Transcript: John Hickenlooper on "Face the Nation," March 10, 2019

Hickenlooper "happy to say" he's a capitalist

The following is a transcript of the interview with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper that aired Sunday, March 10, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: And now the "biggest name in the race" joins us live from Austin. Governor, welcome to "Face the Nation."

GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Thanks for having me on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it a good idea to do what Senator Warren is advocating there with breaking up big tech companies?

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: Well I think you've got to look at the environment and- and how the system is working. And for you know-- for several decades now, increasingly, people in the middle class and poor people in this country haven't had the security and opportunity that our economic system used to create for them. So what is the reason why we're seeing such a large number decline in the number of startups? People starting businesses? And maybe some of that is due to these large companies that, you know, usually when someone's going to start a business they're already a successful employee somewhere. Maybe they're looking at that landscape and saying, "Ah. These companies are too big I can't get in."  

And I think that's one of the arguments that she's trying to make. We have to make sure that we have a competitive system whereby little guys feel they've got an in--an honest, decent chance to succeed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you do think tech companies have too much influence over the economy?

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: No I'm-- what I'm saying is that they are, in many circumstances, becoming so large they make it harder for small companies to compete. I'm not-- again to make a blanket statement about all tech companies, you know they're too big, I think that would be a- a little bit over, going too far. But I do think it's legitimate to say, how do we make sure that we have more competition in such a way that we encourage, you know, people to start their own businesses? 

That's what job creation happens is- is when you get small businesses-- you know, people like me. I got laid off and I ended up starting, first one restaurant company, then another restaurant company then, you know I took old warehouses and turned them into loft projects. But we created thousands of jobs in that process and we're able to, you know, stimulate a whole part of Denver and- and others, you know, cities and towns across the Midwest. That's what drives this country and always has and- and we're seeing a decline in the number of people willing to start up businesses.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well I- I want to offer you the chance to clear something up here because you did an interview earlier in the week where you were asked three times if you would call yourself a proud capitalist and you wouldn't directly answer the question. It led Howard Schultz, who's possibly a candidate to say, "If even a successful businessman and entrepreneur like Governor Hickenlooper can't openly support capitalism the Democratic primary, it's clear this is Senator Sanders' party now." Why are you uncomfortable calling yourself a proud capitalist?

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: I've been-- the point I was making is that we defined people by these labels that- that often have all kinds of associations and baggage with them in that sense. Do I believe in small business? Of course I believe in small business. I started probably more than 20 different small businesses. I'd have-- in one year I'd have over a million customers. I understand that. But what's happening-- I think it's kind of a silly question. We should be looking at some of the reasons be- behind why we have less and less start ups.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure.

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: We should look at of the reasons why, you know, more and more people aren't wanting to start a business.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. But you understand that--

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: But--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --it is a main Republican talking point to label Democrats right now as anti-business socialists.

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: Right? But that's ridiculous, obviously there are--

MARGARET BRENNAN:  So you would reject that.

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: --the Democratic party is a big tent.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You reject that label.

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: Yes. Absolutely. I think that's not accurate. And I think that, as your interview with Elizabeth Warren showed, there are all kinds of- of- of different people making up the Democratic Party. Do I believe in- in free markets? Do I believe that, you know, you put capital to work to- to create jobs and- and improve your community? You know back when I was a kid, businesses understood the part of their job wasn't just to make as much profit as they could but it was to create the community. Once you get back into these labels, am I a capitalist? Am I a socialist? How much of how much of a capitalist I am I versus how much of a socialist? That becomes kind of silly doesn't it?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well--

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: I mean,

MARGARET BRENNAN: If-

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: In a funny way--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The other candidates were comfortable answering the question so I wanted to offer you a chance to- to answer it.  understand you're not comfortable directly answering

GOV.. HICKENLOOPER: I-I--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I want to move on to some--

GOV HICKENLOOPER: Well I-I'm comfortable. I'm hap--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Go ahead.

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: Let me just- I'm happy to say I'm a capitalist but I think at a certain point the labels do nothing but divide us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: What I'm trying to build this campaign around, is to say that as a country we've got to stop finding every excuse to divide ourselves--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Point taken.

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: And begin working together because we've got some big issues to make.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Point taken. In terms of your platform. I understand you support universal health care not necessarily Medicaid for all- Medicare for all. You've supported some free trade deals in the past like NAFTA. You've touted your executive experience in a field full of legislators here. You don't like labels but you sound like more of a centrist. How do you keep the Democratic party from splintering further?

GOV. HICKENLOOPER: Well try- if I've tried to avoid this all the labeling that goes on. You know, I mean, I'm running for president because I believe I could beat Donald Trump but  I also believe that can bring us together on the other side and begin getting stuff done. And that's one thing I think that I bring to the table is I'm a doer. I'm not someone who's- I mean I'm a dreamer too and I- I believe in big visions. We've done some amazing things in Colorado. I mean we've almost got universal health care coverage in Colorado now. We've addressed some of the biggest root causes of climate change. We've taken this- our economy from 40th in job creation to being the number one economy in the country for the last couple of years. Those are things that I think should be models on who the- you what the next president needs to be able to demonstrate that they can do things.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Well, Governor thank you very much for joining us.