Restoring Integrity to the Executive Branch

COMMENTARY Conservatism

Restoring Integrity to the Executive Branch

Jun 22, 2023 27 min read
Kevin D. Roberts, PhD


Heritage Trustee since 2023
Washington D.C. city view at sunset, including Washington Monument from the Capitol building. f11photo/Getty Images

Americans believe that when they cast their vote for the presidency, they are also casting a vote for the executive branch as a whole. Contrary to that belief, millions of federal employees remain in their positions, regardless of the Commander-in-Chief's appointment.

David Bernhardt, former Secretary of the Interior during the Trump administration, is the latest guest on The Kevin Roberts Show.

Tune in for a meaningful discussion on what it means to be a good civil servant and how the next conservative administration can mitigate the negative impacts that career officials may have on its effectiveness.

David Bernhardt: If we have a situation where we have 2.2 million civil servants and an element of those 2.2 million, whether it's 1% or 15% or 35%, decide to ignore that policy discretion that undermines the entire purpose of those elections.

Kevin Roberts: Welcome back to the Kevin Roberts Show. Here it is the middle part of 2023. Of course, you could be listening to this at any point in that year or a subsequent year. And what we're doing is focusing on conversations with people who have plans for taking back this country, revitalizing institutions.

As you know, we talked to some guests who are focused on work outside Washington, D.C. that's vital to the success of those of us who work inside the beltway. And then we also talked to guests who currently or in recent positions have had an instrumental role in tearing back the administrative state. That's the case today. So you're going to be really pleased to hear the conversation that I have with the former Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, there's a new book out. If you're watching this, you can see this lovely cover, You Report To Me:, is the name of the book,

Accountability For the Failing Administrative State.
But beyond that, Mr. Secretary, for many years, I wanted to shake your hand and meet in person, which we just did. Thanks for joining me.

Bernhardt: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Roberts: And the reason that I wanted to do that is because of gratitude, and I'd say often at Heritage, often on this show, that among all of the other characteristics of conservatism, gratitude is really at the heart. And we ought to be grateful to the men and women who have served in cabinets, who serve in the Senate and the House.

But being someone who you now know is an outdoorsman, as you know raised hunting dogs and avid bird hunter hunt other things too. Fly fishermen, a lover of the West, which I know the Department of Interior has also a love affair with. I thought you did a wonderful job and your entire career, particularly your three stops at the Department of Interior.

Bernhardt: That's right. T.

Roberts: He only American, if I'm not mistaken to be Senate, confirmed to be Secretary, Deputy Secretary and Solicitor General.

Bernhardt: That's right.

Roberts: So we're going to talk about the business of the Department of Interior. We're going to talk about your book, but I know that many members of our audience, whether they're watching or listening, want to know how it is that someone got to do what they're doing. So what's your story?

Bernhardt: Well, my story is no different than many people that become interested in public service. I grew up in a very small community in western Colorado, and that community was surrounded by public lands, lands managed by the federal government. And on those lands everything happened. There was resource development for mining or oil and gas. There were wonderful recreational opportunities. There were places to go for solace in the wilderness. And for me as a youth, those lands meant everything.

They meant freedom because anyone, no matter their economic status, their social status could find a way to enjoy those public lands. And so my brother and I spent the vast majority of our time, probably too much time, enjoying those public lands, whether it was for hunting or fishing or just recreational opportunities, whether on horseback or motorized vehicle. And I fell in love with those lands. But I also learned that in those communities, the hopes and dreams of those communities often rested on the decisions made by federal land managers.

And recognizing that put me on a pathway to be interested in natural resource issues and public lands issues. I went to law school, received a scholarship, and ended up out here in D.C. and worked for a few years and then went into private law practice and one of my law partners became the Secretary of the Interior. And I was an associate and she was packing up her briefcase and her coffee cup and she's like, "David, do you want to go to the Department of the Interior?"

And I thought I would go for maybe a year. It wasn't something that really I thought would be that interesting. And I went in the Bush administration and I stayed for eight because every day was an interesting issue on one hand. But more importantly, I thought the work was really important from the standpoint that every decision that reached the Secretary of the Interior's desk mattered greatly to someone somewhere.

And I thought it was a valuable part of the process to be a individual that was advising the secretary or the deputy secretary or other assistant secretaries on their options on the issue and just making sure that the secretary had a clear understanding of the facts, the law, and the policy discretion that he or she had. And so I found that work rewarding and I ended up staying a long time. And then I was asked to serve as I served on a number of transition teams, which were so important. And then I was asked to serve as deputy secretary and did that and then ultimately served as secretary.

