NASHVILLE (Diya TV)  — Ravi Kapur: Hi everybody, welcome to The Public Interest,  I’m Ravi Kapur, and we’re joined today by Dr. Manny Sethi who is running for Senate in the great state of Tennessee, a state that I know fairly well since I lived down there and worked as a journalist. Manny it’s great to have you on the program. Tell me, what is motivating you to run for a very challenging seat at this time, Tennessee is a dynamic and interesting state, but obviously you’re on the frontlines as a medical doctor dealing with the pandemic. So, tell folks about yourself and what’s motivating you to run right now?

Manny Sethi: Ravi, thank you for having me, I’m a big fan. My parents were immigrants from India, they came here in the 1970’s looking for a better life for their unborn kids. I grew up and was raised in rural Tennessee, and I’ve been very blessed to live the American dream. My parents were both doctors to farmers in a very small town. I just saw that growing up and I feel very blessed to have lived the life that I have and I felt called to do something greater than myself. Right now we have an open Senate seat here in Tennessee, and I feel very deeply in my heart that it is a generational opportunity to make change. People in Tennessee are sick of the Washington insiders and career politicians, they want somebody who is outside of the government, someone who grew up in the rural part of the state, and who wants to make a difference for folks across Tennessee, and that’s why I’m running.

RK: Take us through what you have to do to win this challenge, because you’re up against Bill Hagerty who has the support of President Trump. Obviously you’re running as a Republican in Tennessee and this has been a long time Republican stronghold. So what do you have to do to overcome this challenge, because let’s face it, when you have an endorsement from the President it has a lot of weight, especially in a place like Tennessee.

MS: Here in Tennessee I love the President, 90% of the folks love the president because he was a Christian Conservative outsider. But people don’t want another Washington insider, that’s the challenge here. People across Tennessee love the president, but they don’t want Mitt Romney’s national finance chairman, they don’t want anybody who has already been in the swamp, they want somebody different. One very powerful thing being Indian American, I’ve been able to share my story of my parents coming to this country legally, living the American dream, their love of the country that they instilled in me and my brother. And I believe it’s that love of American that we need in the U.S. Senate, that’s what people across our state are hungry for; people who deeply love America, who are true patriots who are going to stand up to all of this nonsense happening and stand up for real conservative principles.

RK: Take us through the dynamics of the State. When I lived there back in 2006 I got to cover a very very competitive race the Harold Ford Jr. Bob Corker race. Corker won by just a couple of points, it was very very competitive. Now you have Marsha Blackburn that’s in the other Senate seat, so it seems to be a very strong Republican seat and an opportunity for you to potentially win since it’s vacant. But what do you have to do to overtake the entrenched powers? Lets face it, other Republicans are generally not going to steer away from a very clear endorsement from the President and the whole Republican base there.

MS: Right now in all of the polls we’re either in a statistical tie or we’re winning. And my opponent spent from three to four million dollars on attack ads, so if you turn on the television anywhere in Tennessee like in Jackson where you’re at you would see like about 3 attack ads an hour. That just shows us that he’s desperate. And I can’t stress to you enough, people love the President, and I support the President, I’m with him. They’re just sick of these swamp alligators that go up there say one thing and then do another. This whole campaign race we have traveled aggressively over 18 months doing 5 events a day, shaking every hand, going to every chili dinner, meeting every voter. What you’re seeing now is that it’s paying off, because in Tennessee you can’t win a U.S. senate race without doing the grass roots and my opponent is a very very wealthy venture capitalist that hasn’t traveled the state much. He was in Tokyo, he came back. He’s thinking the President endorsed me so I’ll win, but he’s squandered the endorsement by not working hard and not representing to people who he is and what he stood for or what his plans are. And that’s why our message of repealing and replacing Obama Care, of fixing our broken immigration system, tackling our National debt, of taking on this mob that’s rioting and burning and looting the streets. All of those are powerful to resonate with Tenneseeans, and that’s why we’re winning.

