A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly asked Michael Flynn, a retired Lieutenant General with a record of controversial statements about Muslims, to be his national security adviser. Barack Obama meets with German Chancellor Merkel and addresses a divided Europe on his last overseas trip as president. Syrian government airstrikes resume in Aleppo. Russia moves to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. And Japan’s prime minister meets with Trump. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Edward Luce Chief U.S. columnist and commentator, Financial Times; author of "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent"
- Courtney Kube National security producer, NBC News
- Peter Bergen CNN's national security analyst; vice president and director of the international security program at New America; author of a new book, "United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists"
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Donald Trump taps retired general, Michael Flynn, for his top national security stop. European leaders convene for a final summit with President Obama and Japan's prime minister says he's hopeful about maintaining positive relations with the U.S. after meeting with President-elect Trump.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Edward Luce of The Financial Times, Courtney Kube of NBC News and Peter Bergen of CNN. You are, as always, invited to join us. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to you all.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEThank you.
MR. EDWARD LUCEThank you very much.
REHMGood to see you. Peter Bergen, tell us about Michael Flynn, his role as national security advisor. He's already had some powerful influence, convincing Trump that the U.S. is in "a world war."
MR. PETER BERGENWell, it's hard to tell where Michael Flynn's influence begins and Donald Trump's views begin because they are very close together. But, you know, Michael Flynn has had a distinguished career. He ran the intelligence operations for joint special operations command in Iraq at a time when al-Qaida in Iraq controlled a third of the country and he and General McChrystal, together, working as a team with others, you know, largely defeated al-Qaida in Iraq, which, of course, is the parent organization of ISIS.
MR. PETER BERGENSo unlike everybody else on the transition team that we've heard of, he's had significant on-the-ground experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, which gives him tremendous credibility on these issues in a way that is not the case with many of the other people that we either will discuss on this program or have been discussed already. His views were laid out in a book he published in July. He's made some contradictory, like Trump himself.
MR. PETER BERGENIn the book, he takes quite an anti-Russian stance, yet a year ago, he visited Russia, sat next to Putin at a dinner, gave an interview to Russia Today, which is a Kremlin TV propaganda outlet, which he actually compared, at one point, to CNN, which I think was a strange comparison. He took a very anti-Iran line in this book. He co-wrote it with a guy called Michael Ledeen who is a very well known and long term robust critic of Iran. He says we're in a world war that's going to go on several generations with radical Islam.
MR. PETER BERGENAnd so, you know, people listening to this program probably, you know, recall Trump saying similar things on the campaign trail.
REHMCourtney, he's said some -- more than a little controversial things about Muslims.
KUBEHe did. He said that -- as Peter said, he said that the U.S. is in a world war with radical Islam and he's been very critical of the Obama administration for not acknowledging that and for not saying that the actual fight is against radical Islam and refusing to say that. I think the big question here is how much -- exactly what kind of role he will play as national security advisor and one thing that I found telling this week was that Donald Trump met with Henry Kissinger.
KUBESo if you look at his role as national security advisor, he had a very -- he had an impact on foreign policy. He was a strong national security advisor. Does he see -- does Donald Trump see Mike Flynn playing this same kind of role? Flynn, I knew him in uniform. He was a well respected intelligence officer, but he also had a reputation for being a bad manager, frankly, for being difficult on his staff, for being extremely willful and stubborn, for always knowing what was best and for bucking management, basically.
KUBEHe challenged authority, which is not something that you do when you're in uniform. And it got him into trouble several times where he thought that the way that intelligence should be gathered or disseminated was not being done appropriately, specifically in Afghanistan and with regards to Pakistan and so he just broke the rules and did what he wanted to do.
REHMAnd Mike Flynn also took a paid speaking engagement last year with Russia and then sat next to Putin at a lavish party in Moscow, Ed Luce.
LUCEYeah. I believe he disputes that he personally received speaking fees from Russian television, but there's some question about that. But he did -- most people assume he did. There might be some technical explanation for why he didn't directly receive it. Yeah, he is, as Peter and Courtney have said, he shares Trump's world view, if that's what you can call it, in that Russia is a natural partner in that joint -- supposed joint goal of defeating ISIS. And so, you know, Flynn's activities since he's stepped -- since he was fired as head of the defense intelligence agency by Obama in 2014, have been Trumpian, I think, to say the least.
