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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  June 19, 2019 12:30am-1:01am BST

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i'm ben bland with bbc news. our top story: the five conservative candidates vying to be the next british prime minister have clashed in a noisy tv debate. they disagreed over whether a brexit deal could be negotiated before the current deadline at the end of october. they also clashed over a key stumbling block — how to avoid physical checks at the border between northern ireland and the republic of ireland. president trump is about to launch his 2020 re—election campaign at a rally in orlando, florida. and this story is trending on bbc.com. scientists say this picture of a dog—sled team in greenland wading through a lake of melted ice, shows the impact of climate change. that's all. stay with bbc world news.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk‘s stephen sackur talks to valerie jarrett, who was senior advisor to president obama from 2009—2017. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. it is one of the great puzzles of american politics — how voters could make history by putting barack obama in the white house, twice, and then elect donald trump as his successor. how much responsibility should team obama take for the course american politics has taken since they left centre—stage? my guest today is valeriejarrett, close friend and advisor to barack and michelle obama, from the early days in chicago all the way through the white house years. how will historians view the obama legacy?
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valerie jarrett, welcome to hardtalk. well, thank you. i'm delighted to be here, steve. thank you for having me. it's a pleasure. if i may, i want to begin by taking you right back to 1991. you then met — you interviewed a young michelle robinson for a job. you were a senior lawyer, she wanted a job. a few weeks or months later, you met herfiance, barack obama. what did you see in that couple that attracted you to them, and what do you think they saw in you? well, i had just been promoted from the law department to deputy chief of staff for mayor daley, and i was staffing at my office.
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and someone sent me a resume and across the top it said, "brilliant young lawyer has no interest in being in a big law firm, and would like to explore public service". and i had abandoned a big law firm as well, six years earlier, and i was impressed with her resume. and so in walks this tall, confident young woman, shook my hand, looked me dead in the eye, saw my resume, never mentioned a word that was on it. she told me her story, and of course, we all now know it's a quintessential american story about growing up on the south side of chicago, working—class family, instilled in both she and her brother the sense of "to those whom much is given, much is expected'." and, although they hadn't gone to college, they supported she and her brother both going on to college, and further. she went on, obviously, to law school. so you were mighty impressed by michelle from the get go. blown away. offered her a job on the spot. i didn't any authority, i might add, to offer her thatjob, but i did it anyway. but the weirdest thing then happened, something that i still struggle
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to truly understand. she — when you offered her thejob, she didn't just say, "yes, please, i'll take it." she said, "we've discussed it, my fiance and i, and he has a few problems with the mayor, and he's not quite sure it's the right thing for me. so i'm not going to take it unless you agree to come and have dinner with me and my fiance, barack obama, and then i'll make a decision." she put it a little softer than that, but that was basically it, which is that he's uncomfortable, and i want to make sure that we do this as a team. and so i was intrigued. i wanted her very much. i'd heard of him when he was a community organiser in chicago, and obviously his being president of the harvard law review was something that had impressed me, and i was happy to do it. and people who think it's odd, i say to them this. i say there wasn't a single decision he made about his political career without her right there at the table as well. and so it was more an indication of the partnership that they had, and their approach to make big life decisions together. that is a fascinating thing to say. but it strikes me that there's almost a rider one could add to that, which is i'm not sure
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there's a single big decision he took, going all the way through the white house years, that didn't involve your assent and agreement. well, i will say that the three of us bonded that night in 1991, nearly 30 years ago now, and have been very close personal friends. i look at them as the younger siblings i never had. see, that, to some, raises a very interesting question about potential conflict of interest. ‘cause you are the closest of close friends. you know the kids extraordinarily well. they know your daughter extraordinarily well. you holidayed with them all the way through the white house years, and yet you're also a very senior professional advisor. it's the opposite of a conflict of interest. it's a twofer. you have both somebody who knows you well, knows your core values, is only there to support you, as well as someone who brings substance to the table. yeah, but rahm emanuel, obama's first chief of staff, he clearly didn't think it was right. he was suspicious. he felt that there were channels open to you, direct to the president, that he didn't have and that in a sense you could bypass the hierarchy, the white house machine, and frankly,
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he wanted you out. well, he was — he had reservations about my coming on board. and i think what we all realised after we'd worked together for a while is that i was a part of the team, i was an integral part of the team, and that it wouldn't have been right for the process that the president obama set forth to circumvent it, and kind of go rogue, if you will. but you didn't go through the chief of staff. you went direct to the president. the three senior advisers all reported directly to the president. right. all three of us did, but we were still a team, and i think that's the point you're missing. well, i — i wasn't there. but i'm interested in the reporting of some people who were sort of on the scene at the time. daniel klaidman, for example, who wrote a book about the obama presidency, he said that you were pretty much tantamount to a shadow chief of staff. did you feel like a shadow chief of staff, or an alternate chief of staff? i don't even know what that term means. no, i saw myself, as did the other senior advisers, all who reported directly to the president, as a part of his team.
