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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  February 1, 2016 10:00pm-1:01am EST

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politics. so many of my stories in "the washington post," c-span has been part of my research, providing me with quotes and insights about people. >> there are so many niches within the political blogosphere. and all of those policy areas get covered. >> how many nuclear warheads does russia have aimed at the u.s., and the u.s. have aimed at russia? >> it's a place i can go that let's me do the thinking and do decision-making. >> we follow tons of c-span, watch house meetings, senate meetings, all kinds of stuff. >> good morning, everyone. phone lines are open. so start dialing in. >> the interaction with callers on c-span is great. you never know what you're going to get. >> you're right i'm from down south. >> oh, god, it's mom. >> and i'm your mother. and i disagree that all families are like ours. i don't know many families that are fighting at thanksgiving. >> and welcome to book tv's live coverage of the 32nd annual miami book fair. >> c-span2. on the weekends it becomes book
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tv. >> and it's been a wonderful wave of accessing the work of those folk who are writing really great books. >> every weekend c-span3 becomes american history tv. your history junkie, you've got to watch. >> whether we're talking about a congressional hearing or we're talking about an era in history, there is so much information that you can convey, if you've got that kind of programing. >> whether it's at the capitol or on the campaign trail, they have a camera. they're capturing history as it happens. it brings you inside of these chambers, inside of the conversations on capitol hill, and lets you have a seat at the table. you can't find that anywhere else. >> i'm a c-span fan. >> i'm a c-span fan. >> i'm a c-span fan. >> yes, i am a c-span fan. >> and that's the power of c-span. access for everyone to be part of the conversation.
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white house chief of staff denis mcdonough talked about some of the president's priorities for his final year in office at an event hosted by "the washington post." criminal justice system reform and approval of the transpacific partnership trade agreement topped the list. until then, a group of journalists gave their own views about the obama presidency. this is an hour and 15 minutes. >> thank you, all, for coming. i'm marty baron. i'm the executive editor of "the washington post." and all of us at "the washington post" are really honored to participate in the launch of the pulitzer centennial celebration. we're especially pleased to do so in this new home for "the post." it's a place that plays homage to our history, even as it sets our course on the future.
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paul chago, chair of the pulitzer prize board was the first to ask if we would host a set of events for this occasion. and we quickly got back to him with an enthusiastic yes. because we have long believed in what the pulitzer prize represents. because we're proud of the 61 the post has won, because we believe the centennial is an opportunity to proclaim the enduring value of the pulitzer prize. the pulitzer prize, first awarded in 1917 recognizes excellence in the fields of journalism, letter, drama, and music. in establishing the prizes in his will, visionary publisher joseph pulitzer declared i am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism. having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession, and one of unequalled importance for its influence on the minds and morals of the people.
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today decades later, the pulitzer prize still has that elevating effect on journalism. this is a prize that asks us to be ambitious, to think more creatively, to dive more deeply, to write with greater clarity and elegance, to produce work that has impact and makes us a better people. the pulitzer invite us to unearth what we never knew or draw attention to what we failed to notice. it invites us to hold powerful interests to account, and to give voice to those who have fallen or been pushed to the margins of our society. it invites us to clarify a world that often defies understanding. it also invites us to display the very best of our craft. the best of our craft in writing and photography, of course. but also now the best of our craft in video and graphics and presentation.
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now perhaps you feel as i do. every time we have not won a pulitzer prize is a grave injustice. apparently you do. but we know the truth, and the truth is this. no matter how much our organizations and our journalists covet the prize, the truth is that the universe of exceptional journalism reaches far beyond the limited number of winners. we may be upset or saddened by a loss, but we should be heartened by the excellence we see in the finalists and in so many other entries. amid this year of centennial celebrations, it's worth reflecting on the meaning of this award. the pulitzers represent standards. high standards in an era where we've seen standards erode or
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come under frontal assault. when we see so much distortion and deception, when we see lazy reporting, the pulitzers remind us that we can take a different route. pursue the truth, be thorough, honest, and forthright, deliver work that is captivating. in pointing us in that direction, the value of the pulitzers may be greater today than ever before. so thank you for being here to honor the pulitzers and all they represent. and today we have two terrific sessions that will allow us 20 do with the pulitzers ask us to do, dig deep. the second session will be a keynote conversation with white house chief of staff denis mcdonough, who will be interviewed by the stellar "post" columnist eugene
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robinson, winner of the pulitzer prize of 2009 for columns the previous year on a historic election. the first session is a panel that will assess the presidency of barack obama in the context of history. and moderating that panel will be joe becker, a journalist of great distinction. joe is an investigative reporter for "the new york times." she has broken stories on the u.s. program to kill suspected terrorists, british phone hacking affair, penn state child abuse scandal, and vladimir putin's russia. her book, "forcing the spring: inside the fight for marriage equality" was recognized as one of the most notable books of 2014. and earlier in her career while at "the washington post," she won the pulitzer prize in national reporting for a series on vice president dick cheney that she authored with her cowinner bart gellman. i am pleased now to turn the program over to jo and to her distinguished panel. [ applause ]
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>> thank you all for being here, for joining us. and we've got a lot to talk about and not a lot of time. so we're going to get right to it. and at the end, we're going to try to save some time to take your questions. so next to me bob woodward, of course, one of america's moe preeminent investigative journalists. he and carl bernstein for the leaders on watergate. bob was the main reporter again when the post won the 2002 pulitzer for national reporting for its coverage of the september 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. next to bob is paul gago, the editorial page editor and after
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working as the paper's asia correspondent and first editorialing agent of the asian "wall street journal," he wrote a weekly column called potomac watch which won the 2000 pulitzer prize for commentary. next to him david maraniss, he won in 1993 for his coverage of then presidential candidate bill clinton. he was also part of "the washington post" team that won a 2008 pulitzer prize for breaking news reporting for its coverage of the deadly shooting rampage at virginia tech. and next to david, an yell al a professor in harvard's department of government and graduate school. she is a political theorist and past mecke of the pulitzer board. how much do you think this president has thought about his legacy, and what do you think he hopes it will be? >> first, let me say for everybody how delighted i am to be here. and in this august company and
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fellow journalists in this incredible place. i grew up in a newspaper where there was cigarette butts on the floor and pneumatic tubes, and old men in suspenders. and what this place is is a different world. barack obama throughout his presidency has thought about it deeply. as we know, he has met with a group of historians. i don't know if anyone on the stage was a part of it. i certain wasn't. over the years he would talk with them what it meant to be a great president. so he definitely wanted to be that. legacy's history is written by the winners. but the first legacy will be written by barack obama himself. you know, he will write a book that will probably get more money than any book in presidential history for that. i would say when he was just starting, if you remember, he compared himself not to bill
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clinton, but to ronald reagan. he wanted to be a president of consequence. i think no matter what your ideology is, he has done that. you know, from obamacare to opening up relations with cuba and what he is doing in iran. whether you bring or disagree, to bailing out the auto industry, there have been a series of actions that he has taken that i think add up to a president of consequence. i think also that, you know, there are many politicians and people of all sorts who don't change, they just become more so. and i think that one of the things that president obama's legacy will show was that he learned on the job. and that the final, you know, whether you agree or disagree, he became more effective even as he lost control of congress.
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>> danielle, what do you think -- what do you think about what his legacy is going to be, and what actually remains to be told? i mean, there are events that are still about folding that we won't really understand the consequences of for many years. >> well, it is a funny thing to suddenly try to get out the telescope and pretend that you're 50 years from now and look back at this moment and figure out what is durable and what is very much in flux. i think one thing that is social and emotional that requires recognition. this morning i got something out of my wallet that i've had since january of 2009 which is my metro ticket the night of obama's inauguration with his picture on it. now this is obviously sentimental for me to say this. but i think it matters that we had the first african american president. and for african americans, i think there is now consistently a sense of ownership in this country that didn't exist previously. i think that will exist even with the hard issues we've seen with the violent police protests and so forth that have played out. i think that does matter fundamentally.
