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Pete Buttigieg: I'm Proud To Campaign For Joe Biden

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Democrat Joe Biden has the backing of his former boss. President Obama spoke on a video yesterday saying Biden has all the qualities needed in a president.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: Choosing Joe to be my vice president was one of the best decisions I ever made, and he became a close friend. And I believe Joe has all the qualities we need in a president right now.

INSKEEP: Biden also has the endorsement of Pete Buttigieg, who is on the line. Back in the days when people still held campaign events, the Democratic contender canceled a speech, flew home to South Bend, Ind., where he had been the mayor, and said he was ending his campaign. Now he is speaking on behalf of. Biden Mayor Buttigieg, welcome to the program.

PETE BUTTIGIEG: Good morning. Nice to be with you.

INSKEEP: How are you going to be able to campaign for Joe Biden other than talking with people like me?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, campaigning is changing, of course, like everything else in American life. And so much in politics is about physical gathering, which we've been denied, but that doesn't change how important it is to get the message out to rally and gather supporters and to make sure we have a real change in November. I'm proud to campaign for Joe Biden. We're going to be doing it through Zoom. We're going to be doing it over the phone. We're going to be doing it through social media and probably ways that haven't yet been thought out.

INSKEEP: OK.

BUTTIGIEG: And this is an opportunity to innovate when it comes to reaching people out because one thing that hasn't changed is just how important it is to get Donald Trump out of office in November.

INSKEEP: Now, President Obama is widely thought to have been on the phone, playing a role in unifying the party in recent days. Did he do that? And did you have any personal experience with that as you ended your campaign?

BUTTIGIEG: No. As was reported publicly, he was very gracious to call me and say kind words about the campaign. But my decision to back Joe Biden was mine, and it was really based on seeing how much of the themes and ideas of my campaign were reflected in his. Obviously, we had a different message, and I am a different messenger. But one of the things that really shines through with Joe Biden is his empathy.

You know, my campaign was largely about building a sense of belonging, responding to what I believe is a crisis of belonging in our country right now. In Joe Biden, we have somebody who believes in the fundamental decency of this country and who, I think, carries the kind of decency that we are going to need more than ever, not to mention the experience and the understanding of how to govern that is even more important than it already was...

INSKEEP: Although...

BUTTIGIEG: ...In the face of the ineptitude of the White House in the national emergency that we're dealing with.

INSKEEP: Although it's interesting. Mayor Buttigieg, you talked about the themes of your campaign. You were on this program very early on, back in 2019, and you said your goal was intergenerational justice, making sure - among other things - that a younger, more diverse cohort of Americans was fully included, and that certainly resonated when you were the candidate, in your 30s. But can younger people expect a better shake from a president who would be about 40 years older than you are?

BUTTIGIEG: Absolutely. Look - obviously, I'm a fan of generational change. It was one of the ideas of my campaign. It's also an important idea for Win the Era, which is a political effort that I've launched to help candidates from a new generation step forward. But when it comes to the issues impacting a younger generation, those are very much on the ballot, and Joe Biden has the right answers.

You know, the biggest glaring issue of intergenerational justice is climate change. And while we may have some differences of opinion on our side of the aisle on how best to tackle it, the question in November is going to be over whether to tackle it. Remember - we've got, in Joe Biden, a candidate with an ambitious plan to move our country to where it needs to be and the world to where it needs to be in order to deal with climate change. And we've got a president who maintains that it's a hoax.

And if there's one thing we're seeing in the pandemic, it is the life-and-death consequences of refusing to listen to science and refusing to cooperate, coordinate - domestically and internationally - to deal with a massive challenge. That is true of public health and global health security. It's true of climate security. And the longer you're planning to be here on this earth, the more you have to lose from allowing there to be a second term of a president who just does not care.

INSKEEP: Let's note a way that the president is likely to attack Joe Biden in the fall. His allies already are; the president already is. They press on his fitness for office. They note that he's even older than President Trump. They will say that he lacks energy, that he's sleepy. They'll note that he's admitted in the past to touching women in ways that made them uncomfortable. And now Joe Biden is in this situation because of the pandemic where he may be very limited in how he can engage with people. So what should he do about that line of attack?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, the idea of Donald Trump criticizing somebody's temperament or suitability for the presidency is comical. Joe Biden is somebody who the American people know, have known him across 40 years in public office, including in the Obama administration, and know what he stands for, know how he will approach this office. That's one of the reasons why he had such trust and defeated all of his competitors, including me, in the Democratic primary process.

Look - this is about decency. This is about empathy. This is also about policy. And the American people believe in empowering workers, dealing with climate change and responding to the pandemic, not through the...

INSKEEP: About 10 seconds.

BUTTIGIEG: ...Rapid reassignment of blame but through actually solving the problem. That's what Joe Biden will bring to this country.

INSKEEP: Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and former Democratic presidential candidate. Thanks for your time.

BUTTIGIEG: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.