EPISODE 4: ASHLEY PART 2
Transcribed by Dylan Riley & David Sokol
SAMIA VO: This is Make America Relate Again. I’m Samia Mounts.
What’s up, my loves? I’m thrilled to see you back for Episode 4, featuring Part 2 of my conversation with the intelligent, passionate Ashley Rollo of Freehold, New Jersey.
In Episode 3, Ashley completely tore down my sense of reality when it comes to sexual assault statistics in America. I always thought that sexual violence was predominantly a crime that men commit, and that instances of a woman performing sexual violence on another person were just aberrations and not reflective of a widespread problem. Thanks to Ashley, I discovered that I was completely off-base with that, and that sexual assault is performed by men and women in roughly equal numbers. Mind. Blown.
In this part of our conversation, she up-ended my assumptions about conservatives with her viewpoints on everything from abortion to gay rights to social programs. I had this idea that all - or at least most - conservatives have this sort of backward, regressive thinking on all of those issues, and what’s funny is, she had a similar idea that all liberals were crazies who take everything too seriously and demonize anyone who dares to disagree with them. There are liberals like that out there, for sure, but most of the ones I know are more level-headed - and that surprised Ashley just as much as her views surprised me.
We connected and related on so many issues that I felt it was important to show you this part of the conversation as well. We also disagreed lots - but that didn’t stop us from having a great time. I actually left feeling inspired. With conservatives like Ashley out there, there’s definitely hope for American politics.
As always, we both make mistakes and say things that are just plain wrong or that leave out important parts of the story. If you want the hard facts on everything we say, check out the show notes for this episode on the website, makeamericarelatepodcast.com. You’ll find detailed fact checks that have been synthesized into a readable document, with linked sources embedded in the text. If we’ve missed anything, please email me and let me know! You can use the Contact form on the website or email me directly at email@example.com.
This conversation took place on February 10, 2017, so the issues we discuss are not necessarily current, but that’s not what this show is about. I’ve heard from so many of you that this podcast is showing you that there’s a path to reconciliation with your loved ones who voted differently than you - that we can choose to communicate with each other with respect and compassion, even when we disagree. This show is about human connection by way of politics, and in this episode, Ashley and I show that politics need not ever get in the way of two humans treating each other nicely. I mean, let’s be real, guys, that should be everyone’s MO. Imagine a world where the baseline of human behavior was to treat everyone - everyone - with respect and compassion and patience and love.
I’ve edited this interview for clarity and time, but have been very careful not to change meaning or context. Also, trigger warning - we talk a lot about Benghazi, and some graphic language is used to describe what went down there.
I’m cutting in halfway through the conversation, so to give you some context, we had just decided to talk about the economy, and to follow that with a conversation about Benghazi.
Let’s get to it.
S: Okay, so let’s talk about that. And we’re still gonna get back to Benghazi, so please don’t let me forget.
A: Oh, believe me, I will not forget about Benghazi.
A: I have more American flags in this house than I think most people have, like, in their lifetime.
S: Wonderful. So the economy. Barack Obama did amazing things for our economy. A lot of conservatives don’t want to admit to this. But the numbers speak for themselves. We were in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression when he took office. He was given a very dire situation. And now the economy is the strongest it’s been since then, it’s very strong right now, and it was very strong during the election and up until the end of Obama’s tenure as President. Unemployment was cut in half under Barack Obama, millions of people - tens of millions of people were given health insurance who never had it before. Jobs up, economy up, America doing great, and yet somehow this guy who claims that America’s doing terribly and we need to make it great again, wins the election. What’s your take on that?
A: I have a very strong opinion on our economy.
S: Yes, let’s hear it.
A: To be perfectly honest, I think that the stock market, the rally that we’re seeing right now, is going because of the negotiations, I believe, that the market’s going to be seen with Donald Trump making with other countries. But-
S: But the economy was already doing well, before Donald Trump won the election.
A: It was - it was increasing, but not at the expense of the Federal deficit. Obama doubled our deficit. We owe close to twenty trillion dollars now. When he took office, we only owed either 8.8 or maybe 9 trillion dollars. And I don’t understand where that money is going. Because, you know, if we’re in debt, we’re borrowing money from other countries - ‘cause that’s what happens, we borrow money from China, we borrow money from, you know, France, and you know, England - and I wanna know, like, what are we doing with that money? Our roads are in disrepair, we have homeless veterans sleeping on the street, I mean, we have, you know, schools that are in disarray. I mean, there are buildings where they should be condemned, but yet we’re still sending our children off to school there. And I think that with all of the money that we could have been spending it on, where is it? And I believe that we need to reinvest in ourselves, start working on ourselves a little bit more before we start going into other people’s problems, so that we have a strong foundation. I mean, to be perfectly honest, I see America right now as someone who got out of a really long, stressful relationship. And kind of needs to be single for a while, we need to work on ourselves.
A: We do. We do!
S: I love that analogy.
A: But it’s true! Like right now, like, we are spread so thin, we have troops on every continent right now. We’re spending billions of dollars weekly on things that-
S: Trump’s not gonna take troops out of other countries.
A: But here’s the problem that a lot of people don’t really understand. When you are a government contract, you can just say whatever you want and then the government pays the bill. Which is why when Trump negotiated the new contracts for the fighter pilots and the fighter jets, he saved billions of dollars in manufacturing costs because he negotiated a better deal. Now let’s just say he negotiates ten billion dollars as a savings. Just by opening his mouth and negotiating. That’s now ten billion dollars more that we can use on our own country. Getting ourselves out of debt. Increasing school funding. Increasing other social programs that we need. We could build a VA clinic for veterans.
S: The GOP wants to cut funding to veterans’ programs.
A: I don’t really see where that’s happening.
S: That’s something that’s been on the talking points of Paul Ryan for months now, they want - they wanna attack veterans’ programs, Medicaid, Medicare. I mean, the GOP is not - not for social programs. They’ve been very vocal about that.
A: Now, the problem with what Paul Ryan is saying is that it’s being taken out of context. Because the problem is, the Veterans Affair - the Veterans Affair Funding Bill was, like, shot down, and I was, like, reading about it in 2015. But the problem is, at that time, we didn’t have people on, really, either end of the spectrum that realized the severity of the situation. I mean, you live in New York, so you see when you’re driving, homeless vet needs help holding a cardboard sign with a cup out.