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i would also say another fundamental change would be that i believe the obama administration, but president obama has secured the principle that health care should be accessible for all. precisely what shape that will take i think is very much an open question going forward. but i do actually think that the principle is now secure as it was not prior to his administration. for me the areas that look open and uncertain are the interesting combination of the relationship between the move for energy independence and foreign policy. so i think there are ways in which obama's foreign policy would make sense if it were possible to achieve energy independence overnight. but it's not. the against the backdrop that it's not possible to do overnight, it's very difficult to figure out what its long-term impact will be. that's how i split up what i pick to be certain and durable. i would be very surprised if 50 years from now we weren't talking to talk about the changed relationship of african americans to the policy and the principle of having secured
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access to health care for all. but i am sure that there will be lots to debate about energy and foreign policy. >> paul, what do you think? he did say i'm going to pick up on something that david said. you want to be as transformative on the left as ronald reagan was on the right. transformative or transitional? >> well, i assume i've been invited here to be the skunk at the gardener party. >> didn't you invite yourself? [ laughter ] >> i did not. i invited marty to host an event. and then weeks later marty said uh-oh, we better get somebody on the right here so i think they invited me. but i want to first of all, let me thank marty, the host for hosting this and jeff and fred. it's wonderful that i didn't did this. on behalf of the board and my colleagues on the board, thank you very much. it's a great event. and this is a wonderful space. i'm very jealous. so transitional. i agree very much with a lot of what david and danielle said. david is right that he has
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viewed himself, the president has wanted to be the progressive -- the reagan in reverse, the progressive version of reagan. and the question is has he achieved that. and i think the jury is very much out. and i would say even more than most presidents, his legacy domestically in particular is going to depend on the election of another democratic president. the reason i say that is because so much of his domestic agenda is been done through executive order and through regulation. virtually his entire climate change agenda is through a regulation. the health care agenda, while i agree that even if republicans do sweep the elections this time, they will not roll back coverage, they will rewrite the bill and replace it. and i would argue that even if a democrat wins, they will rewrite -- one of them will attempt to rewrite the affordable care act because it's not sustainable in its present course.
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a quick point on foreign policy. i hope we'll talk about that a little bit more. but i think if you look at the world, i think that is even more up in the air and a question mark about his legacy. because while the cuban and the iran deals are yet to be played out, particularly iran, we don't know how that will play out. and that has a chance to work, although you can count me a skeptic, i think the middle east, if you look at the world the president inherited and you look around and say okay, where is that world more stable, more ordered, where is it there is more peace and prosperity. and i have a hard time looking around the world and finding many places where that is the case. from putin in europe to the south china sea where china is pushing to the middle east which is a conflagration. >> i want to come back to foreign policy. but first i want to ask bob, there is nothing new about republicans disliking democrats, and vice versa.
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but in polling, pugh recently found the level and death of antipathy that each party feels towards the opposing with many saying the opposing party's policies threaten the nation's well-being. obama came to washington pledging to bridge that divide. does president obama get a pass for failing because we live in a polarized society? or does some of the blame lay on him? >> well, i hate to talk about -- the thing karl rove once said which everything depends on outcomes. and we don't know the outcome on lots of these things, to say the least. paul really, you muted your criticism. >> i got to think of the audience. >> of the environment, or you wanted to prove you're not a skunk. >> he is a chameleon. >> i'm a skunk. >> okay, okay. we read your work. [ laughter ]
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>> i can consider that a high compliment. >> i read it very carefully. i think there is a way to describe this, and david hit on this, that you have to measure how presidents learn and change. and in obama, the trajectory at the beginning, his first term, particularly on domestic policies, he was not a negotiator. i think he has become a negotiator now and realizes that inevitability in a political system and deal making, his relationships with people in the congress particularly didn't work. with democrats it was awful. i remember when the democrats controlled the senate. one key senator -- one of the very powerful committee chairmen
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i was talking to about this. and i was kind of saying, you know, obama has not connected with people. and i just don't know how you can say that. why, in five years he has called me twice. and i told that story once and said don't tell it in public, because the senators who only got one call or zero calls will feel totally out of the loop. and on foreign policy, i think he started out, i remember a couple of years ago having breakfast with the key leader of one of our biggest allies, and he said he likes obama. he is smart. but then he said something really true. he said no one is afraid of him in the world. and i think that's true. and i think he said the message of i want to negotiate, and he
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has toughened up a little bit after that. but the world is really a dangerous place. i think the fuse of instability is lit in so many places. if one goes off in the next year, the next two or three years, people are going to go and do the back bears on it, how did we get to this point. and not enough tough stuff. >> jo, can -- >> sure. >> can i head to that? then i'll shut up. because i don't want to talk about foreign policy because i don't know it. but i do understand obama. i'd like to compare him with clinton for a second in trying to understand how they dealt with both congress and the rest of the world. >> and relationship building. >> they both came out of completely out of nowhere, out of southwest arkansas and hawaii. they came out of dysfunctional families. with alcoholic fathers, stepfathers. and they had a lot -- and obama had the extra burden of trying
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to figure out who he was. so they both had a lot to deal with to get anywhere. and they dealt with it in completely opposite ways that played out all the way through their presidencies. bill clinton didn't deal with the dysfunction of his family or any of the problems. he just plowed right through it. again and again, he learned how to get past it without resolving things, and he became the ultimate survivor. and he needed people to do that. transactional politics in life was what defined bill clinton. and that got him all the way to the white house, got him in trouble in the white house, out of trouble in the white house, into trouble again, the repetitive cycle. barack obama dealt with those same problems in a completely different way. he tried to resolve them. he spent about eight years of his life internally, psychologically, sober logically dealing with all of those issues. came out of it with a certain confidence that he was, quote/unquote an integrated person that got him into the white house, into trouble in the
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white house. he figured if i can resolve the internal contradictions of myself, why can't everybody else? why can't congress? and that gave him a certain what people thought was an aloofness, which is really just sort of a different perspective that he had on life. and that has played out throughout his presidency. >> so it's the fault of mom and dad in congress? >> no, not at all. i'm saying that that's why he is the way he is. it's how he dealt with it. not how they affected him. >> he is a smart man. there were many, many articles written about his fill your to reach out to congress. and bob has written about -- i think you talked about the economic deal. >> he didn't meet. >> i think it's an over weaning self-confidence that has helped him rise to some extent, but has made it much harder for him to deal with people in congress. when you meet with president clinton, he would want to convince you that what you said was the smartest thing he had ever heard, okay. you know, man, paul, that's just
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fabulous. >> even for you. [ laughter ] >> even me. >> even you. did you believe it? >> of course i didn't believe it. but for that moment, you would say, you know, you're a smart guy, mr. president. and i would talk to ceos who would come out of a meeting with him saying it's all going to turn around. it's going to be fabulous. and with president obama, when you meet him, what he wants you to think that he is smarter than you. he has got you beaten in an argument. and this is why your argument is wrong. and that's a very different kind of personality. >> but it's not a personality. as president, you have to figure out a way to work your will. and this is what reagan did and clinton did in so many ways. >> but who accomplished more, clinton or obama? >> well, this we're going to find out in history. and, you know, what we don't know is are the big stories of this year going to be domestic
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and the economy? or are they going to be in foreign affairs? and they may be both. but this, you know, what he has done or not done is going to be tested. and certainly going to be tested and in the lap of the next president. >> i would like to add a footnote to this conversation about relationship building and the way in which president obama has or has not done that. because i think in all honesty, it's not just an issue in congress and politics in d.c. and so forth, but is actually an issue for the kind of conversation he has had with the american people over time. he has no surrogates. this is a very unusual feature for a president to have no surrogates who are also conveying their story and so forth. so he has a very small number of people whom he relies very heavily and hasn't building that conversational network. thing is a link between regret, the one in the state of the union where he expressed regret about not being able to bridge the polarization in congress and so forth, and where he expressed
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regret about not having modernized the white house office of communications. the communications is a core piece of the presidency, a core piece of being a politician, not a lawyer. right, that distinction between a politician and a lawyer. and i think at the end of the day, for whatever reason, he turned out not to be good at it. >> even if he had had those skills in the polarized world that we live in, it is possible to bridge that kind of divide? are we a country that even with the best skilled politicians, that we're kind of unable to have conversations because of the media environment we live in where people have their views reinforced and so on, or should leaders be able to rise above that and have a national conversation? >> i think it's not just a question of being able to rise above it. in human terms and build relationships, that's part of it. but there are also infrastructure questions. there really are questions about how we put conversations together in different contexts. so if you think about what is the underlying structure that makes various conversations possible or not? nobody is doing that in all honesty.
