tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 21, 2013 8:00am-10:01am EDT
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your television provider. >> host: well, the federal government reopened after 16 days during this current shutdown, and this week on "the communicators" a round table discussion on the effect of that shutdown on the federal communications commission and telecommunications policy. joining us this week is former fcc commissioner harold furchtgott-roth and blair levin who served as chief of staff to the fcc for several years. and, in fact, mr. levin, you were chief of staff during the last shutdown in '95-'9 6. >> guest: that's right. >> host: what was that like? >> guest: it was tough. it required us to do a lot of planning prior to the shutdown and then a lot of clean-up. i think my favorite story, if i could tell you a story from it, there was a group of asians, i think mostly end nices who came to visit reed hunt and i.
hayed they had to walk up eight flights of stairs because the elevators, for some reason, weren't working. and they get up there and tear out of breath, and they just say, what the heck is going on? and reed says, well, the legislative branch decidedded to shut down the executive branch. and they started laugh, and one of them said, you know, in our country it's exactly the opposite. but there actually is a message there which is i think the world thinks we're crazy when we do things like this, and markets think we're crazy, and this has a profound effect on the economy which is very, very negative. >> host: harold furchtgott-roth, 38 employees of the fcc were considered essential out of 1700 for this past shutdown. what's the work that got lost in this 16 days? >> guest: well, there are several types of activities that the commission does that weren't done. obviously, the other 1700 or
2,000 or however many employees are doing things whether it's enforcing the rules of the commission, engineers who are working on cell tower placements, working on special temporary authorities for people to move their antennas, working on consumer complaints of decency, working on license transfers. so a lot of activities of the commission that were put on hold for a period of time, and i guess are starting back up today. >> host: so was anything really lost in the 16 days? was anything vital lost? >> guest: i think there are a couple of things. one thing that's interesting, it was not that important in '95 i think it's really critical now was the certifications of mobile devices because all these devices, the devices that literally hundreds of millions of americans have, they can look and see that little fcc stamp on it because we have to insure that they don't interfere with
each other. and back in '95 there weren't that many mobile phones going through the process. but now it's really important, it's really big. you have a huge battle between apple and samsung and motorola and others. they need that certification. they make these plans, they have literally billions of dollars in advertising, and suddenly whatever the plans were, they get delayed by a number of days. so that's a real cost. it's very difficult to measure it, but it's a real cost. another thing is the spectrum auctions. we haven't had an auction in six years. this is going to put those auctions back, and that's very bad for the economy. every day that spectrum isn't being used, a drag on the economy. so those are things you never get those back. other stuff you do get back, but i have to tell you the this kind of, start, stop, start, stop kind of psychology -- and we're going to go through it again, my depress is in january -- i my
guess is in jan we'll go through it again, it's no way to run a a government. >> host: commissioner furchtgott-roth, same question. >> guest: i would agree with blair this is no way to run a government. the long-term effects, you know, i think the economy will get through it. the question is ten years from now will people look back and say this led to some irreparable harm to the economy, and i'm not quite sure we're there yet. but blair's exactly right. there were the product certifications that have gotten held up, a lot of license transfers on deals that need to close by the end of the year, and this puts them in a little bit more peril. but the commission, i think the staff will -- they're back at work today and, hopefully, they'll be able to make up for the last time. >> host: also joining our round table is lynn stanton, senior editor at "telecommunications
report." >> how does the commission prioritize all the various things that were on their plate? they've lost two weeks. does everything concurrently get the same amount of attention or the same equipment authorizations get more resources dedicated to them because they have these outside impacts on, as you said, on companies' product pipelines? >> guest: well, that's a question best directed toward the interim chair because it's fundamentally i what she decides. and by the way, i think she's doing a terrific job of not just keeping the trains running on time, but actually getting a number of things done. but the problem is she's the interim, and you really need to get the new chair, tom wheeler, there as soon as possible because there's a lot of activity that you really can't do until he's there. there are key decisions to be made particularly regarding the auctions that if he gets delayed further, it's just going to put that auction back. so the chair really has the principal responsibility for
prioritization of staff resources, but it's even more complicated now because of the interim chairmanship. >> guest: lynn, that's a very good question. i don't know the answer as to who makes that judgment. different agencies have made dramatically different judgments, for example, the securities and exchange commission had a lot of their staff has been working and has continued to work throughout the shutdown. the fcc pulled back dramatically and really just left a skeleton staff in place. but as blair said, it really -- those are judgments for the chairman. >> um, in response to that, so the it is a government shutdown, i mean, how do you decide who is essential or whose activities are essential? if everybody is essential, it seems as though there's no point to a shutdown. >> guest: um, yes. [laughter] i don't know who makes those decisions, and it seems like it's an on agency-by-agency
basis. >> one way the agency differed was the total shutdown of its web site which i hear from a lot of lawyers in the industry was very difficult because they could no longer get access to all kinds of archived information through the electronic comment filing system and other systems on the fcc site. does that seem as though it was intended to cause discomfort and make a point that government shutdowns have an effect? >> guest: look, government shutdowns have a huge effect, and i think we in washington -- i'm one of those lawyers who was trying to get on the web site to look at certain things related to some work i'm doing. but the pain it caused me was so much less than the pain it causes lots of other people and lots of families who weren't getting certain kinds of support that they needed or people who had made vacations to national parks, etc. i don't want to second guess or monday morning quarterback that decision.
i just think, again, the fundamental lesson i hope we all learn is, you know, arguments about budgets are perfectly legitimate. let's debate it out. but the tactic of shutting down the government or the even worse tactic of threatening the debt ceiling, threatening a default, those are really horrendous things and totally unprinciple, in my view. >> guest: the fcc was not alone in shutting down its web site. the department of commerce, for example, shut down its web site as well, other government agencies shut down their web sites. i really can't see any rhyme or reason. some government agencies kept theirs up, some kept them down. and i think there's lessons to be learned about how this might be done in the future more efficiently, if you will. unfortunately, i think blair's right, this is -- look, we've had, we've had several budget disputes, and blair and i were discussing before i think they
stem from the budget empanelment and control act of 1974. this occurs almost every year. there's some crisis that goes on. and yet after 40 years of this we still aren't very good at figuring out how to operate the government. as blair said, this is no way to run a government, this is no way to run a railroad. and it's, it is not a good situation. >> guest: and if i could just add n '95 i don't think anyone cared whether or not our web site was up or not -- >> i was going to come back to that. really was a functional part of everyday life even if you had some kind of sketchy thing there. >> guest: right. >> so does in some ways the modernization make life more complicated than, you know, all these new things that we have, you know, getting in touch with people just over the internet, and it seems odd that you can't in a way that you understand if a building is closed you can't get into it, but just because
the government isn't there, that a web site seems like a sort of separate entity that doesn't require necessarily loving, tender care from minute to minute. i may be underestimating how hard it is to run the cfs, but i can understand not being able to file new things, but to not be able to see things that are already up there -- >> guest: yeah, but you still need operations and maintenance. it is an interesting question, but it does show you kind of how the way we do government has changed very dramatically as a result of the internet. >> host: blair levin, i want to go back to lynn's question about what the process of the shutdown. in '95 you were chief of staff at the fcc. what did you do? how did you let people know, what was the process? >> guest: well, look, this is -- it's plumbing, right? it's very boring. it takes a lot of work. you have to kind of go in, and you have to bring in every, you know, every bureau chief and say, okay, what are we working on, what do we do, you know, who are the phone calls, who's
allowed to be working, who's allowed not to? at that point in time we were working extensively with harold and others on the ill with the rewrite of the '96 act, and one of the principal things we wanted to be able to do was be able to plan, i think you guys gave us 110 rule make, we had to do in 18 months, so we were doing a an awful lot of planning, and that just got eliminated which meant when we came back to work, we were all working double time to try to catch up for it. >> host: were deadlines extendedsome. >> guest: the deadlines in terms of the fcc were extended for, obviously, for certain kinds of filings. but, you know, the most critical thing was congress didn't give us any slack -- and i don't think they should have -- when they passed the bill a couple months later and said you get these things done in six months, these in twelve months and these in eighteen months. it took an awful lot of work to do that, and we were able to meet those deadlines, but if
we'd have had a shutdown in the middle of that, there's no way we could can have done it. it's just a lot of extra work. if you were to take mcdonald's or ge and say, by the way, we don't know whether we're going to be operating in a couple weeks, so be prepared to shut down everything, and give us a plan for when you come back, you go back to work with, that's an insane amount of work, and any company that did that would go bankrupt very quickly. and, again, government is not a normal enterprise, but there are consequences of these things that i think have been completely missed by most of the coverage. >> host: commissioner furchtgott-roth, you were on the hill at the time -- >> guest: yes. >> host: what was that shutdown, the '95-'t 6 shutdown from your perspective? >> guest: at that time i was working on the conference for what became the telecommunications act of 1996. i was working for tom buyly of
virginia -- bliley of virginia, chairman of the committee at the time, and we were meeting constantly with senate staff drafting the bills that became the law. we kept going right through the shutdown. i will be, i remember senator pressler of south dakota who chaired the senate commerce committee bringing sandwiches in for the staff during the shutdown. so we kept working right through. i can't say it had a great personal effect on me at the time. >> host: what about from working with the fcc perspective? did that put a crimp in your ability to move forward? >> guest: well, as blair said, i think the fundamental input we were getting from the commission was how quickly could you do these rule makings. and i have to say, blair, of all of the things that you did, the one thing that is probably the
most miraculous is you did meet all of the deadlines in the '96 act. it was really quite an accomplishment. but there wasn't really a lot of other information that congress needed at that time from the commission. >> host: lynn stanton. >> did the morale of the agency staff take a hit in 1995-'96 when they came back from, actually, two -- one short, one longer -- shutdown? did you get any sense from staff that there was any kind of discouragement or -- people like to be appreciated in their job, and to be told you're not essential and go home is not a great ego boost. >> guest: yeah. i think there was a short-term loss, but there were two very big -- first of all, reed, who i have the greatest respect for, has, you know, no one can be chief of staff for someone and not see strengths and weaknesses, but one of his great strengths was as a leader getting the staff morale up, he was fantastic.
