JOANNE MYERS: Good morning, everyone. I'm Joanne Myers, director of Public Affairs programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council, I would like to thank you all for joining us.
It is a pleasure to welcome one of our country's most respected and accomplished senior statesmen back to the Carnegie Council. Gary Hart is not your average citizen. Our speaker has worn many hats: senator, attorney, professor, and author of more than a dozen books, including three novels. Yet the underlying theme connecting them all has been one of a public servant who cares deeply about our country.
In his most recent book, The Republic of Conscience, Senator Hart has taken the ideas upon which our country was founded to heart (no pun intended), and he has furnished us with a thought-provoking analysis of American democracy, proving once again that he is not only a scholar of American history, but is a very creative and strategic thinker.
Today is the publication date for The Republic of Conscience, and we are thrilled that he is launching it here. The theme is the pervasive, mounting discontent with America's political landscape and the sense that we are becoming a different kind of nation than the founders intended us to be. The launch could not be more timely, as it is but a few days before the Fourth of July, which, as you know, marks the birth of our nation, and another presidential campaign is upon us—both events which should be a time to pause and reflect about our country, our values, who we want to be, and what we want for our future.
I would like to thank our good friend Enzo Viscusi, who suggested that we host Senator Hart. As you know, the format for this program is a bit different. Senator Hart and I will have a conversation for about 25 or 30 minutes and then we will open up the floor to you, our audience.
JOANNE MYERS: So, Senator Hart, in the introduction to your book you talk about the concern you have for the state of America that has fallen short of what our Founding Fathers meant it to be, and that there is a gap between who we believe ourselves to be and who we have become. Could you tell us why you think this way?
GARY HART: First of all, may I say thank you to Joanne Myers for the invitation to return to the Council. I have had the opportunity to be with you on previous occasions.
I do want to also say thanks to my dear friend Enzo Viscusi for suggesting this opportunity and helping to organize it. A number of friends over the years here—and I won't try to identify all of you—it's great to see so many of you. Thank you all for being here.
There have been a number of books in recent years on corruption in government. I think what's different about this is that it is rooted in the theory of the classic republic, which our founders believed in and which they used in formation of this country. We are all raised to think about our country as a democracy, and it is, more or less, an improving democracy over the years in terms of inclusion and rights. But if you read, as many of you have, the works of the founders, particularly the Constitutional debate and all that went with it, and the voluminous correspondence they all carried on with each other, what you find throughout is the language of the republic.
Of course, the republic dates to early Athens and migrates to early Rome and then appears and disappears over the centuries as time goes on. But there have always been certain qualities of a republic, and our founders, being (sorry to say) men steeped in the classics—many could read classic Latin and Greek—believed very strongly in those qualities, including civic virtue, citizen participation, popular sovereignty, a deep sense of the commonwealth or the common good, and resistance to corruption.
That was a long, rambling answer, but it's central to the book.
If you say corruption in government, most Americans think bribery. That's not what they meant. They meant placing special, personal, or narrow interests ahead of the common good, ahead of what is best for the entire society and nation. Today we would call it "the national interest." They said, if our posterity—and they believed very strongly, as you know, in the preamble of the Constitution, that they were creating something for our posterity—if we in our generation or future generations permitted that kind of corruption, this would no longer be a republic.
That's what the book is about, whether the explosive growth of the lobbying industry in Washington—$4 billion a year. Virtually every law firm in America is now a lobbying entity and probably making at least as much money lobbying as it does practicing traditional law, and then, of course, the panoply of special-interest lobbying groups around Washington. Over 400 former members of Congress are now lobbyists. What we are talking about here are events that have occurred in my active lifetime. This would never have occurred in the Senate of the 1970s, possibly even the 1980s. We have seen in the last 30 years a fundamental change in the nature of the way Washington works. That's why citizens are so unhappy—the connection of lobbying with campaign finances and then the connection with access to the decision-makers.
JOANNE MYERS: Perhaps you can tell us, how did this happen or why did it happen?
