Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Tony Jones speaks with former US Democrat hea -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Tony Jones speaks with former US Democrat heavyweight

Broadcast: 01/10/2007

Reporter: Tony Jones

Tony Jones discusses the race for the US presidency with Jamie Rubin, the former assistant
secretary of state to president Bill Clinton.


TONY JONES: Well, someone who's been at heart of more than one US presidential campaign is James
Rubin, the former assistant secretary of state to President Bill Clinton. During the 2004
presidential election he was Senator John Kerry's senior foreign policy adviser.

Since leaving government, he hosted an international affairs television program, held the post of
visiting professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. It's from London
that James Rubin joins us now.

Thanks for being there.

JAMIE RUBIN: Good to be with you.

TONY JONES: Can we start by getting your reaction to that profile we just saw of Giuliani? Rudolph
Giuliani. Is there any chance at all the Republicans will be crazy enough to nominate him?

JAMIE RUBIN: (Laughs) Well, I've been surprised at the extent to which he's been able to get
support in the Republican Party. One of the prominent Christian conservatives, Jerry Falwell,
talked to some people I know about Giuliani. And all he wanted to talk about was security and
forget about Giuliani's views on abortion, on gay rights and some of the other issues. So if the
Republicans choose to be pragmatic, as I think one of the people interviewed in the piece
suggested, maybe they'll put him forward. But I have to believe that when it comes down to it, the
Republican voters are not going to be comfortable with someone who on many of the key social issues
may as well be a Democrat.

TONY JONES: What do you think a presidential match-up, him and Hillary Clinton, for example, would
actually pan out like in the actual campaign? What would it be like watching them together?

JAMIE RUBIN: Well they almost ran against each other for senator. Rudy Giuliani was considering
running for the Senate when Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in New York, but he dropped out of
the race. I tink the issue that will take over the campaign, if that is the match-up, is foreign
affairs and the war in Iraq, because Rudy Giuliani has made that his signature issue, and he's not
only supported the war in Iraq but has said things that would make even President Bush seem like a
moderate. So if that is the match-up, I think there are going to be big debates about war in Iran,
for example, is that a good idea? About how to approach our allies around the world, should we be
doing whatever we want, or should we be trying to mend some of the fences that have been broken
during the Bush administration? That would be the tenor of the campaign, and I certainly hope and
expect that if that happened, that Mrs Clinton would come out the winner.

TONY JONES: Just on that question, as to who the Democrats are likely to choose, many analysts
believe that Hillary Clinton already has a lock on the nomination. Do you agree with that, or has
Barack Obama still got some chance of coming through or possibly even a third dark horse?

JAMIE RUBIN: Well, it's interesting, you know, the political punditry business is so intense these
days that we're many months from the first vote and people have declared it one way or the other.
They've been watching this lengthy presidential run-up to the first primary, and they've had
Hillary up, they've had her down, now they have her up again. I think what happened is that in the
initial weeks and months Barack Obama seemed like a fresh face, and he was getting a lot of
attention, and then as the debates and some of the hard campaigning have taken over, Hillary
Clinton's skill and experience in political efforts has shown through, and people are now saying
that she's up again. But we'll have to see whether there's another cycle of the pendulum of
politics before we get to the first voting in February.

TONY JONES: The dark horse that some talk about who might appear pretty much at the last minute is
Al Gore.

JAMIE RUBIN: Yeah, I've heard that. I know Al Gore fairly well. I've run into him a number of times
in recent weeks and months, and everything I know suggests to me that he's happy in his new life,
where he's become extraordinarily popular, extraordinarily respected as a visionary on the subject
of global warming, and has received the kind of plaudits and support that a presidential candidate
would want, but I'm not sure that it would translate if he went back to become a normal politician.
Everything I know tells me that he has not taken the steps that you need to take to get in the
race. It's just not like the old days where at the last minute a few party leaders can get together
and put forward a new candidate. The system requires you to be out on the campaign trail, getting
delegates, getting support, earning and raising funds, and Al Gore hasn't done that.