he worked harder than anybody, and he was there in the bureaus, and he would do anything to make sure the work got done. and a couple months later the congress gave the fcc the biggest mandate they had done in some 60 years so, clearly, we were an important agency at that time, and i think that helped the staff morale get up. actually, there was an article in the post talking about how our utility will was -- bill was an extra half million dollars in april because of how long everybody was working. this shutdown, i think, is different because i think you have a lot of different things such as, you know, fox news calling it a slimdown, such as david vitter's staff kind of snarky, the ten good things about the shutdown which focused on epa, but there's a lot of, there's a tremendous amount of anti-government feeling that underlie this one that i think was quite different in '95. at least we knew what the dispute was about. there's this undercurrent of we don't need government at all that makes it, that's very
problematic, and i think the consequences for staff morale this time will be much more severe. >> guest: well, i would take a little bit of an exception with that. i think in '95 there was a realization that government may have gotten big. in fact, president clinton in the state of the union address in 1996, just after the government shut down, had perhaps the most famous line of his administration, maybe the most famous line he ever said when he said the era of big government is over. and i think that was a direct response, if you will, to the goth -- to the government shutdown which, in some ways arguably, president clinton won that. but at the same time, i think he got the message that unending growth of government just couldn't go on. >> having been on both sides of the hill and the fcc in terms of guidance from congress to the fcc, outside of just pure legislation, do you think there are things that congress can do
sort of acknowledging that it has made life a little bit more difficult for the fcc to get things done and perhaps saying these are things we really want you to focus on? is there any way they can in any way help guide the fcc? >> guest: well, my sense and i'd be very interested to hear blair's view of this, the reality is the fcc is not the top priority for very many members of congress. and the issues that members of congress are aware of at the fcc probably three or four and probably may not be the obvious ones. they might be indecency can issues, they hear a lot from their constituents about that. but i think the big, overriding issue at the commission is the auction, the spectrum auction and how that goes forward. and i think there are a lot of
members of congress who do focus on that, and when they hear fcc they think, oh, yeah, broadcast auction, what's going to happen there. >> guest: i think that's right. i do think, you know, auctions are important. i think the transition to ip is a very important element in terms of how we think about regulation. we have effectively developed a bunch of regulatory rules all around a network that is not really the critical network anymore, and we have to figure out what's essential in terms of regulation, what are the public goods we really need, how do we think about competition in this environment, etc. i think that's really important. i think there's a lot of concern about the e-rate and whether we're getting adequate bandwidth in the classroom. excuse me. so i hi there are a number of issues where congress can be very helpful. the problem is they often act in a way that is just kind of like a critic from the sideline, and
that's actually not helpful. >> host: i want to go back to what you said, commissioner furchtgott-roth, about congress not really focusing necessarily on fcc issues or not knowing about hem. about them. from that perspective does that, is that beneficial to the fcc? you've served on both sides of the aisle again, but is that beneficial to the fcc so you can move forward, or does that put -- does that stop the work you can do because congress isn't focused on you? wouldn't you prefer congress not to be focused on you? >> guest: it depends. [laughter] depends on the issue. and let me be clear, there's some members of congress who spend a lot of time focusing on the fcc. the chairman of the subcommittees on telecommunications in both the house and the senate and ten the members of the commerce -- and then the members of the commerce committee in each body focus more than other members do.
and on almost any issue at the fcc, there's probably one member of congress somewhere who actually is very interested in that. but on whole there are a lot of issues at the commission where there isn't a lot of interest from capitol hill. just as an example, the commission does routinely thousands and thousands of license transfers every year that are between small private parties, and unless it's someone who's a constituent in that particular congressional district, there isn't a lot of attention from capitol hill on this. it's a very important part of the work of the commission. it needs to operate smoothly, and yet it's not something that they're hearing about every day from capitol hill. on the other hand, some of the issues that i mentioned and that boyier mentioned, those are issues that the commission probably does hear about on a fairly routine basis. >> host: the fact that congress
has been focused on issues other than those confronting the fcc recently such as budget issues and debt ceiling issues, does that prevent legislation such as cell phone unlocking, etc., from getting forward and getting through congress? >> guest: well, candidly, in almost any congress there are very few pieces of substantive legislation that have any chance of passage. the number of substantive pieces of legislation that any congress passes is one or two dozen. and the number that it's going to be related to telecommunications is once every few years if that. so it's a good bet to bet against congress doing substantive legislation on telecom issues in any given congress. that doesn't mean it doesn't
happen. a couple years ago congress did pass a law authorizing auctions including the broadcast spectrum auction. that happened, but i don't think congress is going to address telecom issues anytime soon. >> host: blair levin? >> guest: i agree with that. i do think that, you know, certain small pieces of legislation are not stopped by the budge negotiations -- budget negotiations. i think but you need a certain kind of force to get it through. i recall that i think it was a court out in ten very that overturned -- out in denver that overturned i believe the fcc's do not call list order, and congress fixed it within 48 hours because there was such a consumer outrage, or something like that. so you need some momentum to get something through. >> you both have mentioned the incentive auction, but there's an h block auction coming up much sooner, in february, which i coincidentally is just a couple weeks after the next deadline on
the continuing budget resolution and right about the time of the debt limit supposedly being hit again. how much gets done for an auction in those last few weeks and days before the auction actually takes place that if it were to shut down say for another 15 days and then come back up in early february, would that be devastating to trying to put the auction forward? would everything be in place normally by that time? >> guest: i think that auction is one that is consistent with auctions that have happened before, so it's less crucial, though i think it may well be pushed back because there are a lot of steps that have to be taken. the incentive auction is a much more complicated proceeding, certainly the most complicated auction the fcc has ever done. that requires an enormous amount of work. i think the staff is doing a great job. but they can't really move forward until wheeler gets there and the team that is actually going to run the auction is in place. so i worry more about that auction or the aws auction which
may come between those two. >> guest: the h block auction, as blair said, could get pushed back a few weeks. there are issues about who's going to show up for it and some of the specific rules associated with the auction that for any auction they change up to the last minute. every auction has had unique rules practically, and this one will be no exception. so there will be an effect be, but i don't think it'll be terribly long term. >> host: and finally, gentlemen, what's the lasting legacy, if any, of this shutdown? blair levin? >> guest: well, i agree with harold, you know, kind of in the long run it shouldn't have an impact but, of course, as john maynard keynes said, when lawmen are all dead, i fear this one actually is the beginning of a cycle for a variety of reasons that i think are very, very troubling for how we operate government.