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we met before we would go in and talk to him, we tried to reach consensus with one another, we tried to make sure that we had cast a broad net, so that we gave him informed opinions, and then we went in there together. and if we disagreed, we told him, "valerie thinks this, so—and—so thinks that". and then president obama would debate the issue and make a decision, and what i think was extraordinary about his leadership style is that he really listened to whomever he thought had the best ideas. and it could be the most junior person in the room. i want to go through some of the issues that you had to go through in the white house. and one that is such a strong theme in the memoir that you have written is your take on race in america today. you were raised, first of all, outside of the united states, in iran, and you've always said that gave you a particular sort of context and perspective on race in america. because you were a young, black girl who didn't actually face segregation and prejudice in the first years of your life. and interestingly, obama spent a lot of his early years outside
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the united states, too. do you think you and he shared a perspective on racial division in the united states? i think we had the benefit of seeing the united states from the outside, in environments that were not riddled with the discrimination that my parents experienced, for example, before they left the united states. they ended up in iran because my father couldn't find a job comparable to what his white counterparts were receiving when he left the military in the united states, at a large academic teaching institution. that's where he wanted to do his research. and so he landed a job at the department of pathology and starting a brand—new hospital in shiraz, iran. and i lived there until it was five, and then i actually moved here to the uk for a year, and then to the united states. and so my very early years, in a sense, my parents took me over the colour line. at the same time, for example, that ruby bridges was integrating
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her school in louisiana, surrounded by armed guards, i'm going to an american school in shiraz with young kids from all over the world. i was in a sense thinking in a different way, that maybe obama and you, with your perspective from outside the us and the fact that you hadn't personally experienced in your young life so much outright discrimination, maybe that was one reason why obama always wanted to avoid being defined by policies that were perhaps, to some people in the united states, going to be seen as the politics of black anger or resentment or grievance. you know, he was always very careful to say i'm a president who happens to be black, rather than the black — first black president. and some black people in the united states have felt that he let them down. he didn't confront the systemic racism that there is in the united states today. well, first of all, president obama, to this day, is extraordinarily popular in the black community. extraordinary — his approval ratings are 90 — 99% in the black community. were there some people
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who thought he should do more? of course. you could down every possible way people wished we could have done more. we wish we could have done. but i think what president obama did do is he tried to talk about race in a way where people could hear him, where it was a teaching moment. so for example, after the murders in charleston, when reverend pinckney and eight other prisoners were murdered by a self—identified white supremacist, he said, look, it's not enough just to take down the confederate flag. what are we doing to improve our schools? what are we doing to strengthen the relationship between police and communities of colour? he always tried to discuss it in a way where people could hear him, and see themselves any other person. why do you think, then, some very important opinion formers, thought leaders in the black community, have in retrospect been very negative about obama's impact? so who are you talking about? well, i'll give you a few quotes. you tell me what you think of them.