A: Or walking the streets of New York City, you see them.
A: And Donald Trump is bringing that to a head, and he’s using that as a way to open people’s eyes to the problems. You know, and the way that I’ve been kind of-
S: How? How so?
A: The way that I’ve kind of been explaining it is, if you have one loaf of bread - you can’t break that loaf of bread in half, you can only give it to one person - and now you have a homeless vet who risked his life for our country, who is a citizen, you know, always did what he needed to do, or you have somebody escaping from another country. Who would you give that loaf of bread to? If you can only pick one.
S: I mean, we have to go with the veteran, right?
A: You tell me, who would you go with?
S: I would split the loaf in half and give it to both.
A: We couldn’t though.
S: Why not?
A: Because here’s the thing, if - if you need to get food to people, or anything really, you can’t - people think you could just, like, split things, but you can’t, because there’s only so much splitting, because then you’re not taking care of either person, you’re only giving them a little bit. Which isn’t gonna help them in the long run in any aspect. And as far as, like, funding is concerned, you know, I mean, we need to take care of our own. And that’s one of the problems that are plaguing this economy. If we started giving that help to the veterans, they would not be living on the street. They would be able to get jobs. Because for the most part, especially the ones that are in combat positions, they don’t really have necessary job skills, that they can apply in the real world. And because they don’t have that type of help, you know, they’re left sleeping on the streets at night. And it pains me to see a veteran sleeping on the street at night, in our own country, and then seeing people coming into this country, and suddenly they have health insurance, they have a roof over their head, they have all these different things that that man laying in that street right there fought for. That person laying in that street is the reason why we can do this podcast. That person laying in that street is the reason why, as Americans, we live in a free world.
S: I care about veterans, too. I grew up in a military family. I grew up on an army post.
S: So I’m taking what you’re saying very seriously. But in my view, there is wasteful government spending, but it’s not the spending that we spend in our refugee acceptance program. We’ve got a lot of wasteful government spending in programs designed to, for example, stop women from having abortions. In programs designed to-
A: I’m pro-choice, I figured I’d start off with that, too. I’m definitely pro-choice.
S: I am as well, obviously. I actually think Trump is pro-choice, but he’s following a party line on this one. ‘Cause I don’t think he gives a shit about abortion one way or another, I just don’t see it. [laughs] And honestly, a lot of my problems politically are with the stance of the GOP and Republican Party in general. And I think that - I think that Donald Trump is - I don’t like him as a person and I don’t think his character is good, but I also think that probably his personal opinions on a lot of issues are at odds with the GOP, but he’s their candidate so he has to follow the party line.
S: Do you - would you agree with me on that? Or disagree?
A: I - I do. Because - and I honestly - and I think that this is what’s wrong with our country, because everyone’s either a Democrat or a Republican. There’s no shades of gray.
S: [raising hand] Registered independent! [laughs]
A: But even still, you know what I mean? Like, I’m a conservative. But I believe in gay marriage. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe in the fact that, you know, we’re all who we are in that we shouldn’t let gender identities dictate it, because - even with the bathroom thing, transgenders using one bathroom over another - I’ve been drunk at a bar, and I’ve totally gone to the bathroom in the men’s room because the line was shorter.
A: Does that make me a creep? No. That just makes me resourceful.
S: [Laughs] Me too.
A: And that’s the thing, like I’m not going in there like, “Oh, I wanna go spy on these men.” You know, I - I don’t see it. And I think that that’s what the problem is. Like, everyone on both sides is seeing this as a black and white issue, and that’s why people aren’t seeing we have in common. There’s those crazy liberals that’re out there lighting things on fire and breaking windows and - and with bricks. And then there’s the Republicans who are lighting things on fire and breaking things with bricks and windows. And those are what we see on TV. We don’t see people like you on TV, who’s like, “This is why I feel this way, and I’m gonna go about it in a mature, adult fashion.” You don’t see people like me saying, like, “Well, this is how I feel and this is, you know.” ‘Cause everyone in this country has an opinion. And I believe that social media has exploited that, and just shows us the bad. Because if you were in another country, and you didn’t meet people like us, and you just saw what the media portrayed, you would think that everyone in America was completely insane! Because all-
S: [laughs] They do, they do.
A: They do - I have a - I met two people the other day who were from England. He’s like, “We came to this country right after Donald Trump became President and the Pats won the Super Bowl. And if you woulda told me that this is how America was versus how it’s portrayed on our television sets, we would think you’re lying.” Because all they see in all these other countries is the two extremes. They don’t see that happy, let’s-meet-in-the-middle kind of a deal. And I think that opening, like, a dialogue similar to this is - would actually be very beneficial to us, because I could see you saying, like, “Listen, I know you guys want a wall. We’re not about that wall. But we’ll give you money to increase border patrol spending, if you invest dollar for dollar in a refugee work employment program.”
S: That would be such a cool way to negotiate a compromise.
A: And that’s what we’re missing, because I have ideas, you have ideas, and then we’ve got the people in Senate and Congress representing no one’s ideas.
S: I think they’re representing themselves, to be honest, at this point.
A: I don’t even - like, honestly, like, what are they doing, like, really? When people - like, if you, you ever go on the website and see what - what has been passed by Congress?
S: Hold on, let’s give the dog a second.
A: Champ, ya gotta sit, buddy. Have a seat. Have a seat. [snaps fingers twice] Good job.
S: Good job.
A: Good job, buddy dog.
S: You - okay, what were you - what were you saying?
A: No I mean - there’s a website that Congress has, and you can actually see what gets passed on a regular basis. No one pays attention. Did you know that we have a person that makes almost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year to watch grass grow for our government? That’s a job. That is an actual job.
S: That does not surprise me.
A: But that’s the thing-
S: Literally to watch grass grow? What’s the job?
A: Literally, the job description is measuring the growing of grass. That’s literally what the job - there’s also a person who makes money for a research facility to run bobcats on treadmills. You can look this up, I swear. Those all got passed in budgets. How we’ve allowed that as a species is beyond me.
S: What’s your take on climate change?
