I talked with Austan Goolsbee, former Chairman of the National Council of Economic Advisors, to discuss Hillary Clinton’s email investigation and the state of the economy.
The audio: 01-25hhs-goolsbee
HH: And I am pleased to welcome Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of the National Council of Economic Advisors for President Obama, he’s now professor back at the University of Chicago Booth’s School of Business. You can follow him on Twitter @Austan_Goolsbee. He’s a Yaley, we don’t hold that against him. He went to MIT, we don’t that against him. He’s teaching at the University of Chicago along with Axelrod who will be on tomorrow. We don’t hold that against him, but I think he’s a Bears fan. Am I right about that, Dr. Goolsbee?
AG: Yes, you bet I am.
HH: You see, we might hold that against you.
HH: Unless you can persuade Miss McCaskey to trade for Johnny Football. IS there a deal there?
AG: Boy, we need something, I don’t know what we need.
HH: I would go with that. By the way, when you were at MIT, did you know Nancy Rose or Jim Poterba? Have I asked you?
AG: Yes, very well. Jim Poterba was my thesis adviser.
HH: Well, Nancy is my old and dear friend from Winthrop House days and I know that they’re at the MIT group, so I didn’t know Jim was your thesis adviser.
AG: Yes, they’re the best, both of them are the best.
HH: He gave you a doctorate. I have something to talk to him about.
AG: Yes, can you believe it.
HH: He screwed up there, we let that get away from him. I want to talk to you today because of something President Obama told Glenn Thrush today, and I quote, over at Politico there’s this argument, “John McCain was a conservative of the president’s head, but he was well within the mainstream of not just the Republican party but within our political dialogue and that’s where ultimately, any voter is going to have to pay attention as to the degree to which the Republican rhetoric and the Republican vision has moved not just to the right, but is moved to a place that is unrecognizable. Now Austan Goolsbee, do you believe that?
AG: I believe they moved, I wouldn’t say it’s unrecognizable to me because I’ve been around a lot of people that the rest of the world might view as unrecognizable so I wouldn’t say that I’m totally surprised, but I agree with the sentiment that if you just look at the data by the measures of conservative and liberal, it’s true the democrats have moved some to the left like in congressional voting and that sort of thing, and that pales in compared with how much to the right the median Republican in Congress has moved.
HH: Well, let me put it to you this way, the two nominees that your party who are viable are former Secretary of State Clinton and Senator Sanders. Both of them want to go full “Sweden,” they both want to–
AG: No, Sanders for sure, wants to go full Sweden and I agree. If Sanders were the nominee, I would not disagree with you that the Democrats have moved way left. If it went to Hilary Clinton, what do you base that she wants–
HH: Because she stands so close to Bernie on wondering whether or not there’s something going on there, that’s why.
AG: Hugh, what are you basing that on? You got Sanders jumping all over for not embracing single-payer healthcare and that’s the biggest component of the “full Sweden” if you want to call it that. But she hasn’t embraced that.
HH: But she said, “We will get there eventually, we just have to absorb,” and if you take a look at Hillary Clinton’s first version, I think I’m quoting her accurately here, it was a lot further to the left, and we’ll get there eventually, but we have to move there incrementally, not tomorrow.
AG: I don’t know what to tell you. She’s getting blasted by Bernie Sanders for not going the full Sweden so it’s weird to say that she’s going the full Sweden.
HH: Alright, second question about her. When you were in the White House, did you know she had a private server?
AG: No, I didn’t interact that much with the State Department people at all.
HH: Because I talked to Bill daily on Meet the Press, he didn’t know. David Axelrod told me on Morning Joe, he didn’t know. I’m just looking for anyone who ever sent her an email to tatht funny email address. You never did?
AG: I never did. I would only see her at the cabinet meetings. I wasn’t involved in that stuff.
HH: Are you surprised by this? She could be indicted.
AG: I don’t know. I follow what you say about it, and I’m willing to admit that you have followed the details far more closely than I have.
HH: Alright, then this is a–
AG: But you also should admit that the people who are the most vociferously up at arms about it thus far are partisan figures.
HH: I can’t admit that.
