Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
When Donald Trump accepted his party’s nomination in July, he proclaimed, “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.” Trump’s stunning victory on Tuesday now has world leaders wondering what exactly it will mean for the U.S. to put “America first.” Though specifics are scarce, the president-elect did make several campaign promises – improve relations with Russia, build a wall along the border with Mexico, renegotiate – or even tear up – trade agreements, and force NATO allies to pay more for their own defense. Keeping these promises may be difficult, and would dramatically change America’s role on the world stage. A look at foreign policy under President Trump.
- David Rothkopf CEO and editor, FP group, which publishes Foreign Policy Magazine; author of "National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear (2014). Host of Foreign Policy podcast, "The Editors Roundtable."
- Susan Glasser Editor, Politico
- Mark Dubowitz Executive director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, a columnist for The Boston Globe sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's off today. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made promises that, if implemented, would dramatically shift America's place in the world, things like closing borders, strengthening ties with Russia, reconsidering the value of the NATO alliance and tearing up or demanding better treaties and trade agreements.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANJoining me in the studio to talk about Trump's foreign policy proposals and what his presidency may mean for the U.S. role in the world, Susan Glasser, the editor of Politico and Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation For the Defense of Democracies. And from an NPR studio in New York, David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANWelcome, everyone. Thanks for being here.
MR. MARK DUBOWITZHi.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERThanks, Indira.
MR. DAVID ROTHKOPFThanks, Indira.
LAKSHMANANSo you can reach out to us with your comments and your questions throughout this hour. We want to hear from you, the listeners. You can call us on 1-800-433-8850. You can send us email to email@example.com. You can join us on Facebook or send us a tweet to @drshow. And if you want to connect with me directly, you can send it to @indira_l.
LAKSHMANANSo Susan, I want to start with you. Elections are rarely won or lost on foreign policy. We all remember James Carville famously said in the 1992 election of Bill Clinton, it's the economy, stupid. But Donald Trump laid out this vision for Americanism, not globalism. His slogan was America First. Tell us, what does Donald Trump mean by that and what is his foreign policy world view?
GLASSERWell, thank you, Indira. I do think we're going to be all making sense of this election for many, many months to come. So you know, this is the reflections that we all have two days in. It's important to remember that. I don't think there's any great indication so far to suggest that this was a major ratification of Donald Trump's foreign policy, that while he ran on a very starkly different view of the world than that espoused by President Obama or Hillary Clinton, who is definitely much more of a classic liberal internationalist, Donald Trump's America First-ism, fundamentally, I think, was about a vision of the economy, of how he intends to go about sort of addressing the plight of those, you know, who feel unaddressed or left out by Washington, I think, is really driver of it politically speaking, rather than Americans saying we want to change in foreign policy.
GLASSERThat being said, we are in for a big change in foreign policy. And I think yesterday was jaw-dropping in many respects to anybody who has paid attention to and follows closely American's position in the world. Why? Because basically, you had a parade of every single bad guy in the world, authoritarian leaders are the ones who were cheering Donald Trump's victory all around the world. You basically had this extraordinary moment where you have the people who are America's enemies rooting for one side in an American presidential election. And that just has no precedent that I'm familiar with.
LAKSHMANANDavid Rothkopf, we heard Donald Trump use this term, America First. Those people who remember history will remember it dates back to the 1930s to the isolationist movement who didn't want America to get into World War II. There were also some anti-Semites in that group. I don't know if Donald Trump is aware of the historical echoes of his slogan, but you tell us. What do you think he means by the Trump Doctrine?
ROTHKOPFOh, I don't think he has the slightest clue. You know, I think Donald Trump was responding to, you know, whatever was the immediate stimulus in front of him when he would come up with what he was saying. He doesn't have any coherent vision. I mean, you can take any dimension of the so-called foreign policy that he's offered up and there are contradictions in it. He wants America First, but he's coddling up to America's principle rival, you know, in the Eurasia region and Russia. He embraces authoritarians.
ROTHKOPFOn the other hand, in Asia, he seems to want to get into a fight with the Chinese and with the Japanese and he wants to get into a fight with our neighbor, the Mexicans over trade. He wants to unilaterally get out of trade deals. He wants to, you know, make American strong again, but then, on a regular basis, would beat up on our generals, dismiss the intelligence community as being incapable of doing their job. This was not foreign policy. This was a little bit of jazz by a second rate jazz musician who was kind of making it up as he was going along.
ROTHKOPFAnd I think, you know, what we're going to see is that all of a sudden, once he's in this job, things are going to come at him one at a time and he's going to have to deal with them with whatever kind of team he can cobble together and gradually, he's going to see that you can't do foreign policy that way, that you actually have to have some views, some visions. And with some luck, he'll defer to some people with a little more competence then he has.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Mark, we've heard the view from two top foreign policy journalists there. What about from inside the policy-making community in Washington. You work at a think tank that advises both Republicans and Democrats. What's your view? Is there a Trump foreign policy doctrine? And if so, what is it?
