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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  March 1, 2016 6:30pm-7:01pm EST

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humanity. >> hands up... >> don't shoot. >> hands up... >> don't shoot. >> what do we want? >> justice. >> when do we want it? >> now. >> explosions going on... we're not quite sure - >> is that an i.e.d.? >> in 2014, president obama nominated a new ambassador no mexico to take the place of the serbian ambassador. and she got no hearing and withdrew. nine months ago, the president nominated a replacement and she has had no senate confirmation vote. when one of this country's most important bilateral relationships is overseen by an acting ambassador, what happens to all of pending business between the twories in and what
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does the mexican government make of it all? it's the "inside story". welcome to "inside story". i'm ray suarez. the united states shares a long border with mexico. the country is one of america's most important trading partners. there are unfinished controversies over the illicit drug trade, immigration, trucking and other items. tens of millions of americans trace their family's heritage to mexico. it is, by any definition, an important ambassador post to the united states. at a time in political transition in both countries. yet, the senate has not given the president's nominee hearings, in some cases a committee vote, or in some cases, a courtroom ac confirmatn
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the whole senate. maria everybod eveste. she withdrew her name from consideration the next year, never got a hearing, and then the president nominated the current stint secretary of state from western hem fear affairs to the post. she got a hearing, her nomination was approve bid the senate foreign relations committee. and negotiated the reopening of the relations with cuba, but the nomination has been stuck in limbo. senator had marco rubio, presidential candidate and foreign relations community and an opponent with normalized relations with cuba has put a hold on jacobson. in the years, there have been instances of representatives of both parties putting restraints
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on the votes. but it's arguably one this country's most important relationships on the planet. why is there no confirmed ambassador to mexico and what effect, if any, does is that have on u.s.-mexico relations? joining us for that conversation, one of the women that we just mentioned, president obama's nominee for the mexico city post, who withdrew from consideration just over a year ago. ambassador arturo, the ambassador from the united states from 2007 to 2013, and michael, in the obama administration, and diana, a policy fellow at the wilson center. professor, let me start with you, the last time that we saw each other, you were happy, talking with greeting anticipation heading to mexico city, and had you considered
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that things were going to end up the way it did? >> well, i always thought that it was going to be difficult because i have been around washington, and unfortunately, serving our country has become increasingly difficult with the polarization and the politicalization. but i thought that given how important mexico is to the u.s., and how critical that relationship is, that i would have, especially since the democrats controlled the senate at the time, an opportunity to have a hearing. as it turns out, the strange relationship between then chair, robert menendez, and the white house, then the subsequent loss of the senate to the republicans, i could see clearly there was no path forward. it was a deep, deep disappointment to me. and i am even more incensed that a wonderful candidate such as roberta jacobson, is not down there. the job is too important.
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>> when all is said and done, was it you, the things that you've done over your career, the things that you've said over your career, or was it the state of play over want two parties on capitol hill that did you in? >> the thing about serving in a confirmed spot, and especially when it has gotten so police department sized, it could be anything, and it was everything. i had to explain my role as deputy chief of staff. and you would appreciate this, ray. regarding the puerto rican prisoners that clinton commuted the sentences on, because there were certain people who were very upset about that. but it was also the dynamics in the white house and the senate and the crossfire. it makes serving our country -- it's just really astonishing that we have to go through so much when all we want to do is serve our country. >> diane negroponte, you
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watched this process and you are aware of how it works, and are you sympathetic when you hear professor everyone vest a with her troubles? yes, because to turn them into tools for political gains is not the way that we should treat the representatives of our president. >> but this has happened. and not just in this case, but in others, this has happened before. and usually it's not as high-profile of a posting as this one. >> well, i'm married to a u.s. ambassador before being held up before going as u.s. ambassador to the united nations and the stories at that time were about his maybe or maybe not that happened 20 years ago before
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honduras, so you can be vulnerable on a number of questions, but you have to have the guts, and you have to have a thick skin, and you have to have the determination to get through the system. >> michael, you've been part of negotiations at a very high level in trade with mexico. doesn't want business of the country go on when there's no ambassador? aren't there people at lower levels, career officers who get the business done without the pointes needing to be there? >> well, it's true, ray, we have a very sophisticated and capable team in me mexico city, and the various departments in which i've sife and who managed the bilateral relationship. but the fact is, there's no substitute for having the