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in that regard, can't blame president obama more than we would blame anybody else, frankly. but it's something that we have to do. it's not optional. but it requires that underneath thinking about the structure of conversations, connection of different parts of our institutions to each other. >> it's about time against the problem also. you have to spend time with people, and you have to listen. and the negotiating process is very, very complex. and i think, i mean, like the iran deal, paul would disagree vehemently. but i think the iran deal is a significant and brave accomplishment. and anyone who knows anything about nuclear war will realize if even though imperfectly you can take one country off the table for ten years, getting a bomb or reduce the likelihood they will get a bomb, that is a big deal. and barack obama lives in that world, is the commander in chief who is in charge of the nuclear war plans.
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and if you do any reporting on those, you find that it is frightening. and if you were the person who had to make decisions on that, you would work like i think he has done and john kerry has done to get a deal, imperfect, but wow. just think if it works. >> i feel you're itching to respond. go ahead. >> if it works. and i would just make a couple of quick points. one is if after ten years iran does not have a nuclear weapon, or it's not made progress towards it, and there is no proliferation elsewhere in the middle east, then it will have been a success, with one other caveat, and that is will iran use the agreement to -- as a shield to promote its imperial ambitions in the middle east. that's also something very careful to watch. and i think the jury sought on that. i don't know how it's going to end up. >> well, of course we don't. if you're the president and you
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have that military aide who carries the football around that has a book of options that tells you can just by yourself, there is no committee meeting, there is no nsc meeting, launch nuclear weapons. and over in the last column, it says casualties estimated, 40 million people, 100 million people. i mean, this is the nightmare. and anything to reduce the likelihood of that nightmare ought to be applauded. >> if the saudis get a nuclear weapon, that turns out to have not been a successful deal. >> we'll turn to foreign policy in one second. i want to ask one more question of david on this question of his ability to communicate or inability to communicate with the congress. i understand where you're coming from. what might he have been -- what do you think he might have been able to accomplish and what would his legacy look like if he had that skill or developed that
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skill quicker? >> well, as i said, i think that given the fact that he was not good at that, he accomplished as much or more than bill clinton who was the best at it. >> really had a robust legislative -- >> so whether it would have been more or not, i think that part of it, you know, if he had made the grand bargain with john boehner. but there are so many other variables to that that was going on, as bob has written about. >> bob, you want to jump in? >> i mean, but both sides are to blame. >> yes. >> but there are deals that obama should have taken, at the same time boehner didn't know how to do it. and actually, in some of these meetings, effectively blackmailed or tried to blackmail obama. and obama, i mean, it's kind of shocking just kind of oh, this is part of the process rather than clearing the room and telling the speaker of the house, you know, we're not going to have a very good relationship
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if you try to blackmail me. >> i would think his failing actually was not so much -- i agree that he could have done more with congress. but i think it was more talking to the public. and as danielle said, developing surrogates. you know, he started as a community organizer. and if an issue like gun control was so much at the heart of what he believed in, his inability to develop a counter to the nra is a failing. and, you know, if you look at any poll, you'll see that a huge percentage majorities support not just controlling the automatic weapons, but -- >> he stood down actually on that. >> yes. >> right before the election. >> yes. but he could have developed something there if he had better skills at, you know, in his oratorical skills i think are overrated in terms of his ability to develop a public following on actual issues as opposed to just getting elected.
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>> i do want to turn to foreign policy now. obama's aides have famously summed it up as don't do stupid, or i guess stuff to put it lightly. hillary rodham clinton said that's not a policy, that's a slogan. i know a kind of rare moment of pique. first of all, how much of a departure from the historic norm is his foreign policy? >> that's a good question. i think long arc of history, there are people who certainly -- there are camps of people he fits with. it's not as though we've always had a strong and aggressive foreign policy. we've had substantial periods where we were more inward looking. so i think what matters in terms of historical picture, his effort to steer the ship away from the pattern that had been established in george w. bush's administration. but without, i think sufficient clarity about the shape of the
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world, the emerging shape of the world. and i think it's a hard problem. so that needs to be said in the first instance. >> is that a communications issue or a deeper issue of his foreign policy being a little incoherent? >> well, my own view is that there is incoherence in the foreign policy. so i think yes, it has been very smart to focus a lot on asia and building relationships there. i think that's a piece of success, actually i think we will look back on as a success. but to do that at the expense of our engagement with europe i think has been a very substantial cost. we don't talk a lot about the knack we have in various ways been relatively disengaged in europe. and i think we see the results of that in what is happening there. and that is obviously critical for what we're able to do in the middle east. so i do think that there were some smart ideas, but the whole picture didn't coalesce. >> he really said unintentionally with good will a
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message that was interpreted i think properly as weakness. this paragraph from his first inaugural, stunning to go back and look at this where he says our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint. now that doesn't work in a world where you have russia and syria and al qaeda and isis and so forth. and i think if you -- when people really do the serious histories, you're going see that the leaders abroad said oh, he is kind of begging to not have a fight. and a president who has the biggest military, the most potent military in the world needs to scare people. and he didn't. >> paul, i'm going to jump in for a second. there is a difference between restraint and isolationism. and "the washington post"
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editorialized on syria particularly that obama should have and could have done more early on to support the syrian rebels against assad. then when things got worse, pointed to that to justify his inaction. fred hyatt wrote this may be the most surprising of president obama's foreign policy legacies, not just that he preside over humanitarian and cultural disaster of apocalypse proportions, but he sued the american people into feeling no responsibility. fair criticism? >> a good piece. well, i think it's more than a communications issue. and it is a signal of weakness, but it's more than that. these were strategic choices the president made. and we will find out why he made them, i think in part -- he viewed himself as the anti-bush, right? he was not going to commit american forces in a way that president bush had. >> to be fair, there wasn't a lot of bipartisan support for
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another war anywhere. >> absolutely. it's one of the reasons he won the election. but that has consequences. and just as you can point to iraq as mishandled because of an overwillingness to intervene, syria is the counter example of what happens when you decide to look at a burning building somewhere or a burning country and say we're just going to let it burn. and petraeus, general petraeus has said, he calls it a chernobyl that is radiating throughout the world. and the key decision there was to stay out of syria, do nothing, number one. number two, to withdraw from iraq totally. and that became the incubator of islamic state. and i think we see the consequences radiating out. maybe secretary of state kerry can pull off a miracle in syria in the next year. but i think that he -- this president is handing in the middle east, the next president a real problem in the middle east. >> but -- >> having received one, it must be said. >> well, but is the middle east
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better now than it was in 2009? that's the key question. >> and was it better in 2009 than 2001? >> yeah. >> no. >> it's tough territory. there is no question. but the issue is i don't think these were strategic decisions, and maybe part of the problem was it wasn't thought enough about in those terms. i think they came -- as people particularly you pointed out, you know, there is an internal drive. obama's in charge, and he does not like war. he hates war. and he wants to avoid war. >> i think what they would say is that he -- and when you talk to his aides is he doesn't like slippery slopes. is there something in his dna that kind of makes him worried about that or trying to always figure out what the end game, what the stop point is, david? >> first of all, you know, he doesn't like war, but he did say, you know, the speech that got him elected in 2002, his
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first words were i'm not against all war. >> just dumb wars. >> yes. >> but actually -- >> he's not a pacifist -- >> i mean, i spent a lot of time on this subject with him and others. i think he just -- as he said in his nobel prize acceptance speech, war is an expression of human folly. >> so he is right, right? >> i'm sorry. >> we've got to go to the audience. i'm going to ask one more round of questions. and one question, and then we'll take your questions because we don't have a lot of time left. in 2007, bill keller, then the executive editor of "the new york times" charged the bush administration with the most secretive and hostile operations to suppress than any since the nixon administration. his successor jill abramson said that obama's was the most secretive white house she had ever worked with, a sentiment echoed by "the washington post"
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former editor lynn downey and said this administration's war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive i've seen since the nixon administration. bob do, you agree with that assessment? and we all rely on leaked information to do stories -- >> no, no. leaks are when "the new york times" or "the wall street journal" have a good story. right? >> well do, you agree with the assessment? most secretive since nixon. >> it's a plan. >> aggressive, thoughtful hoarding. and, you know, of course no one likes secrecy. and, you know, how do you compare this and that? david spent time with obama. i've been able to interview obama, find out what goes on. you need a lot of time. >> so you don't agree that it's the most secretive since the nixon administration?
