BOB HARRISON: Welcome, everyone, and thank you very much for joining us, less than two weeks out from the presidential election to talk politics with some very accomplished practitioners of the art. I'm Bob Harrison, the government major from the class of 1976. And I also have the privilege of serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees since January of this year. I was thrilled to be asked to welcome all of you to tonight's event by the organizers for a few reasons. First of all, I've been interested in politics since I was in high school, when I volunteered for George McGovern's campaign back in 1972.
And I've never been able to resist a spirited political discussion. In fact, I watched all four of the debates this past month. And I'm looking forward to tonight's panel shedding some light on any lessons that I should have learned from them. Second, I-- when I found out that Sandy Berger was scheduled to be a participant, I just couldn't resist being here. You see, Sandy and I have had the same boss for a while, him much longer than me, of course. But for the past seven years, I have worked for President Clinton at his foundation and at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Each year, we convene a meeting in September with over 1,000 leaders from the public sector, the private sector, and civil society, including about 60 current and former heads of state. And they address global challenges, like poverty alleviation, and access to health and education, and climate change. And Sandy has been an indispensable advisor to President Clinton and to CGI since inception of this annual meeting in 2005. His intimate familiarity with so many of the heads of state with whom we deal, and who join us each year, has been critical to the effectiveness of CGI.
In my day job, I also get to encounter a lot of Cornellians who were performing vital public engagement roles, like Sandy and our other panelists here tonight. And it really fills me with pride whenever that happens. This institution was founded, as many of you know, by public servants who cared very deeply about the university that they had envisioned having a public mission. Both Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White were New York state senators who met in Albany and collaborated to create a revolutionary university that would provide not just classical study, but also practical study to solve real world problems. And public engagement has been built into the DNA of Cornell ever since our founding nearly 150 years ago.
And while we may have originally focused on solving problems here in the State of New York, we have evolved to become truly global in our public mission today. So it gives me great pleasure to be here this evening with some of the people who embody the 21st century version of our founders ideals. Moderating tonight's discussion is Jonathan Kirshner, who is a professor of government, and director of the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Cornell. Professor Kirshner is a widely published and renowned specialist in international relations and political economy, two topics that factor very heavily into the national political conversation this election season. So please join me in welcoming Professor Jonathan Kirshner.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: Thank you. Thank you very much. I hear those Human Ecology guys throw a good party. So it's my pleasure to first introduce our speakers for this evening. Our panelists have had very long and very distinguished careers in both the public and private sector, so I'm going to keep these introductions brief, or I just introduce them, and then wish you all a good night.
First up is Sandy Berger, class of '67. From 1997 to 2001, Sandy served as national security advisor to President Bill Clinton. Before that, he served as deputy national security advisor during President Clinton's first term. Earlier, and something that has enormous cachet with me, Sandy served as a special assistant to former New York City Mayor, John Lindsay, and also served as a deputy director of the policy planning staff at the State Department under Cyrus Vance in the late '70s.
And accompanying him is Stephen Hadley, who has served as the national security advisor from 2005 to 2009 under President George W. Bush. And symmetrically, from 2001 to 2005, served as deputy national security advisor for President Bush. Previously, he served as the secretary of defense for George HW Bush. And in the 1970s, served on the National Security Council for President Ford. So let's please welcome Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley.
Good evening. Good evening. And to round out our panel of distinguished Cornell alums, we have Kathay Feng, class of 1991. Kathay has been an activist and civil rights attorney in California for more than 10 years. Prior to joining Common Cause, of which she is the executive director in California, in 2005, she headed of the voting rights and anti-discrimination unit at the Asia-Pacific American Legal Centers.
And also last, but as an Ithaca resident, certainly not least, my mayor, Svante Myrick, class of 2009. Sworn into office in January, 2012, and became, at 24, the City of Ithaca's the youngest mayor, and its first mayor of color. He was first elected to the common council at the age of 20 while still a junior at Cornell. The faculty legend is that it was our great instruction that has led him on this path. But I found out over dinner that perhaps that is not quite the case. In any event, let me welcome Kathay and Svante.
We're shaking hands. Good evening. [INAUDIBLE]
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: So if I can just-- whoa. So if I can just give you a sense of what we're going to do, we're going to open with kind of a general question for our former national security advisors, and then open it up for questions from our panelists, including myself, hopefully have an exchange of ideas between our guests. And then, time permitting, toward the end, open it up some questions from the audience. And I'll alert you to these microphones at the front of the stage that you can use in the event that we do have the opportunity for that.
And so we wanted to kick it off with a general question for each of you about this-- the transition from being a candidate to the next-- very next day, of being President of the United States. It's one thing to be a candidate-- often in campaign rhetoric, very critical of the president that you're running against, or the administration you're hoping to succeed, and criticizing what they've done. And then suddenly, you're president and confronted with the realities of power politics and the limitations to what even a motivated American president can do once they take the role of office. So that transition from candidate to Commander-in-Chief. Why don't we just go alphabetically?
SANDY BERGER: Well, it's great to be back at Cornell and be in Bailey Hall. I expect the a cappella group to come out and sing. But I don't know whether they still have them at Cornell. Talk a bit about this transition Jonathan talked about, from being a candidate to being President. We have 10 weeks in our system, of course, from Election Day to Inauguration Day. It's a very intense period.
Election night is a very exhilarating night. You have to realize that these two candidates have been engaged in this combat, at least since the snows of New Hampshire and Iowa. And most people run for president, their ambition precedes the campaign. They've wanted to be president for a long time. So this is obviously a culmination of a lot of work.
So the first-- the first wave is exhilaration. I think the second wave is exhaustion. These campaigns are brutal, that we subject or are subjected to-- I'm not sure which-- by our candidates. There are intense, long, hard, physically, emotionally. And when the adrenaline stops pumping, sort of the day after election, I think everyone wants to go to sleep for a couple of days. I think the third emotion that grabs you at that point is-- I would say it's opportunity.
