The world is brought to you by both the shop uninterrupted President Barack Obama. Have you heard of him, guys? He takes a seat in the barber's chair with LeBron James and Maverick Carter and an all new special edition of HBO's unscripted series, The Shop Uninterrupted, departing from his usual barbershop setting with multiple guests. This remote interview features only one guest, the 40 44th president of the United States. Don't miss this special edition of the shop. Uninterrupted streaming Friday, October 30th at 9:00 p.m. on Bemax.
Welcome back to The World, I'm Tommy Vietor.
I'm Ben Rhodes. Then I'm just a ball of anxiety hanging on by a thread. My enemies today are as follows. Bad polls followed by out of context, early vote returns and then soon my enemy will be exit polls. How are you doing?
Yeah, I'm pretty bad because I'd add to your list, which is a good comprehensive list, bad memories. I think everybody's got like PTSD from twenty sixteen. The closer we get to the up to the election, the more certain everybody is that somehow we're going to lose the election, even if the polls suggest otherwise. That's a healthy thing. If it's channeled into working harder and convincing more people and more money and if you've already voted trying to get somebody else to vote the right way.
But, you know, I mean, I. I remember what it was like to wake up the day after that election and how that felt. And and then we just don't want to have that feeling, you know, so that.
No, we don't. That's what it's all about. One way you can prevent that feeling, by the way, is go to vote.
Save America Dotcom volunteer. From now until polls close, there are tons of ways you can still help out. You can make calls, you can send text. There's a million things. So let's save America. Dot com slash volunteer then. We've got a great show today. We talked to one of Joe Biden's top foreign policy advisors and our former colleague, our friend, Tony Blinken. So I think people really like hearing what Joe Biden would do differently if you were president when it comes to foreign policy.
And then for news, we got some updates on fighting between our media and Azerbaijan. The latest on Europe's covid outbreak. There's an inspiring movement against police brutality in Nigeria, the amazing new constitution in Chile, and then some big news out of Venezuela and Sudan. So lots of good stuff. I think we will start this week with the conversation with Tony Blinken because it is so focused on the election. Just before we get to that, though, we want to give a quick shout out to our What a Day team who's celebrating one year of this fantastic daily news pod.
If you have not subscribed to what a day you're missing out. Akeelah and Gideon are hilarious. They're smart. They'll walk you through everything you need to know in like 50 minutes or less. So check it out on Apple iPods or whatever. Get your podcasts. OK, here is our conversation with Tony Blinken.
We are honored to be joined by Tony Blinken.
He's a former deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration. He's a senior foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden's campaign and a just great human being.
Tony, it's good to see it. Tommy, great to be with you. Ben, great to be with you, too. Thank you again for doing this. We figured it would be great to get your take on what a Joe Biden foreign policy would look like if he's elected president. And sort of a last chance to talk to some of our friends in the foreign policy world to have some questions about what the agenda would look like. So I guess first question is there are some on the left.
You see this on Twitter, which you take it for what it is, but you see some people complaining, look, the Biden campaign is rolling out a lot of endorsements from the Bush administration, other Republicans, former Republicans, and they sometimes worry. Does this mean the vice president might get drawn to the right on foreign policy? Right. These are some people who might be frustrated that Obama didn't prosecute CIA officials for Bush era torture policies or are pissed that Obama was anti war in Iraq candidate.
But he got drawn into conflicts in Libya, in Syria, and they want a firm break from Republican policies and stagnant sort of blob thinking as Ben. Michael, what do you say to them about the Biden agenda and officials who might serve in his cabinet? Well, I guess I'd say two things. First of all, the support you're seeing sort of across the board for Joe Biden, including from Republicans or in some cases from Republicans, I think is evidence of just a profound indictment of a President Trump.
And what he has done to our standing in the world resonates with with Democrats, with independents, with Republicans in a in an incredibly negative way. So I think it's evidence of that. I mean, we're now in a position if you look at survey after survey, including, for example, the Pew has done where they go and look at public opinion in dozens of countries. We're now in a place where, according to the most recent Pew survey, people in country after country have more confidence in Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to do the right thing regarding world affairs than they do in the president of the United States.
Respect for the United States influence of the United States are basically in free fall. And that's something I think that others, all sorts of folks from the left to the right. So you've known the vice president for a very long time, you've worked with him since his days in the Senate, I imagine you've talked with him about his vote against the 91 Gulf War. You you've been with him when he voted for the war in Iraq. You were in the room during the Obama administration when he argued against sending more troops to Afghanistan.
How have his views on using military force evolved over time? Like what can you explain to people how he thinks about these things?
Yeah, I think the vice president starts out with a profound core of idealism that I think animates most Americans. And what really got him into into public life, what's motivated him, whether it's domestic or foreign policy, is a profound aversion to people or countries abusing their power. And particularly, for example, in the in the nineteen nineties when he saw ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide in the Balkans, he felt that we should stand up and try to do something about it.
But his experience is also, I think, tempered by realism about what we what we can do, what we can't do, problems that are initially not about us, but they affect us. We have to bring we have to bring a certain dose of humility to this. We can't just flip a light switch and solve all the world's problems or all the world's ills. On the other hand, I've got to tell you, if he believes strongly that we also have to bring some confidence to our engagement in the world, because when we're acting at our best through the power of our example, less than the example of our power, we still have a greater ability than any other country on Earth to mobilize others in a positive collective action.
That's how he sees our role in the world. And if we're not doing it, here's the problem. If we're not engaged, if we're not leading, and which we sure made our share of mistakes over the years, but on balance, when we're not leading, we're not engaged, then the problem is this one or two things happens. Either someone else does and probably not in a way that advances our interests or our values or may be just as bad.
No one does. And then you tend to have a vacuum is filled by bad things before it's filled by good things.
So, Tony, that's going to be my jumping off point, which is and I just want to add, Tony and my colleagues, friends for four, well, they use the administration before. And like Joe Biden, someone who represents the the profound decency, I think, of the American people. So, Tony, we're glad you're in the spot. You are. I want to ask about you mentioned the precarious state of the world and the standing of the United States.
You know, even at the end of the Bush administration, the trend lines are not good for democracy globally. You saw Russia pushing back. You saw Russian efforts to disrupt the West disinformation campaign to disrupt democracy, China being much more assertive with its model. That's all been kind of turbocharged under Trump as the US has kind of ceased to be a democratic example to the world. If you come into office, how do you begin to go about no one can, just restoring a sense of credibility and standing for the United States.
I remember in the first year of the Obama administration, Obama had to do a world tour to do that. But but more importantly, how do you begin to try to reverse this trend of authoritarianism, this democratic backsliding? What are the tools in your toolkit to do that? So this really goes to the heart of the challenge we would face and also I think, to the priorities that the vice president would bring to to the job, because he continues to believe that at its core, the best answer to most of the challenges we face, actually, is democracy.
He sees it as the foundation of our strength at home and also abroad. It reflects, after all, who we are, certainly how we see ourselves and arguably how the world has seen us, at least until recently. But the problem is, as you've said, that democracy is being challenged as never before. And I think that matters as never before. First, because I think it's the vice president has said, you know, the strength of our own democracy at home is directly tied to our ability to be a force for progress in the world and to mobilize the collective action I was talking about.
The problem we face, of course, is that we have a president of the United States right now who's engaged in a daily assault on our own democracy, on its institutions, on its values, on its people, and that has deeply tarnished our ability to lead. But the flip side that you alluded to is also vitally important. Other democracies are a source of strength for us, especially when we find ways to work together. But then, as you said, we see democracy in retreat.
Freedom House tracks this, as you know, and over decades, they've looked at the strength and health of democracy in country after country. There were about 40 countries that have been consistently ranked fully free in the nineteen eighties, the nineteen nineties, the two 12th of those 40 or so countries, fully half have fallen backwards on these metrics of democracy. So there is this democratic recession. And of course, autocracies, whether it's Russia or China, try to exploit that in our fuel, our troubles.