GARY HART: It happened because we let it happen. Like most unfortunate developments, it didn't happen overnight, although looking back, to me, it seems as if it were overnight. But I think it was an evolution that just progressed. I keep going back to the Senate that I entered in the 1970s. I don't know of one senator—many of you here would remember the names, Ribicoff and Symington and Nelson and Mansfield. The list goes on—Mac Mathias, Jake Javits. The list goes on. Not one of them would have walked out the doors of the Senate and joined a lobbying firm. Within the space of a decade or a decade and a half, all that began to change.
I think there was just so much money, and the cost of campaigning skyrocketed. So now you have United States senators, the first year they are elected, going to the party headquarters, because it's against the law to do this in the Congress, two hours a day making calls for money—the first year they are elected. That goes on for six years. That's corruption.
JOANNE MYERS: In business ethics at least, there has been a push towards corporate social responsibility, corporate governance. Do you think ethics in politics has just disappeared and is an oxymoron and can't be—
GARY HART: Oh, they haven't disappeared. Individual members of Congress, obviously, members of cabinets—by the way, I'm talking mostly about Congress, but we are also talking about rotating systems in and out of administrations. People in a Republican administration, if the Democrats win, go into lobbying and influence—I wouldn't say influence peddling, but talking to their friends in the administration and on the Hill, and vice versa. I am not finger-pointing at one party. This is systemic in both parties. People rotate in and out of offices—the same people, the same Rolodexes, the same connections. And, by the way, leadership in this country is going like this.
It is not accidental that we might have—with all due respect to everybody—a fourth Clinton presidential campaign and a fifth Bush presidential campaign. The two might match up next fall. People respond by saying, "Yeah, but look at the 15 people running on the Republican side." Also look at the number of them who have a billionaire sponsor.
JOANNE MYERS: So what do we do about that?
GARY HART: Get angry.
Some of you saw The Economist about two weeks ago. This is a conservative, business-oriented newspaper, they call themselves. They say corruption is all over Washington. It is corporate America. I don't even say corporate America, but The Economist says corporate America. And they say it's hurting corporations. It's hurting the financial system of this country. That is in The Economist, folks.
JOANNE MYERS: You mentioned we are facing an election. Over $1 billion is going to be raised. How do you stop that when the Supreme Court says in Citizens United that it's okay; big business can support their candidates?
GARY HART: Well, everybody now wants to change the Supreme Court, for different reasons. I think Citizens United has to be reversed, as one of the answers to your question. That would be one step. How long that is going to take—it may be a decade. It may be two decades. But you cannot legalize this system, which is what Citizens United did.
Second, and again with all due respect to any of you affiliated with broadcast media, we have to give legitimate candidates free time on television and radio. The airwaves belong to us. We license them to the networks, television and radio. We own airwaves. Were it not for media lobbying in Washington, we could get laws that let candidates, as they do in Great Britain and other democracies, have a limited amount of free media time. Eighty to 90 cents of every campaign dollar goes to the media.
JOANNE MYERS: As you look back, though, to the Constitution, the argument today is also that maybe the Constitution, even with 27 amendments, is out of date, that it is out of touch with the American people, that there is a more diverse, evolving society. The argument goes that maybe the Constitution is not as relevant today as it was when it was first written in 1787.
GARY HART: The first thing they tell you in law school is that the Constitution is a living document. In theory at least, it can always be amended and adapted to new realities. And it has been, as you know, in quite a number of cases having to do with race or gender or access to the political process and so forth.
I don't see this problem being solved by a Constitutional amendment. I cannot think of how you would frame it, short of four or six pages, to solve this problem. It's a social and cultural problem.
I, in a small Kansas farm public school, took eighth-grade civics. I don't know that they even teach civics anymore. But it's about the nature of our political process. Let's see, how old are you when you are in the eighth grade?
JOANNE MYERS: Thirteen.
GARY HART: But it sunk in. It sunk in.