LUCEThere is a problem there of conflict of interest. Now, it's fortunate for him that the job of national security advisor is not one that needs Senate confirmation because he has got his own private consultancy called Flynn Intel, which has been advising foreign entities, including foreign governments, people close to the Turkish government, Erdogan's government in Turkey, at the same time as he has been sitting in on the intelligence briefings that candidate Trump was having during the campaign.
LUCEAnd if there were going to be a Senate confirmation hearing, this conflict of interest would be a huge issue for him.
REHMSo do we have any idea who else might be on Trump's national security team?
BERGENWell, the bench is very, very -- is not big. We do have, you know, the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who's been put forward. He's accepted the position. I was talking today with people who served in the intelligence community for a very long time. They don't know who this guy is. Now, Courtney knows more about him. He hasn't had a huge profile, but I thought it was telling that people at the agencies don't really know much about this guy.
KUBEYeah, I spoke with intelligence people this morning, after his name started -- was out there in the media, and I got shock. That was the reaction that I got. He has sat on the intelligence committee, but beyond that, he's a Tea Party conservative. He was one of the Benghazi questioners. He sat on the special committee for Benghazi investigation and he was one of the strongest questioners of Hillary Clinton during the committee. He has an Army background. He was in the military. He went to West Point and he graduated from Harvard Law School afterwards.
KUBEHe is also vehemently anti-Iran. So you know, one thing that I thought initially was, does this signal that maybe this means that Tom Cotton could be coming in as defense secretary, who's one of the names that's out there because they had this alliance, this anti-Iran alliance at one point when they were floating some conspiracy theories about the JCPOA and how it was negotiated and that could be the case. But the one thing that I've learned from watching this transition process over the last week and a half, is nobody -- I don't think any of us really know what's going on and who's going to go where.
KUBEI'm honestly starting to believe -- Mike Pompeo was a big surprise. And he even met with Donald Trump. We knew that. But still, people weren't putting his name together for CIA.
KUBEI don't know. I think that it was just their -- it's a combination of the fact that the Trump transition people are holding their cards very close to themselves. And, you know, from my perspective, you know, covering the military and national security issues, this is a transition like one we have not seen since 2000. 'Cause remember, when it went from George W. Bush to Obama, Secretary Gates stayed and there wasn't a lot of turmoil at the time and this is really -- people at the Pentagon and the intelligence community are talking about this as a scorched earth.
KUBEThey're expecting scorched earth at the Pentagon in intelligence.
LUCESee, I think with Mike Pompeo, he probably earned a lot of brownie points from helping Mike Pence prepare for the vice presidential debate, but also from being to the right, if you like, of Trey Gowdy on the Benghazi committee. He issued a minority report to the committee's report criticizing Hillary Clinton's handling of Benghazi saying -- going way further than Trey Gowdy, the very hawkish, anti-Hillary Trey Gowdy. Just one other point about the names being floated around for Secretary of State in particular and to reinforce what Courtney has just said about the confusion here, the swirl of rumor is that the names we're getting, probably some of them head fakes, like Mitt Romney, whom Trump will meet at the weekend in Trump Towers and others that are less head fakish like Rudy Giuliani, perhaps John Bolton and, of course, Newt Gingrich whose name we haven't heard recently.
LUCEBut his name's, I expect, still very much there. These are a range of different ideological world views and so, you know, the idea that there is a coherent Trump foreign policy emerging here is, I think, pretty farfetched at this stage.
REHMAnd Peter Bergen, finally, Donald Trump did meet with the head of Britain's Nationalist Party, UKIP.
BERGENYeah. I mean, and Trump has repeatedly said that there is a kind of -- there's gonna be a Brexit moment and, you know, a lot of people didn't necessarily believe it and there was, which is the polls were wrong and obviously he feels close to the people, the sort of British nationalists who succeeded with Brexit and there's been celebration across Europe by Marine Le Pen, who runs the French ultra nationalist party. And in Poland and Hungary, we've seen essentially proto fascist parties celebrating Trump's win as a sort of auger of the future.
KUBEYeah, and this is sort of been this larger theme to this President Obama trip overseas the last several days in Greece and in Germany and he's going on to Peru, is this sort of anti-globalization, populism, nationalism that's spread in the U.S. that really it had a dramatic influence on the U.S. election and now seems to be spreading in other parts of Europe. And both President Obama and Angela Merkel, his, you know, soul mate in Europe, both weren't against that this week.
REHMAnd we'll talk more about that when we come back. We'll be taking your calls, your comments as well. Stay with us.
