The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter discusses why President Biden's popular policies haven't translated to popularity among voters.
Guest Host: Susan Page
The U.K. votes to leave the European Union. Heavy fighting continues in parts of Fallujah as Iraqi forces seek to retake all of the city from ISIS. And in Venezuela, food shortages spur looting and rioting. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Paul Danahar Washington bureau chief, BBC; author of "The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring"
- Michelle Kosinski White House correspondent, CNN
- Shane Harris Senior correspondent, The Daily Beast; Future of War fellow, New America; author, "At War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex" and "The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State"
MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. Voters in the UK decide to quit the European Union, rattling global markets, causing a sharp fall in the British pound and prompting British Prime Minister David Cameron to announce he'll step down. Battles continue in Iraq to rout the Islamic State from the city of Fallujah. And the crisis in Venezuela leads to rioting over food shortages.
MS. SUSAN PAGEJoining me for this week's top international stories on our Friday News Roundup, Paul Danahar of the BBC, Shane Harris of the Daily Beast and joining us for the first time on the news roundup, Michelle Kosinski of CNN. Welcome, Michelle.
MS. MICHELLE KOSINSKIThank you very much.
PAGEWe invite our listeners to join our conversation later in this hour. We'll open our phone lines soon, 1-800-433-8850 is our toll free number. You can send an email to email@example.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Paul, I have to say we woke up to this stunning news that Great Britain had voted to leave the European Union. Why?
MR. PAUL DANAHARYou woke up. I was up all night. It left for a number of reasons. One of the big reasons is it's a different way of looking at the European Union in the UK and how the European Union see it. The people within the European Union on the European mainland see a lot of it as a sense of identity. It's about stopping future conflicts. It's about making sure that all these countries are knitted together as an entity.
MR. PAUL DANAHARIn the UK, Europe is seen as an economic body. It's how you trade and how you make money and what's good for you and what's not good for you. And many, many people in the UK, actually many, many people in England and Wales, because that's where the big vote was, didn't feel any more the economic benefits of being in the Union and that's why they've largely voted to leave.
PAGEAnd Michelle, you've worked in the United Kingdom.
KOSINSKIIn London, right.
PAGEIs that right? You've been based there. So were you surprised?
KOSINSKII was surprised. I mean, I, too, was up almost all night watching this and for a time...
PAGEI got a good night's sleep, just for the record, so. Go ahead.
KOSINSKIWe watched so you didn't have to. And my husband is British so, you know, our family was watching this closely. Yeah, for a while, I really thought that this would be remain and everything would be status quo so it was stunning to see those numbers change.
PAGEWhat does it tell you, that it not only passed, it passed by a pretty good margin, 52-48?
KOSINSKIRight. Yeah, that's sentiment was strong enough there. And we were talking even before the show with Paul, London, of course, voted remain. Young people voted remain. But outside of London, the sentiment was extremely strong to leave and it tells you a lot about the pressures of immigration, the nationalistic sentiment, wanting to go it alone and do your own thing. And that's, of course, not just Britain that's feeling that pressure.
PAGEShane, what kind of response have we seen so far today from the rest of the world?
MR. SHANE HARRISIt's been pretty dramatic. The pound plummeted on the news. Some financial markets will be roiling today as well. Angela Merkel in Germany came out right away and said it was with great regret that this decision had been made. David Cameron, of course, has said he will step down in October. There's going to be this convulsion, right, in the very close near term to this. You'll see it in financial markets and political statements. And then, I would imagine, after a week or so, we'll -- probably the dust will settle a bit and people will start getting used to this new reality.
MR. SHANE HARRISAnd that will begin the long, incredibly complicated process of what turns out to be probably the messiest divorce ever of separating the UK from the EU. It will be a tremendous strain on the legislature, on the government and many, many, many deals yet to come to be ironed out. What struck me about this, too, is that there really were no answers for what comes next. People were shocked. Many were disappointed and dismayed.
MR. SHANE HARRISWe've never gone through anything like this. This is truly uncharted territory.
PAGEPaul, was it necessary that David Cameron stepped down and stepped down right away?
DANAHARYeah. I mean, there was no way he -- I mean, he was so much a part of the remain vote. He was the face of the remain vote. And I mean, he's not going straightaway. He'll be leaving by October. But he had to go and I think you may even find that the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, has to go because there's now been a motion of no confidence filed by some of his members because there was a feeling that he didn't do enough to -- he almost didn't really believe in the campaign to remain, that he was doing it grudgingly.
DANAHARAnd he certainly came into the debate quite late so you may get a complete change in the political leadership in the UK from the two main parties.
PAGEInteresting. He'd be in danger because he didn't do enough to save the opposing leader.
DANAHARYeah. Well, I mean, it went beyond that. I mean, if you look, it was the -- it fractured parties. It fractured people within parties. It fractured households. I mean, it's been a really, really divisive debate. But what it really did is it showed it was divide between the different classes. It was a divide between the different geographical areas. So you've seen Scotland now saying, hang on, we voted overwhelmingly to remain and if you're going to leave the EU, we want to stay in the EU.
