from economic collapse.

While the city’s headwinds are from from over, it emerged from history’s largest municipal bankruptcy with $7 billion fewer obligations and identifying $1.7 billion that could be reinvested over the next decade. Snyder, an accountant and former venture capitalist elected to his second term as a Republican last month, says he now plans to share the Detroit turnaround story to the nation.

“I do want to tell the Michigan message more to the country, of our comeback, because a lot of people don’t recognize what a success we’ve had, what a success Detroit’s becoming. ” Snyder told TIME Wednesday as the paperwork restoring the city’s control over its own finances was being filed. “So it’s important to tell that story.”

But Snyder, who has been talked about as a potential Republican presidential contender, indicated he doesn’t have his eyes on the White House in 2016. “In terms of other offices, I’m very happy being governor,” he said.

Snyder said the country could learn from his philosophy of “relentless positive action,” which he describes as using the goodwill from solving one problem to solving the next.

“There’s too much ‘R’ and ‘D,’ there’s too much ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative,” he said. “We need people to recognize that we’re all Michiganders, and in the country that we’re all Americans, and we should be focused on problem solving.”

“What would Washington be like if everyone agreed not to fight or blame one another,” he added. “There’d be a whole lot of time to get work done.”

Q: What worked in Detroit?

A: What we planned to have happened. Actually it worked well. It was an extremely difficult process. It was a tough call to decide to go into bankruptcy, but again, we set an aggressive timetable. And the good part is, it turned out very well. It was a difficult situation. And I always want to recognize that there are retirees making sacrifices, other people making sacrifices. But for the circumstances we were in, this is a very constructive, positive outcome that really positions the city to start a new chapter and grow.

Q: Are you already seeing the results?

A: There’s a lot of them, and it’s been ongoing. As we’ve gone through this process, developments, particularly in midtown and downtown Detroit continue to rebound. For example, Little Caesar’s just announced a new headquarters building, the first corporate headquarters building being built in a decade, in Detroit. That just got announced today. So, that’s the kind of good thing going on as part of the entertainment district area that they are developing.

I made a trip to China just a couple of weeks ago and it was really interesting. I’ve made four trips in four years to China to build relationships there and when I went four years ago and three years ago and last year, I’d get plenty in a negative context about Detroit. This trip it was largely positive questions and actually not a lot of questions about Detroit [finances], more general interest in Detroit and Michigan.

Q: How did you marshal the various interests in the city, in many cases convincing people to see their benefits cut for the sake of the city’s financial survival?

A: I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I also need to give a great credit to Kevin Orr, the judge, the mediators, there were a lot of great people, the mayor, everyone worked hard on a lot of these issues as time passed. There are at least two key things that you always need to focus on when you deal with a lot of these discussions—they also apply out of bankruptcy, anytime you’re dealing with these issues. The first one is, to get people to really agree on what are the facts. A lot of times people work on an issue or take a position that’s an emotional response or kind of a historical response, versus really digging into what’s the factual context. Because, in the bankruptcy for example, there simply were not the resources, so something had to be reduced, and how do you do that in a thoughtful way. And the second piece is building trust with people, getting people to agree that difficult things may need to be done, but here’s a more constructive way to do it where it’s not about who wins and who loses, but how do you create an environment where people can be successful together over a longer period of time.

Q: Is the city out of the woods yet? How confident are you that in can survive any challenges that come its way.

A: I wouldn’t use the word ‘any,’ because you could think of circumstances that could put any community or any place in the country in difficulty depending on how severe it was. But in the context of saying, now is it in a comparable fashion or in a potentially successful fashion like many other urban areas, it’s clearly well positioned for that. And I say that under two different criteria. One is from a process point of view, that we’ve had a $7 billion reduction in liabilities, about $1.7 billion in reinvestment resources being identified over the next 10 years under a base plan for the city, a financial review commission that’s there to provide an oversight role like what happened in DC and New York City, to help make sure the city government is fulfilling their role responsibly in terms of budgeting. So those are all process/procedural things that are helpful. And then from a people point of view, we have a mayor and city council that have been good partners and successful partners on a number of efforts already and they’re continuing. So I think that’s set the framework for success and the ability to say that people are focusing now on the growth of Detroit.

Q: Now that you have this done, what are your next priorities?

A: A couple of them are wrapping up. We’re working on transportation funding right now, transportation infrastructure funding in the lame duck right now. I’d love to get that done. That’s something I’ve been calling for for a couple of years. But beyond that, I’m exciting about where Michigan’s poised. We’re now a top-tier state. We need to get that message out to the rest of the country. And in terms of priorities, I think we have a huge opportunity to lead the nation in filling skilled trades jobs and re-establishing a career/technical education track in our state second-to-none. Because if you stop to look at one of the great challenges you are seeing now with companies and organizations, they’re out looking for people with the right skills, and we have a lot of people, talented people, looking for work that need those skills. So the jurisdiction that does the best at leading in that is going to have a big advantage. And Michigan is going to be number one in doing that.

Q: When you say skilled trades jobs, are you referring to manufacturing? Is manufacturing coming back?

A: Yeah, and we have been. We’re number one in adding manufacturing jobs and it’s coming back strong. But we also need to redefine the skilled trades, because historically people tended to think of them as the welder, plumber, electrician, and those are great professions, but if you’re in manufacturing today, you’re a skilled tradesperson most likely. If you’re in agriculture today, you’re driving a $250,000 tractor, a $500,000 combine, you’re a skilled tradesperson. So, this is a very pervasive issue. A lot of times we overly-encourage people, and tell all of our young people to go get a university degree when in many cases, they would be just as well off if they’d have looked at a career tech-ed track and being successful there. So we need to have two parallel tracks that are both well-respected and honorable.

Q: You saw what happened in Ferguson and the national conversation that has erupted. What are your views on it?

A: What happened in Ferguson is very troubling, in terms of the whole situation, and it shows that there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in terms of relationship-building. So I think it really highlights that people thought improvement had happened, but that there’s much more work to be done. And I’m proud to say in Michigan that we’ve been proactive on that. I don’t take it for granted. That’s something you have to actively work on and build those relationships. And we’ve been doing that in a number of our urban areas. I’m proud of the work, again in Detroit, but also in communities like Flint and Saginaw in particular. We’ve spent a lot, both of my time, but also some of our key departments in state government, the Michigan state police, human services being proactive, trying to partner with the local community itself, the leadership there, the local criminal justice system, the courts, the faith-based community, talking about these issues and how do we make sure we’re building bridges, building relationships that are deep enough to be prepared in case you have one of these terrible events happen.