I've known quite a few people who run for president-- men and one woman. And all of them had a sense of purpose. Forget about their ideology, they knew why they wanted to be president. They wanted to take the country in one direction or another. And you get elected, and you then have that opportunity to try to put into place, the ideas that you've had. I think that's a very promising moment. And I think the final factor that plays in that emotional mix is responsibility. And that's sort of what you're getting at. Suddenly, you go from being a candidate to being president over the 10-week period.
The American people have placed their trust and confidence in you. It's a big deal, as my former boss used to say. But I must say that if you run for president, and you get elected president, you probably have the self-confidence to feel that you can do the job. It's not it's not a profession for people that have self-doubt, I think.
The transition, I'll just speak briefly about. There are a number of things. You pick your team which you-- the White House and the cabinet, which is-- you're stuck with for a while. You decide what your priorities are. First day-- what are the symbolic steps you want to take on day one? President Obama signed a executive order on torture. What are the things that you want to highlight on day one? What's your first week like? And then sort of, what's the first 100 days? Which is a press contrivance leftover, I guess from FDR, but they-- it's inevitably out there.
And the third thing is you have to come to grips with the promises you've made. And sometimes the promises you've made are more problematic when you're elected than when you're a candidate. So I'll just give you one example from the Clinton years. Clinton, or course, was elected in '92. In '91, Haiti had its first democratic election ever. And elected a charismatic populist priest by the name of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. Within months, he was deposed by a coup. Very brutal coup and there were a-- a lot of repression after that.
And people started fleeing Haiti, and getting on boats, and [? flocking ?] to Florida. President Bush, 41, said he was going to stop those people, take them back to Haiti, and make them go through the normal asylum process because that's-- that was US law. And during the campaign, Governor Clinton said that was immoral. Couldn't do that, couldn't send these people back to Haiti.
About two weeks into the transition, the CIA came to see me with a bunch of pictures. The pictures were of hundreds, if not thousands, of Haitians disassembling the roof of their house to build boats. And the expectation was that perhaps 10,000 people would leave Haiti the day-- January, 20, once the new president was elected-- inaugurated. And probably a third of them would die on the trip. So there was a case where, obviously, coming to grips with governing is different than campaigning. And of course, President Clinton reversed himself, said he would continue the Bush-- Bush policy. But there-- things look different when you're in the Oval Office than when you're on the campaign bus. That unfolds over several weeks and months.
STEPHEN HADLEY: So you've just been elected president. And the inauguration is over. And it's 7 o'clock, or whatever time, and you walk in and you sit down at the desk. And nothing happens. And so one of the questions is, if, for example, your chief of staff, or in the White House staff, the issue is, so what are you going to do when the president shows up at 7:00 in the morning? I mean, at this point, he's got no schedule, no nothing.
So one of the things that an enterprising chief of staff do will assemble the staff and say, so we need a plan for what the president's going to do day one, week one, month one. And the things you think about is, who's he going to call? There are 170 heads of state-- 190 heads of state. Heads of government probably want to talk to him. Who should he talk to first? Because the country is watching now to see how this new president is going to conduct themselves in office. And the order in which he speaks to people on the telephone matters.
What are the orders-- everyone is going to want to come and see him. What is the order should people-- people come in? Does he want to meet with close allies first, then reach out to potential adversaries? How is it going to look to the American people? How does he want to approach the Congress? What is his first event where he's going to come before the American president as-- American people as president?
So there's a lot of scripting that goes on in the early days. There are a couple things that happen the-- about 8 o'clock in the morning, the president gets his first intelligence brief from the intelligence community as president. He's had them as a candidate getting familiar with things, but this is the first time where the bucks stops where he sits. And every president I know who's been in, it's a very sobering experience to sit through the intelligence community, and hear the threats to the country, and know that the whole country is now looking to you to protect them against those threats.
The other thing is, of course, the president is the Commander-in-Chief. Our military is a wonderful institution, but it's a very unique institution. And one of the things the president needs to figure out is, how is he going to relate to the military? What is going to be his style with respect to the military institutions? So there's a lot of questions that get sketched out.
One of the things that every president does probably in the transition is write the memo-- the memo. What we're going to accomplish in foreign policy in the first year of the administration. And they're always sort of pretty lofty. Pretty ambitious in their goals. And most presidents put them in the right-hand drawer of the desk to be looked at from time to time. And one of things you can bet is it won't work out like the memo says. That's the one certainty.
So a rather poignant moment, 2008, President Bush-- George W. Bush had eight years in office. He's meeting with a group of Americans, sort of late in his presidency. He says, you know, he said, I didn't campaign to be a foreign policy president. I didn't campaign to be a wartime president. I campaigned on a domestic agenda of education reform, economic reform, immigration reform. That's what I was going to do. But 9/11 happened, and I knew my presidency was going to be determined by my role as Commander-in-Chief defending the country. Everything else changes.
One of the big burdens in the opening months, and I would say, first year of office is make no big mistakes. Because it happens-- you know, everyone knows the story of the Bay of Pigs, when President Kennedy got a set of briefings he wasn't comfortable with and approved an operation that a year or two into his presidency, he never would have approved. And one of the pieces of advice I would give to a president is, you are president. You are the person the country has elected to make the hard decisions. And actually, if you've gone through the gauntlet of being elected to president, you are ready to make those decisions.
So when the military comes in, the intelligence people come in, the State Department officials come in, trust your instincts. And if it doesn't feel right, don't do it, because you're actually probably right. And send it back for more work till you're comfortable, because I think one of the big burdens in that first year, when the president is learning the job, is avoid the big mistakes. And finally, I would say, you do learn in office. It is drinking from a fire hose, but you-- you're going to learning an enormous amount. And a second-year president is better than a first-year president. And a third-year president better than a second. And that's part of the process as well.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: Kathay, why don't you--
KATHAY FENG: Sure. For better or for worse, our country has an electoral college system, which tends to focus a lot of attention on a handful of states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Florida. And that also tends to focus our conversation, especially during the campaign period, perhaps the issues that those states might be particularly interested in. Day one, or maybe the first 100 days, what's the advice that you give to the president to find the right balance between the political and the policy, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs?
