Plundering Our Freedom with Abandon – Robert Scheer on RAI (7/10)

PAUL JAY: Welcome back to Reality Asserts
Itself on The Real News Network. We’re continuing our discussion with Bob Scheer. Bob is a veteran
U.S. journalist, currently the editor-in-chief of the Webby Award-winning online magazine
Truthdig. And his whole biography you’ll find beneath the video player. We’re just going to pick up where we were.
Certainly Ronald Reagan’s presidency ushered in this new phase of what people call neoliberalism
and such, but it was Bill Clinton–and you just mentioned–really helped regulate or
deregulate and create much of the bubble. And you can see it all happening again. When
Bill was elected, it was very Obama-esque. You know, it was a change that people could
believe in. Now the whole same kind of sections of the elite are now all ready to inaugurate
Hillary. ROBERT SCHEER: Yeah. Well, one of the problems
that I find with my friends, people I like to have dinner with and have known, is that
it’s very easy for them to demonize what they consider to be the far greater evil of the
other side. And I’m sure it comes back the same way. If you’re a fairly reasonable Republican,
you think, wow, these Democrats, they’re going to bring about communism and they’re going
to destroy individual freedom, and they’re just horrible, which is not, of course, true.
It had never been true and it’s garbage. They’re just like you, and they’ve gone to the same
schools, and they have very similar thoughts, and they can be bought off in the same way.
And so Democrats do the same thing about the Republicans. We’re getting that a lot now.
The Koch brothers are the most evil thing, and anybody who is a Republican, they’ll destroy
everything decent. They’ll destroy Social Security and Medicare and they’ll impoverish
you. Well, you know, and it’s just not true either
way. It’s a game, okay? Because fact is, no one’s going to destroy Social Security. Social
Security is a very good way of keeping the lid on mass discontent. Before we had solid
Medicare, Social Security, people getting older were a burden on all these families.
They were–it’s a crisis. We’ve know institutionalized that concern, okay? That frees up younger
people. Everybody knows that. You try to move against that, you’re moving against the most
successful social program we’ve had. And same thing is going to happen with Obamacare. It’s
being accepted. It’s institutionalized. The Republicans get in, they’ll try to make some
noise about it, but basically most of it works. It’s not radical. JAY: Well, big pharma and big insurance are
not against it. They’re making money out of it. SCHEER: Yeah, before, it was designed for
their benefit, and it’s nowhere near as progressive as, say, what you have in most of the rest
of the industrialized world. So it’s a game that they’re playing–oh, this one wants to
destroy–and no one’s going to make abortion illegal and no one’s going to reverse the
progress we’ve made–and it’s real progress–on gay rights. JAY: But do you not think–. SCHEER: But they terrorize people with that. And what’s lost in this game of terrorizing
people–and Ralph Nader understands this as well as anyone. And if you want to ever ask
me what I did wrong in life, one of the stupid things I did was have a debate with Ralph
Nader on a Nation magazine cruise in which I was celebrating Obama and this new progress.
I drank the Kool-Aid. And Ralph Nader was saying, nonsense; they’re going to give you
the same old crap is the other guys do, ’cause they own both parties. And he was right and
I was wrong. You know, here, you have it. And the reason is this whole theatrics of
saying, oh, everything’s on the table and they come in–you even said it before when
we were in your office: oh, you think Hillary’s going to be bad; if they come–. No they’re
not, because the Band-Aids will stay in place. They’re not going to destroy Social Security.
Okay? JAY: Yeah, but hang on. Do you not think on
a few critical foreign-policy issues–and as critical as we’ve been of the Obama administration–and
we never drank the Kool-Aid at Real News. We were doing critical things right from the
very beginning, from the first days of Obama’s entering the primaries. But I said even back
then, in ’07, ’08, I said, but I’ve only got one hope for Obama, that he’ll be more rational
on Iran. And I think so far he has been. I think it represents a whole section of the
professional foreign-policy elite. But George Bush, when he invaded Iraq, went against the
consensus of the foreign-policy professionals, even against really what most of the Pentagon
believed. I would say the same thing–no, let me finish–that
you could see the same thing, for example, if you start getting–if you have a Jeb Bush
presidency and a John Bolton secretary of state, you could see military adventures that
you might not see. And this is nothing–frankly, with Hillary I’m not so sure there’s a difference,
’cause I think Hillary is so closely allied to AIPAC and her foreign-policy positions
are actually quite radical back when she was a senator. I’m not so sure about the difference
