The kick-off event was Wednesday evening at the home of Katherine and David Bradley: a dinner for about 200 most of whom are Washington insiders. The dinner was followed by a panel discussion led by David Brooks of the New York Times. The panelists were George Will, a columnist, Walter Isaacson, President of the Aspen Institute, and David Kennedy, a historian from Stanford University.
Question: What is the most significant historical event of the past year?
George Will: A fundamental realignment of the power of the state. The power of the state retreated under the Reagan and Thatcher governments. That trend continued until last year. It has dramatically reversed.
Walter Isaacson: The economic crises that did not happen. We thought we were on the brink of a Great Depression. We avoided it, thanks in large measure to state intervention.
David Kennedy: We could have been but are not in a Great Depression, thanks to lessons learned (he wrote a book on the Depression). Andrew Mellon's advice to Hoover was to liquidate all assets in order to purge the system of bad practices. The result was a profound and prolonged depression. Massive government intervention, using the tools and knowledge fashioned in the 1930s, seems to have helped us avoid what we feared was a depression.
I think the most important trend in the last year is the disappearance of news organizations. With a strong, independent press, how with 9/ll we have an informed citizenry.
(The discussion that followed this comment focused on the increasing fragmentation of the public into self-selected isolated groups of like kindred people and voters. The fragmented press now serves smaller but more homogeneous groups. People want to learn the news from people they trust who share their political beliefs. Fragmentation of the press and reporting with a point of view has generally been true in the past and is re-emerging. The 50 years post World War II that saw news reporting dominated by three major networks and tightly edited newspapers and magazines is rapidly ending.
Question: Is Obama trying to do too much at once?
Isaacson: Yes. The only consolation is that not much is getting done.
Kennedy: Too much emphasis is placed on FDR's first 100 days. True, 15 bills were introduced and passed, but only two of those--The Glass-Steigel Act, which amongst other things created the FDIC (Federal Insurance for bank deposits), and the Tennessee Valley Authority--endured. The most significant legislation, the creation of Social Security for the elderly and the unemployed, came later in the administration.
Follow up question. Did FDR have a clear idea of his social agenda when he entered office?
Kennedy: At the 1930 Governors Convention, he laid out a three point reform agenda: Federal Unemployment Insurance; Federal Old Age Pensions; and Federally Supported Healthcare.
Before Francis Perkins accepted a cabinet job, she demanded to know whether or not FDR planned to keep his campaign pledges. FDR said yes. Ultimately, federally supported healthcare was dropped from the agenda.
Question: Is there a growing lack of trust for government?
Isaacson: Yes. In the 1950s only 15 to 17 percent of people polled distrusted the government. Now 60 to 70 percent of people polled don't have faith in government to do the right thing.
Kennedy: It isn't only government that people don't trust. There is a general distrust of authority and all social institutions including the church, large corporations, the financial system, Congress, the military, even the boy scouts.
Will: The government is not only forcing a redistribution of capital, it is moving toward telling us where to live and how to think. Government needs dependencies. Capitalism is a system of profit and loss. Here I emphasize the loss because companies like GM should go broke. Were there riots when Studebaker went bankrupt?
Question: Is Obama more liberal than you thought?
Will: Definitely. He believes government can and should control our lives.
Issacson: Yes. I thought the political climate would change and that bipartisanship would soften under Obama. The opposite has been true.
Question: What should we do about Iran?
Issacson: there will never be a solution. The best we can hope for is resolution. I believe tough sanctions can work.
Question: Are Americans willing to sacrifice for war as they did in World War II?
Kennedy: Probably not. In World War II, the U.S. commanded an army of 16 million people. Today we have an all volunteer army that is proportionately 4 percent that size. We do not suffer the pain of war directly. Perhaps pain-free wars are moral hazards; it is just too easy to enter and fight wars.
Questions from the floor:
How great is the public distrust of Congress?
Is right wing control of much of the print and radio broadcast media detrimental to policy and politics?
At the Newseum
Washington used to be a city of ideas, but today these ideas are obscured by partisanship. But the Atlantic and the Aspen Ideas Festival do celebrate ideas. The Newseum is dedicated to the First Amendment.
David Gregory interviews John McCain
McCain. It is not a pleasure to be here! (His first words).
Question: Has the country become more difficult to govern in the last ten years?
Answer: Yes. More partisanship makes it more difficult to govern. He attributes it to the media and instant news. Partisanship makes it hard to govern. "When Social Security was going broke Reagan and Tip O'Neill negotiated a deal. We couldn't do it now."
Q: Is there a vast right wing conspiracy that wants Obama to fail?
A: We don't want Obama to fail. The left wing also mounts vicious attacks.
Q: Is it just the media or have people become convinced that the President is illegitimate?
A: I am not concerned. They tried to nail me on being born in the Panama Canal. We can't reach consensus without compromise. No one wants to compromise now.
Q: If you were President would be talking health care?
A: Yes. It is a problem we need to address. We don't have a President's plan. They over- learned the lesson from the Clinton effort: letting Congress take care of the legislation is a mistake. Not a singe Republican will back the bill that will most likely be presented.
Q: What would you support?
A: I wouldn't support public option but I would support malpractice reform. I would do it piecemeal. Something is going on in America. People come to town meetings, people initiate tea parties. There is incredible dissatisfaction. That has not helped Republicans or Congress or the President. People are concerned about the debt and deficit.
Q: What is the dissatisfaction about? Is big government returning?
A: Government has an important role to pay in times of financial crises
Americans see us running up a debt. They see us owning GM and Chrysler. They see government moving into the private sector
Q: What would you have done differently?
A: I would have let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt. Obama caved into the Unions.
We are still in a big crisis. We should have done home ownership loans. We bailed out AIG but not the small homeowners or small businesses. The small guys are too small to save. All the rescue money to AIG goes to Goldman Sachs.
Q: Why would sending more troops to Afghanistan be good for Americans?
A: This is a war of necessity to protect the U.S. from al-Qaeda. A surge now in Afghanistan is even more likely to succeed than in Iraq.
Q: What is going wrong in Afghanistan?
A: We were distracted by Iraq. Now that we have succeeded in Iraq we can now focus on Afghanistan. Read "Ghost Wars". We must succeed there. If we don't, it will allow al-Qaeda to succeed and encourage others.
Q: Are we doing better than the Russians?