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>> since the nixon? >> more leaking investigations? >> i'm going give the nixon administration the academy. >> lifetime achievement award. >> that said, how do you feel about the fact that high-ranking white house officials who talk to you and to many of us about things that are classified in nature do not get prosecuted, yet lower people do? >> well, i mean, they've made a mistake and a stupid system. you know, we can still find out some things, but never enough. that's a big -- i mean, all of us are in a sense begging for transparency. and, you know, but the key is time. you've got to be able to spend months and sometimes years on these things. and you can chip away. and the environment -- internet environment of impatience on speed does not lend itself to that. >> i believe we have a time to take a couple of quick
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questions. anybody? there is microphones. yes? no? >> here we go. >> ron suskind. >> you know, i have a question that goes back to what danielle said at the start, that in some ways this president peaks out on his first day. >> i didn't say that. >> well, i said it. >> not a peak. >> where is the question? >> the moment he becomes the first african american president, he knows he has made a mark in history. and i guess i wonder in the long span of things, what everyone on the panels thinks that will look like 50 years from now in terms of the change and the very participatory era we're living in of those disenfranchised citizens. we end his presidency at a time of real racial strife. >> danielle, you want to answer that? heroics is this going to play out? and i think i would like to hear some of the others --
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>> let's get an answer there. >> there is, yes, racial contestation. rather than strife. but within the groups who are organized and organizing, they're working with a sense of a political stake in the country. and they are actually engaging in seeking legal change, proposing policy changes and so forth to a greater degree i think than gets covered perhaps. and so i do think that that is a different picture of politics around race than we had prior to barack obama's election. i think it's a significant energizing of people as political actors, civic agents connecting to political institutions. so i wouldn't be surprised if we see a crop of people who enter into politics ten years time coming out of this moment as well. >> i'm told we have time for just one more question. anybody? >> if there is one over there. >> welcome. >> i have a question about -- oh, sorry. i have a question about rahm emanuel.
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in fact, he had on obama's legacy and what impact obama has now had on chicago. >> david, you want to take that? >> i would say -- and i'm a fan of rahm emanuel, unlike a lot of people these days. but i would say his impact on the obama administration has been largely de minimis. i don't know about the president's impact on chicago, but i think he was a short-timer as chief of staff, and i think most of the key decisions did not come through rahm. >> well, we could go on and on here, because we haven't even gotten to half the things we wanted to talk about. but we've got to turn it over. thanks so much to everybody for being here and sharing your thoughts. and now joining us is gene robinson of "the washington post" who will lead a discussion with white house chief of staff denis mcdonough. i'm sure we'll have some
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comments about what they're saying. [ applause ] >> denis, have a seat. hello, everybody. hello. first let me thank our first
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panel. you teed it up very nicely for us. i'm here today. i'm gene robinson. i'm here with our special guest -- [ applause ] -- with our special guest who took time out from his busy schedule, and it's one of the busiest in washington, i'll tell you. the president is somewhat demanding, i'll hear. denis mcdonough, who is white house chief of staff. he is the 27th white house chief of staff. the previous 26 are the stooped and broken figures you see wandering around washington occasionally, because of the nature of the job. denis joined the administration in 2010 as the national security council head of strategic communications, i believe. he quickly became the deputy national security adviser and became chief of staff in 2013. so denis, thank you so much for being here today. so we just heard a fabulous
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panel giving us a fairly definitive assessment of the obama legacy, but by my count, there's a year left. minus one week. so could you tell us what can the president get done in this lame duck year? can you name, say, his three top priorities that he can actually accomplish in this last year? >> yeah, first of all, thanks for the opportunity to be here. it's a beautiful new building, and i thought the events yesterday were quite nice. i'd say just a couple of things. one, that's the way we see it as the way you finish the question, namely, we have yet another half of the fourth quarter of this administration. and so we're working really hard on that. we're not coasting through the year. what the president said to us about three weeks ago is he said he's going to be asking himself throughout this year whether when we're going to do something, he is going to ask
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himself why not. and we're going to be pushing very hard on that, as we did by the way the last year when people were asking us the same question. and i think last year i'd stack up, i'd leave to it the historians, but i'd stack up his year seven against any year seven, frankly, when we think about the things that we were able to accomplish from iran and cuba to the budget agreement to the imf reforms and to xm. but i'm happy to come back to that. in terms of the year ahead, we're open for business. we're open for business with congress. but we're also going to pull every lever that we can. i'll just name a couple of things. criminal justice reform. there's things that we think that we can and should do with congress, but there are things that we know we will do of the president's own accord. on the economy, we have an opportunity with the biggest free trade agreement in history in the tpp.
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and we will continue to press congress to do that. and i think those are two pretty big examples that in the main we're going to be pushing congress to work with us. but we're open for business on that. but if -- if they're not willing to act, then we're going to pull every lever we can. >> how much concern is there in the white house that much of what the president did could be seen as fragile in the sense that if it was done by executive order or regulation can be undone by executive order or regulation? for example, what he did on immigration, what he's done -- some of what he's done on guns, a lot of what he has done on climate change. >> uh-huh. >> came through the executive and regulatory process rather than through congress. >> right. >> and could be undone. >> yeah, but look, i mean, i worry about a lot of things. and do i wish that congress
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would have passed cap and trade back several years ago? sure. but the steps that we're taking on the clean power plant now affirmed by the courts are entirely within the mainstream of regulatory authority of the president. and ride in the first instance a wave of transition from coal to cleaner natural gas. and what we're trying to do is give it a boost to cleaner still renewables. and i think that there is a question of policy on that. and i think we're pushing as hard as we can on policy. but there is also a question of what's actually happening on the ground. and because of some of the tax changes, for example, that just went through at the end of last year with pretty dramatic expansions of the solar and the wind tax credits, i think you're going see a continuing revolution in the generation of electricity that will keep apace not only with what we need to do
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in climate and what we're pushing for, but will exceed that i think the next president will not be inclined to be able to, whether he or she wants to change. >> so president trump will confront facts on the ground that he can't -- that he won't be able to undue or he won't want to undue? >> that's my belief. and i think, you know, if that's the case across the board, but i think in terms of the energy revolution that we have seen in this country to include electricity generation, i think it is way beyond what anybody would have thought when we started to make some of those investments, for example, in the arra a couple of years ago. >> let's talk a little bit about foreign policy. and you can't start that discussion i think without mentioning syria. >> agreed. >> talk about the problem from hell, it is the problem from hell. but what kind of syria will the
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president leave behind in a year? the syria still in the throes of civil war, humanitarian disaster, part of it in the han isis caliphate or some different syria? >> i think what we have laid out is a strategy that recognizes that this will not be the first civil war that is resolved by means other than politics. that is to say, there's got to be a political settlement among the syrians for what happens in syria, one. two, we have an overriding and very immediate concern about the threats posed to us here in the homeland, to our interests and to our friends by isil. so we will continue to push very aggressively with our own kinetic force, but also by mustering syrian and iraqi forces who ultimately are going to have to govern the spaces that they push isil out of.