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alicia garza, for example co—creator of... ..of black lives matter. exactly. she said this. "too often obama has used occasions like, for example, the fallout from the killing in ferguson, missouri, which saw riots on the streets, he's used these occasions not to push for greater accountability within law enforcement, but to push a narrative that black people should behave more responsibly." well, i would disagree with her, and the facts bear it out. in ferguson, the department ofjustice under president obama did an investigation. they found a pattern and practice of discriminatory behaviour required the city to enter into a consent decree to terminate those practices. police there were simply giving people tickets as a way of generating revenue, and disproportionately affecting the african—american community. so the facts there actually don't bear out that promise. one more thought. frederick harris, learned professor, director of the centre on african—america politics and society, columbia university, this is his conclusion. he said, why should black constituents bear the burden of obama's risk—aversion when it comes to these difficult issues of race? " i don't have any idea what he would
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have had him do differently. you never felt that obama was risk—averse? not at all. he gave in the middle of his presidential first campaign one of the most profound, rawly human speeches about race i've ever heard anybody give, against the advice of some people who said stay away from that. but you remember why he made that speech? he made that speech because his own pastor back in chicago, jeremiah wright, had been exposed on video as saying some very negative things about the united states and its treatment of black people, which clearly barack obama worried about in terms of the impact on his campaign. so that might express some risk—aversion. well, no, no. what he thought he needed to do was to explain to the american
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people his relationship with the pastor, give them some perspective on the black church, which maybe they didn't have, and talk quite honestly about race. and i think — for example, in the aftermath of the shooting of trayvon martin, president obama said profoundly, "if i had a son, he would look like trayvon". he was trying to communicate to the broader public how it feels. why is it that, in our country, and he said this actually in the briefing room, that a young black man can't walk down the street in his own neighbourhood and worry about being at risk? i remember. and out of that grew my brother's keeper, which is designed to help the trajectory of young black men. but ms jarrett, if i may say so, i do remember that passion and those words very clearly. young men like trayvon martin are still being gunned down by police forces across america today. yes, they are. yeah, they are. and i just wonder whether you, and in your talking with president obama since he left office, whether you have thought about the reasons why, to be blunt, you failed to change that dynamic. i think it would be unrealistic to think that one president is going to change in eight years something that has been a part
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of our society for so long. what he did do was to create a taskforce that looked at the relationship between police and communities of colour, and he gave a blueprint to them of what they could do to improve that bond of trust, because both police and those who they serve and protect both deserve to go home safely. unrealistic, you say. i guess that raises the issue of legacy, and of what — eight years of the obama administration actually changed, fundamentally changed, for good in the united states of america. what would you point to as a true, lasting achievement? well, so, for example, we cut the unemployment rate in half, including people of colour. the unemployment rate was cut in half. 20 million people have healthcare today, many who didn't have it before. no—one can be discriminated against for a pre—existing condition. osama bin laden is no longer walking around the earth. we didn't have a single terrorist attack on our watch. we brought home 150,000 troops. we entered into a climate accord with 200 countries, and although the united states has pulled out, the remaining countries and many of our governors and mayors and business leaders have stayed in that deal. and the list goes on. we've eliminated our
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dependence on foreign oil. well, you can talk about the jobless figures. of course, donald trump does the same. you can talk about the killing of bin laden. i guess one could describe it as important, but one can describe it as circumstantial. circumstantial, that the person who was responsible for the horrid destruction in the united states, and that we went after him and found him? yeah, you went after him, just as other administrations before yours had gone after him. but we found him and brought him to justice. obviously it wasn't barack obama himself who did the intelligence work, but he was the guy who gave... it was on his watch. of course it was. but my point is this. in that list you gave me, the key perhaps was affordable healthcare. that was a signature measure which barack obama personally put himself on the line for, and he got through the us congress. keeping our economy from going into the worst depression since the great depression, which would have cascaded around the world. well, many opponents of obama would say, look, he inherited the crash of 07—08, and what did he really change about the banking system
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and about wall street? substantially, oh, surely... did he really, really take on the wall street interests? absolutely, there are rules of the road in place today under dodd—frank that will prevent banks from taking that kind of risk again with taxpayer money. you have not seen any of the kind of abuses that we saw under our watch when we first got there happen again, not to mention investing in the recovery act, which helped businesses and state and local government and reversed that trend. bailing out the automobile industry, that were two out of three automobile manufacturers were in bankruptcy when president obama took office. i guess the bottom line is, a lot of the things that obama did were the result, in the end, of executive action, because after 2010 you lost control of the house, and you never got it back, and you never had a congress you could truly work with. that means that donald trump, using similar executive actions and orders can undo and has undone much of what...
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that's true, and elections have consequences. and so when you say what's permanent, that is part of why i encourage people to vote, because if you want to continue the trajectory that you're on, then you need to make sure that the people in office reflect the same values. because, yes, we reversed many of the executive orders that president bush had put in place. that's what happens when you're elected president. but then when we come to legacy, that means that so much of what you did has, to be blunt about it, been trashed. and ijust wonder — if i may, i want to put you and the obamas, the two of them, back on election night 2016. i believe you were with them as the results came through. i was. talk to me about your feelings, theirfeelings, when it became plain that donald trump was going to be in the white house. well, it was profoundly disappointing, i think, to think that a country that had elected barack obama twice would go in that direction, and it has been disappointing since that day. but, as i said, it's also troubling that 43% of americans didn't vote in the election.