A: We don't have the same goals. I think we can succeed in one year to 18 months. We should add more troops now.
Americans are weary, but we must go forward. What would the world look like today if we allowed Korea to fail? What would America be if Lincoln gave up?
Q: Why should Americans be believed with regards to the
A: I understand why there is a credibility problem in terms of Iran. Israel may not wait, as they face an existential threat from Iran. Our policy should be regime change in Iran.
Q:Which part of Sarah Palin's book are you looking forward to?
A: The part where her nomination put us ahead in the polls. I am not looking forward to her airing our differences in this book. Sarah Palin did energize our party.
David Gregory's son interviewed McCain: What is the lesson you want to pass on from being a prisoner of war?
A. The importance of role models and companions to help overcome failures. Keep trying will help.
Questions from the floor:
Q: Is Iraq a success?
A. Yes. It is a success if Iraq is not a threat to US security. It is a success if there is a stable government.
Q: What do you regret and find hope in over the last year?
A. I regret that we haven't taken steps to help the economy. We have enacted generational theft. Obama has given hope to many nations around the world. He reached out his hand to other countries.
Q. One trillion dollars for health care is generational theft but military spending is not? Does securing Afghanistan really eliminate al-Qaeda?
A Health care cost, affordability and availability are the issues. Health care costs are out of control. I think we can succeed in Afghanistan. I do not want to repeat what we did in Afghanistan the 1990s.
Q You were bipartisan in practice but got credit for it in the Senate
A. We should try to support the President on something. We politicians need approval from our constituents. After health care, we should try to start again. Reboot.
Q You sponsored a climate change bill
A. I will be engaged in Climate. Cap and trade is now Cap and Taxes. We need nuclear power. Wind and Solar plus Bio 25 percent at maximum. We need nuclear power and this administration will not support nuclear power because of left wing environmental pressure groups.
Jim Lehrer interviews Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security
Question: There is a rash of terror incidents in the U.S.
Answer: We have al-Qaeda supporters in the U.S.
Q: Why are we now finding them? How serious is it?
A: We have more resources to uncover these plots.
Q: Should we be uneasy? How many more are there?
A: We should not be fearful but we should feel involved and vigilant. We must feel a shared responsibility
Q: How does your department fit into prevention?
A: We transmit information regarding threats to local communities. For example, we sent out information on soft targets.
Q: Why send out a warning--regarding transportation, for example--if there is no specific threat?
A: We have general intelligence leads us to conclude that soft targets are targets. We want to learn forward.
Q: You are in the loop?
A: Yes, we are part of the team. We monitor travel.
Q: How well does airport security work?
A: It works well. We will ask more information from travelers before they board.
Q: There was only one shoe incident. Do we still have to take our shoes off?
A: Yes. Our intel says it is important
Q: Do color codes work?
A: We know that we are the butt of late night humor.
Q: Do you have control of your agency?
A: Yes. I am in total control. (laughter)
Q: How do you exert control?
A: We invest in the process. We have 23 department heads. I meet with all the heads of the departments. We are building a department that has a sense of identity. We're getting there.
Q: Does it make sense for one agency to have so many responsibilities?
A: We are responsible for hurricane protection, counter-terrorism, securing the boarders, securing air, land, and sea. We also enforce Immigration laws, and prepare for and respond to man-made or natural disasters. For example, the tsunami in Samoa allowed us to respond quickly as FEMA and the coast guard are both part of homeland security.
Q: How big is the illegal immigration problem?
A: There are two issues:
1. Illegal boarder crossings are down because of better enforcement and the decreased job draw because of the poor economy.
2. Immigrants who are already here. This is a priority of the administration. We are actively working on an immigration bill.
Q: What is it like to serve in the Cabinet?
A: It is great. There are many important issues lead by visionaries.
Q: How do you communicate with the President?
A: We meet as a homeland security committee biweekly, which is subject to adjustment The meetings are presided over by the President. We speak to him on the phone. We are briefed daily. We get his briefing.
Q: Are you following what the President wants you to do?
A: Yes. The safety of Americans comes first. We want to be prepared and react quickly.
Q: Regarding the Potomac Drill on 9/11?
A: It was the Coast Guard's problem but my responsibility.
Q: How does the word get around?
A: A perfect information flow isn't possible. We try to fix what.
Q: Can you hire and fire at the top level?
A: We work with the White House on who gets hired for top positions.
Q: What is an average day?
A: We have a 7:30 briefing, then a weather report with FEMA. After that, we have private briefings, which are the same as the Presidents'; then we have more meetings, and testimonies. Finally, I have dinner and I do some reading.
Q: Has the job met your expectations?
A: When the President called to ask me to join the cabinet, he left a voice message. He said, "Hey Janet, please call." Then I erased the number.
I relinquished the Governorship. Homeland Security was a department in development that I wanted to be a part of; I wanted to help create its mission and procedures. I wanted to be part of the Cabinet. It is different. There is a tough dynamic with Congress. The president is confronted with many issues. It is very complex.
Q: Transitions: Lame ducks leaving office is a very long process as is filling new positions. What can we do to improve transition?
A: Mike Chertoff did a great job at transitioning. He had his staff prepare materials for us.
This is not a partisan job. We have 23 presidential-level appointments. The question is do we need all of these to be presidential-level? The transition process is too slow.
Q: Food safety inspection is now your department, having moved from the Department of Agriculture.
A: U.S. has the safest food chains in the world. We are working with the Department of Agriculture. We are looking for better ways to inspect food. We asked all of our employees to get seasonal flu vaccines. Swine Flu preparedness is one of our priorities.
Q: Are we prepared for another Katrina?
Q: Do you coordinate with other agencies?
A: Yes. The President says we should base our answers on the best science.
Margaret Carlson interviews David Rubinstein
Statement: You run an $82 Billion Private Equity Fund.
Q: Are we in a recession?
A: I think we are out of it. We measure recessions by whether GDP grows or not.
Q: How did the recession affect the Carlyle group?
A: We were affected. We are in good shape now. I feel we are coming back. Maybe we will learn from our mistakes
Q: Should Bernanke have been reappointed?
A: Yes. He did a good job.
Q: Would you go back to government?
Q: Why didn't you have a Schwartzman-like 60th birthday party?
A: He did it for all of us.
Q: You have the Magna Carta on your wall. Why?
A: I didn't want it to leave the country. I asked for it to be kept at the National Archives.