REHMAnd just before the end of our last segment, Courtney Kube was mentioning President Obama's trip in Europe. Let's hear what he had to say.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMAFaced with this new reality, where cultures clash, it's inevitable that some will seek a comfort in nationalism or tribe or ethnicity or sect. In countries that are held together by border that were drawn by colonial powers, including many countries in the Middle East and in Africa, it can be tempting to fall back on the perceived safety of enclaves and tribal divisions.
REHMSo there we are, Courtney.
KUBEYeah. So President Obama, he talked -- I think this trip was supposed to be, when the assumption was that Hillary Clinton was going to win, that this was going to be sort of his farewell, going back to Germany where he made his first 2008 appearance on the global stage and became this, you know, worldwide figure. And it turned out very differently when Donald Trump won. And so he was much more introspective, especially in Greece and in Germany with his... And one thing he talked about was this rise of populism. That Donald Trump really, he appealed to people in the U.S. by saying that free trade has undermined jobs and that it's sending jobs overseas, and that he was going to, you know, clamp down on it.
KUBEBut President Obama has warned against that kind of idea. Both -- and he and Angela Merkel, who he met with yesterday or the day before, they both talked about that. Because you look at it as, that was, that's their legacy. You know, they have this legacy of outreach, of human rights. You know, Angela Merkel, all of the Syrian refugees that she's welcomed into her country against a lot of criticism. And I think that both of them look at the potential for a Trump administration and this growing populism and nationalism in Europe as hurting that legacy, as destroying what they see they have built.
BERGENNo, you know, I agree with Courtney. And, you know, we've -- when I was growing up in the U.K., you know, the Nationalist Party was a very fringe element. We're seeing politics in Europe shifting.
LUCEI'd agree with that. I mean, it was the front page of every British paper, except the Financial Times, the day after Farage met with Trump in that golden elevator, and with the question, is this the new special relationship? I mean, I think Obama's had a very tough time trying to reassure people that Trump is not what they think he might be, that NATO will still -- that he's received private assurances Trump values NATO. But at the same time, mindful of the fact that he's the same -- talking to the same people that he assured Trump would not get elected. So how much, how credible are Obama's assurances on Trump?
LUCEIt's a difficult job.
REHM...do we know about Trump's real feelings regarding NATO, Peter? Not much.
BERGENYou know, I mean, I think what we've heard from President-elect Trump about foreign policy, writ large, has been often very contradictory. Because there's a sort of neo-isolationist strain, which is we're going to kind of cut our commitments and we're not going to get involved. And yet, at the same time, we're going to -- I can't use the term on the air -- but we're going to bomb the -- out of ISIS. We're going to, you know, torture people. We're going to kill terrorists' families. We're going to have this -- we're in a world war, we're going to, you know. So these are kind of contradictory, because a world war against radical Islam would be expensive in blood and treasure...
BERGEN...and would not be isolationist.
REHMIndeed. And the whole issue of Angela Merkel's security in her own role, one caller asks, with Trump's White House and cabinet appointments, is Angela Merkel now the leader of the free world? Will she retain her position, considering the controversies over taking in so many refugees?
KUBESo we don't even know, at this point, if she's going to run for another term. She's supposed to announce it this weekend. But I remember actually being on this show about two years ago and talking about that same issue, whether Angela Merkel had overtaken as the leader on the world stage, as President Obama was taking more of a backseat to her leading in Europe. So it's a fascinating argument.
KUBEBut, you know, back on the issue of NATO, what Peter was saying. Trump has -- he has said these things about NATO and not, you know, backing the commitments and making allies pay up or get out and all these. I think the thing -- we really don't know what he's going to do -- but the thing that concerns me the most about his comments and the potential for European security is -- are more his comments about Crimea and not acknowledging that Russia invaded and is occupying Crimea. And saying that -- that is a fundamental difference in Europe -- the -- in European security that we have not seen since World War II.
KUBEYou know, the U.N. Charter specifically denounces any border changes that are brought on by force or the threat of force. And so his not acknowledging that Russia is occupying part of Ukraine, to me, I think actually really does leave open the possibility that maybe he will challenge some of the NATO alliance commitments.
LUCEAnd Angela Merkel, of course, is the biggest champion of standing tough with Putin's Russia on Ukraine, maintaining sanctions, which expire in January, I believe, and she'll want to roll them over. Will Trump want to rollover sanctions -- Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia? There are some in Europe who are talking about extending sanctions on Russia to include its actions in Aleppo, you know, which is the biggest humanitarian disaster in the world and which Putin, this week, stepped up his cooperation with Assad.
