Interview between Kim Young-hie, senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo, and Jane Harman, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center on Nov. 1, 2016 Plaza Hotel, Seoul
- Last Friday, as you know, FBI director James B. Comey gave a new life to Hillary Clinton's "Emailgate." Emboldened by the FBI director's letter to the Congress, Donald Trump is urging voters to oppose Mrs. Clinton because of, in his words, "criminal action." May this new development in the Emailgate impede the election of the first female president of the United States? Or is the current margin in favor of Mrs. Clinton large enough for her to keep the lead up to her election? Or will there be any November surprise?
- So, I ran for election 18 times, and I won 17 of those elections. They were all for Congress, including primaries and general elections. And the 18th one, which I lost, in the middle of those other elections, was for governor of California. But I know how hard it is to run for election and to quote Yogi Berra, a great American sage, "It ain't over til it's over." And this election ain't over til it's over. And the polls have been up and down. Hillary Clinton has a lead, still has a lead. But I think it is imperative for every single American citizen to vote, whomever they vote for. But I think we will know the answer, I hope we will know the answer a week from now. I would be upset to think we won't. So, I think that this action by Comey, which I find inexplicable, what he did and the way he did it, yes, he creates more dust in this very dusty one. But I don't know how much harm it will do to Hillary Clinton or how much help it will give to Donald Trump.
- Do you or do you not rule out a November surprise?
- I never rule anything out. I think this was a Halloween surprise and what other action will be taken this week, I don't know. I said that I viewed the way Comey did it as inexplicable. His process has been heavily criticized by the last attorney general, Eric Holder, who wrote a careful op-ed in the Washington post the other day. It's also been criticized by two former deputy AGs, one of which is a Republican. So I think the process was terrible. What else would happen, I don't know.
- In American history, John F. Kennedy was the first non-WASP, Catholic president, and Barack Obama the first African-American president. If elected Hillary Clinton, will be your first female president. What in your view will be the socio-cultural meaning of it?
- In my role as the president of the Wilson Center, I have to be nonpartisan. However, if you check back, while I was a member of Congress, in 2008, I was a delegate for Hillary Clinton. And I viewed her and her possible election as president as a historic event for America, which is way behind many other countries of the world, including the Republic of Korea. I remember in 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro, who was a close friend, was nominated as the first vice president on a major ticket, how excited I was. I think it is a major cultural event. And it was a good thing we have broken a variety of ceilings by electing people out of the old mainstream in America, and it matters. What is exciting to me is how my own children and now my grandchildren don't see the barriers that we saw.
- You have already touched on my next question--why are you so behind?
- (Laughter) Why are we so behind? How many hours do you have? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Some of them have to do with men being, historically, being uncomfortable with women candidates, but some of them have to do with women being afraid to take risks and put themselves out as candidates. And I saw that very clearly when I first ran for office. My first time was my run for Congress. I ran in 1991. I was elected in 1992, which was called the year of the women because in California, we elected two women senators--who are still there--[Dianne] Feinstein [Barbara] Boxer--Boxer is retiring. All over the U.S., we doubled the number of women in Congress. So, that was a century ago, and there are still very few women. But I remember, how difficult it is, was to take that risk, and women still find it difficult and select out, even if they are very qualified. So, there is that problem.
I also remember, and actually, let me amend my first answer, that some men won't vote for women, and some women won't vote for women. Something that's often misunderstood is that some women won't support some women. Which is what caused [former Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright to make a comment, that there is cold place in hell for women who don't support women. Sadly, that comment was misunderstood when she made it in the context of the Hillary campaign. But I get it, and it is true that some women don't support women.
- This election campaign is characterized as the dirtiest and most debased election in the history of America. How have the parties come to this, in the birthplace of modern democracy?
- These are good questions. I'm not sure it's the dirtiest and the most debased in history from reading about the finding founders when they were all founders. They were very dirty and debased elections, and I think that continued for a long time. Some people think the election of Abraham Lincoln election might have been the all time low. I don't know, but in my lifetime, yes, it's a fair comment: it's the dirtiest and most debased. And the losers are the American people. I attended two of the three presidential debates, because I am a member of the Presidential Debates Commission, which set them up and picked the moderators and set the rules, etc. I was in Las Vegas, 10 days ago, and that debate felt like a prize fight. The tension in the room was palpable, and the tone of the debate was ugly. And unfortunately, our politics has now become the blame game in the U.S.