So here's the problem. At the very moment the world's democracies are looking to the United States to be a leader for the values that we share. We have a president who, by embracing autocrats and dissing Democrats every day and as the leading consumer and proliferator of conspiracy theories, he basically seems to have suited up for the other side. So where does that lead us? I think here's an interesting thing. Joe Biden did an essay in Foreign Affairs, the leading journal for foreign policy, back in January or February.
So ostensibly, it's his view of our foreign policy. If you go back and look at it, the first twenty five percent is all about things we need to do to renew our democracy at home. That's where it starts. And he has a long and strong agenda for that kind of democratic renewal when it comes to transparency and governance, when it comes to getting dark money out of our politics, when it comes to having a truly representative democracy with functioning institutions.
Once you've gotten that renewal in place, then you try and work to revitalize our alliances with democracies around the world. But I can tell you this just starting with the fact that Joe Biden would actually be able to tell the difference between our friends and our foes, and they would know that he knows that'll help a lot.
So in one follow up on this one is like we look a lot on the podcast, these places where people it does seem like there's also a growing trend of people standing up to this kind of authoritarianism. When you look at Hong Kong, when you look at Belarus, a close election result in Poland, Nigeria. We'll talk about on the podcast today. But I totally agree with you. Get our house in order is the number one thing. What can be done to more effectively find ways to support these democratic movements?
I specifically I'll just throw a couple of things at you. I noticed you guys have called for a summit of democracies in the first year. What what's the kind of. Are there concrete comes from that that could be helpful to people in Belarus or Hungary? And and how much does corruption enter into it? I mean, is there a space where we can kind of start to go after the money, the dark money, the kind of finances, authoritarianism?
And how do you think about taking that democratic renewal and making it, you know, put wind in the sails of these democratic movements that have inspired us, but that often kind of reach a brick wall at some point? Well, then, look, the first thing is in the category of first do no harm, it'll be in and of itself a good thing to have a president who not only stands against repression and abuses of human rights, but but starts with the proposition that you don't stand with those who are perpetrating them.
So I think it'll be a big change in and of itself not to have a president who tells Xi Jinping it's OK to have concentration camps for wiggers or it's OK to trample on democracy in Hong Kong. Having said that, that's obviously not enough. I think you're one hundred percent right that corruption is certainly at the heart of the problem, but also maybe at the heart of the opportunity. If you look at virtually every popular movement over the last decades, including a bunch that we saw on our watch in President Obama's administration, whether it was the Maidan in Ukraine, whether it was the fruit vendor in Tunisia and so on down the line in virtually every continent, a revulsion at public and official corruption was one of, if not the motivating factors.
But that gives us a huge opportunity in pushing back against repression and pushing back against abuses of human rights to try to expose the corruption that exists as a way of turning the tide on leaders who perpetuate their power by corrupt means. So I think there's a lot more that can be done. But the summit of democracies, I think two things on this. One is there's a I think a moment that's necessary for democracy to come together and reason together about the challenges in the first instance that they share internally, because even though they manifest themselves in somewhat different ways, there are a bunch of core challenges that we're all trying to grapple with, including a profound sort of atrophying of trust in governance, our own forms of corruption.
And in the United States, it tends to be money in politics and a whole series of challenges that democratic governments governance has to somehow overcome. If it's going to get the trust and confidence of its people and then from there build out a an outward facing agenda of things that we can do together to stand more effectively for democracy and progress in other countries around the world and to stand against abuses. None of this is easy stuff. One of the big challenges now, when you have autocratic governments that are squeezing out any space in their countries, for example, for NGOs and for any kind of opposition, is finding ways to be supportive of them.
Very, very challenging. But look, it all starts with the United States actually regaining its voice and showing by example that there's a better way, Tony, in their final or maybe only Oval Office meeting. President Obama reportedly told President Trump that the biggest challenge he would face is North Korea. Fast forward four years. Things are way worse. Kim has more nuclear weapons. He just trotted out a new intercontinental ballistic missile. All the love letters from Trump to Kim failed to convince him to get rid of his nuclear weapons.
But in fairness to Trump, all these past attempts by Obama and Clinton and Bush to denuclearize the peninsula have failed as watching the last four years.
Change your thinking or the vice president's thinking at all about how to approach this problem? Right. We had sort of maximalist pressure now. We had maximalist diplomacy. Is there a middle ground that might be more fruitful or is North Korea just a de facto nuclear state? And we have to learn to live with it?
Yeah. So, Tom, I think you posed that in a very fair and balanced way, as someone might say, because this was a hard problem and it was a problem that we didn't solve. But it has gotten worse under President Trump. And as you said, North Korea now has more fissile material for more nuclear weapons. It has more advanced missiles, including apparently the one that it displayed just a couple of weeks ago. So I think two things here.
One is we ought to take some inspiration from where we did succeed, and that was with the Iran nuclear agreement. And there we built a very strong international coalition that made the case to Iran that it really had to choose coming to the table, negotiating in good faith, negotiating a strong agreement that allowed us to deal with with the problem posed by its ability potentially to produce fissile material for weapons on very short notice or face unrelenting pressure from countries around the world, including countries that are not always lined up with us.
And that's really a huge tribute to the diplomacy that the President Obama and Vice President Biden led in lining this up. But the reason it worked, the reason we were able to bring other countries along is they saw the end game that we had in mind, not as regime change in Iran, no matter what you think about about the regime, but as. Resolving the nuclear problem, the nuclear challenge posed by Iran, they were willing to sign up when they knew the diplomacy was really part of what was what we were trying to do.
And we succeeded. Now with with with Iran, we had an interim agreement and that gave us some time and space to produce a long term agreement, which tragically President Trump has torn up. So I think there's something to that model for dealing with North Korea. I think it's highly unlikely, if not to say impossible, that in one fell swoop we're going to get North Korea to give up its its nuclear weapons, its infrastructure, its missiles. But there may be a step by step process that moves us in that in that direction.
So I'd be inspired to some extent by what we did with Iran. One other thing, though. At the last year and a half of our administration, when North Korea was clearly developing the capacity to to actually reach the United States with an ICBM, that it might marry a nuclear weapon, too, we exerted a comprehensive pressure campaign that involved basically two things. First, that involved China. Given the unique relationship with China, North Korea had 90 percent of North Korea's trade lifeline is through through China.
And we went to Beijing and said, look, we want to work with you to deal with this problem with something you don't you don't want any any much more than we do. But if you can't or if you won't join us in trying to curb North Korea's nuclear program, then we're going to have to do some things to protect ourselves and protect our partners and allies, including more forward deployed missile defense, more exercises, more forward deployed forces that are not directed at you, China, but you're not going to like and interestingly, we got China behind what until that point were the two toughest UN Security Council resolutions.
And according to our intelligence folks, China was making good on implementing its part of those resolutions to put pressure on North Korea. The other piece of this was going to country after country with our South Korean and Japanese partners and saying, you know, if you've got North Korean guest workers, we're sending more than a billion dollars home in remittances, not to their families, but to the North Korean government to prop up its military. You need to send them home or not accept anymore.
And we started to build real pressure on North Korea. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. But again, the purpose of the pressure has to be not to topple the regime, no matter, again, how heinous it may be, but to get it to engage in a meaningful way in in diplomacy and negotiation so that we can actually and in a very practical way, curb its program and hopefully walk it back. Yeah, the the pretense that the Trump foreign policy is not about regime change has really fallen to the wayside.
But I'll leave that for Ben in the next set of questions. So my question for you is about election interference, foreign election interference in twenty sixteen, they tried to cover it up. The Russians write to me that they laundered things through WikiLeaks. There were a variety of steps taken to try to create some space for this disinformation, dump the hack and dump the sort of troll farms this year, just handing shit to Rudy Giuliani, who goes on the record saying, yeah, it's 50 50 chance that some guy in Ukraine I'm working with is a Russian spy.