RK: Take us through your ground game, you’re in the middle of a pandemic, I remember going to some of these fish frys and barbeque dinners, the Tennessee culture is really interesting and I got a chance to experience it first hand, and I think the people there are tremendous. The politics are very different in Tennessee, I grew up in California, so it’s almost a night and day between the two. People there are tremendous and i’m curious about  how do you do outreach when you are a newcomer scene and you have  the powers that be lined up against you, and now you’re going to be doing a lot of meet n’ greets this way through Zooms and scenarios where you can’t go to the restaurants the way that you would have a done a few years ago, so what are you doing for your ground game to get the word out?

MS: We were doing virtual town halls for about two months in March and May when the lockdown happened. But we’re back out there meeting folks and going to places and talking to folks. We had a rally last week with Rand Paul who endorsed us, we had about a thousand people. We do our best to practice social distancing, wearing masks and all of that. Ted Cruz who has also endorsed us  came to town last week, we had three different events with hundreds of folks. So we’re trying to be safe but Tennessee is a grassroots place. You gotta meet people, you gotta shake their hands, you gotta look them in the eye, you gotta ask for their vote; that’s just how it works out here. I grew up in rural Tennessee so I understand my opponent, you know he spent most of his life in Tokyo and other places, so he doesn’t. And so that’s what you’ve got to do. We’ve been having all the fish frys and chili dinners and it’s been pretty incredible. And we really have a chance for me to be the first Indian American elected in the U.S. senate in the next 8 days, the election is on August 6th which is next Thursday. Early voting here has already started. So it’s a pretty intense situation right now, my opponent has all of these super pacs funded by Mitt Romney and others that are trying to stop our momentum, but I just don’t think that they’re going to be able to.

RK: Let me ask you about this dichotomy that you are on the frontlines as a trauma surgeon having spent time in the ICUs, and again we’ve had other guests on this program that have run for office as medical doctors on the frontlines, so clearly I would say that you believe in science, and yet there’s been some skepticism about the pandemic and the approach by the White House, certainly President Trump’s poll numbers when it comes to dealing with the pandemic are quite poor, and that’s pulled down his opportunity for reelection. As it stands today Vice President Biden has an excellent chance of winning in the Fall namely off the back of how the President has handled the pandemic. Tell me first hand what you’ve seen in Tennessee and give us your perspective, and do you differ from the President and the White House and Washington’s handling of the pandemic.

MS: I think the President is doing the best job that he can when things are coming at you a thousand miles per minute. I know the left wing media wants to make a big deal out of it, they want to shut this country down so that they can get Joe Biden elected. That’s honestly what I believe this comes down to, because I don’t think a shut down is going to work. Our campaign called against this when it started saying we need vertical containment not horizontal. Vertical containment that let’s protect the people that are at risk that are seventy or eighty who have multiple health conditions, but let’s get the rest of the economy going. We didn’t do that, we did horizontal containment which means that we shut everything down, and look, we’re right back where we started. What I believe is that we gotta get through this thing. I was in the ICUs, I was in the trauma bays, I am an orthopedic trauma surgeon. I did see this on the frontlines, and i’m just telling you, America is the best when we’re on the offense, and we can’t politicize this pandemic we’re facing, and that’s my concern. I heard a story at one of my last campaign stops about physicians who are talking about  hydroxychloroquine, and they freeze their facebook accounts and videos. I just think we need to leave the medicine to physicians and to healthcare providers and keep Facebook and Twitter and all these folks out of it and do our best to follow the science.

RK: What, if anything, would you change about the administration’s approach?

MS: I wish that we would have shut down, I understand that he was under a lot of pressure to do it and they were giving him these horrible graphs about how millions of people would die, but right now what we got to do right now is keep our economy open. The best stimulus for the economy is to keep going. I think we need to work on rapid testing, so you know 15 minute can be a really powerful useful tool in the future. I think we need to get our kids to school, I disagree with this idea of shutting down our schools. My kids have been at home, I have a 4 year old and  7 year old, and we finally sent them to a little summer camp this past week. And just watching their interactions with children, watching the difference, it’s so very important for child development to interact, and I just think that we need to get through this thing. I just believe America is the best when we’re on the offense, and not when we’re on defense.

