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Martin O'Malley on Minimum Wage, Iran, and ISIS

John Pemble
Iowa Public Radio

Clay Masters conducted this interview with Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley Friday, July 24th. Below is a partially transcribed interview.

M: How do you feel you're getting your name out there? Do you like feel you're connecting more, the more time you spend here?

O: I do. You know, I have seen this process unfold with other candidates who were not very well-known, but managed to go town to town to town, and I know just how seriously the people of Iowa take their responsibility. So I've been pleasantly surprised at how many people are coming out to hear what I have to say and what I have to offer. And that's how you do it in Iowa, you go town to town, living room to living room. So I'm very encouraged, I feel like every time we come back, and I've been now to 19 of the 99 counties in just 40 days, every time we come back we make some more friends and stitch together a better organization across the state. So I need to get my name recognition up over the course of this summer and continue to move into the debate season and grow this campaign and its support.

M: Year after year in the legislature here in Iowa, Senate Democrats, they control the Senate, introduce bills to try to raise the minimum wage or they talk about it here in the state. Our Republican governor here in Iowa once upon a time approved a minimum wage hike. Why is it a federal issue, why not have states control where to set the minimum wage?

O: Yea, it’s very interesting, my state of Maryland has been called America in miniature. So we have very rural parts of our state and then we have very very urban. We have metropolitan, suburban communities as well. So I think what you’re seeing happening in our country right now is that increasingly the federal government will become the floor. And some states will actually raise their minimum wage above the floor and you’ll see metropolitan areas,  cities and counties raising it even higher than their state. There are many of us that claim to have progressive values in this race in the democratic party for president, but I have not only progressive values but I’ve actually enacted them into law and put them into action. In our state, we raised the minimum wage to 10.10 an hour and I encouraged two of our counties to go higher, which they did, they went to 12.80.

M: How long ago was that?

O: My last year in office. The more workers earn, the more and better customers businesses have and the more our economic grows. No one should have to play by the rules and have to live in poverty.

M: You turned some heads recently, some ears perked up when you linked climate change to the Islamic State. Are you suggested that preventing climate change can be key to stopping terrorism?

O: The way the Department of Defense talks about this is they call it a threat multiplier. In fact there was an article or a letter to the editor that was published by a number of generals talking about the link. What I pointed out on a recent interview, it was in Cedar Rapids I think, before Cedar Rapids, was we need a new foreign policy of engagement and collaboration and a new national security strategy that recognizes and anticipates rising threats before they rise to a level where it seems the only options we have are boots on the ground or not. And, as an example of that, I pointed out that because of the erratic weather patterns brought about by climate change, and I do agree with 98% of scientists who say that that’s driven by human activity, we have seen megadroughts in parts all over the world. The megadrought that California is going through right now. But there was also a megadrought in Syria, that preceded the collapse of that nation state and that preceded the rise of ISIL.

And that megadrought drove people off of the land, into cities, the government did not respond very well to that humanitarian and that drought crisis. They responded instead, when people were expressing their displeasure and that they had nothing to eat or drink, they responded with oppression and repression. That brought about, ultimately, the unrest that led to a civil war that led to the chaos that led to the vacuum that led to the rise of ISIL.  But don’t believe me, people in the Defense Department would agree with that scenario as well. That’s why when you look at a new foreign policy of engagement and collaboration, it is not just against terror groups and non-state actors. It is against the very real human threats posed by climate change, the threats posed to humanity by pandemic coming out of West Africa. And these are the places where we need to forge new alliance and be smarter as people in anticipating these threats, dialing up our power of diplomacy, development, and collaboration with like-minded people to mitigate these conditions before they lead to a situation that becomes a security threat. 

M: While we're in the Middle East talking about it, the Iran Nuclear Deal. A big talking point for Republican candidates has been this deal struck with Iran. Do you think it's been good? Do you think it was a good deal that the US negotiated with six other big world powers?

O: Yea I think it holds a lot of promise. And I think the deal will be examined and read and will soon be released so that we can see the details of it. The key is that it has to be verifiable and enforceable. If Iran were our friend, we wouldn't have to negotiate. Maryland was one of those states--perhaps Iowa, I don't know--but many states and many nations put in place tough, tough sanctions to drive the Iranians to the negotiating table in order to hopefully prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon through multiple pathways. So the key now is to make sure that it is in fact enforceable, verifiable, tightly monitored, and that we're prepared to snap sanctions back into place in the event that the Iranians were to cheat on this. But I think it holds a lot of promise. And I think this is how an effective foreign policy works, not merely using our military powers, but also our diplomatic. We have to also be about waging peace. And perhaps this deal is that path forward.