How do you approach. Deterring foreign a foreign election interference when it's this brazen, when it's this in the open, when all parties involved, both foreign and domestic, seem to give zero fucks about getting caught. What do you do about that? Well, the first thing you do is you actually try to establish meaningful deterrence. And that means having what the foreign policy types like to call the declaratory policy, basically telling another country what you're going to do if they do X meaning it and then doing it if they if they act.
That's exactly what Joe Biden did. He he spoke to this a couple of months ago. We put out a very strong and quite detailed statement making very clear that he would view any election interference by Russia, by anyone else as an attack on our democracy, as an attack on our sovereignty. And there would be meaningful, real, sustained consequences, costs imposed. And then he went out and notionally listed some of the things that we'd be looking at if we had to do it.
And then, you know, you actually have to follow through. Joe Biden and Ben and Tommy, you both heard him say it many times in The Situation Room. Big nations can't bluff. So if you're if you're going to say you're going to do something it triggered by an action of another country, then you got to follow through. Otherwise it becomes follow an empty. So I think in the case of Russia, for example, we were talking about this earlier, there's a lot more we can do, for example, to expose the profound corruption that is at the heart of the system, starting with Vladimir Putin.
That might make him just a little bit less popular with his own people if it's exposed in a meaningful way. There are certainly economic consequences that can target the folks who are perpetrating these actions. We're propping up the regime as opposed to the Russian people. And we can do that in, I think, more even more effective and targeted ways. But it starts with being very clear about what you'll do and then doing it.
Tony, I'm actually to ask a follow up on this, because I've been I've been intrigued and alarmed at what I see is the approach coming out of Radclyffe and the Trump White House Intelligence Committee, which basically seems to be an effort to create, in my mind, an entirely false equivalency between what Russia is doing, which if it's anything like twenty sixteen, I'm sure it is, is a multifaceted, systematic approach to affect our election results and maybe even to get into to hack into election systems versus these allusions to Chinese and Iranian actions, which particularly with respect to China, feels just like China has anti US propaganda all the time.
And they're somehow framing that as favouring Joe Biden when even Donald Trump himself recently said on the campaign trail. Xi Jinping probably wants him to win. How worried are you, though, that let's say knock on wood, fingers crossed my toes across. You can see that Joe Biden wins. How worried are you that there's going to be this transition period and and this leadership of the DNI that has been basically turned into an extension? The White House is seeking to kind of create some legitimacy question rooted in what China did.
How do you deal with what I think are totally false equivalencies around what foreign countries are doing in our election and how they might try to hang around you guys? A totally false narrative that seeks to draw some equivalence between what happened to them based on Russia's twenty sixteen intervention and and what's happening now. Yes, I mean, you're one hundred and ten percent, right, the only country that is taking meaningful active measures to try to affect the outcome of our election is Russia and what Russia is doing.
And the DNI has actually knowledge that's not his his office. That's he personally hasn't. But but his office has. And so is the director of the FBI. They are working every single day to denigrate Joe Biden and to promote President Trump. And that's a clear finding of the intelligence community and the FBI. And as you said very well, countries like China may be doing things, but it's in the in the realm of propaganda. It's not active measures to affect the outcome of the election.
It's to advance their view of the world and to make make some trouble for us if they can. But not not at all the active measures that we've seen coming from Russia. And we'll see where we wind up next week. Look, we've had one of the it's hard to have a hierarchy of terrible things this administration has done because there's so many and it would take forever to list them. But I think very close to the top in my book is the gross politicization and even corruption of the institutions of government to advance the president's personal political interests.
And the intelligence community is unfortunately right near the top of that list. And so I think it's going to be vitally important in a in a Biden administration to try to take some of that poison out. That starts with the president, who makes very clear what his expectations are of the intelligence community, which is to speak truth to power, to come up with the facts and not in any way to distort or spin or modify their their views to meet what they believe are the interests or expectations of the president.
And then it means appointing the right people to senior jobs. We're going to carry out that world view and their agencies to make sure that they are devoid of corruption, devoid of politicization. But this, of course, unfortunately, is is true. But as you know, an agency after agency hears a striking thing. The State Department, where I had the privilege of working the last couple of years of our administration, they do a survey, a survey is done every year of the different government agencies to sort of ask the federal workforce what it thinks of the agency, their jobs, et cetera.
And last year, the folks who worked at the State Department were queried and one of the findings was that political corruption was running rampant in certain bureaus, the department. And then one of my favorite, and I use that word advisedly findings was in the office of the legal adviser of the state, the State Department, when asked the question, is the leadership of the department honest and calling it like it is. Thirty five percent said no, it wasn't versus zero percent in twenty sixteen when Barack Obama and John Kerry and Joe Biden were in charge.
Well, let's you guys have a steep challenge and the transition will be a very delicate period of time. But hopefully we have the capacity to deal with that and talk about it.
I wanted to ask one final thought. You said earlier about Iran, you know, you were a key part of the process that produced the Iran nuclear agreement. I think we all believe that the world would be better off if that agreement was still in place. But you guys are going to find the world as it is when you come in. If you if you would come in the title for you. Thanks for that. I as soon as I said that, I realized that in my book, I guess it's hardwired.
So here's the question I have, which is there is always a lot of pressure from the opponents of the Iran nuclear agreement, including some US partner governments in the Gulf that guarantees the Saudis and the Israelis and Republican Party in Washington that there's a better deal to be had, that the provisions should be stronger and longer. And I'm sure there will be a chorus of people saying we've got them on the ropes. We've added all these sanctions and they're stacking sanction upon sanction on Iran right now as we speak.
And the worst thing you could do is try to return to the status quo of the Iran nuclear agreement. Others, like Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said we'll come back into that agreement and then negotiate the follow on provisions that deal with other things. How do you approach a situation where I think, objectively speaking, it would be better if somehow you could get back into the jackpot? We don't know whether Iran will do that, given all the sanctions.
And yet you're not just trying to solve the equation of getting back into JPY. You've got all these new sanctions that have been stacked on. You've got governments in the Gulf that have recently concluded agreements with Israel that are presented as part of a community, Iran axis. What is the goal of the Biden team? Is it is it to get back to the GPA and then negotiate from that? Is it to immediately try to pursue some better deal that might draw support from some of these actors?
How do you how do you navigate the pursuit of what we had already accomplished with the Iran nuclear agreement in the in the new context? So two things, Ben, and first, you have to start not in the abstract, but but from where we are and where we are is a really bad place. When President Trump walked away from the deal, he promised, as you said, a better deal, but, of course, has not materialized.
He also promised the so-called maximum pressure campaign he was exerting against Iran would make Iran act less provocatively. And, of course, the opposite has happened. So on the nuclear side of the equation, we have an Iran that is building back the very capability that the JACOWAY stopped in its tracks because the president effectively freed Iran from its commitments and it now acknowledges enriching uranium at higher levels. It's got a much larger stockpile. It's using more advanced centrifuges. The bottom line is the infamous breakout time, the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a weapon that we push back through the jacoway to more than a year is at least according to public reporting, down to about three months and heading heading south from there.
So we're right back to where we were before the deal with this terrible binary choice between, at least in my judgment, allowing Iran to get to a very, very short breakout time or taking some kind of action that's likely to have huge unintended consequences. And at best, if it's military, maybe set back the program but not end it. And in fact, we're already seeing Iran. Reports today suggest that Iran is now building back things deep underground.
That would be very hard to get at anyway when they eventually build them. And then on the on the other side of the equation, maximum pressure. You know, we've seen the Trump administration swing wildly from allowing Iran to act with some impunity to obviously taking actions, including taking out Kassam Soleimani, and they're No. One, shedding a tear for his demise. But it's one thing to take him out. It's another to game out. What would be the almost certain consequences from that, including a significant increase in Iranian provocative actions?