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and third, we are going to continue to be a leader on addressing the humanitarian challenge that comes from the ongoing chaos in the country. so we have three lines of effort. what we want to be able to present to the next president is a stable set of partners, as we address those, we'd like to have a political process that all the parties in syria have engaged in. and i think we've made some progress on that, notwithstanding today's news. and we're going to see an isil on a path way to its ultimate destruction. >> when do you project that's going to start to work? when does the administration project that the policy will start bearing fruit? >> as it relates to the counter-isil effort, i would say that we've seen important progress over the course of the last several months. it's not by any means sufficient, and we will continue to press that very, very aggressive. both with our partners in the
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region, state actors, with forces on the ground who are out to take the fight to isil, to control and hold ground they take back from them. and then of our own accord, using the kind of kinnetics that we've seen. we've seen good, important progress, but it's efficient and we'll continue to lean on that. as it relates to the political process, we have through secretary kerry's efforts in the geneva process, a path way forward for the parties to work. and the biggest and most immediate challenge, i think, particularly as it relates to the spillover, is this refugee challenge, and we'll continue to work that. >> continue to work that, including perhaps opening our doors to more refugees? >> not opening our doors, but rather continuing the decades' long and generations' long tradition of maintaining the
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doors open in this country as a source of refuge to the world's most vulnerable. and that's been the case, i think, admirably in this country since our earliest days and it's the president's intention to maintain that. >> an official in the first term told me once of a conversation with the president in which the president was asked, how do you wish to be remembered? context was foreign policy and the president answered that he wanted to be remembered as the president who began a -- between the muslim world and the west. that hasn't happened. is that a disappointment? how does he think about that? how does he think about the fact that he came into office perhaps uniquely suited because of his
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father's heritage, because of who he was, where he came from, perhaps uniquely suited to be a bridge figure between the two civilizations, and it hasn't happened. >> yeah, so i -- i -- it doesn't sound familiar to me. i think when i hear the president talk about foreign policy, i think he talks first and foremost about maintaining the strong national defense and protecting this country. expanding our influence overseas. in the most general sense. and i think in both of those, there's no question that she succeeded in that and will be remembered the same. as it relates to the broader question, the relation between the bradley defined muslim world and the west, i think the
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president has set out a series of challenges to our friends in the muslim world. because i think, first of all, to suggest that there's one muslim world is a mistake. as we're watching between the saudis and the iranians, for example, i think there's still deep divisions between the shia and the sunni. but i think, as we're seeing play out in this war among sunni, to include actors like isil, there are still deep divisions within sunni islam. it is not gonna be resolved. those divisions are not gonna be resolved by the united states. those are going to be divisions that have to be resolved by those countries, by religious leaders. what we will do in that context is partner with those friends who want to partner with us, and
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we will aggressively, very aggressively defend our interests. and that includes, against this per version of isis, in my view. >> and speaking of what the united states will do, we're now involved in aggressive actions against isis or isil, not only in iraq and syria, but elsewhere as well. recently there has been a lot of talk about perhaps a more dramatic escalation of what we're doing in libya. is there a need for that? is that in the offing? are we going to essentially open a new front in libya? >> i'd say a couple things about that. i've been -- first of all, i think the reporting, including by not only people working in this building, people who are in this audience right now, but among the press generally, on isil, and on the expansion of
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its kind of thought and brand, is really remarkable. and it rivals and is as good as anything that we have access to. so i think people, we owe a debt of gratitude to this profession for that. secondly, i think what that reporting tells us is that isil is, for a variety of reasons, to include the pressure they're under in syria, but also because of the chaos in a place like libya, is looking to expand. and we're eyes wide open about that. and so, what this president has said is, we will exercise all the elements of our power to protect our interests where we need to, to include the use of force, and you saw that last november in libya that led to the demise of the leader at that
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time, of isil. that leads me to the last point. i'm not telling you we're at a point of dramatic escalation or expansion, but we need to be eyes wide open, and the president's pressing his entire national security council to be eyes wide open about where isil is trying to manifest as al qaeda tried to manifest in different places as it was under pressure, in that strip of land along the afghanistan/pakistan border. they sought to move out and i have every belief that isil will do the same. and we won't let up as they do that. >> since we're in a room full of journalists, that brings me to my next subject, which is that relations between the obama administration and the press and the media have at times been scratchy. >> really? >> yeah.
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i don't know if you noticed. >> i brought donuts sometimes. [ laughter ] >> and you've heard it. you've heard people say this is a closed administration. >> yes. that overzealously guards and is locked down and doesn't tell us what we need to know. how do you respond to that? >> i think -- well, you and i had a nice beginning of a conversation on this backstage and this is something i've thought a lot about. and i think if there's not a degree of friction between any white house and any press corps, then somebody is not doing its job, either us or the press. i think that friction is -- tom daschle, very influential guy for me, used to call it the music of democracy. that music is auchb times not very mellowedious, but without
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the music, sometimes there is no democracy. so sometimes that friction is -- we need it. that's the most important point. in terms of access to the president and access to policy makers, i think this is something that we, as any administration, struggled with. and i think that there's things about our record that i'm very proud of, in terms of the access to the president. i think there's certain things, as the media environment changes, and our obligation is to make sure that the american people have as complete an understanding of the president's policies as possible, that we have to use every channel that we can to get that thought out. on my run today, i was struck that there are families in iowa who are convinced that the president wants to take their guns. >> yeah.
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>> we have no policy, proposal, and we have never indicated an interest in a policy proposal to take guns from law-abiding citizens. nevertheless, that's an understanding. so the question is, when that understanding develops, either because of misinformation or otherwise, it's incumbent on us to make sure people don't have a misimpression. so some of the friction between us and the white house press corps, for example, i think also stems from our effort to use all sorts of new media channels to get a more complete picture of our policies out there. but i think that in the main, we have lived up to our commitment to the american people, to be a
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transparent administration, to be an open administration, and inasmuch as you all will not grant that fact, i think that's evidence of the needed friction that we should continue to operate under. and i have every expectation that we'll continue to operate under. especially scratchy characters who have been generating some of that friction. >> well, i promise to be respectful of dennis's time, so we have time for a couple of questions. >> good. >> so, anybody? just yell. [ inaudible ] -- to frighten people. and it's my perception under the obama administration, americans have become more afraid. what can obama do to allay the
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fears and to actually put terrorism in perspective? >> yeah. so i think that the principal challenge that we have is to be successful against an enemy that either, a, either because they're successful even when they're not, have a very low barrier to entry, a very low barrier to success. and i think in the main, we've done that. and i'm very proud of the work we've done across our government in terms of stopping countless attacks, making sure that we're partnered with our friends and allied nations around the world, to address attacks there as well. so, the first thing that the president needs to do and that the administration needs to do and i think that we've done a pretty good job of is, stopping the threats to do materialize.
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because there are very real threats. it is a very real, dangerous world, and we're working on it. the second thing is, i think that we have to underscore to the american people the extraordinary changes that have taken place since 9/11. notwithstanding the fact that this threat has gotten that much worse, given the kind of flatter world, more globalized marketplace. we are much more capable at countering these threats and that doesn't just mean that we're much better at surveillance or anything like that. i think that debate many times overshadows the other things that we've gotten much better at. sharing information across the government. sharing information among governments. sharing information even through international organizations such that it's easier to identify
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nefarious actors no matter what the nature of their criminality, whether it's terror, trafficking, or otherwise. and i think the third thing we have to do is to underscore to the american people that this is the principal priority we're focused on every day. that they needn't have the responsibility to be worried about this all day every day, because that's what our job is. and sometimes i think the politization of this topic really colors that effort. and i think that's a shame. at some point, we'll get back to kind of the water's edge mentality that had traditionally colored foreign policy in this country, but i think that's a ways from now. fourth and last, we have to be much better at getting out and contesting these ideas in the spaces where these ideas are
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propagat propagated. i think that the ability of some of the most heinous actors on the face of the earth to get some unbelievably hateful propaganda onto the phone of any individual anywhere on the face of the earth, is a huge challenge. it makes what is in some ways a distant threat, very personal and very close. and until we're as effective in that space as we can be, as the kind of leaders in that technological venue, then we're gonna continue to confront greater unease among the american people. so this is the area where, in my view, i've failed the president most dramatically since i've gotten in these jobs over the course of the last several years. and we are bound and determined to leave the next president much
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more effective infrastructure to allow us to confront that stuff. >> we might have room for -- time for one more. back there in the back. >> i'm -- you mentioned to the next president, how do you explain the rise of outsiders like bernie sanders and donald trump and how do you think president obama would feel about bernie sanders or donald trump becoming president? [ laughter ] >> i'll let the president share his feelings. i'll -- that -- i think that there's -- part of -- i guess part of my answer will reflect back to the last part of my last answer, which is, and i think the president's speech at the state of the union addressed some of this. i think we're at this moment
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where ironically, super dynamic global economy, in a dynamic economy, the most dynamic player benefits the most. the united states is by far the most dynamic player. so the strength of us in this economy is -- or the threats to us in this economy are kind of like the threats to us on national security. that is to say, not our weakness economically or otherwise, but rather the weakness of other states, other players, other actors. right now the weakness of china, for example, is a big drag on us. notwithstanding very strong recovery from the depths of the recession. so, notwithstanding all those trends, or maybe perhaps because of those trends, people feel on the outside. the institutions are not keeping pace with the change, where those institutions are congress,