REHMAir strikes. Air strikes and killing many, many people, this week.
KUBEYeah. Bombing hospitals. Killing kids. Killing women. The same thing that we've seen done in Aleppo and throughout Syria for months, and nothing is done about it.
REHMAnd you've got Russia launching attacks in other areas of Syria from a warship, Peter.
BERGENYeah. And Courtney and I were just in Iraq and we were with -- traveling with General Votel, the commander of Centcom. And one of the things that we both were told about while we were there on the record was a near miss between a Russian military plane and an American military plane. You know, it was something that was very concerning. And there is a lot more air traffic over Syria right now. And there isn't much of a regime in place for deconfliction of a potentially pretty big event. Because the Russian pilots are not necessarily observing what they should be doing.
KUBEYou forget that the, you know, Russia hasn't been engaged in an actual war in decades. So they aren't as practiced as they -- the United States has been, who's been engaged in two ground wars for more than a decade. So a lot of what we're seeing right now, you know, the Russians are making a huge deal over the Kuznetsov, the carrier that they've deployed. They actually aren't capable of flying bombers that are armed with bombs off of the carrier. So they have to fly, then land them, and then take off again. This is largely for domestic consumption, what they're doing. They're putting on all these videos. They're showing the cruise missiles that they've launched.
KUBEThe reality is, the vast majority of the strikes that are occurring in Aleppo still remain Syrian regime. It's largely helicopters, they're dropping these horrific barrel bombs out. They're unguided, crude IEDs, essentially. And they just drop them on anything. And that's what -- they hit hospitals, they hit kids.
REHMWhat about Putin's comments regarding Trump, Ed Luce?
LUCEWell, you know, one of the interesting things about the Aleppo -- I'll get to the comments...
LUCE...the Aleppo situation is not only that he's stepped up his cooperation, his support of Assad's bombing of Aleppo the day after he and Trump had that telephone call. Because there is this (word?) now that Russia is looking to exploit between a lame duck Obama and Trump's inauguration. But the other interesting thing is that ISIS -- and Peter and Courtney can attest to this far better than I -- ISIS has no presence in Aleppo.
LUCEDoes Trump know this? Is Trump aware of any of the complexities on the ground? I'm sure Mike Flynn has a better grasp of the complexities on the ground. But the idea that, you know, Aleppo -- which Trump, in one of the presidential debates with Hillary, actually believed it had already fallen to the Syrian regime -- the idea that Aleppo and ISIS and any of this is the same thing, I think, just sharpens our questions about, what does Trump know and think? What grasp does he have of any of this?
KUBEYeah. He had some comments this week -- or a couple of days ago in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, where he talked about cutting off support to some of the Syrian opposition. It's the CIA-backed opposition who, you know, the U.S. talks about the main goal there is to defeat ISIS. But there actually is an effort, a clandestine U.S. effort to back the rebels who are fighting ISIS but who are also anti-Assad. And I don't think that Donald Trump seems to understand the implications of what he's saying, if he were to withdraw that support.
KUBEThere's already been -- the face of the moderate opposition has changed dramatically over the last several years. They have, in a lot of places -- particularly Aleppo -- been forced to turn to more radicalized elements, like al-Nusra, to survive. And if they -- if the U.S. withdraws all support, we will see the radicalization of the opposition. We will see an emboldened Iran, whose -- who would love for the U.S. to get out. And I don't think that Donald Trump -- we'll see Assad regime stay -- I don't think he understand the implications of saying things like that. Because now the opposition on the ground are already thinking that the U.S. is going to withdraw.
KUBEAnd they already have felt, in a lot of ways, like they haven't -- they've been abandoned. And what we'll also see is a more dangerous situation where they'll probably start getting more advanced weapons from places like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
BERGENYeah, I mean another thing that we should point out here is, I mean, Donald Trump has consistently said that we're losing the war against ISIS. Well, as a factual matter, that is simply wrong. I interviewed Lisa Monaco yesterday, who's Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, I mean she had a long list of reasons why that's not the case. And Courtney and I were outside Mosul. I mean, I think the campaign -- the second largest city in Iraq -- has gone pretty well. Because the politics of the attack were sorted out ahead of time. So it's really the Iraqi Army that's going in, it's not Shia militias, it's not Kurdish militias.
BERGENAnd the campaign is going, I think, pretty well. And ISIS, you know, the clock is sort of running out for them. Raqqa could fall, you know, their de facto capital in Syria, in the next year or so. So ISIS is really -- the momentum is against them.
