Skip to main content

tv   Tavis Smiley  WHUT  October 12, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT

7:00 pm
tavis: good evening, i am tavis smiley. two debates down and to to go. unlike the first debate between obama and romney, the next two will deal with foreign policy, including an all foreign policy forum on october 22. tonight, we will preview the next two debates and look at the critical foreign-policy issues of our time with phyllis bennis at ththe new director of international projectsism. that is coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just tried to live my life
7:01 pm
every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed two million dollars to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp out color. -- we can stamp out hunger. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: phyllis bennis is the new director for the international ism project. she joined us tonight from new york. it is good to have you back on this program. >> great to be with you, tavis.
7:02 pm
poopsie but in and ryan went -- tavis: biden and ryan went after it tonight. it was interesting for a lot of people to watch. but we get back to it really matters, the two guys at the top of the ticket, president obama and governor romney. given that governor romney came back out with his own policy speech, that policy will get on to the agenda in the next two debates in the last debate is exclusively about foreign policy. we know we are headed in that direction but the speech that mr. ravi gave earlier this week, he essentially suggested that president obama had been weak on foreign policy. he went on to deconstructs that and explain it in a variety of ways. but your thoughts on mr. romney's approach to put foreign policy on the agenda. >> i think he is looking for a
7:03 pm
way to distinguish himself from president obama's for policy. since he does not have a significant difference in the actual policy prescription that he is calling for, what he is resorting to is simply saying president obama is not tough enough. his rhetoric is not firm enough. he is leading from behind instead of in front. but when pressed on what would you actually do, he is giving out policies that are really not that different from those of president obama. the language is a little bit different. the only significant difference, on iran, we can expect that both president obama and candidate romney will be focusing a great deal on iran as a threat. their language will be very similar. but the red line they are imposing is very different. for president obama, the red line all along has been the question of preventing iran from obtaining, from getting in a clear weapon.
7:04 pm
but everybody agrees the u.s., all 16 u.s. intelligence agencies, most of the israeli intelligence and military officials, etc., everybody agrees that is way down the road. but for governor romney, the red line he has claimed and he claimed it again in his speech -- his own foreign-policy speech is that he will rely on the israeli red line, although he did not identify it as that, which is preventing iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capacity, nuclear-weapons capability. that is a whole cuttlefish. that is now. the ability to produce enriched uranium, which any country with a nuclear power program has come including iran, and scientific know-how, which iran has come except for the five scientists that have been assassinated presumably, widely believed by
7:05 pm
israel. that is the difference. is the red line getting a nuclear weapon or is the red line getting nuclear capability? >> why does that distinction matter to the american people? >> i think that it is a very dangerous development to set redlines in diplomacy. it means that diplomacy is almost bound to fail in here is our bread line, more sanctions, more sanctions, more sanctions. we will get congress to pass a law that will make it illegal for us to have any carrots. that means that diplomacy will not work. it is dangerous across the board. the reason why it is more dangerous to say a red line will be crossed so early is, number one, it brings it much closer, ratcheting up the political pressure. it does not change anything on the ground. but once a candidate boxes himself in, and we're talking man here, so i will not say
7:06 pm
himself/herself, one candid it boxes himself in and say i will set as a red line iran obtain nuclear capability. if gov. ronnie's good friend, benjamin netanyahu, says that he believes that iran has obtained nuclear capability, candidate romney would say one thing and president romney would feel differently on making good on that. >> you mentioned the state of israel, the nation of israel. let's talk about that for just a second. mr. netanyahu has been unsuccessful over the past few weeks, no matter how much he has tried, even inside of israel, making the case that he has tried to make about the red line and backing the obama administration and the u.s. government into a corner to make a particular statement about these red lines.