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the administration, or colleges, which are getting more and more expensive. even as they get more -- get to be more and more baseline requirements. so people are feeling cut out of the dream in a way that they haven't in a long time. and i think the challengefps fos as governors in this effort, as people are running the government, is that we have to figure out how to make the government responsive to people's concerns again. we're answering questions that people aren't asking, i think. and at the moment, i think, in the political debate, you have a lot of emotion and energy around the questions. i wish there were a similar amount of energy and emotion around the answers which are
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quite limited. >> well, denis, thanks so much. >> thanks so much, gene. i'm really good to be here. >> let's thank, denis. busiest man in washington. [ applause ] and now our publisher and ceo, fred ryan, is going to come up and say a few words. [ applause ] >> thank you, denis and gene and thank you, everybody who was part of the panel discussion that got us started. i just want to say when the pulitzer committee accepted our invitation to come, we were thrilled. because, in almost any endeavor, there's a recognition for excellence. for the kind of work that represents the very best that can be achieved. in sports, you have the heisman trophy. in entertainment, the academy awards. but in journalism and publishing, composing, the
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pulitzer prize is the definition of excellence. and at this time in the media industry, there are many sites and platforms that seek to entertain, rather than -- and to enlighten, but not to inform, and not to dig the way journalism should. and it's therefore more important than ever that we rise to the standards of quality in our profession, and the standards set by the pulitzer prize. we strive to win those prizes not just for bragging rights, although that's very nice, and marty mentioned we have 61 -- [ laughter ] -- but we know those awards mean you have contributed something meaningful to society, that you've done something that has impact. and i prepared some remarks, to be candid, to elaborate a little more on that about the humility and honor we have at "the post" to have those awards, but i want to set those aside for another occasion. yesterday was a big day for us,
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inaugurating these headquarters. but it's a much bigger day for jason rezaian and for all of us, because he's a free man now. [ applause ] and i think it's really a bigger day than that of a single man. and i think jason would agree with this. it was victory for everyone who's chosen the brave course of journalism knowing that it comes with risk. sometimes risks include imprisonment and even losing one's life. we know the terrifying stories of journalists around the world being imprisoned simply for doing their job. others lose their lives in war zone, as collateral damage, and sometimes now as direct targets. and we had a great dinner two nights ago. jason and his wife yegi, jeff and mckenzie bes os, and bob woodward and a couple other. and jason shared this remarkable story. he talked about the flight back
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with jeff, from germany, where they entered their port of entry in the united states in bangor, maine. and you have to remember, yegi's had her papers taken away. they took everything away from her, her phone, her documents, everything. and jason didn't have anything either. they weren't sure what was going to happen when they arrived in the united states. and jason was telling us, this big burly tsa guy walks up to them, reaches out and said, they need to know that when they messed with one of us, they messed with all of us. and that was a powerful statement about how we stick together as americans. but i just wanted to use my moments here to say, thank you to you for standing together as fellow journalists and members of the creative community in jason's cause. thank you for locking arms and uniting behind a global effort to secure jason's release, and from the great work that the national press club did, the
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terrific editorial pieces in "the new york times" and other publications and the terrific coverage. we felt that in places near and far, journalists and artists around the world made it clear, if you messed with any of us, you mess with all of us. i think that played an enormous part in contributing to the efforts to secure jason's freedom. i can tell you at "the washington post," we know there are more jasons out there, who sit in prisons now, and there are sadly future jasons who are doing their jobs today, and they may be in prison tomorrow. so i would say from everyone at "the washington post" here, thank you for your role in jason's safe return and please know that we will stand together with you and your colleagues who take these risks to perform the essential role of media in society today. and while we all hope it never happens, when the time does come to unite with yours and other news organizations to work on behalf of imprisoned
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journalists, we will be there with you. and i want to take one other moment to, while he's here, to personally thank someone who played a very important and very personal role in securing jason's release. yesterday we were able to thank secretary kerry for serving as the point man in the negotiations that secured jason's release. the secretary was steadfast and he was determined to bring jason home. we are deeply grateful to him and his team at the state department. but our gratitude also goes to someone else who played a very important role. and that's our special guest today, dennis mcdis mcdonough. [ applause ] denis made this a personal mission. he was engaged, pro-active, always willing to spend long days and nights to explore any
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and all options to get jason's release. like the honorable public servant he is, he was discreet, kept confidential information, accessible by phone, by e-mail, face to face, to hear our views and to think creatively about how we might get jason back. and the job description they have for white house chief of staff, you have to have the ability to druink out of multipe fire hoses at once. but denis always found time to make this a priority and put in an enormous amount of effort to bring jason and all the american prisoners back. so, denis, on behalf of everyone at "the washington post," thank you for your leadership on this. [ applause ] >> and to the pulitzer community, the journalists and artists who are here, thank you for letting us have this at the first event here at washington
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post live. we have a new facility. we invite you to take a look at it, walk around while you're here. and one thing i hope you'll notice on your way out. it's temporary right now, but there will be a permanent plaque on the entrance to this space, honoring the legacy of the pulitzer prize on the occasion of its centennial. and it will be a statement about the importance of the pulitzer for all who come here to see. thank you for hosting and we look forward to seeing you again soon. [ applause ] >> our road to the white house continues from new hampshire tuesday. at 12:30 p.m. eastern we'll take
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you to wyndham for a town hall meeting with texas senator ted cruz. later, a town hall meeting with marco rubio in exeter. that's live. then at 7:00 p.m. eastern, donald trump holds a campaign rally in milford. that will be live on c-span 2. >> if you're interested in the process, it all has to begin in iowa and then in new hampshire. we don't set the rules in terms of which state is first or second. we have to cover the candidates where they are. there are a lot of people interested in this election. every four years, the american people make a decision to say who should be the leader of the free world. who should be our president. and so, for those who want to follow the process and do it in a way that's completely unfiltered, we're the only place that does that. the other thing to keep in mind, though, is that as you look at this campaign, and you look at
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these candidates, you're able to see how they're able to try to close the deal, and during the final days of any campaign, there's a lot of attention on every nuance, every news story, every speech, every ad, how is one candidate trying to rebut the other, how are you trying to respond to those in this day and age of social media and twitter, the news cycle is constant. so we're the one place that can allow you to take a step back and watch it. you can get the analysis on other networks. you can certainly hear viewer calls and weigh in on the programming, but we're the one place that just allows you to see it as it happens and make up your own decision. >> a panel of french and american authors looks at the state of feminism in the united states, europe, and around the world. hosted by the french embassy in new york city, this is about an hour and a half.
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>> good evening. [ speaking french ] can you hear me? welcome to the -- i'm very excited to be part of a panel of brilliant and interesting women. on my left, margo jefferson. a very old and dear friend. margo is a cultural critic and the author of the just published negroland, a memoir and also on michael jackson and many other things. she's also been a staff writer for "the new york times" and she won a pulitzer prize for criticism in 1995. her essays have been widely published and she teaches writing at columbia university.
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>> katie, who is a dear friend, the director of the cultural reporting and criticism program at new york university. she's the author of several books including "the morning after." sex fear and feminism on campus. in praise of messy lives. and uncommon arrangements. denak is a research professor for political research in paris. she's a member of the steering committee for the research and lecture program on gender studies and she's the chair of the parity commission of the higher council for gender equality run by the french prime minister's office. her most recent book -- [ speaking french ] -- was published this year, 2015. and also joining us, the head
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much french public radio station france couture. she's worked at "le monde" and she's written several tv documentaries as well as an adaptation of "address unknown." her books focus on the female condition, the most recent of which, the idea of a tumor, that a name is a portrait, of a young french communist militant. i have to keep using it. [ laughter ] i thought it was -- um, i came up for the idea of this panel, are we still the second sex, in talks this summer because it's a question, i think that i'm never not thinking about. you open the news, it's the second sex was published in 1949. and in one sense, there's a a
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lot of differences between then and now, and a great measure of progress in women's lives. on the other hand, you open the newspaper every day or turn on the television or go online, and you see one story more horrific than the next about the enslavement, brutalization, and marginalization of women. so it seems very pertinent to ask the question, are we still the second sex? and is there anybody who thinks we are not still the second sex? i don't know. do any of you think we are not still the second sex? >> i think we have to have the sequel of simon's brilliant work, would have to be less the second sex. because male dominance is at its shakiest. women now are the majority of the workforce in america. they're the majority of managers in america, college graduates are now for every two men graduating college, there are
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three women graduating college. so in certain ways, there have been radical advances, but that's not the whole story. >> when i was 15 or 20, being a woman was not an issue at all. i was -- i was born a child and i was about to become an adult and i would have never thought about that question. and it happened long time after that when i was maybe 30 or 35 years old. so i would say that according to me, we are now living a kind of strange backlash. strange because you would see
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some woman everywhere, but i think that we are facing two opposite problems. the first problem would be that we -- we have wonderful researchers who have worked a lot about all kind of, well, equality issues and gender issues. but it seems to me that, that they are pretty much -- pretty much far away from the citizens and that most of the citizens do not understand at all what we mean by -- talking about those kind of issues, gender issues and things like that. that's the first point. and the other one is, that's the
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world of ideas, but on the opposite, the other problem we have is that we have some difficulties to make understand the concrete steps that we need to -- well, the concrete steps we have to face all together. and in all our professional society, quotas are still a problem, and we have a lot of, well, difficulties to make understand what we still have to do to become equal. >> we can say that many decade after the publication of the seminal book of simon debof wa.