Q: Will the Chinese have an economy that is the size of our economy?
A: We have been the biggest economy since 1870. China will probably pass us in 2030. We will be the second or third largest economy for the foreseeable future.
Q: Are things easier in business than in government?
A: In business, it is easier to get things done.
Q: Will there be a health care bill?
A: Something will pass but it will be watered down.
Q: Should people short the market now?
A: That is not my business. I think the market is on an upturn.
Q: Do you own Duncan Donuts
A: Yes, with others. We have fresh brewed coffee. We must renew it every 10 to 14 minutes.
Q: Do you complain about taxes?
A: No. I think the inheritance tax should be higher than zero. We must increase taxes to deal with the deficit. In 2010, the estate tax goes to zero.
Q: What policy measures could stimulate investment?
A: There are policies that would help but they won't be passed.
There will be some new investment in the U.S. But there will be more investment outside the U.S. China and India did not go into a recession. Brazil's recession was short.
Q: Are we missing something important?
A: I am concerned about the debt and the dollar. We are the reserve currency of the world. It is very important. I am concerned about the debt impacting the dollar.
After World War II, we were 48 percent of the world's economy. We are now 20 percent. We will be lower.
Q: What is the future of private equity?
A: I think it will be vibrant part of our economy and global economy. U.S. private equity will dominate the world
Q: Can we afford health care reform?
A: We need to control costs. We can't afford to do what we are doing. We must do something to control our debt. 40 to 50 percent of treasuries are bought by those overseas. It won't continue if our debt keeps growing.
Education Debate: Michelle Norris (NPR) talks with Michael Bennet, former superintendent of Denver public schools and Joel Klein, Chancellor of New York City's Department of Education.
Q: Is there accountability in education? Are Unions an obstacle to educational reform?
Klein: We have a problem. The zip code you live in determines how good your education will be. Teachers must be part of the solution. Secretary Duncan and the president are visionary. We should have differential pay scales. For example, we should pay math teachers more than we do gym teachers
Bennet: Many aspects of our system, not only the Unions, are resistant to change. We don't pay teachers enough. Teaching was a profession for women, along with nursing, at a time when women couldn't get jobs and were willing to accept low pay. We need to pay more, reward good teaching and eliminate poor performing teachers
Klein: We in New York are paying more. Some schools have no vacancy while others have many.
Q: Should we pay teachers who work in difficult schools more?
Bennet: Yes. We do this in Denver. Maybe the differential is not enough.
Q: How do we get more men involved in teaching?
Bennet: Pay more, make it competitive. Young boys need more male role models.
Klein: Being a school Superintendent is not a dead-end job, as Senator Bennet illustrates. There is a gender achievement gap. Boys are not doing well in our education system.
Q: Senator Bennet. did you like No Child Left Behind?
Bennet: The program revealed enormous inequities in education. It is a crude measure of accomplishments. The question is: how are children doing now as compared to how they did last year? We are measuring too many things, and in the process we are exhausting teachers and kids. We will revise accountability in the new legislature
Q: If you pursue test scores, what is squeezed out?
Klein: In New York, science and art have not suffered. We don't want to have an over-testing environment. We have a global comparison problem. We are in the mid 20s in Science and Math. We draw our teachers from the bottom third of the graduating class. In countries that do well, teachers come from the top third. We need new technology in education.
Q: In some poor countries school buildings are beautiful. Often our schools are a mess.
A: Teachers are more important than buildings. We need to construct new politics. We, as a society, need to understand that what happens in poor communities is important to us all. People must first understand the depth of the problem. We need a sense of urgency.
Q Look ahead 25 years. What will historians see that we overlooked now?
Bennett: We have a deep anxiety regarding future competitiveness.
Klein: How do we deal with the issues of local finance post stimulation? "The Race to the Top," part of the stimulus package, will be a good program.
Q: What obligation do private schools have to public education?
Bennett: I don't know. Maybe help instill a sense of urgency regarding education.
Q: Many teachers under perform. What do we do to get rid of these teachers?
Klein: We came to the school with a great workforce, intelligent women who couldn't get other jobs. Put in an accountability system tied to progress of students and peer evaluation. We need to reward excellence.
Q: Should we have a national standard? Should we have a core set of standards?
Klein: Yes!! We need core standards as we are competing with the rest of the world.
You can help by supporting political innovators. Change will be about politics.
Michael Kinsley interviews Pete Peterson, Toby Cosgrove (CEO of Cleveland Clinic--the largest employer in Cleveland and the second largest employment in Ohio).
Q: Pete, you have pointed out the dangers of national and personal debt for generations.
Are things that bad?
Peterson: I am worried about entitlements; there is $53 trillion in all. They are unfunded. The baby boomers are retiring. Herb Stein said "If your horse dies, I suggest you dismount," "if something is unsustainable, it will stop". The U.S. debt is unsustainable. The Trust Fund is an oxymoron. It is not a fund and it can't be trusted.
Q: Can we give Cleveland Clinic Style Care to everyone?
Cosgrove: Health care costs are rising as people get older and the uninsured are included. The current debate is about insurance reform not heath care reform. Reform means reorganization. There has to be relationship, consolidation and coordination. We also need to reduce disease burden. There are three drivers of health decline: smoking; obesity; and inactivity. The fee for service is also a problem. We need integrated clinics.
Q: Insurance companies have agreed to drop preexisting conditions exemptions. Is it unenforceable?
Cosgrove: The insurance companies see there will be insurance reform. We need to reform payment. We must do something that brings down costs for the country.
There will be a bill to address healthcare insurance, but much more needs to be done.
Q: Will there be death committees?
Q: Will decisions be made that will encourage pulling the plug?
Peterson: We should encourage living wills. In Lacrosse Wisconsin a campaign to encourage living wills reduced healthcare costs by 20%.
Q: Should politicians be involved in end of life decisions?
Petereson: No. People will make their own decisions
Chuck Todd Interviews the House minority Whip, Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Q: You said says talks with Iran would be futile. This morning the President said we have made progress in the Iran discussions.
A: We need to strengthen sanctions. Congress should work hard on sanctions. I don't think we should engage with a perfidious Iran. The problem with dialogue is that we may develop false hopes
Q: How can sanctions work if China, Iran's biggest trading partner, doesn't go along?
A: (No answer)
Q: You said Obama is no friend of Israel. Why?
