At Eagleton lecture series, White House insider talks Trump vs. Clinton matchup
Former White House Director of Legislative Affairs Katie Beirne Fallon hopes that Congress will come together and help the United States’ citizens with economic anxieties they face right now.
Fallon, who served as President Barack Obama’s director of Legislative Affairs after serving as a deputy communications director, shared the lessons she learned from her two years in the position to an audience at the Eagleton Institute of Politics on Thursday night.
“I think it is the most rewarding professional experience I have ever had and may ever have. I think I was there at a time we were able to make things happen that were declared impossible, and I had exposure to an amazing boss who treated staff like family and took care of us in a tough environment that was often toxic,” she said. “I miss it every day and I would encourage every young person interested in politics to strive to get a job at the White House.”
Fallon, whose husband Brian Fallon Jr. is Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s press secretary, said she supports the former Secretary of State for several reasons.
“First, I think she has the right priorities of what’s necessary to get America moving in the right direction economically,” she said. “Her focus on working families and especially children in these families, investing resources in them are critically important for making sure we’re creating the legacy we need to keep our economy growing.”
Clinton has emphasized working-class families throughout her campaign, she said.
Her second point of support for Clinton stems from her years of government service, Fallon said.
“I think she has an incredible resume of accomplishments over time and has seen a variety of tough political situations,” she said.
As a senator from New York, Clinton would work across the aisle to push bipartisan legislation, Fallon said. Her ability to work with Republican lawmakers will serve her well.
“She was great at working with both sides,” she said. “I think we need somebody like that in the Oval Office.”
Fallon’s third point of support comes from Clinton’s time as Secretary of State, where she garnered a lot of experience on foreign policy issues.
This experience would serve Clinton well, allowing her to make “reasonable” decisions on “complicated foreign policy issues,” she said. Clinton would be able to ensure America remains a global leader, as well as continue with some of Obama’s initiatives, including tackling the Islamic State and stabilizing the Middle East.
Republican nominee Donald Trump, on the other hand, recently announced that he would only accept the results of the election if he wins, barring a landslide loss to Clinton.
He has often said during rallies that the election results could be rigged to provide Clinton with an advantage.
“I think the scariest part about it is, statements like that are really going to depress voting, especially on the Republican side and make the American people feel further disillusioned in the political system when in fact the way we vote in America is one of the things we have to be most proud about in the political system,” Fallon said.
When voting, people should be looking at their candidate’s governing philosophy, not their personality, she said. Voters should look at what the candidates stand for, and not make a decision based on whether they like the person or not.
The outcome of the election will determine what the future of the U.S.’s government looks like, and drive how citizens can interact with their government, she said.
“Democracy is too important for us to not make the effort to go and have our voices heard,” she said. “I’d rather have disgruntled voters write themselves in for president than not vote. They’re sending a signal in doing so and that signal ricochets through the system and impacts the end result.”
Though Fallon's position as director of Legislative Affairs used to be considered “the worst job in Washington,” Fallon said she found the experience to be “the best job” she had had.
Fallon described her experiences through the lens of some of the agendas her office pushed while she lead it, beginning with immigration reform.
The White House had been working with both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives on a bipartisan immigration reform bill which was nearly ready to be passed when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost a primary race in 2014.
This single primary loss ultimately resulted in the bill not passing through the House, ultimately killing immigration reform that year, she said.
Cantor lost to a Tea Party challenger. It was not the last time the Tea Party had an impact on White House goals.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) called for a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland earlier this year, and was immediately threatened with a primary challenger by the Tea Party, she said.
Dissolving the roadblocks that stall legislation will be one challenge that the next President of the United States will have to face, Fallon said. Obama waited several years before issuing his first Executive Order, but the next president should not.
“I think that … the inertia in Congress is going to be maintained from this administration so (the next president) shouldn’t wait for them to come,” she said. “I hope that no matter what there are things that come out of the (next) administration that are helping to solve real problems without waiting for Congress to come up with solutions.”
Raising the minimum wage nationwide is an issue that the next president might be able to bring Congress together on to accomplish, Fallon said. This measure would help many Americans and show the country that their government is listening to them.
Nikhilesh De is the news editor of The Daily Targum. He is a School of Engineering senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.