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it's still powerful analysis in order to shed light in the fact that gender inequalities because a picture is still a picture of gender inequalities in the world, is a political issue and not a -- one. moreover, i think that it's essential to make the difference between the improvement and the significant improvement since publication of this seminal book and the fact that gender equality is not achieve nowadays. so i think that we have to face a picture with a lot of improvement in particular, the fact that it's democracy, men
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and women are equal. but we are still a huge work in term of raise, the issue of what is gender equality. i think that nowadays, we are still in a political search of complementarity. if you look, for example, there are still fifth percent of women are out of state in the world -- >> that are what? >> heads of state. >> oh, heads of state. >> yes. 5%. if you look for interim of labor market, we have a huge gender pay gap between men and women and there's a load of that shows the persistence of inequality
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and that gender norm are embedded in our society still today. >> do you have a -- >> i think among other things, the variety and -- >> talk a little bit more into -- >> -- variety and range of inequalities from, throughout through the west, but in the non-western world, that's the remarkable thing. it used to be in the second wave of feminism that we western women felt that we were in a kind of vanguard and we could get very culturally smug about, you know, oppression, abuses that were not happening here. but look at the things that are happening here. abortion is being utterly attacked. everything from salaries to physical violence against women.
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>> even contraception. >> pardon? >> even contraception. >> yes. so everything that we politically took pride in is under assault. the huge problem of the range, let me use diversity in a negative way, the diversity of discriminations and oppressions, also make it very hard to address. because it's like, there's so many toxins, how do you handle each one? there are also huge divisions between women in different countries, in different classes, of different ethnicitieethnicit religions, races, this complicates the problem enormously. >> i wanted to ask you, everybody, but in particular, simon traveled to america while she was doing research. her lover nelson invited her to chicago and introduced her to richard wright. and for the first time, she saw
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racism, the post war -- just post-war racism of america, which was terribly shocking to her. and she was also, it was france, it was 1947, it was right after the second world war. so she frames the notion of the woman as "other" and the woman as the objectified other and objectified in sort of the generalalities that you can use when you objectify someone, diminish the object. she used race and religion, the objectified minorities to frame her arguments. 20 years later in the '60s, white women were told, you have to take a back seat. the issues of class and of race are much more pressing -- >> by the way, black women and all women of color were told the same thing. we were all told the issue of race, which we're not going to say out loud, is actually the
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issue of, you know, race. and the men in each group, we were told the same thing, you have to take a back seat and support essentially the patriarchal struggle against racism. and class as well. >> and class as well. but i wanted to ask everybody on the panel, do you see these struggles as separate? can, or should they be separated? and how do the experiences as a woman of color, how did the experiences of objectification relate to each other? i'm not saying one is worse and one is better, but -- >> i think they mutate constantly. one will cover the other. you will think that some form of discrimination is entirely racially based, which i certainly grew up thinking, because feminism, the second wave of feminism. feminism for my generation simply did not exist in the 1950s and early '60s when i was coming of age.
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then, when you start to learn about sexism, you realize that, they are constantly, sex, class and race are constantly interacting, collaborating, sometimes competing with each other. very much competing and that's one of the problems in the intellectual formation. you know, that each group is inclined to feel, really because -- again, in terms of justice, we operate in a scarcity economy. women, people of color, are not wrong to feel necessarily practically. well, if you're putting women ahead, then probably in some way, as the operating system, you're discriminating, or you're deciding to forget, you know, about another group that needs attention. so we are constantly struggling with this need to play groups against each other and reward
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one over the other. >> anybody else have a thought on -- >> i was just gonna say, i think one of the problems in american feminism is the tendency of certain -- a kind of certain feminist voice to identify as victimized in the same way as say a woman in saudi arabia is victimized. >> without distinction. >> without distinction. and a friend of mine just wrote an amazing book called "excellent daughters," about women in the middle east and you can see that their experience is way worse than your average kind of liberal, college freshman, whose problems are just not on that same level. i think one of the problems in america is that we collapse these distinctions so radically, and we're so eager to jump in there and say, i'm victimized, i'm victimized, that there may be a loss of nuance. >> is that true in france? >> i think that's the main
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challenge, it's to make equal citizen, and for this reason, we have to go behind and overpass the singularization. and for me, the point in common between racism and gender inequality, or sexism, is the fact there is a bureau politic of gender inequalities or racial inequalities, in term of naturalization of this inequality. so it's a very important point in common, and i think that it's important and the challenge is to focus on this point in common, in order to reshape the society in a political issue together and to carry a new frame, a new political frame and not to fall in the trap of
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tension between victimization -- >> competition among victims. >> competition among victims. so i think we don't have to fall in this trap, in particular, in terms of setting the political agenda, in term of public policy, and we have not to forget that the reason and the challenge is to have a real transformative approach of this issue and not a bur okuracy. >> what are the most urgent priorities that we can find common ground with women of different classes and at different degrees of struggle,
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of oppression, of freedom? what do you see as the most urgent? >> i think that the situation is a trap. if you -- it's like -- it's not the good track in order to solve the problem. if you think in this term, you only permit to have like division in term of inequal citizen. and for me, it's contradictory. with a real reshaping of our society. >> yes, i think exactly the same thing. i think it's a trap. it's like, if we were wondering whether we should first fight for the gay rights or first for
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the woman rights. i think it's just impossible to think this way, that way. and maybe the difference between -- well, there are a lot of differences, but one of the big difference is that in france, we just discovered that we were living in a mixed society. we didn't know about that. no, really. oh, okay. makes you laugh, but it's true. it's true. it has happened, well, i would say ten years ago or so. not before. and maybe less than that. so we were all supposed to be the same, the same kind of citizens thinking the same way, having the same religion, which was forbidden in the public
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space, and everything is not totally different, but it has become certainly different and we are not used to it at all, and we especially have a lot of problems now because -- well, you all heard about all our date on the veil, the islamic veil, and it has been a problem that divided all the feminist movement, all the left wing. so, you know, a lot of things we don't know about that kind of issues. >> i wanted to -- the second sex started as a memoir. it was not going to be 800 pages and she said she was moved to write it because when she tried
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to define who she was, the first sentence that came to her was, "i am a woman." i wonder if you would speak personally, because you said you didn't really realize, you didn't think much of being this or that until you were 35. i remember i didn't think much of it either until my mother told me one day that i should maybe not raise my hand so much in school. i'm curious to know when you became aware of this otherness, or if you did. maybe you were spared. >> i think i -- i'll just give a generational portrait, which is, my mother, i think there was rapid, rapid social change. so my mother came of age and her father told her, only ugly women are lawyers. [ laughter ] and when i was a kid, when i was a tiny kid trying to watch the brady bunch, my mother would
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stand over my head giving me feminist critiques, going, girls shouldn't just want to be cheerleaders and i was like, i know, mom. and then my own daughter, i was watching the primary debate with her, it was hillary and obama. she liked obama. she was about 5 years old. and she said -- i said, but, wouldn't it be cool if there was a woman president? and she looked at me with utter disdain and she was like, mom, of course there's been a woman president. because in her world, why would there not have already been a woman president. and i think that that change is something that's dizzying and psychological in terms of what we feel was available to us. so i didn't feel as i was growing up, that i couldn't do what i wanted to do. obviously the sexism was more complicated and shrewder in the world i grew up in, but it
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wasn't -- somehow i was raised with that feminist consciousness pounded into my head. >> well, as i said, i was born right around the time simone debof wa was publishing. i was very young when she published this book. i grew up in a relatively enlightened, in terms of my family and schooling, environment. meaning, yes, if you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, you know, whatever, choreographer, you can do that, but you must not violate any of the structures and strictures of also being a very successful woman. so you really had to do double duty. being a successful woman not only came as i'm sure many of you remember, with a battery of
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laws and conventions about how to look, how to dress. in the old days, you were supposed to only cross your knees if you were a proper girl. you didn't cross like that. you crossed at the ankle. and there were thousands -- [ laughter ] -- there were hundreds of rules like that. especially impressed on me because the history of race had dictated that black women were essentially seen as beasts of burden who pretty much had proven that they were, you know, sexually loose, intellectually inadequate, like their brothers and really not capable of being this thing called a lady, a well-mannered lady. so i grew up in the bourge wa zee with all of that too. and so, it's a strange message. you can do exactly what you want, but you really can't if it involves breaking any rule.