Roberts: And it's that story, as reading an excerpt from the book, and I will read the entire book as our audience knows, usually always read these books of guests, but just got my hands on this one. But the excerpt that I read is at the beginning of the book. And it's a wonderful story. We love stories on this show, and it's a story when you realize your predecessor is moving along and there's a vacancy as secretary, President Trump calls you in, and you're surprised, as I think any of us would be by the moment, including that you're not reporting to anyone else now, but the President of the United States give us paint that picture for us in that moment.

Bernhardt: So that was a incredible moment. Having served for two other secretaries in the Bush administration, I knew the experience I had seen in the interaction with the secretaries and the President was that often it could take very lengthy time for the secretary to actually communicate with the President.

So when I sat down, in this case with President Trump, and we talked about the role of the Cabinet Secretary for the Department of the Interior, and what I don't include in the book is I wasn't terribly interested in the position.

Roberts: I didn't read that part.

Bernhardt: I explained to him he was surprised about that. And I explained to him that the Department of the Interior has a long history of really bad luck with secretaries. They've gone to jail, there's been scandals like Teapot Dome, you can go back and back and back.

So I really wanted to know from him what he wanted out of a secretary. So we talked about that and that was great. And then we got to the end of the discussion and as I'm about to leave, he asked me if I have any more questions. And I said, "Who do I report to?" And he said, "Me." And I sat there a moment and I said, "Well, I understand that's what the Constitution says, but who do I really report to?" I just wanted to do my job. And he said, "Me," again.

And I thought that was awesome, but also probably extraordinarily unlikely. And as I left the White House I wondered how I would figure that out. And I took over, I became acting secretary during a government shutdown.

Roberts: Oh, that's right. I forgot about that element.

And so one of the things I was going to, I decided to do was I knew there was some resources to reopen some of the parks with some maintenance fee, recreation fees. And I knew it would be a controversial decision. So I needed to let the White House know what I was doing, I felt like. And to do that though, I had to call somebody in the White House. So I sat in my office for a little bit and I ultimately decided, "Well, I'm supposed to be reporting to the president, so we'll see how this goes."

So I called over to his assistant, who his name was Molly at the time, and I said, "Molly, this is the junior varsity quarterback from the Department of the Interior. I'm the temp and I'm allegedly supposed to talk to the president to give him a heads up?And there might be somebody that I'm really supposed to talk to, and if you want to get me with them, that's fine too, but I need to tell you guys something." And she laughed and she said,

"Secretary Bernhardt, the president will call you back in 15 minutes."

And of course I suspected that that was completely untrue. But I said, "Great." And I hung up the phone and about 15 minutes later goes by, no call. I'm like, "Expect that." But five minutes after that about the president does call and I get him on the phone and I lay out to him what I'm about to do. And he says, "David," it's an incredible conversation. He says, "Look, this shutdown has been going on for quite a while. Why didn't you do this sooner?" Which was a great question.

Bernhardt: It is a fair question.

Roberts: Oh, a completely fair question. And I kind of had to skate through that one a little bit. And he cut me some slack and then I explained him that he recognized that it was going to be controversial. And he said, "Look, you're the new guy. I'm not sure doing something controversial right now is the best thing for you. Maybe you should say President Trump directed you to do it." And then on top of that, he says, "David, you're running the Department of the Interior. If you need to do something that makes sense, you should just do it. You can get ahold of me when you need to, but let's just do it."

And first and foremost, I put down the phone and I thought, "For any subordinate in any position, what an incredible conversation." Number one, why weren't you doing your job better? Legitimate question number two, this is a decision that you're going to take some heat for. Maybe I can help you out. I have your back. And then number three, you're empowered to do your job. And those are incredible elements individually, they're unbelievable together. And frankly for the next two years, that's how I ran the Department of the Interior.

And so the book is called, You Report To Me because of that, but the larger meaning of the book is that the government at large reports to the American people. And the only way that is evidenced is whether or not the government, at least the executive branch, accedes to the policy positions of the President, because that is what informs us of the will of the people.

There are so many lessons in that story, including leadership lessons for anyone in such a position or are aspiring to it. It says a lot about the former president, also a lot about you, I would say.

And I want to make the pivot, which of course we're going to make because of the nature of the book, that is the boogeyman of the administrative state, to talk about what you encountered at the Department of the Interior along those lines, that is to say overreach other problems.
But before we do that, I don't think you or I should assume that even the well-informed audience members of this show, know everything the Department of the Interior does.