Q: You’re looking to tell Michigan’s story to the nation, but what about you? Are you looking to take on a national role, perhaps a 2016 campaign?

A: As I said, I’m very active on some great next steps for Michigan, in terms of this career-tech education track, some huge initiatives. I also what to get out—I do want to tell the Michigan message more to the country, of our comeback, because a lot of people don’t recognize what a success we’ve had, what a success Detroit’s becoming. So it’s important to tell that story. But in terms of other offices, I’m very happy being governor. What I would say to you is, if you look towards the future in 2016, the best candidate will be a governor most likely in my view, and should be a governor.

Q: Any particular governor?

A: The good part is, there’s a strong group of Republican governors. If you look at the Midwest in particular, there’s a great group there. It’s good to see that this is where good things are happening in government.

Q: What’s your message to Washington and the country in general?

A: This is actually a subset of the bigger Michigan story. In the public sector in particular, but in our political culture, we need to rise above politics. There’s too much ‘R’ and ‘D,’ there’s too much ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’ We need people to recognize that we’re all Michiganders, and in the country that we’re all Americans, and we should be focused on problem solving. And that’s where I’ve used my philosophy of ‘relentless positive action’ for four years now and it’s been very successful. And I tell people: ‘I don’t fight with anybody. I don’t blame anybody. You didn’t hire me to do that. You hired me to solve problems.’ And if you solve these problems, it creates a much more positive atmosphere to solve the next problem, and that’s how you get on a very strong comeback path which is what we’re seeing in Detroit and in Michigan.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Attorney General Eric Holder Plans ‘Institute of Justice’ to Address Protest Concerns

He says Ferguson could be a seminal moment for the national conversation around race

Attorney General Eric Holder has begun drafting plans to continue his work rebuilding the relationship between local law enforcement and the black community after he leaves public office next year.

“This whole notion of reconciliation between law enforcement and communities of color is something that I really want to focus on and to do so in a very organized way,” he said Tuesday in an interview with TIME. “Not just as Eric Holder, out there giving speeches—though certainly that could be a part of it—but to have maybe a place where this kind of effort is housed and to be associated with that kind of an entity.”

His preparation comes at a time when the nation’s top law enforcement officer has launched a national tour to meet with black leaders and law enforcement around the country, amid daily protests over grand jury decisions in New York City and Ferguson, Mo., to not bring charges against police officers who killed unarmed black men. On Monday, Holder spoke at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, a civil rights landmark, and on Thursday he will travel to Cleveland, where a police officer recently shot a 12-year-old black boy, Tamir Rice, who was playing with an air gun.

Holder’s current plans include creating an “institute of justice” that would help continue the dialogue he hopes to undertake over the coming weeks. Holder has been the administration’s point-person on Ferguson response since he visited the troubled city in August following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

Holder, who will leave office as soon as his replacement is confirmed, said he believes Ferguson could be a seminal moment for the national conversation about race.

Below is a lightly edited transcript of his Tuesday interview with TIME.

TIME: You said you were encouraged by the peaceful demonstrations after the Ferguson grand jury announcement and you praised the young people who interrupted you on Monday. What do you see in them?

Eric Holder: I think that these protests, if done correctly, can lead to positive change. And I draw distinction between those who protest peacefully in the great tradition of Rosa Parks, for instance.

It’s interesting that I spoke yesterday at the church where Martin Luther King gave some of his famous speeches on the 59th anniversary of Rosa Parks refusing to get up and surrender her seat. And I think if you think about them, that is Rosa Parks, and if you think about Dr. King, and the lasting permanent changes that the movements that they helped to inspire, that he helped to lead, that I think is a guide to the protestors now. I think that protesters, people who feel strongly about the nature of the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, that if that intensity of feeling is channeled appropriately, then positive change can come.

But it means people have to stay involved. They have to be committed to the cause, they have to organize, they have to do all the things that Rev. [C.T.] Vivian talked about last night in his remarks, that history has shown us produce things that are more than protests: things that morph from protest into a movement.

Do you think this could be a pivotal moment for race relations in this country?

It could be. I think the seeds are there for a movement that could have a very positive impact on that relationship, again, between law enforcement and communities of color. That you could have the basis here for a reexamination of that relationship, for a reforming of that relationship, and an injection of a great deal of trust that does not necessarily exist there now. I think that out of the tragedy that was Michael Brown’s death, some very positive things could happen. That’s could happen, and the question is what is going to happen with all of these people who are at least at this point very committed, very moved by what they have seen, what they are demonstrating. Will these protests coalesce into a movement?

But in direct response to your question, I think yeah, the possibility exists that what we have seen in Ferguson, or that what happened in Ferguson, could be one of those seminal moments that transforms the nation.

You came into office saying this was a “nation of cowards” when it comes to dealing with race, that America has “still not come to grips with its racial past.” What has changed? What hasn’t? Is that still true?

One thing I would urge you to do is read the whole speech. Because I think that quote—it is what it is—but the speech itself I think really, I think accurately reflects what we as a nation have done and tend to do, which is have these incidents and then kind of deal with them in the moment, and then kind of push them aside and real progress is not made.

In the past six years have you laid the groundwork for breaking that cycle?

What I’ve tried to do, among other things at Attorney General, it’s not been the only thing obviously that I’ve done, but I’ve tried to be a force for the kind of positive interaction that I talked about in that speech. With an understanding that raising those concerns is difficult, it’s painful, but I think it’s necessary. Meaningful progress is not made without going through this kind of painful process that I think is necessary and that we, understandably, try to avoid.

You have called U.S. sentencing patterns “shameful” with regards to race. With regards to local law enforcement are there similar patterns of racial discrimination? Has law enforcement got off easy?

I don’t think so. If you look at what we have done with our pattern of practice investigations, I don’t think law enforcement has gotten a pass at all. The number of cases that we have brought shows that our civil rights division has been focused on law enforcement and brought to bear all the tools that we have when we’ve identified problems.

One thing I think we have to be fair about, the fact that we brought record number of cases does not mean that the vast majority of law enforcement officers haven’t conducted themselves in totally appropriate ways. You shouldn’t take from that an indictment of law enforcement writ large. There are certainly problem cities, problem forces. We try to identify them, we try to work with them and change them. The vast majority of law enforcement officers conduct themselves in really honorable appropriate ways.

In August, when the situation in Ferguson was heating up you were in Martha’s Vineyard with the President. Putting yourself back there…What were his initial reactions? Is there anything he said then or the days after to you that stood out?

