tv Conflict Zone - Guest Ben Rhodes Deutsche Welle February 28, 2019 11:30pm-12:01am CET
in a good game of power and the competition. is most important natural resource bluffing. checking how much will they be able to play and who will win they're still believes it removable energy play an important role in the future. but you look at the. start. the annual security conference here in munich isn't just about the big names and well known faces it's also about the special advisors who craft global policies and work at the secret heart of government and i guess this week is one of them he's ben rhodes and former national security advisor to president obama after two years of the presidency how well is obama's legacy holding up.
the roads welcomes kosik thanks for having me i'll give you one of the biggest upsets of the obama presidency was the election of donald trump set out to repudiate a lot of what president obama did why didn't you see that coming. well you know i think most people were surprised by the results of the election i think it was a number of factors you know i think the first is that you're broke obama personally was still quite popular at the end of his presidency the economy was growing and it seemed like things were set up for a democratic victory in the election and you said being with obama gave you the confidence that you were part of something that was right yes was there certain arrogance in that do you think no no i mean when i say that i mean that you know
frankly as progressives i think barack obama and me tend to sometimes think that history is moving in one direction that societies are becoming more tolerant and more inclusive and that we're extending more opportunity for more people and cooperation between nations but the reality is that throughout history there's always a backlash to change there's always a reaction to changes not just in politics but in societies and down from gave expression to that now the americans have been telling pollsters for years before that the country was going in the wrong direction and the support was waning for political institutions yet countries like congress for instance yes it's down fourteen percent at the end of obama's tenure it wasn't yes so that that was a warning that should have set off some warning well then those trends have been in place for a long time i mean even predating obama you know obama was elected on a change he didn't stop it the decline in support for this mission is absolutely not and you know with something like congress the radical obstruction we faced
obviously degraded faith institutions obama himself though was personally popular so in a way he could photo above these trends and frankly if he had won for a third term if you could you know he would have won and if you look at the results of the election don some got less votes for president than mitt romney got and twenty twelve and obama defeated him it's just that hillary clinton got a lot of his votes and obama did obama miss the draw power of trump's rhetoric to. i mean on the visit to london before the break that vote you read and this in your book he told then prime minister david cameron when i watch trump's rallies i think how potent his message would be from a more skilled politician it was already pretty potent by then wasn't what he missed that actually i said that i thought you said yeah yeah yeah no i look we understand that so you missed it to be sure but to be very clear. brock obama i think as as an african-american understood full well the power of
a demagogue and the power of division and divisiveness but to pick up on some of the threads in our questions i think you can overstate that there were some dramatic shift in public opinion in the united states you know again from got less votes than the republican who lost obama he was able to get the republican nomination that to me is the radicalization in american politics then he was able to defeat a very unpopular opponent and hillary clinton and i wouldn't over read from that that there was some enormous shift in opinion in the country in the direction of trump there was a shift in opinion in the republican party that allowed somebody like trump to become the nominee and then there was an election where he beat an unpopular opponent you said obama ended up with the popular in the country but for the democratic party he was a major setback wasn't he over the two terms he served roughly eleven hundred elected democrats lost their lost their positions. their majorities in the house
and senate went by the time the trump got into power the republicans were stronger than any time since the one nine hundred twenty s. why i think that what is absolutely the case is that obama's personal popularity was not transferable to the democratic party and we did make a mistake i think in not doing enough to build the institutions of the party during his eight years he was assistant politician he was described as a distant politicians. well not to i think ordinary people you know i mean inside the party well you know in washington you know i think there was this idea of him as distant but that's not the view that people in the states are all around the world had i think the voters felt quite connected to obama and he i think uniquely among american politicians and the last couple of generations was able to forge a connection with people but the democratic congress of his is jerry connelly was one of those who couldn't understand why there was such a lack of communication between the white house and democrats on capitol hill he
said people like me susan twenty fourteen this was way into the presidency people like me want to be allies i mean i am an ally so work with us reach out to us you know we're not the enemy well so i should say things like that yeah i would take one democratic house but he wasn't so he wasn't alone there was the well i think we had a very good relationship with democrats in the house i mean nancy pelosi i mean that's the only way we passed health care law wall street reform all of the major initiatives of the armed presence he relied on very close cooperation with democrats in the house i write in the book that there was this idea that democrats or republicans would criticize obama for not reaching out when he did they wouldn't extend a hand in return. of where he invited the which is saying you couldn't win whatever you do now with republicans you know we made every effort to reach out to republicans and i think anybody who's fair looks at the bomb presidency would see that in a mitch mcconnell or in the republican house these are not people who are going to work with obama under any circumstances they had