and i think unless there is a very clear signal from leadership and from the electorate that, look, disagree, write laws, do whatever but don't shut down the government and don't play with the full faith and credit, unless that is clearly delivered, i hi the long-term implications are horrible. >> host: commissioner? >> guest: i think the long-term implications for the fcc probably are quite limited as blair said, and i agree we need to do something to get our budget structure in order. this is not a good way to run the government. but i do think there are serious, serious problems with the way we do budgets in the united states, and we need to get those in better shape. >> host: gentlemen, thank you for being on "the communicators," lynn stanton of "telecommunications reports." >> c-span, created by america's
cable companies in 1979, brought to you as a public service by your television provider. >> just ahead on c-span2, actor and gar rights activist george takei talks about his experiences in a world war ii interment camp and his advocacy for lgbt people. after that, pentagon officials discuss iran's nuclear program. >> north carolina governor pat mccrory speaks today at the heritage foundation about some of the challenges facing his state and the legislative initiatives to address them in economic development, energy, education and medicaid. he's also expected to discuss a voter id law he signed earlier year as well as legislation involving regulations for abortion clinics. you can watch his remarks live at noon eastern over on c-span.
>> this is eleanor roosevelt's typewriter. it was on this typewriter that mrs. roosevelt wrote her "my day" column. what i have here are some of the original drafts that i wanted to share. this first one is eleanor roosevelt's first "my day" column, and it sets the tone for the columns to follow. she's talking about the comings and goings at the white house after the holiday season. this clipping is a "my day" clipping from november 6, 1940, election day. she talks about how at midnight a larger crowd than usual came in from hyde park with a band and torches and wonderful play cards. the president went out to greet them. this was a tradition on election night, the roosevelts would come to hyde park, gather family around and await the election results. when they were announced, the folks from hyde park would march down, and the president would come out and greet them. >> first lady eleanor roosevelt tonight live at 9 eastern on c-span and c-span3, also on
c-span radio and c-span.org. >> 200-year-old clock stops ticking. time stands still. ohio clock, an easy metaphor for the government shutdown. >> we're standing just a few feet away from the main entrance to the united states senate chamber in the north extension of the capitol. the clock behind me here is the old clock in the united states capitol. it was commissioned for the united states senate in the year 1815, ordered from a philadelphia clock maker named thomas voight. >> just one of the many reasons why the c-span video archives are so amazing. >> the video library is amazing. you can view and share c-span programming anytime. it's easy, here's how. go to c-span.org and go to the video library to watch the newest video, go down to the most recent tab. click on what you want to watch and press play. you can also search the video library for a specific topic or
a keyword, or you can kind a person. just type in this their name, hit search and go to people. go to their bio page and scroll down to their appearances, and you can share what you're watching and make a clip. use the set buttons or handle tools, add a title and description and then click share and send it by e-mail, facebook, twitter or google plus. the c-span video library, search bl, easy and free. created by the cable tv industry and funded by your local cable or satellite provider. >> actor and same-sex rights advocate george takei recently talked about discrimination against lgbt people in the u.s. and abroad and his own experiences. in his speech to the national press club, he also spoke about his life, including detention in a japanese interment camp in world war ii and meeting dr. martin luther king jr. this event runs about an hour.
[applause] >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you very much. it's wonderful to be here at the national press club, but the feeling i have it's like a very elegant "star trek" convention. [laughter] and that reflects on your good taste and high standards. [laughter] it's wonderful to be back in washington at last. and it's wonderful to have washington back and working at last as well. [applause] bravo for that. [applause] i love washington.
and when we arrived in the early evening last night, i saw all the things that i love about washington. we were greeted by the national monuments in that dusky light. it was glowing white and luminous. and aye visited -- i've visited all those monuments many, many times and been inspired by the words written on it. and there is one few addition to that collection -- new addition to that collection of memorials here in washington that i have not visited, that that's the newest one, the memorial tribute to dr. martin luther king jr. and so the first thing we did this morning was grab a cab, and we went to the martin luther king jr. memorial. and we walked up to hit, and there was dr. king looming up out of that white stone.
he had his arms crossed, he was standing strong and determined. but i looked at that face, and i saw the gentleness and the compassion there. he is the only one of the american heroes memorialized that i have met and shaken hands with and conversed with. that is a very important and powerful, meaningful monument more me. and while looking at his face, i thought of those famous words of his, his dream, "i have a dream" speech. i have a dream, it is a dream that is deeply rooted in the american dream. i have a dream that on the red hills of georgia the sons of slaves and the sons of slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of
brotherhood. i have a dream. i have a dream that my two little children will live in a nation where my -- my four little children, he said, will be judged not by the color of their skins, but by the content of their character. those were inspiring words. and i remember marching with him and raising our voices in song with him. and those words from the "i have a dream" speech were spoken from the lincoln memorial. so we went over to the lincoln memorial and climbed those steps, and there was president lincoln looking majestic in his seat. and i thought of the words that all high school kids memorize, the gettysburg speech, government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. and i stepped further away and
looking northwest, i saw the kennedy center for the performing arts where i've been many, many times. and one of the things i enjoy going to see a play at the kennedy center is during the intermission i like to stroll along the river terrace and rated read the quotes from president kennedy on the marble wall there. i memorized one that particularly struck me. he said, i am certain that after the dust of the centuries have passed over our cities, we will be remembered not for the victories or defeats in the fields of battle or politics, but we will be remembered for our contribution to the human spirit; soaring ideals, soaring aspirations, american ideals. and from the steps of the
lincoln memorial, i looked out and i saw the vietnam war and the world war ii memorial. these were people who fought, who sacrificed and some died for those ideals of this country. then i looked beyond that, and there's the washington monument. currently clad in a temporary, artfully-designed scaffolding. [laughter] you laugh, but i thought it looked rather ethereal and at the same time having substance, soaring up there to the sky. and i looked beyond that, far beyond that, and i saw the national nuthouse. [laughter] [applause] the place where some whackos closed the government and throw
hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and then they turn around and say they're creating jobs. these whackos that disrupt funerals for military personnel who died abroad and then they say they're doing that to strengthen our military. it's absolutely crazy, absolutely irrational. and this on the other end of our national mall. total irrationality and the shining ideals of our nation. it's not two separate cities, it's the same city, and it's our national capital. and it is very representative of what america's all about. the irrational and the ideals. those two opposites have defined my life totally, because i grew
up as a child imprisoned in barbed wire american prison camps. pearl harbor was bombed, and overnight american citizens of japanese ancestry were looked at with suspicion and fear and outright hatred. but the despite that young japanese-americans, like all americans, rushed to their recruitment centers to volunteer to serve in the military. this act of patriotism was answered with a slap in the face. they were denied military service and labeled enemy, nonaliens. it was outrageous to call people who are voluntarily there to fight for this country the enemy. but to compound that by calling us nonaliens, what are they?