7:07 pm
he has not been successful at that even with his speech at the u.n. i raise that because the jewish vote does matter. let's be frank about it. more important or as important, and jewish money matters. the biggest giver in this campaign on the other side is they do, -- is a jew. the issue of israel is important as is always in u.s. foreign policy. how do you think that plays out in the election, particularly given that netanyahu has not been successful, but a significant number of jews who feel that obama has been disrespectful to netanyahu? >> let me back up on two quick points. i think it is important to distinguish the jewish money from pro-use real money. there are huge numbers of jews like me in the jewish community
7:08 pm
who have very diverse views on israel, who do not support u.s. military aid to israel, who don't support giving israel the kind of diplomatic support at the united nations, providing the kind of impunity for israeli war crimes. it is not about jewish money, but pro-israel money that we have to identify. the other point, as a quebecer, i think netanyahu has succeeded in one very import -- as a matter of course, i think netanyahu has succeeded in one very important point. no one in washington, not president obama, not governor romney, not congress, not the secretary of state, no one is pressing israel about the settlements of palestinian territory, on the continuing assassinations of palestinians, none of these issues are on the
7:09 pm
table. and they have been taken off the table for more than a year while israel puts itself forward as being victimized and facing this so-called existential threat. israel has really gained from this debate. on the question of how that plays out right now in the campaign, what we're seeing is a scenario, as you say, where netanyahu has now succeeded in convincing people that they should vote for romney because he says so. larsa because people in this country recognize that president obama -- largely because people in this country recognize that president obama has been more supportive of israel in all the ways that matter, money, protection of the u.n., diplomatic protection, etc., especially money, military aid, $4.1 billion in military aid of our tax money going to the 23rd wealthiest country in the world. president obama has done that more than any other president in
7:10 pm
history. so candidate romney's claim that obama is somehow throwing israel under a bus just does not slide. tavis: on the issue of afghanistan, governor romney did not get around to talking about it in his republican nomination acceptance speech. he did get around talking about it this week. what kind of debate will we have? what kind of a debate should we have about it can stand? >> i think one of the big problems is that we will not hear a debate about afghanistan. we will not hear about the more than 2000 u.s. soldiers who have been killed in afghanistan and we certainly will live here about the scores of thousands -- 10's, 20's of thousands of afghan civilians who have been killed in afghanistan because of this war. what we will hear from president
7:11 pm
obama is unwinding down. but that is not good enough. this is a war that we never had the possibility of "winning" whenever we -- whatever we think that means this week. the cia has said that, not only is osama bin laden is dead, but the number of operatives in afghanistan is somewhere between 50 and 100 people. we have 100,000 u.s. paid contractors, 40,000 nato troops to go after 100 guys? really? this is crazy. this is one of those wars that should never have been waged. the majority of americans on all sides agree that each never should have been waged and it should be brought to an end. saying that by the end of 2014, which both parties are basically saying, and that is why we're not likely to hear very much of a debate about it, that we will wind down, meaning we will have fewer troops but we will still
7:12 pm
have troops and trainers and special forces and bases. this means a continuation of this horrifying war, the expansion of the war into pakistan, the drone war expanding night even only in pakistan but also in yemen and somalia and elsewhere. this is looking more and more like a permanent war and both parties are supporting it. this is not something that we will hear that the debate. we will hear both parties talking about the ongoing war that they're both proud to be part of. >> since you mentioned osama bin laden, in the first debate from everybody was tweeting where mr. obama did not do his best. we will see what happens in the next couple of debate, but he did not do his best by any standard of a definition. i was falling would ever be as saying on twitter. chris rock
7:13 pm
doing so bad that he was waiting before the debate was over for obama to bend down and pull up osama bin laden's skull. that was his trump card, if you will. i raise that because you mentioned osama bin laden. there was a time in this country's past when, if the sitting president had held up osama bin laden's skull, he probably could have gone away with anything. does president obama at this point get any credit for killing enemy number one? >> i would say that he gets responsibility and accountability. the joke was funny, but the reality is that what amounted what was a cold-blooded assassination when there was no resistance from the principal
7:14 pm
target, when there was no effort to fight back, according to the soldiers carrying out the mission, to assassinate him on the spot, dispose of the body at sea is not something our country should be proud of. the notion that we will bring justice for the crimes of 9/11 does not equate, in my view, with the assassination. tavis: let me jump in quickly. i can hear many americans responding right now to what you just said. first of all, president obama is awfully proud of it could never two, all of his surrogates at the democratic convention kept reminding the -- reminding us how proud of it they were
7:15 pm
bin laden was referenced. and for those americans who say you sound very anti-american or not very patriotic, by the way, i don't see a american flag on your lapel tonight, how do you respond to those americans? >> idea rate because our country claims to be a nation of laws. the day that some of the layton was killed, i happened to be in jordan. -- the day that osama bin laden was killed, i happened to be in jordan i saw students out there chanting "usa!" these are young people who were children at the time of the 9/11 attack, most of whom were probably too young to remember those attacks directly as conscious beings. they know it as a part of history. and i don't think that, if we want to be a nation founded on justice, a nation founded on laws, that assassination is a way to do that. this was a huge crime against humanity, what happened on september 11. bringing the perpetrators to justice is a noble goal, a fascinating, the of the perpetrator who is not physically there, but who was
7:16 pm
inspiring the action is not such a noble thing in my mind. jordanians and palestinians in jordan, many of whom have suffered far more at the hands al qaeda-tech militants even then we have, they were not thrilled at the idea that there was an kind because they have seen the consequences of assassination. it is not a question of should somebody be arrested, brought to trial, the be imprisoned for life. absolutely. but the assassination to me is not something to be proud of. i agree with you. president obama has made it a point of pride. the democratic party leadership has made it a point of pride. but i, as an american citizen, i don't make it a point of pride. >>tavis: i could spend hours in conversation with you about this because it is that important and it is it philosophical question. what does it say that president