a strategy of obstruction and no politician in iraq obama shoes was going to be able to shift them off of that you during the course of your time in the white house with the you have been to have doubts about policies plenty of debates but you never seriously believed to use that phrase that you were in the wrong side of history you know on these last trip aboard as president of the as president he suddenly asked. what if we were wrong maybe we push too far maybe people just want to fall back into their try sometimes i wonder if i was ten or twenty years too early and you in the book you answer that question you say we were right but all that progress depended on him and now he was out of time if you were that right how come you'll always be known as the people who held the door open for double trump well look i think the i don't believe that's how it will be known. i do a very strongly that the future of american politics is going to look
a lot more like barack obama than down trump your history did not start the day the down from preselected but his election was a rebuke to the policies that you stood for ben bycel over sixteen million and this one well and sixty three million americans three million no sixty three million americans voted for hillary clinton i was going to say that if the next elections rebuke of dumptruck and that president picks up on the protests about how many times more we already won the midterms of dogma because after watching history has not delivered its verdict on this and i believe that history will move in the direction that brought obama appointed us and that that's the direction of american politics i believe that that can be the direction of global politics and that frankly we will be proved to be right the obama will look like the person who is pointing us in the direction that things are moved and down trump will look like the last expression of a kind of reactionary politics that ultimately is on the wrong side of history with donald trump campaigned on the premise that he was the sweep away
a lot of your key point yes and he's tried to do that and in some cases he has done that and that was a successful vote winner as far as he was concerned wasn't well history didn't end in twenty seventeen though it's good i'm saying ed didn't it was not necessarily a successful one or because he tried to take a part of honest health care on failed and democrats just refuse to want are part of it and well the basic was in place and democrats just won a resigning midterm election. running on a commitment to protect bombers legacy and to protect obamacare the midterms on the syria flexion on how the next presidential election is going to go well no but you point to the twenty sixth election as this seismic historic event which it was well when the twenty eight election people were able to take a look at donald trump's course of action and the pendulum swung back very quickly to democrats and i believe if you see that pendulum continue to swing back people will say that in the long run barack obama was the one who is moving in the direction that the country was going in and down from was the one moving out of
step it's a big it's the course of this in january twenty seventh in the boston globe wrote that the consequences of his presidency had been start as they put it the middle east the washing the blood and bombs u.s. troops we have brought in iraq and afghanistan aggressive dictators ascendant human rights and democracy in retreat a lot of bad stuff you don't see it that way do you know look the middle east was awash in conflict when we came into office and the idea that somehow barack obama initiated this transfer it's not that easy she just didn't stop it well yes it didn't stop it and i think there were and frankly though in terms of u.s. troops there were one hundred eighty thousand u.s. troops in iraq and afghanistan when we took office there are fifteen thousand and when we left so we did begin and make significant progress in the work of extricating united states from those wars but pretty kind to yourselves and you when it comes to legacy a bomber put it on leaving office almost every country on earth sees america
a stronger and more respect today than they did eight years ago really yes that was a big china with its new fortress islands in the south china sea russia backing separatists in crimea ukraine and packing into everything get israel israel so you was more respected i don't think so they didn't israel didn't if you look at what he's referring to there if you look at any public opinion survey it shows the enormous majority of countries have. in an entirely different view the united states under president obama than they did under president bush let's talk about the u.n. for a moment though ok but we have that was it because there are two hundred but wait a second there this is important there are two hundred countries in the world right the vast majority of them believe that barack obama's brand of leadership was far better than either george bush's or down troops you see the curve go like this under obama and then like this under trump in europe and asia and latin america and africa and so we can talk about israel where president obama had very sharp
differences with the right wing government led by bibi netanyahu but i don't think that it wasn't just it wasn't just the sharp differences there were deep contradictions in the middle east policy well which i mean you have a core belief in what you voted against the president to enter in israel this was rooted largely in the iran nuclear agreement and if we had to do it over again if the price of having a better relationship with israel was not having iran nuclear agreement and potentially going to war with iran that was not a price that we were going to pay and so we were able to make a stand on principle on this issue that did cause a rupture with the israeli government when it came to things like settlements you voted against your principles in two thousand and eleven the administration susan rice said we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued settlement activity it violates israel's international commitments devastates trust between parties and threatens the prospects for peace and just after that the u.s. went and voted against a u.n. resolution that used almost exactly the same words in other words but with really only one exception at the end of president obama's tenure you consistently voted