You blame the other side, you don't work with other side to solve problems. And I think that it especially hurts America when it comes to foreign policy, where the old rule was, politics stops at the water's edge. And historically, American elected officials worked together on foreign policy issues and didn't criticize each other especially when they were outside of America. The gloves are off and the fight is on now.
- Around 40% of Americans support Donald Trump. Doesn't the explosive success of Donald Trump, the alleged Charlatan, represent moral failure of Americans? Is this too harsh?
- A: Well, I think 40 percent of Americans don't support their current government. I think Donald Trump is more of a protest vote for some people. They are voting against the elite rather than for him. Certainly, he has revolutionized how a major party candidacy is both won and how that candidate is running a presidential election, but we have to see what the result is next Tuesday in order to know he was ultimately successful. I think one of the reasons he has gotten this far is the media. I'm looking at the media. And I think that is about the fact he was very good copy, very good for ratings. And few people took him seriously, and he sold newspapers, he got people to watch TV shows, and that gave him momentum to beat 16 other Republicans. His ideas were not heavily scrutinized. Some people support those ideas. Again, I'm not commenting one whether they're good or they're bad, but I'm saying any candidate deserves scrutiny, anybody making claims. People in my party and people in the Republican Party should be fact-checked. And this has been sadly what's called a post-factual election.
- Are you concerned that Trumpism will leave a long-lasting and subvertive scar on American democracy and politics?
- I think subvertive is too harsh a word. I don't agree with that. I think Trumpism, to a large extent, is populism, and I think populism is occurring all over the world. And it has changed the conversation. It has a lot to do with people feeling left out and jobs changing because of automation. And I think that politicians, and the political elites, have been slow to understand this. But populism was a big part of the [Bernie] Sanders campaign too, not just the Trump campaign.
- If elected president, what should Hillary Clinton to do to embrace those Americans, many of them who are poor whites and angry youngsters, who supported on the one side Trump and the other side Sanders?
- I think she should do a lot. I think she should find the smartest people to think creatively about educating people for the new work force and then figuring out the jobs that the new work force will do. The obvious first step, or first focus for jobs to me, is rebuilding American's infrastructure. Later today I will go to Incheon Airport. It's beautiful. There is no airport in America that's beautiful, not one, not anywhere, and we have a huge country. Many of our airports are total embarrassments. So rebuilding airports, roads, rail in America will take very sophisticated designs, advanced skills in addition to a lot of workers, and I would start there. And then I would think about other things that need enormous attention that are either broken or not yet invented. America is the home of innovation. South Korea is becoming a second home for innovation. And we are working together. We have a huge Korean diaspora in the United States, that's part of our innovation core, our most creative people, and that's a great thing. So, we need to use it for more things. And I think she has to focus on that immediately. The other thing she has to focus on immediately is fixing the broken relationship between the president and the U.S. Congress.
- Why is Hillary Clinton so hated and mistrusted?
- It's interesting. There was an article in I think your paper yesterday about why are Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel, two of most creative women leaders, so mistrusted. Politics is hard, and I think some of that is envy, and some of that is discomfort with women at the highest level of politics. But I unfortunately think that this email controversy and some of the issues around the Clinton Foundation also contributed.
- As the newsweekly Economist predicts, Hillary Clinton, tied down and unpopular at home, could less easily meet challenges to American power from China and Russia, and America's role in the world would shrink. Do you agree with the Economist's analysis?
- First Hillary has to get elected, so it ain't over til it's over. On the assumption that she wins, I think she is very capable and very well qualified to deal with China and Russia. Will there be a major effort to drag her down? Probably. I think frankly that would happen in any case. We have toxic partisanship in Washington. And that is why I think one of her first jobs has to be to reach out for Republicans, reach out for voters in the Democratic Party who liked Bernie Sanders much better, and find ways work with them. I saw her operate as a senator; I was then a member of the Congress. And we worked together on some things. I saw her reach for Republicans. I know she is highly regarded by some Republicans. I probably can't say that in this election, but when the election is over, if she builds bridges, I think she will get rewards that President Obama did not get, for two reasons. One, I think he started to work on this, but he then gave up. But two, he didn't have the experience doing it that she has.