DUBOWITZIndira, I think it's hard to know. I mean, this campaign was so devoid of discussions of ideas and policies, I think, for those of us who care deeply about policy and not politics, it was a frustrating two years. I think there's some general themes, perhaps parameters that you can glean from President elect Trump's rhetoric. I think probably best summarized by a quote that he gave when discussing the Iran deal and he said, I'm not going to rip up the deal, but I will police that contract so tough that they don't have a chance.
DUBOWITZAnd I think that's sort of -- that approach to business, to negotiations, I would guess, is something that President-elect Trump would take with respect to trade deals, with respect to our involvement with NATO, in our discussions with allies and some of the deals that he's talked about that have been the worst deals that he said have been ever negotiated, NAFTA, the Iran deal and others. I think he comes in as sort of a pragmatic businessman and I'm cautiously, and I underscore cautiously, optimistic that he may end up getting people around him with experience and he may end up actually willing, as a fairly common conservative, when we would look back 8, 10, 12 years from now.
LAKSHMANANSo Susan, what Mark is describing is a sort of vision of someone who's about getting things done, the sort of "Art of the Deal," a lot of what he's written about in his books, including "The America We Deserve" back in the year 2000 is about an American foreign policy that puts all American interests, as naked as they may be, first and it has very much of a vision of I win, you lose, zero sum.
GLASSERWell, that's right. He does have a zero sum vision. And, you know, where I would sort of disagree a little bit is in the idea that Trump has no fixed principles. I think he has no experience. I think he has no real sort of nuance intellectual frame, certainly, for viewing the world, but I do think that he's been pretty consistent about a few things, not everything, right? And that's where he is going to be at the mercy of those around him and is going to quickly find out that just because he has an agenda, it's the agenda of the staff and the cabinet that may often dictate outcomes in a way that I would imagine would be frustrating to a novice in government, which is what he is.
GLASSERBut I do believe that what I think is worrying the foreign policy world largely, in both parties, right, is understanding that actually where he has been most consistent is in the preference for authoritarian leaders and for a world view that basically does reject a leading internationalist role for America in the institutions of basically the Cold War order that have preserved not only stability and largely peace over a long period of time, certainly since the Cold War, but have preserved and enshrined America's leading role in those institutions.
GLASSERDonald Trump doesn't want to work within NATO. He doesn't really want to work within -- I don't think I've ever him use the word the United Nations. You know, he has a preference for working with tough guys. He admires, "the strong leadership" of Vladimir Putin, Assad now thinks, you know, I'm going to be back in power. America is going to leave me alone.
LAKSHMANANWell, he has said admiringly of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad that he's smarter and stronger than the president and Hillary Clinton. David, let me ask you. Susan has laid out how many authoritarian leaders, from Vladimir Putin to -- including nationalist, right wing leaders in France and the Netherlands and Hungary, all were among the first to extend their congratulations to Donald Trump. What about our NATO allies? Are they preparing for a shift in the American-lead world order that we've seen since the end of World War II under both Republican and Democratic presidents?
ROTHKOPFFirst of all, let me say I agree with Susan's nuance on this thing completely. He is inexperienced. He doesn't know what he's doing, but his instinct draws him to these authoritarians and I think he may want to deal with them, actually, because I think he's going to be very frustrated by the process of getting things done within Washington and within other democracies. And I think he may find it easier to deal with these strong men who are going to want to get closer to him because they think he's not going to be so tough on them.
ROTHKOPFIt's interesting because yesterday as, you know, leaders around the world were reacting, you saw Western leaders, traditional allies who responded in the way of caution or admonition. Nicholas Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, Angela Merkel were saying things like, we have to stick to our values and we've got to be, you know, got to stick to the traditional direction of the Atlantic alliance because they don't know whether he's going to actually go in that direction.
LAKSHMANANAbsolutely right. Angela Merkel made a good point about saying the U.S. and Germany share common values of democracy and freedom and on those bases we will engage with Donald Trump. That's David Rothkopf, CEO, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. We're going to take a short break. We'll have your comments and your questions when we come back. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan of The Boston Globe sitting in for Diane Rehm. This hour, we're talking about Donald Trump's foreign policy, what is it going to look like? And what will the U.S. role in the world be like under a Trump presidency? Joining me are Susan Glasser, editor of Politico, David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy Magazine, and Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies here in Washington.