DANAHARSo what we may be seeing is not just the UK leaving Europe, we may be seeing the end of the UK.
PAGEWe have a tweet from Darryl who writes, "what does the future of Great Britain look like if Scotland and Ireland leave the UK and join the EU as independent nations?" Michelle, what would that look like?
KOSINSKIYeah, and so we've been talking about this for a long time. I mean, after the last vote, when Scotland possibly was going to leave the UK, I mean, a lot of these same subjects came up. What is that going to do for the economic ties? How will Scotland pick up and start apart from the UK? It's going to be difficult, obviously, a long transition. But let's say, first, that the UK, you know, this leaving, it's going to be at least a two-year transition.
KOSINSKITrade deals are in everybody's best interest. They're probably going to be hammered out pretty quickly. It's in everyone's best interest for this not to be cataclysmic. So I think the most likely outcome is though that it will be difficult, structurally, to sort of rebuild everything anew, but not necessarily devastating.
DANAHARI think one of the big problems is how they balance in Europe the need to punish the UK for leaving because they don't want to encourage other people to do it, but without pulling the UK into a recession because there are -- I think you're seeing a different tone from the nation state leaders, the German leader, et cetera, and the people who run the European Union because the European Union is saying if we don't make it really painful, then these guys may encourage others to leave.
DANAHARThe nation states are saying, we don't want a massive recession in the UK because that would drag our economies down so that balance is going to be really difficult to strike.
PAGEHow could they make it painful for the United Kingdom?
DANAHARWell, they could not agree to lots and lots of trade deals. They could turn around and say, nope, we're not going to do this for you. We're not going to -- they could drag it on, they could make loads and loads of really difficult demands and they could under -- they could basically say that until you come around to our way, we're not going to trade with you.
PAGEWell, is there any chance that this decision gets reversed? We have an email from David who asks, "does this leave prohibit any chance of returning to the EU in the future if it doesn't play out the way people expect it? And if they are, how would that be received?? Could they change their mind?
HARRISI don't -- well, they -- potentially, but they'd be getting another -- we talked about this before we on the air -- getting another referendum, highly unlikely.
KOSINSKIWell, there's talk of this, though.
HARRISYou can always make new deals, but this seems like this is the will of the people and politically, it would potentially disastrous to try and reverse it.
DANAHARYeah, I think the only way would be if we had a new government that campaigned in the next election on trying to get back into Europe in some form, then they may have the mandate to seek another entry. But we're talking years and years away. And I think, by then, you're going to have to have had all these -- because you've got up until two years. If you haven't done the deals within two years, then everyone walks away. So you've got up to two years.
DANAHARYou've now got to start working on how we do it. And the European leadership is saying start talking now. And the British government is saying, no, no, we're going to wait until we've got a new leader. We're not going to vote Article 50, which is part of the Lisbon Treaty, to actually leave the EU. But the thing to remember is the European Union project has only been going one way. It's only really been thinking about getting closer. No one's really thought about it breaking apart because there are these mechanisms of people to go, ah, yes, pull the book down from the shelf and now we'll do this. No one's really putting any effort into that.
PAGEBut are there other members of the EU, member states, that will now think seriously about doing the same, Shane?
HARRISPotentially, and especially if, as Michelle was saying, these deals get worked out such that maybe it's not as catastrophic for the UK in the end, as people thought it might be. Others might look at this and say, well, hang on a second, you know, they came out okay, maybe we should try this, too. I think it's worth noting, too, that in the sequence of how these things go, at least how they go on paper, we'll see how it actually plays out politically, the EU, I think, does have quite a bit of leverage here.
HARRISSo Paul referred to this Article 50 of the treaty, that once it gets triggered, it sort of sets a clock for two years to negotiate the terms. And if the majority, I'd say, sort of qualified majority of the states in the EU do not agree to those terms, it's null and basically, what happens is the UK would revert to World Trade Organization, tariffs and systems which are much more onerous. So the EU has some leverage here. The UK is going to have to meet it some way and cut the negotiations that benefit all the parties.
KOSINSKIYeah, we're already hearing from some in Brussels, lawmakers who are saying, you know, nobody really wants to ultimately be held responsible for making this easier for Britain. So that's the sentiment right now. How can we sort of punish them for doing this so that others won't follow, but if you're going to try to make it extremely difficult for Britain now or to have that rupture be felt in trade, that's also going to affect other countries' trade, too. and so, you know, if you're going to try to reinstitute tariffs, make it tougher for British goods to go to your country, well, you know, they're going to do the same to you. So there's so many question marks here.
DANAHARWe have a phrase -- I don't know if this is a common phrase. We have a phrase in England, cutting off your nose to spite your face.
PAGEIt is also a phrase here, yes.
DANAHARWell, that's the kind of big question. How do the European Union -- how does the European Union manage not to do that?
KOSINSKIYeah. And what we're hearing initially from some business people in London who, you know, supposedly have their ear to the ground is that when there is a new prime minister, there's some talk about the possibility of another referendum because so many people felt that this would not happen.
PAGEWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk about who that new prime minister might be and we'll also talk about the fighting in Iraq, the effort to fully retake the city of Fallujah. We'll take your calls and questions, 1-800-433-8850. Our phone lines are now open. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the international hour of our "Friday News Roundup." And with me in the studio -- Michelle Kosinski, White House correspondent for CNN. Paul Danahar, he's the Washington bureau chief for the BCC, he's the author of "The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring." And Shane Harris, senior correspondent at The Daily Beast. He is a fellow at the New America Foundation. And he's the author of "At War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex."
PAGEWell, Shane, let me talk to you, ask you about what's happening in Iraq. Last week, the Iraqi government raised the flag over a government complex in Fallujah. We thought perhaps that crucial city had been retaken. That was, at the minimum, premature.
HARRISYeah, premature, that's right. I mean, this is going to be -- it's a tough battle. They've taken probably about a third of the city back. But there are still pockets in areas of Fallujah where ISIS or the Islamic State maintains control and is even trying to continue government services, which is really sort of fascinating. But what this -- this campaign to retake Fallujah has really been seen as a precursor for the much bigger fight of taking back Mosul, which is the second-largest city in Iraq, that is -- that fell some time ago to the Islamic State.
HARRISWhat's been really harrowing to see, as the Iraqi forces have been going in, is to see, you know, the devastation and just the appalling conditions under which Iraqis were living.
HARRISYou're finding mutilated corpses, I mean, evidence of just tremendous, you know, abuse of citizens. We were hearing reports during the siege of people on the brink of starvation because ISIS was not letting them leave and food could not get in. So you were hearing stories of people, you know, eating grass to survive, people being shot as they tried to flee the city. So there's a lot of relief for those people who have been liberated. But this is far from over and really is going to be seen as a test for how Mosul goes, I think.
PAGEIf you look overall at this conflict, Paul, what's happening? Should we be optimistic? That's not a word we often use with Iraq, it seems like. But are -- what's your sense of the overall situation there?
DANAHARI don't think there's much to be optimistic about. I think the people that we're seeing taking back these areas are largely, highly sectarian groups of fighters. They are often Shia militia or they're the Iraqi Army, that also have a large, almost ingrained Shia militia attitude in them. So what we're not seeing, I don't think, is a pulling together of Iraq and a kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. Because fundamentally the Iraqi state is incredibly fragile and incredibly sectarianized -- even though we have a new leadership that's trying not to be. And I don't see us -- I don't see, even if we -- the cities are taken back, that that's going to change the mood of the country.
PAGEAnd, Michelle, what's the U.S. role at this point in this Iraqi fighting?
KOSINSKIWell, obviously, the U.S. has been leading the coalition. And what they've expressed is much, I don't know if I would even call it optimism. But the White House has been touting the progress that has been made by the coalition in taking back territory. And there has been a significant amount of ISIS territory that has fallen. And it's interesting, when you look at the maps and see just, you know, the pockets that exist now and the progress that really has been made. But like Paul was saying, it's the aftermath and what comes next that is really shaky.
KOSINSKIAnd the U.S. emphasizes working with the Iraqi government. They're committed. You know, they're trying to stop these Shiite militias which are kind of like the first, real sight of the problems that are underneath this layer. It's like you pull off the quilt and, you know, there's some more underneath. So the U.S. is trying. What's going to happen after that is, you know, the worry.
PAGEBut I feel like -- don't you feel like, at least the reduction of the threat of ISIS, you know, once you get that down to something that's more manageable.
DANAHARYeah. But I think the problem is, if we see ISIS as a conventional army, then we're seeing -- we're believing that they're being pushed back. But ISIS is not a convent -- in many ways, it's a guerilla force, that has, as it's taken territories, acted like a conventional army. But what it's also probably going to do, if it does get pushed back, is revert back to being a guerilla force again and popping up. You'll be playing whack-a-mole again. I mean, often -- if you look at what happened in Sri Lanka, where you had the Tamil Tigers, who were a great guerilla army until they started trying to act like an army and tried to run a state, then they ended up collapsing.
DANAHARSo I think what we've got to look at is, does ISIS decide it wants to hang on to the territory that it's got? Or will it just say, okay, well we'll pull back and we'll let you guys come in and muck it up again. And then we'll try again and we'll just pop at you here and pop at you there. So we're not fighting a conventional force or a conventional war here. That's the problem, I think.
PAGEAnd, Shane, to what degree does success on the battlefield in places like Fallujah affect ISIS's ability to inspire people in American who wish others harm? Something that's been of great concern to a lot of people.
HARRISWell, I -- that's an interesting question. There's sort of two kinds of inspiration, if you want to think about it. There's one of inspiring people to go out and conduct terrorist attacks on their own. And presumably that has not been diminished. I mean, actually what we've seen is ISIS trying to conduct foreign operations -- most notably the attacks in Paris last year -- when they seem to be on the ropes. And U.S. intelligence officials will tell you it's sort of in those moments where they seem to be losing ground that they are more highly motivated to go out and conduct foreign operations to remind people of their reach.
