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tv   Ben Rhodes The World as It Is  CSPAN  July 6, 2018 3:33am-4:50am EDT

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d.c.. this is one hour and ten minutes. good evening everybody. can you hear me okay in the back as well? i am the event manager. is there anybody here for the first time? a lot more than i would have
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expected. thank you several hundred of you for coming out tonight. even if you haven't been here before we opposed upward of 600 events at this store or venues around the town and the number is probably increasing to media thousand a year because we've opened up two new branches in dc. one has been opened since last october just for the sense of what we are having there on tuesday this coming week or i'm sorry wednesday we will be hosting doctor mona who is a whistleblower for the crisis in michigan and she will be in conversation with her state house representative and on tuesday this coming week we are finally opening of the union market branch, which is right around the corner from the iconic union market and one of the warehouses down the block. we have three wonderful events next week just to start the interest flowing i will give a
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brief description of those on tuesday we will begin conversation with the "washington post" and a food editor there is going to be discussing her new novel there will be wine so please do come out for that. the next night we are hosting two fantastic new novels one is centering on a 10-year-old boy wandering the countryside around this area during the war of 1812 trying to break his father out of that while the battles are raging and the other restless souls by daniel sheahan focuses on three veterans who are now staring down the road trip to and the mental clinic in california and believe me both of them are very funny. then on friday we have two other fun books this time music from the 1970s a critic strange stars that looks back at people like george clinton and david
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bowie and many more if the "washington post" reporter from politics gives a history o the f this progression which is too rash and more but tonight we are thrilled to have all several hundred of you to separate the newman hard that is going to be an hour-long program but before we turn things over if everybody could silence the cell phone we are happy to have you take pictures and text about how amazing things are tonight to your friends that are not here but we don't want any distractions especially because we are filming this for our page so check the online and also c-span is filming for their program and you don't want to be the one whose phone goes off on national television. also so that we can hear your questions during the question and answer portion there is a standing microphone to my left.
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so when the time comes please do line up at the microphone to ask your question so everybody can hear later and it would be a big help if you could help by holding up the chairs and leaned them against something sturdy when everything is done to the nearest bookcase or pillar. but now on to the actual program. maybe it's a symptom of being in the midst of a presidency whose conflicts seem to come from them as much as without i think we can send there's a there is an e that contrasts with that by peeking inside how the west branch operated under president baracmorocco, and outside of the works from the president himself as a way to does that as the adviser in "the new york times" magazine profiled from 2016 was described by his colleagues as having a mind filled with the president and he served as a speechwriter for obama for the 2008 presidential campaign and came to be the administration's
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deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, the role that brought him to the forefront of foreign-policy debate through the diplomacy with cuba and the list goes on and on from there and now out of the white house earlier this year he cofounded a policy committee called national security action and of course he's written a book beside me the world as it is a memoir of the obama white house which has received praise only from the fellow political figures in the obama presidency but also from the novelists who say if she is us out of the ordinary perception and manages to find hope in the face of most available evidence. joining in conversation tonight is another of the country's top foreign-policy thinkers. you may know him as editor-in-chief of the atlantic as a contributor for the publications from the "washington post" to the new yorker to the new york magazine and is the author of the 2006
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detailed experience working at an israeli military prison and a specifically his encounter with one prisoner he came to befriend. ..
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has been making about how he is beloved by his people about how he is a strong leader today i think he suggested that he wishes that he had. it's hard to overstate the extent to which that legitimizes one of the things i have to think about is going to be treated in the state run media by other countries so in cuba anything barack obama said they would take out the best things to. it's to their own people and the president of the united states saying he is respected it would cement in place the rule of the
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dictator. they would be playing back trump saying those things over and over again which brings me to an interesting question. you say that the premature visit or meeting between the president and dictator confers legitimacy but the meeting cannot come for legitimacy it is kind of a diminished coin in a way the rest of the world looks at this as a little bit of a circus. but also the trump administration had been trying to build on sanctions and go around the world and isolate
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north korea diplomatically to get the countries to enforce the sanctions more robustly and the rest of the world sees trump like this that effort will now not move forward in other words why would you break the relations to north korea when the president of the united states if you are china you are probably thinking i don't need to enforce the sanctions as tightly as i was because now i see that he's being embraced by the american president so i think that it will have real-world consequencerealworldy ability to apply pressure. >> how do you explain analytically the fact that republicans and we can blame a whole bunch of them.