SANDY BERGER: Well, President Clinton said to me early on, I know a lot more about politics than you do. So you tell me what you think I should do and why I shouldn't do it. And I'll worry about the politics. That sounds good. It wasn't quite as pure as that, as we executed. Obviously, as you're formulating the options, you need to have a political sensitivity to what's doable. But the campaign obviously does influence the issues.
I mean, I don't know whether we have a different policy towards Cuba today, if Florida was not as important as it is, and the Cuban-American vote obviously is important in Florida. There are other constituencies in these states that-- whose issues get prominent attention. But I don't think that, in general, the legacy of the campaign carries forward much beyond the kind of half a dozen sort of constituent issues.
When we campaigned in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, a lot of the ethnic Eastern European communities, the Polish community, and the Hungarian community, and Czech community, very much wanted their country to be admitted to NATO. That issue came up very often during the campaign. And it probably accelerated our consideration of those issues. But they obviously proceeded on their merits.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I would say, you know-- writ small, a president coming in, especially a Republican president-- Republicans don't get elected unless they carry Ohio. That's one of the lessons from our politics. Politics writ small-- so does the president come in and say, we've got to be thinking about our foreign policy in terms of how it's going to be seen in Ohio? No. No. I think that doesn't happen.
But one of things-- and one of things you need to also remember is all presidents are different. And they really come at the job differently. And therefore, the structure of the National Security Council system and the national security advisor's roles differ the president to president. But a number of presidents would come in and say, look, we're going to campaign on a platform. And then we're going to govern on the basis of that platform. That's not universal. But that's based on a proposition that your policies have to have political support. You want to try to have a mandate for your policies. So that they're supported by the country over the long term.
And so in that sense, politics, I would say, in a good way, plays. That is to say, if you come out, you campaign on a set of issues, you were elected, and you govern on those issues, you can basically call on the mandate of the American people. And you can go to the various agencies, and say, look, I campaigned on this platform. The American people elected me on this platform. And they expect me to carry it out.
Thirdly, though, I think there is an effort in many White Houses to keep a separation between foreign policy and domestic politics. And I'll give you one example. And Sandy has an anecdote which is very similar. So I've-- its second term, I'm national security advisor, Karl Rove, a very powerful figure in the Bush White House comes to me, and he says, I would like to come to the National Security Council meeting so I understand what the basis of the policy is. So sounds reasonable to me.
So I go to President Bush, I say, Mr. President, Karl wants to come to the National Security Council meetings, and it's fine with me. And he says, well, it's not with me. And I said, Mr President? And he said, yeah, Karl can come and see me anytime on any issue and give him my-- his views. I'd love to have them. But I don't want him in an NSC meeting because I don't want to suggest to the press or the American people that domestic politics is playing a role when I make foreign policy and national security decisions. I actually think that's the right model.
SANDY BERGER: Yeah. I had a similar experience with the well-known Rahm Emanuel, who is now the mayor of Chicago, and was the political director in the Clinton White House in the first few years. Terrific, very, very able. Rahm had a strong interest in Israel. He actually went to Israel as a volunteer during the 1973 war, had a great affinity and feel for it. And he wanted to come to the National Security Council meetings on the Middle East.
And I said, no, for the same reason Steve pointed out. I did not want the press or the public to think that we were making fundamental decisions about Middle East policy based upon the recommendations of our political director. We had some words about it. If you know Rahm, you can figure out what the words are.
But our friendship survived. But I think that the principle that Steve is talking about is quite important. Not every administration adheres to it as rigorously as-- as I think we did-- tried to do.
SVANTE MYRICK: That's great. I want to thank you for the story you told about-- Mr. Hadley-- about the president comes in and sits down at the table and then says, then what? Because my predecessor warned me the same thing was going to happen to me when I took office as mayor. She told me that you're going to work for eight months. You're going to have people surrounding you constantly. You're going to have a big party when you win. You'll have another big one when you're sworn in. And then you'll come in the next day, sit down at the desk, you'll be completely alone, and you'll say, now what am I supposed to do?
So I was convinced that this wasn't going to happen to me. So I made sure I scheduled 12 meetings on my first day of office. Just made sure I was going to do the whole thing. Well, I was sworn in on January 1. January 2 was a national holiday. What I didn't know, because I was new, City Hall was locked and closed. I hadn't had my first day yet, so I didn't have a key. So I have 12 people coming to meet me and I'm standing outside.
So I tell that story to say that I am completely aware that the job of the president is similar to the job of mayor of a small city as-- as the job of the president is to a marshmallow. So I hope you'll forgive here, the comparison. But what I found is that, more even than ideology, management, and the management of people, management of personalities, and sometimes the management of expectations is what determines success in an office.
So I was wondering what-- first, how you were each selected for your positions. Sort of the things the presidents were looking for. And what you suspect these two candidates are looking for? Romney in his first term, and I know the Obama administration is expecting a good deal of changeover in its second term. And--
KATHAY FENG: And how important was your Cornell degree?
SVANTE MYRICK: Yeah.
KATHAY FENG: Was that the deciding factor?
SVANTE MYRICK: That's what I was getting in. Yeah. That was a good question. I appreciate, too, pointing out-- I think you pointing out my attendance record when I-- before I came out, which was great. I'll say there's a great many professors who'd be surprised I could find this place because I've never made my way as a-- but honestly, what were the management styles of the presidents that you worked for? What worked about them? And what do you see-- if you see anything-- in Obama and Romney styles when it comes to managing that that will make them successful?
SANDY BERGER: Well, there's a lot of questions there.