So it's cultural. It's our families, it's our schools, it's our religious institutions, and it's certainly our political system. To a degree, we have to shame people in Washington. You have to create the atmosphere. Clearly, I haven't devised the solution here. We have to get back to that sense of respect and dignity for office, where, if the voters of Colorado give you a title, as they did me twice, you feel ashamed to trade that title for money. That is what lobbyists do.
JOANNE MYERS: "The Republic of Conscience," which is from the Seamus Heaney poem—there is a line in there where he says, "At their inauguration, public leaders must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep to atone for their presumption to hold office." That is where you are coming from?
GARY HART: The Seamus Heaney poem, yes, called "From the Republic of Conscience," which is where the title of the book comes from.
JOANNE MYERS: Right. That's what you are saying.
GARY HART: It is about conscience. I keep harking back to those great senators that I was honored to serve with and what made them not even think about walking out of the Senate of the United States and monetizing their title, which is what they are doing today.
The best advice I ever got in my life was from Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana, who was then majority leader. Some of you remember Mike Mansfield. He was laconic to a fault. He would never use four words when three words would do. He smoked a pipe, and you always had a sense, even on the floor of the Senate, that he had his pipe in his mouth when he didn't.
But he walked up to me and he said, "Give you some advice?"
"Yes, sir." I had been there two months.
"Draw a line. Don't cross it." He turned and walked away.
"What did he say? Draw a line, don't cross it?"
What he meant was, figure out a point where to stay in office you have to compromise your conscience, and don't cross that line.
I thought it was profound. It also resonated with what I was taught by my family and church and so forth. It was integrity. If there is a single word that identifies what I am trying to say here, it's "integrity." It is a sense that this is right and that's wrong. As I repeatedly say in the book, if this were a roomful of lobbyists, they would say, "This is not illegal, what we are doing." There has always been lobbying, that's true. But just because it's legal doesn't make it right.
JOANNE MYERS: What has happened to our values? How did we lose this moral compass?
GARY HART: Money. Money, money, money, money. There is just so much of it now. When you are dealing with a federal budget of—I don't even know what it is now—back in the day, $1 billion was a lot of money. I was on the Budget Committee, and if you said $1 billion, people's eyes popped out. Now it's trillions. If you have a federal budget of $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or $2 trillion, that's a lot of money, and people want that money. They want defense contracts, they want SEC [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission] relaxation of securities regulations, on and on and on. And they are willing to pay for it.
JOANNE MYERS: It's still a puzzle why we can't change the thinking of this country. What do you think it will take in order to change people's view? Even if they limit campaign financing, how do you get them to commit to after, as you said, Congress and they leave? It is just really a puzzle.
GARY HART: The history of American politics is scandal followed by reform. Arthur Schlesinger talked about eras of consolidation and progress. That wasn't the word he used, but he saw American history in 30-year cycles. To a degree, I think the same is true. We get political reform in this country after a Watergate or a Teapot Dome or something like that. Based on the history, I am inclined to answer by saying it will take a huge scandal.
A recent experience on television with an interviewer, who insists on using that word to describe personal behavior and failures—if everything is a scandal, then nothing is a scandal. If every television presenter is saying scandal, scandal, scandal, then this isn't a scandal. This is just politics as usual.
So I don't know. I hope it doesn't require a huge financial/political scandal in Washington. But I can tell you—and I think most of you know this—if you walk the streets of Denver and stop people and ask them how they feel about the government, they don't like it. They don't like it. They can't always tell you why. You have the Tea Party on one hand and the Occupiers, who have kind of gone away, on the other. Those are the vivid demonstrations of this. But ordinary, everyday Americans know something is wrong in Washington. They just sense it. That's why I wrote the book.
JOANNE MYERS: You have a wonderful chapter in the book talking about how we got to this place, starting with Truman in 1947. Would you talk a little bit about that, just going back in history? You are a scholar of American history. I found that so interesting. Start with 1947 and Truman.