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president's appointee of the people on the ground in mexico city coordinating the entire effort. just as an example, last week, vice president biden traveled along with self other cabinet members with others to chair on the u.s. side the third meeting of the u.s.-mexico high level economic dialogue, which is, for the first time since nafta, a strategic platform for discussing key trade and commercial and competitiveness issues between the sunset mexico. we had the vice president himself and the cabinet leaders, and regrettably, there was no u.s. ambassador seated at the table. our appointee, miss jacobson was there in her capacity as assistant secretary of state. but the absence of an ambassador, besides a qualified acting ambassador, it sends a
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terrible message. and not withstanding the conversation that was just happening before this, that the personal challenges of confirmation, which i understand, have gone through the process myself in my appointment, i think that this is about something much bigger and much more profound than any one individual. this is about a profound lack of respect and lack of appreciation for what is, as you said, at the top of the show, one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. and i think that it reflects a profound lack of understanding of the u.s.-mexico relationship. >> professor, you've represented your home country of mexico, and does it make a difference to the mexicans whether or not there's an ambassador? >> i think increasingly, yes. i think most mexicans, regardless of how well trained wash and how well washington works, and how politicized and
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toxic these debates are becoming in washington these days, for most mexicans, this is a simple sign that the u.s. has no skin in the game in the relationship with mexico. they equate a headless embassy, a lack of ambassador, and again, in this case, or whether it's a nomination that's being held up on capitol hill, and they equate back to the capital relationship, not interested in the relationships, and focusing on the united states' let's say soft power diplomacy. >> confirmation vote, not today, not tomorrow. stay with us, it's "inside
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>> you're watching "inside story," and i'm ray suarez. the confirming of the am bass dosh to mexico this time on the program. my guests are with me. and diane negroponte, you mentioned your own husband's travails, trying to get confirmed as the united states ambassador to the u.n., and in this case, marco rubio was
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senator rubio from florida, fairly open about his opposition to roberta jacobson, and the reasons why, he said in part, in some, ms. jacobson is refusing to be forthcoming in congress, and is unprepared to handle policy decision. we need an ambassador in mexico city that has the trust of congress. and i don't believe that miss jacobson is that person and i will oppose her confirmation. this is someone unfamiliar with some of our viewers, but as an expert, this sounds like politics where she ends up being the rag doll that's being pulled this way. >> correct. >> and do you just, at the end, say oh, well, that's it, and either pick somebody else, if knuckle under if you're the president, or keep fighting to back a nominee? >> much depends on roberta jake
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onson herself. if she has the guts and the determination to stick it out to the election, i believe the next president will renominate her. meantime, she has the diplomatic approval, from the mexican government. so she's in the mind of the mexican government the nominee to be our ambassador there. i hope she has that determination to stick it out. >> it sounds like you're presuming a democratic victory in november. >> let's watch the polls march 1 today. >> you wanted to jump. i love deanna, but i want to be very clear, it was no lack of willingness to stick it out. and have the guts to hang on
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for the nomination, but i'm also a pragmatist. i'm so grateful that roberta is our assistant secretary for western hemisphere. i was not in government service, and i had to stop my private consulting, and i have two teenagers. the ability for someone to hang in limbo for what could be two years, one of my classmates in the ambassador class -- yes, we go to class to learn how to be an ambassador -- for sweden, just got confirmed. >> this is about 18 months later. >> yes, and to be able to put their life on hold. and luckily, and this is why i do agree with diane, roberta is in a very good spot. and she's still doing
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important, important work. and i want to stress something else. a lot of people seem to think that being ambassador is some sort of trappings and entertaining and e et cetera. it's completely not the case. it is a very difficult, incredibly important job, and for mexico, the ambassador has to coordinate and manage almost 50 agencies that are represented and operating in mexico. half a billion-dollar, almost half a billion dollars of trade is going on every day between mexico and the u.s. it's an incredibly important job. >> from what it sounds like, from what was just said, ambassador, the american ambassador in the df is a pretty important person. a person of tremendous consequence inside of a foreign capital. >> well, of course, there are
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no two countries more important to each other than mexico and the united states. the daily well being, because of this bilateral rip. the appointment of am back consider to mexico is one of the most important. these are two very important figures, and as michael mentioned, one of the accomplishments is we have institutionalized to a degree that sometimes it can move on automatic pilot. but it can never substitute having someone who represents the president of the united states in mexico to talk to high level officials, to be able to be at the table, to be able to move, cajole and push democracies on both sides, because people forget that the mexican ambassador to the united states and the u.s.