Without revealing the specifics of conversations, which I just really don’t do with the President, I can certainly say that for those of us up on the Vineyard, we had the feeling there was a potential for a significant reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown. But, I’m not sure that any of us really anticipated that it would—in those initial stages—that it would grow into an issue that was of such searing national concern. It did become obvious, relatively shortly thereafter. But in those first few days, I don’t think—I certainly would not have predicted that it would become an issue of national concern.

Was there a conversation that stood out?

We were talking, while we were up there, about when and if I should go to Ferguson. We knew that that was a significant risk. We didn’t know how people would react. It meant that we were going to have to own this in a way that we didn’t if I didn’t go. So yeah, there were conversations that we had along those lines, and I think the decision made, and I think appropriately so, was that this was something that required high-level federal government involvement—that I needed to go at the behest of the President.

All of this was happening as you were deciding to leave the administration. Did this make you second-guess that?

This is a job that I have loved having. And yeah, there’s probably not a day that I don’t get up and think, “Did I make the right decision?” I’m proud of what we have done. As I said in my resignation remarks, I’m sad about the fact that I will not formally be a part of the ongoing efforts of this administration and this Justice Department.

So, do you plan to continue this in your personal capacity?

I think that I’m certainly going to take some personal time, recharge my batteries, but I do want to be involved in this ongoing work. This whole notion of reconciliation between law enforcement and communities of color is something that I really want to focus on and to do so in a very organized way. Not just as Eric Holder, out there giving speeches—though certainly that could be a part of it—but to have maybe a place where this kind of effort is housed and to be associated with that kind of an entity. That’s the kind of thing I’m beginning to think about.

You announced that the Justice Department will announce new profiling guidance in the coming days. Is that the capstone on your criminal justice reform efforts?

It’s certainly part of a larger effort that I have been involved in dealing with, this whole question of criminal justice reform, whether it is sentencing policies, charging policies, law enforcement deployments. This whole question of the use of race is a part of that overall effort, and it’s a logical, it’s a piece that clearly was missing that hopefully will be filled in by the announcement that we will make in the next couple of days.

How do you respond to criticism that you’ve been able to be more forward about issues of race and discrimination than the President.

I think it’s more of a function of the roles that we play. I’m the Attorney General, and I serve as the head of an organization where a lot of this stuff intersects, where a lot of it comes together. And as a result, it’s more logical, more expected, for me to be more vocal about these issues.

But, I have to say; these are the kinds of issues that I’ve talked about with the President since his first days here in Washington, DC. I met him before he had been sworn in as a senator. We bonded over these criminal justice reform concerns and views of racial matters. We share a worldview, and I am confident there is little that I have said that he would not have agreed with over the past six years.

But again, I am the Attorney General dealing with these issues on a day-to-day basis as part of my job, and so hearing me speak about these issues, in the way you know Robert Kennedy spoke about them as opposed to John Kennedy, I think is kind of the same thing.

People have to also understand that the President has weighed in in a very significant way. You know, you hear from the Attorney General, and it’s significant, there’s no question about that. I have learned, painfully so, that people actually listen to everything that I say. But it’s a different magnitude when the President of the united states comes into the press room and gives some off the cuff remarks, or comes into the press room and reads remarks about these racial matters. So this notion that he has not been heard from in a sufficient way is belied by all the things that he has said, all the things that he has talked about.

In the past few years we’ve seen Republicans embrace elements of criminal justice reform. Do you think there’s an opportunity to make legislative process here?

I think there is the real possibility that this can be a significant area of bipartisan cooperation that would, frankly, be extremely good for this nation: For conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats to get together to put into legislative form the changes that I have used executive authority to do here in the federal system.

I think people come at it form a variety of perspectives. I think one of the things that I don’t think people focus on is that there are some red states that have done some really innovative things when it comes to criminal justice reform, including on rehabilitation, reentry efforts. I think one of the things that we have seen in that regard is that you save money. If you cut down on the rate of recidivism, we’re talking about people not committing crimes, and that necessarily means that people are safer, you’re not spending more money putting people back in jail. I think again that these states have shown, and we are starting to see at the federal level as well, that if you cut back just on the length of a sentence, it will save you really substantial amounts of money. If somebody’s serving two years instead of four, or five years instead of 10, you save a really significant amount of money, and if you invest some of that money into rehabilitative services, reentry services, you can save money and keep the crime rate down. That’s something that I think people intuitively think is illogical. You’re going to spend less money on criminal justice matters and so you’re going to save money and the crime rate’s going to go down. Some people don’t seem to think that makes sense. But the reality is if you spend that money wisely on evidence-based programs, you can do that. And I think that’s what draws people in.

People come to it for their own reasons: cost savings, the whole notion of just fairness, the desire for efficiencies in government, people are drawn to this issue for a variety of reasons, but I think there is a real opportunity there for something very significant to happen in 2015.


TIME Newsmaker Interview

Univision’s Jorge Ramos Calls Obama’s Immigration Actions a ‘Triumph For The Latino Community’

Photograph by Charles Ommanney for TIME Jorge Ramos’ Sunday-morning show, Al Punto, often draws more young viewers than its English-language competitors

The most influential Latino news anchor is taking a stand and wants you to notice

Shortly after President Obama scheduled his Thursday primetime address to announce new executive actions on immigration, his top White House communications advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, took to Twitter to boast. “Great timing,” he wrote, noting a rather glaring non-coincidence.

As it turned out, Obama had arranged to start speaking at the very moment Univision, America’s largest Spanish-language television network, planned to begin broadcasting the 2015 Latin Grammy Awards, one of the network’s biggest shows of the year, with a 2014 viewership of nearly 10 million.

Indeed, Univision promptly announced that it would delay the start of the live event to take Obama’s remarks, in translation, ensuring the President a massive platform in the most crucial political demographic, even as many of the English-language networks said they would skip the address. The chances are high that the leading lights of Latin pop music will follow up his words tonight with on-stage celebrations of the President’s actions.

The White House, not to mention its Republican rivals, long ago learned the power of a network most American cannot even understand. And at the center of that network is one of the most aggressive and influential newsmen in America, Jorge Ramos, who I profile in this week’s TIME magazine. (The full article is available to subscribers. Subscribe here for the print and digital versions; it costs just $40 a year.)

It is an exciting time for Ramos, who in recent years has remade himself as a bilingual journalist agitator, fighting for his audience to get immigration reforms in the United States and political reformation in his native Mexico. “It’ll be a triumph for the Latino community,” Ramos wrote to me in an email yesterday, after the President’s announcement was set. “It’ll demonstrate our newfound power. This is not something that we got; this is something that we fought for.”