GARY HART: At least two previous presidents, who shall go unnamed—it is reported; I don't know it for a matter of fact—when Air Force One took them home as they left office on the inauguration of their successor, cleaned out the airplane. I choose not to believe that, but there were people on board the aircraft who flew it back to Washington, and the dishes were gone and the silverware was gone and the matchbooks were gone. This was just after a famous book came out in the 1950s or 1960s by an author named Merle Miller, who interviewed Harry Truman at length. [Editor's note: Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S Truman was published in 1974 based on interviews conducted with Truman in the 1960s.]
This had just happened the first time. He said to Harry Truman, "What did you take when you left the White House?"
Truman, so the story goes—he and his wife had taken the train to Kansas City and then to St. Joe or Independence. Merle Miller said, "What's the first thing you did when you got home?"
He said, "I took the luggage up into the attic."
Miller said, "Mr. President, what did you take with you?"
Truman said, "Nothing."
He said, "I understand, Mr. President. I don't mean furniture or anything like that. But you surely took some—"
"No, I didn't take a thing."
"You didn't take a pencil?"
"It didn't belong to me."
JOANNE MYERS: A standard, right.
But also if you could just talk a little bit about how we began to lose the republic. You talk about the National Security Act, the forming of the Pentagon, the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], and all that as sort of just background to where we are today in terms of how special interests have taken over.
GARY HART: This is an argument of placing principle above power, privilege, prerogative, and so forth, but it also is an attempt to figure out on my part how policy drifted away from principle. We were talking earlier at breakfast about stationing troops all over the world and how it continues 60, 70 years after the end of World War II, and will it go on forever.
I think four things happened in the mid-20th century that changed us from a basically principled nation that was pragmatic to a pragmatic nation that occasionally followed principle.
The creation of the national security state, 1947—that act, the National Security Act, created the Pentagon, created a permanent Department of Defense, a Central Intelligence Agency, a fourth military service, the Air Force, and a National Security Council.
It created a national security state followed by what I call the surveillance state. We have heard a lot about that in recent years, Mr. Snowden and so forth. But if you believe you are under threat from communism, as we did, then you want to know what the communists are doing. If you want to know what the communists are doing and you are J. Edgar Hoover, you want to know what they are doing in the United States, so you begin to place American citizens under surveillance.
Then you begin to add technology. We all know how that evolved in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. All of a sudden, you don't just have a CIA and a Defense Intelligence Agency; you have a panoply of at least 18 agencies. Those 18 agencies, including intelligence at the State Department, intelligence at Homeland Security, are now hiring consultants. What is being created is not just the surveillance state, but it's spreading all over the place.
Then we had the expeditionary state. We had to go everywhere to fight wars here and there. We are still doing that, although the nature of that warfare is changing.
Finally, what I call the special-interest state. Again, with so much money washing around, people are trying to get that money. That, partly, was how you got this explosion of lobbying and special interests influence in Washington and the cost of campaigning that went with it.
JOANNE MYERS: And we are losing our moral authority, then, by going to all these places, spreading ourselves thin.
GARY HART: I wrote a book some time back—in fact, I may have bothered you with it back in the day—called The Fourth Power. Foreign policy experts say every nation has three powers: economic, political, and military. I think the United States, based on my travel to 70 or 80 countries and talking with everyday people—we think people in the world admire us for our wealth. To a degree, that's true. They envy us for our standard of living, for most of us—not the 47 million in poverty in this country, but the rest of us. What they admire and respect most of all is what we stand for, what we claim to stand for, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence. They believe in this.
I was on the streets of Moscow in 1991 handing out Russian-language copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and people were rushing up to get them. That's what basically people admire us for. They want systems like that to live under.
When we depart from those principles, everybody in the world knows it. This is what drove me crazy in listening to so-called statesmen in the past who were advocating surreptitious this, covert that, secret bombings of Cambodia, which were no secret to the people of Cambodia. We were not to know it ourselves, or our allies. We were going to bomb a country without anybody knowing it. That's what I am talking about.