SVANTE MYRICK: Yes.
SANDY BERGER: How did I get my job? I met Bill Clinton in the McGovern campaign in 1972. We were both about 27 years old. He was impressive guy. He went back to Arkansas. He ran for governor several times and won. And I stayed in touch with him. And then when he decide to run for president in 1991, I was the only person he knew that knew any foreign policy. So I became his foreign policy advisor.
And brought in other people. And then when-- including Tony Lake, who was a good friend, and my boss in the State Department. And then when the president was re-elected, we all decided Tony, having been at the NSC before, would be more logical as the NSC advisor. I was the deputy, and then second term, I was the national security advisor.
Management styles-- every president is very different, I think. We both worked for presidents who were governors. I think that's very important. A governor runs something. A governor has to-- it's just like a mayor.
SVANTE MYRICK: Yeah. Just like it.
SANDY BERGER: Has to make the trains run, has to respond to the crisis, the earthquake, the Cuban refugees flooding New Orleans. And so I think governors-- this is a generalization, obviously, a very good senator who's president right now, I think-- former senator. But I think being a governor is a very good-- a very good launching pad for being a president. Managing conflict-- one of the jobs of the national security advisor is to manage the national security team, which is basically the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, chairman of joint chiefs of staff, head of CIA, and then other agencies, depending on the issue, Treasury or Commerce.
And he or she-- in our case, he, spends a lot of time on the phone mediating between different people in that team. I used to get up in the morning early. I'd read The Washington Post, The New York Times, and if I saw something that somebody at the Defense Department criticized something at the State Department, I knew as soon as I got in the office, Madeleine Albright would be on the phone. How can they criticize me? I said, calm down, Madeleine, I'll talk to Bill.
And so part of this is kind of being a honest broker and trying to make a team work with cohesion. And that's, I think, part of the job of the national security advisor.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Well, I got the job as national security advisor because the President of the United States rejected my recommendation that I was not the right person for the job. I thought that the first term had been so difficult with Afghanistan, and Iraq, and all the rest, that the president ought to send us all packing and start with a new team. And he heard me out and rejected my advice. I usually won those arguments, but I didn't in that case.
I think there's a base case for how the national security advisor operates. Each president will modify it to their personality. But it is really the sort of model you saw in Brent Scowcroft. Brent used to say he was the national security advisor-- the only person to have it for two times, under President Ford and then President George HW Bush. His view was that the national security advisor ought to be an honest broker and should act behind the scenes and largely off stage.
As Sandy said, the natural security advisor is the person that's supposed to get the principals together and run the machinery that develops options for the president. Run a process where the president gets the full range of views from his principals, and able to make, then, a decision. And then ensure that that decision is actually executed through the government. It is, in my view, in foreign policy, it's the best job in government because you are at the center of all the policies.
It does require you, obviously, to have the president's confidence, to be known to have the president's confidence. The cabinet secretaries depend on you to give them the sense of what the president's mood is, what the president thinks about an issue. It is also a position of great responsibility and great potential for abuse. And I'll give you an example.
It is the easiest thing if you're a national security advisor to undermine the president's confidence in his cabinet secretaries. And I'll give you an example. This is my six-- I would get up at 4:30. I'd be in the office at 5:30. And I would have read The Washington Post. And there will sometimes be a leak out of the Department of State. It seemed that the leaks always came out the Department of State. It's not true, but it seemed like it.
And so there's two ways you can handle that. One, you can wait and go into the President of the United States at 7 o'clock, and you say, Mr. President, there's another leak out at the State Department on the front page of The Post today. I told Condi Rice she's got to get her hands around that building. I don't know why she can't get control, but don't worry about it, Mr. President. I'll take care of it. Now you've just enhanced yourself and you've undermined the secretary of state. Easy to do.
Presidents are compelling figures. And you want to please the teacher. You want to be the one fixing the problem. Don't. Resist the temptation. What I would do at 5:30, when I knew Condi was up in on her elliptical machine, I would call her up, and say, Condi, have you seen The Post today? No, Steve, I haven't. Well, take a look. On the front page, there's a leak. Take a look at it and call me back. She would call back at a quarter of 6:00. She says, yeah, it's bad. Blah, blah, blah. But here's what I'm going to do about it. What do you think I ought to do?
And I would say, at 7 o'clock, call the president when he comes in the office, and hit him, and bring it to his attention. Tell him how it happened. Tell him what you're going to do about it. And she would invariably say, great. So I would wait and not go at 7 o'clock. I would go into the Oval Office at 5 after 7:00. And the president would be there, and he'd be on the phone, and he put his hand over the receiver, and he'd say, it's Condi. She's talking about the leak. Yeah. And I didn't say, yes, Mr. President, I knew because I called her.
But there is a situation where, by letting her bring it to him, explaining what she was going to do about it, it gave the sense that she was in charge, going to fix the problem, had his interests at heart. It's all the difference in the world. And you as national security advisor want to run a process that results and the president having direct interactions with and confidence in the other members of the cabinet secretaries. And if you get a reputation for doing that with the other-- with the members of the cabinet, you will actually be able to be the honest broker that most presidents want you to be.
SANDY BERGER: [? If ?] [? I ?] [? could ?] [? just ?] add one thing when we're talking about the role of the national security advisor. It really is more than one job. I mean, you are the staff director for foreign policy. You have to get the president's speech done, talking points done. You have to make sure he's staffed well on any foreign policy decision-- number one.
Number two, as Steve said, you run a process which seeks to get the best possible options that you can. And I always thought if we could get an 80% compromise before we took it to the president, that would be great. It would be one decision the president wouldn't have to make. So the only decisions that go to the president is when there's no-- where there's sharp disagreement.