For Ramos, the importance of the move was difficult to overstate. “This will be the most important immigration measure in 50 years—since the 1965 change in immigration law. In terms of numbers, it’ll have a wider impact than the 1986 amnesty,” he continued. “Although, it’ll be temporary, Republicans will have a very hard time rejecting it and not being seen as anti-immigrant or anti-Latino. Also, this will have a tremendous impact on the 2016 presidential campaign.”

If you don’t know who Ramos is, you probably will soon. He is the host to Noticiero Univision, a nightly Spanish language newscast; Al Punto, a Spanish-language Sunday political show and America with Jorge Ramos, an English language news magazine on Fusion. (His Univision news shows regularly beat their English language rivals among young viewers.) He writes a bilingual newspaper column that published internationally, and appears regularly as a pundit on English-language cable networks, like CNN and MSNBC. Polls among the U.S. Latino community rank him as the most trusted and influential Hispanic in America, beating all other political leaders, and his Q-score among Latino audiences places him between soccer magus Lionel Messi and the pop starlet Shakira.

You can read more about him, his activism, and his troublemaking approach to journalism in the magazine. But I have posted below some lightly edited excerpts from one of our interviews. We spoke about the scandals in Mexico, his past interviews with Mexico’s current President and some allegations that have been hurled against Grupo Televisa, the Mexican media giant that is one of the owners of Univision. We also spoke about the difficult balance he strikes between journalist and advocate.

TIME: So if you say that if [Obama grants legal status to] two million, the White House is being too timid. How do you know? What are you basing that on?

JORGE RAMOS: It’s very simple. We have at least eleven million people who are in this country as undocumented, without papers. So if you’re only going to help two million, it is not enough. It is clearly timid and wouldn’t be bold enough. Of course you will change the lives of two million people. But it is not what is expected from the community. And we’ve got to say that. The problem has to do with the expectations. When Obama came to power in 2008, right before the election, he promised us that he was going to introduce immigration reform during his first year in office.

What is the outer edge of how far you would be willing to go as a journalist who wants to advocate for his audience?

The limit is, I am a registered Independent. I would never say to whom I vote. I would never pressure anyone to vote for one party or another. That would be way too much.

What is your role as one of the few journalists from Latin America who can actually get [interviews with Latin American political leaders] interviews on television, and then ask whatever question you want? Do you feel an accountability role for those countries? Are you serving those populations too?

Well what I can tell you for instance is I feel with much more freedom to ask those questions. Because I can come back to the States and enjoy complete freedom of speech. If I had stayed in Mexico, instead of coming to the United States, I am absolutely convinced that I would have been a censored journalist. And a very sad one. Because I wouldn’t have been able to ask the same questions that I ask from this side of the border. There’s no question about it. There’s no question that I have more freedom than many journalists in Mexico who are criticizing the Mexican president.

Do you think [Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto lied to you when he said I’m not a millionaire?

I don’t know. But my role is to question him. And my role is to make sure that he’s not lying. And if he’s lying, that he’s accountable for that. And this is new.

In one of your columns recently you suggested that it wouldn’t be a bad idea if the Mexican legislature to try to take him from office?

But no one is doing that, no one is doing that.

You were suggesting it, no?

I’m reporting that there are thousands of Mexican who want Peña Nieto to quit, no? To resign. So here’s what I think our role as journalists—Congress is not investigating Peña Nieto. The Attorney General is not investigating Peña Nieto. Most of the media in Mexico are not questioning Peña Nieto. So somebody has to do it. And I think it is our role to do that. Precisely to do that. And I have the opportunity to do it from the United States to question what Peña Nieto is doing, what President Maduro is doing in Venezuela. With much more freedom than Mexican and Venezuelan journalists. I mean there is no freedom of speech in Venezuela. So how can you question President Maduro from Venezuela?

Do you think Televisa played a nontransparent role in the election of Peña Nieto?

What I can say is that Peña Nieto spent much more, much, much more than all the other candidates. And that millions of Mexicans question if he won fairly, no? And that’s – and that might be even an understatement. And that’s why Peña Nieto I think right now is having serious problems. Not only with his complete failure when it comes to security issues. And a questionable house owned by his wife. But also in terms of being legitimate in front of millions of Mexicans who don’t think that he won fairly.

My favorite line from [your book] Lo Que Vi is where you say that the joy of being a journalist is that you can preserve the restlessness and rebelliousness of youth.

That’s beautiful. I’m 56 and I still have the privilege of acting as a young reporter. Which is beautiful. Because when you’re young, young, you’re questioning everything. As a journalist you are forced to question everyone all the time. And therefore stay young, no? And that’s the beautiful part. And then, what I found fascinating about our profession is that you can actually talk to those who are never used to being questioned. And look, it’s only—we consider it only philosophically as journalists that it is truly our role to question those who are in power. And I think our most important social responsibility is to make sure that they don’t abuse their power. And I think this comes from being brought up in a very close, censored society like the Mexican society. But then, if I apply the same model here to the United States, then I very early understood that my role was to represent a minority. To represent Latinos, and especially to represent immigrants. For many different reasons. First because I’m an immigrant. I mean I can’t avoid that.

In one of the Fusion pieces you did on the border, you were standing next to the fence and you said it reminds you of the Berlin Wall. Why?

Because it is incredible, that nowadays you have open borders in Europe. And that’s a taboo issue here in the United States. I mean you can go – a few months ago I went from Spain to France, I paid 6 Euros at the border. There was no police, no agent, no one stopping me. And here in the United States, we can’t even discuss the possibility of something like that. I’m not arguing for open borders. But it’s a taboo issue.

Do you feel that your responsibility at Univision or here is to challenge your audience as well? The representing them and talking about DREAMERS and talking about what Boehner’s obstructing. Do you try and do stories on the other side of immigration? Like the unions being upset that wages on jobs are going down in meat packingplants because there’s undocumented workers working in them?

Of course, yeah but I think we have to concentrate on the really big issues. And the really big issues is that you have a community that is underrepresented politically. You have a community with eleven million people who are living in the shadows and in fear. And we only have three senators. We are 17% of the population. And we only have three senators.

And two of them don’t say what most of the population [says on immigration].

Exactly. So I think that explains why our role on Univision and on Fusion is different than what you would expect from NBC, ABC, or CBS, CNN and Fox News. Because a population who has no voice, or very little, or very few voices, needs to express themselves. I mean who is going to speak for all of the immigrants in this country? I mean who is going to tell John Boehner that he is blocking immigration reform? I mean, who is going to say that? It was – in an ideal world, one Latino senator and many members of congress of Hispanic origin would have gone to Boehner and told him in his face, you’re blocking immigration reform. That didn’t happen. So it is our role to do that.