A: Climate change? Oh, listen, I went to school for science. It’s legitimate. It was sixty-five degrees here two days ago, and now we have snow outside.
S: So how does it make you feel, all the times that Donald Trump said climate change was a hoax invented by the Chinese?
A: Climate change is a legitimate thing. You can’t refute science. And he can sit there all day long and tell me climate change isn’t real, it’s not happening, and then there’s a plethora of facts to prove otherwise. But like I said, I voted for him because of immigration and the economy, because when push comes to shove, you know, those are what the president can really control. As far as climate change, contact our congressmen. Contact our senators. Contact people from different universities to get funding to start compiling all this data and research and then coming up with a solution.
S: Well, Obama had a solution that was gonna decrease our greenhouse gas emissions by whatever percentage, by whatever year, and it was in partnership with all these other countries, and Trump is looking to dismantle that because it puts regulations on fossil fuel companies and other companies that are affecting the environment that they don’t wanna have to deal with. I mean, he’s a prime example of somebody who’s putting the bottom line of big corporations above, literally, the health and future stability of our planet’s environment.
A: In my opinion, and like I said, you know, this is just my opinion—
S: I’m here for your opinion. [laughs]
A: The Donald Trump viewpoints on the regulations for the pipelines - I believe that the reason why he’s doing that and why he wants us to be a little less dependent on other countries for their fossil fuels, is because it’s not for our best interest. Other countries are the reason why we have gas prices at the way that they are. Other people’s countries are the reason why, you know, the gas prices will go up to almost five dollars a gallon. They don’t feel-
S: They’ve been really low for a while now
A: They’ve been really low for a while and - which is great for everyone, you know, at least right now, but if they decide to stop manufacturing-
S: It’s not been good for Venezuela.
A: No. No no no. But that’s what I’m saying. Like, let’s say the Middle East decides, “You know what? We’re not making oil anymore.” What happens to our country?
S: Well, Trump also spoke in front of a bunch of CIA employees and suggested that we should steal Iraq’s oil.
A: See, I’m not familiar with that, I-
S: I mean, that just happened a couple weeks ago, it was - [sigh] - it was on a Saturday, it was in front of about three hundred and fifty CIA employees, and in a speech in front of a wall of names of people who’ve died for our country, he said the biggest mistake we made in going to Iraq, even though he thought we shouldn’t have been there at all was that, since we were there, we didn’t steal their oil, we should have kept the oil. That created such panic in Iraq. I mean, like-
S: Because if America’s gonna go into other countries, supposedly to aid with military efforts, and then - and then steal their natural resources, that - that suddenly makes us, like, a real monster bully in the global community. And it was something that he said cavalierly in a speech-
S: -but that’s not something that our president should be - I mean that creates real consequences in the world, it creates real fear and real panic in other countries that are supposed to be our allies.
A: Well, here - here’s another odd take on that whole situation. I do believe a lot of the wars that we have been in had nothing to do with us wanting to help other people. I don’t believe that. I honestly can tell you there’s not a day that goes by where I’m like, “Yeah, America was there for peace-keeping efforts, we wanted to help the people.” No. America, as a whole, as far as the government is concerned, they’re not looking to help other people. They’re looking to protect their own interests. And you know, I think that the reason we didn’t get as heavily involved in Aleppo in Syria was because we didn’t have any monetary gain there.
S: It wasn’t ever about-
A: The people.
S: -humanitarian efforts.
A: It - never. And I’m not talking Obama. I’m not talking either President Bush or Clinton. I’m talking from day one, we have never been in another country with the pure intentions of “You know what? These people, they need help. Let’s help them.”
S: Do you think that we should? That that should be part of our reason?
A: No, I mean, I think that - that’s where I’m, like, kinda trying to bring this back to - I think that as far as our involvement in the world is, we wanna help them, when we get them here, vetted properly and accordingly, great. We’ll find something for them to do. But for us to go over there, spend billions of dollars - like, think about it. Think about what’s going on in Aleppo right now. We spent - I can’t even think about how many trillions of dollars fighting in the Middle East. Fighting in Syria. You know, President Obama dropped a bomb every twenty minutes, if they figured it out throughout his presidency, and those bombs aren’t cheap. If we would have taken that money, instead of dropping bombs, and kept it for our - us, put it into programs here, I think that the world would be a little happier.
S: See that’s interesting, because it sounds to me like you’re anti-war and pro-social programs which doesn’t seem like a particularly conservative point of view.
A: See, that’s why I don’t like the terms conservative or liberal. Like, I’m conservative in the, like I said, in the facts of economics, and in the facts of, you know, immigration. I’m conservative in the fact that I believe that we do need a strong military, whether we go out exercising our muscles completely different. I do believe that we need to keep the latest and greatest toys. We need to be increasing our funding towards STEM programs so that kids can grow up and be like, “Oh, well here, look at this new crazy airplane that I invented, and it’s better than any airplane ever created.” But, you know, that’s why I’m trying to say that, like, I know I grew up in a conservative household, and I know it sounds like I have a lot of liberal ideas, but that’s kind of how most conservatives are these days. Not the ones that you see on TV, that are freaking out, you know, because just like, you know, like, there are liberals who believe that, like, we need stricter gun control. I do think we need stronger background checks, ‘cause there are too many people that I think that are getting guns. But in the same respect, we also need to focus on the inner cities, so that they don't get guns to begin with.
S: That’s a very anti-GOP statement you just made.
A: That’s why I’m trying to say, like, their - that’s what’s wrong here. To say, well, you’re a Democrat, you’re a conservative - we’re not, we’re all shades of grey.
S: I agree with you.
A: And that’s the problem. Everybody’s so stuck on being concerned with being black or white. Like, I’m a Democrat, I’m a Republican. Because I’m a Republican and I label myself as such, I have to believe gay marriage is wrong, I have to believe that a woman shouldn’t be able to have abortions. Do I think a woman should have at abortion at 37 weeks? No.
S: I don’t think anybody thinks that unless the mother’s life is in danger.
A: But that’s what I’m saying. You know, but there are - there are reasons behind everything. Like, yeah, I think within a certain limited time, yeah, a woman should be able to get an abortion. You know?