Third, you have to-- you're the implementer. You're the executor. You have to make sure that the policy's carried out. So you're doing all those things. The staff job and the line job. I used to say, it's the only job I know where you both feed the elephant and clean up after the elephants at the same time.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: I'm going to use every fiber of my willpower and not ask Sandy about his best Warren Beatty story from the 1972 presidential campaign. And instead, I'm going to turn back to Inauguration Day, January 20, 2013, and talk a little bit about the foreign policy challenges that the president will face on that day.
Three popped into my mind, Iran-- there seems to be some convergence between the two men, but also some vagueness about what exactly their policy would be looking to the future. China, here, I think, on the security side, we're-- I think the advisors associated with Romney are perhaps a little more hawkish and assertive. But that's open for discussion. And the shifting patterns of alliance in the Middle East that hasn't been talked a lot about during the campaign.
But if you guys were signing up for another term, and you were going to be the national security advisor, and you were going to have that first briefing with the president, what would that first briefing look like? Like, this is what you really have to get on top of.
SANDY BERGER: It's a daunting agenda, I think, that President Romney or President Obama will face on January 20. The first thing I would say is not an issue. The first thing I think the president needs to focus a bit on is how to manage and reassert America's leadership in the world. The American people are tired of our engagement around the world. We've fought three wars over the last 10 years, huge amounts of treasure and blood. And you see in the campaign, as the candidates come back to, we need to do nation building at home.
Now clearly, we have to get our economic house in order. We have to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff on January 1, which will be disastrous. We have to build a sound economy. We have to be strong. But it's not enough to be strong in the world. You have to be smart. And in a globalized world, smart means working with other nations on common objectives. And I think it's important for the-- I would say, for the president on day one to think about that proposition, and how he's going to re-engage and energize the American people to our responsibilities in the world.
On substantive issues, I'd just pick up on-- you've named, I think, three of the most important. Number one, the Arab Spring, and how-- what role we play. We didn't prompt the Arab Spring. We can't dictate how it's going to play out. But we have enormous amount of stake in the outcome. And we have some influence. And so the question is, how are you going to use that American influence to make sure-- to try to make sure that these countries do not evolve in ways that radical and militants take over, as opposed to moderates and traditionalists.
And I think the point of that spear right now is Syria. We can come back to that, if you want. I think that's a decision that the new president will have to make early on. Do we get more involved in Syria? Second is Iran. It's the one place I think in the next year there actually could be a war, which ought to focus the president's mind. The question is, can we stop Iran's nuclear program without going to war?
And stopping the Iranian nuclear problem it is important because an Iran with nuclear weapons is dangerous for the region and for us. But the military options are very risky and costly. So the question is, can we use the pressure that we've generated now through these crippling sanctions to get a negotiation which would result in a solution that would be acceptable to us and verifiable? That's the second issue.
And then I say our third issue is the big power relationships-- China. I'm not happy with either candidate on China in this campaign. On one side it's, where we are your investments in China? And the other side, it's who uses the most hysterical adjectives to describe China's cheats, liars, and thieves? This is an extraordinarily important relationship to us. Maybe the most important relationship to the United States, and the most complex.
And we have serious issues with China. Economically, are they trading fairly? Strategically, what's their intention in the region with respect to the territories that they're now being more assertive to? And will they be a constructive partner for us on global issues like Iran and Syria? So I think the third I would say is getting those big power relationships right and thinking about those issues from the beginning.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I am not a fan of the discussions of foreign policy that you get in presidential debates and presidential campaigns. I think most of the time they're pretty ill-informed. And they're either fights about red herrings or strawmen. And it leads you to think there's wide gaps, generally. I think the secret in Washington is that there's much more continuity from administration to administration, even of different parties than anybody admits. And I don't have much difference from what Sandy said.
I'll make one point on that, and then just a couple process points, things the new president needs to think about. I really believe that the biggest national security, foreign policy problem we have is our lack of economic growth, and lack of a fiscal policy that solves the debt and deficit problems. It not only undermines our diplomacy, our economic presence in the world, undermines our ability to maintain a strong military, but we're undermining our own model.
I mean, most of the world believes that political freedom and free markets result in prosperous, stable countries. And we're raising questions about our own model by our inability to deal with our own problems. And that's why countries are talking about a China model, because it looks like ours isn't working. And so the number one thing we've got to do is get the debt, deficit thing in line, and get the economy growing.
Then I would say the president needs to think about three structural things. One is we've got lots of crises all the time. And I say you can decide whether the analogy is the-- the plate-spinner in the circus, you know, six poles, 10 poles, with plates that are spinning on each one. He's got to go from spinner to spinner to keep them moving. The challenge that the president has is you spend all your time fighting fires and managing crises, that you don't put in place forward-looking policies that avoid crises in the future. That's a structural problem. We don't do that very well in the government.
And secondly, increasingly, we need to use all elements of our power and influence, not just State Department diplomacy, and development assistance, and promotion of democracy and freedom, but to use the power of our private sector, of our wonderful university systems, of our charitable foundations. Particularly, for example, in Arab countries now, where made in the USA is not the label you want to fly under. These other institutions may be better instruments of providing assistance and support in ways that are acceptable to the people.
So I think this new president really needs to spend some time looking at the structure of how we arrange the tools with which we do diplomacy, because I think it's not-- it's not where it needs to be, if we're going to manage all the challenges that a new president will have before him.
KATHAY FENG: Mr. Hadley, you brought up this question about undermining our own models. And in this case, you were talking about free markets. Currently, the big debate going on during the election is whether there's voter fraud, or if the voter-- or if there's voter suppression going on. Do conversations like that, especially when they get so heated, do they reflect badly in the international world when they look at us, and we're trying to hold ourselves up as a model of democracy?
And I guess you could go back any number of administrations, whether it's the controversy over hanging chads, or other kinds of controversies that come up during the electoral process, which is supposed to encapsulate our form of democracy, right? It's that participatory democracy. Does that impact on our credibility when we tried to put our democratic model out there? And if it does, how do we-- what do we say to foreign leaders?
