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Many of you know David Gergen from watching him on the Lehrer News Hour, back when it was the McNeal-Lehrer Show. He also served multiple presidents. He served President Nixon, President Ford, President Reagan, and ultimately he served in President Clinton's White House as well, where we got to work together. He served as Counselor to President Clinton on both foreign and domestic policy, and served as an advisor to Secretary of State Warren Christopher at the same time. He has, of course, since then he has moved over to the John F. Kennedy school of government, where he is a professor of public policy, he directs the center for public leadership there, and he is an editor at large at US News and World Report. He appears regularly on a number of news shows, and so I know that you hear him with regularity, but this time we get to hear him in person. So please join me in welcoming David Gergen. David, I first want to thank you for joining us, as you can tell, the World Affairs Council Audience is delighted to see you. Well, thank you, I am deeply pleased to be here, especially with Jane Wales, and I know all of you appreciate just how lucky you are to have Jane here at the council. I do want to say I appreciate as well Judith and Rich Guggenheim for sponsoring this, and it's good to be here with all of you. So thank you. David, I knew you expected this, but I'm going to hit you with what's most in the news right now. The North Koreans are reported to have conducted a nuclear weapons test, and I wanted to ask you what your thoughts are as to what we know about their motivations. Are they pursuing a nuclear weapons program so that they can have a bargaining chip that allows them entry into the global economy, or are they pursuing them because they believe it's in their national security interests? Well, I think it's very difficult for any of us to tell, and one of our problems now in the world in general is that our intelligence is, as we learned in Iraq, our intelligence gathering is not all that it should be, and it's particularly weak in communities that are closed of that we're not even talking to. You know, so that we ourselves, for a variety of policy reasons, this administration has chosen to cut off all direct contact with the North Koreans, and I think that makes us a little blind as to what exactly is going on there. Similarly in Iran. It's clear that they are looking for respect through getting weapons. It's also clear they may be looking for money, because they've never built a weapons system they haven't sold to others and they are desperately short of money. But it's also I think you and I would probably agree, Jane there seems to be an element here of, a view that if we had a nuclear weapon, we will not be attacked by the United States and by others, but especially by the United States. That's what will keep people off our shores. It has a deterrent quality. And that goes to what you and I have talked about with another audience, World Affairs audience, and that is the ambiguity in our policy. Fundamentally, America has suggested to North Korea and to Iran that because they are a part of the Axis of Evil, there are two things we don't like about them. We don't want them to get nuclear weapons, and in addition, we want regime change. We want to see a new government in place. That is a departure from where American policy has been in previous administrations. Previous administrations have been against proliferation, against North Korea and Iran getting weapons, but they have not been for regime change, and that has put the North Koreans into a position where one of their motivations may well be, if we get nuclear weapons, then nobody's going to attack us, especially the United States. That would also send a signal to Iran, which would be terribly unfortunate for us. What about the signal we send to our own negotiating team, it seems to me those are two purposes, the non-proliferation purpose and the regime change purpose, that may well be at odds. In the first case, you would negotiate and try to find solutions. In the second case, you wouldn't want a solution. You'd want to mobiolize the world public on your side so that you can effect regime change. That argument I think is generally persuasive, it's an argument of course that suggests we want a war, that we want to force them out militarily. I'm not sure that that's a fair assessment. Or that we want greater sanctions. We want greater sanctions, but everybody knows over time the sanctions won't work, and they'll be weakened over time, and that leaves you with only the choice, if that's your option, if that's your intention to get regime change, you're very quickly left with the option of using military force, and that, from my point of view, is profoundly undesireable. Recently, our ambassador there, Chris Hill, did reach a deal with the North Koreans. He came back, Vice President Cheney didn't like the deal, the Vice President went to the President and the President then asked Chris Hill to recant. Did that turn out to be a fateful decision, or was this course of events inevitable? Well, we'll have to wait and see, I think we'll look back at some point and say that was one of the major turning points. We'll have to see you know, before we went into Kuwait, there was a representation by our embassy there about what we would accept and what we wouldn't accept, and some people think that led you war, you know all the way back to Dean Hatchinson's famously saying, "Here's the perimeter we will defend," leaving Korea off the list, and people thought maybe that led to the North attacking the South, because they didn't think we would defend it. So in every one of these environments, you have a situation where there may have been a mistake, but I want to come back to the fundamental, because it does seem to me and I'd love your engagement on this. It does seem to me we're facing some pretty hard decisions, and these decisions are going to be squarely in front of us just after the elections. The Iraq decision that we're facing is going to come just after the elections, we'll get to that in a moment I'm sure. But on North Korea, someone for whom I have enormous respect and you've worked with in the past, Joe Nigh, he's come and spoken here before, he's a former dean of the Kennedy school and an international relations authority. He's made the argument that when it comes to North Korea, our options are all bad. And you have to choose the best of the bad lot. The evil of three lessers, in effect, which may describe this political campaign too, but nonetheless, the point is, as Joe puts it, the options are these. One, we can squeeze them out. Two, we can burn them out. Or three, we can buy them out. Those are essentially your options, and none of them are good. Squeezing them out essentially means that you use sanctions, you try to apply all sorts of, you choke