Democrats [have] said—and you know these people and they’ve said it to you—that you’ve been unfair to the President because he’s the greatest President ever for the Latino community if you look at his push for minimum wage which disproportionally helps [Latinos], Obamacare covering Latinos disproportionately, economic progress, there are some measures that Latinos are improving, coming out of poverty quicker than others. What do you say to that criticism?

Well that he just didn’t keep his promise in the most important, symbolic issue for Latinos. When you have a community in which one out of two members is a foreigner, and you don’t deal with that issue as you promised, of course you’re going to be criticized. But I think I’ve been – as a journalist more than being objective, I think my role is to try to be fair. I try to be fair with both democrats and Republicans. I criticize fiercely President Obama for not keeping his word. For delaying action on immigration. And I’ve criticized fiercely Republicans for blocking immigration reform. They will lose the White House if they continue doing that. So I think, in that sense, I’ve been fair, or if you want, unfair to both.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Eric Cantor’s Secrets for Negotiating with Joe Biden

Joe Biden
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Civil Society Forum on the sideline of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 4, 2014

"The Guy's Awesome"

Last week’s Republican victories may have had the paradoxical effect of increasing the influence of the consummate Congressional Democrat, Joe Biden. GOP leaders looking to show they can get things done now that control both the House and Senate will need to cut deals with the Obama White House, and Vice President Joe Biden may be their best hope to do so.

On Tuesday, TIME spoke with one of the closest observers of Biden’s negotiating tactics, his long-time sparring partner and former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, now vice chairman and at the investment bank Moelis & Company. As the number two Republican in the House for the first six years of the Obama administration, and a constant thorn in the side of the White House on issues like the budget, energy, immigration and health care, Cantor saw Biden’s techniques up close.

You’ve spent a lot of time negotiating with Vice President Biden. What was that like?

Cantor: Unquestionably, the Vice President knows how to negotiate. He understands people. And in my professional background, before I got to Congress and certainly now in the private world at Moelis & Company and in Congress, if you’re interested in doing deals, and getting a result, what I think what one needs to do is be able to size people up. And this is what Joe Biden has always been about in my experience. He is able to size up where the opposition is. He’s firmly rooted in his direction, what he needs to accomplish in the negotiations, and then understands how far you can push and not lose a result or a deal.

My real experience is from the extended time we spent together in the summer of 2011 around the debt ceiling discussions. As you recall, the Speaker had asked me to serve on the Biden commission. The President had basically formed it and put the Vice President in charge. And there were a handful of us in the room for seven weeks almost, three days a week, two and a half hours a day. And the Vice president was the only one, and that commission was the only entity that really came up with a list of spending reductions that both sides could agree to.

Now, he would always say nothing was agreed to unless everything is agreed to. But nonetheless, work was done in the granularity of the programs that were targeted. Nothing was ever agreed to universally because the tax question came up and that’s what kicked it back to the White House and we all had to come back to the White House for two weeks with the President and then ultimately that ended with the Super Committee creation. But if you look at what has transpired since then, the Super Committee, the fiscal cliff, Murray-Ryan, all of that, the work that came out of Joe Biden’s commission is the common theme. And I believe that is attributable to his negotiating skills and ability to cut through—to set aside what you don’t agree on and try to come to a result.

What was the difference in negotiating with the President compared to the Vice President:

Cantor: I just think that the President obviously doesn’t have the tenure in Washington in negotiating deals that the Vice President’s had. Just in terms of pure time. And I think that the President is very rooted in what he wants. The President also, in my view, is very rooted in what he thinks the other side wants. And that’s where the difficulty in my opinion has been with the President over the last six years. If one does not agree with the President’s view of what you want, there’s very little prospect for a result. Joe Biden has a real sensitivity, not only to human reaction, but also partisan and political sensitivities. He understands how far you can push before you just blow up the prospects for a deal.

One readout of last week’s White House meeting suggested that the Vice President got ahead of Obama’s position on immigration reform in a desire to cut a deal. Have you seen that happen before?

Cantor: Honestly, the whole sense of the discussion around the initial debt ceiling talks in 2011 was just that. The president had dispatched the Vice President to come up with areas that could become part of a larger deal. And really the Vice President was very clear and never hid anything from me. He said in order to get any of the kinds of things we’re discussing, the President is going to want some kind of revenue increase. He laid it all out on the table. ‘That’s what we need.’ And I indicated what we needed and that we couldn’t go for tax increases. So I think there has certainly been evidence that the Vice President is a negotiator, he wants to cut through and get a deal done.

I think that on the fiscal cliff deal, when he struck that agreement with McConnell, that was the last time that the President wanted Joe Biden involved. And this is unfortunately what the pattern has been. Hopefully, I think the President may see the light and say if you want to get a deal done, bring in the deal man, Joe Biden.

What’s the current state of the Biden-McConnell relationship?

Cantor: I can’t speak for McConnell. But I do… stay in touch with [Biden]. He stays in touch with people. Part of the ability to do deals is to know both sides and to understand their thought process and their political priorities and imperatives. My sense would be, if I’m like others, Joe Biden has maintained those relationships. And that’s one of the striking differences between the President and Vice President. The President has not spent the time necessary even while he’s been in office the last six years, much less before, developing, nurturing relationships and understanding people’s thinking. And that is a huge impediment to the President’s ability to do a deal, whereas I think Joe Biden has been schooled in that way.

How did you try to square the Vice President’s public image with his negotiating record?

Cantor: Joe Biden is what you see. You know, he’s genuine. Yes, he’s prone to gaffes publicly, and he’ll admit that. He’s very self-deprecating like that. And I’m certainly not one who agrees with Joe Biden on all things—we probably disagree more than we agree—but from a human and relationship standpoint, the guy’s awesome.

Do you think the midterms opened up the possibility for deal-making?

Cantor: I really think that there’s going to be a trial period here. And I really look at the next six weeks as that. From the White House standpoint, if the president signs an executive order on immigration unilaterally that will not bode well for the productivity of the next Congress. Again, I think that’s the trial issue for the president.

From Congress’ standpoint, their job is to get done the omnibus/minibus spending package. Because if they kick the can and decide to push the [longer-term spending bill] into the next Congress so they don’t have to “negotiate” with the other side, I think that leaves wide open the chance of mischief and derailing of the path to productivity.

Do you think last week’s election paved the way for a more united GOP conference, or will leadership still have difficulty keeping members in line.