HARRISWhere it does impact them though, in terms of their inspiration, is getting new followers and recruits. So if people see ISIS losing, if they see this as, you know, come help us in a failing mission, that's going to be a problem. And also to the extent that borders are now getting sealed up, border crossings with Turkey especially. It is -- been harder for them to bring new recruits in. So we have seen a drop off.
DANAHARBut I think we should reflect on the fact of just how highly stupid some of the people that are being these -- I mean, look at Omar Mateen. He was -- he supported Hezbollah, ISIS and al-Qaida, so competing groups. So I think we shouldn't assume that the people that carry out these attacks are particularly smart and are following particularly closely the reality on the ground. They're being radicalized and they're getting a very kind of focused message. And it's not particularly nuanced, I don't think.
KOSINSKIMany of them want to leave. I mean conditions for those people have been horrible. The problem is they keep getting an influx from every other country in the world practically. But I found it interesting recently to see the latest numbers and how many ISIS fighters there actually are. So going down from about 31,000, when it started, to about 25,000 now, that's not that big a drop. After more than a year of a coalition of Western countries pounding ISIS, that tells you something. There are still enough people to keep those numbers that high.
PAGELet's go to the phones. We're going to talk first to Ed, who's calling us from St. Louis. Ed, hi, you're on the air.
EDGood morning. I'm speaking from the prospective of a manufacturer that exports products around the U.S. And the first thing that occurs to me is obviously the strengthening of the dollar against foreign currencies, not just the pound and the euro, but look what's happened to the Yen today. It makes it increasingly difficult to be price competitive. But specifically related to the EU, with this break off from the U.K. and then you consider now people in Holland and perhaps France are discussing a break off, it presents a spider web of increased regulatory problems.
EDWe had a single regulatory face with the EU, where we would go and present our products and get a single regulatory approval and away we go. It takes us back 25 years, where we have to do separate submissions in each country, prosecute each one, makes it -- it's a huge cost burden and it's a huge problem. It's going to limit our ability to export.
PAGEEd, that's so interesting. I'm so glad you called. What kind of export are you making? What do you manufacture?
EDPharmaceuticals and drug-device combinations. So there's, you know, there's a medical device element of it too.
PAGEAll right, Ed. Thanks for your call.
DANAHARSee, I think, actually that the framework -- the business framework will probably survive largely intact. I think where we've seen the people pulling away, it's more the political union. It's about signing up to all the values that the bureaucrats in Brussels decide people should be signing up to. I think there will be a big push in the U.K. -- and it, well, let's -- there'll be a big push in England, because I think we're going to see perhaps a breaking up of the U.K., to maintain that level of continuity. Because other countries, like Switzerland, for example, they may not be part of the European Union, but they have pretty much absorbed all of the regulations required to be able to trade with the European Union.
DANAHARSo I think there will be a lot of continuity in that sense. I don't think there will be a massive impact on manufacturers around the world like the caller, because I think everybody knows that they can't afford, in the globalized world that we're in, to just say, we want our own set of rules.
HARRISYeah, I think that's right. And it puts the point more precisely on the fact that this really was, in many ways, a vote about national identity. It was a vote about immigration and more precisely stopping immigration. And we see echoes of this, I mean, in other countries and right here now as well. I mean, there have been many similarities drawn between the rising populist anger largely expressed through the Trump campaign, but to a great degree the Sanders campaign in this country, and the kinds of tenor and moments of the debate about Brexit in the UK. I mean, this is -- there is sort of a global continuity here in some of this...
HARRIS...of this kind of rising nationalism.
PAGEWe have a caller, I think, who wants to address just that point. Steven is calling us from Tulsa. Now, Steven, you yourself are a British citizen who voted?
STEVENYes, ma'am. I did. I used my proxy vote and I opted to vote out. To echo the point the gentleman just raised about immigration, I think one of the common misconceptions that seems to be on social media from what I'm seeing directed towards out voters is a xenophobia- and racism-driven ideology essentially. And for me and for a lot of people I know, the out vote was not necessarily that. Yes, national identity is important to us as Britain. But we are in a different time now. Scotland is going to start to probably get its independence too.
STEVENAnd I think that it's being lost, that the British have not been heard by their government, that immigration has been a concern. Brussels dictating rules to the British people has been a concern. And the hysteria has allowed this vote to go through. David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn failed in their roles to convince the British people that the status quo was worth staying for. It should be one of the easiest things to have told people, let's just keep it the way it is. But they failed in doing that and they didn't listen to people and they've not listened to the people. And now we are a nation divided.
STEVENBut, you know, I think in the long run, this will be good Britain. There's obviously going to be periods of volatility in the market. The market does not like volatility. And the fact that we are the first nation to ever leave the EU may be a good thing. Other nations may follow. The Netherlands and France already want to talk about doing a similar referendum. And I don't think people will stop trading with Britain. Britain will still allow immigrants to be a part of their country. We are a Commonwealth.
STEVENWe are still connected to other countries.
PAGESo let me ask you a question. Was this an easy decision on your part, to vote to leave? Or was it one that was hard for you to make?