the tournequit, make sure they don't get enough trade, we've been using various forms of sanctions against North Korea now since the Korean War. And North Korea's very poor, but it hasn't changed their behavior very much. And in this case, sanctions are very difficult unless you can get the Chinese to fully get on board and close the border. Stopping things coming into sea lanes, as now we're talking about, doesn't do any good if you can't stop the border where the real traffic is. Most experts think sanctions in the long run will not work with North Korea. Then you're left with the option if, okay do you want to burn them out. That means you use military force. And a problem with military force in North Korea, yes of course we can overwhelm them, but they have lots and lots of missiles on their border, right on the DMZ, aimed at Seoul, which is only about 30 miles away, and would destroy much of Seoul, and kill up to a million people like that. So that option is not an attractive option unless you're willing to engage in a real bloodbath with the South Koreans, and it's one of the reasons the South Koreans are not terribly in favor of military action. You can understand that. So then you're left with the option, well do you want to buy them out. Now what are we talking about when we say "buy them out"? Jane, you'll remember in the Clinton administration, how close we came to believing, when the North Koreans violated some understandings we had with them, that perhaps we were going to have to use military force. That seemed to be the option du jour. At one point in 1994, what happened was that President Clinton agreed to have President Carter go and there was a representation from the US side, from a fellow named Bob Galuchi, very deboinar fellow, best-looking man in the Clinton administration by some distance, who's now dean at Georgetown, and he went and negotiated a deal along with the Carter representation. He negotiated a deal with the North Koreans and said look, if you do not pursue nuclear weapons and missiles, then we in exchange for you not doing bad behavior, we will give you a light water reactor for purposes of peaceful power, we will give you fuel, we'll give you oil, we'll give you money, we'll give you a variety of different kind of subsidies. Now I happened to be at the table, I was considered part of the principals group at that point duing the Clinton administration, briefly, and when I first heard that deal, I was horrified at the deal. It was a clear form of extortion. You know, they were essentially blackmailing them. It was saying, do this or we're going to do some bad things. You got to pay us not to be bad actors. So at first I was very opposed to it, but as you went through the options, you realize, you know...this is a terrible option, but the other ones are worse. So I came to be a believer in it. And then we signed the deal. Now, the deal eventually fell apart. And there is contention, there's controversy, on why the deal fell apart. The Bush administration came into power believing the deal fell apart essentially, and almost solely, because the North Koreans cheated. You know, they used a form of extortion, we promised them stuff, and then they cheated anyway. And therefore they're not to be trusted, we shouldn't talk to them directly, this is what you get when you talk to them directly, we got to get the Chinese in, that's been the theory that the Bush administration has proceeded on. Now, there are some on the Democratic side, and there are some journalists who say, that's not the full story. The rest of the story is, the United States didn't deliver on time. On what it promised. Both sides, in effect, didn't quite fulfill the terms-- yeah they cheated and cheated seriously, but we weren't exactly perfect in this thing either, and maybe there are reasons why, given the circumstances, they cheated, so people of that persuasion believe we ought to try this again. We ought to talk to them again, we ought to engage them again in some direct way. You know, Madeline Albright sat down and talked to Kim Jong-il, she had conversations with him. Jim Baker strikingly, Jim Baker just said this weekend, who is now become a pivotal player in Iraq, we'll get to that, said this weekend, "You should talk to your enemies. The United States must be willing to talk to its enemies." But Bush administration has not agreed to do that, and therefore, the buy-em-out option is not on the table. They refuse to consider that. Unfortunately, that only leaves you with the other two options. The squeeze-em-out, or burn-em-out, and squeeze-em-out doesn't work, so that's why this could get very dangerous unless we're willing to have a longer conversation in this country, and indeed work with the Europeans, work with the Chinese, and work with the Russians, to see if we can't find some peaceful way out of this increasingly de-stabilized situation. I promise not to go on so long. You spoke of a situation in which there are only unattractive options, of course Iraq is a more extreme example of that, where we seem to be arguing over which, perhaps which is the least bad option. Evil of lessers. Right. What are the chances that there will be a third option, something other than stay-the- course, and let's leave. But a third option offered, and who might be in a position to put up such an option. We're now going to talk about the Jane Wales option, this is what I'm calling it. Cause she and I have had a conversation about this, and she's-- I pieced together from her and other people-- there are some alternatives. Now the most important thing is to understand, I think, is this, on Iraq. Is that there is a general sense in Washington right now that we're going to stay on stay-the-course through the election campaign. Nobody in the administration wants to budge off that, why would they do that on the eve of an election and throw the election into chaos. So they're going to stick with this course through the election. But there is a strong and growing sense in Washington that once the election is over, the admistration will seriously consider whether there is a Plan B. Plan A has obviously not worked as well as they hoped. And so is there a Plan B. Now the thinking is, the speculation is, that George W. Bush is going to turn into Mr. Houdini-- I'm speaking about someone for whom I have enormous personal regard, he's been a mentor of mine, I'm very biased, I think he was the best chief of staff in modern times in the White House, and that's James Baker. Because the Bushes have often turned to him for help in tight squeezes in the past. And he's done very well. The President is in the White House, after all. But in this case, some time ago, some months ago, the Congress and President agreed to have an Iraq commission to look at what's going on and to reccomend to the President, after the elections, make reccomendations about where to go from here in Iraq. Like co chair Lee