On guns, isn’t it counterproductive to be going after Democratic senators when their replacements are going to be far more conservative?
The way that all these single-issue advocacy organizations work—the NRA, Gun Owners of America, the AARP—is they say, “Vote with us, or we’re going to go after you.” And if you say, “Well, my opponent is worse than me,” they say, “We don’t care, we’re going after you. It’s your vote we care about. We’ll deal with him if we need to.” You have to have a counter to that. This, to me, is the most important issue. And incidentally, it is not Democrats we are going after—it is whatever party happens to control the Senate, and if we get legislation passed there, we will go after whatever party happens to control the House. It is not because they’re Democrats. It looks like it would be Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, but who knows?
These are people’s lives! Twelve thousand people this year will be killed by guns. Nineteen thousand will commit suicide.
Other than guns, what is your policy agenda?
Immigration and guns are the two big issues at the national level. Health-care costs and pension costs at the local level.
You endorsed President Obama this time around. How’s he doing? Give him a grade.
I think some things he’s done well; some things I’ve encouraged him to do more of. He’s a very smart guy. He’s very thoughtful. He is honest, and he is earnest. He’s got a tough row to hoe with Congress, but if I’ve been critical at all, it’s because I think he could do more reaching out to more sides of the aisle. He gave a speech on immigration and said that we have to have bipartisan support, but the Republicans were the problem. I wouldn’t do it that way. In business, I would kiss you and then ask for something. In government, they tend to take a swing and then ask for something.
So that’s a B, B+?
I wouldn’t give him a grade yet. But on the things that you can measure short-term, he gets good grades.
You’ve worked closely with at least three people who are likely to be top contenders in 2016. Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie.
Add the governor of Maryland.
Who’d make the best president?
Oh, I can’t answer that. Number one: I don’t know that any of them want to run. And I still have to deal with all of them. I think they’re different people, and each brings something different to the party. Is that good-enough obfuscation?
Would you vote for Hillary?
I think Hillary’s very competent. And I’d say the same about the other two. I’ve worked well with all of them.
As for your future: There are plenty of different models of wealthy people giving money away—Larry Ellison races yachts and funds his son’s Hollywood dreams. Bill Gates donates to medical and educational causes.
I don’t know Ellison very well. Bill, I do know well, and he deserves a lot of credit. He and his wife spend an enormous amount of time and dedication in trying to change the world. I would like to do a lot of that. Certainly a big component of my life will be philanthropy.
As important as that is, I can’t see that being enough for you.
I can’t either, but we’ll see. I am an executive. What I do is make decisions, hire people, get ’em to work together. I’m not a consultant, I’m not an investor, I’m not a teacher, I’m not an analyst. You have to know what your skill sets are.
If you’re an executive, can you really rule out running for president in 2016?
Yes. It’s just impossible. I am 100 percent convinced that you cannot in this country win an election unless you are the nominee of one of the two major parties. The second thing I am convinced of is that I could not get through the primary process with either party.
And, incidentally, I think I’ve got a better job than the president’s. He’s got a very tough Congress, and he’s removed from the day-to-day stuff. My job is the day-to-day stuff. That’s what I’m good at—or at least what I think I’m good at.
Jeff Bezos just bought the Washington Post. John Henry just bought the Boston Globe.
I saw that.
They are not good businesses. The media world is changing. Newsweek and U.S. News, two of the big newsweeklies nationwide, go out of print, and Time magazine’s thinner than it was before. There’s something changing. Whether it’s good or bad for democracy, whether it’s good or bad for the public, I don’t know, but it’s changing. The print circulation of the Daily News has gone from 660,000 to 330,000 in four or five years.