STEVENI, you know, I think I had to sort out my own information. I think you have to read and take numbers into context and make that decision easier. It was tough. But, you know, you have to think about certain -- the information you portray and take it with a pinch of salt, you know? One of the numbers that was touted was the amount of money that, for example, we give to the European Union each year and, you know, putting that into the NHS. But that amount of money was something like, I believe, 7 percent of the NHS's actual budget each year. So it's not much money at all. So it's all about context.
STEVENAnd for me, it was having a government that can be held accountable by the British people. They have no one to blame. They can't turn around and blame Brussels for controlling a decision they make. Anyway.
PAGEAll right. Steven, thank you so much for your call. NHS would be the National Health Service. Paul, what do you make of Steven's comments?
DANAHARI think he's right on many different levels. Look, what people didn't really recognize, in the establishment in the U.K., was that the immigration from Europe -- and this is not the recent immigration, not the refugees, but the migration from the Eastern European blocs, when they entered the European Union -- had a big impact in the U.K. Because there was an estimate done by the British government that between 5,000 to 15,000 people a year, over a 10-year period, would come into the U.K. But that was based on the fact that all the other European countries would allow them to come into their markets too.
DANAHARBut Germany and France and other big nations didn't do that. They opted for a transitional approach. And so instead of having sort of 15,000 a year, you ended up with sort of 45,000 a year. You ended up eventually with millions of people...
DANAHAR...coming into the U.K. And these were not people doing jobs that people in the U.K. didn't want to do. These were often the skilled working classes of, say, Poland, who came into a market where they could offer a challenge, if you like, to plumbers and electricians and carpenters and people who had skills and wanted to work. And the other quirk in it was, if you were self employed, it was easier to do that in the U.K. than if you were working for an employee -- employer, rather. And that meant that those were the people that got hit the most. And those were the people that voted out last night.
PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Michelle.
KOSINSKIWell, what he was talking about it being more than immigration, I found it fascinating to look at how much, you know, the amount that the U.K. has to pay out for being part of the EU, it's billions of dollars, tens of billions of dollars a year. But immigration -- the child benefit for people who have -- they come to the U.K., they have children living in their home country -- the amount paid out per year for that credit, that has been one of the controversial ones that Cameron wanted to change, it's only 30 million pounds a year that totaled more than 30 billion pounds a year. So it's very small. But that is one of the controversial things.
KOSINSKIBut this is also very much about regulation. The chambers of commerce in Britain voted -- it was a fairly close, you know, when polls were taken -- but chambers of commerce wanted to leave. And you would think that business people in the U.K. are the ones who overwhelmingly want to remain. But those tend to be bigger corporations, the banks. But remember there are some in the finance industry who feel like that regulation coming from the EU was making the banking system actually less competitive.
KOSINSKIAnd so removing that regulation that they don't always feel that they have as much say as they would like to in, many feel that it will help their business, that they don't have to have the EU dictate some of the policies, like your work week, your leave policies, that you can now do that for yourself.
PAGESteven, great to hear from you. Thanks so much for your call. Now here's a tweet we've gotten from someone who calls himself Savvy Troll. Russia has been working actively to undermine NATO and the EU, and they're celebrating in the Kremlin today. How will this affect NATO? Shane, will this affect NATO?
HARRISYeah. So President Obama came out this morning talking about this saying, essentially, no. This is -- the NATO membership is there. The alliance is still strong. But, yes, this is -- it is very much being read as something that Russia is celebrating because of the strain that it can put on longstanding political alliances. Former Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was quoted the other day as saying that this is -- jeopardizes long-term security interests insofar as, when the United States sits down to talk about security issues with the EU, the U.K. is not at the table. So perhaps it even puts more onus on keeping the NATO alliance intact and keeping that special arrangement and partnership with the U.K.
HARRISBut interestingly, you know, Donald Trump, who has aligned himself in many ways with Vladimir Putin, was also celebrating this today. So I think you see kind of how, politically, people are putting themselves on one side or the other of the ledger of those people who aren't in the U.K. themselves.
PAGEPaul, who will be the new prime minister?
DANAHARI think it will be Boris Johnson. I think the Labour Party is quite divided. So, I mean, we're going to have -- they're going to have a leadership challenge within the Conservative Party. By October, I expect that Boris Johnson will probably be the leader. And then there is -- there are a lot of rumors running around today -- but there is a rumor that perhaps we may have a snap election in November...
DANAHAR...the same time you're having your election. And then, who knows? I think there's a very good chance that the Labour Party will get rid of its present leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Because if they think there is a snap election coming up, they will not see him as someone that can actually take back the country from the Conservative Party.
PAGEAnd who's the best prospect to replace him?
DANAHARPeople have talked about Yvette Cooper perhaps coming in, having a woman sort of leading the Labor Party. That hasn't happened before. But it's all up in the air. I mean, everything is up in the air in the U.K. this morning. And you can speculate until the cows come home.
PAGEWe're going to take another short break. And when we come back, we'll talk about the situation in Venezuela and we'll take your calls and questions. Stay with us.
PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the international hour of our Friday news roundup, and we're joined in the studio by Shane Harris of the Daily Beast, Michelle Kosinksi of CNN, Paul Danahar of the BBC. You know, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and yet we're seeing riots and looting over foot shortages, Michelle. Why is this happening?
KOSINSKISeventeen years of socialist policies and the governments that run them, first Hugo Chavez, now Maduro, they had socialist food distribution and production. They took over things like supermarkets. And those policies now that some feel have ignored real problems and kind of put a Band-Aid over everything are seeing this really shocking kind of falling apart. So to see so many people saying I can't afford food anymore, and also of course, you know, the falling oil prices. About 95 percent of Venezuela's revenue comes from oil. So that's a huge hit.
KOSINSKIBut take away the oil, and there were many, many problems there anyway.
PAGEShane, talk about what the U.S. is doing. What's our relationship with Venezuela?
HARRISStrained, not great. Venezuela also has sort of portrayed the U.S. thing as a demagogue and as a lot of the source of the -- of their problems and tried to make them a scapegoat in that way. We sent a veteran ambassador, Tom Shannon, down there as undersecretary for political affairs to try and start talking to people, and I think, you know, to try and find some way that they could start enacting some policies to ease these food shortages, which are just astonishing. I mean, 87 percent of Venezuelans saying that they do not have enough money to buy food.
HARRISAnd if you ask someone on the street, they say have you eaten, they'll say not in the past day. So we're going down there to try and sort of broker some kind of understanding with them, but, you know, the government of Nicolas Maduro, it's quite hostile to the United States. So I don't know what real immediate-term prospects there are for the U.S. coming in and solving a problem.
KOSINSKIRight, and the statement from Maduro after those talks on Wednesday was basically, you know, the U.S. should mind its own business, and talks failed a year ago. So I don't know that the U.S. is going to really do much to smooth things over. But maybe, I don't know, the possibility of there actually being a referendum and a vote to change the government...
KOSINSKIBut the government's been preventing that. So...
DANAHARAs you say, I mean, the oil wealth that they had disguised the catastrophic state of the nation. And when that went, then it was revealed for what it was. I mean, three-quarters of people now say that they spent -- people are now saying they're spending three-quarters of their income on food. You know, we've seen the reason why we've been kind of celebrating here the détente with Cuba was because Venezuela couldn't afford anymore to bankroll Cuba, and so the Cubans suddenly found themselves in really dire straits, and then they -- that opened a lot more opportunity for conversations there.
DANAHARSo it's not just what's happening in Venezuela. That's also impacted on the wider Americas. And, you know, we're seeing the impact of governments that didn't -- that could hide the fact that they were incompetent now being shown for what they are. Look at what's happening in Brazil.
PAGESo call me naïve, but if that's happening in Venezuela, shouldn't that government be at risk?
HARRISWell, one would think, but, I mean, it's also exerting tremendous control over the population. I mean, this is a government that's nationalized industries, that I think as Michelle was saying, you know, it's the sort of, you know, tight, iron-fisted kind of policies that led to this that will also make it very difficult to extract them from power. It's not sustainable, though.
KOSINSKIIt jails the opposition. I mean, there's some high-profile political prisoners in Venezuela right now, and that's part of the pressure that the U.S. wanted to put on them, you know, we can -- we can help you with your government in some ways, we can help organize this, but you need to release these prisoners and work on human rights.
HARRISOne hopes that we're telling them, saying, you know, we have some experience in how countries get overthrown. Like, let us tell you how to avoid that.
DANAHARI mean, as journalists, we all kind of tend to keep thinking it's about to fall over, it's about to fall over. We've been thinking it's about to fall over for a couple of years. But I think there comes a point where people -- when they can't feed their families, and they feel they have nothing to lose, and they will stand up. And that's -- when do you get to that point is -- at the moment I think when the government can't afford to keep the army well-fed and the police well-fed, that's where you'll see the turning point. At the moment, all those -- all the resources they do have are going into keeping fed the instruments of power. And if that begins to stop happening, then we will see a change.
KOSINSKIYeah, this was just all pasted together basically with oil for such a long time, and now this shakeup in prices and production has kind of exposed all of these cracks underneath. And when you look at things like inflation possibly, you know, 1,500 percent next year or the unemployment rate at 20 percent in this country that should be stable, it's stunning to see. I mean, you feel for those people.
PAGENothing left to lose is pretty powerful prescription for political change. There was a quote from someone in Venezuela in the New York Times that was pretty chilling. He said, we used to throw eggs at celebrations. Now an egg is like gold. Let's talk to Sal. He's calling us from Miami. Hi Sal.
SALHow are you? Yes, I've been following the situation in Venezuela for many years. We -- I had many customers that would bring to and from Miami a lot of goods towards Venezuela. And slowly but surely, more and more of the Chavez supporters that were rubbing elbows with those type of people, they've been -- they've -- they're rich now. They're extremely wealthy. I don't know if anybody pointed out that Chavez' daughter is worth $4.6 billion. So I mean, you have the public or the poor or the middle-class being affected the way they are, and they're not talking about what the government is taking away from that country.