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and, after all, hillary clinton did win the majority of the vote. she lost in three states... sure, well, it's the rule of the electoral college. did you see it coming or were you utterly blindsided, surprised? i did not see it coming, no. i did not see it coming, and i think what happened in the country created a wake—up call. and so it began the day after the inauguration with the women's march, the young folks from parkland who organised march for our lives, the activism we've seen from the #metoo movement and time's up, the record number of women and people of colour who ran for office in the midterm elections, the fact that the democrats in the united states took back the house of representatives and put nancy pelosi back in as a speaker of the house, the fact that we have six women now running for president — unprecedented, historic in our country — to me shows great progress. and, in a sense, some of it may have
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been a wake—up call, but the activism is what gives me reason to be optimistic. you called that result in the 2016 election "soul—crushing". and ijust wonder, given the strength of that feeling, whether you and — i guess i'm very interested in the barack obamas too, whether the obamas are going to be very visible, in your view, in the run—up to 2020, in doing what they can to work with the democratic candidates, and the ultimate choice for the nomination — working as hard as they can to get a democrat back in the white house? well, i'm no longer a spokesperson for the obamas. you'll have to invite them on, but i can tell you what i intend to do. you do work with them very closely still... of course i do, but i don't speak on his behalf. i can tell you, he's very concerned about the direction that our country is going. he was involved in the mid—term elections. my expectation is he would do the same in the general election. i think all of us good democrats need to get behind whoever is the nominee, and ensure that that person wins the election, which is why i've counselled several of the candidates to not beat up so much on their opponents that
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whoever emerges as a nominee goes into the general election in a weakened state. i think we have an embarrassment of riches in the field. i think we have some terrific candidates, and it's still very early, so we'll see what happens. who do you like the look of most? who right now seems to you to be the best candidate? i'm not going to put my thumb on the scale, because at this time, when barack obama was running in 2007, he was down by 30 points, and hillary clinton was the inevitable candidate. so i'm not going to put my thumb on this scale. i still want to see — we haven't even had out first debate. we have debates coming up next week — this week. i can't wait to see those first debates. it just interests me, you're obviously being very tactful, but you spent eight years working day in, day out withjoe biden. he's terrific. he'd make a great president. but you're not saying you think he would be the best candidate for the democrats? i'm not saying anything one way or another, because i think we have some really great candidates in the race. i've said quite publicly that vice president biden
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was indispensable to president obama. he'd make a terrific president. he'd be 78, do you think that's too old? i don't think that's too old. there are six women at least, i think. six, yes, and i know them all. they're terrific. again, in your memoir, you speak very openly and frankly about the difficulties that face professional women who want to get to the top, whether it be in politics, whether it be in the law, and you have experience of both. all the way around, yes. you raised a young daughter while climbing that ladder and working crazy 1a, 18—hour days. and then in ‘08, you found yourself in that rather strange position of working for a candidate who was obviously a rival to hillary clinton, who could have been the first female president had she won of the nomination and then the election. did you in any way feel conflicted about that? no, ididn‘t. as you know, we discussed early on, i've known the obamas since 1991. he's like a brother. i thought he would make a really outstanding president. and so — and that doesn't take anything away from her, who i strongly supported in the next election, when she ran in 2016. so no, but my loyalty was clearly with barack obama, and i think he was an outstanding president, and i think history will reflect that. and you can'tjudge him so quickly. you have to wait a while, i think.
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as time evolves and we have greater distance — all the historians that i have said, say it takes ten, 15, 30, a0 years before you really appreciate the legacy of a president. and what about the future of the democratic party. leave aside the choice of one of these 20 to be the face going into the presidential election, but there is a battle for the soul of the party, at every level. you've got the young progressives, some call the sort of the woke young radicals, perhaps figure—headed by alexandria ocasio—cortez, and then you've got the centrists, the old guard, perhaps symbolised byjoe biden. now, there is a gulf between the two. where does the party need to be? there's actually not so much of a gulf. well first of all, i will say this about the democratic party, which i think is a strength, is that we have always had a big tent. all are welcome in our party. there are always robust ideas, and there are plenty of people who you might want to label one way or another, but i think
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what they all have in common is they want every young child to grow up and have a chance to go to college, and not be laden with so much debt when they finish that they spend their life paying it off. they want people to be able to have health, not go broke because you can't afford to take care of your own health. sure, i get that... they want to retire with dignity. these are the core values that the democratic party. that's right but, to be blunt, both in terms of the message and the messenger, you've got to think very specifically, i guess, about how you win back the voters in states like michigan, wisconsin and other american sort of mainstream states, where donald trump actually pulled it out of the bag — he won. you've got to win those people back. what kind of democratic party do you need to do that? most of the polling — his very own polling is showing that the candidate you mentioned, joe biden, is beating him in all of those states. and so i think that we, as i said, have an embarrassment of riches. and the challenge is not going to be motivating people to care. the question is, can we get them to turn out on election day?