between Hillary and Jeb Bush. But sometimes there’s a difference on some issues, and those
issues are of some significance. SCHEER: You know, I don’t know where to begin,
okay, because I understand how seductive that argument is and I have accepted that argument
much of my life. I’m not going to be a hypocrite here. If anybody wants to go back and look
at my–I ran as a Democrat for Congress and against a guy who was, I didn’t think, as
good as he should have been, but I assumed we were better than the Republicans. And all
my life I’ve voted for–I voted for Dianne Feinstein. I think she’s been a horror. You
know, I voted for Clinton. I went to a White House dinner at Bill Clinton’s invitation,
and Hillary Clinton said I was her favorite correspondent–or favorite columnist in the
world. You know, I wrote nice things about the Clintons, as well as critical things.
And I understand how seductive this argument is that those Republicans are really bad,
dangerous people, and on the other hand, folks that we hang around with or support, they
may not be the greatest, but at least they’re sane. JAY: I’m not making that argument. SCHEER: Oh. I thought you were. JAY: No. Listen. SCHEER: You’re hitting me with Bolton, who,
you know, is a, like, sort of comic figure. He’s not going to run anything. Let me just say, if we look at what happened
during the last 50 years, these crazy Republicans, the ones that were described as crazy and
extreme–Richard Nixon–actually ended up having a foreign policy that was no worse
than the Democrats and in certain ways better. Richard Nixon did not start the war in Vietnam
and did not provide the main escalation, which was the bombing of North Vietnam and carpet
bombing, Agent Orange, killing all these people. It’s true, he expanded it to Cambodia. JAY: The Democratic Party’s been led by war
criminals much of its time, as has the Republicans. I’m saying that they represent different interests,
not that they’re more moral, more reasonable. Like, even you go back to your tech sector
argument, the tech sector is more allied with this section of the Democratic Party. There’s
other sections of the consumer-based industry that don’t–like, war is not good for the
whole economy. It’s not good for the whole elite. SCHEER: It’s not good for anybody. JAY: Well, it’s good for some people who make
some short-term money. SCHEER: I don’t believe it’s good. Not in
the long run. You can’t develop a sane, stable society on the basis of meddling everywhere
in the world and picking enemies everywhere. JAY: That is of course true, but we’re not–I’m
not suggesting these people are sane. SCHEER: But let me just say, because people
watching this, they’re going to say, are these two guys just jabbering at each other? And
my feeling is we don’t have a disagreement. We’re both in kind of a position of weakness
where we’re looking at what are some signs of progress. Right? What would be–what’s
the lesser evil? As Jerry Brown–my wife just wrote a book on California. She loves quoting
Jerry Brown when he was talking about Bob Dole running against Bill Clinton. He says
it’s “the evil of two lessers”. You know. What are we talking about? I could challenge
you point by point, but it’s an unsatisfactory discussion, because why should we be debating
such dreary choices? And that is, in fact you can count on all
these people to do the wrong thing or the right thing depending upon how much public
pressure there is, okay, and how much of a movement there is. How did the public see
it? When Nixon came into the presidency, he thought–he knew the public was unhappy with
the Democrats, was unhappy with the war policy. I’ve–actually, believe it or not, I wrote
about this and I got to talk to Nixon in 1985 after he’d been president. He actually sent
me a letter saying he agreed with my analysis, and then I went to talk to him about it. And
Nixon, being a politician above everything else–that’s what we forget, being a careerist,
which is what all of these people really are. You know, they’re politicians. And Nixon saw
that the Democrats’ war policy was not working. The American public had turned against it.
And so Nixon came in with a thing, all right, I’ll finish this Vietnam, ’cause we can’t
just cut and run, blah blah blah, although he ended up negotiating the basic peace to
get out of Vietnam for all [incompr.] But he came in with the opening to China. You
know. And he had supported detente with the old Soviet Union. And so Nixon actually came
in and broke the mad dynamic of the Cold War. We can’t deny that. You know, this guy, who
had blasted people, oh, you’re a pro-Chinese communist, you’re an agent of the enemy, when
he was a congressman, you’re the worst thing, he comes in and he’s drinking mai tai with
Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong! Could you ever think Richard Nixon would go over to China and after
a career of blasting these Chinese Communists–this is the devil incarnate, right–that he would–and
he, by the way, didn’t do it ’cause he ran into Kissinger. One reason I was able to endear
myself to Richard Nixon, believe it or not, the reason he wrote me a nice letter inviting