Nothing we do goes unnoticed in the world, nothing.
JOANNE MYERS: I think we are going to stop here, but I also noticed when I was doing a little research that you called McGovern "a voice of conscience for our nation in our time." I want to thank you for being that voice for our nation in this time.
GARY HART: A voice.
JOANNE MYERS: A voice. Let's hope that many will join and have a scream. Thank you so much.
QUESTION: William Verdone.
JOANNE MYERS: That will take the next half hour or so.
GARY HART: It's frightening. We had begun, I think, in the Vietnam years to understand that warfare was changing. It wasn't great armies in the field that we were used to in World War I and World War II—combat divisions, tank battalions, and so forth—but it was becoming irregular and unconventional. Out of Vietnam and subsequent experiences, we began to evolve the so-called special forces—Delta, Rangers, and, of course, the SEALs and so on—to deal with this low-intensity, unconventional, nontraditional warfare.
That is what we ended up confronting in Iraq, to our surprise—it shouldn't have surprised us, but it did—and certainly what we encountered with the Taliban in Afghanistan. We learned nothing from the French experience in Vietnam and we learned nothing from the Russian experience, Soviet experience, in Afghanistan. Otherwise, we would have behaved much differently.
What is frightening about ISIS is the metastasis of radical Islam and the formation of a nation. We are used to nations, since the Peace of Westphalia, being in certain geographical areas. We drew boundaries after World War I in the Middle East. We drew them arbitrarily—the British and the French did. That's part of the reason we have trouble there now. But what we are not used to are stateless nations or nations that migrate and kind of carry their state or government with them. That's what ISIS is.
One of the many marginal, frightening aspects of it is the recruitment of disaffected young people in the West, which we haven't yet figured out how to deal with.
It arises, as everybody knows, out of the 1,300-year-old clash inside Islam between the Sunnis and the Shiites. It takes a whole volume of Time magazine to explain who is on whose side in which conflict, because the sides keep changing, depending on who is—you have great power competition now between the Saudis and the Iranians, and Sunnis and Shiites all over the place, depending on who is up and who is down.
I have had some experience in the State Department in recent months and years. I don't think even the most profound thinkers about Middle East history quite know how to deal with this changing landscape, where it is not pro-West versus pro-Soviet but just players all over the place and that congealing of that radical Islam element in ISIS.
I don't think it's going to go away for quite a long time. I don't know anybody who does think it's going to go away. We are in a situation where we have come out of two long wars. Aside from John McCain and maybe Lindsey Graham, very few people want to send ground troops there. So we bomb. That is our contribution. We send trainers. But I don't think there is appetite in this country for an investment of land forces. Even if we sent the 1st Marine Division and several Army divisions, I don't think we could combat them on the ground.
QUESTION: Ellen Berenson.
You mentioned that government officials are governed to a certain extent by money and lobbying power. Do you think that people who are now lobbying that were senators and in the House of Representatives feel that they are owed something because they sacrificed earning a great deal of money to serve their government and now it's their time?
GARY HART: It's a very good question. To a degree, I think that's right. But if you carry it to its inevitable extreme, what you have—and I suggest this in the book, and it is a serious concern—when I ran for office, at a pretty young age, I had no money. My first Senate race in a contested primary and against an incumbent cost $375,000, a $17 average contribution. After that it took off. Mark Udall spent $25 million or more and lost in Colorado, 5 million people.
I used to run into people in business who said, "I want to make some money and then run for office." Now, with all this money in Washington, here is what we should be worried about: young people running for the House of Representatives and the Senate with the idea of spending a couple of terms and then cashing in, which is what your question is about. One hopes and prays that we are better than that. But if you can make a million dollars a year, if you can make as much money lobbying in a law firm or a lobbying firm in Washington as you can make on Wall Street, that is a serious temptation. And people in Washington—I know them; I can name names—have gotten fabulously wealthy doing this lobbying.