A: The policies of this administration are not those of a true friend of Israel.
We focus on the settlements, on East Jerusalem problems, not on the existential issues of Israel. I am encouraged that we will now focus on the peace process. We should focus on Israel's existential threat.
Q: 25 years from now will we still have the same issues in the Middle East?
A: Perhaps, yes.
Q: Your mother-in-law lives with you. What do you tell her about your job as the Republican Whip?
A: My mother-in-law asks: "what kind of a life you will have after politics? Isn't all you do is just make speeches?"
Q: What is your job?
A: We have 178 votes. Of 435, we won't win. We must redefine victory. My job is to understand what drives each member. We will be principled in our opposition, but in order to do so we need concrete alternatives. We have them but we don't advance them.
On healthcare we should focus on areas of broad agreement. We all agree on the need to eliminate exclusions for preexisting solutions. We all agree on the need to have coverage for people who lose their jobs.
Q: You have railed against DC think tanks.
A: We need to reclaim our founding principals of a free market and a small government.
Q: Why didn't your party enact this legislation, when you had a triple majority for six years?
A: We could have done better. We will try to do better. I am for a more balanced approach. It is now an anathema to Americans to continue all the bailouts.
Q: Should the settlements be taken out of the Peace Process? Should Israel's nuclear weapons be part of the Iran discussions?
A: You can't compare Iran and Israel's nuclear intentions.
Q: Is Iran a direct threat to the U.S.? How do they threaten us in the U.S.?
A: Our troops are in their missile range. Iran supports terrorists. We must stop their pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Q: What will you do for bipartisanship?
A: I am reaching out on health care and other issues.
Q: Would you trade public option for malpractice reform?
A: I would not. Public option is a nonstarter. It will drive people into a public insurance system.
Q: Is there competition in the health insurance system today?
Q: What important trends are we missing?
A: Education. We aren't educating our people to be globally competitive
Niall Ferguson (author "The Ascent of Money")
The Seven Deadly Sins That Created the Financial Crises:
1. There was too great a dependence on institutions that were considered too big to fail.
2. Corruption of credit ratings system
3. Faulty monetary policy. Interest rates were kept too low as assets bubbles ballooned
4. Insurance companies went out of control by selling credit default swaps a cheaply. AIG was the biggest problem.
5. Government encouraged home ownership by all.
6. Chi-America, a deal in which one partner spends and the other party saves.
Two thirds of the federal deficit was financed by China.
7. The end of Chi-America
Deregulation plays almost no part in my analysis of the origins of the crises.
Did Keynes save us? No. The stimulus isn't working. Freidman's ideas saved us.
Is the crisis over? Can you relax? No and No.
Growth in consumption will be slow in the U.S. We are still in a deflationary world. We are still in a liquidity crunch. Money is not being lent. The FDIC needs more money
Was this the moment when the descent of the West relative to India and China began? I believe this will be the moment remembered as the time when Western hegemony began to shift in favor of China and India.
Q will FHA fail Federal Housing
A. Yes. The crises began as crises began as problem in private finance. Now it is becoming a problem of public finance. There is a big problem in off balance sheet government assets. It started with companies like Enron, then Wall Street now Government
Massive intervention saved all banks. There were no good banks. They all would have failed without massive state intervention.
Brian Williams interviews General David Petraeus.
Question: Afghanistan is the size of California and New York together. What do the numbers have to be to control this region?
A: Yesterday I spent three hours with the president. The day before I spent a day with the principals and Jim Jones. The day before was spent with the deputies. General McCrystal's views were leaked to the press. My question is: What is the mission? What is to be accomplished? I haven't yet addressed the resources needed including troop numbers. We haven't worked out the details. I have two more three hour sessions with the President. Our discussions include both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Q: What is our mission?
A: We went to Afghanistan because of 9/11. We wish to deny sanctuary to al-Qaeda and similar groups. Some say 9/11 was planned elsewhere. The record shows it began in Kandahar.
Q: What is victory?
A: A stable government in a country that supports U.S. goals. We need a granular understanding of what is happening. This is what we did in Iraq. We need to know who are the "reconcilables" and who are the "non-reconcilables." We must understand what happens at the local level.
Q: There is a keen difference between people. In Iraq, you could drink tea and understand what to do. Is Afghanistan is different?
A: Many, many cups of tea will need to be drunk to make progress in Afghanistan. We must readapt what we learned in Iraq.
Q: There are lots of Russina ruined tanks outside of Kabul. Do they mean anything for us?
A: Yes. Don't do what the Russians did. We should work to help the local people in positive ways.
Q: What would you do if the president said he wants to go small, not big. Could you do it?
A: If so, we would have to go back to goals and objectives. We want to insure that Afghanistan does not become a sanctuary for transnational terrorism. We'd have to look at effects on a nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Q Where is Bin Laden on your targets list?
A He and Al Zawahiri are high targets. We have made progress in killing top 20 targets. Countering terrorist demands more than counter-terrorist actions do. It needs more than local cooperation. We want to get at the root causes of the problem. We need a comprehensive approach where the locals do most of the work. In Pakistan, the Pakistani Army is doing much of the work.
Q How clear is the Afghanistan and Pakistan border?
A. It is the watershed. It is clear. Our troops know where it is. Yemen is a problem.
Q What is CentCom?
A. Central Command. It is the smallest Command. It includes Egypt, Afghanistan, Central Asia Somalia, north as well as south.
Q What keep you awake at night?
A. It depends on the night. Lots of things keep me up at night.
Q: Iran: what kind of a problem is it?
A: It is a nuclear problem. Shia proxy forces are in Iraq. They are still there. Still Shia attacks in Iraq. Iran intrudes into Iraqi politics. The Gulf States want our Patriot Missiles and Aegis Destroyer protection.
Q: Will Israel attack Iran?
A: Given the effects of an attack on Iran, we must be careful. There are talks. Iran realizes the enormity of what faces it. Russia is moving toward us.
Q: What do you say to mothers who lost there sons because we did not respond rapidly enough to give our soldiers the proper armor protection they needed for their vehicles, especially the Humvees?
A: For the first year, I myself was in an unarmored Humvee. Secretary Gates pushed the V shaped hull. We are getting better equipment. Things are getting better. My motto is "Be first with the truth." Frankly, we did not change fast enough.