PAGESal, thanks so much for your call.
KOSINSKIYeah, I'm glad he called from Miami. I mean, that reminds me, I lived there for a long time, and there's a very large Venezuelan community just outside Miami. So whenever there was political turmoil there, you could always speak to those people, and they -- you know, they had ties there. Their families were a part of it. You could really get a sense of it. And so many people that were able to leave over the past decade went to Miami, and for a long time, you know, they were buying up all the property down there.
DANAHARAnd I think if you look, I mean, with the Brexit, we've seen a depreciation again in the price of oil. That's not going to make it any easier for the Venezuelan government. I mean, but this oil issue has been impacting so many countries around the world. The Gulf States have been impacted by that. A lot of the South American countries have been impacted by that, and the countries that are not directly linked to oil have been impacted because their neighbors are not spending as much money anymore. So it really, really reverberates around the world.
KOSINSKIRight, and if you're smart, like Saudi Arabia, you want to diversify now, as quickly as possible and as broadly as possible. It's like, you know, for a long time nobody was doing this. It's like you know you should, but that oil is...
HARRISThe prices are so good.
PAGESpeculation that this may prompt an exodus of migrants from Venezuela and a report this week from the United Nations Refugee Agency on the number of displaced people in the world, 65.3 million people. This is a record. It's the biggest situation of displaced people we've seen since the end of World War II. Paul, three countries produce the most refugees, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia. No surprises at the countries at the top of the list.
DANAHARNo surprises, and none of those countries look like they're going to get any more stable in the near future. So we can probably expect even more. I think what we've also seen is what's really put this on the map is the fact that these countries are so close to Europe in some -- you know, particularly Syria and Afghanistan, because that's where most of the refugees are going towards from those two countries. And there's no solution in either of those countries to try and stop the wars and the conflicts that are driving people out.
PAGEHuge political impact all across Europe, all across the globe but including Europe and the United States, Shane.
HARRISAbsolutely, huge political impact. We've already seen the reaction with Sweden now saying they're going to put a cap on migrants that are coming in.
PAGEAnd this is surprising because Sweden was so welcoming initially.
HARRISYeah, it had been very welcoming, and I think say to a lot of people, look, these are the limits of even this kind of charitable, open society. There's only so much that can be tolerated. I mean, you look at what's going on, the situation in Jordan, where I think there are two million-plus Syria refugees have gone, straining an already kind of taxed system. You know, a couple of years ago, the U.S. intelligence community put out a sort of list of what they called global threats, and they looked specifically at migratory patterns because of conflict and displacement and fight over natural resources, particularly water.
HARRISWhen you have 65-plus million people like this moving around, fighting for resources, losing them, these are patterns that shift the alignment of not just politics but cultures. These change the faces of regions. And the knock-on effects of this coming in years to come are not easily predicted, but many smart people who look at this think it's conflict that is going to come from this, it is really going to get a lot worse for people before it gets better.
DANAHARAnd that's why, for the European Union, for the countries on mainland Europe, not creating sources of conflict and trying to dampen down nationalism by tying everybody together in a single identity is so important to them because they really do fear the rise of nationalism because the rise of nationalism on the European continent led to two world wars.
PAGEBut I wonder if this, the Brexit vote, indicates the failure or initial signs of the failure of the European Union experiment.
DANAHARI think what it's shown is a failure of the people that are running the European Union at the kind of European Union level, i.e., the bureaucrats in Brussels, and many people will look at them, their failure to listen to the individual concerns of the individual nationalities within the European Union. I think there's a sense now, and I think you pick that up from the national leaders, from Angela Merkel, from the British, from -- even from some of the French, that we've got to listen more.
DANAHARWe cannot just say we know what's best for you, and if you don't agree, then you're a bigot because it's got wider than that. There's now a much larger group of people that are concerned about these issues than just a few racists bubbling around Europe.
KOSINSKIAnd when there is a recession, and you're trying to fix something, you also look for things to blame, and you look at regulations that are not originating in your own country, levels of bureaucracy that you don't feel a part of it. I mean, it's -- these things become easy scapegoats. It's not to say that they don't have a responsibility, but you also blame immigration. You know, you look around your neighborhood, when it's tougher to find a job, demand is low, and you see immigrants who are also looking for something to do and make a life and...
DANAHARAnd I think that's part of the failure of the British political establishment is that when people began to raise these concerns, they didn't say you know what, you have a point because I understand why you're saying it. You're not saying it because you're a racist or a bigot, you're saying it because you are finding it difficult to get a job. So look, let's look at the issue. What happened for a long time across the political establishment was you're saying that because you're racist, that -- and it just -- and it shot the debate down because no one wants to be accused of a racist.
DANAHARBut it pushed those people to the right in terms of -- because what was amazing about this vote was a lot of Labour supporters, leftwing Labour supporters, voted to leave, and that shouldn't have happened if they followed the natural rhythm of their party.
PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's take another caller. We'll talk to Andy. He's calling us from Breezewood, Pennsylvania. That's a great name, Andy.
ANDYThank you very much, I hope you can hear me all right.