LAKSHMANANMark, let me ask you, can the uncertainty -- we're talking about how foreign countries don't know exactly what Donald Trump is going to be doing -- can that uncertainty be used to his advantage on the world stage? Donald Trump has consistently said, we don't want to let people know what we're going to do. We want to keep plans secret, like the plan to attack ISIS. Is he right?
DUBOWITZI think he's partly right, partly wrong. I mean, I think uncertainty is really bad for our allies. I think we need to reassure our allies. And I think particularly in the wake of the Obama administration, after eight years of real fear out there in the world about U.S. commitment to our allies. I think a Trump administration needs to reassure allies. I think uncertainty is great for enemies. I think to keep the Ayatollah guessing in Teheran and keep the Kim family guessing in North Korea, et cetera, I think is a -- it's a good posture. And I think Trump has said over and over again that this is his opening negotiating position.
DUBOWITZI mean, again, just getting back to the way he sees the world, he sees the world as a businessman, the art of the deal, who negotiates deals, who's not going to let his negotiating position be known upfront. And I think that's certainly his posture with respect to our allies and our adversaries. Again, I would caution that I think we need to reassure our allies at this moment of global angst.
LAKSHMANANWe have a Facebook comment here from a listener called Aaron, who says, Trump's victory means that we are going to earn respect again instead of being laughed at and taken advantage of. Foreign countries are now scared because they know that we won't be walked over anymore. This is sort of in contrast to what you were saying earlier, Susan, about authoritarians and our enemies cheering Trump's victory. What's your take on that?
GLASSERWell, I think that is definitely the point of view that Trump has encouraged. To the extent that he has articulated a vision beyond the notion of America first as his guiding principle in negotiations, it has really been using these words, strength, and this idea that, you know, no one's going to push us around. You know, there are contradictions embedded in this, as David pointed out. And I guess what I would say is that, in the end, you know, we don't really know yet. What we do know is, what are Trump's predilections? And they certainly have gravitated toward praising those with whom we have been at odds, rather than those who have been our partners, friends and allies over the last basically seven decades. And that is not...
LAKSHMANANMainly, he praised Saddam Hussein...
GLASSER...that is not projecture.
LAKSHMANAN...in the campaign, he praised.
GLASSERVladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad -- you name it, he's praised it. Look at the people with whom he has made common cause, and the bottom line is, there's a reason that our allies, our traditional allies in Europe are nervous to the point of panic. What we've all picked up on, you know, traveling around the world over the last several months, is also a feeling that Trump, as someone who's looking inward, who's talking America first, may not want to focus all that much on foreign policy commitments in a way that those who are embroiled in conflicts or, you know, seeking advantage, think that could be used to their advantage.
GLASSERSo, for example, privately, you know, the Turks, even the Saudis have been telling people for months, well maybe this will be good for us. You know, we don't want those pesky Americans meddling in our business. You know, Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, she's going to come here and, you know, try to tell us what to do again, the way that America is used to throwing around its weight in the Middle East. They think that Trump either won't spend the time or, as a novice to these issues, may be more sympathetic to them.
LAKSHMANANWell, in fact, there was certainly the view among foreign policy elites during this campaign of both parties, that Russia was favoring Donald Trump. The U.S. intelligence agencies said that it was Russia who directed hackers to get into Democratic Party emails. David, what's your view on that?
ROTHKOPFWell, the Russians said, as recently as today, that they were in contact with the Trump campaign during the Trump campaign. So there was some coordination. Clearly, WikiLeaks was working in Trump's favor. And that's an agent of the Russian government. And it all underscores this narrative that Susan has started with regard to his embrace of authoritarians. I think the second half of that narrative is that also, throughout the campaign, he systematically attacked every ally that we have. You know? He went after NATO. He went after the Saudis. He went after the Mexicans. He went after the Japanese and others and said, well, you'll have to go and handle your own defense.
ROTHKOPFOur allies, right now, are as nervous as they have ever been. Our enemies are as comforted as they have ever been. I think, though, what we're going to end up with here -- and, again, I'm picking up on something Susan said that I think is exactly right -- maybe a kind of a weird combination of the worst of the Bush administration and the worst of the Obama administration, where you get the kind of unilateralist bluster associated with Dick Cheney, and you combine it with the kind of predisposition not to get involved in the world of Barack Obama. And so, you know, it's going to be saber rattling, talking tough, a lot of, you know, Air Force One landing at airports for big fancy meetings. But I don't know that a lot of positive is going to come out of it.
ROTHKOPFAnd I think a lot of the problem areas of the world are likely to devolve in a way where the local bully gets their way because the U.S. doesn't actually step in.
LAKSHMANANHmm. A lot of food for thought in that comment. Mark, I want to ask you, Trump's victory has been compared to Britain's surprise vote to exit the European Union and the rise of anti-globalist, anti-immigrant, nationalist populist across Europe and for that matter in the Philippines too. Do you see a parallel between the rise of Trump and these right-wing populist nationalist across Europe?