STEPHEN HADLEY: It probably does, but my own instinct was you don't want to stifle an important debate simply because you think it's going to make us look bad internationally. I would flip it around, and I would say the thing that makes us look good internationally is if we can have a debate on issues. But how we do it, in a respectful way, in a way that makes it clear that the government is concerned for the welfare of all its citizens, and in an inclusive way.
So I think those kinds of debates, if we do it in the right way and send that message, it strengthens our democracy and strengthens how we're viewed in the world rather than undermines it. I was in Asia for the last two weeks, and one of the things that was interesting was to see in China how they reacted to the presidential debates. And I was there for the third one. And it was very interesting because Chinese reaction was hey, how come we can't have one of these?
Sure-- we're a one-party state, but even though we're a one-party state, why don't we have some debates? Let's get some candidates up here and let's have a conversation about it. Well, I think as fractious-- I sometimes say that our politics is what we do for the entertainment of the world-- it goes on forever. In the primaries, we hold up these people who's the candidate for three weeks, and then you never hear from again. And they're all strange characters.
I mean, it's wonderful fun. But in the end of the day, to have two people talking heatedly, with passion, but respectfully to each other about the issues of the day, that's a wonderful signal to the world. And it was just interesting in China to see hey, how come we can't do this? And the answer is they can and they should.
SANDY BERGER: I absolutely agree with what Steve said. I think the flip is also true. The stalemate in Congress over issues of debt, debt ceiling, last year not only resulted in our being downgraded by Moody's, I think it resulted in our being downgraded by the world. And it does go to our credibility. I don't know whether people pick up on the nuance of the voter issue. That may be too far--
KATHAY FENG: Too internal.
SANDY BERGER: --below the radar in Malaysia. But they certainly watched the spectacle last year of not being able to raise our debt limit. And it does undermine our credibility. I think there's no question about it.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: Let's take one more from our local chief executive, and then hopefully have a minute or two for questions from the crowd.
SVANTE MYRICK: All right, I actually-- I had a more-- I had perhaps more academically focused question, but I'm going to kind of toss that out because it's rare that you get to ask you-- I do most of my guessing about what's going on in the world stage with like, the guy at the diner, you know? So you never get to national security advisors to ask. So I'm just going to ask, because, Mr. Berger, you brought it up. What can be done-- Obama administration, Romney administration-- what can be done to prevent war with Iran in the coming years? I mean, that's something that I know people close to me are very worried about.
[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]
STEPHEN HADLEY: I guess bipartisanship only goes so far. This is a long and tough conversation. I think Sandy is exactly right. And I don't like-- I'm a glass half full person. I look at the bright side, but Sandy and I have done some work together quietly with a bipartisan group of folks to try to think about Iran options. And the reason we did it is I went through the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
And a lot of people think it was done hastily, and that we did not really look one more time at all the options before the decision was made to go to war. I don't agree with that. But it is a view out there. And what I say to people is, if that is your view, then we need to be having a very candid debate about Iran options and the consequences of these various options, because I believe Iraq was-- Iraq was not a war of preemption. It was not a war of choice. It was a war of last resort.
We had run through sanctions, inspection regimes, no-fly zones, military strikes, you name it. And we were out of options. And the issue was going to be, is Saddam Hussein going to define the world-- defy the world and get away with it? Or are there going to be consequences? And the president decided for consequences. I think in about a year's time-- about this time next year, we could-- and I think it's 40% to 50%, find ourselves in exactly that position with respect to Iran.
So sandy and I have been dialoguing on this. And the one thing I would say to you is we need a sophisticated debate on Iran, not sanctions, or military action, or diplomacy, or force, but a scenario of how you can have a sequence of options that would advance your interests. So for example, Sandy and I would both agree, we need to play a very robust proposal in negotiations, an offer to Iran that basically gives them a lot of benefits if they will give up those aspects of their program that we're most troubled about.
I think we need to do it to test the Iranians whether they are willing to accept such an option. And I think we need to do it because if we get to the point where a president thinks they need to use military force, you want to establish to the American people and to the world, we went the second mile to get diplomacy to work. I have some thoughts about if we get to that point, what sensible options are and what aren't sensible options.
But the point I think Sandy and I would both leave you with is this is an important issue. It is going to be critical about one year from now. And rather than have it-- everybody go back to business as usual, we need a national debate on what those options really are in a very sophisticated way, where people don't shout at each other, but really listen to each other, because I think it's one of the hardest problems we've got. And what better place to do it than a place like Cornell University. And I would hope there's a way that you could participate in that dialogue. I think it's terribly important.
SANDY BERGER: Well said.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: By my watch, I think we could squeeze in one or two questions from the audience, if I see an orderly stampede for me. Now I've never known Cornellians to be shy.
SPEAKER: Go ahead.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: You're on.
AUDIENCE: Hi. First of all, thank you, all of you, for coming. This was a very enlightening discussion. I want to ask about a topic that was briefly talked about before, and that's Syria. So in Syria, we have a conflict going on for 18 months. Tens of thousands of people dead, and yet, a country that has fairly sophisticated military technology, surface to air missiles, and potentially, chemical weapons. What do you see as the US's role in that conflict as it develops, if we have one?
SANDY BERGER: Well, you had [? to go ?] Iran, so I'll start with Syria. I think we have a very strong strategic and moral interest in what happens in Syria and how that unfolds. There is a great risk that this will spill-- it already is spilling over into a regional conflict. You see bombs going off in Lebanon. Jordan is under stress because of 300,000 refugees that have left Syria. Turkey and Syria are now firing at each other.
This is a very unstable situation. And could get very much worse. There are-- not to mention, 30,000 people having been brutally murdered by the Assad regime. There are a lot of reasons not to get more deeply involved that have been articulated. It's hard to know who the opposition guys are. Are we giving big guns to bad guys that will show up, blowing up American airplanes someplace in third countries? There's not the kind of geographical separation that there was in Libya, where you go to Benghazi, and protect Benghazi. It's all over the country.