against your own principles at the u.n. why on settlements on something you want at the end when that was a key a key issue at the end and twenty sixteen we did allow for resolution to go forward yeah but on the education of you have voted against your principles that was never going to be a winning formula wasn't well again our position twenty a lot right was that there was still a peace effort underway that. if you had a process at the u.n. it would foreclose any possibility of having a negotiated settlement between israelis and palestinians but clearly that proved to be wrong and i'm trying to agree with you're trying to find a way through this no no no not ten telling you we were off and i don't know how more plainly i can say this we thought that we could through a negotiated process with the israelis and palestinians test whether or not peace was possible and that was not and we tried very hard and twenty ten twenty eleven and john kerry when he became secretary of state to negotiate something from the
israelis and palestinians i think anybody looking at this would think in twenty eleven that if we had gone the route of the united nations that israel would not have come into those negotiations we tested that proposition it did not work and so in two thousand and sixteen when this came up for a vote again we supported it let's look at the political courage in terms of the arab spring because to the ministration that campaigned on the slogan of hope and change the arab spring should have been right up your street shouldn't it but egypt was a case in point after the demonstrations that got rid of hosni mubarak the old dictator obama backed the egyptian military council known as skaf and you quote him saying in the book our priority has to be stability and supporting the skaf wasn't just supporting stability it was supporting repression because you knew by then what scaf stood for what i call it that in as as one of the policies i described riyadh . my concern with our egypt policy but if through the people the april sixth
movement he threw them under the bus didn't well and simply. backing the egyptian military council which went on to torture people with industrial efficiency what i mean what i believe is that we made this initial decision to support. arab spring and within egypt to break from mubarak and then i believe that the habits deep rooted habits of the u.s. government were. to engage the people that the u.s. government knew and that's egyptian military the egyptian security services and i believe that that was a mistake i believe you still believe that as you stand in by the way i'm in a tiny minority in that regard i think most people believe that we should have been even more in support of the egyptian military but i believe after killing eight hundred people in a single day in the rather. look at the praise that is heaped our presences in the united states absolutely and i but again and i just isn't you being right you said
as we talked about earlier you said you thought we were right this is a big instance where you would write what i said to be very clear when i say we are right i mean the orientation of barack obama's politics the vision that he has for the united states in the world i believe is fundamentally right that does not mean that every single decision that you make in the course of eight years is right jake sullivan who you worked with in the white house former national security adviser to vice president joe biden he's critical of the obama administration on human rights he said not enough was done to elevate the priority of human rights and reform in in the case of saudi arabia fair criticism. yeah i mean i myself was very critical of the saudis. you know we there he's talking about you know all these it made it into a little but we did you know i do think there are cases if you look at our relationship with saudi arabia versus down trumps right there is a reason that you have seen a much more unbound saudi leadership in the last two years we were raising human
rights cases we were raising cases of people who'd been detained we were trying to write about a yemen war because some of them points out if you take something like the conflict in yemen which is cause massive loss of life it was the a bomb administration which began the support for the saudi led the i wish in that effort yes and but will be a mistake but wait what we did this what i think would be very different than the trump administration it was very conditional support we would withhold weapons from the saudis if we thought that they were engaged in overextension we would not they were engaged in the who freaks and we're right from is the we've pulled back this proposition ever do it was it ever we help me help back weapons from them i believe that the war in yemen was wrong i believe was wrong from the start but i do believe you have to draw a contrast between the conduct of that war in yemen after trump came into office and before trump came into office and what you saw is all the constraints come off the saudi low coalition you saw a significant escalation of that war you saw significant escalation of the risk the humanitarian situation in yemen so i do believe that this all is right to say that
and should have strength is yes my closest friend i mean we authored a letter together to congress jake and i urge in congress to vote to suspend all u.s. assistance to the war in yemen and so you know i'm obviously aligned with his views but i do think you have to draw a contrast between the u.s. and the restraints that we would place on the saudis not just in yemen but in the region which caused many tensions you know we were sitting here and twenty sixteen you'd probably be asking me isn't this a big problem that the saudis are so critical of obama foreign policy in that you have these differences the reality is when trump came in the door. they got everything they wanted the blockade with qatar is something that we tried to prevent the escalation the war in yemen the intervention lebanese politics and the recession of mom been some of the crown prince all took place in the first six months after they got everything they wanted russia got quite a lot during your administration didn't they filled the vacuum in the eastern mediterranean. after your red line was crossed the so-called red line the chemical
weapons usage. the russians basically kicked sand in your face that they gave your forces an hour to get a decent mediterranean before they launched their biggest deployment there in decades which you didn't see coming did you well you underestimate putin no i think the reality is russia has had a presence in syria for a very long time some people talk as if until twenty thirteen or fourteen russia didn't have some people do it if you wish deployments they brought in more deployments but they have been pouring arms into syria for years they also blindsided you in ukraine and crimea you didn't see that coming either well i think what they didn't see coming is the collapse of their client regime in kiev this is the precipitating event but because you had critical gaps in your collection in our system of what they would know that that's not i look to be you have to understand what happened in ukraine ok this was not someone planned russian invasion of crimea
