Tom Steyer says Michael Bloomberg should have to get out there and campaign.
Over the last decade, Steyer has spent extensively on political initiatives — mostly concerning climate change and impeachment. Since the last Democratic debate, however, he's been joined in the presidential race by another billionaire with a similar emphasis on climate change: Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.
In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday afternoon, Steyer discussed the Green New Deal (on the whole, he said, it's great, even if he doesn't agree with every last detail), nuclear power and carbon capture technology (they haven't yet been proven to be as effective and clean as other methods, he said), impeachment potentially interfering with the schedules of senators running for president (they have a job to do, he said), and the general election map next year (he thinks Mark Kelly should win Arizona's Senate race).
“Look, the only thing I’ve said about Mike is that if you want to be the nominee of the Democratic Party," Steyer said, "you have to embrace a wealth tax, particularly if you’re as rich as Mike Bloomberg. Period."
Since he entered the race, Bloomberg has spent tens of millions of dollars on television ads. (Steyer himself has also spent heavily on advertising this year.) But with his late entrance and political strategy, Bloomberg will likely skip the Democratic debates and retail-oriented states like Iowa. Asked about the big buy, Steyer said Bloomberg needed to actually campaign in front of real voters.
“I think if you want to be president of the United States, you should have to go out and look Americans in the eye and listen to what they have to say," he said.
“I think it’s completely different to look somebody in the eye,” he went on, “and hear them tell you the reality of their life and take it in as a person than from either reading it in, you know, some quality publication, seeing your timeline. I’m not trying to be a snob, it’s just, you know, I believe it was, unfortunately, Joseph Stalin who said, ‘A million deaths are a statistic, one death is a tragedy.’”
He added, "So I would say to Mike Bloomberg, he should really have to go out and meet some Americans and look them in the eye and hear what they have to say about what’s going on in the country. Honest to god.”
Steyer discussed briefly a climate change effort that he, Hank Paulson, and Bloomberg undertook called "Risky Business" — meant to persuade corporate interests that taking on the problem on was both an imperative and a business opportunity. (It wasn't successful, Steyer said.)
As of now, with Sen. Kamala Harris's exit on Tuesday, Steyer is the last Californian in the race. Steyer praised Harris personally and said — in response to recent New York Times reporting that Harris aides are "already bracing" for a potential Senate primary challenge in 2022, possibly from him — that he was focused on running for president. "Not even thinking about it," he said.
Was he surprised to see that in the Times?
“No, people love to speculate about all kinds of things," he responded after laughing. "And, look, I’m running for president for a real reason. People have speculated in the past about what I’m going to do. I am running for president for a real reason and I’m trying my ass off to win, and that’s all I’m thinking about.”