- Was there a time in the history of America where your society was as polarized as it is now?
- I think maybe yes, at our founding and certainly during the election of Abraham Lincoln. Possibly after that. The election of Woodrow Wilson wasn't easy. It was a three-way election; Teddy Roosevelt formed a third party called the Bull Moose Party, which probably caused the Republican, to lose. But that was polarized then. So yes, we've had polarized elections. In my lifetime, this one is the worst.
- What, if any, would be the essential differences between President Obama and Clinton in terms of policies and styles?
- Well, I think there will be some policy differences, especially in foreign policy. She has been called a hawk--I'm not sure that is fair. But she is more willing to use or at least threaten to use America's military capacity to create situations to help solve problems. That's not her first instinct--but I think she has a more muscular view of foreign policy than President Obama does. I think she has been more focused for her lifetime on women and girls, and I think that will continue to be a focus for her, and I hope it will be a focus for her. She is enormously well informed. It's not that he isn't informed, he is an incredibly bright man, but she has spent many more years working on it. Very well-prepared and knows most of worlds' leaders and has relationships with them. They're not all positive, but I think she has many positive relationships. And she has done some groundbreaking things. I was in Beijing in 1995 at the fourth UN conference for women. I was on a small congressional delegation of Americans, and I heard her say, "Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights." And it was an earthquake. And she owns that history.
- Despite what you have just said, don't you think that Clinton's foreign policies will be more isolationist and protectionist than those of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama administrations?
- More isolationist no; more protectionist, I hope not. I mean, I strongly favor TPP, this is my personal view. And I think that trade builds jobs, it doesn't destroy jobs. I'm hoping that a way will be found for the U.S. Congress to ratify the TPP, maybe, in this lame duck session of Congress, before the next president takes office. I hope that can happen. I don't know if it can; the odds aren't overwhelming. But I don't think Hillary Clinton is antitrade. She's not prepared to support TPP in its present form, that's her quote. So, I'm hoping there will be a form she can support. And I do think trade crucial both for America's economic success and America's national security.
- I get the impression that those personnel such as Kurt Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affair, who seem to be advising Hillary Clinton on foreign policy are making statements regarding North Korea that are as hardline as those made by the neo-cons during the George W. Bush administration. They seem to be supportive of the regime change and a preemptive strike. I am concerned if they join the new administration, the United States' stance towards Pyongyang will get harder and tougher. Am I over-concerned?
- Well, I know them both well. I know Wendy better, and I think very highly of them. America's policy is to support denuclearization. It's not supporting a preemptive strike. There is conversation about that. There is conversation in Korea about that too. Certainly my hope is that we will find a way to walk Kim Jong-un back, and I wrote an op-ed with James Person, whom I'm looking at, who is a very able director of our Korean center at the Wilson Center, and has studied this very carefully. Our op-ed suggested that we try to find ways to achieve a freeze in North Korea, a serious freeze, after substantive and authentic talks, and then use that as a staging ground to build a relationship that would lead to denuclearization. And I don't know if it's possible, but I think many people who are looking at this problem think it could be possible. And it will acquire not just achieving the right agreement for a hard freeze with IAEA supervision, but it will require finding a way to have an ongoing relationship with North Korea so that we improve the likelihood of denuclearization. Denuclearization is the goal everyone wants, including China.
- In your Washington Post column on Sept. 30, you rightly noted that since sanctions and display of military might will never make North Korea renounce nuke and missile programs, and you have suggested that the U.S. demonstrate flexibility and enter into talks with a roadmap of freeze and CVID in return for suspension of joint military exercises and a nonaggression pact. How widely is this view shared in the policy circles of Washington?
- I don't know the answer to that, but we did not suggest eliminating sanctions. We support coercive sanctions, and we would hope that China would meet its full obligations under the UN resolution. I think that would be helpful in creating an atmosphere where North Korea wants to talk. Most people think North Korea doesn't want to talk right now. But we were not suggesting relieving pressure on North Korea, ever, unless there is a hard agreement on a freeze and then a path forward to denuclearization. I get it. I've been in this line of work for years and look at it that applying pressure creates an environment in which diplomacy can succeed. Our goal is not to have talks leading to talks. Our goal is to have a hard freeze leading to denuclearization.
- Denuclearization is your prerequisite, or precondition, for talks?
