Washington Post reporter Robert Costa interviewed 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg about how he will debate President Trump.
ROBERT COSTA: When I ask voters about you, they say if you win the nomination you're going to be on stage debating President Trump. He's going to be tough, he's going to take punches at you, rhetorically. Are you ready for that?
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG: Yeah. I mean, look, what he's gonna do, and I got a fair amount of familiarity with bullies. I’m gay, I’m from Indiana, I get it. He’s gonna try to get your attention, he’s gonna try to get under your skin, he’s gonna try to distract us.
The challenge in confronting Trump is that there are certain things that he does that that you have to respond to, just morally. When he lies, you've got to correct the lie, which will keep you busy because he does it so often. When he does something wrong, you've got to point to it. But it can’t be about him.
Any energy that goes his way, including energy that goes his way in the form of criticism, turns into a kind of food, he just devours it and gets bigger. What we’ve got to learn is how to kind of stiff-arm him, so it’s almost like a sort of crazy uncle management.
He’s there, you’re not gonna disrespect his humanity, but he's just, he thinks what he thinks, there's not much you can do about it. You correct the outrages then we return the focus back to the fact that we’re the ones trying to get you a wage and they’re trying to block an increase in wages. We're the ones trying to get you healthcare and they're trying to take it away. We're the ones trying to make sure you actually get paid family leave, all these issues, and now a woman's right to choose. All these issues where Americans agree with us. It is actually getting harder to find a policy of this administration that most Americans don't disagree with, which is exactly why they need it to not be about policy. That's where the strategy of silly insults and the rest comes with.
I don’t have a problem standing up to someone who was working on season 7 of "Celebrity Apprentice" while I was packing my bags for Afghanistan, but at the end of the day, it is not about him.
ROBERT COSTA: Do you think he should have served in Vietnam?
PETE BUTTIGIEG: I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam.
ROBERT COSTA: You believe he faked a disability?
PETE BUTTIGIEG: Do you believe he has a disability? Yeah, at least not that one.
This is actually really important because I don't mean to trivialize disability. But I think that is exactly what he did.
When you think about the way someone can exploit the system, and needless to say, the way he has mocked disabled people is just one more example of his many affronts to basic decency. But manipulating the ability to get a diagnosis. If he were a conscientious objector, I'd admire that. But this is somebody who, I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that someone could go to war in his place.
And I know that that dredges up old wounds from a complicated time, but I'm also old enough to remember a time when conservatives cared about character, and how it mattered in the presidency, so I think it deserves to be talked about.