S: Trump has said he will do everything in his power to get Roe v. Wade reversed.
A: I…don’t think that the said that.
S: He actually did.
S: Alright, alright.
A: No no no.
S: My show notes for this episode are gonna be so detailed.
A: I’m sorry.
S: [laughs] You’re giving me so many things that I need to look up that I don’t know anything about. No, it’s great, I’m loving this.
A: ‘Cause he even said that, specifically-
A: -he didn’t want to appoint a - the judge that he appointed is totally-
S: Here’s the direct quote he said on television in a presidential debate on October 19th, 2016: “I’ll appoint Supreme Court Justices to overturn Roe v. Wade abortion case.” [chuckles]
A: He did say that.
S: He did.
A: But that’s the thing, he’s not saying that now. I honest - and this is - and this is gonna sound completely crazy - I think…any conservative that’s about to listen to this is gonna think I’m an asshole.
A: I think some of the stuff, on both sides of the candidates, they say to appease to specific audiences. I think when Democrats say, “Oh, we need to help the inner cities, you know. The black lives are oppressed!” And then they don’t go back there, after they win the election, they don’t go back to those inner cities. They don’t go back to show, like, “Hey, I totally didn’t forget about you guys.” They were just kinda trying to get votes. And I personally think they may have been something Donald - personally, do I think he believes that? No. I think he just said that to get some of the Evangelicals.
S: If he succeeded in keeping that campaign promise, would you continue to support him, or would that be a thing that would really bother you and maybe sway your opinion against him?
A: I don’t know. I mean, I couldn’t - I have a lot of friends that are gay, and to have something, like, any social program that, like - abortion, or gay marriage, or anything like that to be overturned, would upset me. Because it might not affect me, but it effects people that I love and care about. And I personally believe that some of the things that candidates over the years have said, wasn’t because that’s what they felt and that’s what they were going to try to do. I mean, if you look at the person that he appointed, that person’s not going to overturn Roe v. Wade. He’s not. I think, like I said, back then, that was in October, before he was President, think of how the Evangelicals felt when he said that. You know? Think about it. They all voted for him. The Amish, who never come out to vote, really, came out. He got all these votes, because he said stuff that appeased to different people. You know? But the two things he has maintained throughout his campaign, which is why a lot of people voted for him, was his view on immigration and the economy.
S: This is a great conversation, I hope you’re enjoying this.
A: Yeah, no, it’s definitely-
A: And see look, we could - a conservative and a non-conservative can sit at a table, and drink coffee and-
A: -nobody’s, like, pulling each other’s hair out. You know? Nobody’s lighting anything on fire.
S: I could totally hang out in a bar with you.
A: Yeah! And that’s what I’m saying.
A: ’Cause when you go out to bars, the first question isn’t like, “Who did you vote for?” It’s, “I like your hair! Like, oh my God, your shoes are so cute!”
A: Like, that’s what we need to get back to.
S: We need to get to what makes us alike. And we actually have lots and lots and lots in common-
S: So I’m loving this. I’m glad that you are, too.
A: I would like to get to Benghazi. Similar to what Bill Clinton did, when he was President, in Mogadishu - you’re familiar with that, right? With Mogadishu? You ever see Black Hawk Down?
S: No, I actually didn’t.
A: Okay, well, basically, it was Bill Clinton’s Benghazi. There was a group of soldiers who were stranded, and they didn’t get the help that they needed and they had to fight their way out. Benghazi is probably one of the reasons why people on the fence went with Trump. There were men who - and Wikileaks proved this - were sending emails begging for help. Begging. Not like, “Oh, you know, it’s getting kinda crazy.” It’s like, “Please send help, we need help, we’re gonna get overrun.” She got those emails and she did nothing. In fact, I can tell you, I do know Marines who were waiting on helicopters, waiting to go get them, but never got the order. Because they assumed, like, we’re - we’re gonna go get these guys. Like, we just need that signature, like, “Okay, good, you guys are are go, go get them.” That order never came. And because of negligence on Hillary Clinton’s part, there are four men who were tortured and killed because she neglected their cries for help. And that is something that I think a lot of people in our country have a problem with.
S: I’ve looked into this issue, ‘cause I will admit that when everyone was talking about during the election, I had no fucking clue what they were talking about, so I looked into it. And I’ll - and just to give you some background on me, I’ve never been that politically active, until this election happened. I was always the kind of complacent progressive who was like, “It’s logical that we move forward as a society, so I’m gonna do my art!” So this election’s silver lining for people like me is that it’s gotten us involved.
S: So I looked into the Benghazi thing. From what I can tell, there was a massive investigation done that lasted two years and cost $7 million that revealed no indication of real wrong-doing or negligence on the part of Hillary Clinton. There’s this wonderful essay that was published by the sister of the US Ambassador to Libya, one of the people who was killed in that attack, where she says, in no uncertain terms, that this shouldn’t be blamed on Hillary Clinton, that her brother wouldn’t want it to be blamed on Hillary Clinton, and that what happened was an unfortunate situation where there were no military outfits equipped to deal with it, that were close enough to deal with it, in the time they needed to.
S: And that’s-
A: Do you know - do you know how quick it takes to get from, I don’t know, using any fighter plane or helicopter, from Turkey to Libya, or from anywhere in the Middle East to Libya, or any of our bases that we have in Africa?
S: This is what I have seen reported from credible news sources.
A: No, well - I like to use the term “credible” loosely, because, on both sides, there’s been several non-credible issues. Okay, if we can take a commercial airplane from here to Boston, and get there in like an hour and a half, maybe two hours, a military grade aircraft sitting on a carrier, that’s not too far off in the water can get there instantly, for the most part. And that’s just because they have the technology. The problem with this is, this wasn’t an overnight issue. It wasn’t like they’re eating breakfast one day, and suddenly, insurgents started lighting their stuff on fire.
S: No, it was building up - I mean, it was a dangerous place to be.