nonaliens? they're citizens defined in the negative. we became enemy nonaliens, and we were summarily rounded up at gunpoint and imprisoned in ten barbed wire american prison camps in some of the most desolate places in the country. i remember those barbed wire fences. i remember the tall zen try towers -- sentry towers with the machine guns pointed at us. i remember the search lights that followed me when i made the night run toss the latrine. but to tell you the truth, as a 5-year-old boy, i thought it was kind of nice that the search light lit the way for me to pee. [laughter] i was too young to really understand what was happening. children are amazingly adaptable. what would be grotesquely
abnormal became my normality behind those barbed wire fences. it became routine for me to line up three times a day to eat lousy food in a poise si mess hall -- noisy mess hall. it became normal for me to go with my father to bathe at a mass shower. it became normal for me to go to school in a black tar paper barrack. i could see the barbed wire fence and the sentry towers right outside my schoolhouse window as i recited the words "with liberty and justice for all." i was too young to appreciate the irony of those words. but for my parents it was the most painful, degrading and turbulent period of their lives. a year into imprisonment the
government realized there was a wartime manpower shortage, and so as suddenly as they rounded us up, today opened the military for service -- they opened the military for service by japanese-americans. and as astounding as it might sound, thousands of young japanese-americans -- the same ones that were rejected -- went from behind that barbed wire imprisonment, leaving their families in imprisonment, and volunteered to fight for this country. they were put into a segregated, all-japanese-american unit, the 4 42nd regimental combat team, and sent to the battlefields of europe. they were sent out on the most dangerous missions, ask they sustained -- and they sustained the highest combat casualty rate of any unit of its size. they fought with amazing
courage. they became heroes. and when the war ended, the 442nd returned to the united states as the most decorated unit of the entire war. and the american flag that covered the coffins of those that perished on those battlefields were delivered back to their wives or their parents still behind those barbed wire fences. stinging irony. that is a part of american history. when i became a teenager, i started reading civics books and history books. and i read about all the glorious chapters in american history. but i couldn't find anything about what i knew to be my childhood. so i engaged my father in conversations after dinner.
sometimes they became very heated. but from those conversations i got a better understanding of our democracy. my father said ours is a people's democracy, and it can be as great as the people can be, but it's also as fallible as people are. our democracy is vitally dependent on good people being actively engaged in the process. sometimes democracy's feet have to be put to the fire. and shortly after those conversations, my father took me to the adlai stevenson for president headquarters, and we volunteered in that campaign. and that was my introduction to electoral politics, and that was my introduction to advocacy for social justice. i became inspired by words of
dr. martin luther king, and i was actively involved in the civil rights movement. and when the vietnam war started, i joined in the anti-vietnam war movement. i became a member of the eipj, the entertainment industry for peace and justice, and worked alongside people like donald sutherland and jane fonda. and in 1972, i became a mcgovern delegate to the democratic national convention in miami beach. ..
except for one issue that was organic to me. that was a big part of me. from the time i was a young boy, i knew i was different in ways more than my asian face. the other boys would say, monica is hot. [laughter] sally is cute. i thought monica and sally were nice -- [laughter] but bobby was exciting. [laughter] whenever he came near meet or talk to me, my heart started to pound. but the other guys didn't feel that way. i was the only one, i thought.
i was very alone. and i had a need to be part of the gang, to be part of everybody. and so i acted like monica was hot and sally was cute. i dated girls. i went on double dates. i went to the senior prom. i played a part. but as i got older, i met others who were like me. and i discovered gay bars. i was comfortable there. people were friendly and they were who they were, as i could be who i was. i could relax. but i found something else that we shared in common. it was a fear. a fear of being exposed. we were living double lives.
they told me about some gay bars that got raided by the police, and the patrons there were all herded out and put on, loaded onto paddy wagons, taken to the police station, fingerprinted, photographed, and put on a list called deviance. that was a fearsome thing. so whenever i walked into a new gay bar, i always looked for the exits. we lived in constant, ever present fear of being exposed. but in 1969, to earthshaking events happened in my life. the first one was star trek got canceled.
[laughter] i have been working on a tv series for three seasons, and the ratings were low and the network had the numbers to justify cancellation. and i was unemployed. but as low as the ratings were, star trek was a respected show and it was a good credit. and so i needed to parlay that, and build some momentum to continue my career year and all the way across the country, on the east coast in new york city, something else happened. there was a gay bar they are called the stonewall inn. it's patrons were gays and lesbians, and some drag queens. and on that july summer afternoon, the police decided to raid the stonewall inn. but this time something different happened.
the people inside the bar had had enough. they weren't going to take more of that bullying and harassment. they fought back. those drag queens stood strong on their high heeled shoes and started throwing things. empty beer bottles, salt shakers, chairs, everything that they could throw. and they fought fiercely, and forced the police to retreat. they called for reinforcements, but in the meantime inside the stonewall inn, phone calls were made to friends all around greenwich village and by the -- and by the time the police reinforcements arrived, people have been pouring out of the greenwich village buildings, and they attacked the reinforcement people with stones and trash cans, and one of else they could throw. a major riot ensued, and that
riot continued for six nights straight. and that was the beginning of the gay liberation movement. it was the buzz and all the gay bars across the nation. all were thrilled and excited and motivated and galvanized. but i was silent. i had a career to protect. and then i had many relationships with many men, some brief, some more, and then i met a guy named brad. [laughter] [applause] he was a runner and i was a runner, but he was a great runner. he was lean than --
[laughter] he was tight muscled, and he was handsome. and he was the best runner that i have ever seen. i heard he had run a few marathons, and i had never run a marathon. so i asked him to train me for my first marathon. [laughter] and i finished that first marathon, thanks to brad, and we became great running buddies. and soon we became more than running buddies. he moved in with me. and he, too, shared the fear that i had, this constant, ever present fear of being exposed. he was a young journalist. he wasn't a member of the national press club yet.
but he had to protect his career as well. and then in the 80s, a strange, mysterious disease started affecting a lot of our friends. they suddenly became very ill and started drastically losing weight, and became skeletal and had to be rushed to hospital frequently. and we were outraged by the kind of care that they got. it was perfunctory at best. the treatment that they got was reprehensible. it was aids. organizations begin to form to demand appropriate funding for research to find some way of dealing with this horrible disease. and it wasn't forthcoming. and so we, for the first time,
donated money to a gay related organization. but we remain silent. but the horror kept getting worse. our constant fear have now turned to care. -- turned to terror. it kept getting worse and worse and worse. and so i marched in my first aids walk. i became physically present on the issue, but i marched as an ally, a cloak to disguise me. but it kept getting worse and worse. and gay organizations, gay and lesbian organizations became very vocal and very visible. and that generated the homophobic blowback, and they were connected. they had policies -- some were
gay politicians, members of that homophobic group. and they started institutionalizing their homophobia. they passed laws to confine us. "don't ask, don't tell," defense of marriage act. those laws to me looked like barb wire, legalistic barb wire with a sharp, hard barbs of prejudice and ignorance. and still i remained silent. but exciting, positive things started happening. the california legislature, both houses, the senate and the assembly, passed the marriage equality bill in 2005. it was a landmark event. it was unprecedented.
all th it required was a signate of our governor to become the law of the state. the governor who happened to be at that time arnold schwarzenegger. when he campaigned for that office, he said, i'm from hollywood. i've worked with gays and lesbians. some of my best friends are gays and lesbians. so i thought surely he would sign the signed that bill. when he vetoed the bill serving to his arch conservative republican base, we were enraged, but we were at home watching the news. and on the news we saw young people pouring out onto santa monica boulevard, venting their rage on arnold schwarzenegger. and we shared that rage but we were at home, comfortable in bed. and we talked about it, and that's when i decided i've got to speak out on this issue. we are getting so close, and we
have people like schwarzenegger just to squash it. i've got to speak out. and for me to speak my voice had to be authentic. and so i spoke to the press for the first time as a gay man. and we became actively and vocally and visibly engaged. i joined with the hrc, the human rights campaign, and went on the national speaking tour. i spoke at universities, at governmental agencies, at corporate meetings. i came to washington and lobby our legislators. i went to sacramento and we lobbied our legislators. and things begin to happen. in california, our state supreme court in 2008 world that
marriage equality is indeed constitutional, according to the california state constitution. and so brad and i immediately seized that opportunity and got our wedding license in west hollywood. we were the first couple to get that license. and we were married in the democracy forum of a japanese-american national museum. we loved the idea of adding -- of getting married in the forum of democracy. and we had 200 of our relatives and friends there with us. and amongst them was a distinguished american. he is a veteran -- he was a veteran of the second world war, a member of the 442nd regimental combat team, a better of the medal of honor, the highest recognition, military recognition the nation can grant.