The Russians are not going to cooperate. We're not going to have a UN or Arab League mandate to do anything. So there a lot of reasons why to be hesitant. Nonetheless, my own view is that we need to do more. I think that if we don't, this will become a regional conflict, which will implicate our interests. I think it will only-- we're down to the benefit of Iran if Assad is able to prevail.
And I think we should be providing, in a sensible responsible way, more assistance to the opposition, because the other reason is right now, we have no influence in Syria. If Assad were to fall tomorrow, we have no-- we're not at the table, in terms of how Syria comes back together again. If we're in there-- not military, not boots on the ground, but providing some defensive weapons, we're going to have a lot better capacity to know who these guys are.
Who are these opposition groups? And do we have influence to move them in a moderate democratic direction, rather than having the jihadist and al-Qaeda who's now benefiting from this conflict be the prevailing force? So for all those reasons, I-- my own view, personal view, is that we should be doing more in Syria.
STEPHEN HADLEY: I completely agree with Sandy. Completely agree. I think that's well said.
AUDIENCE: Thanks a lot, sir.
AUDIENCE: This may be pie in the sky, but friends on the faculty of Cornell and in general who have been to Iran recently have reported back that the Iranian people are very, as a people, friendly towards Americans and antagonistic toward their government. What is the chance of the Arab Spring spreading to Iran, having a popular revolt, and overthrowing the government?
STEPHEN HADLEY: I think there's a chance for that. I think they took a shot at it in 2009. And we can have a debate about whether our government did enough to encourage and help from outside, those people who arose. But again, on my issue about continuity between administrations, I was on a panel in 2009 with a woman who was undersecretary of state for national security. And we were on a panel on Iran, and everybody thought this is going to be great. The Obama administration, the Bush administration, they're going to go at it on Iran. And we said exactly the same thing.
That our overall strategy is to push back the date when Iran has a capacity to build a nuclear weapon, and to bring forward the date when the Iranian people put pressure on this regime and have a regime that is more representative of their future. I still think that is the right way to think about it because we're going to-- we have lots of problems with Iran.
It's not just nuclear. It's their support for terrorism, their intervention with their neighbors, their oppression of their own people. It's a long list. And the truth is while I'm not advocating regime change by force at all, we really won't have a good relationship with Iran until we have a different regime with a different set of policies that's supported by the Iranian people.
SANDY BERGER: I'm going to add one thing. I agree with Steve. We should be disagreeing more, Steve, this is [INAUDIBLE] but we have now-- this government, our government, has-- it has organized the international community to place really crippling sanctions, to use the word that both Governor Romney and President Obama used in the debate, on Iran. They're really hurting. Their currency has fallen by 80%. Inflation is over 100%. Unemployment is very high. Their economy is unraveling.
Now the question is, do the Iranian people blame their government for that? Or do they blame the West for that? And we have to have a effective communication strategy, in my judgment, which says to the Iranian people, our quarrel is not with you. Our quarrel is with the policies of your government, of your regime. And we have to make that differentiation so that they believe-- that they don't believe that we are their-- the cause of what's going to happen-- what's happening in Iran. I think that's-- but it's hopeful in terms of what it might stir up, in terms of Iranian opposition.
KATHAY FENG: We have so many people who've stood up to ask questions. I wonder if it might help for people to ask their questions, and then if Sandy and Steve can hold on to them, you can decide how you want to answer them. But then maybe we could get through more of our questions, and just put them on the table.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: I think that's a good idea, because I believe our time is running very short. So we have four people waiting to ask questions. If you could please ask your question in the form of a question in relatively terse--
KATHAY FENG: Ah, the pens and paper came out.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: --forms, we can get through these four, and have at them as best they can.
AUDIENCE: So thank you all for coming. My question was related to the size of military. And I know that's been a big issue in terms of politically, can we scale down? Should we scale down? So in your honest opinion, is our military currently at the size where we could effectively make it smaller and still maintain a level of US security?
AUDIENCE: In fact, it may be a perfect question to follow on that one, which is, a little bit alarmed by what I've heard so far, for the first item on the desk of the next president will be Syria. And when 40%, 50% within the next year is the handicap that we're going to be in some sort of engagement with Iran. And another country that came up in the debate that wasn't brought up now, which is the concept of divorcing Pakistan.
Pakistan is suffering from some of the same ills that we see. They're nuclear, and it's hard to believe, as-- you know, pardon my naivete, if there is naivete in these questions, but it's hard to believe that the relationship that we have with Pakistan is sustainable, and ultimately, won't end up in something so tied back to the similar question. There's already fatigue in this country for war, and what possibly could we do in those three or four possible new theatres?
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: I'm doing it on waiting time, and you were waiting longer.
AUDIENCE: No, no. That's OK. Ladies first.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: Go ahead. The floor is yours.
AUDIENCE: My question is a little bit different. I just filled out my first absentee ballot a couple of weeks ago. So I was just wondering who would you be voting for president?
SANDY BERGER: What was the-- I missed it.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: Who are you voting for?
SANDY BERGER: Who am I voting for?
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: So I'm not going to quite-- I'm not going to quite ask that question. This is my second presidential election. But listening to you talk, I don't hear the same difference in your opinions and your point of views that I see on the debates and see in the headlines. So what are the key issues to millennials that this next president will make that will impact on my life 20 and 30 years from now?
SANDY BERGER: Did you get that question?
KATHAY FENG: Key questions to millennials.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Yeah. What's going to impact his life 20 or 30 years ago. What are the key issues that will be impacts of--
SANDY BERGER: All right, let me go-- I'll take a couple of them and you take a couple of them.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Great.