So much so now that in Iran excuse me, in Iraq, where we have where the administration said it was trying to restore deterrence, exactly the opposite has happened. We're being chased out of our own embassy. Secretary Pompeo is working to shut down our embassy because of increased attacks from Iranian supported militia in Iraq. And we see Iran acting in other places as well. So that's the picture that we have to deal with. If if Joe Biden selected what he said is, look, if Iran comes back into compliance with its obligations, we would and we should do the same thing.
And then we would use that as a basis for seeking to certainly lengthen the agreement because a lot of time has passed and some of the various timelines that were established in the agreement are now, by definition, much shorter. So they should be lengthened and we would look at ways to strengthen it, too. But we'd be in a much different and better position because instead of having alienated all of our partners who negotiated the agreement with us and who are now spending all of their time and energy trying to keep it alive, instead of working with us to engage Iran in an effective and meaningful way, we'd be back on side.
And if Iran decides not to do it, well, then I think the world would would be able to address that together. And if Iran does engage in this, then at least we'd be back with the folks who helped us achieve the deal in the first place. That would also put us in a better position, I think, to effectively deal with other actions that Iran takes that we that we don't like. So there is there'd be a lot of work to do on that.
And it's one of the things that needs to be gamed out in detail. But there's no question that the place we're in now is the worst of all worlds and it's a place we need to move away from. Tony, thank you for your time, this might have to be the last question, I know you have an event to get to, but just building on the jackpot question, Ben and I always rip our hair out when we hear Democrats talk about the Iran nuclear deal, because before they get to the good stuff, there's four thousand caveats about how is imperfect and time limited and blah, blah, blah.
It's harder to be for diplomacy than for war is it is seen as politically dangerous to vote against the Iraq war or the war in Afghanistan or the various surges or various funding bills. And it is seen as politically risky to be for big diplomatic efforts that might prevent wars. How do you think we fix that? Is that a problem with the Democratic Party being squishy? Is that a Washington blob thing? Is that a media thing? Is this something you've thought about it all?
Yeah, look, I think it goes to the heart of of what we need to do. And it starts with having actual confidence in our approach to the world and our approach to America's place in the world. And I would say in the first instance, you know, one thing it's useful to remind people of is when we're looking at anything, whether it's the Iran deal or anything else, you don't compare me to the Almighty. Compare me the alternative.
And no one in the case of the Iran deal or pretty much anything else that we did during our administration, I think would make a very convincing case that the alternatives that they were proposing were better, more effective or realistic. So you've got to start from that. But beyond that, I think we ought to have a little bit of confidence in what we've been able to achieve with diplomacy. And I think about it this way, Tommy. I mean, it always reminds me of the movie that we all got to watch every holiday season and maybe some people still watch It's a Wonderful Life, where the Jimmy Stewart character is about to take his life at the beginning of the movie.
And Gabriel the Angel stops him from doing that. And does that bite by by trying to show him what life would be like in his town, for his family, for his community if he hadn't been there? And then, of course, we see the contrast and between Pottersville and Bedford Falls. And, of course, Donald Trump is now fully in Pottersville. But the point is this. If you take us and American diplomacy out of the equation over the last 10 or 15 years, look at all the things that would not have happened and ask yourself where we would be, where the world would be even without us in the picture, whether it was the Iran deal, where would that actually be now in the absence, what we're starting to see with President Trump having pulled us out of it, where where would we be?
Where would the world be without the United States engaged in getting the Paris climate accord done? Well, we may be witnessing that now, too. I can go down the list of every single thing that we did. And it's always imperfect negotiation. By definition, you're never getting one hundred percent. There are always things that arguably could be done better that you can complain about. But again, it's compare me to the alternative, not to the Almighty, and ask yourself, where is the world with the United States out of the picture?
Well, we're finding out these last three and a half years, and I think we now have a much stronger case to make for American leadership, for American engagement, leading with our diplomacy, leading with our values, leading with the power of our example, not just the example of our power.
Tony, I ask one last question. I know to go, but I think this is a good note for our audience for looking for one of the things to be most excited about in modern presidency, I think, is climate change. And the question I just wanted to ask you is, I have such admiration for how much he's elevated climate more than any presidential candidate ever, including Barack Obama, and taking some bold stances the debate is often about at home.
Right. And the question is, if you guys are successful in doing what he's talking about doing at home, which is a big climate package, clean energy package, job creating package through Congress that helps move our economy in the direction it needs to go. What momentum will that give you coming back into Paris to go around the world in that first year and try to revitalize global climate efforts? Why should people listening to this who care about this, which is about everybody listen to this, make them excited about the vision of how a domestic Biden climate plan can connect with prioritization of this issue internationally?
That can be a game changer on the climate crisis. And these things are inextricably linked and it's pretty basic and it's pretty simple, but it's vitally important. We are 15 percent of global emissions by definition. Even if we do everything right at home, that's not enough. By far not enough, because we still got eighty five percent of emissions coming from other countries around the world. And so you have to have a strong international agenda to deal with the problem.
Conversely, if we're not getting our act right at home, our ability to drive that international agenda, to be a leader, to push other countries into doing the right thing is dramatically undermined, if not if not eliminated. And so if we're able to actually move the climate agenda in an effective way at home, and I believe we will be, then that strengthens our hand enormously in the international arena in terms of actually making meaningful, sustainable and dramatic progress on what is the existential issue of our times.
So you've got to be able to do both. You've got to do them in effect, more or less at the same time. But as the world sees that a Biden administration is deadly serious about actually taking concrete actions necessary to get our own house in order, we are so much stronger in eliciting that kind of cooperation and action from other countries. Tony, thank you so much for doing the show. Good luck on Tuesday. Thank you. Tuesday, Tuesday plus seven, Tuesday plus 14.
However long this thing is going to take, we're rooting for you. It is clear to me and hopefully everyone who just heard this conversation that Joe Biden would make the world a safer, better place to live that maybe wasn't melting. So that's seems like a good slogan.
I like that. So vote. Thanks again. Thanks, guys.
Good to be with you. The World is brought to you by Babille. Guys, I've always wanted to learn another language, but the last time I decided to give it a try, I spent hours learning random vocabulary words that I knew I would never use. Daboll is different. It teaches you phrases you'll actually use in real life, even slang. Slang. Yes, slang babble is the best learning language method designed to get you speaking your new language within weeks with daily 10 to 15 minute lessons.
You start with words and phrases and then sentences gradually get more complicated. Soon you're practicing short conversations and babbles. Interactive dialogue and speech recognition technology helps you improve your pronunciation and accents. You feel confident when you speak that those lessons are created by real language experts, not machine learning algorithms or A.I. technology. So you will learn practical, real world conversations that you can use.
Tommy, I'd like to tell you a brief story, please. Very brief. I was terrible at learning languages. That's why I need babble, too. And I decided that there was really no use to my going to Spanish class anymore. So I did try to skip the second half of school to avoid going to Spanish class. And I thought I found the perfect way to do it because I walked outside to go around the school so that I wouldn't be spotted.
And then as I was walking off the premises, I hear of it and I realized I decided to walk by the window of my Spanish class, realizing I'd skipped like an entire half a semester's worth of Spanish class is like a recurring nightmare for me still.
So anyway, I love the story. Babila sold over 10 million subscriptions. You can choose from 14 different languages, including Spanish, French, Italian and German. Could use this. Love it. Rudy Giuliani, if he understood before his quote unquote daughter, we're saying maybe he wouldn't have found himself in an awkward position just to just to put a just put a button on the store. I had a moment while I was standing outside the school, which is do I go in and attend class having been called to or I do.
I just keep moving and deal with the consequences rather than face the embarrassment. I just kept going. I just kept going. I respect I couldn't go inside. You're busted right now. Babbles Offering our listeners three months free with the purchase of a three month subscription with a promo code STW visit Batbold Dotcom and use the promo code on your three month subscription. That's Baby E-L Dotcom Promo Code W Babble Language for life. The world is brought to you by article, article Furniture Guys combines the curation of a boutique furniture store with the comfort and simplicity of shopping online.