A: For - for six months, they kept saying we need help. Six months. Six months, we ned help. We need more people, we need different weapons, we need more security. Every day for six months in their security briefing email to the Department of State, included, “Things are getting crazy. Things are getting crazy. Things are getting crazy.” And then they got really crazy, and men died. To make it into, like, a way other people can associate, if you had a friend who was in a bad relationship, and for six months, she kept saying, “My husband’s gonna kill me. My husband’s gonna kill me, you need to do something about it.” But you were getting the texts, but you - you know, you were kinda busy with your life, and, you know, you were like, whatever, like, you know, I’ve got other things that I gotta worry about. And then one day your friend winds up dying, because her husband killed her. That is how I see what happened in Benghazi. I see that as, if she would’ve just answered one of those emails and said, “You know what? Get out. We’re sending more people there. What do you need to make it okay for you guys there?” She didn’t do that, and for her to say, like, well, there was a lot of other things going on in the world at that time. And then this woman wanted to run for President, and she couldn’t keep an embassy from self-imploding on itself? I didn’t see her as a viable candidate to be someone who is equipped to run the United States of America.
S: So you don’t think that the investigation, that took two years to complete, came to the right conclusion?
A: No. And I don’t think - and I honestly think that there are people in the military who will agree with me. There are other American citizens who’ve done independent research. There are people who have read the emails that were released by Wikileaks about this, who originally were like, “Well, it wasn’t her fault.” But then they saw the emails and they’re like, “You know what? She probably shouldn’t have done that.” This investigation, and - and I’m not just saying about, like, Hillary Clinton, I’m saying in a lot of political investigations - if you have a lot of clout, if you have a President that’s in office that’s willing to have your back, I don’t think you get in the trouble that you should have. And to be perfectly honest, for her to be shown, like, oh, there was no wrongdoing on her part, why did she erase those emails? Why did she get rid of that server? Why did she do - why did she call her daughter, and tell her daughter about what’s been going on rather than talk to the American people about it? She mishandled that entire situation. You know, she never once came out and said, “You know what? Listen…I should’ve sent help.” ‘Cause then it would make her look weak, or that she made a bad decision. But we have men and women all over that area, we have Marines that are deployed, right now, all over Africa. That could’ve - and they were, they were waiting in helicopters to go help these people, but they couldn’t because they needed that order, and they never got it. So four people died, four Americans, who were outstanding citizens that didn’t do anything wrong but support their government, do as they were told, died. And not like, they got shot, they were sodomized, they were dragged through the streets, they were lit on fire, they were beaten, even after they were dead. Videos of this erupted on the internet, and it’s very graphic and I really don’t recommend those that are faint at heart watching these videos. These people recorded them torturing these Americans. These Americans who knew that this is something that could be a very real threat. And Hillary Clinton did nothing about it.
S: Every analysis that I’ve read, and I’ve read a few from a few different sources on this issue, has said that it wasn’t as simple as she got cries for help that she ignored. That it was a much more complicated situation than that, and that she did the best she could, given the circumstances. That nobody could’ve seen an attack of that magnitude happening the way it did, that it couldn’t have been predicted.
A: So for six months, them telling her it that was getting crazier and crazier, and that they needed help, meant nothing?
S: I mean, there - if we put no faith in the outcome of a two-year-long investigation, it’s - then it’s all speculation. It’s hard for me to come to the same conclusion that you have with the analyses of the situation that I’ve read. It’s hard for me to blame Hillary Clinton for that situation with how many shades of grey there are within this particular situation, and how many other things she was managing at the same time.
A: But if you can’t handle one embassy, and you wanna run the country-
S: Well, she wasn’t just handling the one embassy. It’s not like her focus was only on this one embassy.
A: But this was the one embassy that every day she got an email from begging for help. Did you see the movie 13 Hours?
A: I really, really recommend it.
S: Yeah? Is it a horror movie?
A: Well, it’s not a horror movie. It’s actually about the 13 hours in Benghazi, and it’s been fact-checked, and it is actually a very real account as to what occurred. And a lot of people who speak about what happened at Benghazi, the events leading up to it, the firefight that ensued that ultimately cost these brave men their lives - it’ll put it in a different perspective. And I know, you know, you’re all about alternating perspectives. It’ll put it in a way that I can’t put in words. It’ll put emotion behind these people. It’ll put their cries for help more than just - couple words like, “Hey, we need help. Please send help,” in emails. This was an ongoing issue. Every embassy in our world that we have - “Hey, it’s France here, hanging out, things are good.” “Oh okay, that’s one embassy we don’t have to worry about.” “Hey, it’s Germany, things are good! You know, nothing crazy to report here.” But if you’re getting an email every day, from Benghazi, saying we need help, we need help, we need help, how many times does somebody have to beg for help before you help them?
S: Well, I’m certainly going to look deeper into this. I mean, I have looked into it, and those are the conclusions that I’ve drawn based on what I’ve read and the conclusions of others. But I’ll look more into it, and I’ll - I’ll try to get up the stomach to watch 13 Hours.
A: I mean Michael Bay did it! So it’s-
A: It’s - it’s very real-
S: I’m not good with violent movies.
A: No, it’s - it’s not that it’s - and I get that. But you know what, it’s part of our history as a country. Benghazi is one of those things that makes us where we are at right now.
S: So do you apply that same, you know, really critical lens to the recent raid in Yemen that resulted in an American death, where it was publicly, you know, announced that Trump didn’t actually have all the details of what he was signing? That he was just trusting other people and not looking at it himself?
A: Very different.
A: In every military raid, you - when you - when you enlist in the military, you sign a contract - open-ended contract with America, like, “I might have to give my life for my country. I have to obey the orders that are given to me.” What happened in Yemen, you know how they shot at a Destroyer that was actually a Saudi ship but they actually thought it was one of ours, and they don’t really like us, whatever. At the time, not one general was like, “You know what? What’s going on in Yemen, it’s gonna be a failed mission, and these people are gonna die.” They never went into that with that mindset. They never were like, “The object of this is to kill people. Our people.” Seals die on a consistent basis, sadly enough, you know. That one was more publicized than some previous Seals that have passed away. I think just because it’s - it’s at a point in the political spectrum where, “Oh, well, look what happened here.”
S: Well, it was the very first military action that Trump signed off on, and it - it was a disaster.
A: Yeah, but do you know how many Obama has signed off on that have been disas- but that’s what I’m saying.