Hamilton, Democrat, esteemed Democrat, co-chair at the 9/11 Commission, Tom Caine. Now, the view is, that it's the Baker commission that's going to come up with the options, or give the President a reccomendation, it will have bi-partisan weight behind it, it's a bi-partisan commission with a lot of worthies on the commission, and in effect what the Baker plan turns out to be is what Plan B's going to be. And the expectation is, it probably, that Jim Baker will have very quiet conversations with the President before he ever goes public with the plan, in order to have it wired. So that the President then can gracefully say, as gracefully as he can because he's going to have to eat a lot of crow doing this, he'll move off Plan A and move to Plan B. And with that, possibly, make some personal changes. I mean, it's at that point that you can say the Architect of Plan A, maybe we need a new architect, we have a new plan let's get a new architect, let's-- Don Rumsfeld is the architect of Plan A, this is a good time for him to enjoy his retirement, and let's go to someone-- maybe Baker. After all, this is what Lyndon Johnson did. During the, if you'll remember, during the Vietnam War, he had Bob McNamara there, and he sent him to the World Bank. You know, Paul Wolfowitz has already taken the World Bank, I don't think Don Rumsfeld will do that, but nonetheless, there is that possibility. So what would Plan B be, that's the politics of it, that's the process. Now what's Plan B. Now that is where a lot of people go in 15 different directions. But there is, as Jane and I have been talking about, there is a lot of talk in Washington right now, in a very quiet way, that what we may need to do is to consider the possibility of sending a lot more American troops into Iraq for a short, defined period of time. There is talk of as many as a hundred thousand troops going in on top of the hundred and forty we have there now. In effect, to put a cop on every street corner in Baghdad, in Mosul, and in some of the other cities, and trying to quiet this thing down. Get it under better control, and then as Jane argues, at that point if you have the larger forces there with the defined time, you get a timetable for when American troops are going to start coming out, but you then go to the neighbors and to the international community, saying "As we get this calmed down, we will calm it down, but we will need an international force to go in to both supplement and replace to work with the Iraqis to continue this, and we in the meantime will start backing away from-- you know, you will have a larger voice, the international community. By the way, John Kerry was proposing something like this, not the extra troops, but way back in the 2000 campaign, he was saying, "Can't we internationalize this somehow." And that's what, in effect, you would try to put the troops in, stabilize it, then internationalize it, and gradually back your way out of it, and wind up with something-- clearly, we're not going to have a democracy there. That's gone. That great hope has vanished very quickly. But you might come up with something that's more stable, and if you talk to the top military people, they say it's probably going to have to be a country which is a loose federation in which the Sunnis have a lot more power than they do now. Now. Nobody knows if it's too late to do this. Nobody knows if any Plan B would work now. That's-- you know, nobody knows whether we've already reached the tipping point, and that's the hard question. I mean, this thing may already be gone, in effect, or it's already going to be so chaotic and a blood bath and all this. But I can tell you that good people, ernest people, are working hard to figure out, is there still something we can do, and would the President be willing to accept it, and there are a lot of signals coming out of the White House, that after the election, the President might indeed be willing to try something else. While nobody knows whether it's too late, what we do know, and where there probably is consensus, is that neither the Sunnis nor the Shiites will trust us to be able to provide them with security so long as we have 140,000 troops. Yeah...which, I think, you know, if anybody you talk to right now who has been over there recently, we have a lot of returning veterans now, and pleased to say coming into the County School of Government, where I teach, where I'm privleged to teach. And it's really interesting, talking to these young people when they come back. They almost to a person say, this is much grimmer than you understand. It really is Wacamo over there. You know, you go over here and these insurgents and bad guys pop up over here, and you go over and try to take care of, over here, you're looking over here, they pop up over here, you turn back, and then they pop up again out of the hole over there. On the Time Magazine website, there is a dispatch or a diary entry from a young marine that's causing a lot of waves, a lot of people talking about it among these young military officers, about what life is like, how difficult it is, how grim it's become, and Senator Warner, who was just there, who's made many trips, and said when he came out, "This is going sideways, and it's worse than it has been." And by the way, Warner was talking seriously about, maybe it's time for Plan B, but also he said, "I don't think we need more troops." Now that-- so-- that's why this is going to be difficult to figure out, even if you want to put more troops, can you do it. But you can't help but read these recent polls that've been coming out of Iraq by American survey groups, and be alarmed at what we read. And the University of Maryland, which has a very good international survey periodical in different parts around the world, it's a little bit like the Pew Surveys, which is very well-respected, and they have a survey that came out two weeks ago. 60% of Iraqis now say it is okay to kill Americans. That's up sharply from a few months ago. 70% of Iraqis say, get the Americans out of here. 80% of Iraqis said, to another poll, I would never live next door to an American. Now. And we were the liberators. That's real gratitude, right. These are the people who are going to throw flowers in our paths. Clearly, we are running into a situation where there are an awful lot of Iraqis who are becoming nationalists, in one sense or another, or sectarian partisans, who see our presence there as at best problematic. And it's-- so we've got to find some way out of this. I don't think it's fair for the soldiers we're sending over there to have the kind of deaths we're continuing to have, unless you have a plan. I mean, I think it's irresponsible not to have a strategy that's going to work. Because otherwise you're just asking people to spend time on the point out there when they can get easily killed, and we've seen that happen in other administrations, we saw that in Mogadishu with the