SANDY BERGER: Caught that, huh? Size of the military. Military budget grew 67% over the last 10 years. Now $700 billion if you include Afghanistan and Iraq. I think as we're trying to deal with the deficit, and budget issues that Steve underscored, the military cannot be exempt from that.
I think we have to be careful. I don't think it's a wholesale slashing. I think we have to do it based on capabilities. What is the army and the military, the future? Was what is to be and how do we build that? But I definitely believe that some of that-- that military budget can contribute in some fashion to our national security economic issue without undermining the capability. Our military is larger than the next 10 militaries put together.
Pakistan. That's the problem from hell. Pakistan has all of the ingredients of a migrant headache. It is a weak democracy. It has nuclear weapons. It has internal terrorists. And it's quite anti-American at this point. And it be easy-- very easy for us to walk away from the Pakistan relationship. And I know a lot of people in the Congress want to do that now.
I don't think we can do that. I think we need Pakistan for several reasons. We need a relationship, we need to keep working at it, as frustrating as it is. Number one, if we want get out of Afghanistan, we have to do that with Pakistan's cooperation, both logistically and otherwise, to withdraw 68,000 troops from Afghanistan. Number two, they do have 100 nuclear weapons. They're building more. If you ask me, where is the most likely place that a nuclear exchange could take place? I would say South Asia, between Pakistan and India.
We almost had one in 1999, when the Pakistanis went across the line of control into Kargil and the Indians were pushing back. President Clinton stepped in and mediated that. If there's another attack by terrorist groups from Pakistan on India like the Mumbai attacks three years ago, India will not be as restrained as it was last time. It will respond. And once that dynamic starts playing out, it's very dangerous. So I think Pakistan is definitely going to be obviously on the radar screen. And we just have to stay at it.
Who am I voting for? It'll be a big surprise. I think the president has done a good job of the last four years with a very difficult hand that he was dealt. We were on the verge of an economic meltdown. We avoided that. He's managed to-- the economy is not going as strongly as we would like. But it's going in the right direction. And I think the cluster of things that he's done, whether it's health care, or regulatory reform on-- of Wall Street, I think generally have been positive. So I'm a strong supporter and present.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Well, we've finally identified an area of difference.
I will be voting for Governor Romney because I think the American people are beginning to side that he has the skills to fix the problem-- the most pressing problem we face, which is the growth and the deficit and debt. And let me answer the other two questions. And I'm going to start with the military, but I'm going to do it in a different way.
I'm a big defender of the military and the need to keep it strong. I ran the numbers at one point. It's part of the problem our debate. You could zero out the defense budget-- zero it out. And you could confiscate all the income of the vaunted top 1%. And you would not have solved the deficit and debt problem of the United States.
So my test for seriousness is going to be whether a new administration takes on entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. I would heave out Medicaid. I think that's got to be preserved. And I think it's-- we'll give some of it to the states. If we're willing to do that, then we can talk about the defense budget.
But two things to keep in mind about the defense budget. It didn't grow like topsy over the last 10 years. It grew because we've been fighting wars against terrorists, beginning in 9/11 for almost 10 years. And that's expensive in terms of money. And more importantly, in terms of broken lives and lost lives. That's why the military budget has gone up. Secondly, there have been some cuts, about half a trillion dollars worth over 10 years. So if-- let's test and see whether we're serious about dealing with these problems.
On the issue of what we can do for future generations, I'll give you my . Scenario it is completely unrealistic. But I would like the new president after January of 2013 to convene the leadership of Congress and basically say, ladies and gentlemen, we have an opportunity to be historic. To put this country permanently on a new footing and actually to relieve the burden on the next generation.
And so I am calling you, and I am willing to expend all my effort, and I would liked you to agree with me that we are going to address the deficit and the debt issues, and get-- in our budget-- and get our economy growing. That we're going to have a next generation of education reform, on which there's already a lot of bipartisan consensus. That we're going to do immigration reform. Again, everybody knows what it looks like. It looks like the Bush proposal that was regrettably voted down in the Senate. We know the mix of things that will work. We're going to do Social Security and Medicare reform.
And finally, we're going to reform the health care legislation to give it bipartisan support and to address the cost increase aspects of it. Now what is the likelihood of that happening? It's probably one in a thousand. But it is what my generation could really do for the next generation. And I hope we do it, because my daughters, I have two of them, they're in their early 20s. They think my generation is the most selfish generation they've ever seen in terms of the burdens we've imposed upon them.
SVANTE MYRICK: You're not that bad.
STEPHEN HADLEY: And we have an opportunity now to really fix a lot of that, and to leave them a much better world. And I just hope who's ever elected, that's what we do.
JONATHAN KIRSHNER: So thank you all, our four panelists, for making Cornell look good locally and in the world.
SANDY BERGER: Thank you. Thank you all.
BOB HARRISON: Sandy Berger and Stephen Hadley, thank you very, very much for coming to a Cornell stage together for the very first time. We are all very proud of the roles that you have played on a global stage for many, many years.
And Jonathan, Kathay, and Svante, thank you very much for guiding this discussion so well. In particular, for, Svante, your comparison of the roles of the President of the United States and the mayor of Ithaca.
[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]
And for all council members and trustees, don't forget that tomorrow morning at 8:45, we reconvene for the joint meeting of the council and the trustees in the Statler Auditorium. And President Skorton and we'll be giving the state of the university address. Thank you very much for coming.
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A dynamic discussion by distinguished fellow Cornellians and former national security advisors, Samuel R. Berger '67, who served under former President Bill Clinton (1997-2001), and Stephen J. Hadley '69, who served under former President George W. Bush (2005-2009).
They will share their insights into the realities confronting a new president the day after election and how these realities shape the early days of an administration. Borrowing from the original format of Meet the Press, several accomplished Cornellians will serve as a panel of questioners.
This lively exchange offers a better understanding of the global challenges -- and the differences in how to engage them -- that are "on the table" in the election of 2012.
This event was part of the Trustee Council Weekend 2012 activities.