On that point, growing up in the deep South on the Gulf Coast, and even as a political junkie, I didn't know too much about the Interior Department, but man, when we lived for several years in Wyoming, we sure did for the very reasons that you mentioned in Colorado. So on its best day? What should the Department of the Interior be doing?

Bernhardt: Well, at the end of the day, the Department of the Interior writ large manages about one in every five acres of land in the United States. So its scope is significant. What happens on those lands has been largely determined by Congress. Some of those lands are great National Parks, great icons. Some of those lands are fish and wildlife refuges. Many of those lands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and they're public domain lands, the lands of multiple uses.

And then in addition to that, the Department of the Interior manages activity on the Outer Continental Shelf, so energy development. And so I had an Inspector General once in the Bush administration say to me, "The problem with Interior is it has a whole bunch of stuff and everybody wants the stuff." And then in addition to all of those activities, Interior actually holds in trust and manages about 55 million acres of land for Indian tribes and even individual Indians.

And so overall, its role is quite significant. And it was the fourth cabinet agency. It was largely a result of the Secretary of Treasury having a scandal associated with an office called the General Lands Office in Treasury. And so he had a brilliant idea to not necessarily solve the problem, but solve his problem at Treasury. And that was to create an independent government agency. And so he began to recommend doing this.

Congress looked at the idea and the war department said, "Hey, we have some things like pensions and benefits and Indian affairs issues." And Congress said, "We could even throw in the patent office." And that assembly became ultimately what is known as the Department of the Interior. And then since then, its responsibilities have grown to where it's a land management agency, does some regulatory work in endangered species, and other things. But most of its work, at the end of the day, is if someone wants to do something on a land managed by Interior, they need to get a particular authorization depending on the law.

Roberts: Is the most common of those questions, controversies having to do with oil and gas exploration? Just in terms of number?

Bernhardt: I would say it really varies. There are 230 million people visit the National Parks every year, maybe 300 million. So you have issues of law enforcement, those types of things. But in terms of controversy, the extractive activities on, well, basically any activity that might create a conflict between uses is something that gets attention. So whether it's for oil and gas development, and also we're seeing the same conflicts today on newer energy issues, wind and solar, all of these things have their own dynamic that is a potential conflict to some other activity that might happen on that land. And so those issues are issues that the department struggles with.

Roberts: And I would imagine, and again, on the best day, we're not even getting into the underbelly of the administrative state. On the best day, there would be interagency conflicts, whether within the department itself, although I guess you also, I'm speculating, would run up against the Department of Agriculture sometimes. Isn't the Forestry Service there?

Bernhardt: Foresty Service is Department of Agriculture, yes.

Roberts: There's a natural conflict there?

Bernhardt: There's conflicts within the Department of the Interior, like the Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Services mission are different than the Bureau of Land Management. So on the same transportation issue, or transmission line, you may have multiple issues within the agency. And then of course, you often have differences of opinion within the interagency process of the core of engineers, the Department of Defense, the US Forest Service. And then of course, beyond that, you have whatever external differences one might have, which are extraordinary.

Roberts: And this affects everyday Americans' lives. For anyone who's an outdoors person, they know this. Not to get too far into the weeds, literally or figuratively. And one of my previous stops as President of Wyoming Catholic College, we had this very famous outdoor leadership program. And so before freshmen even step into the classroom for three weeks, they go hike in and around the Wind River Mountains.

Bernhardt: Oh, there's nothing better than that.

Roberts: There's this whole issue of permit days.

Bernhardt: That's right.

Roberts: Which was new to me as the president out there. And I found myself unintentionally embroiled and in controversy, thankfully not of the colleges making, but out of the innocent request for us to get permit days by these various agencies. And I remember my friend who was running that program, Dr. Tom Zimmer, saying, "Kevin, there's a different rule for each one of these departments."

Bernhardt: That's absolutely true.

Roberts: Which of course affects recreation. And most people would say there are more important things. To some extent that's true. But the beautiful mission of the Department of Interior is to, on its best day, make that more feasible for more Americans.

Bernhardt: For everybody.

Roberts: And that's a noble thing.

Bernhardt: And ultimately, all of those activities matter. The decision to permit a mine may have a consequence, an economic consequence, an environmental consequence of 50 years to a community, they can be huge for their hopes and dreams. Deciding to give somebody an opportunity to have a more expansive access to public lands can change a person's vision forever.

