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tv   Washington Journal Ben Rhodes  CSPAN  July 10, 2018 1:54pm-2:11pm EDT

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president trump is on his way to europe, stopping first in brussels for the nato summit with foreign leaders. after that, he will travel to the united kingdom for meetings with british prime minister theresa may and queen elizabeth at windsor castle. from there, the trip continues in finland and will hold formal talks with president vladimir putin, one-on-one session with translators. he returns to washington, d.c. once that series of meetings concludes. >> this morning, washington journal talks with ben rhodes about his new memoir as well as trump administration policy decisions. >> ben rhodes is former national security adviser with the obama administration, speech writer, as well, for the duration of the obama administration. joining us this morning to talk about his new book "the world as it is."
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you write in that book that the whole reason for coming to washington in the first place and later meeting then senator barack obama was your experience in new york on september 11th. tell us about that and how that brought you to washington. >> you know, i was on a totally different course in life. i wanted to be a writer. i was working on political campaigns. and on 9/11, it was election day. i was standing at a polling site and had a clear view of the second plane hitting and the first tower falling and i knew whatever i was going to do in my life -- i was 24 years old -- was going to be about what happened next, what the response to this was. i went to an army recruiter who didn't know what to do with an english major. i worked my way into foreign policy but felt i wanted to get involved in politics and that led me to the obama campaign. >> your meeting with barack
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obama fairly quickly thereafter he brought you on board, early in his campaign for the presidency? >> yeah. >> 2007? >> yeah. it was the spring of 2007. i had been doing basically free work for the obama campaign and got called into a debate prep session where they sit around and go through the issues that he has to deal with in the upcoming presidential debate. there fs, feet up, head of all his advisers. i felt like i couldn't speak in paragraphs. i framed my advice to him in questions. they were debating whether or not he should vote for a bill that would fund the iraq war and he liked that approach in terms of trying to identify what the common sense case is. you're not for this policy. you have a different many policy. why would you vote for this? ultimately i got hired as both speech writer and foreign policy adviser. >> not to give away the end of the book or whatever but you write in the beginning, in one of the last trips with barack
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obama in 2016 and he asks you, what if we were wrong? which kind of started you. did this book help clarify that answer for you? >> yeah. i wrote that book, having answered that question and experiencing eight years of history and having the end be so much of what we were looking for with donald trump's election. what he was referring to there, i think, is sometimes we, as progressives, think that everything is moving inevitably in a certain direction. society will be more open, more tolerant, more progressive, frankly. and, you know, you can underestimate how contested american politics is. and, obviously, we saw backlash, not just in the united states, but in britain, for instance, to the forces of change. but i think in going through this, i wanted to revisit both what we did, but what the forces
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were that were building while we were in office here in the united states, around the world and our politics, foreign policy. and, frankly, at the end, i end on a hopeful note that i do believe that you take a very long look at history and it's not in four-year and eight-year increments. what's the direction of things? the politics that barack obama represented is ultimately where the country is headed. >> a moment ago you identified yourself as a progressive. you look back to 2008, there was certainly a political -- not price to say, but it was harder to say that in 2008. >> yeah. >> what do you think has changed? >> i think what -- what i found in my ten years at the center kind of, of this political world, americans like authenticity. and if you're progressive, they want you to be upfront about that and about your policies, just like conservatives want their leaders to be up front and honest. in his way, donald trump is
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authentic, as barack obama was. there has been greater acceptance of just being ourselves and standing up for what we believe in. when we look like we're shading ourselves off conservatives or republicans and not just declaring what we believe in, that doesn't resonate, i don't think, with the voter who wants to know who is this person i'm being asked to vote for. >> do you think that hindered the course of what you wanted to get done during the obama administration? >> i don't think so. it was interest iing eight year. at the beginning it was a crisis decision. everything we did, given the financial crisis, we're losing 700,000 jobs. and everything we did the first year was about writing the ship and then turning to health care, reform and trying to wind down the wars. what hinders our agenda, frankly, was the inability to
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work with republicans who understandably had a different view but broke from some precedent in the complete embrace of the opposite of whatever obama is for. progressives and conservatives can find common space to work toward. toward the end of the obama administration climate change emerged and you did see a much more unabashed progress i'vism because we couldn't find any common ground and stood up for the things we believed. >> famously on the first year of the administration, the then republican leader, mitch mcconnell, made had his vow to make barack obama a one-term president. how did that specifically or more broadly that attitude hurt what you tried to get done sometimes? >> you know, it's interesting. when you come in, you know, you don't know what the congressional dynamic will be
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for the full eight years. we had huge majorities and got an enormous amount done. after it was almost impossible to get a major piece of legislation through. mcconnell's approach was such a brick wall. frankly, even different from john boehner, who was more inclined, more old school, to try to get something done, that it really limited the space for any large legislative action. of course, it put us in this trap. the only thing the president can do is through executive action and then they say you're an out-of-control executive. on the merrick garland piece, he nominates someone to the supreme court eight years before the end of his term and doesn't get a hearing on it, which is without precedent in history. >> mitch mcconnell's refusal was