DUBOWITZLook, Indira, I think conventional wisdom is that there is a parallel. The conventional wisdom is that the rise of Trump will supercharge these nationalist movements across Europe. I have a slightly different perspective and, again, maybe a more hopeful one. And I think that this is -- when you get away from the heated rhetoric of the campaign, I think there were millions of Americans who are deeply patriotic, who want their country to win again, and who feel that this country has been losing.
DUBOWITZAnd you can argue with the facts. And I think there's an interesting discussion to be had on whether that's true. But that clearly was the sentiment. And I think that sentiment should be acknowledged and should be respected and that there is probably a small minority of the Trump coalition that represents some of the most xenophobic, you know, islamophobic, anti-Semitic elements that we all find horrendous. But that the vast majority of these Americans are decent, hard-working Americans who send their sons and daughters to fight for the United States and are feeling left behind by globalization and the elites of both coasts. And I think we need to acknowledge that.
DUBOWITZTrump certainly did and that's why he won. And I think that may be an opportunity for maybe the best of the George W. Bush administration, which is kind of a muscular America that reassures allies and confronts adversaries, and maybe the best of the Obama administration, which is a much more cautious approach to using military intervention in far-flung places and risking the lives of our sons and daughters. Again, that's a more optimistic take on what this might mean.
LAKSHMANANVery interesting. So we hear a possible worst-case scenario from David and a possible best-case scenario from Mark. You know, a couple of our listeners have written in and echoed some of what you were saying, Mark. From the website, someone says, the vast majority of Americans don't care what happens outside of U.S. borders. The only people who care are Wall Street, the military industrial complex, and the liberal elite. And we have an email from Louis, who says, your panel still doesn't get it. The middle class voted heavily out of concern with -- about too much focus on foreign affairs and what's going on overseas, and too little on their needs here in the U.S.A. Susan.
GLASSERYou know, look, Mark is making an important point that's basically the same point as that listener. And I think what 2016 revealed to me, you know, is something that had already been an element of Barack Obama's rhetoric. But it's now magnified and sharpened and reinforced by public sentiment, which is, there are far fewer stakeholders for the international world as it has evolved over the last couple decades than we thought were the case. And you already saw that in questions being raised about, well, why are we in NATO? Why are we playing such a large role in the defense of Europe, so many decades after not only the end of World War II, but even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
GLASSERWhat is up with that? Why are we continuing to buy into, to pay the lion's share of basically global defense for so many people? Why aren't we paying more attention to ourselves. And I think that, you know, people don't feel -- American voters didn't feel that they were stakeholders in the system.
LAKSHMANANWell, you know, you have raised now one of the essential foreign policy points that Donald Trump made, a pledge during his campaign, which is allies are going to have to pay. They're going to have to carry their fair share. We're not going to be pulling them along. In an interesting way, it's a sort of echo of what Barack Obama has said in his famous interviews with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic where he talked about free riders and that allies shouldn't be free riders.
LAKSHMANANSo let's go through some of Trump's campaign promises. What can he accomplish? What can he not? Can he force NATO allies to pay more? Can he force Mexico to build a giant wall and pay for it? David, start us off.
LAKSHMANANNo to everything?
ROTHKOPFI -- would you like me to elaborate on that? You know, I mean, the -- you know, first of all, NATO allies do pay. Secondly, there's a reason we pay for NATO allies, which is that we see the alliance as serving a purpose for us. And one of the things that, you know, Trump seemed to imply in all of this was this was an alliance that was primarily for the benefit of our allies. But of course NATO was set up as a buffer between us and the Soviet Union. And it remains a buffer between us and the Russians. So we benefit from it enormously and those countries are paying their fair share.
ROTHKOPFHe may want to go in and negotiate. But it's going to turn out like it will with the Mexicans. Do you think the Mexicans have the slightest intention of paying for a wall? In the first place, there are already in most places three walls. In the second place, the net flow of traffic right now in terms of immigrants across that border is south, it's not north. You know, the rhetoric of the Trump campaign on this is both wrong-headed, it's based on the wrong facts, and it's insupportable in action because the Mexicans -- there's no leverage we can use over them. In fact, as Trump fails to recognize, this is one of our biggest trading partners -- a country that's vitally important to lots and lots of American jobs, just as the Chinese are.