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what i hear from the american people is, think about the issues that i talk about around my kitchen table, and give me confidence that you're going to go there and fight for me, that you're not going to put yourself first, that you're not going to be thinking about your legacy and winning the 24—hour new cycle. you're going to be thinking about me and my family. if i may say so, the more i hear you talk, and we have to end in a moment, the more i hear you talk, i'm wondering whether you ultimately will run for electoral office yourself. why would you think that? because you've been around electoral politics for so long... that should be reason enough why. you clearly have a passion to change america and continue the change in america. you know what i would say to you, steve? i would say what president obama said when he left office, and i truly believe this — that the most important office is at the office of citizen. and what i am interested in doing in this next chapter of my life is exciting people about participating in their communities, about voting, changing the culture around voting, in a non—partisan way. so, if not you, what about michelle obama ? no, she will not be running either, ‘cause she realises the same thing. do you mean this time around, or ever? she will never run for office, in my opinion.
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and i think it's because she too believes she can have a greater impact outside of the political system. she will devote her life to service. she's never been a politician, she's always been a public servant, and there's a difference between the two. barack obama managed to do both. neither she or i are interested in the political part of it. help other people run for office, but not myself. valeriejarrett, it has been a pleasure having you on hardtalk. thank you. it's been a pleasure with you too. thank you very much indeed. thank you. hello there, good morning. by thursday, the weather should be much more straightforward, but we've still got cloud around at the moment, bringing some outbreaks of rain.
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and there are some storms around, too, as this warm and humid air pushes its way northwards. that cloud bringing the rain, this cloud bringing the storms too, and they're tending to track their way across the south—east of england and east anglia, and this is the main area at risk of further thunderstorms as we head well into wednesday. there could be some really gusty winds, some hail and some thunder as well. this is the story as we head towards the end of the night. we've got a lot of cloud for england and wales. outbreaks of rain, the storms moving away from the south—east of england, pushing across east anglia and into the north sea. things are more straightforward for scotland and northern ireland, where we've got sunshine and showers arriving from the north—west. but, by late morning and into the afternoon, we could see a fresh crop of thundery downpours arriving in the south—east and east anglia, even a few patchy bursts of rain across the midlands and lincolnshire. much brighter further west, across england and wales, and those temperatures very similar to what we had on tuesday.
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so some rain, unfortunately, again for the tennis at queen's, and some rain for race—goers at royal ascot. thursday probably dry for ladies day. certainly drier, i think, on friday by then. but it will be feeling a little bit fresher. the humid air ahead of that weather front is going to push into the near continent, the storms heading away, as well, and this fresh air we're pulling from the atlantic around that area of low pressure. closer to that area of low pressure in the north—west of the uk, this is where we keep showers going overnight into thursday. clearer skies, a cooler, fresher feel for england and wales, but the promise of some early sunshine. now, some places may stay dry, but there are some showers heading eastwards from wales and the south—west of england. probably the driest weather and sunniest weather across northern england. but a scattering of showers for northern ireland, and some frequent, heavy showers across scotland, and again those temperatures 16—20 degrees. as we head towards the end of the week, we're starting to see high pressure building up from the south. but across the northern half of the uk, particularly northern scotland, we're closer to that low pressure. that means some showers will keep going in northern scotland, and it will be quite
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blustery as well. after a sunny start for many other areas, we're going to find cloud building up, but there's a good chance you'll stay dry, with some spells of sunshine into the afternoon. and those temperatures really aren't changing very much at all over the next few days —16—20 degrees. however, over the weekend, it looks like all of us will get warmer. saturday looks mostly dry, with some sunshine. things start to change on sunday, as we see some rain beginning to arrive in from the west. that's it from me, goodbye.
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i'm sharanjit leyl in singapore, the headlines: the race for the white house. president trump is about to launch off his 2020 re—election campaign in florida. wiped off the map — satellite images show mosques in western china destroyed — the second of our special reports from xinjiang. the concern is that a whole history and culture are being wiped out. i'm ben bland in london. also in the programme: the race to be britain's next prime minister. the final five candidates to lead
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the governing conservative party go

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