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they simply don't see or are not willing to see donald trump's behavior as often times a caricature of what they thought barack obama's behavior was? is this the level of hyper partisanship meaning that there is onl only tried this and no observable truth. i have to chalk it up to the tribalism and the fact that. anything that we did.
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it takes the issue that used to be somewhat distinct from some of the other political issues in our country and just put it into a category of tribalism. there's a couple of ways in which the policies. i'm not going to say it because
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we are on c-span. but there are a couple of plan planes. which is to say the following barack obama was not very happy with the nato allies and their inability or unwillingness to pay their fair share and he even said to me on a couple of occasions publicly. do you see a continuing the way
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a mac. >> with new arrangements like the iran deal. to get more stakeholders in the international system. broaden the countries buried responsibility for the counter campaign or climate change or
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evil. that trumps reaction to the same diet that mom -- diagnosis that we will go alone and basically try to make demands of everybody treat our allies the same way as we treat our adversaries in while they may have expressed frustration that many americans have held, the conclusions that they drew those critiques were entirely different. >> let's go all the way back the obama era. the first time you met barack obama, one of the questions i have for you that you ever thank you would win? >> i did. my wife is somewhere but it
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was interesting because i describe i was 29 years old and what i wanted to do bandage of the fact i was a relatively normal person within established public figure but i wanted to get on his campaign because i thought he was a different kind of politician and willing to challenge convention to go against the iraq war i was ready to do whatever i could. i was offered a job as a speech writer and foreign policy aide i told my now wife and girlfriend and she was a little annoyed you were moving to chicago going into debt he said that at least you will be back in february when hillary
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with. [laughter] what i try to convey in the book a magic ceiling to that campaign where even at our further behind 20-point oh everybody in that room beauty we would win part of that were those who made sure that we thought that and i had a place certainty that this would work out. >> how does a person go from anonymous to indispensable speech writer?
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how does that carry through? >> the keyway but if i was trying to have that type of the sentence it would not have happened. basically i did whatever they needed me to do the first couple of years of the campaign i did speeches then i had a solid gas policy expertise and i was a utility player. way had an interesting realization that because i was a speechwriter site definition to try to do to get the person you're writing speech force why would understand the world
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you understand what he wanted to say and do and then when you come into government realize the a lot of people do that. different asian additional bias. he didn't have a lot of around him he was only watching for four years. why was that i understood what his thinking was i didn't have any bias other than to help him say what he wanted to say do what you wanted to do. and to get my eye on a job that made it easier for me to ride one -- rise because i was not angrily for something else. >> take notes.
