The Issue Is: Katie Couric, Brian Goldsmith, Congressman Tom Mcclintock, and Brynne Kennedy

This week, rather than debate, President Trump and former Vice President Biden competed in dueling town halls. 

This, as the Senate held confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the US tallied its 8,000,000th confirmed case of coronavirus, and millions more cast their ballots.

As the march towards Election Day continues, Elex Michaelson is joined on The Issue Is by legendary journalist Katie Couric and political strategist Brian Goldsmith. This week, he also moderates a Congressional debate between Congressman Tom McClintock (R) and Brynne Kennedy (D) for California’s 4th District.


The conversation kicked off with Couric and Goldsmith, who previously worked as Couric’s producer and podcast co-host.

With just days to go this election cycle, the two first analyzed the state of the Presidential race.

“I think it’s been such an insane year, and the campaigns have been so insane,” Couric said. “I do think the tide is turning, but of course, we had it so wrong in 2016… you just can’t take anything for granted.”

Couric continued by saying that she believes that as COVID rates continue to spike, the images of President Trump holding massive rallies and disregarding masking rules, could potentially lead some who previously voted for him to have buyer’s remorse and reconsider if they want to see him re-elected.

“I’m a little nervous, frankly,” Goldsmith responded. “I think, fundamentally, Biden has an advantage in the race, the public thinks the country is on the wrong track, on the other hand, I think there’s a little irrational exuberance among some Democrats and on Twitter about just the extent of Biden’s lead… we’re seeing some continued strength behind Donald Trump among his core voter groups.”

While they battle for the Presidency, this week Trump and Biden were scheduled to meet in Miami for the second Presidential debate. Following the President’s coronavirus diagnosis, the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to make the debate virtual, which the Trump campaign rejected.

Eventually, Thursday night saw dueling town halls, the former Vice President on ABC, and President Trump on NBC at the same exact time - a decision which left many, including Couric, deeply dismayed.

“I was really disappointed by the decision by management to go head-to-head with a town hall featuring former Vice President Biden,” Couric said. “I think it was really just craven and wrong, they should have scheduled it on a night when Vice President Biden was not doing a town hall meeting.”

“I think it’s a really, really bad decision,” the former Today host continued. “I think it’s really bad for democracy.”

During her years at Today, Couric interacted many times with Donald Trump, then the host of The Apprentice, she even dressed as him one Halloween on-air. With that in mind, Michaelson asked what he was like behind the scenes.

“Donald Trump had been very nice to me through the years,” Couric said, noting his generosity on a number of occasions. “I had hopes the Presidency would maybe bring out the best in him, and that he would come through and actually step up in a way, and, I think, unfortunately, it has kind of brought out the worst in him.”

It wasn’t only President Trump though, Couric and Goldsmith had behind-the-scenes stories to recount about a number of political power players, including 2008’s Vice Presidential nominees, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

Biden, the two spoke with during a 2008 series called “Primary questions” in which they profiled a number of the highest-profile primary contenders on both sides of the aisle. 

“Biden was very warm and gregarious, and couldn’t have been an easier interview,” Goldsmith recalled. “I think we both thought very fondly of him, at the same time we both thought he probably doesn’t have a shot at winning this thing.”

Later that year, the pair made headlines when they interviewed Republican Vice Presidential candidate Palin, a piece in which Palin infamously could not tell Couric which news publications she read.

“I just thought it was strange that she didn’t answer the question, because that morning we saw her reading the New York Times on the campaign plane,” Couric revealed. “I think it was just odd that she couldn’t come up with a better answer, and I still don’t know why she didn’t.”


Next, a special Congressional debate for California’s 4th district.

The district, which includes El Dorado, Mariposa, and portions of Fresno, has been represented in Congress by Tom McClintock (R) since 2009.

In this year’s race, McClintock is being challenged by businesswoman Brynne Kennedy (D).

The debate got underway with opening statements from each candidate, Kennedy going first.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a businesswoman who built a company to help people work on-the-go and from home, all things we’re dealing with now,” Kennedy began, adding she comes from a military family in which both parents experienced cancer, although only one had health care.

“Washington isn’t working for us, it’s failed, and when your business is failing, or your sports team is losing, the first thing you do is change the people in it, and that is what I offer, change, new ideas, new energy, to fight for the things that matter,” Kennedy continued, stressing the inability of current leaders to deal with issues related to COVID-19, wildfires, and social security.

McClintock then delivered his opening remarks.

“It’s hard to believe that just eight months ago we were enjoying the greatest economic expansion in our lifetimes,” McClintock began, stressing how unemployment had hit a 50-year low, and wages were growing, which he credits to tax and regulatory relief provided under President Trump and a Republican-led Congress.

“Back in March, I warned the lockdowns were insane and would do far more harm than good, now the World Health Organization agrees,” McClintock went on. “Ending the lockdowns and restoring the economy is going to be job one for the new Congress, and I’m looking forward to getting our country back to the prosperity that freedom produces.”

With that, the conversation turned to the first main topic, safely reopening California’s economy in the face of coronavirus. This, as the Golden State nears 900,000 positive cases, and endures an unemployment rate of 11.4% - the 47th highest rate in the nation.

“Lockdowns didn’t save lives, they cost lives,” McClintock reiterated, noting how mortality and employment figures have been worse in states and countries that shut down. “There is no substitute for immediately reopening our economy, restoring our Constitutional rights, and holding accountable the politicians who caused this disaster.”

“We have 4% of the world’s population, and 20% of the deaths, one in five small businesses have failed, and millions are out of work, it’s Washington that can’t get this done,” Kennedy responded. “We need to follow public health guidelines, we need to get help to our businesses, our schools, and the American people, and we need to innovate how we work.”

When pressed by Kennedy on why he didn’t believe in the use of masks, McClintock advocated for a US response akin to that of Sweden, which he said never locked down, never mandated masks, and now sees an average of less than one death per day.

“I for one, trust Dr. Fauci a heck of a lot more than Dr. McClintock,” Kennedy responded.

Next, the conversation turned to California’s wildfires, which so far this season have burned a record 4.1 million acres. With that in mind, Michaelson asked both candidates what they would do to respond, and what role the federal government can play in alleviating the damage.

“All this has gotten worse on McClintock’s watch, because he rejects science and he goes it alone,” Kennedy said, noting we need to manage our forests, haul insurance companies before Congress, and invest in our state’s infrastructure.

McClintock pushed back, saying that Kennedy had misrepresented his record, and that he has spent his time on the House Natural Resources Committee working to restore forest management practices to our national forests.

“Excess timber is going to come out of the forest in only two ways, we’re either going to carry it out, or it will burn out,” McClintock warned, adding that he’s working so that all federal lands can more easily manage their timber in a way that the 4th District’s Tahoe Basin already does.

The debate wrapped up on a fun note, a rapid-fire round of Personal Issues, in which both candidates had the chance to reveal a little more about themselves.

While McClintock said his favorite TV show was Dateline, Kennedy chose Schitt’s Creek.

When it came to favorite meals, McClintock said he preferred meatloaf or a McDonald’s hamburger, Kenned opted instead for a locally-grown salad.

Finally, Michaelson asked the two what they admired most about their opponents. McClintock said he admired Kennedy’s tenacity, Kennedy said McClintock had a “very nice office.”


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