PAGEYes, we can hear you, please go ahead.
ANDYI thank you very much. I've been listening to the reactions to the exit vote, the Brexit vote, and what I keep hearing is the EU talking about how they need to make it tough on Britain to show the other countries a lesson to not leave. And it seems to me if the only thing you've got left to offer is the stick if you're going to go, you've already lost, and the EU is doomed. That's just my thought, and I know I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but that's what I'm hearing.
PAGEYeah, Andy, thanks so much for your call. Shane, the EU, is it doomed?
HARRISWell, we'll see. I'm not going to make any predictions. I'll start predicting our own election before I predict that. But I think this kind of -- the caller makes a great point, which goes to what Paul was saying, which is that, you know, if there is really at the heart of this a failure of people in Brussels and at the top of this, you know, EU establishment to listen to people, then what they've also failed to do is persuade them that it is in their interest to stay.
HARRISAnd if what they're now going to do is offer sticks and punish you for leaving, that would seem to suggest that yes, you've kind of reached the last arrow in the quiver, and you don't have any other good arguments unless new leadership can come in the European Union and say listen, we've got rethink this, we've got to listen to people, let us try and find the good reasons and sort of change the tenor of the debate. But clearly they failed to persuade voters in the UK.
DANAHARAnd I think if you looked at the -- if you look at the economy in England and in the wider UK but particularly in England, it has grown whilst being in the European Union. I mean, if you look at the graphics, the economy has strengthened, it's strengthened from being involved in the wide market. It's worked really, really well. But there has been a change over the last 10 years. It's been an economic change. And it's a particular class of people that have felt it. And they've not felt that anyone's listened. And what they did last night was punch back.
KOSINSKIYeah, and wages that aren't rising or that are falling.
DANAHARAnd I think a lot of people didn't actually think necessarily that their vote would mean a leave. In many -- I think a lot of people, it was a protest vote. It was a you need to listen to me, and they've woken up this morning, and we've seen some of that reaction in the UK of I didn't actually think we'd leave, I just wanted people to know how angry I was.
KOSINSKII mean, even some of the campaigners didn't think that this would work.
PAGEWell now here's a question from Brian, who is listening here in Washington, D.C. he says, will the EU admit Scotland if it breaks away? What do you think, Michelle?
KOSINSKIOh, I think absolutely. I mean, it's already a part of it. I think it would be happy to have Scotland on board.
DANAHARSo it wouldn't actually be -- it's already in. So the key thing for the Scottish is saying no, we're already in, we're not going anywhere. That's what they're going to be saying if they have their referendum, and I'm sure they will have their referendum if things carry on like this.
PAGELet's talk about what happened in Pakistan this week. Gunmen shot and killed a beloved Pakistani singer. Shane, tell us about him.
HARRISYeah, the singer's name was Amjad Sabri, I hope I'm pronouncing the name right, a Sufi singer, very beloved artist. The Pakistani Taliban there regards this style of art as heretical, as mystical, as threatening.
PAGEBut it's Islamic.
HARRISBut it's Islamic, but it's an interpretation that they do not....
DANAHARWith Shiite roots.
HARRISYeah, exactly, that is almost, like, apostate to them. You know, this is another reminder. We don't talk as much about the Taliban these days, and the Pakistani Taliban as well, but still exacting, you know, brutal authoritarian justice on people, and this just really brazen attack. The singer was 45 years old. Two assailants came up to him on a motorcycle, fired on his car. It just -- you know, in broad daylight like this. It's just a stark remind of the kind of ideological fault lines that are still clearly apparently in that region.
KOSINSKIYeah, and the lashing out at culture that you see not just there but in other places, as well.
HARRISAnd it's a way of hurting the people who love it, right. I mean, you're not just hurting one person. You're hurting everyone who follows.
KOSINSKIIf you've never heard Sufi music, I mean, it is -- it's beautiful. It's intense and extremely, extremely spiritual.
DANAHARAnd it transcends in Pakistan religion so not just people of the Shiite faith listen to Sufi music because it's fantastic music. So what this is an attack on, and there's been lots and lots of attacks over the years against Shiite symbols and Shiite targets, but to target someone who was beloved across the board is really different and to target someone who is a cultural figure is a step up in this. But it's all part of the same campaign. It's that relentless sectarian campaign that the Pakistani Taliban are driving.
PAGEAnd what's been the response from the public?
DANAHARThere's been an outpouring of grief and not an unexpected outpouring of grief because he was a much loved figure. And I think the thing in Pakistan is, you know, people keep seeing bit by bit that the progress that they made to kind of build up their society and build up their economy and build up their opportunities slowly eroded over the last kind of -- pretty much since 9/11 with the growth of the Pakistani Taliban, who are very different from the kind of Taliban in Afghanistan.
PAGEThat'll have to be our last word. I want to thank Paul Danahar, the Washington bureau chief of the BBC, Michelle Kosinski, the White House correspondent for CNN, Shane Harris, senior correspondent for The Daily Beast, for joining us this hour on the Diane Rehm Show.
DANAHARThanks very much.
PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. Thanks for listening.
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