REHMSo what do we know about this conversation between Trump and Putin, Ed Luce?
LUCEI'm sorry. I did forget to answer that question.
REHMThat's all right. That's all right.
LUCEWe, well, Trump described it as beautiful, the message that Putin gave to him was a beautiful message. Putin said that they have a natural sort of areas of cooperation. Assad, incidentally, described Trump as a natural ally this week in a separate interview with Portuguese television. I can't help thinking -- and of course we are in the realm of speculation here -- that Putin was expecting Trump to lose. The Russian state media were basically giving a Trumpian message to the Russian people, namely, that this is going to be rigged. So I can't help thinking that Russia's involvement in this did not -- was not predicated on the outcome that Trump actually wins.
LUCESo they're a little bit like the dog that caught the car as well. This is a tactical and strategic challenge for Putin. What do we now do, now that this guy's actually in the White House? And I think it's a great opportunity, but probably also a great danger. They're going to be watching with as much interest some of these appointments that Trump is making. And a number of these names see Russia as the number one geopolitical foe.
LUCEHe's meeting Romney. John Bolton is another name, he sees Russia as the number one geopolitical foe. So I think there's a lot of sort of happy talk between Trump and Putin, as you would expect. But there's going to be a lot of Russian wariness beneath the surface.
REHMDo you agree?
KUBEYeah. And there is one common thread that I'm seeing through the national security names that are floated and the ones who have already been named, and that is a vehement dislike and distrust of Iran. So you have to remember that Assad, one of their -- you know, in addition to Russia -- one of his strongest allies is Iran. And they have ground troops in Syria, they're fighting. So I don't know if Donald Trump understands that. But that -- I could see that driving some of the policy in Syria as well. The last thing that these leaders, who have been nominated and named, they don't want an emboldened and stronger Iran. They don't want a stronger Hezbollah, which would then threaten Israel. So, I mean, it's all such a blank slate right now.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And we'll open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Shulay in Phoenix, Ariz. You're on the air.
SHULAYThank you, Diane, for taking my call.
SHULAYI'm an American citizen. I grew up in Turkey. I lived there for many years. And I heard the discussion about Michael Flynn. And I have read in the Telegraph and the Huffington Post about his ties to a lobbying firm that works on behalf of the Turkish government. And I've seen some inconsistent statements from Mr. Flynn, on one hand, calling Islam a great enemy, and on the other hand, actually praising the Turkish government and maybe lobbying for the return of Mr. Gulen. What do your panelists think about that?
LUCEHe's certainly called for the extradition of Gulen, who's based in Pennsylvania, to Turkey, which Turkey has requested. And he's described, at one point, Gulen as the Osama bin Laden of Turkey. So that's certainly correct on the part of the caller. I think Erdogan is another strongman, a strongman. Trump sees himself as a strongman. Putin does. And they tend to have mutual admiration society.
KUBEYeah. Mike Flynn has said that Turkey needs to be more of a priority to the U.S. So the one thing that could translate into a very real difference on the ground in Syria would be the U.S. support for the YPG, the Syrian Kurds in the north, who make up the vast majority of the Syrian democratic forces who are heading towards Raqqa right now and who have been -- and the YPG are the strongest fighting force there right now against ISIS. So what's concerning about his comments about Turkey is, does that mean he's going to turn -- (word?) will turn their backs on the YPG? It's the only force there on the ground that's really making a difference against ISIS.
BERGENYeah. And the Turkish government regard the YPG as a -- the Kurdish group as an existential threat. I thought it was actually very interesting that Michael Flynn published a piece about the extradition of Gulen on the election day in a -- in -- on -- in a newspaper called The Hill, which is a relatively small newspaper. But, I mean, to me, that indicates, if you knew, if you felt that your candidate was really going to win, writing an op-ed about something pretty controversial -- after all, Gulen is an Islamic cleric that the U.S. government's view is that there was no evidence that he was involved in the coup...
BERGEN...against Erdogan. To me, it just -- I thought it was interesting, because I don't think you write that piece thinking you're going to be the next national security adviser. You know? So...
REHMHasn't there also -- and this came up in the first hour -- hasn't there also been some clear indication that Mike Flynn put out some fake news during the campaign?
KUBEYeah, his -- he did. He tweeted things that were on, you know, websites that are not news sites, but that masquerade as ones.
BERGENConfusingly, he has a son called Mike Flynn, and that's...
KUBEHe does. Yes.