7:17 pm
obama and governor romney don't really have -- his speech this week not withstanding, which is politics -- when it comes down to brass tacks, they do not have a huge distinction in foreign policy in terms of how they see the world and how they think mr. obama has done? what all that say to the dotard? we are about to have a couple more debates and an election were the two guys running from -- running for president are not that different on foreign policy. mr. obama has used more drones than george bush did. mr. obama has followed the same strategy that mr. bush did. how do we take that? >> i think it's as to things. number one is that there are far greater differences on many
7:18 pm
domestic issues than there are on foreign policy. and on both of those issues, even small differences matter. there is a saying that, when you are almost drowning and the water is over your mouth, that last half inch where it covers your nose is very important. so small differences matter. that is one thing. i think the other thing that is important is that, while their policy statements are not qualitatively different, i think there is a difference in rhetoric which becomes important when they are held accountable by their own party and hopefully some time some president will feel his or herself accountable to the voters who put them in office. what that means is, if your claim, as is president obama's based on his speech and higher in 2009, that he wants to rework the u.s. relationship with the arab world, with the muslim
7:19 pm
world, with the rest of the world, that he wants to prove woods international law in the united nations, that he wants -- that he wants to privilege international law in the united nations, it all of those things are what he claims to believe, maybe we can heal our democracy enough to force a president who makes that claim to make good on those promises. if, on the other hand, you have a president whose candidacy, who camp -- whose campaign promises were based on the idea that i will be tougher, that, as governor romney said, the palestinians have "no interest in peace." then you have someone who is coming into office accountable to a foreign policy that has no interest in international law, no interest in the united nations, no interest in ending the israeli occupation of palestinian territory or the siege of gaza, no interest in maintaining the end of the war
7:20 pm
in iraq. there are hints from romney that he would daschle like u.s. troops back in iraq. so it is not only that president obama's current policies don't seem so different from the actual policies that romney calls for, but it matters the vehemence with which one or the other calls for war and makes that a standard of what they stand for. tavis: you mentioned the muslim world and the arab world. president obama basically says tthat he wants to be a friend of the middle east. this is on top of him continuing come even to this day, to be referred to by some as a muslim and not a christian. juxtapose what he said what he wanted to do, the goodwill he wanted to foster and crate with what he has on his hands now in the middle east and republicans were making a mockery of him because of that juxtaposition. >> it is a huge challenge for
7:21 pm
president obama. the reality is that, while he began his presidency with a real intention of trying to do things differently, he did not push hard enough in washington. he had the view apparently that he could bring all sides together and that became the priority. that became primary. working across the aisle, working with republicans, working with a bipartisan basis, etc., etc. what has that -- but that has resulted in, on the example of iran, they can say that he did and iran rejected it. in his first three years, the entire amount of diplomatic face-to-face time by obama and a series with iran was less than one hour. diplomacy does not happen that fast. it does not work that way. he said in a situation where congress was able to get away
7:22 pm
with passing resolutions and a sense of congress motions etc. that made it almost illegal for the obama administration to actually engaged in diplomacy with iran. instead of standing up and saying the american people did not vote for a candidate who wanted to and diplomacy, they voted for a candidate that wanted to put diplomacy first and i want to do that and not allow congressional hijacking to go on. that is what we did not see. by taking that argument to the american people, that president obama could have fought back in a different way against those pressures from congress, from the republican party, etc. tavis: with regard to romney, it this comes up in the debate -- if this comes up in the debate, mr. obama might be wise to raise this. i can think of 251-liners that
7:23 pm
would work rather well -- i can think of 21-one-liners that would work rather well. you can see the one-liners of when ronnie went overseas. how might mr. romney respond to the perception at least that he is just not ready for prime time when it comes to being the leader of the free world? >> i am very worried about not only the debate, but the way the coverage, the press coverage in general of the debate -- sorry, the campaign is going forward. we're simply not hearing any more about governor romney's inability to have an ordinary diplomatic conversation with our closest allies. really? going to london? how hard can that be. you and i could be better diplomats than what he pulled off their peer going to israel would be more tricky.
7:24 pm
and then going to poland. he could not allow poland? really? we simply have wiped the slate clean. as he was widely viewed as the winner of the first debate, he is getting a pass on his diplomatic and ability to do .nything right tavis tavis: i suspect there will be a debate on defense spending. what will happen there? >> i am afraid there is not a big difference between the two parties. one of the things we will let hear about is the need to dramatically cut the military budget. there is a need and an ability to cut several hundred million dollars -- sorry, several hundred billion dollars from the military budget without in any way jeopardize and the safety and security of the people of this country. we will also not hear about the global impact of global warming,
7:25 pm
the environment. we will not hear about climate. we will not hear about global inequality. there is a whole range of issues that will simply not make it on to that debate agenda and the military budget is probably right at the top of the list. tavis: we shall see. two more debates to go. we thank you for your time. >> always a pleasure. tavis: that is our show tonight. you can download our app. thank you for watching. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley on tavis: join me next time with ethan hawke on his new movie. >> there is a saying that dr.
7:26 pm
king had he said there's always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we're only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have a lot of work to do. wal-mart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp out hunger. >> and by contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. >>
7:27 pm
7:28 pm
7:29 pm