Cantor: In my experience, I think the latter would probably be [a more likely] reality. And it’s always going to be a challenge for leadership. I do think in the House, the Speaker and the Leader are going to have a much larger majority now that hopefully will be more inclined to follow the path laid out by the Speaker and the leadership. If we can see the House and Senate to really begin to move legislation across the floor—and some of the legislation and probably a lot of it will not be to the White House’s liking—there’s something about that that may lend itself to a more espirit de corps, if you will, for folks to hang together because they’re winning, they’re getting legislation across the floor, they’re getting it out of Congress, sending it to the President’s desk and then it would be incumbent on the President to respond.

I think if you can see some real legislative productivity on the Hill that may lend itself to the larger majorities now hanging with leadership more.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Mary Landrieu Talks to TIME About the Fight of Her Political Life

Sen. Landrieu Gathers With Supporters On Election Night In New Orleans
Stacy Revere—Getty Images U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) gathers with supporters during midterm elections at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans on Nov. 4, 2014.

The senior Senator from Louisiana talks hardball politics and Keystone XL at a campaign stop in New Orleans

Mary Landrieu did not look like a politician on the brink of extinction as she arrived at the National World War II Museum’s crowded Veterans Day get-together in her hometown of New Orleans on Tuesday. With the hulks of retired warplanes suspended overhead, the senior Senator from Louisiana made her way toward the stage through a sea of smiles, handshakes and hugs from old friends. She stopped for a chat with the New Orleans Maritime Marine Academy Band before taking a seat on stage next to the mayor, who is also her little brother.

But as the Senate Democrats’ final flag-bearer in the Deep South, Landrieu is every bit the last of an endangered political species. In a three-way contest on Election Day earlier this month, she finished first with 42% compared to 40% for Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and 14% for Tea Party favorite Rob Maness. Landrieu and Cassidy now go head-to-head in a runoff Dec. 6, and many of Maness’ supporters are expected to back her Republican opponent.

Landrieu has been all but abandoned by the national Democratic Party ahead of the runoff. Cassidy and his supporters have paid for 96% of the ads aired since the runoff began, while the national Democratic campaigns have pulled virtually all of their money out of the race.

But Landrieu is putting a brave face on it. Democrats throughout the South took an Election Day beating in part because voters saw the midterms as a referendum on President Obama, Landrieu says. With the GOP soon to be in control of the Senate, the Republican majority is no longer at stake and Landrieu hopes that fact will give her space to focus the race back on Louisiana. “We have the race that we want!” she declared after results came in election night.

The magic number for Landrieu to win that race is “30”, say campaign aides. Black voters, a solidly Democratic constituency, must comprise 30% of the electorate and she’s got to win 30% of white votes, the aides say. She has a ways to go to make those numbers. On November 4, she took just 18% of white votes—if she hopes to keep her job she’ll have to win over the rest.

To get there, Landrieu is playing up her more than 18 years as a moderate deal-maker in the Senate and her lengthy record of bringing home the proverbial bacon. Among the projects she has managed to bring to Louisiana, Landrieu reminded the crowd on Veterans Day, was the National World War II Museum in which they were all gathered.

After speeches from Landrieu, her brother Mitch the mayor, Republican Sen. David Vitter and Marine Corps Colonel Bradley Weisz (who was the only speaker all day to mention President Obama), Landrieu sat down with TIME to discuss her uphill political battle.

TIME: You mentioned after the election that this is the campaign you’ve always wanted. Why? The numbers are daunting—

Sen. Mary Landrieu: Hold on. The campaign I wanted is a campaign against Bill Cassidy. Not against the entire anger at the national government. And the first race was so much anger about gridlock in Washington, now that that race is over the Republicans have taken control of the Senate. Mitch McConnell is now going to be the Majority Leader. Barack Obama has been in some ways repudiated by the voters nationally. Not personally, but some of his policies. I think now voters here can focus on what’s best for Louisiana. So this is the race that I’ve wanted to run, between Mary Landrieu and Bill Cassidy. Running on my record against his record. And if we can get voters to focus on that I’m confident of a victory.

In recent days you’ve been highlighting things like the gender gap, the minimum wage, issues that particularly affect women.

OK, yes but what you need to be corrected on is that I’ve been highlighting those issues since the first day of the campaign. You would write it wrong. This is not a recent switch. I’ve been talking about minimum wage, pay equity, Lilly Ledbetter, since the first day of this campaign because economic issues are really at the heart of what Louisiana voters want to focus on. Oil and gas jobs, worker training, the skills gap, fair wages and benefits. I’ve talked about that since the first day of the campaign.

Now, a lot of that’s been drowned out by my opponent who won’t discuss that in any way, shape or form. All he wants to talk about is the President. And, as I’ve said, I’ve now worked with three presidents, six governors and four majority leaders. The race that I want to run is a race about: Has Mary Landrieu delivered for Louisiana? And what has she done? And what kind of teams has she built? What kind of record does she have versus Bill Cassidy. If I can get that race, we will win. I will win.

With Republicans in control of the Senate is Keystone XL going to go through?

That’s a good question. We’re actually very close to getting Keystone passed right now. I’ve been working very hard on a stand alone vote on Keystone. You might think that it’ll be easier in January but you would be jumping to a conclusion that’s not yet proven, because in order to get Keystone passed, remember, it has to be passed by the House and the same bill by the Senate and then signed into law by the President. So, if you think about getting a clean bill, like my bill, like the one I have with Hoeven, it’s a Hoeven-Landrieu bill, it has 45 Republican co-sponsors plus a few Democrats. A clean stand-alone Keystone bill could potentially pass right now.

So when you ask me is it going to be easier, I can’t say yes because in January the Republicans may put a bill together with Keystone and let’s say five other things. See that? And then it passes the House and then it fails in the Senate, or it passes the House, the Senate and the President vetoes it. So my answer is: it is possible right now, right now, I think, to get a clean Keystone bill passed that the President to the United States could actually sign.

You were chatting with the kids in the Marine band over there. What were you talking about?

Well, I’m a huge supporter of the creation of this school. I’ve led the fight here in Louisiana on charter schools. I’m an elected leader on public charter schools. I’ve helped to create more charter schools per capita than anywhere else in the nation. So I visit them frequently and I was just saying that I’ll be there to see them again. Their school is growing. As I said in my speech, we have two charter military schools, first in the nation, and we’re really proud of that. The Pentagon and the military are really interested in using that model all over the country for other schools.

TIME Newsmaker Interview

Kasich Takes the Stage

John Kasich
Tony Dejak—AP Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks to supporters at the Ohio Republican Party celebration in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 4, 2014.

After resounding re-election, the Ohio governor looks to his next campaign.