TONY JONES: Jamie Rubin, I'm sure you went through a lot of this when you were advising John Kerry
in the last campaign, but just how intense is the foreign policy debate that's actually going on
inside the Democratic Party right now?

JAMIE RUBIN: Well, it's pretty intense and I think it's really about one thing - it's about the
Iraq war. The Iraq war has obviously had a profound impact on the American people, on the American
political system, and most tragically on the American military. And I think the supporters of the
war who voted for it at the time in 2003, are getting a lot of pressure from the opponents of the
war, who opposed the war at that time, and everybody's looking on the opponents' side to get people
like Mrs Clinton and others to somehow admit they made a mistake or to rub their noses in that
vote. And I think Mrs Clinton for one hasn't been willing to do that, and has made very clear that
she made the vote for good reasons at the time. Obviously in retrospect, the Iraq war has been a
disaster for our country. It's caused innumerable damage to the American military, it's cost
hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of lives lost, and we have total chaos in Iraq after
five years. So there's no question that in historical terms the Iraq war has been a disaster.

But some in the Democratic Party have been battling others in the party for how to talk about their
initial support or opposition for the war. I hope that that is over now, that that occurred
primarily in the last six months, that the positions of Mrs Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards,
all slightly different, have been established, and it will be the voters who decide whether their
candidate's vote in 2003 or support or non-support for the war is relevant, and we'll know that
only when the people vote.

TONY JONES: It's such a difficult thing, though, because they don't know what they're going to
inherit, so each of those three candidates that you just mentioned is having trouble articulating
exactly what their position is. For example, asked whether there would still be US combat troops at
the end of their first term of office, that's five-and-a-half years from now, each of them could
not say whether they would or would not be.

JAMIE RUBIN: Well, that's right. Because there's really two debates going on. One is the votes in
2003, and the other is the future of Iraq, and I certainly hope that the debate will focus on the
future because that is the issue; how the next President, hopefully a democratic President, will
handle this extremely difficult issue. Because let's face it, whether you were for or against the
war, it's a disaster there right now, and there are real questions over what the right course of
action should be. Should one really just pull American troops out in a very quick schedule as fast
as the military can? Or should one look to a more organised withdrawal over a longer period of
time, that can protect other American interests? Because one thing we know is that the only victor
in the Iraq war, the only people or country that have really benefited from it, have been the
Iranians, and they have benefited from this war, the people of Iraq have suffered massively.

Obviously, millions of them are refugees now around the world. The United States has suffered
mightily in terms of its diplomatic image, in terms of the deterrent power of its military. Our
allies have suffered because now they face chaos in that part of the world. The only winners are
Iran. And I think the debate about the future is going to be determined by whether you support or
are against an early withdrawal and what effect that might have on the Iranian government nearby,
and I think a lot of people are going to be asking whether a quick withdrawal will benefit the
Iranian government. They'll be in charge of the place after five years of Americans fighting and
dying there, somehow we'll be handing it off to the Iranian government. That's not something the
American people are going to be supportive of.

On the other hand, the American people have decided - and I think this election will prove it -
that they don't have the stomach or the willingness to expend further lives or further funds or
further damage to the American military to support the Iraqi Government. That that they feel
they've given the Iraqi Government five years of support in terms of lives and money and troops,
and that that's long enough. And so they're not going to support the use of force to prevent an
Iraqi civil war and Iraqis attacking each other, but they may support a slightly longer deployment
if the Iranian question is inserted into the equation.

TONY JONES: I'll come to the Iranian question in a little more detail in a moment, but first, the
sort of philosophical question in a way. Not surprisingly, President Bush's key decisions were all
shaped by September 11, and there is this widely held view that September 11 has changed forever
what American foreign policy will be into the future. The interesting question, then, is for a
Democrat President, how nuanced would it be, their response to the war on terrorism? And would, for
example, that phrase even exist in a new Democrat-held White House?