and he was the senior senator from the state of hawaii, a very good friend of ours, the late senator daniel inouye. he was there as our guest at our wedding, and we were absolutely thrilled. other good things started to happen. the matthew shepard-james byrd, jr. hate crimes prevention act was passed. "don't ask, don't tell" fell, and now gays and lesbians can serve proudly and openly as who they are. they are true patriots, having gone through that period of silence. and this summer the supreme court of the united states ruled that marriage equality is indeed constitutional in the states that approved it. 13 states, plus the city, our national capital, has marriage
equality, but our work is not done yet. when i pledge allegiance to the flag, i pledge of allegiance to one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. we have divided our nation one-third with equality, and two-thirds with people who hunger for equality but do not have it. our work is not done, but i am optimistic because recently in california, the california field poll showed that 78% of young people under 39 support, and support strongly, equality for lgbt. 78%, it's a matter of time here i'm very optimistic, and i love young people.
especially young, straight couples, because they are going to be making a gay babies of tomorrow. [laughter] [applause] and it is for them that we have to be agents today. because my life has been shaped and formed by people that i consider change agents. those young men who went from behind those prison camp fences to fight for this country, and some to die for this country, they changed america for us, japanese-americans, and they were my change agents. my parents were also my change agents. when we were let out of the camp, our first home was on skid row in downtown los angeles. we didn't have anything.
and from that, by working long, hard hours, they gave their three children fine educations in outstanding, great american universities. the university of california at berkeley, the university of california at los angeles. the university of southern california, and marquette university in wisconsin. they were our change agents. and yet, those drag queens at the stonewall in also are my change agents. this nation has been defined by change agents. when this nation was founded, women had no rights. they couldn't vote, they couldn't own land, they couldn't even have rights over their own children. but because determined women and
fair-minded man challenged and debated and march for equal rights for women, that today we have three women sitting on the supreme court of this country. we've had three women serve as u.s. secretaries of state. and we've had a woman astronaut leads a team of astronauts and go soaring out into space. they were all change agents. the first change agents were our founding fathers who articulated the shining ideals of this country. they would change agents, but they also kept other human beings as slaves. and because those slaves hungered for freedom and justice, and they struggled for it, and because their children and their grandchildren, and the generations that followed, continued their struggle,
through the jim crow years and through the years of the civil rights movement, inspired by dr. king's eloquence, today we have an african-american in that big white house on pennsylvania avenue. and they are all change agents. we are a nation of change agents. and that's why i'm optimistic about our future. but i still have a continuing, ever present fear. i fear that big white building with the dough on it at the far end of pennsylvania avenue. we still have january 15 and february 7. be afraid, america. be afraid. thank you very much. [applause]
>> thank you. we have as you might imagine a lot of questions on a lot of topics. will try to cover a little ground in a bunch of areas. this questioner asked, you talked about the work yet to be done in terms of gay marriage being legal in all states. what do you see as the next civil rights light on the horizon after gay marriage? >> we still have a long way to go. as long as there are young people bullied and made to feel very inferior, as long as young people get kicked out of their homes when they come out as gay
or lesbian, and as long as some young people feel that their future is so hopeless and they kill themselves, we have a lot to do. we have to have, first of all, education and then some legislation to make sure that those horrible things don't happen to young people. >> this questioner says, are first generation americans whose parents are not as progressive and liberal as many parents born in the u.s., what advice do you have for bringing up touchy subjects such as being gay? >> that's very difficult, and it depends on the culture from which that first generation parent comes from. i'm most a minor with the asian culture, and particularly the japanese culture.
the japanese culture is not so, shaped and ruled by religion as it is here, the bible. it's primarily a buddhist nation, which the culture is to work collectively, and it's a very -- they have a big middle class and so there's a lot of utilitarianism. because it's a collective society, they like everything to be like everybody else. and it's so much not religious values, but being a part of a comfortable society. so for young people to come out in a society like that, there isn't that fear of being struck
down by the devil or anything like that. the concern is it will embarrass the family. and once society is educated, it's not going to be an embarrassing thing. and that's what i think it's so important for more silent gays and lesbians, particularly in the asian culture, to come out in the open and be as they are, insurance salesmen, schoolteacher, policeman, whatever you are. and it makes it more socially acceptable. there was a quote that i was going to suggest putting on congress, the walls of congress, because i use a lot of quotes on the memorial. and what i think of is a quote
from a great former congressman who said, in these days it's more socially acceptable to be gay than to be a congressman. [laughter] i think that should be carved in to the walls. >> you talked about your enjoyment of running, and to carry the 1984 olympic torch. you called on the international olympic committee, the 2014 winter games out of sochi because of russia's laws banning the promotion of gay relationships. with the games less than four months away do think the u.s. should boycott those games for that reason? >> no, i don't believe in a boycott. because the athletes that participate in the olympics have been training for years now, and they are reaching their peak and they should not be penalized. the homophobic laws in russia that was passed recently, when
they made the presentation to the ioc, the international olympic committee, the have the right to present the winter olympics at sochi, russia, they pledged to honor the olympic code which says no discrimination. they breached that pledge. russia needs to be punished, but it's too late to pull it out of sochi now. and we've sent messages and petitions to the international olympics committee to be responsible and to call them, call rush out on the breaching of their pledge. apparently, they had some confrontations with politicians there and a couple of politicians have been quoted. the minister of interior, who controls the police, said the loss of russia will be honored,
and anyone who cannot will be tried. the olympics committee reported that there is nothing we can do about it, so we are comfortable about the olympics being staged in sochi. the international olympic committee is spineless. they need to have some backbone. because they are charged with upholding the olympic creed, and something should be done with the membership of the ioc. [applause] >> this questioner says she did not learn about the internment of japanese-americans until she was in high school watching farewell -- how do you feel about the lack of awareness of this chapter of american history? >> that is a very regrettable
part of american history. i think we learn more from those chapters of our history where we faltered then from the many, many glorious chapters that would have. and it's important that we learn from our mistakes. and if we don't know about it, we will keep repeating the same mistakes again. that's why we founded the japanese american national museum. we are an affiliate of the smithsonian. we send our exhibits throughout the country. as a matter of fact, sender in a way was the chairman of our board of governors. he was a strong and active supporter of the museum. and we worked with the teachers association in arkansas. that's where we are first incarcerated, and southeastern arkansas. we've established teaching curriculum on this subject of
the internment of japanese-americans. and it's being taught in the little rock schools. that's sent out its ripple effects. they were to internment camps in arkansas, old in the swamps of the southeastern sector. we were at a camp called roar, and there was another camp called jerome. and in the middle of those two internment camps is a small town called mcgee. and they recently, earlier this year as a matter of fact, converted an abandoned railway station into the world war ii japanese american internment museum. it is a small museum, but it's very comprehensive and beautifully done. so if any of you should be driving around southeastern arkansas, you might visit that museum in métis, arkansas.
>> what is the status of allegiance in your musical about the internment of japanese-americans win is likely to come to broadway next win is unlikely to tour in d.c.? >> allegiance begin about three years ago. we developed these musical and we developed it because we can have books and lectures and talks about the internment, which helps us understand up here intellectually, but the most powerful way to understand the story is to feel that story. and musical theater hits you here, emotionally. it humanizes that story. and so we developed allegiance, and we first opened at the old globe theatre in san diego, a distinguished regional theater. we were greeted with rave
reviews, and that was followed by sold-out houses. and our run was extended another week, and when we finally closed, we have broken all box office attendance records at the 77 year old, old globe theater. and then we won the best musical of 2012 from the san diego critics circle. so that all bodes well for our transfer to broadway. however, something unusual is happening this year. usually there are few new plays and musicals coming in to broadway, and there are theaters that are dark. this year, we have a plethora of musicals and dramas, trying to find a theater and broadway.
and we are particularly fussy. we want a certain size capacity theater. we are looking for a theater around 1200-1400 seats. it's very difficult to come by. so we are like vultures perched on times square buildings looking down, looking for the weak ones and waiting for them to die. [laughter] >> moving on to social media. you're known as the king of space but for everything from grumpy cats to this week opinions on aging. what have you learned from your popularity on social media? any surprises that you discovered in networld? >> well, let me give you a little background on why and how my social media activities started. and its related to allegiance. we developed these musical.
we invested a lot in it, both our energies, our ideas, and our resources. but it's about something that's a little known in america, and it's a rather unhappy chapter of american history. and so first of all, we had to raise the awareness because there's so many people still to this day, people that seem well informed who tell me i knew nothing about this internment story. so we had to raise the awareness of americans about the internment of japanese-americans. and then once the awareness is raised, we wanted to let them know that there's a musical on it. and there are wonderful songs, moving songs and great production numbers that are jazzy and razzmatazz.