When over 400 members of Congress walk out the door and sign up, I think it's important what you are saying: "I served 10, 12, 14 years. I need to send my children to college"—you hear that—"and this firm offered me a $500,000 starting salary plus bonuses for success." Then you get that kind of migration.
JOANNE MYERS: The real problem is the people making the laws are the people who are benefiting from the laws, so the laws probably won't change.
GARY HART: By the way, in terms of reforms, I think there ought to be stricter prohibitions about walking out the door and becoming a lobbyist, not just registering.
JOANNE MYERS: Maybe there should be an oath that they take before becoming a senator.
GARY HART: Like a 20-year ban or something.
JOANNE MYERS: Right, a will-not-compete clause.
QUESTION: Susan Gitelson.
Just to continue, you spoke with such admiration of Senator Mansfield and other of your heroes of the 1970s. Undoubtedly, you have continued relationships with people in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Have you sensed or can you persuade them informally—not in front of the cameras, but among yourselves—saying, "We believe in the Senate. We believe in Congress. We want to serve the American people. Let us informally try to find ways so that we can raise the level of integrity that we can be proud of and that we will always remember and talk about to our children and grandchildren"?
GARY HART: Can you institutionalize principle? I don't know.
I was thinking, as you asked, totally by accident last night, at an early dinner, the maitre d' said, "Senator Bradley is out on the street." So I raced out of the restaurant on 58th, wherever it was, and here's Bill Bradley, a dear friend of mine. Given all the thought that I have been giving to this, he is, I believe, a man of immense integrity. There are others as well. I'm not going to do an honor roll of public servants with integrity, because who am I to judge, as Pope Francis said.
But I think the problem of trying to get likeminded people together to encourage, if you will, publicly, public servants not to fall into the money trap is that the media would immediately go to town—"Who do you people think you are? Are you better than everybody else?"
As I said earlier, we are talking here not about breaking the law. We are talking about what is ethical and moral. If you dabble in morality and ethics in politics, you are asking for trouble. First and foremost again, who do you think you are? Who appointed you as the judge and jury? So forth and so on.
I think you have to write books, give speeches, lead by example. I have never made 10 cents lobbying and I never will. I don't pat myself on the back, except I take occasion in the media to make that point, that if you are willing to forgo some wealth, you can live what I would think to be an honorable life. But setting up a committee or a movement of the Bill Bradleys of the world and others like him would be difficult.
It's a really interesting question. I haven't thought it through. Demonstrating conscience by example is probably the best that any of us can do, and encouraging young people not only to get involved in public service, but to do it for the right reason, and not make a career of it. That's another problem. When Mike Mansfield said what he said, he was really saying, if you decide you want to be in the United States Senate for the rest of your life, you are going to have to make some compromises. That's part of the reason why I left after two terms.
JOANNE MYERS: Values-based leadership is possible, though.
QUESTION: Yoram Kinberg.
I like your statement about drawing a line and not crossing it. Going from ISIS to their next-door neighbor, Iran, in the best scenario possible in the next few weeks, we would release hundreds of billions of dollars to people that declare they are about to destroy Israel and maybe go and try to damage "the Big Satan"—i.e., the United States. Maybe it's the best deal, but doing the best deal may be crossing the line. What do you recommend to Obama to do about it, and your friend Kerry?
GARY HART: We probably disagree on this. I think it's better to have an enforceable agreement with Iran that limits their ability to develop nuclear weaponry even for 10 years than not to have that deal. When you discuss this issue, you constantly have to keep in mind the alternative to the deal. The key word is "enforceable."
I was deeply involved in arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, whom we didn't trust—"trust but verify," a president once said. The key is verification. To me, the key to the Iranian agreement, if there is one, is its verifiability. I can guarantee you this: In a hostile Senate, that agreement will not be ratified or approved by Congress or enforced by Congress unless the administration—and I don't mean people in the White House, but from the Central Intelligence Agency, NSA [National Security Agency], and so forth—sometimes in closed session, secret session, can demonstrate to members of Congress how they are going to verify, not just the president saying, "Trust us. We're going to verify it." Members of Congress will insist on knowing how.