And what we already know that because we have lots of fantastic article stuff at our office with some great chairs that fill our conference room with some really great looking bookcases that we use all the time and filled with books that we pretend we've read. Mostly it looks great. The furniture that you sit in is very comfortable, very comfortable and it's pretty affordable. And that's because articles, team of designers focuses on beautifully crafted pieces, quality materials and durable construction.
They're dedicated to a modern aesthetic of mid century Scandinavian industrial and bohemian designs, and they've got fair prices. You'll save up to 30 percent over traditional retail prices. Article is able to keep their prices low by cutting out the middleman, selling directly to, you know, showrooms to salespeople and retail markups. Fast, affordable shipping is available across the USA and Canada and is free on orders over nine hundred and ninety nine dollars. All in stock items are delivered in two weeks or less.
There's a 30 day return policy with simple returns and exchanges. And right now, articles offering our listeners fifty dollars off your first purchase of one hundred dollars or more. Go to article Dotcom World and the discount code will be automatically apply to checkout. That's Article Dotcom World to get 50 bucks off your first purchase of one hundred dollars or more. Positive world is brought to you by a user's guide to democracy. Do you have any idea what your state senator does all day?
Beats me, that was a pointed question at you. Have you ever wonder just how far the president's emergency powers reach? Don't relate to wondering what kept me up at night. He says maybe you've only been pretending to know what a super delegate is. You're not alone. Meet Hannah McCarthy and Nick, each host of New Hampshire Public Radio's Civics 101 podcast. If they don't have awesome Boston accents. I'm going to be pissed. Yeah, I think that you're Injun.
Think of them as a social studies teachers. You wish you'd had. Their new book, A User's Guide to Democracy, illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist Tom Torero, is a lively crash course in everything you should know about how the US government work. The sounds very handy. Whether you're new to understanding America's government or consider yourself a political junkie, no matter what side of the political spectrum you're on before you vote this November, make sure you read a user's guide to democracy on sale.
Now, everywhere books are sold, parts of the world is brought to you by Roman. Getting reliable health care from home and high quality treatment you can afford is more important than ever, especially for those who don't have good insurance or can't risk going to the pharmacy in person. Being able to afford your medication shouldn't depend on what insurance you have or what coupon you can find. That's why there's no pharmacy. Real pharmacy use a different kind of pharmacy that fills prescriptions for flat rate of five dollars each per month for over five hundred generic medications.
No co-pays, no coupons, no catches, just five bucks. Real pharmacy automatically ships FDA approved medication directly to your door. So you never have to worry about running out. It's affordable and convenient. Just how health care should be worried that switching pharmacies might be a hassle. The team at Road takes care of it for you by contacting your doctor or previous pharmacy RO who powers Roman, the real workhorse behind this whole shebang, is on a mission to make health care affordable, accessible and convenient for patients everywhere.
Health care doesn't have to be complicated. Make your life easier by switching to row pharmacy. Go to pharmacy dotcom slash crooked. That's R.O. pharmacy dotcom slash crooked to learn more about where real pharmacy is available, how it works and how to start saving. Today, the world is brought to you by Aventine. The pandemic has caused an immeasurable loss of lives and livelihoods. It is shut down economies and forced billions of us to change the way we live.
But in the middle of the upheaval, a new future is being etched out in everyday decisions like whether we decide to ride a bike or take the bus, and in bigger ones, like whether countries decide to take on more debt or not, the world is you'll know it is a new podcast about how those decisions might play out. Five in-depth conversations between journalists and experts on how covid might change the nature of work cities. Higher education in the economy, the world.
As you'll know it is supported by Aventine, a non-profit research institute whose aim is to invest in work that explores how today's decisions will affect the way we live, work and experience life in the years and decades to come. The world, as you'll know it, is available now on Apple podcast Spotify and wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
All right. We're back four for our news section, Ben. But, you know, it's just it's just nice to see Tony's Tony.
And I listen to to I think people should understand, like, this really is Joe Biden's closest adviser on these things. He was in the Senate when he was the staff director of the Foreign Relations Committee when Joe Biden was chairman. He was in the White House when he was scrutinizer. He has been since he left. So this is the guy you know, there are a lot of people around Vice President Biden and none of them are closer to him than Tony.
So it was good here. I also think in a cage match between national school adviser Robert O'Brien and Tony Blinken. My money's on Tony Blinken, too.
No, absolutely. Absolutely.
OK, so let's turn to let's talk about the fighting in Armenia and Azerbaijan to start. So we've talked about this a couple of times. The conflict itself started on September twenty seventh over a disputed territory. But not everyone can do a Nagorno Karabakh transition like that.
That takes years and that takes time. And so we talk about this fighting before. It's scary for a lot of reasons. Obviously, like any violence is awful if it's especially if it's harming civilians, but it has the potential to draw in both Turkey and Russia into a broader proxy war. I think that's the bigger concern. On Sunday, President Trump announced that his team had brokered a cease fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which would obviously be a very good thing.
But unfortunately, within minutes of that cease fire coming into effect, both sides accuse the other of violating it. So it seems unlikely to hold this wouldn't be the first cease fire that didn't hold Putin brokered one that was immediately violated.
The situation on the ground is not good. I've seen estimates of up to five thousand people who have been killed in the fighting. Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of executing prisoners and committing war crimes. Azerbaijan is reportedly used cluster munitions, which are bombs that basically release lots of little bombs that can pose threats to civilians for years. If they don't go off, then I've been impressed at how the Armenian community in the. US has organized to raise awareness about the conflict, there have been a bunch of rallies here in L.A., I think some in New York, I'm seeing planes dragging signs.
There's banners everywhere. Apparently, President Trump spoke to a group of Armenian Americans in New Hampshire over the weekend and said ending the fighting would be, quote, an easy one. So that's good to know. So the Obama administration negotiated many cease fires in places like Syria that didn't always hold. What do you think of this latest effort? Does it tell us anything about whether the US is sufficiently engaged in trying to solve the problem?
Well, look, on the one hand, I'm sympathetic is an intractable problem that's been around for decades. But we're a week out from the election. So I'm going to focus on what went wrong here, which is what was wrong. Was Trump going out and spiking the football? I mean, essentially declaring victory, tweeting like as if the United States had just ended this conflict when this is very tenuous. I think the fact that it collapsed is not a huge surprise to Russian brokered cease fires had previously collapsed.
I think what needs to happen differently is this needs the broadest possible international engagement. Just the US, just Russia, just the Europeans is not enough. Like, you know, if we had a bad administration, I think a very broad multilateral process that brings in Russia, the European Union, the United States, these countries, by the way, that are selling arms to both parties to just say, like you guys got to pull back from the brink here and deal with this.
And frankly, Azerbaijan has been more the aggressor in this case. And they basically said as much. They said, you know, we're tired of waiting for diplomacy to deliver what we think is our land back to us. And so we're just going to start killing people, including civilians, and releasing rock video footage of drone attacks on Armenians. Really, really awful stuff. So I think it's just going to take a really muscular, sustained multilateral effort with the US involved with other countries to just say we got to cut out this fighting and then really start a process of negotiation around these disputed territories.
So it's not just a cease fire and everybody kind of goes home, but like drive the momentum from the cease fire talks into actually addressing these underlying territorial questions, which are there's no there's no Lay-up answer to that. There's no easy answer. Both sides claim it. You have to figure something out, though. That's a mix of territory and autonomy for the people who live there and for the two warring parties. Yeah, and look what one challenge to more European engagement is the fact that Europe's coronavirus outbreak is getting quite bad cases are exploding in a bunch of countries, including the Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, the U.K., Spain and France.