Clinton administration, we saw it in Lebanon with the Reagan administration. When you're sitting in the White House, it's easy to get yourself into a situation where you put troops in harm's way, and then you got to figure out what the hell they're doing there. Or what to do with them. And it's really-- it's-- if you've ever gone through that process, there's a real moral responsibility in government not to put troops in harm's way unless you've got a strategy for victory or for exit. And right now it's not clear we have a strategy. Would you argue right now that we are safer, since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, or that the average Iraqi is safer since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Well I don't know whether-- look, if stability could come to Iraq over the next year or so, and you could get the number of deaths down, you'd have to say that even though they've gone through a bloody transition, it's better than living under Saddam, where many more people were being killed. It's been a painful bloody transition and perhaps-- But David, if you take the five years leading up to the war and the four years since, where-- what do the numbers look like, in terms of civilian deaths? Well, is that a fair way to do it? What about looking over the whole regime, the period of regime, sure it went up and down at various times, and maybe the last four years before we went in there were less deaths, but you look at the totality of Saddam's regime, it's hard to argue that he wasn't a brutal dictator. But I think when you think about the judgements that the individual Iraqis are going to come to, they'll probably relate to more recent memories, and hence get those kinds of opinion polls. I agree with that, but on the other hand they're in the midst of a very difficult transition, if we could find some way to build a more stable Iraq, that's certainly in their interests. However, we disagree about how we got in there, and I'm a big-- I think we blundered the way we went in, but it's still profoundly in their interest to see if we can't come to some reasonable solution there and not leave this a snake pit for terrorists. So let me come back to the other point, about whether we're... I think it's possible to argue that two propositions are true. One, that we indeed are safer than we were at 9/11, but that the world is a more dangerous place. I think those two propositions can live side by side and not be in conflict. It does seem to me that the Bush administration deserves credit, deserves credit, for strengthening the various agencies such as the FBI and the CIA and breaking down the stovepipes that have existed between them, and ensuring-- you know, taking a lot of preventative action, and so that we haven't had an attack on our soil since 9/11. I remember very very well, right after 9/11, talking to different experts, who almost to a person said, "There will be another attack within the next five years." That we are vulnerable, and there will be another attack. Now, despite the mistakes in policy the administration has made, I do think they deserve credit for tightening up the protections that we have. And we shouldn't lose sight of that. They haven't done everything the 9/11 Commission wanted, they need to do more, they haven't done enough at the ports, there are a lot of places we're still vulnerable, but it's still better-- we ought to be willing to acknowledge, even if you don't like aspects of what the government has been doing, be willing to acknowledge what the people have done. There's no question that the number of terrorists around the world has multiplied. You know, the NIE said that, the National Intelligence Estimate, going into Iraq did increase the amount of potential terrorists, so the number of attacks around the world has gone up. So the world is a more dangerous place, and clearly the world is a more dangerous place because we've got Iraq, Iran, and North Korea now all bubbling, in fact, you know I just talk to a retired Four-Star the other day who'd just come out of the service, he said-- he went through the Cold War in military uniform. And he said, this is the most dangerous moment in our lifetimes. The most dangerous moment in our lifetime. So I think we're in a world that's volatile, with a lot of state actors we can't control very well, and a lot of non-state actors who we're having a really hard time trying to keep up with. So when you talk, in the administration, the President often talks in private and some of the military officers talk about, you've sort of got three categories you've got to worry about. You've got to worry about Al Quaeda, you've got Al Quaeda's allies, and you've got others. And they feel, in the first category, we've basically decapitated Al Quaeda, we've got them in much better shape than we had before. On the Al Quaeda allies, we're in fairly good shape, we have broken up a number of these groups, most of the major groups are now in better shape. But the other category is where the metastasizing is occuring. And by the way, I think this is fair to report, but one of the people on whose judgement I rely heavily in thinking about Iraq because he's turned out to be so prescient, is John Deutch, who was Bill Clinton's CIA director. Happens to be a close, personal friend. And John said right up front, we shouldn't go into Iraq. And he's been arguing that right straight through. He's been a tough critic on that. But I posed this question to him the other day, "Are we safer John than we were?" And he said, "Oh I definitely think we're safer now." This is somebody who does pay a lot of attention to the signals. Let me take you back-- because you argued that in the case of the war in Iraq, what's most important is to have a clear strategy, have a clear plan, and I'm wondering if you feel overall, when it comes to the war on terror, that there is a clear strategy, a clear set of priorities, a budget to match. Look, I don't think either side has a strategy. I don't think the Democrats have a strategy, and I don't think the Republicans have a strategy for dealing with this. And a lack of a strategy is a serious problem. You know, at the end of the day when we went back and assessed, when did we go wrong in Vietnam, or a lot of people said, "The media. We lost it in the living rooms," and so on, the best book written about the Vietnam War is by a fellow named Harry Summers, who was a colonel, and it was called On Strategy, and the essential argument was, we never had a strategy in Vietnam. We never had a strategy for winning. We just sort of got ourselves in and kept going. And I think the administration, it's fair to say, has not had a comprehensive strategy in which it's employed both our hard power and our soft power in a coherent way. But I also find that lacking on the democratic side. And my hope is that after the election, and we're all going to have a lot of, there's going to be a lot of competitive