REHMAnd Mike Flynn, the younger one did, too.
BERGENAnd that may be more the case that it was his son.
KUBEThat, yes, it's absolutely right. Peter's absolutely right.
KUBEBut at the end of the day, they -- he has a lot of Twitter followers, too. So all it took was to put this out and thousands of people read it.
REHMCourtney Kube, she's national security producer at NBC News. Short break her. More of your calls, your email, when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here's an email from Matt in Vermont. Do NATO members pay what they have agreed to pay, Ed Luce?
LUCEWhich is two percent of gross domestic income. The United States more than pays that. It's close to four percent in the case of the U.S. The only other members that do are Britain, which just achieved two percent, and then very small countries like Greece, Estonia, and I believe one other Baltic. Interestingly, though, this week, and we were talking earlier about Angela Merkel, this week Angela Merkel said Germany would now be looking to step up its military spending because they are anticipating a less involved United States in Europe and that Europe has to take more responsibility for its own defense.
LUCEAnd the Germans have been pushing for Britain and France to start talking about -- this is informally, not formally pushing, Britain and France to start talking about a European nuclear umbrella, which is a discussion you've never heard before.
KUBEAnd, you know, Donald Trump got a lot of attention for criticizing NATO allies for not meeting their fiduciary requirements, but you forget that we've been hearing that for years. I mean, President Obama, this week he made sort of a passive swipe when he said, you know, even Greece is able to pay their two percent, everybody.
KUBERobert Gates gave this scathing speech in Europe several years ago, where he talked about there would no longer be the political will, and the American people would no longer continue to essentially pay for the defensive nations that aren't willing to pay for their own defenses. So this isn't a new argument in American politics.
BERGENYou know, as Winston Churchill said, the only thing worse than having allies is not having allies. And, yeah, the fact is that this alliance has worked in American interests very well for many decades, and the fact that the United States pays more, well, it's the largest economy in the world by orders of magnitude.
REHMHere's a question from Matt in North Carolina, who says he's scared about John Bolton being in a Trump government. He says, my own opinion is he is the main architect of dismantling of the U.N., a main proponent of USA as world police. The declawing of the U.N. is responsible for the rise of radical Islamic terrorism, the worldwide right nationalist movement and the colonial trends of China and Russia. Boy, that puts a lot of on John Bolton. What do you think, Peter?
BERGENWell, this gets to somewhat of the big themes of what we've been discussing, which is what is the Trump foreign policy because it's fundamentally incoherent. I mean, John Bolton is an unabashed supporter of the Iraq War still. I'm sure if he was on the show, he'd be defending it. And yet Donald Trump has criticized this. And Mike Flynn, the new national security advisor, has said it was a huge mistake to go into Iraq. So that's a pretty fundamental argument if you don't -- if you disagree, and you're running the show.
BERGENSo, you know, again, it's like hard to discern what their policies will be.
REHMJohn Bolton, Ed Luce?
LUCEWell, when he was Bush's unconfirmed ambassador to the United Nations, I mean not Senate-confirmed, he famously said he could get rid of 10 floors at the U.N. headquarters, and nobody would notice. So it's not, to put it mildly, a fan of international institutions or cooperation. He was not a neoconservative. He didn't believe in democratizing other countries. He didn't believe America should nation-build. He wasn't into that.
LUCEHe's more of a paleo-conservative, more of a Dick Cheney conservative, believed that America should show its teeth, show be ebullient, never be afraid to use its military. And he believes that Russia is a serious threat to the United States geopolitically.
LUCESo it's very different to what we're hearing from other...
REHMAll right, to Roanoke, Virginia, hi there, Bob.
BOBGood morning. As I told your screener, my -- the first thought that changed my mind in listening to y'all this morning was the online social media letters of ROFL because it's hilarious to listen to liberal pundits and media figures talk about the Trump presidency and how anti-establishment he was when running for office and then now that suddenly he's the president-elect, you're expecting him to run an establishment-type transition. That's hilarious.
BOBHe's not the least like the insiders in D.C. He's not going to be anywhere close to that. World policy is going to change because he's going to look at it differently.
BERGENCan I just say a couple of things? I really don't like, and I doubt that Peter and Courtney like, being called the liberal media. We are independent journalists who try as best we can to provide objective coverage, firstly. Secondly, have you looked at the names that he's considering as treasury secretary? Each and every one of them is from Wall Street, each and every one, from Jamie Dimon to Steve Mnuchin and others. These are Wall Street figures. These are wealthy investment bankers.