I have been involved in those briefings. They have to be convincing.
Again, you can say no deal with Iran and suffer the consequences, which are not very good for Israel or us.
QUESTION: James Starkman.
In our system of checks and balances, it would seem that the Supreme Court really should be the leader in curbing the trend rather than accentuating the trend of the power of money. That seems to not have happened. In fact, it reinforced the trend. What conceivable legislation could they rule on going forward that would reverse the trend of the power of money in politics?
GARY HART: I haven't talked to any of my former colleagues who are opposed to Citizens United as to how you would fashion legislation to reverse it. I think it would be very, very difficult because the majority of the Court has said that corporations have the same rights as individuals to "free speech." That's the key to it.
The first thing you learn in law school is that a corporation is a legal fiction. Why Justice Scalia didn't learn that I don't know. Corporations are not people. I can't imagine any of the framers of the Constitution, in drafting the First Amendment, who would agree with the conclusion that a legal fiction has the same rights of speech, and speech being spending money, to advocate as ordinary citizens do. It's beyond me.
Congress could pass a law saying corporations should be limited. I doubt they will pass one to say corporate executives can't contribute to campaigns. I don't think that will happen. But this Court, I think, would find that unconstitutional by its own ruling in Citizens United. It's a cat chasing its tail a bit.
That is why I think the Court itself will have to overrule that decision, which, of course, Supreme Courts do from time to time. They reverse themselves, overrule decisions that have proved to be impractical, unjust, and destructive. In a way, that is the history of the judiciary in America for 230 years.
So I think the remedy is to change the Court. If this corruption catastrophe or a real scandal, political scandal, happens, that might lead to legislation or even an attempt at a Constitutional amendment defining that corporations are not people.
The effect of that decision is to say to a corporation, "You are now free to spend as much money as you want in the political arena, to advocate your interests, to make widgets or anything else." It's staggering to me how they can do that. As I say in the book, it's legitimizing special interests, legitimizing what is corrupting our government. It is eventually going to create another Watergate. They are legalizing Watergate. It's going to happen. Just wait. It's going to happen.
QUESTION: Charles Beddingfield.
My question is about—not to belabor the point of terrorism—how do we craft, in your opinion, effective strategies to combat what is essentially postmodern warfare by returning to what you could call modern principles, such as our nation was founded on? What would those principles be in your mind, the central principles around which to structure our response to terrorism and unconventional warfare?
GARY HART: It is a very good question. It really is at the core of security. Typically the preface to these questions is balancing privacy with security. No one defines how that is done. It is almost on a case-by-case basis.
Clearly a nation has both the right and the obligation to protect its citizens. But in our nation it must be done in a way that does not violate our individual rights. Those are constantly being revised, as much as anything these days because of technology.
It turns out, kind of through accidents of history, that I am a friend of the Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. He is dealing with this on a daily basis—in most cases, more crime prevention than national security. But the two are overlapping. What used to be crime prevention—crime prevention was local; national security was national. Now they are overlapping. You do have lone-wolf terrorists in New York City. Is he a criminal or a terrorist? Should the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] go after him or should the New York Police Department?
We are in this age where crime and terrorism are very difficult to separate. You have a jurisdictional problem. Is this a police matter or is this a national security matter?
One of the things I try to do in this book—it's 200 pages, so it's not Kissinger and a solution to all of our problems—I talk about fashioning national policies, domestic policies, based on our Constitutional principles, and then I transfer over to the international realm. How do you shape a foreign policy based on the principles contained in our Constitution? It's an imperfect 20 or 30 pages, but it attempts to answer that question.