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staggering staggeringly partisan. the sad truth and the context of the republican party, which has spent eight years disbanding norms and circle the wagons around a demigog. what do you expect of mcconnell, he said he won't even give us a hearing on merrick garland. he was, after eight years, worn down by republican obstructionism. >> we went to congress and said here is the evidence. here is what we know about the russians intervening in our election. rather than us make a statement we would like this to be a bipartisan expression of concern. mcconnell refused to sign on so there was no strong bipartisan statement about this. it's almost sad. i was shocked given this evidence mcconnell was look at this as a political calculation. i don't twoont look like i'm
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validating the reality that the russians are doing this. obama was so worn down on obstructionist, he said the guy won't even give me a hearing on merrick garland, why do you think he would do this? >> 202778801. the book the world as it is, a memoir of the obama white house. what was the president's world view coming in in 2008 and how did it change over the course of eight years? >> he saw his principle objective in the early years as
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drawing down the troops. and i think what he wanted to do was draw those down and then refocus on a broader set of priorities. rescuing the global economy, dealing with climate change, which led to the paris agreement, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, which ultimately led to the iran nuclear deal. what changed is circumstance. that always happens when you're president. the arab spring really ended up consuming a huge chunk of our time. and it didn't consume the amount of time that it did. he struggled with the balance between wanting to do what he could to limit the human suffering and to try to promote some form of civility, but he always had kind of a humility that we can't keep going into the middle eastern country after another to try to remake their
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societ society. >> we've got callers waiting for ben rhodes. let's go to cedar falls, iowa, and hear from greg on our independent line. go ahead. >> caller: hi. good morning. >> cedar falls, iowa, go ahead. >> caller: yes, looking back at the obama administration very clear that one of the key foreign policy struggles for the administration is related particularly to israel and in tuckly, i think, barack obama's relationship with benjamin netanyahu. the israeli spy, security organization, private organization, which was also involved helping harvey weinstein dig up dirt on his
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sexual accusers, the victims, was involved in operations against obama officials that were involved with drafting the iran deal, particularly ben rhodes and also colin powell. it seems that the trump administration has taken a much more positive -- at least in the eyes of netanyahu and those in his inner circle, a much more positive -- or better relationship in terms of agreeing about iran and other issues related to israel's immediate policies and needs, so to speak, at least in the division of netanyahu than those closest to him. my question for ben is hoich of this whole battle going on within foreign policy
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establishment with regards to trump and things related to israel and this very -- obviously very different vision as far as iran is concerned, i think there's very significant, very important disagreement between the obama administration and the netanyahu government. >> thanks, greg. >> very important question, greg. and i spent a lot of time on this in my book. i think barack obama obviously had a different point of vow with bibi netanyahu not on the fundamental relationship with israel. we provided more support for security than any administration in history but on two principle issues. how to deal with iran and its nuclear program and how to deal with the palestinians. and, you know, we supported a two-state solution to the israel/pal's teen conflict and ultimately were unable to make
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any progress there. it obviouslies with a failure of our administration. but i think the reality is that when you don't have parties that are willing to take big risks, as former israeli leaders did, then there's only so far you can get. on iran, i think it really had to do with do we believe that you can resolve this issue diplomatically, of the nuclear progra program. >> poses limitations on their nuclear program. i think at the end of the day, prime minister netanyahu did not want to see that diplomacy go forward. he wanted to address every aspect of iranian behavior and differed with the approach of essentially having the world powers in an agreement. you know, i think this did shape a lot of the debates in
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washington in the foreign policy establishment. not just israel, but also saudi arabia. israel and saudi arabia are influential countries here in washington, has spent a lot of time pressing their case and saudi arabia, like israel, is very adversarial toward iran. so this did kick up a lot of attention. it's an indication of just how ugly this got. it's very shocking to me, a year and a half out of government, to learn that you have former agents who were collecting information on my family, my two young children. >> good afternoon, everyone. the roll-out of the new nominee for the supreme court last night was, i think, quite impressive.
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had a chance to meet with judge kavana. ugh in my office this morning. a lot of you were there. the president could not have done a better job of picking an extraordinarily well-qualified nominee. comments all over the country that have been rolling in, not just from people that are conservative but others as well, about his brilliance, his talent, his temperament, all the things that the american people would like to have in a judge, somebody who is clearly over the years tried to follow the law as it was written and not try to get the result you want to get. i remember judge scalia say you're not a very good were judge if you're not


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