Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton has announced he is running for president. Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Moulton to hear more about why he believes he is the best candidate for the job. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: You're entering a crowded field of Democrats who want this job running our country. What makes you different than the rest of them?
Rep. Seth Moulton: First of all, my experience is different. I'm the only one who's led troops in combat — led Americans through some of the most difficult circumstances in modern time. And that kind of leadership of being able to bring together a diverse group of Americans from across this country and get them united behind a common mission, that's the kind of leadership I think we need right now in the Oval Office. We have a country that's historically divided with the most divisive president in American history and we've got to bring America back together.
Mathieu: You've been watching this campaign unfold for a couple of weeks now. What was going through your mind as you watched more than a dozen Democrats announce their campaigns and have heard some of the rhetoric so far in this campaign?
Moulton: Well, I think it makes us a stronger party and a stronger country that we have so many talented people running. But one thing that's been really missing from this discussion is talking about security, talking about patriotism [and] talking about the core values that make America strong. And I think for too long Democrats have ceded these messages [and] issues to Republicans. And actually, this is where Donald Trump is weakest. So we've got to take him on on these issues. We've got to take him on on security, on patriotism, on what it means to really live up to the values of being an American.
Mathieu: We've talked a lot about the fact that there are very few military veterans who are serving, for instance, on Capitol Hill. There is another veteran in this campaign and you've called him a friend — Mayor Pete Buttigieg. But this is a different narrative than most candidates can deliver.
Moulton: It is, and I think we need this narrative in the race. We need to hear about how Democrats can lead us on national security issues, on making this country stronger, on making this country a moral leader for the world because we've really given up that under this president. It also is an opportunity to talk about security issues here at home, though — about what it means to feel secure in your health care; to have a real solution to the immigration challenges that this country faces; to get Democrats and Republicans together to actually get things done to fix the issues of the day. That's the kind of leadership that I had to develop in a place like Iraq. I mean, I didn't even agree with the war. So getting a whole bunch of young people from all across this country with different religious beliefs [and] different political beliefs united behind a common mission to serve the country was difficult. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But that's exactly the kind of leadership I think we need from the next commander in chief.
Mathieu: Congressman, in your video you turn to issues like gun control and climate change. What would you do in both of those fronts if you were elected to the White House?
Moulton: Fundamentally, these are security issues as well. It's just heartbreaking to meet young people who are literally scared to go to school because they think they might get shot. And I'm going to bring the credibility of a combat veteran, someone who has used assault rifles and carried an assault rifle every single day for the three years that I was in Iraq, and bring that credibility back home to say we don't need these weapons of war on our streets or in our schools.
Mathieu: Would you support the legalization of marijuana like we have done here in Massachusetts?
Moulton: I already do. I was one of the leading people in Massachusetts calling for legalization a couple of years ago, long before many other politicians came on board. It's part of criminal justice reform. I just was reading a story about how an African-American man, I think in Louisiana, was sentenced to life in prison for selling $20 of weed. That's just fundamentally wrong. And one of the ways that we can start correcting this injustice is to legalize marijuana nationwide and rescind the criminal justice records of people who've been convicted of minor marijuana crimes.
Mathieu: Congressman, we understand you're going to hit the trail after today beginning in New Hampshire. What do you have planned for the next week and what will be your message to these new voters you're meeting?
Moulton: This is going to be a campaign, just like my 2014 campaign, that's grounded in service. And so we're kicking off our five state tour by doing service-oriented events and all the early primary states to say that this is what this campaign is about. This is the mission that we're trying to fulfill. These are ultimately the values that are going to defeat Donald Trump.