ROTHKOPFAnd, you know, I think, you know, there's a lot that liberal elites or elites anywhere -- I'm not so sure about these liberal elites -- but, you know, there's a lot of reflection that needs to be done. It's not that these people feel they don't have a stake in globalization because they don't. It's because the case hasn't been made clearly. The reality is, more jobs depend on the rest of the world. More security depends on the rest of the world. Main Street is more connected to the rest of the world than it has ever been before. And that's irreversible.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Well, that's a whole other issue that David is bringing up about how it is the fault of maybe Washington, maybe elites, call people whatever you want. It's the fault of leaders that they have not made the case for globalization. They have not explained to people that, actually, the statistics on household data show that over the last 30 years that almost everybody in the world is better off from globalization in terms of their income, other than, however, the bottom half of people in rich countries. And that is maybe part of the people who we are seeing, you know, vote in this election and make the difference, Mark.
LAKSHMANANSo tell us, one thing that David brought up was this question about Trump's rhetoric, promising to do very specific things. Has he painted himself into a corner where he won't be able to settle for compromise if we can't get Mexico to pay for a wall?
DUBOWITZLook, I don't think so. I mean, first of all, I think we have to hold our politicians accountable for their rhetoric. And I think we need to do that. And we particularly need to do that with president-elect Trump, given the rhetoric. But you saw him backing off on many of the most heated promises. For example, on the Mexican wall, he said Mexico was going to pay for the wall. And then he said that ultimately, well, we are going to build the wall and we'll find a way for Mexico eventually to pay for the wall.
DUBOWITZWell, what does that mean? As a businessman negotiating deals, it could mean that he renegotiates NAFTA with the Mexicans. And as part of the negotiations, looking at all of the various equities and all the various provisions of the NAFTA agreement, we end up extracting concessions from Mexico on a whole host of other trade issues and effectively get the Mexicans to, quote, unquote, "pay for the wall." And then Donald Trump can come out in three, four years and say, you see? I got a wall and the Mexicans effectively paid for it.
DUBOWITZI think we've got to be a little bit careful about reaching preliminary and premature conclusions that Donald Trump has painted himself into a corner. I think what he did during the campaign is, after realizing that some of these comments were premature and often inflammatory, he began to back off, give himself enough space as a negotiator then to come back in with a little bit more opportunity and a little bit more leverage to then negotiate these deals and then say that he's actually honored his commitments.
DUBOWITZSo, again, I would look at it in the context of a businessman who's looking how to negotiate deals, who doesn't want to offer too many concessions upfront, doesn't want to paint himself in a corner, and wants to keep both his friends and his adversaries guessing.
LAKSHMANANSo big picture, not necessarily specifics that matter there. All right, let's go to a call from Christopher in Winchester, Va. Christopher, thanks for calling.
CHRISTOPHERThanks, Indira. Thanks for taking my call. The only thing that kind of baffles, we are criticizing Trump for being -- collaborative efforts with Russia, Russian Putin. And why should we not work with Putin? Look at the advantage we will have in Syria. Here we both are fighting for the demolishing of ISIS. And, you know, why would -- why we should not collaborate with Putin so we can really have the better hand.
CHRISTOPHERAnd also, I just heard one of your guests talking about the NATO. You know, we're not in Cold War anymore. And hopefully, if he collaborate and work with Putin, just like Obama did with Cuba and everything, we can hopefully reduce the NATO cost also. So I'm kind of very surprised that we are still criticizing him for being -- trying to collaborate with our enemies, especially in Putin in this case.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Thank you, Christopher. Susan.
GLASSERWell, you know, I think that's what really reinforces David's point about the need to make the case. The bottom line is, I lived in Russia for four years. I covered the rise of Vladimir Putin. I wrote a book about it. What Americans don't know is that if you go to Russia today and you listen to Russian television, there is a war on, according to Russia, and it's a war with America. And there is a relentless, literally 24-hour-a-day propaganda that the caller is clearly not aware of, you know, that creates a worldview that is starkly divided between America's interests and Russia's interests. Russia is in the Middle East, according to this narrative, in order to stop America.
GLASSERRussia is engaged in, you know, a battle to fight American encirclement, from their point of view, in Eastern Europe, pushing ever closer to their borders. You know, we don't have the luxury of defining it. Americans generally, right, they are very -- it's a great quality about this country, which is that we have an optimistic view in the world and of our ability to engage and shape it for the better. That's now been soured by experience. But the bottom line is, the foreign policy that this caller might want, that we all might want, it's not available to us at the moment.
GLASSERVladimir Putin is a former KGB spy who believes that it's his mission in life to restore Russian greatness at the expense of the American superpower, not working in concert with it. That's just how he views the world.
LAKSHMANANAll right. That's Susan Glasser, editor of Politico. We're all -- we've also joined by Mark Dubowitz of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, your comments and your questions. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan of the Boston Globe, sitting in for Diane Rehm. This hour we are talking about Trump's foreign policy, what will it look like, with David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of the FP group, which publishes Foreign Policy magazine. He's also the author of "National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear." Also joining me, Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies here in Washington and Susan Glasser, editor of Politico and author of "Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin and the End of Revolution."