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the math you command more hawkish than left it that the barack obama did you change him? >> it was the convergent and the reality i had to confront and somebody that guy intervention that emerged in the '90s but then to reckon with the fact those first several years we were in office and he sent out that terrorist network so to be
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unable to that event. and that they point to the intervention i supported but then it keeps getting less attention which is that is believe side iraq and. for all that military might go to conference the reality after living the old in iraq i would say in the obama would
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what happened to build the runway? that frankly the track record was limited. with parts barack obama and part circumstance that i hope i changed him but i felt that i redirected my ideal so feeling somewhat frustrated at the tractability is when i turned to cuba and vietnam. not that i changed my but fine affirmatively to do with the world that's not the east. so we have to carve out time
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and make you buy a priority i know you want to change this policy so let me go do this. so let me go do this. so i hope i get broaden his aperture. >> you said you didn't want to expose broken places during the george w. bush experiment and it didn't work. so with the iran deal was the notion that they just give confession on nuclear we give them funding that that will change their society for the better? there is a contradiction you don't want to go into certain middle east countries with the role that it plays in the world was there too much
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idealism? first of all we had hundreds of hours of conversations about iran i cannot tell you enough that nuclear deal we are doing to prevent iraq we are trying to own a distinct and discrete problem that is about. not transforming brand but getting nuclear weapons. that said we didn't have a belief it was more likely that they could involve that direction. but that is it ten or 15 year proposition. i really don't think, covering this at the time we did not one or two years later but we
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do believe that in a ten or 15 year. it would be more likely that a man could all that they would have changes within their leadership within that time. what trump did was make it more likely that they don't move in a different direction. >> so with this split was a hope with iran and you are correct obama was calibrated with those possible outcomes. but with cuba or burma and
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vietnam, the country the actions taken by your frustration better relation previously but they haven't changed. and that the opening would be -- lead to a normalization but vietnam how do you square those opening? you try to remove that nuclear threat from the middle east. >> you are right that vietnam. but cuba has been changing. i think the different 2013 through 2017 by cuban
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standards was enormous and by u.s. standards it wasn't. it was internet access but there is much more internet access there was far more self-employed aide cuban that there was 10% of cuban self-employed. and that matters they won't use the language fully but that it cuban entrepreneurs said to him i used to work for the state and then said you have to be at the communist party valley tomorrow and now
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somebody knocked my door to be at the rally tomorrow and now i say i'm busy. so there was an opening people feeling more empowered and connected to the world. in the current context it will still be to embargo. >> is the key point that americans were so impatient for now on december 2014 in my wildest dreams to have democracy any way shape or form. in the lives of the cuban people would have more access to information is part of that
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is the patient to have politics. but that issue on the one hand and to have a significant confirmation and then to allow it is a partial transition into exert control of the military. that impossible reality the tragedy that in place reflect the use of the people of that country which is a terrible thing to think about but the
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military chose to demagogue with the trend around the world. and one thing we could do is a muslim and minority groups so what i would have liked to have is put pressure on them. but in all the cases if you are promoting democratization with those that have no asian that can transform themselves and then to stick to that policy of engagement there is
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a shorthand we describe the foreign policy with the two previous station lung -- administration. so if the tragedy of the george w. bush administration was to reset then the tragedy of the obama administration is provisional to that set of events and your administration spent those last few years of the second term try not get on the slippery slope. and you really do believe america is intervention was made for the syrian people.
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>> though this question has been boiled down. baker is one episode. and from 2012. before it became fractured with the foreign powers did we miss
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>> so that farmers and carpenters would overthrow the iranian back autocratic regime. so that fatalism sat in early. because no revolution starts with the 82nd and then what explains the
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visit away the middle east by that. >> first of all so do you provide arms or military support as that option is developed 12 and he agreed to it it was clear the purpose is not to win the civil war. it is to get relationships with the opposition to make them more relevant on the battlefield with a diplomatic process. so to describe the deputy committee the policymaking bodies of the government and
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then i remember there is an issue to provide military support to the same opposition. but there is an element of the syrian opposition so it is part of the schizophrenia of american foreign policy. we want to separate to shine a light on the terrorist to designate them as a terrorist but we want to start providing military support but those are the same people so there is a complexity theory that was always there from the beginning. it wasn't one army to support of extremists that could
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easily provide. and what obama came to wrestle with and i talk about in the book when i was so reactive it i had some foreign correspondence from the middle east to give a more alarmist view of what was happy with -- happening that that might compel him to act. i said let me bring in some of the people one after another they painted a dire picture how complicated it was, many forces on the ground, iranian and russian and the turks and saudi's and others and everybody thought he was more i left the oval office thinking now he will really get it but he got exactly the opposite message that we cannot fix this place.
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if you look at the complexity we go to war with syria we are just one more army in the civil war. unless we are willing to remove assad ourselves that it is the same civil war but then we own it. >> one more question. there is a very interesting chapter in your book about race and president obama i don't want to highlight it too much but i'm under the impression this is the most frank discussion and aid how he really felt about his role as the first african-american president.