what happened was you had a russian backed client a corrupt leader in kiev in the article which who did russia's bidding you had protests that ousted that leader we negotiated something where he would step aside and there would be elections yana coverts for his to russia and then russia moves into crimea as does that not but the way you describe it this is not the kind of thing where russia had a multi-year plan to invade crimea they saw ukraine slipping away from them they saw ukraine choosing an association agreement with the european union over dominance from russia russians you know then to fight as a primary threat to u.s. interests and yet and yet breedlove was able to go before a senate committee in april twenty fifteen and say there were critical gaps in u.s. collection and analysis capabilities where russia was concerned so you know i off the ball well even some russian exercise you know he said we didn't see them coming you can have even the end of the second half of iraq i mean we were watching russia
you were a national security advisor yeah but that you're going to have gaps anywhere i mean this was a hue. this was one of your probably agree but primarily it follows we yeah we were watching russia the idea that we somehow weren't focused on russia you're constantly focused on russia you can have that but that was his view of the euro that was his view and he was at the shop and. but i'm not saying that there are no gaps and i'm saying that in any issue anywhere in the world you're not going to have one hundred percent you know in intelligence coverage but this is beside the point the it's the political objective of putin that is more important then you know any one intelligence issue it's the question of what are putin's motivations and intentions and his motivations and intentions i believe were once he came back in the presidency to push back against what he had seen as a multi decade encroachment on russia's near abroad a steady collapse of some of you didn't realize that until too late we'll has a pretty early blong before crimea i mean it was obvious when he's taken here he
was able to move in you didn't even see it coming. in crimea yes yeah well what do you suggest that we do invade crimea do but. most of all i still you if it was a surprise because it happened because of a chain of events right again it's not like i disagree fundamentally with the premise that they were sitting here for years waiting to invade crimea and we missed this you had a leader that they backed that collapsed in kiev you had a leader in the on a coach who fled to russia this was a huge embarrassment to putin he saw something a country ukraine right on his borders slipping away from any russian influence and that's what propels him in the crimea so even if we had seen that you know a day earlier it's not as if we were going to deploy the u.s. military into crimea to keep those russian special forces out again i think you have to understand the more important issue here is what are putin's motivations
and then how does the west respond to those things ben rhodes in the short time that we have left let's look ahead to. the next presidential election next year. what kind of democratic party do you think is going to be capable of beating donald trump with his massive following his dominance of the airwaves his dominance of social media which proved so devastating in the last presidential election what kind of democratic victory is going to be able to i think contrast with the current but the massive following is forty percent he is the most unpopular us president to run for reelection in my life he sets the news agenda is that everyone then doesn't they dominate take a look at what has this got to live with the world as it is or don't check the democratic party just routed down from republican party guy from the scenes we won forty seats in the house yeah and the one by the largest popular vote margin in the
history of a midterm election the largest democratic victory in the house since watergate and don't have the democratic party is in good shape you have more than ten people suggesting they're going to be candid we should have a big field and what kind of nobody knows any of the names nobody knows what they stand for there's no slogan you don't know anybody's what is the what is the party stand for what's the name recognition in the country as a whole in some cases well probably the name recognition in two thousand and seven the democratic party when we nominate somebody who is a new face who is a reformer an outsider barack obama governor bill clinton governor jimmy carter those are the people of one people knew who hillary clinton was and al gore was and john kerry were going to fight on long term some ground were better to run with it in our in our message a new face to come in and save the book going to bring change we're the ones who are going to pick up the work of the giving people more health care but it's a little more inclusive economy of cooperate with other nations of restoring america's standing in the world is and that's the message that is popular in the
united states is the fact that incumbents lose oppositions don't win donald trump has to trip him self up for you to win one. it down from trips himself up every single day right and gets away with it he no he doesn't he just lost in the midterm elections dramatically right i think there is a huge losing her arms and still go on to win the presidency was a huge overstatement of donald trump's political standing in the united states outside of the united states i continue struck by this he's in a store glee unpopular figure right now in the united states the democratic party in every poll out polls the republican party the enthusiasm in the united states is with the democratic party the recent election results are with the democratic party and i believe that we clearly have the better chance of winning this election that does not make it a guarantee we had a better chance in twenty sixteen and we lost so we need to have the right candidate in the right message but i think we will build roads good to have you on the program thanks very.
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