Both now have over one million cumulous confirmed cases. Even Germany, which had done a great job so far, is seeing a big uptick. I saw that the president of Poland tested positive for covid over the weekend. So you're also seeing that the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that their infection rate in Europe has been going up for more than 90 days. So unlike European countries are starting to do something. In response, some have declared national states of emergency.
There have been curfews or travel restrictions in Ireland and Wales have reimposed lockdowns. Italy has put restrictions on gyms and restaurants. Those are leading to anti lockdown protests and lockdown fatigue. There's added concerns about some of these countries that may have avoided a bad outbreak the first time, but failed to bolster their health care infrastructure while there was still time to do so. So Joe Biden said, we're going into a dark winter. I guess the question is whether that was actually an understatement.
When you look at Europe, that's a couple of weeks ahead of maybe where we are.
Yeah, I mean, I think what's so troubling and terrifying about this time is these are countries that, by and large, got things right, or at least better than we did at the initial spike in the spring. And Mansky cases pretty low of the summer. And I think, you know, a couple of things actually sunk in. One, complacency and frustration with limitations on daily life, combined with then cold weather. And Europe is more north than most of the United States drives people inside.
And so you worry that we're, you know, a couple of weeks behind in the weather category and we're probably worse than the Europeans in terms of people in this country being fed up with lockdowns. So I. I read it as a difficult indicator of how Europe's going to get through the winter, given the weather in much of Europe. But also it's likely to be worse here than it is in Europe. And so if one of the things we do, the coronaviruses look abroad for warning signs for here, I think we have them now.
And if you live in a cold weather climate and particularly states in the upper Midwest and West like this is not a good signal. And I think it's a sign that if Biden does win, like covid is going to be front and center in January, this is still going to be very real. We're going to be in the thick of it. We're going to be dealing with a lot of cases and a lot of places and the capacity to align the global response and hopefully work towards the global dissemination of treatments and vaccines is going to be priority one for for a Biden foreign policy.
Let's turn to Nigeria and talk about police brutality, because corruption and police brutality, that's a big issue in Nigeria for many years. And one police branch in particular, the special anti robbery squad, or Saar's not to be confused with the disease, SARS. I know we're coming off of the coronavirus, but this is just a shortening of special anti robbery squad is notorious for corruption, indiscriminate violence, including torture and summary executions. Think of SARS as basically a pyramid scheme masquerading as a police unit of these underpaid low level cops.
They demand bribes or they just steal from other citizens and they have to kick some portion of that money up to their superiors. And over time, these units have gotten more violent, more brazen, and they've really enraged a lot of the country. In twenty seventeen, the government made a sort of nominal effort to rein in police brutality. But in reality, they just sort of been pushing the problem around. They have reassigned corrupt officers to other parts of the police force.
And according to an Amnesty International report released this summer, SARS conducted at least eighty two cases of torture, ill treatment and extrajudicial execution between January 17 and May. Twenty twenty. And not a single officer was prosecuted. So it's a huge problem. But the issue really exploded again in early October when a video of a SARS officer killing a man surfaced on social media and led to mass protests across the country with huge numbers of young people participating. And the hashtag ANZAAS trending really across the world.
Protesters want the unit abolished and they want an end to police brutality. Basically, the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, tried to calm things by announcing that he would disband Saar's. But then the head of police later clarified that actually a different special police force unit would just sort of take on their duties. So, again, not exactly reform. Last week, there was another awful video of security forces in Nigeria firing on demonstrators in Lagos and killing 12 people.
Then every week, I feel like we talk about another protest movement, many of them very brave and inspiring in different places in the world. What do you make of this latest effort to stop police brutality in Nigeria? The government's response in the seeming echoes of the protests we saw back in June over the murder of George Floyd. Well, I think that what's at play here is this sense of complete impunity and corruption is embedded into daily life in parts of Nigeria.
Like you cannot do certain things that paying a bribe, you know, whether the thing you're talking about is avoiding police shakedowns or whether it's, you know, being able to start a business. And this is basically industrialized corruption mixed with police brutality, because if you don't pay up and if you don't go along with the scheme, you could end up getting tortured. Or if you stand up to this kind of behavior, you could end up getting tortured.
So it's all about whether or not authorities have impunity to do whatever they want, whether it's brutalizing people, are shaking people down. And that has shaped aspects of life in Nigeria. I think it's also important to note, you know, Nigeria is the biggest African country. It's kind of the bellwether. There are similar problems in other African countries, too. So I think that, you know, across the continent, ANZAAS is speaking to a degree of frustration people have with this nexus of corruption, police brutality.
And, you know, there's really no solution to it then ending and things like ending these kinds of units that have become so thoroughly corrupted that literally the model for how this unit acts is is indistinguishable from corruption, brutality. This is what they do. Right? Right. And so being Max, it's a mob. Yeah. So being maximalist demands and calling out the government officials who might pay lip service but then get into bed with these people is exactly right.
But I think you put your finger on at times like we keep beating this drum on this podcast, because it's true that whether you're talking about Belarus or Nigeria or Chile, which we're going to get to or Hong Kong like, these are just people everywhere who are pissed off at this kind of nexus of corruption and brutality and authoritarianism. And frankly, the movement for black lives in this country is in that same category. And there's a reason why those protests went global because their frustrations about that, too, and racism is a part of this mix.
So I think it just goes to show that this is global. This isn't about any one region or ethnicity or flavor. There are different flavors of the same problem everywhere. And the ANZAAS people are speaking to just how pronounced this problem is in the biggest African country. And this is something that merits our attention and support because, again, Nigeria also has tremendous potential. I think this is what frustrates people. The economy is growing. There is a young, dynamic population, and corruption is part of a big part of what is holding that back from being even more promising.
And so if they could just get out of their own way here and reform their institutions and have more accountable governance, then you could also really see not only abuses avoided, but you could really see a place like Nigeria take off and become a real player in the world. Yeah. And look, you know, this sort of corruption was was also something you saw people furious about in Ferguson, where it was done under sort of a legal rubric in the form of punishing fines on the population here, but is basically just piracy from the Ferguson police force, stealing from the citizens of that city.
So, yes, very similar problems across the. Yeah, it's the same.
And we saw this in Africa. Like, one of the things we did in some African countries in the Bush administration is, is mobile justice units. Did some of these police forces were so corrupted that you kind of had to stand up new new methods of literally mobile courts and judges that in rural areas to set up from scratch? And we provide support, technical support to those kinds of efforts because there was a sense that the judicial institutions were so corrupted that you kind of had to start over.
And NCAR seems to reflect that mentality of like this is not fixable. It needs to be gotten rid of and built back differently and better, you know. Yeah, build back better.
Let's talk about Chile, as you mentioned, because this could be the future, hopefully, for some of these protests. We've been so. Seventy eight percent of Chilean citizens voted to rewrite Chile's constitution in a referendum that came after months of protests. The protests started narrowly at first. I remember talking about these with you like a year ago. People were pissed about a fare hike increase at the Metro, but over time they broadened into a critique of economic inequality in Chile.
And now the country will have the chance to basically toss out their old constitution that was written during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and just write a new one. So the next step in this process is an election in April of twenty twenty one where voters will choose one hundred fifty five people who will attend basically a constitutional convention. They'll have nine months and they can extend it if they need more time to write a new constitution. I believe that Constitution will then be voted on.
But what voters are looking for in Chile is basically address economic inequality, specifically when it comes to education, health care and housing. So, Ben, I thought this is a pretty incredible story. It is inspiring to see a protest movement. To an outcome like this and not just a brutal crackdown, do you think, like is Chile the blueprint for some other places? Like what do you make of this?
I think so, because, you know, we talked about Chile. They were part of a series of movements against inequality. These kind of took off right around the time we were talking about like the yellow vests in France. Right. I mean, and they stuck to it. The protest movement continued and was a central feature of life in Santiago, the capital of Chile. They had very clear demands and a very clear focus on constitutional reform as the only means of addressing structural inequality.