I can still remember in third and fourth grade when I first went to this small National Park called Mesa Verde, and at that time, I don't think you can do this anymore, but they would actually allow the students to go into kivas and then they'd put a rock on top of the kiva, so it would go pitch dark, and you'd sit there. And that moment inspired me to want to learn more about the people that had lived in these cliff dwellings than almost anything you could imagine. And really started a love of history.

So those moments are transformational to individuals, to children, to adults, and access is so important. And the president, both presidents that I worked with, really made a commitment to try and expand access opportunities on these lands. And I think that's important.

Roberts: Well, and you certainly have touched a nerve with me and just a few nights ago, my wife and I love Mesa Verde National Park. We're encouraging our oldest, who's in college to be sure and make a trip out there. She's been there as a little girl but doesn't remember it much.
That's just one example of many of these treasures that as I travel around the world a little bit more on heritage business, basically trying to help other conservatives do what conservatives in the United States have done, almost all of them happens to remark in an informal conversation about the treasure that is American public lands.

And for us as conservatives, that's very congruous with what we believe. We started this conversation about gratitude. And so one of the best places that we can remember to be grateful is in the great outdoors.

Bernhardt: I agree with that completely.

Roberts: So let's go from the beautiful to the difficult, Mr. Secretary, what were the big challenges that you confronted during your time at Interior?

Bernhardt: Well, what this book, You Report To Me, really highlights more broadly are the challenges writ large of the Trump administration. And at the end of the day, my experience in the Bush administration was the following, that there were people who weren't necessarily aligned with the programmatic vision of President George W. Bush, but they were a very small minority generally, and you could work around them.

And in the Trump administration, what we document is a difference between sort of passive unwillingness to work to a minority still, but a significant minority, that were actively working against the policy visions of the respective president. And one of the things we did, one of my colleagues went and visited with a whole series of political appointees to ask them about their experience.

Now, what I lay out in the book is that these experiences of active resistance are very troubling to me because at the end of the day, for the American people, there's only one way to really decide what your government is. And that's through our electoral processes. Ultimately an agency manager is confined to the law, whatever it is, the facts, whatever they are. And then there's an element within the law of policy discretion for some things, not for everything.

There are some laws that I was responsible for that basically say, "Look at these five factors and make a decision." There's others where there's broader policy discretion. And in those elements of where there is policy discretion, that to me is the difference between one election versus another, that whoever's elected has an opportunity to influence that policy and shape it appropriately.

Not inconsistent with the facts and certainly not inconsistent with the law. But to that extent, that's what elections are about. And if we have a situation where we have 2.2 million civil servants and about 3,500 political appointees, and an element of those 2.2 million, whether it's 1% or 15% or 35%, decide to ignore that policy discretion, that undermines the entire purpose of those elections.

And what we did see in the Trump administration compared to what I personally saw in the Bush administration was a much more aggressive resistance. Now, I think that is, there are reasons for that, in my opinion. One reason is, and I had to talk about this in the book really from the moment the 2016 election occurred, people advocated for that type of activity.

Number two, I think people are often so passionate about the issues that they work on, whatever they are, that sometimes they're drawn away from the law and the regulations. And part of that is the responsibility of policymakers.

Folks at a high level, for example, like myself as Secretary, under the law my job was to supervise all functions of the Department of the Interior. Now, supervise is a word that conveys activity. It also conveys accountability. And in order to perform that function, in my opinion, there's some things that a policymaker needs to be able to do.

They need to know the law. They need to understand their obligations, they need to have a sense of the processes. They need to understand how to find out facts. And without those tools, you essentially are a figurehead. And so I think the role of a policymaker is to do the hard work, to learn their duties and then have the courage, hopefully with the backing of a president, to carry those duties out.
And sometimes you need to tell folks, "I really appreciate your opinion, but your opinion's not consistent with the law. It's not consistent with the facts, or it's not consistent as appropriate with the policy, and we're not going to accept those types of things." And that is hard for policy makers to want to do.

When I was the solicitor of the Department of the Interior, the favorite answer political appointees wanted to hear from me was, "You can only do X." Because if I had limited their discretion, then they didn't have to be the ones to say they chose. And often policymakers pushed these decisions down through delegation because they don't want the responsibility of owning them.

During COVID, I had to make a decision about how we were going to manage the National Parks.

Roberts: It was a big decision.