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it is interesting to read now in the wake of regional reactions so talk about that. what do you convey that president obama was not as unaware of the white perceptions of him as he meted out to be publicly. is that fair? yes. i describe in the book i wrote the time but racism it was so omnipresent for all those years but that it would come out in the morning one -- moments where we prep him like the interviewer to say you maybe half if the competition
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is motivated by race. of course it is. next question. >> what would he say publicly? many different factors. in part because how do we reduce tension around black lives matter? he would say stop shooting unarmed black. oh the next question. >> why wouldn't he say that? >> a couple of things. number one, he learned early in the presidency that with if he was much more impactful than people know. here at the preeminent african-american academic in the country rested at the house and he said it was
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stupid and the blowback was so insane and people work so excited to talk about race on cable television with and fox going into hysteria with absurd summit and he was trying to fix the economy. i cannot do this every couple weeks. i am trying to get us out of a financial crisis and get us out of wars i cannot afford this spectacle. so part of it was just a belief that it was difficult for him to engage in these issues in a raw way without it becoming realized with politics certainly he was angry about the birther movement that he had to
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provide the birth certificate but he wanted to put that behind him frank was angry that cable television gave so much airtime to the birther movement. so he is like jackie robinson on the first african-american to do this i don't just do it but do it twice is good as a white person would have to intake this thinking my head down. late in his presidency he started to find new ways to talk about this he visited a prison, with criminal justice reform, he found a voice to talk about the that was different am part of that was we were not worried about the financial crisis anymore. >> who was more surprised by donald election barack or michelle or you?
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>> i was most surprised. >> they were not surprised? >> no. i think they were a little surprised. [laughter] but i think that it was white people who got barack obama's election and how a white person
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did not fully appreciate working for the first african-american president. >> please ask your question in the form of a question back. >> i'm sorry this is such a narrow question but late in the obama years and part of hillary clinton's campaign
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they would ask differences of approach to syriac compared to the presidency and her answer was for example i would enforce the no-fly zone. is that just too simplistic and what was obama's feeling that that has any merit whatsoever i don't know how much traction she got. >> the reality is that the no-fly zone that people were recommending that it was very negative on that but to actually set up a no-fly zone you would have to destroy all of syria's air defenses in russian air defenses and essentially have to go to war with assad. then they are still killing people on the ground.
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syria was much more complicated to do and it wasn't going to fully stop what you are trying to stop. so in his mind they would consistently say not on my watch. because what we have to do to set that up would bombing syria and russia personnel and hardware on the ground that then we could not guarantee there would the others on the ground so he just thought it was not a viable option in iq mentioned you were looking for
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an affirmative project to take on for you in a similar position again with the next of aquatic president if you were given a job to pick projects take on what would those be in second that you like the tv show entourage. why? left. >> people thought obama liking matthew moore one -- michael moore. [laughter] >> but to be on his if you are in a job like i had with certain escapism, the more mindless looking at 10:30 on a wednesday night when you just spent 15 hours doing the most off. but i was surprised david
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cameron liked entourage and that's what i had a conversation about. that shows the full pop-culture. but that's a great? your first one. and the reality is i feel we have to climb out of the hole but i believe if you take, what is interesting the first agreement that was global literally 200 countries and there are other issues that could benefit from that type of global agreement. and just to name a couple dealing with pandemic that is
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the architecture you could try to set up that is truly global that ultimately in the long millions of lives to replicate that coalition and arrangement and information sharing related to global health that's what comes to me off the top of my head that effort to get out late in the administration of refugee settlement would be an important project so how you do with the refugee crisis that isn't so ad hoc. with a small country bearing the enormous burden. but then politically i still feel like the united states with southeast asia and i feel
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like there is a lot of room to significantly enhance between the cooperation of southeast asia than to try to approach not as an individual country but regional mindset. but you have to be opportunistic where the opportunity could emerge maybe sri lanka had an interesting election with the democratic transition if we had more time maybe we would leave in to getting more engagement on that. not only for values that china to vacuum up a huge part of the world and so you look