RK: Don’t you find that some of the critics of the President’s approach have pointed to the fact that we have about 150,000 Americans that have died now. This is clearly something that we haven’t seen before in our lifetimes and not been in a hundred years. We have had this effect in every country in the world, we see what’s done in China and now in India and all these nations. Some folks have done a tremendous job like New Zealand and Taiwan, there’s been a lot of countries that have handled this pandemic in a much more aggressive manner. And here we are having a if you want to call it a second spurt of coronavirus everywhere , for that matter the first one never ended. So the folks that are critical of the President are going to say “look, this has impacted our livelihoods, we have people that are sick and dying, our elderly are affected”, and meanwhile we still have a lot of folks that have not taken it seriously, so what’s the trade off? I’m trying to get a sense because I understand that we should all be skeptical of sources of media, we should be skeptical about information. But that being said, the science has been very clear from the get go that this is a contagion that any one of us can get. It doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care how old you are. Tell me about that balance, because there’s a lot of people here that are sick right now that could potentially be incapacitated for years to come. There’s baseball players that have gotten COVID-19 and have said that their hearts aren’t functioning as well. So talk about that aspect.

MS: The data is still coming in, the science is still unclear. But what I’ve seen is  about 80% of people who get this don’t even know they had it, so they can spread it and be asymptomatic, and so there is a subset of the people, about 10% of the population who gets COVID and get sick, with 5% getting hospitalized, and 1% going to the ICU. So there’s a very wide clinical variation of how people are presented. But here’s the thing, I just think that going on the defense and shutting our country down and keeping people home is not the answer to this thing. Right now if you look at Tennessee for example, the folks who are getting the disease again are between the ages of 18 to 40, there is somewhat of an uptick of hospitalizations. We still have plenty of hospital and ICU beds, so I think we just need to go forward and protect our nursing homes and protect the people that are at risk. Again we need to move the economy forward, and try to develop our therapeutics. Work on hydroxychloroquine, Work on our rapid testing and contact tracing, we need to develop a vaccine, although I don’t believe the government should mandate a vaccine in the middle of this, but we should continue to develop it. And there are things that we can be doing, but I just don’t think that it is the role of the Federal government to shut us down again.

RK: Do you think that people should be wearing masks?

MS: I do, I think that it should be a personal choice, I’m against mask mandates, I don’t think it’s constitutional. I think in high density disease areas like a grocery store. If you’re in rural Tennessee where there are three cases I don’t see the need for it. It should be a county by county, place by place basis. But what bothers me is if we start saying today that you’re mandated to wear a mask for personal safety, tomorrow somebody could say that you have to take this vaccine for personal safety. That to me is very concerning since I’m a constitutional conservative

RK: Take us through how we get things back on track, if you get elected you’ll have a large say in what happens as a medical doctor. We clearly have an economy where a lot of folks are being left behind. We’re based and filming this in silicon valley, a lot of the elite tech companies are doing quite well because of this pandemic, they’re able to conduct business virtually. How do you help the folks in Tennessee which doesn’t seem to have a very strong technology base to my knowledge in comparison to what we have here in California. How do you help those folks who may not be involved in technology degrees to help overcome this calamity economically.

MS: First of all, our engine of growth here in Tennessee is small business and all this care stimulus package went to the folks that had lobbying connections and special interest folks. It didn’t really get to the small business folks where I grew up, so any sort of stimulus needs to be strategic and surgical. As I’ve said before, the best stimulus package is to just keep the economy open and support our small businesses and deregulate. And any regulations that these small businesses didn’t follow during the COVID pandemic, I don’t think that we should penalize them. We need to slash regulations to help businesses grow. I think we need to stop paralyzing people and giving them these high payments to stay at home. I just talked to a small business owner today, she runs a biscuits shop in Warren county. She said she couldn’t find people to come work because they can make more money staying at home getting a government paycheck than working. So I think the government has to be very thoughtful about staying out of the way of the private sector and letting the private sector do what it does best.