And lo and behold, they looked like they're getting it done. And keep in mind, Chile has a right of center billionaire President Sebastian Pinera. So it's not like they have like a leader in office who is doing this for them. This is proof that it's hard and it takes time. But a lot of these movements we talk about meet with a lot of frustration. This is a breakthrough. And and what you see in Chile is kind of an emblem of what you see in Latin America broadly, which is structural economic inequality that is, you know, puts I mean, we're worried about the US.
This is well beyond that. And people realizing that you kind of have to rewire the system to get different outcomes, particularly on things like education, housing and health care and basic services like that. So, yeah, I think this is a success story and one that that could be replicated in channeling that popular anger to a constitutional and legal reform that's beyond just electing a different person. It's about changing structures.
Yeah. Pozzi The world is brought to you by Son Basket's. If you guys are looking to reduce unnecessary trips out or trying to avoid, you know, those kind of crowded grocery stores, then check out Sun Basket. It is a perfect and delicious solution for the times we're living in. Sun Basket delivers fresh, healthy, delicious meal straight to your door. Sun Basket has delicious recipes for all kinds of dietary preferences, including paleo, gluten free, Mediterranean vegetarian and more.
You make it easy and convenient. With everything proportioned and ready to prep and cook, you can enjoy a dinner full of organic, fresh produce and clean ingredients in as little as 15 minutes. No matter how much experience you have in the kitchen each week, some basket offers a wide range of meals to choose from so you can try mouthwatering dishes such as hoisin, steaks, strip lettuce, cups with pickled daikon and carrots, roasted salmon with miso, glazed eggplant, black bean to status diabolo with cabbage slaw and guacamole.
You can order from any of the meals in the menu, skip a week whenever you need to, and even double up on your favorite. It's simple and easy. No gadgets, no gotchas. Much like Trump 60 Minutes interview. No gotchas right now. Sun Basket is offering thirty five dollars off your order. When you go to Sun Basket Dotcom world, enter the promo code world a check out that sun basket dotcom world. You enter the promo code world to checkout.
I use one basket before it is fast. It is easy. It is healthy to solicit. You'll not regret it. That sun basket dotcom world. Enter the promo code world to check out for thirty five bucks off your order. Sun basket dotcom world.
Enter the promo code world let's say in the Western Hemisphere and talk about Venezuela because after six years in various kinds of detention, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has escaped Venezuela to Spain. Lopez have been living at the Spanish ambassador's residence since April of twenty nineteen after he opposition leader one Guido basically failed in an attempt to overthrow the government. Before that, Lopez was held and it just horrific prison. At one point he was released under house arrest, but they going to bring him back.
So when one quick note, like full disclosure for listeners, Leopoldo Lopez went to the same college that I did. He's like a decade older than me. But I know some of his friends. And I followed this case very closely since he went to prison. That doesn't mean I'm down with the Trump administration, sort of like coup lite policy. Far from it. But I am obviously sympathetic to calls for free and fair elections and humanitarian relief for the people of Venezuela who are suffering horrifically.
That said, it's hard to argue then that the White House, Guido Lopez, have played this particularly well. Right. I mean, John Bolton basically threatened to invade the country if Maduro called his bluff and it never happened. I'm glad they didn't invade, but things are not good. So the result is a humanitarian situation that is seemingly getting worse. The opposition is seemingly weaker. Then what do you think this says about the state of the opposition in Venezuela, how Biden should approach this?
I mean, I'm not sure what the next step is.
I think this says everything about the failure of the Trump policy. And I'm not just saying this because it's a week before the election, but this guy's whole political brand, and you're right, he was a courageous individual. But Leopoldo Lopez, his whole brand was I'm not going to Venezuela. That was his pronouncement. And he was willing to suffer house arrest and the threat of arrest and the fact that he sees such a dead end in Venezuela that. Having stayed there through so many dark times, he's moving to Spain, tells you everything about the failure of this approach that Trump has pursued, of embracing and recognizing Guido and just kind of pretending like that's the government when Maduro is still there in power.
And I again, I just want to there was literally a day when Guido appeared with the reporter Lopez. He kind of emerged from his house arrest in his hiding to essentially declare that they were taking over the government. And John Bolton was taping videos in the Roosevelt Room announcing like the change of power. And Marco Rubio is like tweeting furiously from, you know, about like how this is all like, what if we had done that? Where's the accountability?
Why are people not calling them out on this kind of catastrophic failure of a policy?
You know, an oddly, they seem to get credit for trying to credit down in South Florida from the hard liners down there.
But but this is failing. If you're objective, if your objective was to see a guy like Leopoldo Lopez is the president of Venezuela, how can you be satisfied with a policy that has him in Spain? You know, I mean, so what they should have done from the beginning is try to negotiate in the country between the different factions, Maduro, Lopez, Guiteau, the assembly, the Chavez does the military with support from all the different countries in the region, those that we agree with, like Colombia and Chile, those that we don't like Cuba.
And to have a real negotiation about what an interim government might look like, what power sharing might look like for a time, and then what a real credible, free and fair election might look like. And instead, there was this effort to kind of use this maneuver to recognize Guajardo and kind of ram it down and make it reality. So to me, it shows that that failed. And what I think Biden is going to do is kind of start from scratch and do a listening tour of Latin America, you know, check in with the Venezuelan opposition.
But open lines of dialogue with the the Maduro people as well, and try to have that broad based diplomatic negotiation that focuses at first on alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and then trying to find some way out of this political stalemate that is negotiated. And is not just the US thinking that we can dictate this policy from from Washington or Miami.
Yeah, maybe Private Rubio shouldn't be running the second. Yes, it's not working.
So now let's talk about Sudan and Israel for a bit, because last week President Trump held an Oval Office event and I think a conference call or maybe a three way call with the Israeli prime minister and the prime minister of Sudan to celebrate this announcement where Sudan says they plan to normalize relations with Israel. Talked a bit about this last week. The normalization announcement came after heavy pressure and financial incentives from the US that led to the US removing Sudan from the state sponsor of terror list and getting Trump another headline that you can shop around to Jewish voters, primarily in Florida, that that makes it seem like peace is breaking out in the Middle East when really it's just the sort of like soft normalization agreements among, you know, autocratic countries.
This was the part of the event that made me laugh, though. Then we are going to play a little audio here.
Do you think sleepy jokes that have made this very sleepy, Joe? I think you think you would have made this deal somehow? I don't think so. Do we appreciate you from anyone in America and we appreciate what you've done and all that.
And that is for the listeners. That is Trump trying to get Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to take a shot at Joe Biden. And you can hear Bibi's political wheels turning in real time. You can hear him hedging his bets and refusing to take a shot at Biden. I loved it. Trump has done him every single political favor possible. He teed that up for them. And, B, just wouldn't wouldn't it? It wouldn't swing.
I mean, like Bibi is the most coldly calculating political animal that there is. I have nothing. But, you know, let's just say I have lots of, you know, negative feelings about his agenda, but a lot of, you know, respect for his political acumen. And you could sense timing that little paws like him considering it. And then not only did he not go along with the while and first of all, it bears saying, how absurd is it that the United States, the United States of America, you know, is sitting here a couple of weeks from an election, having poured money into this deal and basically talking to sleepy Joe and soliciting an endorsement.
That phone call is is worse than the phone call that he got impeached for. Like the people in Ukraine was about trying to leverage a foreign government to for political advantage, is literally asking for an endorsement after spending taxpayer dollars on this thing. But with so telling me, he's like. It was actually worse than not endorsing him because Bibi paused, he calculated he's going to say, and then he didn't even start by saying, well, President Trump, we really appreciate what you did for us and we welcome support from anybody.
He reversed it. He said, well, we welcome support from anyone in America. And it's almost like we anticipate Joe Biden winning. And I hope he will give us support, too, and then kind of throws in. And we appreciate all you did. I mean, it couldn't have been a more embarrassing and get, you know, guess who is savvy enough to notice that kind of thing, the Jewish voters that Trump is trying to reach with this thing.