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opportunistically and try to find those places where there is a movement gaining momentum with individual countries that you might not otherwise have at the white house. >> so what about the attacks that are happening on the diplomats in cuba and china so what would that be xp mac first of all. >> and first of all with you that i do not know how the cuban government is behind those attacks. i learned about these month later it started around the transition they were trying to do anything they could to preserve their relationship with us at that time. business deals, and the notion
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that at the same time with the major agreement at the same time everything they did was to preserve our relationship but they knew what would blow that up. >> who is doing it? >> i think it is the russian. >> what about the canadians? [laughter] >> base other than my intuition that the russians are working that are people in cuba that hated could be doing that i described the times i was trailed by russian spy very bizarre experience where a couple people just walk right up to me wearing tattoos and weird clothes and took out a knife and took a picture they just wanted us to know
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they were watching so they want to break that u.s. cuba relationship and so i would put the russians at the top not that there when you been to be in fall but with china this could also be somebody's surveillance technology has gone terribly wrong we be somebody whatever it is surveillance capabilities and it is causing health effects because the russia or china is doing that in china as well. so maybe it is not intentional tv it is a secondary effect of technology. >> obviously were defined by
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cuba and iran but u.s. has been at war or the middle east my adult life and that could change so do you the tensions resolving or what path constructive engagement in the region after trump is gone presumably? >> first of all, i believe should have done more to bring about some closure to the wars. we should not be in afghanistan i don't know what we are accomplishing i thought we would leave there by the admin of the administration i don't think we are making it better every time this comes up in the situation room well if we leave it will get worse but if we say will get what is
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it we have been there 15 years at what point don't you be? >> but that i could come come into repeat the cycle? >> what our military could do is that you don't necessarily the president of afghanistan has clearly not different than device people for the caliban and has created some dependency with the afghan government said is not healthy. but how long is long enough? twenty years? twenty-five years? i think it's not healthy for a democracy to fight the war 15 or 20 years where now we fight a war if i told you in 2002 we were in afghanistan and in 2018 we would still be fighting to warn afghanistan even though osama bin laden is
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dead and it is not related for him you would think that is strange so i have to pull myself to the standard i do think we could have done more but the main reason why is people see more risk politically if you leave things go wrong in staying things go wrong. so in terms of the next administration, who knows. i don't know it will look like i'm not optimistic. >> do you know the next administration? [laughter] >> but very quickly the complete mortgaging of the foreign policy to the saudi pandemic bodies -- and varieties could the goods so
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that makes me pessimistic. >> we have three questions. >> mine will be closer to home. with the subject of race was always the elephant in the room and we have mrs. founding our country but i wanted to ask you did you participate in the speech over jeremiah wright controversy? and also in charleston how much of that was the president himself and are you running in 2020? [laughter] >> no. people say monty run in 2020?
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so the honest room the three speeches that obama really wrote himself the ten years that i worked for him was the nobel peace prize in the two that you cited. there were drafts prepared that he ignored. [laughter] and all three of those drafts he wrote by hand and then the function of the speechwriters was to type them up i remember sitting on the campaign and got back this voluminous hand written script thinking i have never read a political speech like if i have chills knowing what is coming but we could not have written those for him. the two that you cite were so personal we did put the mice
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language like the race speech the cable news debates and that was good stuff but that meets that speech is entirely barack obama. >> so you worked for a president who tested the moral and philosophical decision and try to work them and try to work them two a more idealistic or value driven foreign policy as opposed to one with a compromis compromise. when you the administration is that a viable approach to
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foreign policy? and is that philosophical? >> what was radical about obama is he was profoundly idealistic in a very different way than americans usually are. for him that length itself and everything from how we treat other countries with respect, try to engage other countries in different ways speak to the public and not just the leaders. we use values as justification to put pressure and other countries. it was taking these universal
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values not just the american values we try to pose so sometimes people felt that i remember talking to the people advocacy for democracy and these programs is how they connect young leaders around the world. so basically they are creating a civil society. but my point is they are promoting those in nontraditional ways that i think i made him unique was u.s. president who saw individuals in country like people in laos or nigeria.