talk through November 7th. But the real moment of truth comes after the election, not before the election. The moment of truth comes when we figure out the country is in a serious place, we've got serious problems on our hands, and can adults please stand up and run the country so that people both on the Republican side and the Democratic side, can you please get together and help fix this, because it's too big for politics. You know, for partisan politics. It's too serious. You know, we could set the world afire if we're not careful here. And we need to be really thoughtful about how we proceed. And I hope, in the post-election period, when you get this bi-partisan commission in, that there'll be an outreach by the administration to people like Sam Nun and Lee Hamilton, and some of the other Democrats who are very sensible about these things, you know Warren Christopher could help on some of these things. Bill Clinton could be useful, frankly, in a lot of serious ways, and that the Democrats, in turn, would be willing to work with the administration. It's that important that people say look, let's set aside, 2008 will come soon enough. We don't need to spend the next two years jockeying for power. Because in the meantime, we're going to lose something very precious, and that is the peace, unless we sort of work our way together on this. Well that, to me, is the real moment of truth. Are people going to act in a very responsible, serious way, at a time when America is facing some serious, serious challenges. Let's talk about the politics, because obviously we can all agree on how important it would be to achieve a bi-partisan foreign policy at a moment of such danger. Were you advising let's just say that Plan B that would come out of the Iraq stability let's just say it involved an increase in the number of troops. If you were advising senator McCain's campaign right now, or if you were advising Senator Hilary Clinton's campaign right now, would you advise them to embrace such a plan, or would that plan ensure that they went from front-runner status to also-ran, over night. Well it's an interesting question, Jane. I do believe that process matters. And how one does things in government matters a lot. So that we have, the process of consultation with the Congress has broken down over the last years, it doesn't start with the Bush administration, it's broken down over a number of years. And so there's a real sense on Capitol Hill that they're told after-the-fact and they're only told a limited amount of information, and the good stuff, in effect, is not disclosed. And so Lee Hamilton argued, for example, when he was in Congress, there ought to be meetings every two to four weeks with the President, and the bi-partisan leadership key committees and national security. I think that's a very smart, good thing to do. In the same way that when Harry Truman was president, and was beleagured after he lost the elections in 1946, and he was just a-- he looked like he had two years left of a caretaker presidency. And then the big problems came just after that. And he had the-- and he proposed the Marshall Plan, he couldn't even put it in his own name because he was so unpopular, he had to ask his Secretary of State to name it after him, because Marshall was so much more popular. But what did they do. They had a Republican Congress. And they asked Senator Vasndenburg of Michigan, head of the foreign relations committee, Republican, to come down to the State Department once a week and participate in conversations and figure out how to write the Marshall plan. And he was a primary architect of that. And I think if you're going to ask the Democrats to be helpful now, it's really important that they be brought into the conversation, and that they be allowed a serious voice in framing the alternatives. I don't think it's fair for the White House to slam him down, say "here's what we're going to do, take it or leave it, and by the way if we do a National Security Bill and if we put a poison pill in it," as they did in 2002, you know in Homeland Security. You know, they took a Homeland Security bill, put a poison pill in it, so Democrats like Max Cleeland voted against it, and then he went and chopped up Max Cleeland because he wasn't patriotic enough. The guy had lost three limbs in Vietnam. He lost his Senate seat over that shenanigans. That's unacceptable. I think you have to explain the poison pill. The poison pill was a provision in the Homeland Security Bill which essentially said that people who worked at Homeland Security would not be treated like other civil servant employees, they would be treated in a different way. It was in effect an attempt to sort of break up the civil service as we know it. Now there are a lot of good arguments why we may need to do something like that, but that was the wrong vehicle to do it. Because it put the Democrats, who were close to the Unions, between a rock and a hard place. They said, if you don't vote for Homeland Security, we're going to go after you for not being tough. But if you do vote for this bill, then the unions are going to go after you, because you did something that was totally against their interests and you welched on your loyal supporter. You put a stick in the eye of the unions who are your strong allies. That was an unfair and I think very partisan thing to do. Both sides have been playing these kinds of politics now for a long, long time. We all know that. This is not restricted to one party. But if you're in a time of what I think is a growing crisis for us, as a nation, as a power, that's the time when people sort of start to put down these partisan differences and recognize you may be a strong Republican, you may be a strong Democrat, but first and foremost, this is a time to be a strong American. And there's a lot of history to support that. Republicans have reached out in times of crisis like this, Democrats have reached out in the past. Franklin Roosevelt, going into World War Two, Partisan Democrat in the White House, what did he do. He reached out to Henry Stenson and Frank Knox and said, "Come in and be my Secretary of War and Secretary of the Navy." And they did. And that's the kind of politics I think we need to see now. When Winston Churchill came in, in May of 1940 in Britain, strong partisan in many ways, but what did he do? He formed a unity government. He won people across the spectrum for Britain to survive and stay in the war. And it was really important to him. It seems to me we've reached that point. It's a-- we've got these three major issues looming in Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Afghanistan is burning. We've got climate changes. We've got all these foreign policy issues that require serious englightened leadership. I don't know. There are people here, I've brought in some friends from days gone by, and everyone's here who's ever worked in government can tell you: it's