Bernhardt: ​​​And I had a lot of folks that wanted to make sure those parks were closed. And I had several, but in my office I had a couple of public health officers that I brought in and I said, "Look, I want to learn everything I can about COVID. You're going to teach me everything. We're going to find every research question we can find. This is a very uncertain thing, but I want to know everything. But," and this was a big but, "but ultimately

I'll make the decision on what we do and I'll be accountable for that."
And you know what? At the end of the day, they loved hearing that because it meant that I had removed the burden of responsibility from them. I ultimately made the decision that we would come up with a tool to ratchet down things like theaters in the National Parks while keeping the areas that I thought we could keep open. I didn't think anyone's ever driven to the Grand Canyon, got there after a 12 hour drive and got out and thought, but two things, "One, where's the restroom? And two, where's the rim of the Grand Canyon?" No one said like, "Let's go to the movie theater."

So I made that decision and in 2020, about 200 million people went to the National Parks. I had proposals from the Park Service from different parks that were basically, we would like to close the gates of the park, get video cameras for our employees, and take videos and put them up on the web so people could experience the parks. And I fundamentally believe that my decision was much better than that for the American people.

Roberts: Having visited a few National Parks in 2020 with my family, after the first few weeks of COVID, not being dismissive to those people it really affected, we were ready to get out. Apparently like 200 million other Americans, thank you. Thank you for that. But what an excellent example during a very difficult time of uncertainty, because the first few weeks of this, we didn't know how serious it was. Of course, we know much more in hindsight.

But the point is it goes back to the very purpose of the department to begin with. In this case of the agency, the Park Service, another lesson in leadership. So what's interesting though, I want to go back two steps, Secretary Bernhardt, to something you said about some of the political appointees wanting the handcuffs, my word, I hadn't really thought about that much often on this show at Heritage and the conservative movement, we talk about the 2.2 million members of the administrative state, some percentage of whom actively try to undermine the will of the political appointees and therefore the will of the President and therefore the will of the election.

But we haven't talked about is the other side of that, which is some political appointees enjoying the restrictions. In your book, you have several chapters in the second half that I think you might have intended to be advice to people who are political appointees. Along those lines, the advice you have for?

Bernhardt: First and foremost, I do believe fundamentally there needs to be some civil service reforms, but a lot of the civil service challenges are challenges that the agencies have imposed on themselves that they could choose to undo. The problem with undoing them, and this is back to your question, those choices involve consequences to the person who makes the decision.

For example, if I take an action against an employee, I will be deposed. So that affects one's willingness or interest in doing that. But we have to have people with courage that are willing to step forward and say, "Look, we're going to streamline the processes to the extent we can, and then I'm going to be willing to hold people accountable. I'm going to document my documentation properly. I'm going to read it."

So what I do with the book is there's a number of reforms that we'd love to see the President take. We'd love to see Congress take, but ultimately, I believe, a lot of it comes down to individual political appointees making wise decisions. So I already went through a couple things, understand your authority, understand that you can never cross an ethical line, understand the rules for ethics, read everything and reread it.

If you give somebody the pen, understand that you've given them complete control. There's a story in my book about an individual who basically claims to have created a workaround where she would write something that she wanted to get out in the public that had to go through a White House clearance process. She would get comments back and she would make edits dealing with those comments. And then she would take the provisions of her draft that had been stricken and reinsert them somewhere else in the document, send it back through the process and as long as it wasn't caught, she called that a workaround.

Now, most of us would call that insubordination, but here's incredible. She wrote a book, her name's Deborah Burkes. She was very involved in, she was one of the top people addressing COVID, and she actually wrote a book explaining her workaround. And that to me is just how far the career officials have gotten from the understanding that, "No, no, no, there will be an accountability." But the flip side of that is once somebody gave her the pen, if they didn't read everything with a microscope, they risked that happening and she felt confident to take advantage of that. She saw an opportunity in the system.

So you have to read everything. You have to understand your authority, you have to have courage. You have to work with your leadership. You have to keep the White House informed and be responsible.

I once had a person in the White House call a meeting, this was during the Bush administration, this is in the book. And he basically said to everybody in the room, "You're all great, but if we ever call you and you're wrong, you're gone." And I thought, "Boy, that sounds pretty harsh," as a young 32 year old lawyer.

Roberts: It's kind of daunting.

Bernhardt: Yeah, exactly. But as I left the meeting and I thought about it, and here was his point, the White House only has, and in one term, 1,461 days. And what they don't have is time to figure out if you're right or wrong. So if you give the White House an answer, they need to be able to bank on it. You might be able to tell them, "I don't know, I'll check and get back to you." But if you give them an answer, that answer has to be reliable. And I think that that's a great statement for all subordinates.