LAKSHMANANYou, our listeners, are welcome to join our conversation. You can call us on 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook or send us a tweet to @drshow, and you can reach me on @indira_l. So Mark, I want to ask you, Trump has promised to tear up or renegotiate many treaties, agreements that the U.S. is involved in. He's talked about NAFTA. He has talked about the Paris Climate Accords. He's also talked about the Iran nuclear deal, which is something you spend a lot of time thinking about. Can he actually just rip up or dismantle the Iran deal?
DUBOWITZSo legally he can. I men, the Iran deal is an executive agreement, it's sort of the lowest form of an agreement the United States can enter into. It's not a treaty, it's not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. In fact President Obama did everything he could to really sidestep Congress on the Iran deal. And so, you know, the problem with President Obama is that he sort of ruled famously by the pen and by the phone, and if you rule by the pen and the phone, you die by the pen and the phone.
DUBOWITZAnd a lot of these agreements, including the Iran agreement, can be ripped up by a President Trump. Now that's on the domestic side. On the international side it's complicated because the Iran agreement, the climate agreement and other international agreements, are multilateral agreements, and so they involve other countries. They give the president flexibility legally, but practically they're going to obviously have far-reaching consequences.
DUBOWITZAnd in the case of the Iran deal, there are five other countries that have been involved in supporting the agreement, and we're obviously going to have to figure out delicately how we would want to get out from under those international obligations if that's indeed the objective of a Trump administration.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well David, Trump has said that he could simply re-impose the sanctions that the U.S. had on Iran. If he were to do that, bring back U.S. oil, U.S. financial sanctions, the Obama administration has said all along that if we unilaterally pull out and re-impose sanctions, our allies will not cooperate with us this time, and that would render our sanctions pressure moot.
ROTHKOPFWell of course, and that's the problem with sanctions. Sanctions don't work unless everybody is sanctioning the country. If big trading partners of Iran continue to trade with Iran when we don't, then the impact of our imposing sanctions is limited. Trump's statements on tearing up treaties, walking away from things and doing them unilaterally are drawn from his experience building hotels and saying, you know, he's not going to pay the painter, you know, and the painter's sort of stuck and has got to sue him.
ROTHKOPFThat's not the way it works in international affairs. These other countries do have a say. You can't tear up trade deals. You can't walk away from agreements because there are negative consequences for the United States. The reality is that if you elect an inexperienced buffoon as the president of the United States, you're going to get ridiculous statements that can barely be born out in practice and real life.
DUBOWITZAnd this is going to be -- you know, we are going to live through, in the next year or two, the awakening of Donald Trump to the realities that he was absolutely clueless about in his entire career. And I think, you know, I think it's worth noting that although the United States has a tendency to elect presidents who don't have foreign policy experience, five out of our last six did not have much, all of them had vastly more foreign policy experience than Donald Trump has had.
DUBOWITZAnd therefore his learning curve is going to be a lot steeper even than those that have been criticized either by the right or the left, Barack Obama or George W. Bush, for having made us pay the price of their learning curves.
LAKSHMANANWell Susan let me ask you about that because a striking thing about this campaign was that the single group from which Donald Trump faced the most opposition across party lines, Republicans and Democrats, was within the foreign policy establishment. That is where the so-called Never Trump movement was strongest. You saw a great number of Republican former national security officials, former intelligence officials and policymakers jumping over to the Clinton campaign or at least saying they wouldn't support Trump.
LAKSHMANANSo here's my question. A lot of people in the last two days have said, well, Trump will be moderated by the people he will come in to do this job. So who is going to serve in his State Department, his national security team? Who are these people who he's going to bring in?
GLASSEROkay, so Indira, two quick points, and this is an important point. Number one, it is true there was broad-based opposition to Trump in particular within the foreign policy and national security world here in Washington across party lines. Why? Well number one because historically that's been a less partisan area. There used to be, it seems quaint and long ago, but there used to be this notion, in fact, that foreign policy and that political disputes stopped at the water's edge for America.
GLASSERThat's not been true in some time, but it's certainly true that there is a broad consensus about America's role in the world. We've been successful participants in this global order under both Republican and Democratic presidents. So it's not a surprise that somebody who pledges to blow it up, who seems disdainful of the basic facts of what America's partnerships and allies are, who seems to hate our allies and love our enemies, is going to draw a lot of opposition even from Republicans.
GLASSERHowever, the other thing I'm going to say is the exact opposite of this, which is America is a big country, 300 million people. The sound you've heard in the last couple days is of the opportunists, the ambitious careerists and the people who now see an enormous opportunity to advance their favorite cause, whether it is the cause of undoing the Iran deal that has remained very unpopular in certain conservative circles or whether it is the cause of undoing trade deals that are unpopular with large segments of the Republican base.