hard to remember a time when any White House has ever faced as many burning fires simultaneously, as this one does. And somehow we've got to get through this, and it's in our national interest to do that. What you keep seeing, in groups like this, and I'm sure you're finding this wherever you speak, David, is an extraordinary yearning for bi-partisanship. An extraordinary yearning for common-sense solutions, a yearning for a moderate middle to be able to prevail. Yet we're moving into a competitive election, and the competitive election suggests that that is a very hard time to be doing it. So let me run you through some of the candidates, and get your view on their capacity to meet that yearning and still stay viable candidates. Well listen, it's important to understand that whoever is now elected, especially in 2008, the context is going to be very rough. This is a high-partisan environment right now. And it's become more so in recent years. Okay let's talk-- understanding it's tough. There's one redeeming feature. And then we'll go to the candidates. The redeeming feature is, that the same people in politics, Matt Dow, the Republican strategist who first spotted the shrinking of the middle in presidential politics, that had gone from the really truly undecided middle, which was about 15-20%, he saw it had shrunk to 7% or 8%, and it changed the way the whole President Bush campaigned in 2004, and it started to change the way Democrats campaign, and that is, the old way to campaign for president was, you started out with your base, over on the left if you were a democrat, on the right if you were a republican, you won the nomination with your base, and then you moved very quickly to the middle for the general election in order-- cause that's where the 20% undecided, the great unwashed, vote was, and you competed for that, and that's the way you won. Time-tested performing. With Matt Dow coming at this, he persuaded Carl Rove, there's no more middle to compete for in that sense, therefore the way to win, you go to your base and get the nomination. Once you've got your base, the way to win is to get your base to the polls. And you just get your basic side, get as many of them out, don't try to appeal to the middle, what you do is excite your base by demonizing the other side. And both sides did that, to a significant degree, and George W. Bush, the republicans happened to be much more effective at this, and the "get out the vote right now," and they've got a lot of volunteers who really believe because it's a more coherent party than the democrats in many fundamental ways, in certainly their belief system. They were more effective. Now but here's what's new. The same people who discovered that, and they've just got a book out called Appleby's America, it's by two democratic strategists, and an AP reporter, and they're arguing that the center has really shrunk. But what's really interesting, on each side of the center now, there's about 46-47% on one side and 46-47% on the other side, if you look at that more closely, at each one of those groups, in fact, about half the people in each group who are closer to the center, are so turned-off by the partisanship they're seeing and the extreme politics they're seeing, they feel like, this party does not speak to me any more. I am a republican in name, some people they now call rhinos, a republican in name only, and they're dinos too. And they're about say 20-23% over here in the democratic side, who feel the democratic party doesn't speak for them, and 20-23% of people on the republican side think it's too extreme, it's lost its mind, it's gone off the conservative, it's off in weeds over on the conservative side, these people don't speak to me any more. A lot of San Francisco republicans, for example, would feel that way. And a lot of North Carolina democrats feel that about the Democratic party. Okay, so there are people on both sides who feel that way. Now, the interesting thing is, can somebody come along and capture that group? That would be real political power. And what they argue is, if the candidates don't do this soon, in the parties, this is ripe for a third-party candidate. Ripe for somebody who comes in and says, if this party doesn't speak for you anymore, if you're a person without a party, as so many of us are, come follow me. That's a really interesting, powerful idea in politics. So the question comes, can John McCain, if the election were held today, in my judgement, John McCain would be the next president. I may be wrong. That's just what I see. Some of you can say Giuliani, some of you can say Hilary Clinton. Whatever. I just say if you look at the numbers and look at the political organization and look at the charisma, it's going to be McCain. Now what's interesting about McCain is, that he had that kind of aura about him when he ran back in 2000. And to some considerable degree, many independents feel he's kicking it away by appealing to the right-wing of the Republican party. In order to get the nomination. And I don't know if he can retrieve it or not. I don't know. I do know he's got a capacity to be bi-partisan. He worked with Joe Lieberman in a serious way, on big bills, you go through the number of bills that he's worked with Democrats on, and it's quite impressive. And so I think he is a candidate with the greatest capacity right now to reach out. Interestingly enough, Hilary Clinton, in the state of New York, has been extremely good at reaching out. She's not been able to-- her brand name in New York is quite different from a brand beyond New York. But in New York, she's seen now-- whoa, she's been a very good senator. That's why she doesn't have any opposition. Let me give you an example of that. How effective she's been. I had dinner awhile back with the coroprate officers of Corning Corperation, which is in upstate New York, Republican country. There are more cows up there than there are Democrats. And democrats don't go out to Corning, up to Rochester, they don't go up there to campaign for statewide office very often. They don't pay much attention to it, they have to win downstate. The corporate office is 24 people, 23 Republicans. One democrat in the corporate office. And I said to them over dinner, who's been the best senator for Corning in this state over the past 25, 30 years. I thought they would say Jake Javitz, republican. Maybe Jim Buckley. They said, "Hilary Clinton." I said, I don't understand that. They said, "You know...she comes her regularly, she doesn't come in for a photo op, she comes in, she sits down, we have a serious, substantive conversation about the needs of this corporation, what's going on in our industry, she goes home, the next day our phones start ringing, members of her staff are calling us out, they want to know what they can do on this, they're seeing about that, she follows up." They said, "She's been a terrific senator for this republican-led company." How