broadway musical numbers. there's one on baseball that the real terrific number. and it's relevant to the story because it was playing baseball that made us a community. it brought us all together. and so we developed this musical and we want to let people know that there is this musical. and then to whet your appetite and make them want to come and see. and so the best way to do that is via social media. and so i began on social media, but my base is made up of sci-fi geeks and nerds. [laughter] you are there, yes, icu. [laughter] [applause] so we had to develop that in the best way to do that i thought was to say funny things about
sci-fi, or science itself. and then occasionally, you know, so in some serious tidbits in. and as the audience grew, i talked about lgbtq quality. and suddenly the audience grew even more. because there's a great overlap between sci-fi geeks and nerds and the lgbt community. [laughter] and then i started blogging about the internment of japanese-americans, and it opened a few eyes there. there was a lot of engagement there. and it kept growing and growing, and so that's why we begin the social media campaign. what i learned is that there are millions of people out their. [laughter] i had no idea it was going to grow so big. i am absolutely astounded. i mean, you know, it's like
topsy from uncle tom's cabin. i just grew. [laughter] and so what i've learned is that there are a lot of people out there that you can reach via social media, and the best honey to catch those lies with his humor. something funny will always grab them. >> and we have a couple questions about parental. tells about the genesis of that. spink somehow oh, my has become my signature. i have been using it all my life, because it's a word that, when you surprise come you say oh, my. when something wonderful happens you say oh, my. and then, you know, when you see a beautiful sunrise, a radiant sunrise you say ohh, myyy.
or when we land a man on the moon you say ohh, myyy. it's a very handy and all encompassing word. [laughter] i've been using it all the time, but i had one experience that started it all off as my signature. i did the howard stern show, and -- yes, there is a howard stern fan. and you know, howard stern is a lot of outrageous things. so i in response said something outrageous and he said, i said ohhh, myyy. [laughter] he had it on tape. that's all he needed. so whether i'm there or not -- [laughter] when someone says something outrageous, he is a button and the president and my voice comes on, ohhh, myyy. [laughter] [applause]
>> we certainly can't be today without a star trek question or two. one person as how did your fellow cast members embrace your coming out? >> at the end of the week we have what we call rap parties. the beer is rolled out and the pizza is brought in. and people bring their wives or girlfriends or the women bring their husbands or their boyfriends with them to join us for the end of the week wrap party. and initially i was bringing my friends who happened to be girls, but later i started bringing my buddies. one day they would be wrong, and the next week there might be mel, then another week there might be a brad. you know, they are sophisticated
people. they said, oh, george. [laughter] i did it. but they understand that if they talked about it, it would be damaging to my career, and they are cool people, so they remained silent. but occasionally i get clues from them. when we report to the studio in the morning, before we go to our dressing rooms, we go to make up, give in to make up and then gather around the coffee urn and sip coffee. this particular morning i was at the coffee urn with walter and we were chitchatting. and all of a sudden, walter starts going like this -- you know, urging me to turn around. so i turned around to look, and
there was this dropdead gorgeous extra. [laughter] dressed in that tight starfleet uniform. [laughter] and my heart stopped. and then i turned around and looked at walter, and walter was mining and he went -- [laughter] -- walter was smiling and he went -- [laughter] i knew he knew now. >> we are unfortunately almost out of time, but before asking the last question just a couple of housekeeping matters to take it. i would like to remind you of our upcoming speakers. on november 5, we have goldie hawn, actress and founder of her foundation. on november 11, the president and ceo of the charles schwab corporation. i would like to present our guest with the traditional national press club coffee mug.
spent well, thank you. [applause] >> thank you. >> and for the last question, tell us, are there gave balkans? and if so, how did they socialize? >> i can answer that. it's a changed world now. we have a new version of star trek. the last two movies have younger actors playing out roles. the actor who plays spock, a vulcan, is played by an actor who is gay. we have an out gay vulcan and he happens to be spock. [laughter] and zachary is a real great guy, and he's also a very serious actor. as you know, he was on heroes
and i was the powerful, wealthy, mysterious father of the one who has magical powers. zachary was the villain in that. he had evil powers. but after the series was canceled he went to new york and he had been doing off-broadway plays. and he did a very challenging role in a great american drama, angels in america, playing the gay attorney. or he was not an attorney yet but a very important, dramatic, demanding role and he got very good reviews for that. and he just opened on broadway with a wonderful actress, cherry jones, and one a couple of tony
awards in tennessee williams glassman rate. he got luminous reviews. i think he was, but "the new york times" that said he was the best tom wingfield that he had ever seen, and there have been many, many tom wingfield's. so zach is a wonderful actor. as a matter of fact, we had tickets to see him in the glassman rape tomorrow, as a matter fact that we are headed to new york -- glass ménage a rate tomorrow. so he is a day vulcan. that's how they celebrate, they become serious actor's. [applause] >> thank you. thank you for coming today. out also like to thank our national press club staff for helping organize today's event.
and here's a reminder you can find more information about the press club is was a copy of today's program on our website, www.press.org. thank you. we are adjourned. [applause] >> north carolina governor speaks today at the heritage foundation to keep up with some of the challenges facing his state and the legislative initiative to address them in theirs including economic development, energy, education and medicaid. he is expected to discuss a voter id law he signed earlier this year as well as legislation involving regulations for abortion clinics. you can watch this live at noon eastern on c-span.
>> one thing that's interesting, not that important 95, i think it is critical now, was the certifications of mobile devices. because all these devices that litter the hundreds of millions of americans have, you can look and see the stamp on it because we have to assure they don't interfere with each other. back in 95, there weren't that many mobile phones going through the process. but now it's important. you have a big battle between apple and samsung and motorola and others. indeed, that certification. they make plans, they have a billions of dollars in advertising. and suddenly whatever the plans were, they get delayed by a number of days so that's a real cost. >> we've had several budget disputes. i think they stem from the budget control act of 1974 if this occurs almost every day. there some crisis that goes on, and yet after 40 years of his we
still are not very good at figuring out how to operate the government. spent the effects of the shutdown on the fcc tonight on "the communicators" at eight eastern on c-span2.stion. >> i never ever asked a negativs question. i think it's insulting to the person you want to talk to, andn it creates a bad impression about what you were doing. you are asking for someone'suse time because you need neednformi information that willon lead you to a better understanding ofect. your subject. sometimes you get negative information when you really you don't want it and you haven't kw even asked for it.remember clina i know, i remember calling a irman to ask her about a senatef oives luncheon in honor of theit first lady. she said to me, quote, i knowyou why you are calling. you want me to repeat those us y nasty things thates nancy reaga. was telling us yesterday about barbara bush.
[laughter]ante >> actually, all i wanted to find out was how much money to send wise had raised for mrs. r mrs. reagan's drug abuse fund. in that telephone call i got i t more than as for, and i used every single word dauphiné libére. >> presidential history, intrigue and american culture. kitty kelley will sit down for your calls and comments live for three hours beginning at noon eastern sunday november 3 on both tvs in depth. in the months ahead look for other guests including feminism credit christian hot summers on december 1 and mark live in january 5. right now online at a booktv bookclub other viewers reading walking with the wind by john lewis. see what others are saying and post your own comment. find out more at the tv.org/bookclub.