GLASSERI have no doubt that Donald Trump will find plenty of people who raise their hands, who are already doing so. We already have a great story up on Politico with lots of incredible quotes from people who declined to have anything to do with the Trump campaign, who are eagerly beating down the doors of the transition team as of literally minutes after, you know, the race was called for him yesterday.
GLASSERAnd, you know, that is a fact of Washington life, I've been saying it to our reporters for months, which is, you know, don't be surprised if Trump wins how quickly people are going to pivot. I don't know if you listened to Paul Ryan's remarks yesterday. The man used the words Donald Trump more in one appearance than he managed to do in the last three months of campaigning after technically endorsed the guy.
GLASSERYou know, yesterday Donald Trump was a brilliant political genius, and...
LAKSHMANANWell, who helped Republicans with his coattails, of course, so that's why.
GLASSERExactly, you know, so...
LAKSHMANANBut I have heard some Republicans who oppose Donald Trump in the foreign policy sphere saying please now, some of my fellow Republicans come out and serve in this administration and be a moderating force. So tell -- give us some of the names out of the Politico article. Who do you think's going to be secretary of state? Who's going to be head of Homeland Security, you know, national security advisor. Who are these people?
GLASSERSo first of all, we don't know, and these names are, you know, about as good so far as the paper they're printed on, and we didn't even print that on paper. you know, let's be real. Is Newt Gingrich going to be the secretary of state, as has been widely brooded about? I have no idea. And you know why? Because I don't think Donald Trump knows.
GLASSERDonald Trump did not expect to win this race, and, you know, by all accounts, although he was, you know, hopeful to the end, he campaigned to the end, his own campaign told reporters they weren't expecting the win, the RNC briefed people on a detailed scenario that had him falling short of 270 electoral votes. So I don't believe that there is a fully formed plan especially on the national security side.
GLASSERSo the names that have been brooded about, Newt Gingrich for secretary of state, Michael Flynn, a very controversial figure, former general, perhaps he would be a national security advisor of some sort. He can't yet serve in the Pentagon because we don't allow former generals to, within a certain time period, go back and run as a civilian, the DOD. There are some establishment types who I've heard talk about.
GLASSERI believe it will be a mix of these insurgent outsiders who brought Trump to the party, if you will, and the careerists who now see an opportunity and who very carefully didn't sign all those manifestos. The important thing to watch is how much Trump, because he's inexperienced and doesn't have fully fleshed-out, nuanced positions on these foreign policy issues, how much the advisors he does ultimately appoint will end up controlling a lot of the decisions.
GLASSERThere's an old Soviet saying, a Stalin saying, the cadres decide everything. David has written not one but two books about the National Security Council. And who is there will dictate a lot of this policy because Donald Trump doesn't know the nuances of it.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well let's go to the phones. We've got Kerry on the line from Alexandria, Virginia. Kerry, go ahead.
KERRYThank you for taking my call. During the campaign Trump would not release his tax returns or his full financial disclosures. At what point, if ever, will he be required to do that now that he will be the president and have -- give the public an opportunity to review these documents for any international conflict of interest or an indication of where he's going to direct his foreign policies that could promote his own or his personal business interests given that....
LAKSHMANANAll right, thank you, Kerry, it relates to an email from Pam, who says what are the ramifications of Trump's many foreign business dealings and investments in terms of conflict of interest, and if he fails to divest or recuse himself from them, are there any possible -- she's looking way ahead -- future impeachable offenses? Anyone?
GLASSERWell just quickly on the taxes...
ROTHKOPFWell look, I mean...
GLASSERGo ahead, David.
GLASSERDavid should answer on the conflicts. On the taxes, there's no law, but there's a tradition that all presidents have released their tax returns every year. Donald Trump already blew up that tradition on the presidential campaign, but every single president in modern times has released their tax returns. It would be an enormous departure of precedent for Trump not to do so, number one.
GLASSERNumber two, we do audit our presidents every year, and since Trump has all these potential conflicts, that could be why he doesn't want to release the returns.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. So David, what about conflicts of interests with all of his international hotels and businesses?
ROTHKOPFWell look, Donald Trump controls something like 500 businesses. You know, some are small, some are big. We've never seen anything like the web of potential conflicts of interest that exist in the world of Donald Trump that we know about. And of course there are all the deals we don't know about that tax returns might reveal.
ROTHKOPFSo the next couple of months are going to present a huge headache for Trump and his lawyers and government lawyers in trying to disentangle this, and I would say that there is a potential problem there because I'm not sure they can disentangle all of these things, and this may linger well into his presidency.