good a senator was she for them? Jamie Hoten, whom you know, whose brother Amo was a republican member of congress at the time, who has been a lifelong Republican. That weekend he was holding in his home a fundraiser for Hilary Clinton. Now, that is what she's been able to do. I had another corperation came to me as a defense contractor, I think they were some helicopter contractor, something like that, that they were trying to get. And the other senator from New York called-- said the announcement was going to come at ten o'clock on say, a Tuesday morning. And the congressional delegation all called the company and said, "If you get the contract, call us, and we'll be there as quickly as we can." The senator, the other senator, said, "If you get the contract, call us, and we'll come to celebrate." Mrs. Clinton called and said, "I will be there for the announcement. Win or lose, I'm with you." They appreciated that. That said something to them. That is good politics. And it's shrewd. So I think she has the capability of doing that, but I have to tell you, beyond the Hudson, nobody believes that. Almost nobody believes that. And I think her challenge is, how does she change her reputation rapidly enough to run in this election. I'm not sure it's possible. She's seen as so polarizing over most of the country, that I just don't know that she's got that time. But there's a reason she and John McCain get along so well together. They're both people who reach across the aisle. And there's a reason they're both front-runners right now. So the question is, take me to some others. What about Mitt Romney, from Massachusettes. Well, it's good you asked that, yeah. I would argue, keep your eye on Mitt Romney, and I may be wrong about this, but I think it's generally understood among the political strategists around the country that he's run the best race of anybody so far in the wannabe or the pre-primary stage, among the wannabe candidates, he's done the best. He's put himself in the front tier, and he's emerging as the non-McCain for the conservatives. A lot of conservatives who don't trust John McCain because he does reach out, because he is independent, he's not totally reliable on campaign finance, and detainees, and a lot of other issues, so they've been sniffing around looking for another candidate. They first thought, Bill Frist was going to be their guy. Well, he self-destructed. Terry Schiavo didn't help. That case didn't help. Then along came George Allen. Uhhh and sort of three macacas later, we're in a situation where he's in a very tight race, he's three points ahead now, but he could lose that race to Jim Webb in a very red state. So a lot of other people have sort of not done very well. But Mitt Romney has done very very well. He has run a very good, smart race. Now. And I think you ought to watch him with some care. There's an interesting thing going on here. A lot of folks in Massachusettes, where I happen to live, saw him as governor, they didn't particularly like him, he's pretty unpopular in Massachusettes, one of the reasons Duvall Patrick may well win the black candidate on the democratic side, may be the first African American elected to governorship in Massachusettes, he's 20 points ahead right now. We'll have to wait and see. One of the reasons he's doing so well is Mitt Romney's so unpopular in Massachusettes, and Mitt Romney is seen by many in Massachusettes as being an empty suit. But if you talk to people in the business community, they say "Are you kidding? An empty suit? This is the guy who graduated from Harvard Law School, top of his class, simultaneously graduated from Harvard Business School top 5%, went to Benin Company, turned it around almost single-handedly, everybody there gives him credit for that. Went to the Olympics in Salt Lake, turned that around. This is a serious player. We're running out of time and Mark Warner is being left out. If Hilary Clinton runs, the person who may give her the tightest race is Mark Warner, the former governor of Virginia, he's very attractive. Charismatic. He too has a business background, ran a successful technology company, won in a red state as a democrat and was succeeded by a, and helped the person to win behind him, and now Jim Webb may win in the Senate race, who can tell. And he's very smart about educational reform, and he's a good governor. He has zero military experience. And he does not have international experience. And the big test for him is, is the country willing to trust someone who doesn't have a lot of international experience. But what about this test, David, of whether they're a uniter? Whether they've got the capacity to reach across the aisle? Where would you put Mitt Romney and Mark Warner on that test? Well, I think Mark Warner's untested on this question. We don't know. I've been with him several times, he's very likeable and I think he's capable of reaching across. In Mitt Romney's case, he's going to get credit in this campaign, and he deserves some credit, for getting a bill passed with the democratic legislature in Massachusettes for health care that's universal access to health care for all Massachusettes citizens. It's an important milestone bill that really deserves a lot of respect. And that, with a state legislature that was 85% democratic. I've got two more questions of you. One is, the two candidates who are not running, Barack Obama, and Condi Rice. There's a third. And Colin Powell is definitely not running. Yeah, but there's still one more. Condi Rice does not want to run and I think she shouldn't. Barack Obama clearly has moral stature and is a great hope for the democratic party. I mean, if you're just around him, there's something about him that can be pretty spellbinding for many people. He's also extremely young and has had very little experience. And in some ways, there are a lot of people who say, "We don't have anybody else, we've got to run Barack Obama." I'm not sure if that's not unfair to him. I hope they don't try to draft him. And I think it's a hard question of whether he should be willing to accept a Vice Presidential nomination, because it does seem to me that he might be a very attractive choice for anybody who runs, and he is going-- if anybody has stardom written all over him, it's Barack Obama. Whether he can get there or not, you never know. Sometimes people flame out in politics. Sometimes you spot them very early. You know, when Bill Bradley got his Rhodes Scholarship, The Christian Science Monitor wrote a piece about future presidents. You know, sometimes you spot people who've got a lot of arc, and who've got a high arc, and Barack Obama clearly has that. But whether he can stay on that path, I think it's really hard. There are people who really want him to succeed. But the third potential candidate out there is Al Gore. And I think the really interesting question is, is if Mrs. Clinton decides not to run, she'll have to make that