me to come talk to him was I was able to show that he embraced the idea of peace with China,
communist China, negotiating a deal with communist China before he ever met Kissinger, that he
was doing that because there was already a shift in thinking in the establishment, a
recognition finally that there is a Sino-Soviet dispute, that not all communists get along–in
fact, none of them get along–that we can do business with different ones. Right? We’re
still dealing with Chinese communists right now, right? There aren’t any Russian–although
you could argue they’re kind of a throwback. But Chinese communists–that’s pretty much
our ally now and we’re dealing with them. We deal with the Vietnamese communists, right?
Well, Nixon saw that. And so he changed tune. Let me go to George W. Bush. When George W.
Bush got elected, first of all, his father, who I interviewed also and knew, H. Walker
Bush, he knew the Cold War was over, and he was very devoted to cutting back arms and
everything. You know. When his son gets in, he brings in some holdovers from the old Bush
administration–Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, okay. And now we picture these guys as having
blood dripping down and the dark side and everything. But in my book before The Great
American Stickup, the one I wrote, The Pornography of Power, I begin with an opening scene, and
it’s a scene you just cannot ignore if you want to take the position. You have to confront
it. And this is two days before 9/11. He’s at the Pentagon. He’s giving a speech to the
assembled workforce of the Pentagon. JAY: Who’s he? SCHEER: Donald Rumsfeld has become secretary
of defense. He’s giving a speech. And I don’t have the words in front of me, but they are
to the effect, there is a great enemy in this world, an enemy of decency and an enemy of
the American people, an enemy of enlightenment, an enemy of rationality. This enemy is worldwide.
This enemy is relentless. This enemy has a voracious appetite. This enemy threatens our
resources. That enemy is not the old Soviet Union, which no longer exists. It’s not communist
China, which is rapidly changing. That enemy is–Donald Rumsfeld telling the workforce
in the Pentagon–that enemy is the Pentagon. Donald Rumsfeld. We have to cut military spending
by a third. The Cold War is over. We’re being irrational. We have to invest more in our
industry. We have such mismanagement here. We’re overlapping. We’re wasting–waste, waste,
waste, waste. Okay? Two days later you get 9/11. You have irrationality, shock–oh, no
one’s ever been attacked. Nonsense. How did this happen? Where is this all about? JAY: But Donald Rumsfeld’s also a signatory
to the Project for a New American Century that said reshape the world with American
military might. He was for a different kind of military, not for pulling back the footprint. SCHEER: What I’m talking about is: what is
the core ideology of any of these people? The core ideology of any of them is opportunism.
It’s their career, their advancement, their short-term gain, their sense of how they can
move ahead. We do not have statesmen or stateswomen in the old-fashioned sense of people with
a longer-run view. JAY: Let me just clarify something that I
was saying. SCHEER: Yeah. JAY: What I’m suggesting is people should
not have any illusions about the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. They represent
a class that represents a set of interests. And they’re out of solutions. In fact, I just
recently did an editorial we published called “Not Fit to Rule”. I don’t think any of them
are fit to rule. They’re out of solutions. People need to develop an independent politics.
People have need to have to start thinking about how people are going to govern, not
that class, but ordinary people. All that being said–and I’m sure you don’t
disagree–but all that being said, it doesn’t mean there isn’t some difference between these
two parties when it comes to issues of war. It doesn’t mean the Democratic Party isn’t
more than ready to wage war. They are, and they have been. But we’re in a moment right
now–just let me finish–Iran’s an example, a very good example. Perhaps Iraq was an example.
Now, I’m not sure. I don’t know. It’s hard to say whether there would have been an invasion
of Iraq if it hadn’t been a Bush presidency. It’s hard to say. Clinton certainly was very
much for the overthrow of Saddam. There was a lot of militancy and support for the war
in the Democratic Party. But, like, I don’t think we have to go so far as to say is there
zero difference on some important issues without also saying none of these people are really
fit to rule. SCHEER: Yes. But the trap in your approach–go
with me for a minute. JAY: Sure. SCHEER: Okay, ’cause I don’t think we have
any big difference, and I don’t want to waste a lot of time on–I mean, we–except on this
one point, ’cause I certainly agree with you. The American people have got to rise to the
responsibility of citizenship and ask themselves, do I want to really build another carrier
or do I want to engage in drone warfare, do I want to have cyber war that’s going to drive–do
I want to do this surveillance state and spy on everybody in the world and make that a