BERGENSo that kind of critical eye needs to be applied to a campaign that was supposedly anti-Wall Street, populist Main Street. If this is the first thing he's going to do, then I think objective -- what you misdescribe as liberal journalism is sorely needed.
KUBEYeah, and I -- Bob, you know, you talk about insiders in D.C. If you look at the list of names, I think there are a lot of political insiders that are being considered. So yes, Donald Trump ran an unconventional campaign, certainly we talked about that earlier with the rise of populism and whatnot, but I -- and I don't know that you can actually say that there's anything that's a conventional transition. Every transition is different.
REHMIs different, of course, of course.
KUBEYeah, so I think -- and I think you've seen a little bit of a dialing back on that. Initially people were saying, well, Trump is -- he's not appointing people fast enough, and there's been a dialing back in the last 24, 48 hours, where people are saying -- media I've heard are saying, well, it's really -- there is no timeline, it takes time.
REHMIt takes time, absolutely.
KUBEPresident Obama didn't -- you know, he started naming people three weeks after he was elected, so...
BERGENLieutenant General Michael Flynn, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, hardly an outsider, is going to be national security advisor. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is going to be attorney general, hardly an outsider. Mike Pompeo, representative of Kansas, is going to be the head of the CIA. These are all people who have spent a great deal of time in Washington, decades between them.
REHMAll right, to Anthony in Adrian, Michigan, you're on the air.
ANTHONYThank you, Diane. I -- this is an honor to talk to you.
ANTHONYAnd I wonder if your panel has thought about the fact that Putin has already won. He's delegitimized an American election. He -- with the WikiLeaks. He's throwing a wrench into NATO. And I can't imagine what the people in Eastern Europe are now thinking.
BERGENYou know, I think the Trump administration, once they get everybody in place, should say publicly that our electoral system is part of our critical infrastructure. If you attack the RNC, the DNC, local elections with cyberattacks that you're -- it's like attacking the power grid and that we will take -- I mean, they're going to be in office, they're going to be governing. This is not going to go away as an issue.
BERGENAnd the Russians clearly were able to, at least on the edges of things, influence this, but they're not going to stop. And if the administration is sensible, they will -- they'll recognize this and have a stated policy on this issue.
KUBEYeah, Anthony, I guess I would just question what war it is that Putin has won. He -- because if you look at what's going on, he really is in a stalemate in Syria. I mean, he's essentially using his military there to see what he's -- what they are capable of doing. They're -- I would not say that the Russians are winning in any capacity there. On the international stage, he's -- he doesn't -- he's not a -- he's not the world leader, he's not the leader of the world that he wants to be. So I guess I would just question what -- what war it is that you think he's won, Anthony.
LUCEI would say, I mean, it all depends on how the Trump administration performs. If our worst fears come true, and he uses agencies of federal government, like the FBI, like the IRS, like the DOJ, like the Department of Homeland Security, to interfere with legal cases, to pursue vendettas, et cetera, then Putin would have won because it would -- it would further tarnish the reputation of democracy.
LUCEIf, on the other hand, our best hopes that Obama has expressed for Trump turn out to be true and that he's a different character as president than he was as candidate, and he does what Peter advised, which is to declare the electoral system to be free and fair and part of America's critical infrastructure, then I don't think Putin will have won.
LUCESo I think we don't know yet.
REHMTo South Bend, Indiana, hi Joe.
JOEHi Diane, and really appreciate your years of dedication to open discussion.
JOEMy question is, with regard to the price of oil, opening up the strategic reserves in the United States, getting oil down to $35 a barrel and giving low-interest loans to small energy companies, basically utilizing that as a strategic tool against Iran, Russia and bringing to bear Saudi Arabia's lack of cooperation and bringing the people that were responsible for 9/11 within their jurisdiction, and I'd to do a follow-up, too, Diane.
KUBEI'm sorry, I guess I missed the question there.
REHMSo his question is could oil be used, the price of oil be used as a strategic tool against Russia?
KUBEWell, I mean, it's possible. You have to look at, you know, the Russia economy has suffered greatly since the price of oil has dropped so much. And certainly is -- can be used, you know, in a national security capacity.
KUBELook at -- frankly look at what ISIS is doing right now in Iraq and -- or in Syria specifically. They were using -- they were taking over oil fields, they were using that as their main funding source until the military and the coalition started striking them and made it this -- a massive part of the campaign, to take out that capability. So yeah, I think Joe makes an excellent point.
REHMAnd your second question?