We are now moving gear from Iraq to Afghanistan. We are diverting material from Iraq to Afghanistan. We have 124,000 troops in Iraq. In a year it will be down to 50,000.
Q: How do you evaluate Bush and Obama?
A: Both are very focused on the war and are doing what is best for the soldiers.
Q: How often is Vietnam referenced in conversations on Afghanistan?
A: Almost never. We don't want to be prisoners of what we have learned. What we learned in Iraq won't necessarily help us in Afghanistan.
Q: How important were cash and cement in the success of the surge?
A: Cement barriers enabled population protection and control. It was the biggest of the big ideas of the surge. Securing and protecting the people was our number one priority. We had to live with the people. We lived in 73 different local areas in Baghdad. We established secure perimeters for the people. The people want to help get rid of the bad guys.
Q: Mosul was your success but it is now unsafe. What went wrong?
A: We need reconciliation as well as security. De Baathification was a problem. Ultimately we couldn't capitalize on advances. Only now can we see Sunnis in the provincial government. Also, al-Qaeda is run out of many areas, but they go where they can.
Q: Will Afghanistan be a problem forever?
A: I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Iraq isn't over. There is hope now that wasn't there before.
Q: When General Wallace said "We knew they would fight but just not so hard or this way," he was attacked and not celebrated. Why do you think that happened?
A: It was an unfair attack on General Wallace. This is why I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I am bluntly realistic. "Be first with the truth." We have a results problem, not a message problem.
Q: I was with General Wayne Downing when our helicopter was hit by a farmer with an AK 47 and an old RPG. These were farmers. Who were they?
A: The local farmers helped us. There were irregular soldiers that fought us. These were Shia areas. They were delighted to be liberated from Saddam.
Q: Where in Iraq, did you hear applause?
A: Read Rick Atkinson's book. We heard applause in Najaf when we took it. Then they thanked us. Resistance suddenly collapsed.
Q: How tough is to admit that the best thing is to not to do what we are trained to do?
A: I ask what my obligations are to my soldiers, my country, my President.
All I can do is give my best professional advice.
Q: What issues will dominate the Obama Presidency and what are we are ignoring?
A: Afghanistan and Pakistan are big issues. We can't take our eyes off the ball in Iraq.
Iran is an overreaching issue. We also need to focus on Israel and the Middle East Peace process.
Q: How big will the decision on
A: It will be a significant decision. Iran is a big issue. Israel is a big issue. And I haven't spoken about the economy or healthcare.
James Bennet of the Atlantic interviews Tim Armstrong of AOL.
Q: Will people pay for content on the Internet?
Q: Should the New York Times charge on the Internet?
A: Maybe not, but they should charge me for reading the Sunday Business Section more than they do. Consumers value their time beyond all else
Q: What are the opportunities for new content?
A: The opportunities lie in the depth of content--local content. We should emphasize personalized content. We will focus on smaller niches. At AOL we say fragmentation is our friend. AOL has eighty brands. We are Hyper Local. We call this program Patch. Patch is now in ten towns. This is "white space." We hire a full time journalist in each town. We cover what a consumer in a town will like. We have digitized the entire town--events, meetings, and people. This will give us "lift and take up." There is little to no competition in this space. Regarding professional services, there are categories where we can go much deeper like information for individual consumer.
Q: What will a successful media look like in five years?
A: Content management systems need investment. What do people want? What do we do beyond search?
Q: What is the difference between AOL and Google.
A: Google is the best people company today.
Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic Interviews Senator Lindsay Graham
Q: What will Sarah Palin's book say?
A: Why did we lose the election? We had headwinds. Obama won the 18-20 year old vote. We lost when the economy went south. Obama passed the test of being a Commander and Chief during the debates. We lost the Hispanic vote. We are now back in the game thanks to the Democrats, who are dropping the ball. 27 percent approve of the Republican Party. We must repair damage done by losing the Hispanic vote.
Q: There is a gap between the rhetoric and reality of Republicans in family values. Is there a hypocrisy gap?
A: Obama is a great role model. He is a family man. He is a good father.
Q: Was Jimmy Carter right about race?
A: No. There are some racists in the Republican Party, but they are a minority. Many people think Obama was born in Indonesia or is a secret Muslim. They are fringe people but are not part of the Republican Party. I disavow these groups.
Q: How do you fight fringe groups?
A: I say "You are crazy" to these groups in town halls.
Q: Joe Wilson-- was he bordering seditious when he shouted "You lie"?
A: Joe wouldn't have been on my list of trouble makers. He has now raised millions of dollars. Soon we will be like the British Parliament
Q: Torture: How did you come to your position against torture?
A: I was a military lawyer for 25 years. That's how I came to my position. We must preserve our identity. We must show differences from our enemy. That is how we win. I don't believe we win by torture. We tend to lead by example. Abu Ghraib was our biggest mistake. We did it from fear. As president, I would support the law. The law trumps passion. I would not order torture even en over a ticking time bomb situation.
Q: Can we win in Afghanistan. Can Obama win?
A: Yes. We don't have faith in the Karzai Government. Can we allow the Taliban to come back? No.
Q: Is Afghanistan central to the war on terror?
A: Iraq was a central part in the battle only because we made it so. Now Afghanistan has that position. I fear a Trifecta of bad outcomes: a nuclear armed Iran; failure of NATO; and loss in Afghanistan
Q: How bad is a nuclear armed Iran?
A: A nuclear armed Iran will trigger nuclear armaments in other Arab countries. We should not just destroy all their nuclear capabilities, but destroy all their military forces. I believe that we need to try all else. I believe that on Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, both McCain and I should help. If Obama loses Republican support on foreign policy the country is in trouble. Republicans walked off a cliff for the President on Iraq, but won't do it again. I recommend that you all see the film "Seven Days in May". Can an anti-Democratic entity be created within a democracy? Yes I think it can. We must be careful. We take a risk when you let a person say anything. That is democracy. Israel. I am not concerned about their nuclear arsenal as I believe it will be rationally employed. I fear letting irrational people, like those in Iran, have access to nuclear weapons.
Q: Have we passed a tipping point on civility in Congress?
A: The public rewards jerks. Cable television makes it hard. Voters make it hard. When you reach across the aisle you come back with three fingers. A democracy is responsible for itself. On Glenn Beck: only in America can you make that much money crying. How many people will be controlled by what is said on radio or ads? Glenn Beck is not aligned with a party. He is aligned with cynicism. He is a cynic. I will help this president succeed. I want some of his policies to fail but I don't want him to fail.