way of life? There are a lot of big questions about how we use our resources and how we
are governed and elite and so forth. And that requires a movement that’s based on skepticism
of those in power no matter which party. That’s the assumption of the American experiment.
That’s the whole reason we have freedom of press, freedom of assembly, that they can’t
invade our houses. That’s why we have the Bill of Rights, that’s why we have separation
of powers, that’s why we have checks and balances, because we assume people are corrupted by
power. It’s not something I invented. It’s something that our founders talked about,
right? And they were talking about themselves. Okay, so that is a given. And the only way
we can have a correction of this is by the ordinary people in the society figuring out,
does this work for me, and what is at stake, and so forth. That process gets blocked, however. It gets
blocked ’cause we’re no longer living in little villages, we no longer have just local government;
we live in a mass society that has an empire, worldwide interests, inflames people worldwide,
and so forth, which are founders warned us not to have. Okay. So I would argue the first
thing that we have to do is have a movement that says let’s pull back, we shouldn’t be
the saviors of the world, we are not the only country that can figure stuff out, we have
to let others figure stuff out for themselves, for their neighbors, and so forth. If I were
to have a program for progress, it would be the unassuming title of let’s be more of an
ordinary nation. We’re not the indispensable actors in history. We don’t know everything.
We’re not particularly smart about the whole world. We’re not particularly sensitive to
the cultures of the world. And I would say the most progressive thing for the United
States is let’s become a little bit more like Germany, if not Switzerland, okay, or let’s–. JAY: I’ll go for Finland or Iceland. How about
a little more like Iceland? SCHEER: See the problem with Finland and Iceland
is they clearly don’t have massive power to do things. Germany does. You know. But Germany
is saying, we learned about Empire, we learned–. JAY: Or maybe they’re saying let the Americans
do it, ’cause we don’t have to as long as they are. SCHEER: Well, that’s the argument of hawks
that have always said, you know, they’re getting it on the cheap. I don’t see Germany that
way. I don’t see much of the advanced–economically advanced world that way. I think they learned
a really sobering lesson about the cost of foreign entanglements, which our founders
warned us against, that when you decide you’re going to make the decisions about–now, you
bring up today Saudi Arabia and its view of the Sunni Muslim religion or Iran and its
view of the Shia, you have a prescription for disaster. You’re launching 100 year wars.
You’re engaging in incredible fratricide here of other people. This is how we got into Afghanistan,
all this stupidity of, you know, we’re going to decide what government they should have,
we’re going to play games with the Russians here over who’s in power in Kabul and all
that. So I would say the first thing you would want
in the political process from anybody you might support or care about is that they have
a sense of balance, not have to control everything, not have to intrude everywhere, not have to
decide, not demonize the other people. And we get as much of that on the Republican side
as we do on the Democrats–not perfectly. Yes, you can bring up your hawks, but you
also have more isolationists or people who want to pull back. And as you point out, Hillary
Clinton is more of a hawk than a conservative, but we have some Democrats who want to pull
back. So the big split on that would be: are we the city on the hill, the indispensable? And the irony, by the way, is Reagan was actually
less aggressive than other presidents, because at his heart he was more of a pullback kind
of guy, isolationist, than go march off to fight. So that’s number one, okay? Where do
they stand on that? Number two is: what is your notion of your
home country? What is your obligation? What is the nation state? What is America? Okay?
And I think there are two competing visions about that. One is we are the model for the
world and everybody should live like us and we know what’s best for them and so forth.
Another is we are only a model for the world if we take care of our own and we do it in
a sane way that doesn’t mean ripping off everybody else, that we are rational, we have a good
school system, we have good medicine, or we have some reasonable amount of income opportunity,
equal opportunity, we don’t have homeless people all over the place, we don’t have racial
divides, we don’t think black lives are expendable, we’re tolerant, and so forth. And if we have
that kind of America, it will be a model for the world, as it has been at different times
in our history when people respect us. JAY: So how do we get to that? SCHEER: Okay. JAY: Okay. In the next segment we’re going
to talk about that. So please join us for how do we get to that
with Bob Scheer on Reality Asserts Itself on The Real News Network.