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ambassador to mexico, it deals with its own democracy, so you should get paid by both governments, because you're cajoling democracies on both sides of the border. >> i can't let that rubio characterization of roberta go unaddressed. we often think of washington as a fact-free zone, and that it statement really embodies it, roberta jacobson, on both sides of the aisle is widely recognized as a profound expert on the region. she has dedicated her life to managing u.s. policy in latin america, and serving as the officer in the state department. i have worked with roberta, and we traveled with president obama to mexico in 2013, and she's a suburb diplomat and her
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lack of confirmation has nothing to do with her qualification, but only due to the fact that mr. rubio and cruz and a few other folks in the senate disagree with the senate on his cuban policy, and seek to punish the white house on that fact. republicans, who seem to be pro economic growth, pro dense, and in favor of rebuilding supposedly america's image abroad are themselves the one that are undermining our leadership in the western hemisphere. >> let me stop you there, because i want to hear from you after the break about where i want to go next, whether it's too hard to get confirmed. we have had hints of that confirmation, and we'll have it when we come back. people of both parties who haviblewho haveended up in the d cross-hairs often end up soured by it. is advise and consent broken
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now? does it discourage people seeking posts in the government.
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>> welcome back to "inside
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story", i'm ray suarez. not today, not tomorrow, and mañana, we're looking at the inability of president obama to send a ambassador to new york city. my guests are still with me, and michael, i cut you off, is it too hard to get confirmed to a position now, especially in an era of divided government? >> well, you know, ray, i think that i have perspective on this, before i went to the commerce department, i served in the white house as a special respective to the president, and one of my responsibilities was to run the vetting team, in the appointments office to manage the president's appointments to the domestic cabinet. and i will tell you that what maria says about the rigors of the confirmation process are very accurate. our nominees, from day one, have been subjected to, i think an unprecedented standard of
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scrutiny. not just about their personal conduct and history as one would expect, but also about largely irrelevant things. i for example went through the finance committee as i was confirmed as the assistant secretary, and i went through an audit of my taxes because senator grassley's staff had retained a consultant from the irs who was virtually auditing every secretary's tax records. we have reached a point where we need to take off those that need senate confirm nation. when i was working on executive appointments at the white house, we had a very hard time convincing the best and brightest americans to serve their country because they were not willing to go through the rigors of the confirmation process, and that's another example of how our system is
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broken in washington. >> is that it for you? >> never say never. there's an election coming up, you know? one of the most important things one can do is saving our country, and attracting the best and the brightest is huge for the sake of our country. and there is, i believe, for a number of folks, a bipartisan group who have written about how broken our nomination process s. and i guess this i'm basicallien optimist. i'm hoping that reason will prevail. the issues, and the work that needs to be done, it's important to get the best people we have. >> let me go to diane negroponte, because you see something useful in this adversarial relationship and it should be tough to be confirmed. >> it goes back to our
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history, whereby the legislature exercises, not only ambassador dorrial denominations, but i also point out, the senate the senate passed a group of 70 ambassadors, and they were all ratified and passed and confirmed. the one that has held up was the finest woman, roberta jake sob son, so we have a situation where one person being pointed to our neighboring country with complex issues is not confirmed. i think that arturo's comments
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about it being a reflection of u.s. is correct. >> if we go through the rest of the obama administration with no confirmed ambassador, does the man or woman who finally does take up that post, are they going to have a lot of back work to do? >> most certainly, and particularly, because again, the agenda does not stop. and it does not wait for an ambassador to reach mexico city. it's one of the most complex and bilateral relationships on the earth. and the day-to-day basis, it's huge. and on top of this, you add some of the issues that are coming up with the elections in november. the growing noise around the wall, the border, the phobia. and kicked off by candidates
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like trump, then you have a very dangerous mix, which any ambassador, whenever he or she arrives in mexico, i truly hope, because i'm echoing michael and maria and diana, there are few civil servants in the u.s. today with an agenda like roberta jake onson. i'm what you call a u.s. hand, and in diplomatic terms, i've done all of my career in the united states, or in regards to the u.s.-mexico bilateral relationship, i've known roberta for 20 years, and there are very few people in washington today that have the skill set to move this relationship forward. >> i have to stop you there, ambassador, i want to thank all of my guests, michae that's the
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"inside story," join us tomorrow, and for a recap of today's super tuesday primaries, will it bring new clarity in both races for president? i'm ray suarez, good night. >> good evening, and welcome to aljazeera america's coverage of super tuesday, and i'm tony harris. today is the biggest day of the primary season. 12 states will be casting votes for president, as well as american samo a we're watching as the polls have just closed in georgia, virginia, and senator bernie sanders' home state of vermont. john terrett is covering the er


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