John King Interviews Steve Schmidt (John McCain's Campaign Manager) and Robert Shrum (Democratic strategist).
Q: Why did Ted Kennedy write his book?
Shrum: He wrote it before he died. He wanted to record his life before he died.
Q: Going Rogue. Why is Palin writing her book?
Steve Schmidt: I was anti-rogue in running the campaign. She intends to stay on the National Stage.
Q: Will Palin be a Presidential candidate?
Schmidt: Palin has talents but she won't be a winning candidate.
Shrum endorses her candidacy.
Schmidt: Obama's support in the middle of the electorate has collapsed.
Q: Where are we in politics? Will there be a third party candidate?
Shrum: Whether or not activist government ideas will prevail is a big question. If this fails, the Republicans won't win as they represent the politics of resentment and reaction.
Schmidt: If the economy recovers, it will be tough for a Republican to beat Obama
Q: Are Democrats a competent governing part?
Shrum: Carter's energy policy was killed by Democrats. Clinton's healthcare was killed by Democrats. Will democrats kill Obama's healthcare?? If they lose, Obama may survive but the Democratic Party will suffer in 2010.
Q: What are ideas of the Republicans?
Schmidt: Republicans are bereft of ideas. The conservative agenda is exhausted. There were no new ideas. Let's run on tax cuts for the wealthy and endless war. We need a conservative philosophy for the 21st century. The American people have become cynical about ALL our institutions.
Shrum: Reagan restored faith in government. Obama must convince his party that they must work together.
Schmidt: we may see independent candidates like Mike Bloomberg.
Shrum: The Republican Party will come back by one of two means: Democrats do a bad job or there will be bigger tent Republicans (which I think is unlikely--the smaller a party gets, the more small minded it becomes).
Q: What would it take for the parties to do nonpartisan redistricting and do away with Gerrymandering?
A: There are some efforts to redistrict.
Q: What will happen in 2010?
Shrum: Democrats may do alright. Eric Cantor is trying to replicate Gingrich.
Schmidt: It will be a good year for Republicans. Civility will still be absent.
Q: David Brooks says that conservative spinmeisters have little effect on voters. Is this true?
Schmidt: I don't know. They tried to stop McCain from getting the nomination. He got it. Limbaugh's constituents are not programmable. We can't outsource policy to conservative entertainers.
Shrum: We listen to them. They move the Congressional Republican Party, though they may not move the voters.
Schmidt: The media is fragmented. Each channel has 3 million listeners or viewers. This is like a circus. There is an illusion of control.
Shrum: Fragmented media can still disrupt campaigns.
Q. From Gary Hart: Democrats are trusted on education, health, welfare and the economy. Republicans are trusted only on security.
Schmidt: security is important. Iraq wasn't Bush's war. Afghanistan is not Obama's war. They are America's wars!
Shrum: We should never use our armed forces as political props.
David Leonhardt (NYT) Interviews Alan Greenspan.
Q. Bubbles happen, but policy matters. What lessons have you learned about policy from the crisis?
A: Our view regarding the way the world works was wrong. We learned how quickly liquidity can disappear. We learned how important people's euphoria and fear can be. We need much more capital reserves than we thought. We thought Basel 2 would do it. We were wrong. We need higher capital ratios
Q: You are worried about too big to fail?
A: Yes. What is the purpose of the capita system? Our financial system should direct capital to the most efficient and productive businesses. The problem is that when organizations are too big to fail, it means they can't compete. They are financed by National Savings. Money will go to them, not to the most efficient, innovative, productive businesses. They will get capital at a lower rate than their competitors. It is because of this that they need a penalty. We need higher capital ratios in general. The bigger the organization the higher the capital ratio should be.
Q: What are the politics of higher capital ratios? (The amount of money a bank can lend against the value of its assets.)
A: A difficult question to answer. Summers, Bernanke, and Geither all understand the problem and will arrive at a satisfactory answer. But...we look at short term solutions. I am worried that our debt is beyond our capacity to borrow.
Q: Can we improve Congress's ability to legislate economic matters?
A: I think Congress has gotten better at economic policy than it did when I took office.
Q: What about derivatives? You said most worked fine. Should they be regulated?
A: Credit default swaps are different from other derivatives, as Credit Default Swaps deal with principle, not just interest. The concept behind Credit Default Swaps is desirable. A 21st century product, CDS, functions with 19th century technology. The ordinary derivatives worked well. I am saddened that the CDS problems tainted all derivatives.
Q: By 2005 it was evident that house prices were too high. Will regulators be better in the future?
A: You can regulate if you don't require a forecast. Capital ratios don't need forecasts. You can forbid certain kind of transactions but you can't forecast. A financial crisis is an unexpected, discontinuous abrupt change in asset prices. If it were anticipated, then it will be priced into the market. Therefore crises, by their very nature, can't be forecast or predicted!
Q: Could you have predicted home price declines?
A: We did predict it based on UK and Australia precedents... We thought they would go down and then stabilize. Did we catch the size of the break? No.
Q: Taxes must rise as the share of GDP. How should they rise?
A: The budget is out of balance. We must cut spending and raise taxes. I think a value added tax is a good idea. I also think we should increase Medicare co-payments for the wealthy.
Q: What are we missing?
A: How is the debt problem to be resolved? What will we do about the "too big too fail" issue must be addressed. I worry about the consequences of a rise in protectionism.
Businesses don't like competitors. But competitors force companies to be better. A global protectionist system will stifle increases in productivity.
Q: What issues need to be resolved in respect to
A: We need to resolve the debt/dollar issue
Q: Which agency should handle regulation? The FED or Congress (through SEC, FICC)?
A: We should try our best to keep politics out of regulation.
Q. from John Sununu: how do we unwind the government investment in the private sector?
A: Why do we want the government to exit it positions in the economy? We are in a deflationary process. But money supply increased over the capacity to produce. We have time to adjust. The amount of money in the FED has doubled. We must reduce the money supply. Not urgent but timely! We must reign in this liquidity.
Q: Will you get out of the magazine business?
A: No. We do magazines, TV. The magazine business is having an advertising problem but our readership is holding up.
Q: Will you be in the magazine business in 5 years?