- Denuclearization is the end goal. The prerequisite for talks is the commitment to negotiate a hard freeze leading to denuclearization, by North Korea. If you say they have to agree to denuclearization before we'll talk to them, we're not going to talk to them. That's our point. We still think it's the right goal. We share the goal that the Korean government has and the U.S. government has. And I'm not a spokesman for the U.S. government. I'm just looking at this and hoping we can find a way to stop the development of sophisticated and miniaturized warheads and prevent North Korea from having the capacity to threaten the U.S. in this way. That's what I'm hoping we can do, and I think there is a possibility that we can do it. And I'm always an optimist: why would I run for public office 18 times if I weren't an optimist?
- Let me confirm this: denuclearization is not a precondition but it is a goal.
- It's the goal. It is the goal: we want to get to denuclearization. That's where we want to head. We are not prepared to something foolish or naive. And we would never agree to that. We're not the negotiators, we're just the observers. And we're looking at a lot of scholarship that the Wilson Center has developed and what are realistic options. But we are not abandoning the goal of denuclearization. It is the goal, we embrace the goal. And I'm hopeful that's where we will end up. And I think that will be a win-win win; a win for the people of South Korea and the region, a win for the people of North Korea and certainly a win for the United States. And China. Let me put China in there too. The region will include China. China seems to want North Korea as a buffer state more than it worries about nukes in North Korea, but I think China will also welcome a denuclearized North Korea.
- What will be Clinton's China policy?
- A: I hope it will be a very nuanced policy. We are working with China on climate and that is a huge achievement of the Obama administration and of the Xi [Jinping] administration. Both of them were courageous to agree to goals. Climate is an enormous threat to world security. So that's a plus. The minus is the tensions in the South China Sea and some other issues around intellectual property and cyber, and those are minuses. And I'm sure if you ask the Chinese, they have minuses that they would list about us. But the goal is to find ways we can work together to improve the climate to then work on the problems that we have. But Hillary Clinton in my view gets this. She had some real successes as Secretary of State helping the blind scholar come to New York. A lot of this could have been disastrous. She works to solve problems. Her knowledge base is enormously constructive. There, Kurt Campbell, I thought, did a superb job.
- How much in detail are you informed and aware of the bizarre scandal that is undermining president Park Geun-hye's presidency?
- I arrived here to my first news of this, and it's a problem for the Korean people to solve. I'm not going to opine. I will say that I've met President Park personally and had conversations with her, individually, three times, once when she was a candidate and twice when she was president. Once at the Blue House in 2014 and once in Washington, when she made a state visit. And I found her to be enormously capable and a very interesting combination of tough and warm. Politics is a rough business.
- Lastly, what legacy is President Obama leaving behind?
- Well, he's working on it. I think he's picked some things he is very proud of. I think climate change is one, Cuba is two--I'm thinking about foreign policy--the Iran deal is three. There'll be a lot of unfinished business though, two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, unfortunately the mess in Syria, a lot of things are left for what we hope will be a very talented and very energetic successor, who will have her hands full.
- Maybe a grade F on North Korea?
- Yeah, North Korea has gotten worse, I agree. I don't think grading is productive, really. I think he has tried hard. One other thing that should be mentioned is the rebalance to Asia. And I think he really wanted that and wants that. He did a very long interview that we've all ready in the Atlantic with Jeffrey Goldberg. Some of his comments on Middle East, I disagree with. But I strongly agree with his comments on Asia, where he said that he thinks that's the future and that the U.S. should embrace Asia. I think he's tried to that. Problems are that the Middle East is so messy that we can't turn our attention; we have not enough brain cells. That's one problem. The second problem is the growing populism which is stymieing the chances for TPP. Those are the biggest ones. And the third problem North Korea is getting noisier. That agenda item is unfinished, and I'm sure he is personally very sad about it.
- Congressman Harman, thank you very much for this most enlightening and insightful interview.
- Thank you very much, and just know how much the Wilson Center and I personally care about this country. This is my fifth visit as president of the Wilson Center. I've only been the president of the Wilson Center for six years. That's pretty good. One of my daughters-in-law is a Korean. So I am in my view a Korean grandmother. Or as we say in Korean, I am a 'sonnyeo babo' (foolish for my granddaughter), a crazy grandma, and proud of it. So thank you.
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