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so to me i enter the book on a hopeful note that what is the impact he has had on the lives of around the world? how does he change that perception and hopefully the obama legacy is 20 or 30 years from now in ways that john kennedy inspired. so it is a different way to promote but authenticity is the most important thing a leader can have. so my hope is that whoever comes next to promote universal value would be informed by their own worldview.
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that is the only way to be effective. and then have a higher bar to clear that we had is a promoter of human rights that the next person will have to be authentic literally doesn't bounce off years of people. >> we heard you talk about this how the department of state is investigated not only the top up that bottom down and how those interests are not being converted so we cannot get classes to participate in the internship so what about individuals interested in diplomacy to advance her own professional development not to mention
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what the administration is doing to the department? >> people should still try to get into the foreign service community to join now beginning to rise through the ranks hopefully through the next administration. number two. if you're frustrated and feel like you cannot work for the administration there is a vast set of opportunities there are many ways into the world to promote the values that you care about those human systems here is a need for good young talent also i like to see the next administration to prioritize like amnesty for people for those who have left to come back in. we spend a lot of money and time on recruitment to rebuild that diplomacy because we have lost thousands of years of experience and at the same time d prioritize the young
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people. i don't think they appreciate that profound impact this should be a top priority of the next secretary of state with the next president. >> going back to the election the author wrote to freedom said russia won the cyberwarfare in the obama administration reaction was to fish like they did not go full throttle to attack russia back can you talk about that deliberation? what could be done differently. >> so the mistake is that we did treating a cyberwar but really was information poor. so if you even look at the statements and the focus is
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all on cyberattacks. when that was a fraction of the content of what was created we did not do much at all to stop the fake news and information warfare with those abilities russia developed in the ukraine. no i described as the president obama people should have enough information of the meddling but if people are assuming stories of clinton for the meetup story corruption that is produced by russian first of all you cannot become the facebook news feed on -- and we didn't have that to open up until all
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it could be russian fake news people were consuming that will be less inclined to listen because if you are searching out on your feed then you get that that you think barack obama is the antichrist. i'm not saying that was his belief that we thought might information please beyond the cyberpiece that we didn't have many tools. we don't have the ability to stop that from happening to say what is faith and what isn't. going forward there will be a much more aggressive effort to identify fake news and work with technology companies to do with this in a rational way and i can understand you are
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interested in being a novelist with creative writing. after such a long period of time with such a hotbed of pressure working under emergency situations, how is your understanding of human being and the human psyche how has that shifted or add to novels he was right? that's the best question i think i have ever gotten here is how i would answer that. i am much more pessimistic with the timeframe of the systems that i was ten years ago. our politics, government, media, not our government, but i found myself feeling like the system i was a part of her that was around me i wished
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they would do better but now they seem to still be in. but at the same time not to sound more optimistic but the individual people like i got this opportunity to diverse people those who had every reason to give up. i went to laos and met young people and they want to come to the united states to build a relationship with united states grateful we are providing assistance and thinking there is the capacity for forgiveness that i wish i had my own life. so in a strange way those
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years left me more interested in individual people, and less hopeful or optimistic about the petitions i represent those people and frankly if we can know the distance between actual people and their representative government and the institutions that govern them, i think we would all be better off into the that is the biggest challenge for politics obama tried to do this. but he failed that politics represent the better aspects and then we are in a much better situation so there would be some version but how
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are individuals navigating the world and how does that change
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speefive spee5 - thank you. it is a treat for us to have not one but two former white house social secretaries with us toda today. i am sure they are glad they did not have to execute this white house luncheon one of the guest


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