A: Yes. We need to add multi-media to magazines.
Q: Are you buying NBC?
Q: Will there be a role for professional branded news outlets that are financially viable?
A: Yes. CNN is not that old. It is profitable. Then Fox news came along and is profitable. CNN has a growing Internet presence. As for our magazines today:
-Circulation is fine
-Readership is Fine
-Subscriptions are fine
-Ads are down
-We are looking forward to placing our content on the Internet.
-Less printing costs
-Less trucking costs
-More tailored to individual use, and therefore better for advertising.
Q: Do you like citizen journalism?
A: Citizen journalism can provide on the spot impression but won't replace thoughtful journalism.
Q: You shed AOL. You shed Cable. Is Time Warner poised for huge growth or is it shrinking?
A: We are growing now. We are separating business and focusing on our core strength, branded content--CNN, HBO, Warner Brothers. These are all growing businesses. Niche cable channels are growing fast! Look at Turner cable, plus Our Net.
Q: HBO is flat at 30 percent penetration
A: HBO grows by adding more content at higher prices. HBO, Turner, Warner Brothers makes more money than do other studios.
Q: Imagine a future where news doesn't make money. What are our responsibilities to democracy vs. our responsibility share holders?
A: There is no conflict! We use the money we make and give it to the investors.
Q: The Internet. Is it a threat?
A: We see the Internet as an enabling platform to get our content to our audience-movies, news, etc. Soon we won't need a DVD to watch a film. We can send it to a viewer at no marginal cost. This is a business advance.
Q: When will I be able to see movies and read what I want on the train?
A: Within a year, I think we will read and watch on different devices. Handhelds and Kindles.
Q: Back to the business vs. democracy question.
A: How do you become more efficient and keep your standards? We do increase productivity.
Q: What happened in the last episode of the Sopranos?
A: I know but can't tell. The answer is in the final scene.
Q: What do you need to do to rebuild with AOL gone?
A: AOL had an advertising platform and a broad reach. We don't think we can be Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, or Google. Our question is: How do you extend brands like HBO, MTV, put them out so anybody can see them, on demand?! So people can see what they want from their favorite brand...?
Q. from Lynn De Rothschild: You spun off cable. Don't you need content and cable?
A: If all networks are on all Internet and cable outlets then there should not be a problem. Branded content is a good business!
Q. from Sam Donaldson: Back to the conflict between making money and democratic function. I see a conflict, why don't you?
A: If the popular taste goes to tinsel rather than analytic or hard news, there is problem.
Q: News was a lost leader so we didn't have to make money.
A: CNN has resisted tinsel. We show 2-5 points of view on each issue. We make points of view interesting.
Q. from Terry Smith from Newshour: You said "The deals don't work." Have you over-learned the lesson from AOL scars?
A: Most media deals don't work. Media has visionaries. Most media deals are for glamour not for profit. A CEO is not a mogul. Some synergies work, some are mythical.
Ronald Bronstein interviews Carol Browner
Q: What are the biggest changes in environmental politics
A: The 24 hour media cycle. What could carry the news for a day now carries the morning news only. We must work harder to get out messages continually.
Q: Environment is a long term issue.
A: In the '70s, you could see feel and touch the issues, like rivers that caught fire. Now the issues are more abstract. We need to give business certainty.
Q: How did you raise fuel economy standards?
A: Congress passed a law for fuel efficiency, 35.5 miles by 2016. California already had passed tougher laws.
Q: You passed climate change legislation (Waxman-Markey) in the House. Will it pass in the Senate?
A: Business will be enticed by uniform regulations.
Q: Can you do what you need to do via regulation alone without Congressional votes?
A: A cap and trade might be doable by regulation alone, but it is better to do it via legislation.
Q: What are the fall backs on a comprehensive energy bill?
A: That isn't what we want. People need regulatory certainty which only comes from comprehensive legislation.
Q: What separates industries on this issue?
A: Some CEOs see opportunities (turbines, technology, refining).
Some see threats to their business.
A: Probably not finished legislation.
Q: What is differentiated response from developed and developing countries on carbon caps?
A: Comprehensive energy legislation is important, including carbon capture.
Q: What will come out of
A: We know what Europe,
Q: How much time do we have and how low will standards be?
A: The science is strong. We need to send a strong signal to the market.
Q: Energy storage technologies. What is progress?
A: We need new storage technologies. We are investing in energy storage research.
Q: Can the EPA implement Cap and Trade without legislation?
A: Perhaps, though this would not be ideal.
Q: Transportation reauthorization, will it be another bite at the environmental apple?
A: Yes. Not in this round though.
From the audience:
A: I don't know because I don't have detailed knowledge of
the situation of the
Q: Do you rule out nuclear power generation?
A: No. Nuclear will be part of the solution.
Q: Do we need to change the way we live?
A: Probably not. Technology will be much smarter to let us live as we do now but live with less energy.
Nora O'Donnell interviews Cory Booker (Mayor of Newark)
Q: Conan dissed
A: I banned Conan from the
Q: Why use Twitter?
A: Social media allows you to get your views directly to people unfiltered by the media.
I take constituent questions by Twitter, as well.
Q: What are you doing for health?
A: All young mayors look to Bloomberg. We don't have the luxury to wait for national solutions. There is too much uncompensated health care. We partnered with the Hines Foundation to reduce the costs of prescription drugs and support preventive care. We decided we wanted to be the incubator for transformative change. We partner with Venture Philanthropists. We created a father program, Delta Alpha Delta Sigma (DADS) to help dads help kids.
Q: How do you expand the program?
A: Real partnerships with local doctors. You give them access to free drugs.
Q: Does the national health debate help
A: We need to reduce the prevalence of defensive measures in healthcare.
Q: Are you a post racial?
A: I like diversity. I don't want to homogenize our country. Diversity is strength. I am not post racial.
Q: What are your political goals?
A: I will be in
Q. from Shirley Tilghman: Can we fix the K through 12 inequities,
like the ones in
A: We have the capacity. Do we have the will? Universities--
Q: Health performance--what are your ideas?
A: 1. We began a Health Prevention program with Hines Foundation.
2 We convinced drug companies reduce prices via grants.
3 We have helped to provide healthcare for immigrants
Maria Bartiromo interviews Larry Summers
Q: What are your thoughts on unemployment?
A: Job loss is slower than it was.
Q: When will there be job gains?