decision around January. And the people around her basically want her to run, but there are some pretty savvy people around her who say, who think maybe she should wait four more years, especially if it looks like McCain would-- if they think she can't win, why not wait four more years, give yourself time to really change your persona in the country, he steps down after four years, which he would probably do if he were elected, and then run. So we'll have to wait and see on that. But if she doesn't do that, there are a lot of people, many of whom are just a few miles south of this city, in Silicon Valley, who would like to see him. And I must say, he's a-- I thought when he ran, and I told him this personally, I thought he had a real problem back in 2000, even though he did very well, but he could've done even better had he attached himself more firmly to Bill Clinton and the record of economics. But I thought there was also a sort of shield in front of him, and it was hard for people to know who's the person behind the shield. And psychologically, people want to know who the President is, they want to relate to him in ways they don't-- the higher up you go in American politics, the more they care about who you are, and your values. What kind of character, and I thought he was sort of a hidden person. But it seemed to me in the last few years he had become more himself again. He seems more natural, more comfortable with who he is. And I think if he ran this time, he would be a better candidate. And I have to tell you, I thought the film An Inconvenient Truth was a terrific film for him. It did galvanize on the climate change side, he made some effective points, and there was a passion about him that you didn't see sometimes in the political campaign. And I told him, one of the producers of the film, "You know you guys in Hollywood are amazing. Last year, a year ago, you made penguins fascinating. And now here comes Al Gore!" It was a wonderful transition but I happen to think he's a pretty darn strong candidate, and I think he would give the Republicans a real run for the money. He was right on Iraq. He was wrong on Howard Dayton. But he was right on Iraq, and that was the big one. And he's been right about some other issues. And I think he would run with passion about the environment, and he didn't run with passion about the environment before. So and he has foreign policy experience. So we have to wait and see. I think, watch his weight. You can always tell-- you could always tell with Teddy Kennedy, is Teddy going to run or not, if you looked at the size of his waistline. And if it was coming down, telltale sign he's going to run. If it was going up, he ain't running. I don't know which way Al's is going, but watch that. That's a leading indicator. And so my last question is, feel free to raise your hands, and members of the staff will come to you, so my last question is on the congressional race, both the Republicans and the Democrats believe that the two issues on which they can win are the economy, and the war in Iraq. Which one's right? Well, heh. Clearly the tide is running for the democrats right now, but that's not to say they will win. A lot could happen, still. I mean, look, ten days ago we were all talking about the Woodrow vote. Now Mark Foley-- nobody's talking about it. I mean, the spirit on television is that we all became obsessed about Mark Foley. Today we're all talking about North Korea. What happened to Mark Foley? What was Haster? So things can happen, and this North Korea thing could break. I mean, both sides are fighting really hard, now, to get the advantage, to squeeze the partisan advantage out of North Korea, and other things could break in the next few days. But at the moment, you'd have to say, the tide has been running pretty strongly in the democratic direction for a long time, and if you look at, in general now, if you look at 52-38 or whatever the latest number is, people prefer to vote democratic versus republican, the biggest advantage democrats have had for 20 years. So this should be a democratic year. They need 15 seats in the house. And by almost all accounts they have 5-7 already that are sure bets. And there are probably 25-30 still in play. Almost all Republican seats. And so what the democrats have to do to get there is in effect they've got to pick up about 8 more out of 25 close races. Those are pretty good odds. Those are odds that say you should win. You should win 1/3 of the close races. That's the reason people think the democrats are going to win. On the Senate side, they need six. There are basically nine republican seats in play, and one democratic seat in play. The democrtaic seat is New Jersey. Menendez is running a slight lead there, but it's been back and forth. And Tom Caine's son is a good candidate. He's a very good candidate. His father's enormously respected. Good, by the way, bi partisan Republican. Good person. And his son is very close. But then there are nine seats. But democrats have to hold onto that, and they have to get six of the nine. Right now they've got probably three, but they've still got to pick up three out of the six, and if you look at it it's really hard in places like Tennessee, democrats have got a great candidate in Harold Ford, he is an African American. I believe an African American can win Tennessee, there are people who disagree with me. It's a tough race, it's a very republican state, and he's running for Bill Frist's seat. But that's the kind of tough race. And the republicans are now taking the Senate very seriously. Can Mellman who runs the Republican National Committee, who is first-rate, and you have to understand that the tide is running in the Democratic election, but in really really close races, especially in the senate, the republican get-out-the-vote operation is much better than the democrat's. The republicans have a much better sophisticated, determined campaign team than the democrats have traditionally had. It's one of the reasons George W. Bush was successfull. It's just, they're very sophisticated about their politics, they take politics seriously. If the democratic party really wants to regain power, it's got to take politics more seriously. And it's got to have a set of coherent ideas. It does not have that now. You know, I keep on running into democrats who say, "What we need is a knight on a white horse." And my answer to that is, "You damn well better find the horse first." Because they don't have a horse right now. So it's not good enough to run as the un-Bush. Right. You can't govern as the un-Bush. You may be able to get into office, but you can't govern, and politics is a lot about ideas, this is not just a game. It's a lot about, what do you believe in, what do you want to see, what is your vision of America, what's your vision of the world, and if you don't have those core beliefs people will pick up on that pretty quickly and you drift around.