Less than a week after a rousing, victorious ending to one campaign, newly re-elected Ohio Gov. John Kasich looks as if he’s preparing for another, this time on the national stage.

Throughout his first term as governor, the Republican struggled to manage the complicated politics of his swing state, taking criticism from the left for scaling back the influence of public sector unions and from the right for accepting federal money from Obamacare to expand Medicaid. But his do-it-my-way message worked. Three years ago, Kasich was so unpopular his re-election was a longshot. On Tuesday, he won by 32 percentage points in one of the most politically polarized states in the nation, making inroads with women and minorities across the state, as he scooped up independent votes.

The performance instantly made Kasich a presidential contender—donors are already reaching out with invitations and Republican groups are inviting him to speak. Kasich, 62, isn’t shying away from the attention, but he’s not in a hurry either. Speaking with TIME Monday afternoon, the Governor said he wasn’t ready to decide whether to run for the White House. But he showed signs he is seriously considering it: in the coming months, for example, Kasich will launch a national campaign in support of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, just the sort of crypto-campaign that can test the presidential waters and build a national brand.

Kasich ran unsuccessfully for president once before, in 2000. At the time, he was a 16-year incumbent in the House of Representatives and Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and his campaign never gained traction: he bowed out even before the Iowa Straw Poll as George W. Bush dominated attention of the political and donor classes.

If he runs again, Kasich would likely find it easier to gain traction in a crowded, but divided field. That’s due in part to the good fortune Ohio has seen over the last few years. Though his re-election was buoyed by the implosion of his Democratic opponent’s scandal-plagued campaign in August, Kasich also took credit for the state’s booming economy.

In an interview with TIME, Kasich talked about his victory, what he hopes to accomplish in his second term, and how he’s working to maintain work-life balance as he contemplates his political future.

You won re-election by 32 points…in Ohio. How did that happen?

Kasich: I think that we had a program that covered really—I like to call it the 360 program. We build a stronger economy; help with tax cuts and some reform of regulations, and balancing budgets and all of that. The economy is so much stronger than when I came in four years ago. And in addition to that, once the economy’s strong, which is the most important thing you can do, then you have an obligation to help the people I like to say live in the shadows. So, whether it’s the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the working poor, we’ve been able to get insurance for families that have an autistic child, the developmentally disabled have been helped. Minorities feel now—I can’t speak for all of them—but a number of the leaders feel there is a place for them. So everyone was included, Ohio is doing better, and I think it’s become a lot more united. And I think as a result of that, that’s why you get results. We’re basically an ideas administration. We don’t rest on our laurels, we don’t play a lot of politics. We look at problems, try to fix them, and come up with new and cool things that’ll help the state.

How would you classify your politics? Are you preaching compassionate conservativism?

Kasich: Well no one’s ever been able to put me in a box and I’m not about to start putting myself in there.

What does your re-election mean for Ohio and its politics?

I don’t think there’s a sea change. People today, not just in Ohio, but in the country, they want solutions. They want to believe that things are going to get better. We have for the first time in a dozen years 60% of Ohioans feel that the state is headed in the right direction. I think it should not be interpreted as anything other than you ought to come to Ohio, you gotta tell people what you want to do and how their lives are going to be improved. And whoever does the best job of that is the person who’s going to have the best results.

What’s your top priority for the second term?

Kasich: It’s going to be a lot more of the same. It’s job creation, making sure that our safety net programs are only a net and not a trap. That they have to provide an opportunity for people to get on their feet. Continuing to include all Ohioans in what we do. It’s education, it’s workforce, it’s reforming higher ed. We can chew gum and walk at the same time out here. We’ll have a very expansive agenda.

Your victory is already starting talk about you running for president in 2016.

Kasich: Well, what I’m excited about is that people are showing a lot of interest in the things that we’ve done out here, and I think that’s good. That makes me happy—it’s pleasing to me, I should say—that people are going to take a very hard look at what we’re doing here. And I think the process of being hopeful, being really opportunity oriented, not just in rhetoric but in action, showing that no one get’s left behind, not just by talking about it but by doing it, I think is really a key. And not just sitting around with your finger in the air trying to figure out who’s going to like what you do. Take into account where the public is, but lead, lead. Don’t try to just figure out what the polls say, what the poll-driven programs are. I mean, I don’t look at polls, I pay no attention to them. I’m going to pay attention to the public, and the sense of where the public is on certain things, but you have to lead. And so I’m pleased that as a result of this—it was really an unbelievable win—that people are going to start to say how did it happen. And they are saying it now. It gives me a chance to talk about what I think public life ought to be about, which is to lift everyone. It’s not about what your party is, it’s not about which group do you appeal to, it’s about being in this and trying to build and trying to lift everyone, regardless of who they are, regardless of whether they vote for you. That’s not the point of this business.

Do you think too many politicians are too focused on the polls?

Kasich: Why don’t you decide that.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker appeared to criticize you over the weekend for taking Medicaid expansion funding. How do you defend it?

Kasich: I don’t defend it, I’m for it. I’m not defending anything.

Have you seen those comments?

Kasich: No, I really don’t have any reaction—I haven’t seen these comments, it wouldn’t matter if I did see them. You know, we’re doing what we’re doing here in Ohio, and it’s working for people. It’s helping people, it’s lifting people, and that’s what I’m so comfortable with and very pleased about.

So you’d use a presidential campaign to spread your message?

Kasich: I’m going to be spreading it one way or another. I’m going to be out campaigning aggressively for a balanced budget amendment, I assume I’m going to be making some speeches, where people are going to want to say ‘tell us what you did.’ And, I’m not kind of anxious to… You know, we only did a handful of interviews. I think I was asked to go on virtually every show, and I just sort of said, look, we just had an election. It’s an important time to get some rest, to recharge the batteries.

That must be hard, trying to decompress after the campaign?

Kasich: I was telling one of my colleagues the other day, I was a congressman for 18 years and in the legislature for four and at that point my job really overshadowed my life. But I’ve got a good mix between doing my job, having that responsibility, and having a normal life. And I live in my own home, I don’t live in the governors’ mansion. I play golf, I work out, I lead a very normal life, which probably surprises a lot of people. It’s not unusual to see me just right in the neighborhood. But in terms of the campaign, that’s a little bit of a different situation. Let me just give you some statistics. In less than three years, I put 250,000 miles on the cars in which I travel. And in the last 100 days, since Labor Day, I think I did well over 100 events. So it’s like running a marathon with a sprint at the end, which of course all great marathoners do, and at some point you’ve got to stop running and rest up. So I’m trying to get away from it. I’m trying to recharge. It’s important if you want to have good perspective, you’ve got to make sure that you’re rested. So I’m working at it. I’m exercising, I’m playing golf, I’m trying to get away, spend some time with my family. But I think I have a ways to go before I’m fully recharged.