A: After GDP increases, which will be the last quarter of this year.
Q: Will the economy just bump along the bottom?
A: Things are better than they were. But recovery is still slow. We have much more to do
Q: Are we at risk of a double dip recession?
A: There is a downward tend in job loss. We see no reason for a resumption of the free fall economy. The worst of the cycle is past. We should see a basic pattern of recovery, although the path won't be smooth.
Q: How much impact has the stimulus package had?
A: A lot. Cops, firemen, teachers would be on the street without the stimulus package. Consumers would be very distressed. The credit crunch would not have ended. A falling economy was damaging the financial system. The damaged financial system was hurting the economy. This is not happening now, thanks to the stimulus and banking programs. Less than half of the stimulus has been felt. We have saved a million more jobs. Another half of the stimulation is yet to come. There are opportunities for new growth-healthcare technology for example. Hospitals have less information technology that the average supermarket. Energy investments for weatherization may payback quickly and profitability.
Q: What is the problem with hospital IT?
A: When there are things people can do that make the world a better place with direct payoff, the market will do it. But, what is the gain to a doctor who invests in an electronic medical record if other doctors can't read it? Why should he invest now if he believes that the national standards will change soon?
Q: Do we need a second stimulus package?
A: We need to continue to support people in need, i.e. the COBRA program. We need continuing public investments. We should increase research funding. We need to enhance small householders' abilities to keep their houses, and to encourage small businesses and get rid of toxic assets. Small businesses are worried about health care costs. Meaningful health care reform will help small and medium sized businesses.
Q: Can you help small business get credit?
Q: Will you raise taxes by letting the Bush tax cuts expire?
A: We can't let the unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy expire. The President will help the low income people save taxes. If we collect unpaid taxes, close tax loops holes, and change unfair tax preferences, we can raise significant amounts of money.
Q: Where are you on the deficit?
A: We are worried about the deficit. We must address it. First we need the economy to grow.
Q: Where are you on "too big to fail"?
A: It is a huge issue. Institutions that were not thought of as part of the banking system turned out to be important to the financial system. We need higher capital requirements (so the capital will cover problems not the public), harmonization of regulation (to eliminate charter flipping and switch of jurisdictions), and resolution authority (pre-planned funerals for businesses)
Q: How can we spur small business lending?
A: Can banks be more confident in their customers than are in themselves? No. So, we provide more capital to banks. Karen Mills of SBA is working on this.
Q: What will be the new strengths of the
A: What will history say.
We want to avoid this period becoming a remarkable period.
I want them to learn that: 1. Healthcare 2. Energy 3. Education all got stronger in this period. Also I want this to be remembered as a period when the global financial structures became stronger, more transparent and more protected.
Q: Where are you on Protectionism?
A: We want to support open trade agreements. If people break the agreements, surge protections for example, then we need to enforce them. We are not protectionist.
This will be remembered as time when international trade flourished thanks to government action and technology.
Interviewed by Howard Fineman
John Sexton: NYU
Ruth Simmons: Brown
Drew Gilpin Faust: Harvard
Shirley Tilghman: Princeton
Q: How will Universities change their mission in response to the financial crises?
Simmons: We won't. Universities take the long view. Our mission has been the same for more than 200 years. We compete with other universities now. I ask how we can share resources, faculty, and facilities to reduce costs and to improve global education. We also need to focus on the continuum of education of K-12 through Universities (K-20).
Faust: We should look at the long view. Did we not challenge our students enough? Why didn't we see the problems in the economy?
Tilghman: Did universities lose their way? We were hit by one in a 70 year event. Our endowment is the same as it was in 2006. We are in this for the long haul. We shouldn't overreact to change.
Sexton: There is an admonition. Everyone here said when
pressed that the key to the future is education. We need an education strategy.
In 2050 ideas capitals will be
Tilghman: This administration has made a commitment to innovation: Innovation is universities!
Faust: We wish to help students prepare for careers in public service.
Simmons: Those who come after us will have to solve the problem. Problems of the future will be more complex than they are today. Now students must be familiar with many areas of knowledge. We can't move from a textbook to problem solving.
Sexton: Obama is the product of a meritocracy in education and politics. We should shame and honor people. We need nuanced conversation. We need to honor teachers.
Q: What will be the effect of digital social media on universities?
Tilghman: Information technology can enhance education. But I have never seen anything as powerful as a scholar instructing 12 in a seminar. I worry about dumbing down complexity.
Faust: We ask our students to shut laptops down or not in classrooms. Personal interactions are important. The digital revolution is an opportunity.
Simmons: These are only tools. Tools don't answer life's questions. I would be pained if students think tools are sufficient for understanding humans. Human psychology is important.
Sexton: I was put on earth to be a teacher. I have rated myself as a six out of ten on my own score in good teaching since I became President. Our job is to move each person as far up the education ladder as possible.
Jim Fallows interviews the CEO of Google Eric Schmidt.
Q: There have been two Atlantic covers featuring Google: Is Google Making Us Stoopid? Is Google Making Us Smart?
A: My concern is the speed of technology. Ten years from now, computers will be at least 10 times faster than they are today. Computers are good a remembering things Computers are good at calculating probabilities. Computers will be good fact checkers.
And we can run simulations. Computers can give us real time information. Can people live in their own fragmented fact universe? Social networking. Most information will come from your friends and will be generated by your friends.
Q: Will people together act well?
A: I think most will. However, if men were angels we would not need government.
The public sector is troubled.
Q: Can technological solutions help government?
A: How will technology change government? It will be hard to tell a real voter from a fake voter over the Internet. The new technology will demand transparency and lack of anonymity. Issues will appear like we think you are person but you might be a computer; prove you are a person.
Q: What is the future of the free press?
A: Print, ads, investigative reporting have all been big successes. But they won't be strong in the future. New readership will help us read more. Targeted products are good for targeted advertising.
Q: How does Google work in
A: The Chinese are selective in their censorship.
Comment: Groups make better decisions than individuals. Technology can help groups make decisions. There is evidence that humans are less happy with more information because we are unhappy with the ambiguity that comes with more information. Maybe one of our goals is to help reduce the ambiguity of too much information by providing fewer answers to queries. In the future, all primary source material should be available on Google. We are working hard to bring you all un-copyrighted information and to reach agreements with as many copyright holders as we can to provide access to copyright protected material as well.
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