>> next form officials from the pentagon and the united nations to discuss iran's nuclear programs. they provide a historical perspective to the issue and offer their views on u.s. policy. this event took place on the eve of talks last week in geneva between delegations from iran and the so called p5 plus one members to the u.s., russia, china, britain, france plus germany. this event was hosted by the national iranian american council. runs about 90 minutes. >> [inaudible conversations] >> good morning, everyone. i'm trita parsi. welcome to the second day of
niac's annual leadership conference. a letter to have you all here. i am extremely impressed that all of the iranians were here on time. really -- rarely happens but it shows that there's significant improvement in the political culture of the iranian american community and the last couple of years. were delighted to have you with us today some of the most thoughtful, knowledgeable and people with in depth analysis of the situation between the united states and iran. in fact, i would say we've done plenty of conferences. we've done plenty of panels on this very issue. never before has there been a panel that has been such a way that we can say that the atmosphere has been as optimistic as it seems to be right now. for good or for perhaps not warranted reasons. today we will be joined first to my far right is giandomenico picco, a former undersecretary of the united nations and has
spent a tremendous amount of time dealing not only with diplomacy but specifically with iran. i would say that is one of the individuals, probably the individual in this country that has had more successful negotiations with the iranian government since the 1980s, whether it is from the time of mediating the end of the iraq-iran war to releasing hostages in lebanon. he is now the president of the gdp associates and is based in new york. to my immediate right we have professor mohsen milani is executive director of the center for strategic and and diplomatic studies and professor of politics at the university of south florida. you cannot have paid any attention to u.s.-iran relations without coming across this excellent analysis, the latest ones being published by foreign affairs. is published more than 60 publications on this issue, has probably interviewed everyone that matters within the iranian political system.
delighted to b have you with uss well. also on the phone due to one small complication we have former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the middle east, colin kahl, professor at georgetown university. those who follow the sea politics or on the circuit in this town know that he has one of the loudest and most respected voices on u.s.-iran relations in washington, d.c. he served in the obama administration up until i believe a year, year and half ago and is now back at his old job and is a professor at georgetown university but continued to be very active and published several publications on this very topic. are you here with us? >> i am, thanks. i am the voice of beyond spent he is the ghost in the room. very good. so if i were to start, and get like this, never before has there been so much optimism but the flipside of that is that this may also be the last best
chance to actually get something results. is it the last best chance to resolve this nuclear issue? >> do you want me to -- good morning to all of you. i want to thank you for inviting me, and express my great appreciation to what you and your organizations have been doing for the iranian american community. so thank you for a wonderful job you have done. keep up the great work. >> thank you. >> former secretary of defense once said, you go to war with the army that you have. not with the army that you want to have. you negotiate with a government that you have, not with the government that you would like to have. i think today i can say with great deal of confidence that the rouhani administration is the best, best possible government that the islamic republic of iran can produce.
and if the u.s. government cannot deal with this kind of government, i'm afraid it cannot deal with any other government. as long as the current leadership, that is as long as ayatollah khamenei is in power. i'm cautious optimistic but i also understand that there are incredible obstacles ahead of both for president obama in this country and for mr. rouhani in iran. we have had 32 years of mutual demonization. we've had 33 years of animosity, hostility between iran and the united states. in fact, the two countries have been at war, a secret war against one another and, therefore, one cannot expect that relationship to be improved quickly. we should understand that it's going to take a long time for the relationship to reach a level where we can say it has become normal. however, when we think about the
u.s.-iran relationship, we should make a distinction between the nuclear negotiations, between iran and the u.s. and the group of five plus one, and relationship between iran and the united states. i would argue that we have a better chance of resolving the first issue that is the nuclear issue and we have up improving the relationship between the two countries. in iran there are people who oppose globalization to they include the revolutionary guard, the important office of the revolutionary guard. there are people who are ideologically against any kind of rapprochement but most importantly that our people who have benefited financially in the past 30 years from these sanctions, and they are going to oppose it. in this country we have the neocons who are opposing any kind of rapprochement. we have a congress of the united states and, of course, we have a lot of people who still remember
the hostage crisis and feel very uncomfortable about having a relationship. and then at the regional level we have state of israel who is very concerned about the possible rapprochement but much more important is saudi arabia, which is very much afraid of a kind of rapprochement between iran and the united states. >> i want to get back to both israel and saudi arabia but before we go there, professor milani said this is the best possible government that the islamic republic can produce but and if the united states cannot work it out with them again or get out that all. but at the same time you turn that around and say the obama administration is the best possible administration the united states can produce when it comes to something like this. by the iranians capable of dealing with the obama administration? >> i'm sorry, i cannot reveal a
secret. i think it's important to contribute to answering your question by perhaps recalling what israeli -- not only being recalled but actually known, to a large part of players in the world about iran. and i would like to mention two practical facts. everybody mentions facts, and sometimes \facts/fax don't tally. and i also come to you in one second. i like to remember in this conversation that over the last 31 years, the islamic republic of iran and the west, mostly the u.s., have been involved in negotiations at least 12 times. 12 different kind of negotiations. i know. i only refer to negotiation that was either mainly involved, and
negotiation i was marginally involved, negotiation where both actors in formin me of what thee done. 12 negotiations, 11 were successful. nobody seems to remember this. of course, i did because it was my life. i probably after member is otherwise i deny who i am. this starts really from the beginning, and it's difficult during the 80s, but they were successful negotiations. in my view in my judgment the greatest success negotiation between iran and the united states of course was done not by me but by the government of the u.s. and iran, and it was the end of 2001, which was the negotiation to reinvent afghanistan as we all know. the bond agreement between the u.s. and iran for the makings of afghanistan was a great disagreement between the two countries. there have been others, of
course, and delighted to tell you since i was involved in so many of them, they were also successful the ones in bonn for another reason. i would disagree on one aspect. i'm very fond of the negotiation in bonn, first of all, because they were so significant that we can hardly diminish it. but also because they were performed, so to speak, in a very simple and by now formula which was in line with times. we all know that something happened in 1992 in the world changed, bipolar world change. the number of variables or anybody increase all of a sudden and modus operandi had to change and those who do not change do not succeed. the afghan negotiations were relevant because they showed that though there were $6 in
bonn, at some point as you know in a very simple and elegant way, for countries went for tea and to went for coffee and that's why there were bilateral successful negotiation. the other thing that i would like to mention here is that the paradoxically, curiously, you choose the subject. of the 12 negotiations i mentioned to you, and i can testify not because i read a book, because i was there, and all of those negotiations, i had a good fortune of dealing with the man who had been involved in all these negotiations. you would not have had the freedom of american despite my eye progress and despite agreement we made with rafsanjani. you would not have had many of the successful negotiations without zarif. and i say this not just because he has been a friend for a long
time, but because another reason. you do not negotiate with the country, is my statement. you negotiate with the person in front of you. and you do not negotiate on a theory of negotiation. i asked myself the question the first time i was kidnapped in lebanon. spent the first time? >> locked up in a carpet usually that makes you think. usually, i hope it doesn't happen to you every day. and when that happened, you ask yourself, who can teach you how to negotiate when you're blindfolded in the middle of the night? ..
>> i said, why do you ask? i said, do you want to know where i was born? my place of birth is the eastern alps. my identity is my tribe, as moral as they come, and that's what i was made growing up on the very physical border of the iron curtain. that's how my narrative develops. the narrative of the person in front of you is irrelevant. the russians were right, the kgb did a tremendous job in that regard, those who knew and dealt with the soviet union at the
time who know. unfortunately, the machine of the soviet union collected so much about narrative of individuals, and the system could not benefit from that. by the time '92 came, i was told what happened with my father this be russia. anyway, what i'm saying is for the time being, and i apologize for being long, but i wanted to make a point here about negotiating with individuals. we have the great opportunity not only to have in front of us a man called jahvid zarif, but i think we are all here intelligent enough to understand that the way we negotiated in the '80s is gone. doesn't apply. the way we negotiated in the '90s is gone. why? because the region has changed. the region has changed. three years ago when the syrian affair started, i had impudence to say let's forget about calling this a syrian civil war. this is a chess game between
saudi arabia and iran. we all know what the first one was, and we know what the second one was. this is the third chess game. that is the entire architecture from lebanon to the hindu kush. it's no more. and we have to operate now in a region which is totally different than it was even ten years ago. and if we don't look in the eyes of the person we negotiate and we don't know why and we keep saying we have to negotiate with iran, well, how do you negotiate with iran? you've never done anything with iran. if you -- [inaudible] you will know that you cannot negotiate in the same way. they were totally different. the negotiating with president rafsanjani was done on the basis of back and forth. the -- [inaudible] done with the president was a totally different affair. because the man was different.