JOEWell with regard to the funding of small companies in the United States and getting oil down to that level, basically providing it as an economic -- economic stimulus to the small companies that were doing very well with regard to small production and offset the -- and of course it would drop the price of gasoline in the United States but offset that price drop to make it -- to buffer it with a 25-cent, and I'll preface this, I'm more of a Republican than a Democrat with regard to taxes, but the infrastructure improvements that have been discussed could be funded with a 25-cent gas tax that would go to those infrastructure improvements.
REHMTry to get that through Congress, whether it's Republican or Democrat. I've been in favor of a gasoline tax for years and years to fund infrastructure, but the Congress doesn't seem to like that idea, Ed.
LUCELast time they passed that was in 1993, I believe, at the beginning of Bill Clinton's term, the 18-cents-a-gallon gas tax. Yeah, I think when prices are low, that's when you put the gas tax up.
LUCEBecause the consumer revolt is lowest. But there is, I agree with you, Diane, pretty much zero chance of that happening.
REHMAll right and to Charlotte, North Carolina, Omar, you're on the air.
OMARYeah, hi, thanks for taking my call. I guess my question is does -- does Trump's victory in some way -- has it altered the language that the independent media specifically is using to describe things that are as egregious as an appointee who is against an entire religion, discussion of, you know, registering people from my faith. I'm Omar Manishwal, I'm a Muslim in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I just -- in this program alone it's been described as controversial or maybe more than a little controversial, and to me controversial is small government versus big government.
OMARDon't we need to alter our language a little bit to be discussing this type of appointment?
REHMInteresting, you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. You know, it reminds me of how the media covered Trump in the beginning of the campaign, sort of dismissing him and then slowly, slowly, the language got caught up with the import of his candidacy and what he was saying. So the question becomes now, will the language become even tougher, Courtney?
KUBEI think you have to be careful that you don't use language that is too subjective when you're independent media because you can -- you have to let the facts and the comments and the actions speak for themselves without making it -- putting your opinion on what it is that someone -- I'll just take Steve Bannon, since he's someone who's been particularly controversial in the past several days in his opinions and whatnot, you have to be particularly careful about judging him when you're reporting on him as independent media.
BERGENYou know, I think the Trump campaign has denied that they plan to register Muslims. And, you know, we're not going to resolve this question on this program because clearly with the appointment of Bannon and at the same time Priebus, essentially two messages were sent, pragmatism and ideology. And my guess is we'll just continue this, and it will never be resolved, and it will be the kind of central reportorial fact of this administration, which is they'll be pragmatic sometimes and ideological other times.
REHMLet's talk for a moment about Russia's decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. What's the significance of this, Ed?
LUCEWell, I think the significance of the timing, of course, a day or two after Putin spoke to Trump, is in itself remarkable. But the anticipation that there may well be cases brought against Russia over its role in this humanitarian bloodbath, this catastrophe going on in Aleppo, might well be another. Interestingly, another strongman, Rodrigo Duterte, the president of The Philippines, threatened this week that The Philippines might follow suit and also withdraw from the ICC.
LUCEAnd I guess the question both of them would have is, so what's Trump going to do about it. Would Trump care?
KUBEWell remember, the U.S. has never -- is actually not a signatory to the ICC. So -- and frankly, Russia wasn't, either. They had signed on, but they had never ratified it or, you know, confirmed it. So -- and there were three other African nations that have recently pulled out. So it kind of calls into question the overall authority and relevance even of the International Criminal Court at this point that these nations continue to pull out.
KUBEAnd some of the arguments have been that they don't investigate places like -- nations like the United States, they focus on, you know, African, poor, African nations, and that over the course of the, you know, 14-or-so-odd years that they've -- the ICC has even been in existence, they've only had a couple of sentences, I think it's four, and they've spent billions of dollars getting those.
KUBESo it calls into question, is it possible that there's -- it's time for some sort of a new body or a changing of it? Or is this just another effort for Putin to avoid what will likely to be war crimes charges against him in Syria?
LUCEI mean, I think it's a very important point to reinforce that the United States was never a signatory to the ICC, just -- and even we did have a Hillary administration coming in, America's ability to criticize Russia's actions would be muted at best.
REHMAnd here's a caller, Mike in Houston, Texas, says I want more people in the media to stick up for themselves. Interesting note on which to end. I want to thank you all so much. Ed Luce, he's with the Financial Times and author of "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent." Courtney Kube is national producer, national security producer at NBC News. Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst. Thank you all for being here.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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