S: Oh - I’m not - but I’m not making a comparison, I’m just saying, like-
A: It’s - it’s different. A military exercise always runs the risk of a life being lost. Always. One-hundred percent. They go in somewhere, even when Seal Team 6 went in to go get Osama Bin-Laden, they knew - “We might die.”
S: So you’re not hold - but the thing is, is with this raid, Trump, you know, it’s been widely publicized that he didn’t actually know the details of the situation that he was signing off on. That doesn’t bother you?
A: For a man of Trump’s caliber, he has to trust in people to make these decisions, especially when it comes to the military.
S: He expressed being pissed off that he didn’t know that an executive order he signed appointed Steve Bannon to the the National Security Council. This is more than just he’s trusting his advisors. It’s, like, he’s signing things without looking at them. Does that not bother you?
A: I think that, with him, I’m pretty sure he understood that he was appointing Bannon to the Security Council. I don’t know where he said that that’s not what was the case, but from day one, he always said that - that he wanted Bannon. Verbally, he verbally said, like, “I want Bannon to do it.”
S: Do you think Bannon should be on the National Security Council?
A: [sighs] Honestly, my jury’s still out on that.
S: Fair. Okay. Alright.
A: ‘Cause I - I have to do more research on him as an individual.
S: He scares the fuck out of me. There is a reason SNL has him dressed up as the Grim Reaper. [laughs]
A: You know, and I mean - like I said - but to be perfectly honest, to compare what happened in Yemen to what happened in Benghazi - if in Yemen, we had soldiers there hangin’ out for six months, saying, “Hey, we need help, it’s getting crazy,” and then Trump was like, “No, you guys. You guys got this.” That’s completely different. But in every military raid, in every country, not just Americans, there’s always the risk of loss of life.
S: From my side of things, it seemed like Benghazi was used as a cross on which to crucify Hillary Clinton for political reasons. Every time I’ve looked into this, every time I’ve read into it, I’m hearing what you’re saying, and that’s what people on the right are saying, and that’s what people who are upset about Benghazi and blame Hillary Clinton personally for it are saying. And I’ve seen those arguments, but it - there doesn’t seem to be real evidence in the public record that that’s a fully accurate representation of what happened there. It doesn’t seem to be agreed upon by the actual facts and evidence that are available that she was personally culpable for what happened.
S: I just don’t think it’s fair. I think there have been a lot of Presidents and presidential candidates that have done much worse and not been called out on it like that. I think that she was specifically targeted for political and partisan reasons.
A: Okay, um…
S: I mean, that’s - that’s how I feel.
A: And - and I get it, I totally see where you’re coming from. But I really - I would love to hear your opinion after watching 13 Hours. It’s more of a documentary.
S: I will never disagree that what happened in Benghazi wasn’t terrible.
A: Oh, it was definitely terrible, you know?
S: You know, that’s-
A: But it was preventable.
S: That’s - and I’m sure it was preventable. But a lot of things are preventable and aren’t prevented because of how difficult it is to manage as much as you have to manage when you’re Secretary of State. From my understanding, the resources weren’t quite as plentiful in that region as we thought they were. I mean, wasn’t there one plane of people who was, like, ready to go, and they changed uniforms four times, like, in France? It doesn’t seem like it was managed well at any level. And not just from the top. Holding Hillary Clinton personally responsible for a catastrophe that was actually a problem on multiple levels, I don’t think it’s fair.
A: So if she was the last pers- if she was the only person that could’ve authorized that assistance that was needed, would it have been her fault?
S: Was she the only person who could have authorized it?
A: Yes. Yes, because we weren’t in a time of war. Where we were, we were in “peacekeeping” with them. We can’t send troops on our own. Like, if we were in, let’s say, Afghanistan, and there were some guys over there that needed help, the Commanding Officer of that unit can be like, “You know what? Let’s go help these guys.” Because they’re on a mission there. We didn’t have a mission set for over there, we would’ve been violating any agreement that we had. We needed somebody at the top to give an okay, like, “Hey, go! Go do that.” Because if, let’s say, a Commanding Officer said, “Go get them,” he could get kicked out of the military.
S: The attempts to take her down because of this were strong, Ashley. Like, they went after her with everything they had. They wanted to end her career. They wanted to lock her up. [laughs] And-
A: They still do.
S: And they weren’t able to because the evidence wasn’t there that she was personally responsible for the disaster that happened.
A: See, that’s the problem though. I think the evidence or lack of evidence was not there solely for the fact that the people who held the political office during that time didn’t want that information there. Do you think it was wrong for her to hide her servers and lie to the American people and say that she didn’t delete them?
A: Do you find it odd that Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch met on a tarmac? To talk about grandkids in the middle of nowhere with nobody around?
S: To me, it seemed like a passing hello that got blown into a top-secret meeting.
A: I don’t know, I mean, it just looks kind of suspect, and then suddenly, the next day, they’re not gonna pursue any charges against her?
S: Well, I feel the same way about Trump and the Russian government and the Russian interference in our election, and now the reports that Mike Flynn was talking to the Russian government during the election, and Rex Tillerson’s connections to Russia. I mean, this is really a matter of trust, isn’t it?
A: Yeah, but here’s the - here’s where that comes into play, though. Our government, for the most part, they hate Trump. They would love to see Mike Pence as being President over Trump.
S: Oh, I would - I would not be happy.
A: But that’s what I’m saying. So anything that they can do to bring that man down, to get him impeached, to get him kicked out of office, to make him resign, they’ll do it.
S: So you’re pro-Trump but against the GOP?
A: I don’t really consider the GOP to be a voice of the people. I just think that’s a label that they gave a bunch of people who go to Washington every so often and go to play golf.
S: But you think Trump is the voice of the people?
A: Like I said, when it comes to the economy and immigration, as far as more peop- well, not numerically, but-
S: He’s got the lowest approval ratings of any new President-
A: Right now he has 40%.
S: -in the history of polling.
A: He’s at - oh, of course. But then again, I was not polled. I know other people who support Trump that weren’t polled. I know more people who were polled that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.
S: So you don’t trust the polls?
A: I don’t trust the polls.