AG: You haven’t really yet seen independents taking a look at this and concluding the same thing.
HH: Is former Secretary of Defense Gates a partisan figure?
AG: IN what context? I haven’t seen him out beating the drum, “She should be indicted.”
HH: NO, but on Friday on this show, he said the server was of concern to him and that there was a high degree of probability that the Russians had compromised that server.
HH: What do you think about that?
AG: Like I say, you and he have more expertise on those matters than I have. I haven’t seen Gates saying she should be indicted.
HH: Oh he hasn’t, he has not said that.
AG: . . .People saying that, I think the problem for the critics of Hillary Clinton has been that the people saying that were almost reliving the battle over Monica Lewinsky–
HH: Oh no, I don’t care about.
AG: One guy saying that this is a matter of law. . .
HH: That’s not me.
AG: . . . The other side saying no, it’s a matter of partisanship.
HH: That’s not what I’m [saying.] I’m going back to my days as SCI-cleared special assistant to two attorney generals and one White House assistant counsel knowing what you can and cannot do with classified information and I’m assured you were read into code-word information, I bet you were, Austan Goolsbee.
AG: Yes, I was.
HH: SO you know what those briefings are like. If you leave it on your desk, you’re disciplined, if you take it home, you’re fired, and if you give it to someone, you’re prosecuted.
AG: Yes, but look, my read of what’s happening here is a two-layered dispute, one, between the State Department and the intelligence agencies of what should things be classified now as after the fact, and two, this question of, are we talking things that are classified when she’s sending them, or are they things two years, four years, six years, they’re going back and saying that should’ve been considered classified.
HH: Okay, we’ll leave it at this. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about SAPCI stuff on her server at home, unprotected, compromised in real-time by Koreans. . .
AG: It was shown at that time that this a SAP-whatever code-word clearance, you shouldn’t have that on there. Those would be the kinds of things that I assume they’re investigating, but the Clinton folks’ claim has been that there’s none of that stuff that was done ahead of time, that it was all retroactively recalled.
HH: And that’s what we’ll find out, last question. IF she is indicted, can she be a viable candidate for president?
AG: If it’s a serious criminal offense, I would think it would be tough. If it was some minor disciplinary “you-should-have-the-title-of-AB-and-C” and it’s something where’s there’s not significant punishment, then I think that would end up back in exactly the same situation where in now with the supporters of Hillary Clinton saying that was a completely minor and the opponents of Hillary Clinton saying this outrageous, she was disciplined and I don’t think that that would have that much impact.
HH: Wow, I’m surprised. I think if she’s indicted, she’s toast. But let me move on to the economy.
HH: The president says we’re in good shape, the Chinese stock market begs to differ. You don’t have to carry anybody’s water anymore for the administration. What do you make of the instability that we’re experiencing? Are heading into a recession?
AG: You can’t rule that out, and I’ve been, I don’t know what the right word, I haven’t been overly-optimist, although I haven’t been tremendously pessimistic for the last five years. In the US because the growth has only been okay, we’re clearly better off than we were two years ago and four years ago, but that doesn’t mean that anybody should be running victory laps. I think the president’s State of the Union, even though it was interpreted as relatively positive, it wasn’t purely positive. It wasn’t just saying, oh there aren’t any problems, we’re booming, it listed numerous problems. And I think that what’s happening in China, I’ve been a long-time skeptic of the both of the government data but also of the prospect that China was only going to have a very mild slowdown, I thought there’s a decent chance that they have pretty significant slowdown and if they had a truly terrible slowdown in China, I think it would be unrealistic for that not to spread to something looking like a recession over here.
HH: And is there the possibility of the same sort of black swan occurring that overtook President Bush in ‘08. IN other words, not connected to the presidency, but built into the system by virtue of bad paper?
AG: That is a tough question to answer. I don’t think that that risk is that high for the US, but geez, that possibility of that black swan kind of thing happening in China or Europe for sure exists. I’m not saying it’s probable, but for sure, they got that same feature bad paper, you don’t where the losses are, you don’t know how big they are. So we should nervous about that.
HH: I am and Austan Goolsbee, always good to talk with you, Doctor.
End of Interview