Read: A vaccine reality check
She’s trying to persuade her colleagues in Congress to sign on to the idea, and she’s sometimes bringing along her dog to help. When Shalala flies to Washington, D.C., she lets Fauci sit in the extra seat she buys to ensure that she’s socially distanced. “Everybody laughs when I walk around the Capitol and I say ‘Here, Fauci,’” she said.
Listen to the interview here:
Subscribe to The Ticket on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or another podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they’re published.
What follows is an edited and condensed transcript:
Edward-Isaac Dovere: You’re 79. You live in Florida. Are you scared day-to-day with what’s going on?
Donna Shalala: I’m terrified for my community and for the country. I’m not personally scared, but I’m just terrified that we haven’t gotten control of this virus because of the lack of leadership at the national level and state level. This balance between opening up and knocking out the virus is not a fair balance, because first you have to knock out the virus before you can open up. Miami Beach has 90,000 residents, and last year they had 10 million visitors. You can’t sustain an economy on 90,000 residents.
Dovere: What do you make of your governor, Ron DeSantis, who downplayed the pandemic when it first hit? In the past few weeks, the numbers from Florida are just astounding.
Shalala: He just follows the president, and he’s a weak governor. I said the other day, “Why do people run for office if they’re not prepared to make tough decisions?” He’s meek. He’s just not prepared to do what’s necessary. He is personally responsible for a number of unnecessary deaths and sickness in our state because he hasn’t exerted strong leadership.
Dovere: You have had an extensive career in public service. Then in 2018, you decide that what you really want to do is be a member of Congress. Can you explain that decision?
Shalala: It was irrational. I just got pissed off at what was going on in Washington. It was March 2018. There were already five or six candidates in the race that had been in the race for a year. And I simply decided they could not flip the seat. We had a chance because my predecessor, a Republican, had stepped down after 30 years, and I didn’t think they were going to be able to flip the seat. The chance of getting the House back depended a lot on people that were willing to step up and flip seats, so I decided to do it.
Dovere: And since you got to Washington, have you been encouraged by what’s been going on there?
Shalala: I’ve been encouraged by my [Democratic] colleagues. I’ve been encouraged by our leadership. I’m not encouraged by the president or the Republicans who constantly do not have an independent voice. There was one day during the CARES Act [deliberation] in which we were ready to vote. But the Republicans wouldn’t vote until they got a tweet from the president telling them that he would sign the bill. Well, he tweeted at midnight. We sat around until midnight. It was absolutely ridiculous. I must say, my Republican colleagues thought it was ridiculous as well.