because each man is different. and so the story of how do you negotiate with iran makes me laugh. it's a declaration of ignorance. you negotiate with the persons. >> if we take it from the point that you're making, that this is about the man you negotiate with and in this specific case in geneva tomorrow the man that will be heading the negotiations is the very person that you have negotiated and that you are praising, if i could bring in colin into this, on the iranian side there will be a very experienced negotiator who has a narrative. there's also a person from the u.s. side, colin, that could perhaps match that narrative, and his name is secretary john kerry. he will not be the negotiator, however. are we to take anything of that? is that relevant, or is that a miles per hour point, that the iranians are sending the foreign minister, and the united states not sending its secretary of
state? >> i don't think so, actually. i think this meeting was always scheduled to be at the political director level. i think zarif decided that he wanted to attend so that he could put his stamp on the negotiations. my understanding is he will make a presentation, he'll stay for a few hours, and then he'll depart leaving it to his deputy to continue the conversation with the p5+1. you know, my sense is that if the iranians come back with a serious offer and there's every indication that they're thinking about doing that, that i would not be surprised if there is a very fast follow-up meeting at the ministerial level or even potentially a bilateral. i don't have any direct information for that, but i think president obama and secretary kerry, you know, seem to be very, very interested in what the iranians have to say. but i suspect they're not going to invest a considerable amount of additional capital at the highest levels until they hear what the iranian team actually does present to the p5+1 in
geneva. so i wouldn't make too much of it. i also think it wouldn't just have to be john kerry, you know, it would have to be at the ministerial level across the representatives of the p5+1. this isn't just a u.s./rapp thing. i would also say that, you know, it's good news that according to reports that the iranian team and the american team will also meet separately which hasn't happened in a number of years. so that's all good. i would just a couple of points based on the previous speakers. i think, trita, i would agree that we are at a diplomatic inflection point. i think things could either go really well or things could deteriorate. we probably have a greater opportunity to make diplomatic progress for all the reasons that have been mentioned. there's an iranian team that is both talented but, i think, also committed to trying to find some way to reach an accommodation on the nuclear file.
i think you also have an administration in washington that is open to diplomacy, although clear-eyed about the requirements for success. but i think there's another thing that's driving urgency which is a technological factor, and that is that sometime in the next year or so the iranian nuclear program if it stays on its current course could start to hit some milestones that could be very, very problematic from the u.s. perspective, from the israeli perspective and, i think, from the per spect be i have of many in the international community. and that is while they're not likely to develop a nuclear weapon anytime in the next year or so, they may hit a threshold sometime in the next 12-18 months where they would have the ability to move so rapidly towards the explosive material for nuclear weapons that they could not be detected. and it's at that so-called breakout point that i think decisions related to when diplomacy comes to an end may
have to be, may have to be reached. so i think there's a technological urgency. i think we have a real opportunity. but if the diplomacy given all of these factors, if the diplomacy in the current environment stalls or collapses, i'm very concerned that you'll have spoilers on all sides whether that be hard liners in tehran who will use any failure of diplomacy to bludgeon rouhani and zarif or whether that be policy hawks in washington who take the failure of diplomacy as a sign that the window is finally closed and that it's time to move in a different direction. and that direction may be to go all in on sanctions for the purpose of regime change which i think is the goal of some in washington, and others will call for military action. so i'm hopeful, cautiously hopeful, but i'm also concerned that if there's not real progress, things could go badly. the last point i would make is,
though, that that is not an argument for to sign up to a bad deal. i think that there is a good enough deal out there that would put meaningful restraints on iran's enrichment activities, its, you know, substantially expand international inspections, reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, take a number of other steps that would prevent this breakout -- >> colin, i want to get to -- >> that is a good deal, and we should, we should go for a deal like that. but we should not go for one that doesn't put meaningful limits on iran's program, and i'll stop there. >> colin, i want to get back to the contours of a deal that is possible in a minute, but while i have you, i just want to ask you another question. you've been involved in these negotiations, you've been deep inside the u.s. government preparing, and as a result, you may be a good person to answer this. we ask ourselves legitimately, perhaps a little bit too often though, can the iranians deliver. and we're looking at their power structure, and we're wondering
whether rouhani is powerful enough to be able to strike a deal, whether hard liners will prevent it, etc. but are we, perhaps, not being sufficiently self-reflective? because we are right now in the middle of a u.s. government shutdown. part of the reason why everyone could show up on time today was because there's no traffic in washington right now. and that is the, you know, the ultimate manifestation of the u.s. government currently not functioning. how will that affect the negotiations? how will the united states be able to deliver on the type of sanctions relief, etc., that i'm sure you would agree would be necessary to get to that good deal that we're going to talk about in a while if the u.s. government simply isn't functioning and there is nothing short of a war going on between the president and powerful elements in congress? >> look, i think it's, i think it's a real issue. i think it's hard to communicate across a whole range of issues internationally whether washington can function because,
apparently, washington can't function. >> that's encouraging. [laughter] >> i mean, the good news is at least for the initial stages of a deal you wouldn't require congressional action. i think that the president and the administration as a whole has enough discretion as it relates to suspending and waiving some sanctioning if the iranians come forward with a real and meaningful deal that at least for some period of time the administration probably has enough discretion to do something on the sanctions front without congress. the real challenge is not in the immediate term. the real challenge is if, you know, if a series of confidence building or interim steps is actually successfully implemented, then the administration would have to make the case to congress for more enduring sanctions relief, and that will be a very tough sell. in part for the reasons that you mentioned, trita, we apparently, you know, there's at least a group of individuals in congress
who will oppose the president on everything and its opposite, so it wouldn't actually matter what the substance is. it would just be that they to oaz the administration. and then there are others who are real policy hawks on the iran issue and will undoubtedly be skeptical of whatever deal comes out. so it'll be a real challenge. i don't think it's insurmountable, and i think the way you overcome it is by having a broad framework with a road map about where we're going to go and then some concrete, verifiable interim steps that are actually implemented on the iranian side. and if you can show that the iranians are not only negotiating in good faith, but actually changing their behavior, then i think you can forge a bipartisan consensus on the hill. but it'll be tough. but i think that's still several months down the road. >> on that specific front, how do you think the iranians are viewing this?
from the american side, the argument is the iranians have to put forward a serious proposal. do tehran and the rouhani government view washington as serious right now? and even if he wants to be serious, is it capable of being serious? is it perceived to be capable of being serious, and if not, what are the implications of that? >> well, on the part of iran, i think mr. rouhani or zarif, one of the two, said something very interesting. they said that they expect the american government to speak with one voice. which means that they understand the difficulties that president obama will have. from what i understand in their 15-minute conversation between the two prime ministers, obama told rouhani that i understand that you have a tough days and years ahead of you. please understand i have tough days and years ahead of me. so there are a lot of obstacles
to this. but when we speak of a deal between the u.s. and iran and when iran can deliver, i, to be honest with you, i think this is not a very intelligent question to ask. it depends what kind of a deal. if we follow what mr. netanyahu has said, that iran should have no enrichment activities or no nuclear program, this is not going to happen. no iranian regime can accept that. if we are talking about enrichment as an inalienable right of the islamic republic of iran and then we expect intrusive inspections by the international atomic energy agency and then perhaps temporarily close down -- maybe we are talking about something.
but in return, what is the u.s. willing to deliver to iran? as you correctly said, the days when zarif and rouhani negotiated with germany and the u.k. and france, those days are gone. in those days iran had 186 or 7 spinning centrifuges. today iran has over 18,000 of those centrifuges, and most importantly i believe, iran has developed the capability and infrastructure to build a bomb if it decides to do it. it's going to be tough, but i think they are more or less where they wanted to be all along. therefore, when we're talking about negotiations, we have to -- [inaudible] the reality of the middle east as you said has changed, but the reality of iran has also changed. after eight or nine years of
sanctions, devastating sanctions imposed on iran, those sanctions have hurt the iranian people, but they have not changed the calculus of the islamic republic of iran. when those sanctions started, iran had few centrifuges. now they have, as i said, over 18,000 of them. so we have to be realistic about what iran can deliver, but i think ayatollah aha maney who's -- ayatollah khamenei who is the ultimate decider in iran, he is a playing a clever game, extremely clever game. if you'll notice when we had that famous telephone call, supreme leader khamenei said a that while he embraces the diplomatic initiative by rouhani, by zarif, at the same time he said i am very critical of some aspects of what he was doing. then a day after his talk the commander of the revolutionary guard