S: This is an issue of trust. I’m starting to get this. You’re my second interview, and in both the last conversation and this one, the issue of trust and who you trust has been at the core of everything. ‘Cause I look at Hillary Clinton and I see a basically good person fighting to make a better world, and I look at Donald Trump and I see a skeezeball who’s just out for himself. But you see it completely differently. You see Hillary Clinton as this, like, nefarious schemer who, you know, doesn’t care about American lives, and all she cares about is power, and Donald Trump as somebody who actually wants to take care of our country and make it a better place.
A: I mean, listen, what Hillary did in Haiti, Haitian’s aren’t a fan of Hillary Clinton. A lot of people, not just Americans, don’t like Hillary Clinton. Those British people that I told you about? In Britain? They hate her.
S: Every country that I - that I visited on a trip I took right after the election - I went to South Korea, Australia, and Taiwan - and every single person that I spoke to, the second they found out I was American, apologized to me for the fact that our country had just elected Donald Trump, and asked me what I was gonna do.
A: If you ask people from another country what their views are on Hillary Clinton, the global consensus is most people don’t like her. And it’s not even, like, our biased news here, it’s what she’s done in - are you aware of what she did in Haiti?
S: I - I don’t know what you’re talking about there, so yeah, tell me about it.
A: In Haiti, during the earthquakes in 2012, they’ve raised $9 or $10 billion from various donations to go down there, with the Clinton Foundation, to help Haiti. Out of that $9 billion, how much of that do you think went to the Haiti relief effort?
S: I don’t know, how much?
A: If you were to guess, since you don’t really know about this situation, what would you say out of that $9 billion is a fair number?
S: I mean, I would want all of it to go to the relief. [laughs]
A: So what if I said less than $1 billion went to the Haitians?
S: What happened to the rest of it?
A: They don’t know and that’s why Haiti’s upset. The government got $546—here, hold on, I know I have this, I actually have it screenshotted, because I have friends who are from Haiti and we talk about this at great length. Alright, they got $9.04 billion from international funding. These are not just from, like, countries, these are from private investors and everything else. $580 million went to the Haitian government. $36.2 million went to Haitian organizations. 89.8%, or $5.4 billion, went to non-Haitian organizations. And that’s out of the $6.04 billion that wasn’t from individuals and companies. The $3 billion went to the Clinton Foundation, and it paid for salaries, it paid for planes, it paid for expenses that they said. And that’s where that went from. And this is actually from The Office of Special Envoy to Haiti. This is a-
S: So - so most of the money went to organizations that were helping Haiti but weren’t Haitian organizations?
A: No - no, no, no. The money went to not - like, they raised - they said, “Hey Haiti, you need money? Here you go. We’re gonna raise money for you.” And Haiti was expecting to get all of that money, but the money didn’t go to Haiti. The money never got there, all that disaster relief. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but even Kanye West—
A: Even Kanye West helped the Haitians more! I can’t believe I’m - ooh!
S: The best way to insert humor into an intense conversation—
A: Kanye West!
S: -is to invoke the name of Kanye West.
A: It is Kanye West!
S: [still laughing]
A: Even he - I can’t believe I’m saying this - even Kanye West did more for the Haitian people-
S: [continues laughing]
A: -than Hillary Clinton. Ow, that hurt, that hurt so hard to say.
S: I’m—can I see that chart?
A: Yeah, here. It’s from BBC.
S: So a US Government Accountability Office report discovered “no hint of wrongdoing,” but concluded “the IHRC’s decisions were not necessarily aligned with Haitian priorities.”
A: That’s basically where they’re saying, like, she didn’t break laws, but what she said she was gonna do, and what she actually did were very different. Two hundred thousand people died in Haiti. I mean, it’s got the size of, like, Massachusetts, I think, and there’s ten million people that live there, in the size of Massachusetts. And when 200,000 people out of that die, that’s a pretty big number. And then you have this - your lord and savior, Hillary Clinton, coming down from the great country of America to help you, and she’s like, “Yeah, I’m gonna give you all this money, we’re gonna rebuild, we’re gonna fix this!” And then you guys get nothing?
S: They didn't get nothing.
A: $560 million for a country that had - still, to this day, five years out - almost five years to the day of when it happened, are still suffering from it? The new Giants Stadium cost almost a billion dollars to build. A football stadium cost almost a billion dollars to build, and they get less than a billion dollars to fix an entire country that’s been ravaged by an earthquake.
S: I mean, we had a similar failure to help within our own country with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
A: Yeah! Oh of course! We had all of this money that we don’t - even here in New Jersey with Sandy, we have - still, if you drive up and down the coast you’ll see.
S: Right. But I don’t see Donald Trump being the solution to any of that.
A: And in his defense, he hasn’t really touched on that subject yet.
S: I saw what he did to Atlantic City. [clears throat, laughs]
A: Listen. And honestly, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, his casinos had nothing to do with the downfall of Atlantic City. It’s not safe anymore. When the Atlantic City government ran out of money to pay for their police and they had to cut staffing down by large numbers and it became less safe, a lot of people stopped going to these casinos, because it was, “Do I gamble in Atlantic City and take a risk on, like, getting shot and stabbed or mugged while I’m down there? Or do I go to Parks, where it’s safe, and I can still gamble but I don’t have to worry about being attacked.”
S: What about all of the contractors he stiffed? People whose lives were ruined because he promised them things that he then reneged on?
A: That’s to say about a lot of different businesses, you know? I mean, even - like I said, like, Clinton did that in Haiti. But the thing is, I have to look more into what happened with Donald Trump and the contractors in Atlantic City. I mean yes, this man has filed bankruptcy, but, you know, I mean, it’s apples to oranges as far as, you know, like, promising aid to a country that needs the help versus, you know, a business venture. I’m just saying that in every candidate, there’s flaws, you know? In everything that they do, there’s flaws. Some flaws are bigger than others. I could see Hillary Clinton winning more appeal by the American people if Benghazi didn’t happen. I can see Trump winning more appeal from the American people if he didn’t make the comment about grabbing women by the pussy. You know, I think both candidates were very seriously flawed and that it’s ridiculous that out of both parties, out of the billions of people in our country, those are the two that got the nomination. I think there have been plenty of other women who could’ve been President and should’ve ran, but didn’t.
S: If it had been Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump, who would you have voted for?