JAMIE RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see. My guess is that a smart Democrat, any one of the three,
frankly, running for President now, will want to make adjustments in the overall declaratory policy
of the United States. The way we talk about things, the way we organise our government to do things
will change. And, for example, I think one of the primary symbols of that war on terrorism that has
done enormous damage to the United States is the Guantánamo prison in Cuba. And I expect under any
of the Democratic candidates for that prison to be closed and new and more convincing rules
established for the treatment of prisoners in the battle against Al Qaeda and other extremist
groups. I also would expect a Democrat to focus on what is the war on terrorism, which is in
Afghanistan. It's a real tragedy to think that it's, what, almost six years since the fall of the
Taliban and there's still a war going on in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have support from
certain places in Pakistan and they're fighting the American-led government of Hamid Karzai. Can
you imagine, six years later, we're still doing that? And that is because we got offcourse by going
into Iraq. I think an American administration, a new American one, will focus on Al Qaeda and the
dangers of al Qaeda, and not be looking at others to lump together with Al Qaeda when there is no

Saddam Hussein was a terrible dictator, but he wasn't connected to 9/11 and the fact that President
Bush lumped all that together, I think, did enormous damage to our credibility around the world, to
the support the rest of our friends and allies have for our policies, and I think that type of
linkage is not something that will occur in a Democratic administration.

TONY JONES: OK, but the sort of thing that will keep American foreign policy off course - you
alluded to earlier - and that is the growth of Iranian power. So the probability is that during the
course of the next presidency, Iran will develop nuclear weapons unless of course its nuclear
facilities are bombed in the meantime, either by the United States or Israel. So what would a
President Hillary Clinton, for example, or Barack Obama, do in order to deal with that particular
threat of a nuclear armed Iran?

JAMIE RUBIN: Well, I don't think any of the Democrats or the Republicans have a different view on
the basic principle, and that is the idea of this Iranian government having a nuclear bomb is
something very frightening to the American people, to an American Government, and I think it's
proved to be enormously frightening to many of the European leaders and others around the world.
The French President has stated very clearly his opposition. So now that everybody's clear on their
opposition, the question is, what do you do about it? Right now, we haven't been able to do very
much at all. We've missed a lot of opportunities to work with the government of Iran before
President Ahmadinejad was elected. Those opportunities existed in 2003; they were missed. The
Europeans and the Americans have been left with a policy essentially of sanctions in the hope that
that would cause Tehran, the Iranian government, to capitulate. That isn't working. So sanctions
aren't working. There hasn't been any real diplomacy and that's left this question of a military
option. And I don't really know what President Bush is going to do about that. I think there is
some chance, not a huge chance, but some chance, he may take action before he leaves office. And
that would obviously change the situation.

If he doesn't, and an American President - Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards - is faced
with this prospect, I would hope that their overall foreign policy would change so dramatically in
the case of Iraq and the case of Afghanistan, in the case of the war on terrorism, that new
opportunities for diplomacy would open up, where the world could unite in a more forceful way to
convince the Iranian government that a choice to go nuclear is a bad choice for them, and offer the
kind of incentives to the Iranian government to make changes that would be necessary for a
diplomatic solution. To not be afraid to negotiate. John Kennedy once said that we shouldn't
negotiate out of fear but we shouldn't be afraid to negotiate. This administration, unfortunately,
has been afraid to negotiate with Iran. They've refused to sit down directly with them to discuss
the nuclear program. I expect and would hope that a new American President, a Democratic President,
with the backing of much of the world, would be willing to sit down with the Iranians and see
whether it's possible to have a diplomatic solution. I think it is. It will be hard, it will be
difficult. It may take some time, but I think it is possible, with clever diplomacy, with
determination on the part of the West and the United States, it may be just possible to solve this

TONY JONES: James Rubin, it's been interesting talking to you. Hopefully we'll have the chance to
do it again some time. We thank you very much for coming in to talk to us.

JAMIE RUBIN: Thank you, it's been a pleasure.