18 thoughts on “Plundering Our Freedom with Abandon – Robert Scheer on RAI (7/10)

  • Mr. Scheer and Paul Jay have both drank the koolaid.  They both ignore the criminality in their discussion.  Most of the FEDs should be serving life sentences in prison; both democrats and republicans.

  • Democrats ruling for one class of people, Republicans ruling for another, in part overlapping of interests, set of people, and neither of them seeking to rule, on a foundation of wholistic philosophical principles, on behalf of all the people, or at least the greatest good for the greatest number, allowing that lacuna be obfuscated of its suffering entailed by the simple survival of the species, is a most curious vision to see as having emerged of what were once envisaged.

  • I understand what he is saying about social security….but, it demands that you be forced into putting your trust in a corrupt system filled with criminal politicians.  The politicians from both parties looted social security.  The end result will be betrayal and the transfer of the burden back to families and the young.  Or something much, much worse.

  • Both are so wrapped up in their ideologies that they suffer from cognitive dissonance in much of their thinking.  Though they are having trouble accepting the inconsistencies of the reality a corrupt system.  

    The public makes little to no difference in the equation today… as the entire corrupt system is designed to divide, manipulate and control the public.

  • He wants an omnipotent government….but, then complains when it goes off track.  Our founders tried to limit government and direct central government involvement in the lives of the people.  Roles soon flip…from a servant of the people to the master of the people as these intellectual elites smugly know what is best for everybody…and consider people to stupid to understand.  It never fails, power soon concentrates to fewer and fewer people with little to no accountability for their criminal actions….the price of freedom is constant vigilance.

  • Thanks for the awesome interview. Robert was the guest, and the time should be spent exploring his views, not how they differ from the interviewer.

  • The evil that we are dealing with has no allegiance to any ideology, political position, religion or creed. It is grounded in selfishness, and debasement, and it permeates all of our institutions. The mask that it wears portrays its identity as 'liberal' to the conservative, 'conservative' to the liberal, "Christian" to the Muslim, "Muslim" to the Christian, "Republican" to the Democrat, "Democrat" to the Republican, as "Communist" to the Capitalist, as "Capitalist" to the Communist. It is a game of bait and switch. It's agenda is a world of control, where variables are minimized, creativity is squelched, and lifestyles which challenge the establishment are crushed through strategies such as the so-called drug war, mass incarceration, and mainstream media manipulation.

    All we have is each other, and our own goodness to guide us.

  • Robert Scheer has not kept current on Germany.  Today's Germany, led by its Foreign Minister Steinmaier and Defense Minister von der Leyen, is a rising global power, and in Chancellor Merkel's government has far flung ambitions in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.   These ambitions are supported by military expansions of the Bundes – wehr and – marine.   Germany was the key to the overthrow of the Yanakovitch, legal government of Ukraine and the installation of the present, Poroshenko regime, a regime with a strong fascist component.    Mr Scheer ought to read German-foreign-policy dot com and listen to the speeches of Sahra Wagenknecht to catch up.  Germany is fast forgetting the lessons of NS.

  • Scheer and Jay are wrong in my view to game the system.  The responsibility of a voter is not to game the system, to determine who among possible winners is the lesser evil.   Voters have the responsibility to vote for the person they determine to be the best candidate for the office, whether he (or she) is a likely winner of not.   Whoever is elected is the responsibility of those voters who voted for him.   No burden falls on those who did not choose to vote for the person who was second simply to defeat the winner.     Never fail to vote for someone because he or she "cannot win"!  The winner is the problem of those who voted for him.  As you may guess, I have repeatedly voted for Ralph Nader and, once, for Jill Stein.   The elections of GWBush and Barack Obama are not on my conscience.

  • Don't DELUDE YOURSELF: and I'm not talking about the incredibly reasonable educated ethical and honest people in the interview. I'm talking about YOU. The ones posting comments here. These two patriarchs have more wisdom in their dreams than is relayed through your comments. It IS YOU who have become drunk in YOUR POWER of expressing your views that are not factual and rational to the entire series of interviews. They are discussing ONE TOPIC the current one and by TAKING THE TIME if you have not to review all parts in the series you might be moved to an apology. If not then you have to live with yourself.

  • TERM LIMITS ON CONGRESS,  AND EVERY STATE LEGISLATURE,  ALREADY!!  Otherwise,  voting is  waste gas,  time,  and you risk getting killed in a car crash going to those masquerade elections.

    As for Mr. Sheer, he seems rather content with the status quo of corporate influence and control, and millions of under-employed and unemployed. He's got his, and he's comfortable.

  • There are some shocking things that Republicans are very willing to do….and have done…. that bring Bob Scheer's reasonableness into question.  Republicans today are extreme in the extreme and continue to move further in that direction.

    1. The (R) members of the Supreme court have politicized that institution.
    2. Citizen's United is corrupting American politics with more money at a time when that problem is already overwhelming.
    3.  Republicans misrepresented the purpose for war in Iraq, failed to plan for success and spent nearly 8 years at it with no good result.
    4.  Republican rhetoric has become increasingly outrageous from the rank and file toi those running for president.
    They have conceived of altering election law in their interest and contrary to the basic idealism of democracy that we should all beleive in.

  • Richard Nixon was trying to get Eishenhower to get into Vietnam , French Indo-china
    at that time. Also, It was Nixon's persecution of Alger Hiss was the preface to the
    McCarthy insanity to come !

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