I have had some experience. Actually, three weeks after I got to the Senate in 1975, I was appointed to something called the Church Committee, after its chairman. It wasn't that we all went to church. The chairman was Frank Church, senator from Idaho. Eleven of us, six Democrats, five Republicans. We investigated the CIA, FBI, NSA and came up with some very bad stuff, 1975-76. It led, among other things, to the creation of a permanent Congressional oversight system to prevent our intelligence agencies from violating our rights and our Constitution. To a degree, it has worked. It certainly has worked much better than before, in the old days, when Congress didn't have a clue what was going on, including here in this country. But it is still far from perfect.
I am trying to think of a one-sentence answer to your question, and clearly I'm failing. Most Americans, I think, if given a choice—if the question were framed something like this, "Do you want government agencies to be able to monitor telephone calls in this country in order to protect us from terrorism?" 75-plus percent would say yes. They might, if they were given a choice, say "except my telephone." But routinely, depending on how the question is asked, a majority of Americans will come down on the side of security at the expense of liberty or freedom, depending on how serious the threat is.
That is the other unknown. The New York Police Department, FBI, NSA, others will tell you that they are confronting threats, perceived threats—and those on the margin of becoming real threats—hourly.
All I can say is, the key is oversight, presidential and Congressional. If you have an administration that sends a signal to the head of the intelligence services and the covert operations services, "Do anything you want to do"—and some administrations have said it—"and don't tell us about it", then the sky is the limit. Then everybody has to protect themselves.
I have always believed, since I was a candidate for national office years ago, that it is really important that a president have experience in financial matters, in public finance, the budget, travel the world, have some foreign policy experience, have some experience with the military so you know the difference between a division and a battalion and the bow and stern of a ship, and, finally, know something about the intelligence world.
In my case I had that two-year experience on the Church Committee and then was a charter member of the first oversight committee. Because of activities at the Defense Department and State Department, I still have high classification and access to information.
You need somebody who doesn't farm that out, who can bring the director of the CIA in and ask very pointed questions. If a president says to the chief of staff, "Find somebody to oversee these guys. I don't want to know what they are doing," then you are going to have trouble.
QUESTION: Edith Everett.
I underwrite every single word you said. It was a terrific talk. I appreciate that very much.
The Center for Public Integrity issued a response to the vote in favor of Obamacare. What the writer of this article said was that it wasn't that some of these people cared so much about the health of Americans, but it was a response to the pressure of the insurance companies, who have billions to gain from these rules. What is your reaction to that? It goes to what you were saying before how you get bought off.
GARY HART: It is a conundrum that if you are legislating, you can't get any major legislation of any kind passed in the domestic arena—by that I mean health, education, transportation, and so forth—against the opposition of the industries involved in that arena. Of course, health care is notoriously complicated because the health delivery system—hospitals, doctors, nurses, so forth, insurance companies and so on—it's such a complicated array. Then you put ideology on top of that, where people say, "I don't care if everybody in America wants a national health program, it's big government and we can't have more big government." That has been the real opposition to Obamacare. I think it's less the details of it than the fact that it is perceived to be, for conservatives, another big government program. That is why there is such anger and resistance over and over and over again.
All I can say is, as one who believed even back in my age that there needed to be protection for millions of Americans who couldn't afford protection, you are not going to get any kind of national health care program passed without at least the acquiescence of the insurance industry. So that is the problem. You can take that—in the education field, people will say you are not going to get any reforms in education if the teachers' unions are opposed. It is the same kind of situation.
It's a glass half-full or half-empty. We wouldn't have got the Affordable Care Act if the insurance industry had resisted it, full stop. But because the insurance companies did acquiesce, and quietly supported it, people perceive that it is a giveaway to the insurance industry. It's the result of having a capitalist system where the public good is at stake. The capitalist system rewards investment and risk-taking and so forth. We are not going to have health care delivered by public—we are not going to have a British system, is what I'm trying to say.
JOANNE MYERS: I think you have proven that the public interest should be above the private interest, but the public interest/private interests are somewhat elastic. But I can't thank you enough for being here again.
GARY HART: It's a great pleasure.
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you. Have a wonderful summer. Thank you all.