RK: I have heard that’s one of the factors of the potential second stimulus. Take us through what Americans have to do moving forward to overcome this malady, because there are a lot of folks that are abiding by the rules and there’s a lot that aren’t. So we have these mixed messages at the state level, the local level, and the federal level. What should be the policy? If you’re in congress and you have the ear to whoever the President is, what should be the messaging from the government?

MS: My message to the President would be we need to get through this thing, we need to be on the offense, we need to keep the economy open, we need vertical containment, protect the nursing homes and the folks that are at risk, protect the case generators. Other than that we need to move forward. The question will be this, if we were to test every American right now for antibodies, what percentage of Americans would have already had the coronavirus. I’ve heard that it can be up to thirty forty percent exposure at this point. And now herd immunity is 60. So the question then becomes how many Americans will actually take a vaccine, how many will resist it, how long will it take for us to get herd immunity. What is the risk of herd immunity to those that are eighty and above, what would that look like for our hospital capacity. I definitely believe that we’re going to have to deal with this thing, it isn’t going anywhere.

RK: You’ve mentioned the swamp a couple of times, so that leaves me to ask. Do you want to tie yourself to Presidents much like your opponent in this race has. Lets face it, there’s a lot of people around President Trump that have been indicted or convicted of crimes. And that’s a very serious issue for a lot of folks who’ve watched this time and time again, and we have a country that’s deep in debt. You call yourself a constitutional conservative. How do we get rid of the enormous debt that we’ve continued to incur. And knowing full well that President Trump has aligned himself with folks that have committed crimes.

MS: In terms of the debt, what I really believe what we need to be doing is, you know we have a twenty seven trillion dollar debt, I think it’s the biggest issue we’ve faced as a country. We have to control our discretionary spending. We’ve got all these career politicians up there just spending money like drunken sailors. I believe in term limits, I’m dedicated to two terms. I think we need to cut discretionary spending, we need to reign in our mandatory spending, our medicare, medicaid, social security spending. We need a balanced budget. I believe in Rand Paul’s spending plan, Rand endorsed us. For every dollar we spend we cut a penny over 5 to ten years so we can cover the federal budget. I’ve spent time with the President, he’s a patriot, he cares about this country. He’s doing what he can, it’s unfortunate that the media continues to attack. It’s funny, I have three to four ads every hour on me right now. I was thinking about the President and thinking “wow, this guy has about four hundred attack ads an hour anywhere he goes”. That to me is incredible. But right now I believe the way we get through this is supporting the President, come together as a country, and that’s why I’m running for the Senate.

RK: I understand that, it’s a challenge to put yourself out there. That being said, all those folks were convicted under this administration. There’s other folks in the Department of Justice and other realms throughout the country that put these folks behind bars. When you talk about draining the swamp, I think that resonated with people in 2016. In fact, people that watch this program and our channel in general know that I was one of the very few journalists in the country that thought Trump had a chance to win in 2016 just based on my travels and talking to different people. That being said, the swamp hasn’t been drained because you still have folks that are committing crimes. Exactly how do we get rid of the swamp, I’m asking you specifically what needs to take place?

MS: I believe you need to term limit politicians. It’s time for everybody to sign a term limit pledge. My opponent is going to be there for decades because they view this as a permanent job. I view it as a public service to help folks across the state. And that’s why I’m running.

RK: I know that there’s a lot of folks, bipartisan, that support that initiative. And the  people entrenched don’t want to see things changed because they’re entrenched in power. Finally Manny, talk about growing up in Tennessee. You’re Indian American, there weren’t a lot of Indian Americans that I could interact with when I was in Tennessee, I don’t think I met anyone when I was out there. That was 15 years ago, but that being said, what has your life experience been like? And how meaningful is it for you to run for the Senate as someone with your background, and have folks found your story to be compelling?

MS: I think growing up in rural Tennessee was the best thing that ever happened in my entire life and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My parents were immigrants and I grew up listening to country music, climbing on tractors, and the community was about bringing us together. And that’s the American story, that’s what makes America so incredible. I’m the son of two Indian immigrants running for the Senate. I think it says so much about who we are as a nation. The people in this state are so amazing who just want to do the right thing and care about their families, want better for the next generation, and we all share that story. And that is what is so amazing about this state.