LAKSHMANANAll right, let's go to another call. We have Kumar in Dallas, Texas. Go ahead, Kumar.
KUMARHi there, thank you for taking my call.
KUMARMy point was that Donald Trump really has to repeal NAFTA . Most of his voters, especially from the Midwest, were hardcore blue-collar union supporters that only voted for Donald Trump mainly because of his policies on free trade and NAFTA. So the biggest thing I'm looking forward to, even though I didn't vote for him, is for him to repeal NAFTA and renegotiate our trade deals, thank you.
LAKSHMANANOkay, good question. can he actually do that? You know, we have another email from Dennis that is related, who says NAFTA was actually a Reagan concept that George W. Bush negotiated. All that Bill Clinton did was sign it. International trade is pure economic policy of the GOP, so how does this protectionism match up with Republican policy? Mark, start us off. Can he just tear up NAFTA and other trade deals?
DUBOWITZLook, again Indira, I don't think Donald Trump's going to tear up these agreements. I think Donald Trump had backed off on that kind of rhetoric to talk about renegotiating these agreements, and even the caller used the word, you know, renegotiate or revisit. The Canadian prime minister has actually intimated that he's willing to renegotiate NAFTA.
DUBOWITZI mean, I think it's entirely possible to go back into these trade agreements, to go back into the Iran agreement and go back into the climate agreement and for a U.S. president to renegotiate better terms without actually ripping up these agreements and repealing them. Now clearly there are going to be consequences for that, and I think this is where, to Susan's point, I mean, Susan, I think it's a good thing that smart, experienced, highly competent people actually join a Trump administration and advise the president on the smart, practical ways to do this.
DUBOWITZYou know, we don't want people coming in who are going to blow up agreements. We want people who are going to figure out ways to get better deals for the American people, who voted for Donald Trump and gave him a mandate on, by the way, both sides of the aisle for this issue.
ROTHKOPFIt's just not going to happen. Look, I was a senior trade official in the Clinton administration. I was involved in supporting NAFTA and a number of other trade deals. I want to be full disclosure here. In the first instance, the United States can try to renegotiate anything it wants. It actually requires the other side to go along with it. In the second instance, our leverage is reduced if we're heavily dependent on trade with the country in question. And in the third instance, the reason we're heavily dependent on trade with Mexico in particular, which is the focus of this particular call, is because NAFTA has been a gigantic success.
ROTHKOPFIt has created jobs on both sides of the border. It has created economic growth. The notion that it has damaged us is an illusion. Now who's to blame for people thinking that it has damaged us? It's the people who have failed to sell it well. But if you look at the numbers, the job creation, the benefits created, the dependencies created, the cross-border trade within companies that drives this, you have to conclude NAFTA's in our interest, and that's why it's hard to renegotiate it because we would be hurting ourselves if we did a lot of the things that Trump has talked about.
LAKSHMANANWell, you're right to say that those who back globalization and trade deals have not effectively sold them. And study after study shows that job loss and American manufacturing is from automation, not from trade deals, and that incomes in general have risen worldwide from globalization.
LAKSHMANANBut as you point out, that has not been sold. All right, Susan, I'd like you to address the question of, you know, someone else wants to know could he eliminate the Paris Climate Accord.
GLASSERWell again this goes to Mark's point. The answer is in theory yes. It's not a treaty. It's not -- it doesn't require, we didn't pass it through the Senate, so that doesn't -- so that means that we can change it without going back to the Senate, which is historically how international agreements were designed to be approved. But I want to just quickly address Mark's point about those participating in a Trump administration.
GLASSERThe point that I'm making is really around this notion of how flexible people's ideologies and principles are when it comes down to the prospect of power. It's something that Trump, by the way, is a master at understanding. He is -- where I think he has been very successful is at identifying the bottom line of people. That's what he does as a businessman is understanding, you know, what can I buy you for.
GLASSERNow in his -- up until now, you know, the sum is a dollar sum, usually, and he's pretty good at understanding what that is. And it's not necessarily a view of human nature we might like, but it works. David's point, however, I think is really important which is that countries aren't people, and some countries can be bought off, and others can't, or they are asking for a price that Donald Trump is unprepared or unable to pay.
LAKSHMANANAll right, very quickly last thought. Mythri is concerned about anti-Muslim sentiment that was brought up during Trump's campaign and how it could affect foreign policy. Very brief thought.
DUBOWITZLook, extremely problematic, and I think there's no way we're going to win this war against ISIS and the war against radical Islam without the support of modern Muslim communities in America and our allies abroad.
LAKSHMANANMark Dubowitz, executive director of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Susan Glasser, editor of Politico and David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy. Thank you all so much for joining me, a fascinating conversation. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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