They know what when they see that and they've been thinking, well, I want to vote against Trump because he's against everything I stand for. And he's probably an anti-Semite, but he's done all this good stuff for Israel. So maybe I'll vote for him. And then they hear Bibi saying, well, we appreciate what everybody in America does. That's Bibi essentially saying like, no, I actually don't see you as any different in terms of your support for Israel than what we might get from from other people in America.
Yeah, it was sweet. I loved every second of it. This event goes on and there's a second part of it that was a lot less funny and a lot worse. So we've talked before about the Grand Renaissance Dam. It's a five billion dollar hydroelectric power project that Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile River. That is incredibly controversial both in Sudan and Egypt, because that river flows into their countries and is their main source of water.
So at this same event, Trump is doing a three way call with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Handcock and Netanyahu. He just casually mentions that Egypt will end up blowing up the dam. And he sounded like he was endorsing that action by adding and they have to do something. So within hours, Ethiopia was denouncing, quote, belligerent threats to the project they summoned in the US ambassador. So I just thought this was such a perfect moment that encapsulates the Trump foreign policy.
Right. So he is forcing Sudan to cut this deal with Israel, even if it's disruptive to their internal politics or sort of fragile new government in the process. He is kicking a beehive that is the source of unbelievable amounts of tension between three heavily armed countries and just doesn't even seem to know that he's doing it real time. It was just it was staggering. Yeah.
I mean, first of all, why is that phone call, unlike television time, like I did?
I mean, where they should have done the threat to begin with. But like, these people are so transparently self-interested, they could have put out a press release and taken a photo. But Trump just needs to to have this attention on what he thinks are these transformative achievements that really aren't, as you discuss the Sudanese prime minister, something like an international media, like talking about this stuff. But then with the dam, like what is that statement is is insane, basically encouraging.
Like a US the second largest recipient of US military assistance after Israel is Egypt. And, you know, essentially saying that they're going to blow up this dam and start a war, I mean, is an insane thing to say. It also demonstrates like what the hell does Trump know about Ethiopia? Ethiopia is a really important country. It's got a population of over one hundred million people. It's got a growing economy. It hosts the African Union. Like none of these are things that Trump knows, but he's talking I mean, it would be grotesque if it's any country.
But I mean, this guy just kind of wading into this massive geopolitical dispute, urging a military action that could destabilize that entire region and upend people's lives. And also, just meanwhile, taking a massive shot at one of the most important countries in Africa. Yeah, I mean, it's just about everything on display there about why this person is not fit to be the United States.
Yeah, and lest anyone think we're exaggerating, I think the Ethiopians have already closed the airspace over this dam because they're worried about exactly this outcome. So this is a very real, very live threat. The Egypt views the the lack of water from the Blue Nile is literally an existential problem, like they will have no way to exist without that water. So huge deal. Just drop kicking it in the Oval Office on a Friday.
Yeah, but we'll just have, like, diplomatic process to resolve this with this. This does nothing. As you point out, he's already concretely set things back in terms of diplomacy. Hopefully there's a chance to start from scratch the Bush administration. But the answer is not for the United States in a photo op for some election eve deal to that has nothing to do with this issue, by the way. I mean, this is out of his way.
And suddenly we're talking about like bombing a dam. It's insane. Yeah.
As an afterthought to some political gift to himself and the Israelis. Last thing we're going to leave you guys with. So President Obama has been out on the trail this week. It has been really fun to watch him. He's clearly having a good time campaigning against Donald. But he went hardcore world, though, today, and we want to play a quick clip of that Afghan prison he was on, 60 Minutes is too tough.
You think he's going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Leslie stole the bullet just yesterday. Just yesterday. He said that Putin of Russia, Xi of China and Kim Jong un of North Korea want him to win. We know. We know because you can give them whatever they want for the last four years. Of course, they want you to win. That's not a good thing. You shouldn't brag about the fact that some of our greatest adversaries think they'd be better off with you in office.
Of course they do. What?
It's so good to hear them out there. I think the thing Obama's able to do better than most politicians is land a devastating hit in a way that makes you laugh. And it is such an underrated skill in a politician. Just be a little bit funny and everything lands a little softer. Yeah, I mean, whenever Obama is saying something that could end with come on, you know, come on, man. But he used humor to like just I mean, it's a hugely effective way to take somebody down, especially somebody like Trump, because Trump seems, you know, he wants to be this tough guy and and mockery that everybody knows is true is really effective.
He makes you remember, though, when he did this really well. I remember there's a debate in 2008 when they got the question, what is your biggest flaw, you know? Oh, yeah. And it was Edwards, Clinton and Obama. And they were all kind of tired at the time. And I think Obama is this thing about he's disorganized and a messy, messy desk kind of thing. And but then like John Edwards answer was, he just cares so much about fighting poverty that sometimes he.
Oh, too passionate, you know, and I can't remember Hillary answer has been the basically the same thing. And the next day he goes out and every thought that their answers were much better and that Obama's was a problem because he said he's disorganized. So maybe you can run the country. And I remember when I was like, I mean, I didn't know I could say that. I mean, I just care so much about about helping folks that I just went on this whole riff and it was really funny.
I did it. But in a way, he was also tweaking Clinton and Edwards because people thought they were kind of phonies, you know, and his use he was doing a comedy routine and kind of making fun of himself. But he was speaking to something that people were concerned about with his opponents and with Trump. It's the same thing. And this week, how many times have you and I yell at each other about, you know, Trump's affinity for dictators?
Well, it's so much more effective. Just get up and be like, yeah, of course you want to win because you've been doing everything they want, you know, and can standing to do that that we can't really. But it's been great to see him do that because, you know, it's striking. Think about it. How many politicians can use humor to go on offense like that? They're not many, you know. Yeah, and it wasn't over cranked.
Is that like you're Putin's puppet or like like hashtag you stupid things like Putin of Russia, Xi of China, Kim Jong UN, North Carolina context. They want you to win. That's bad because they're bad. It's just like it's very simple. It's a great head. You don't hear a lot of foreign policy out on the trail. So it's a nice world. A very good world. A very world. Oh, well, that's it for this week.
So we're going to do something a little different next week, schedule wise, because the thought of preparing a bunch of foreign policy topics on Tuesday of Election Day and then talking about them and releasing it on Wednesday seems completely idiotic. I my brain is going to be a fried egg, so I don't know what we think. It's we're thinking maybe we'll record Thursday for release Friday so slightly later. But we will we will dig into the election. We'll dig into all the things happening in the world and to talk to you guys next week.
So save America dot coms. I volunteer then. Good to see you. Thanks again to Tony Blinken.
Yeah, no, I'll just say it again.
Hopefully can get some international flavor of the reaction, the election. But I just want to say, like we you and I have talked on the show and offline about how sometimes we feel bad that we talk a lot about Trump. God, I hope that this election that I would like nothing more than to spend the next four years talking about, you know, what Joe Biden is doing right and wrong, what's happening in the world, what's happening of these democratic movements.
Thank you for sticking with us. The reason we talk about Trump a lot is because he really is a threat to our democracy here, to the rest of the world.
So you have to we have to it would be it would be the wrong thing to not talk about it. But we've got now one more week to make sure that we don't have to talk about Trump for another four years. So so let's get it done.
I cannot wait to argue about climate change plans. Not being aggressive enough will be a good day. Yeah. All right.
Everybody talks next week. Yeah. Pottsy, the world is a crooked media production, the executive producer is Michael Martinez, our associate producer is Jordan Waller. It's mixed and edited by Chris Bazzel. Kyle Soglin is our sound engineer. Special thanks to Kevin Lewis for production support and thanks to our digital team, Elijah Cohn, Nora Melkonian and Milo Kim, who film and share episodes as videos every week.