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>> dancing backwards in heels. >> exactly. and still being considered less than fred astaire. >> every american knows this. ginger rogers and fred astaire were a famous dance team, and he was a great dancer, but she did everything he did backwards and in high heels. [ laughter ] so that was always the -- so when was your -- did you have a moment of -- you're 40, and so you came of age in another world. there was a moment for you -- and this is also what you do for a living. this is your passion, your research. did you have a personal moment where you realized there were either things that people were telling you you could not do or that society was in some way a barrier? >> i prefer to speak of simone
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debuf wa for me, to be aware that it is essential to take into account that there is inequality between women and men and that we have to go beyond this identification and singularization. for me, the essential is the main point is to face a kind of dilemma. in a personal experiment, but also in a more collective and political experiment. the dilemma is that in order to objectify inequalities, we have to have a picture of the place of women and men, both in private sphere and in the public sphere. and we have also to consider that if you want to live a real
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equal society, where each city, and it's no more the women or men or black or white or yellow or tall or short, big, i don't know, but there reason of equality, we have to go beyond this identification and i think that simone debuf wa permit us and invite us to live in this world, in this realistic utopia. and in particular, the fact that female or male are human being, and we have to say, beyond this and not only with this banality, but now we have perhaps to think in a more continuum or a more -- >> well, this is a very -- what you're saying is actually a very, very controversial point. it was a very controversial point.
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it's been a very controversial point among debof wa scholars. the most famous line in the book, is, one is not born, but rather becomes woman. and she does, as you say very well, she had a utopian vision of what she called an eventual fraternity. she had to use a gendered word and for her that meant the difference is in an enlightened world it would be abolished. but there are essential differences between the men and women beyond the obvious ones? but that women should cultivate their differences. and french women have been on the forefront of this discussion. and so, i mean, this is a debate. >> -- used to call it female nationalism before we called it female essentialism. and all nationalisms, racial,
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female, et cetera, poison. >> so i'm just -- do we believe, are we essentialist? do we believe the differences are -- how do we -- what's your thoughts? >> i am not an essentialist, no, no, no. i am not about race or about gender any more than i am about class. it to me, it's as ridiculous as being -- i mean, there are not obviously differences. but to be essentialist about it is as ridiculous as saying that all classes -- you know, it's the great chain of being, yeah. >> simone debuf wa makes a distinction between the guest and the class. and she explains that the gender base individuality between men and women is like a class, categorization, because we don't have the ability to change in
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the gender base. we know that it's more complex and we have to think beyond this banality. but i think it's a very relevant issue now, nowadays. because we have to face with a trend, a trend that is make in the audience of complementarity, of this essentialist, in an age of complementarity that is modal. not only in the family, but also in all the society and there is an audience between this and teral la gassy and the kind of newly -- because nowadays, with legitimate gender equality and inclusion of women in management
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or the political sphere, in the name of performance of women, of the fact that women do politics differently, or management differently. and i think it's another trap. because it's only permit -- modalization of the essentialist as well. it's still sexism. sexism means inclusion, but it's still sexism. and it only permit women to be the second sex and not a real equal in the political and all of the sphere. so i think it's a very relevant point. >> i think it doesn't really matter because her main point, which is, women are constructed, is still the relevant point of how the culture conditions people to become female.
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i do think there's a strain of american feminism, if you think of margaret fuller, i accept the universe, she did have ideas about the complexities of -- sort of biological complexities of being a woman as opposed to to just simply a social construct, but i don't think it matters in terms of debof wa's contribution. whether the science is different or -- >> no, i don't think it matters in terms of her contribution at all. it's just -- she started a great debate on pretty much every issue and ground and the debate has sort of spun, you know, like the universe, the expanding universe, some of it into gassious areas of outer space and some into very sort of dense and interesting ones. >> i would say that in france, what is worrying me is that
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we -- we don't know what -- we are lost. pretty much lost as far as the idea of progress is concerned. i mean, we don't know -- probably something has changed after 1989 in europe, before the fall of the berlin wall. we knew where was the progress and where it was not. and since then, since then, everything has been mixed up. and so we don't know if feminism is a good thing or it's not. we don't know if the anti-racism is a good thing or is not. you will find some people thinking -- having idea you
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would have never thought 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. i think we are really much living in a lost society. and the question of culturalism, essentialism, are not as, well, as obvious as they used to be. because i have known a country where, well, a certain number of things were obvious, and nothing is obvious anymore. >> you are the head of a very important cultural institution, and you all are also teachers and writers. is there -- what -- who are the heirs to simone debof wa? who are the figures, the writers, the philosophers, the activists, who are speaking to and for women in a radical way? beyond sort of academic or ivory tower debates?
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for me, one of them is ellen, the italian writer. but i don't know who those figures are for you. >> i think one of the problems is there aren't so many of those figures. when the second sex came out, they wrote it was brilliantly confused. and she meant that as a high compliment. the problem now, things are oversimplified. certainly in america and feminism, there's sort of the internet jezebel feminism where most of it's about talking to this echo chamber where people just say somebody's sexist, and then everyone else is like, ooh, that's very bad, and there's not a dense, complex, psychological investigation going on anywhere near the nature of what simone debof wa was doing. >> it's sort of clan warfare? >> i think so. and it's just, they're really bad, we all think the right things. and nothing is unpredictable. one of the things that's so great about the second sex was how wild and unruly and
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unpredictable it was. and the absolute -- and the way that she looked at how these really complicated social forces affected our most intimate lives was so complicated and had that brilliant confusion. so i actually don't think -- i think there are some meedians who are looking at this problem in a really sophisticated way right now. but i actually don't think there's a great feminist voice out there, to me. >> anybody else? >> i think the french feminist elizabeth bad inter, some of her writing on motherhood to me is very interesting and might be -- her critique of how women are implicated in their own idea of what we have to do to be mothers and the whole idea of the child is king culture and the way that the sort of expectations we place upon ourselves and the way in which women are holding themselves back for that, i think that's an interesting idea.
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>> i'm glad you raised the subject of motherhood because i was going to. another source of controversy for critics of the second sex is her stronger than ambivalence towards reproduction. and she had a mother who was a martyr. she was horrified the way collette was by the sacrificial women she saw around her growing up. they played the maternal role at the expense of their individuality. but i like to bring this into the present and talk about the predicament for contemporary women, the unequal distribution of domestic chores and child-rearing responsibilities. i'm putting -- most people will have read the reproduction of mothers. she poz itss that women are pretty much in every culture, raised by mothers, that it's so
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unequally distributed that this perpetuates misogyny, because children have to identify with the other to get their freedom and the other is male. so i'd like to talk about the challenges that face modern women in having families and in being mothers and in preserving their individuality from the undertow. i think four of us have children, but we're all parents -- >> and one of us have not. i am the one. >> but we're all in love in this issue of the inequality the -- yes. [ inaudible ] >> our siblings, yes. >> and i would say one of the remaining real tab boos in our culture for women is not having children. it still is. >> you experience it that way. >> i am surprised at moments. it's a little bit like you're
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saying, oh, you thought, up until a certain age it's not an issue being a woman. and i've gone through my adult life, i came of age with the second wave of feminism, not having children, many of my friends didn't. but the number of times someone will gaze deep into my eyes, particularly recently as i published a book and say, did you really not want to have children? [ laughter ] and if i -- you know, if the story that i tell, i've now patented it -- [ laughter ] -- they want to probe, are you sure? what were your parents like? >> you're right. [ inaudible ] >> it's the unfinished woman. and this is the compensatory woman. these are one of the nuances that -- >> and one of the nuances is also, well, what went wrong in your love life, even if you're
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still -- even if you're still out there. >> it's never to late to adopt. >> you can't be judgmental politically, but you can have pity. so the pity is the form that our cultural conservativism takes. i spent many years as a single mother and i would add that as another tab boo, having a child on my own, i have written about this, the strange conservativism in this country, 53% of women born to women under 30 are born to single mothers, so that's the majority of babies. but yet, we have this crazy, exotic, kind of dysfunctional situation. so some of that, there's a lot of -- i think that a lot of our conservativism now in america is aimed at women who are choosing not to be mothers or not to be mothers in the way that they used to do it in 1953. >> we are lost in old europe,
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but not that lost. [ laughter ] so, no, i don't think it's tab boo anymore. we can talk in general, depend where you live, what kind of class and family and thing like that.
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