A: If it was between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump…I think I probably still would’ve voted for Trump, because, again, of his views on the economy. But I did like the way Bernie Sanders did believe in the vetting policies that Trump is trying to do, but Bernie would’ve definitely worded them much better. It would’ve been something I would’ve had to have researched. You know, it was between the two, I probably would’ve - and I know other conservatives who would’ve thought about it, too. The ones who are pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, would’ve thought, “Maybe Bernie Sanders.” But when it came down to those two, it was kind of, like, an obvious choice for me.
S: Let’s do a lightning round. Do you have any-
S: -any lingering questions for me that require short answers?
A: No, I honestly, like - it’s been eye-opening for us to have this discussion. I mean, I’m actually gonna review a lot of things that we talked about and do some more research on your end of the spectrum, you know?
A: And look into it, and, you know, I think stuff like this needs to happen more often. I think women need to get together more often and see each other’s views for how they really are rather than what society’s portraying them as being. You know, ‘cause like I said, most people thought, like, “A conservative, who believes in gay rights, and, you know, a woman’s right to choose? Like, how is that even a thing?” But it is a thing, it’s a very large thing, especially in this area. You know, like this is…ah, maybe more Trump than Clinton here, but all the Conservatives here, for the most part, feel the same way I do.
S: Ashley, it was a pleasure speaking with you.
A: Thank you for coming here.
S: Thank you for having me. I can’t wait for the listeners to hear this. Any last thoughts?
A: Well, listen, I mean, I guess, if I were to have one thing to say for both parties listening to this, you know, we really are one nation in this country. You know, what one law does for one person may not necessarily effect you in another way, but another law might. And instead of us working against each other, we should work together and try to see each other on a common ground. You know, give and take. That’s what we need to start doing.
S: Well said, thank you so much.
A: Thank you.
SAMIA VO: A conservative who’s pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and knows that climate change is real? And she wants to cut military spending so we can spend that money on social programs? Is that even a thing? Yeah, that’s a thing, and it gave me so much hope, you guys. Ashley’s assertion that most of the conservatives she knows think like she does, and that the GOP isn’t reflecting their views, was a bright shining beacon of hope for me. I loved what she had to say on all those issues. Shattering stereotypes and bringing the humanity back to politics is what this is all about, and Ashley certainly shattered my stereotypes about conservatives and how they think - and I’m pretty sure I shattered hers about liberals all being total nutjobs. I wish our lawmakers were more willing to accept reality and work together across party lines in the way that Ashley imagined they could.
I also want to share something with you that my fact-checking wizard, David Sokol, shared with me. He emailed me after finishing the show notes on Episode 3 and said, “This is one of the greatest things I've ever had the privilege of doing. Legitimately making me think differently, understand other people's experiences, and making me a kinder person. And anyone that I've recommended it to who says this podcast is not for liberals, I have quickly fired back with, ‘It is very much not one-sided. There is a message for all of us in here. We may not need to be convinced of the information, but we can take away from this the hard truth that we, just because we're liberal and it has worked nearly every time in the past, doesn't mean that we are absolutely always right. Not all conservatives are stupid and uneducated, as we sometimes love to spew. Many are kind, wonderful, hardworking people that are drawing from their own experiences and doing exactly what the country allows us to do. I don't agree with them, but I will never say they are stupid again for their political leanings. Especially if they can back it up with facts or personal experience. That's why ALL of us need to be involved in this.’”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s had a similar effect on me, working on this podcast. I’m kinder, more compassionate, slower to anger, and quicker to re-examine my own beliefs to see if maybe I’ve been ignoring important truths. We could all stand to take steps in that direction.
Thank you again for supporting the show. If you’re getting something out of this, if it’s helping you deal with the craziness of politics or with navigating your personal relationships with people whose politics diverge from your own, please please please take a minute and go to iTunes to leave us a 5-star review. This does wonders for getting the show out to a wider audience by pushing it up the iTunes Charts. Every review counts, and I’m beyond grateful to those of you have left reviews so far.
A million heartfelt thanks to Jordan Yanco and Dylan Riley for transcribing this episode, Andrew Guastella for sweetening up the interview audio, Christopher Gilroy for editing it all together and mixing it down, and the brilliant David Sokol for compiling and synthesizing the Show Notes. Check them out at makeamericarelatepodcast dot com.
Also, did you know the show has a blog? Whaaaat? Yes, it’s true, there’s a blog! I write one blog post per episode, and they’re all available for your reading pleasure on the website. The posts give you a more detailed, behind-the-scenes look at what it’s been like for me to conduct these interviews, and the many lessons I’ve learned through them. They also give you the option of leaving comments, and I LOVE comments. If you wanna contact me privately about anything at all, feel free to send a message through the Contact page on the website - makeamericarelatepodcast.com - or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also support the show by following us on Twitter and Facebook at @relatepodcast. That’s @relatepodcast. I post links to the recommended articles, books, and #Trypod recommendations, as well as lots of other fun stuff to help us all learn and get better and come together.
Lastly, this week’s #Trypod is Reveal, an investigative journalism podcast with a storytelling angle that manages to be equally informative and entertaining - and constantly forces me to redefine things I thought were true about our country and its government. The host, Al Letson, is incredible. His interview with white supremacist Richard Spencer was one of the biggest inspirations to me in starting this podcast - he was compassionate without compromising his truth. I’m a HUGE fan. Check out Reveal wherever you get your podcasts or on their website at revealnews.org.
Tune in next week to hear my conversation with the very charming, down-to-earth, and fun Alley Mulrain of New Rochelle, NY. I had a ton of fun with this one, ‘cause she’s an artist like me! She sings, she acts - she was actually the stand-in for Edie Falco on Nurse Jackie and The Sopranos! She also toured the world on cruise ships performing her own cabaret show. So basically, this is a woman who’s had lots of success in the performing arts, surrounding by artsy liberals all the time, and still maintained her own set of opinions about politics. And she has an frankness and sense of humor that I find incredibly charming. We talked a ton about the Russia scandal - a topic that hasn’t yet been broached on this podcast - so I’m really excited to share it with you. Get your cute little butt back here next week for Episode 5 with Alley Mulrain.
This has been Make America Relate Again. See you next week!