At the end of the day, think really be careful about your answer because if somebody is relying on it, they need to be able to take it in the bank, and you need to be right. And so that was a great lesson for me. So there's a whole series of suggestions of how to be a better political appointee.

Roberts: And I'll just say at this point, based on these great stories that you've told and lessons you're passing along, that as we've talked about in the last few episodes, this project that Heritage has embarked on with 60 other organizations, basically the entire conservative movement, what we call Project 2025, that you're already a part of that, this book is a wonderful part of that. I wouldn't relegate it to calling it an addendum.
And the reason for that is the lessons for people who are thinking about being a political appointee in case someone has not listened to a prior episode when we've talked about Project 2025, the second phase of this project after the first phase of the policies, which is already out, is to recruit people into this personnel database, which they can go to at This is the point. It seems as if those chapters in this book, the entire book, are really helpful.

Bernhardt: Well, I'm hoping so.

Roberts: Including for people who aren't just interested in Interior, right? These are federal wide lessons.

Bernhardt: My view is public service is an incredible calling, whether you go in as a civil servant or a political appointee. And the underlying theory of the book is if everybody just stayed in their lane, we need everybody to stay in our lane so we can accomplish better outcomes.

The reality is, if the civil service team and the political team work together, you can move the ball much farther. And as a civil servant, my wife has been a civil servant for a long time. If I said she'll get really mad, but over two and a half decades, if you work together, you can create much better results for the American people. And that's what everyone in public service wants.

You would hope at the end of the day that the only reason to in enter public service is to provide better results to the American people. And so we can do that. The underlying reality is the government moves as fast as it wants to move and working together, we can move it quicker, or maybe we need to get out of certain activities. And so that's worth thinking about and working on. But the truth of the matter is we can move together farther. But to do that requires us to realize we all have a role and we have to carry out our respective role.

Roberts: So on that point, specifically for the next Secretary of the Interior, if you gave him or her a magic wand to change two or three things, what are those two or three things at the top of your list?

Bernhardt: Well, that's a great question. In terms of policy, it's so easy to flip that switch back since it's easy to flip the switch to better public access, energy opportunities, there's so much you can do on a policy level that is incredible.

But I think the fundamental issue is to say, "What are the laws that we have today?" And then carry them out, not ask, "What do we wish the laws were?" And then try and carry that out. And fundamentally, if you can just say, "We're not going to stretch every law we have, like it's a rubber band, and to the extent that we recognize we don't have authority rather than pushing the limit, we'll go ask Congress for that authority."

I think those simple things would drive decision making much farther and with far less conflict. The reality is many of the conflicts that exist in administrative law are the direct result of parties trying to push the envelope. And you don't need to do that to have great outcomes.

Roberts: That's a great segue into what will be our final question, although I look forward to having you back many times over the years, and that is about hopefulness. Sitting here with you, if I may, I'd say that you have a very serene hopefulness. Your comments indicate that you understand, as some of our younger friends might say, "What time it is in America," your policy magic wand answer is evidence of that.
And yet I gather that in spite of all the problems of which you were well aware in the United States, that when you woke up this morning, you were hopeful about the future. Why?

Bernhardt: Well, first off, anyone that spent any time outside of the Beltway realizes in a nanosecond the goodness and the wisdom of the American people at large. And I believe in our system of government that that ultimately will always play out. It may take longer than we think. It may be bumpier than we think, but at the end of the day, the will of the American people will be reflected in our choices. And that's great.

And then on a personal level, I would say this. I grew up in a little town in Western Colorado. I dropped out of high school and I found a way to thrive, and I had no more opportunity than anyone else on the planet, honestly, or at least anyone else in America. I tell my kids every day since they were born, they were born in this country. They already won the lottery. The only question is what they do with it. And my dream, for them, is simply that they become productive citizens and they're well on their way to doing that. So how can you not be hopeful?

Roberts: David Bernhardt, Mr. Secretary, thanks for that answer, which is very inspiring. Thanks for your service to this country. I hope you get the opportunity to do even more and very much recommend that all of you get a copy of the book, You Report To Me: Accountability For the Failing Administrative State. And I'll close by saying, I hope you enjoy that conversation as much as I did. Until next time, take care.

The Kevin Roberts Show is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. The producer is Philip Reynolds. Sound design by Lauren EvansMark Guiney, and Tim Kennedy

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