TIME ebola

This Texas Judge Is Fighting Fear and Ebola in Dallas

First Ebalo case diagnosed in the United States
Larry W. Smith—EPA Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins speaks to the media during a press conference on the status of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, on Oct. 2, 2014.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tells TIME about the challenges of an Ebola emergency in America

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is the first local elected official in the world to oversee the emergency response to a case of Ebola diagnosed outside of Africa. From the moment he took charge of coordinating the Dallas response, after a man visiting from Liberia tested positive for the disease, he’s found himself with responsibilities he never anticipated. He made a point of visiting the home of the infected man without protective clothing, took the responsibility for driving his quarantined family to their new home, and has been doing what he can to coordinate the state and federal response, while keeping his voters calm.

None of that means he had to miss this week’s Cowboys game. During a moment of relative calm away from the Emergency Command Center that hums with activity from 7 in the morning to around 10 at night, TIME caught up with Jenkins in his downtown office Sunday at the old Texas School Book Depository, across the street from Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll. He was wearing a black shirt with “Homeland Security” emblazoned on it, meeting with staff and catching the end of the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans. They were tied 17-17. I sat with my back to the TV so Jenkins could watch the game as we spoke about the moment on Tuesday September 30 that he heard Ebola might be in Dallas.

“We’ve got a hospital with 10,000 employees, I’ve got a county with 6,000 employees and I’m the highest elected official in that county, so things are happening all the time and that’s one data point that was happening,” he said. “I wasn’t envisioning that an instant command structure would be requested by our federal and state partners and that I’d be all that involved in that, at that point.”

Judges in Texas are the highest administrative officials in each county, with extraordinary powers that are a vestige of the Old West when a rural judge could make a claim as broad as “I am the law” without being too far off the mark. In Dallas today, the County Judge has two main responsibilities: get truant children back into school and, in the event of a disaster, lead the county’s response as the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

A Democrat first elected to office in 2010, Jenkins cut his teeth in emergency response with an outbreak of West Nile virus in in 2012. Earlier this year he stirred up controversy by offering Dallas County facilities to house undocumented immigrant children flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s up for re-election in just a few weeks.

By Wednesday afternoon, after Ebola test results came back positive and following a series of meetings between officials from Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House, Jenkins was firmly in charge. That night he and others began sorting through the immediate challenges ahead: getting the infected man Thomas Eric Duncan’s potentially-toxic belongings out of the North Dallas apartment where he’d been staying, identifying and monitoring every person with whom Duncan may have come in contact, and, Jenkins said, finding a better living situation for Duncan’s partner Louise Troh and the three young men who had been placed under quarantine with her in the apartment. Law enforcement officers stood outside the door blocking the family’s exit from a home where they were forced to stay with linens stained with the sweat of a man infected with one of the most deadly diseases known to man.

“One of the first things we wanted to do is move the family,” Jenkins said. “The problem is that when you’ve got Ebola, it’s very difficult to find somebody that wants to open up a shelter or a home or rent to you even if you want to pay for it.” Jenkins said his office called the Greater Dallas Apartment Association, the Dallas Housing Authority and “basically called through every listed renter in Dallas.” All turned them down.

As much as with Ebola itself, Jenkins has been doing battle a contagion that can under the wrong circumstances turn just as deadly: fear. If people with the sniffles convinced they have Ebola start overfilling the Dallas-area’s already stressed emergency rooms—Texas has the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the country—perfectly treatable infirmities could become more lethal. If scared parents keep their kids out of school too long, it creates a whole separate problem in the education system—one, as it happens, that Jenkins would also be responsible for fixing.

That is why Jenkins obsessively reminds anyone who will listen of Ebola’s achilles heel: it isn’t contagious unless a person is showing symptoms of the disease. It’s the key both to stopping pandemic fear from disrupting day to day life and to defeating Ebola itself. Isolate and monitor the health of everyone who might be infected for a 21 day incubation period and, if they are symptom free, they’re healthy and you’ve beaten the disease.

To get this point across, Jenkins has employed some unorthodox tactics over the past week, like walking into an apartment where an Ebola patient had been staying without protective gear. Clearing the apartment of both contaminated linens and the symptom-free people in it was delayed by permitting issues and “that’s when I went out to see Louise and the young men,” Jenkins said, “to go into their apartment and see them as human beings and explain to them the situation.” But by entering the apartment Jenkins was also, at least as importantly, sending the message to the wider world that hazmat suits milling around or not these people, lacking any symptoms, were incapable, even if infected, of passing along Ebola.

Unsuccessful in finding anywhere else for Louise and the young men to stay, Jenkins said he called a local faith leader. “What I told them is there is literally no more room at the inn and I need your help,” he said.

The same impetus that led him to enter the apartment helps explain Jenkins’ decision to drive the family himself to their new home. Philip Haigh, a member of Jenkins’ executive staff, was initially set to drive the Ford Explorer while Jenkins rode along and spoke with the family but when they couldn’t all fit because a seat couldn’t be raised out of the down position Jenkins took the wheel and Haigh rode behind in a police cruiser.

“The sheriff’s deputy that I ended up riding with initially didn’t shake my hand because he was afraid that I had gotten too close to the scene,” Haigh told TIME. By driving the car himself, Jenkins sent the same message as before to first responders: until a person show’s symptoms, Ebola isn’t contagious and fear itself is the greater enemy.

Jenkins drove Troh and the three men to their new temporary home, where, according two people who have spoken with her on the phone, Troh is comfortable and understandably glad to be away from the apartment in which she was imprisoned the better part of a week. “They can go outside, they have room to roam,” Jenkins said. “It’s the kind of place that a young man can go out and exercise and even explore. Walk around. It’s a large premises away from other people.”

After dropping off the family Jenkins spoke to the press. “I’m wearing the same shirt I was when I was in the car for 45 minutes today with that family,” he said. “If there was any risk, I wouldn’t expose myself or my family.”

For now, pandemic fear has not gripped the better part of the Dallas area. Life goes on as before, except among the Liberian community here, where rumors fly about stigmatization at work and school and people typically prone to warm embraces keep their distance even from each other. With Louise Troh and the boys in a safe place and everyone who Duncan may have interacted with identified, Jenkins’ office must now wait and hope: that Thomas Eric Duncan survives and that no one else gets sick.

In the meantime, there was some good news. The Cowboys won Sunday with a field goal in overtime.

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