The Trump administration is embarrassing to the United States
Back in 1988, Michael Dukakis became the first Greek-American to win the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. The odds were not just in his favour, most of the polls found that he'd win and that he'd win big, in the same way they did for Hillary Clinton, at least until late August. The November 8th outcome was just as upsetting and numbing for Democrats as the Clinton loss (yet not as shocking). Not responding to the aggressive character attacking of the Bush campaign and not campaigning on the grassroots are some of the reasons Dukakis believes caused him the White House. Well, he didn't get to sit at the Oval Office but Dukakis has had a pretty amazing academic and political career since then.
Our team located him in Boston, Massachusetts and he wasn't shy on words. He speaks on Trump's presidential inadequacy, on Hillary's loss and on what's next for the Democrats. He highlights his belief of the important role the U.N have to play on international affairs such as Syria, Iran and North Korea. He gives his take on the Cyprus problem and how he thinks the Greek economic crisis can finally be resolved.
We can't know what kind of mark a possible Dukakis administration would have left. We can't know if we would now be living in a better world. But his views, his stature and his commitment on issues can be a good indication of what could have been, of a president that never was.
I want to see my country taking leadership in attempting to do that, not intervening militarily here, there and everywhere as we've been doing ever since World War 2. Usually, with failure.
ON GLOBAL AFFAIRS
Is this surrealistic new-found name calling diplomacy between the North Korean leader and the U.S. president normalized nowadays?
It's sad, it's in the tour and it's very dangerous for both sides.
What's your take on it?
You must understand where I am coming from regarding international affairs. I am a committed internationalist. I am a very strong supporter of the United Nations. That's the Institution we created to dissolve these kind of disputes, resolve them where possible and build a world where war is ruled out as a mean for settling disputes amongst countries. It just so happens that right now, 5/6 of the world are conflict free. That's the first time that has happened in the history of mankind. And it seems to me that our job now is to make the remaining 1/6 conflict free and I want to see my country taking leadership in attempting to do that, not intervening militarily here, there and everywhere as we've been doing ever since World War 2. Usually, with failure. In cases like these, what we're dealing with is situations that potentially could be catastrophic. Modern warfare even without the nukes, is unbelievably destructive, add the nukes and we may see civilizations ending. I'm not blaming just Trump. Although I am a big fan of Barack Obama, I don't know what he and Hillary were doing when it came to Syria. That situation has been deviated by Kofi Annan, remember he came out of retirement at Ban Ki Moon's request, for Syria. He worked very hard and finally he came up with a plan for the gradual democratization of Syria to which Assad agreed! And to get going on this, he called a conference in Istanbul, with 16 countries. One of which was Iran, without Iran you cannot have a settlement for Syria. So what happens. Barack Obama and Hillary found out that Iran was invited and they said 'Well if Iran's going we're not going'. You can't have a settlement in Syria without Iran. They basically blew up the conference and now we have this tragic humanitarian catastrophe going on in Syria. We have to have some kind of commitment to the International organization that, whether we like it or not has done a pretty good work. Somehow, I hope we can persuade Trump that getting involved and committing to the U.N process makes sense but so far, he does not seem to understand this.
If Trump gets into trouble it would have to do more with his business dealings rather than Russian meddling.
ON THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP
Is the Trump administration an embarrassment for the U.S.?
Yes, it is an embarrassment. It's inconsistent, it's unpredictable It's got our allies as confused as we are and it's made a lot of people in the United states very unhappy. That's true whether he's talking about climate change or international affairs or whatever. But we have this Electorate college system, I'm sorry we have it, we should have gotten rid of it years ago and we have this situation where someone loses the election and gets to go to the White House.
Hillary Clinton has a new book out, it's called 'What happened'. What do you think happened?
Well some of it was overconfidence in the Clinton campaign, the feeling that this is an election we couldn't lose. It was also a much less effective campaign on the ground, to get people motivated, whilst the fact that we were coming out of another severe recession led, to the surprise of most of us, to Clinton not getting elected. People weren't feeling as good as the numbers were showing, which is not unusual. It takes a while for people to really believe that things are getting better.
For the E.U to continue to impose austere measures on Greece to get them out of their economic state is a terrible mistake! You can't turn a recession or a depression around with budget cuts and tax increases! It just doesn't work!
It's not just the election of Trump. People have been taking radical election decisions all over the world.
That happened for all the usual reasons. We were coming out of a very serious, international recession. If people can't find good work, are out of work, have been out of work, if their families are struggling, they won't care what the numbers are saying, they're going to be responding to what's happening in their lives. This is one of the reasons that Hillary lost. This is why I suspect she may not actually be… (pause) well, will see what happens, my hope is that she'll be a constructive force within the Democratic party without going back on the road and run again, but we do have dozens and dozens congress candidates and as a party we better sure they're out there, working hard, campaigning at the grassroots. I think the Democrats have a really good chance of taking over the Congress.
Do you think there are chances of Donald Trump getting impeached, especially with the Russian meddling investigation going on?
It's not that I'm not concerned, these kinds of things shouldn’t happen. Surely, I don't have to tell you that the United States have meddled in domestic elections of other countries more than any other country in the face of the Earth. I was telling a friend the other day 'We don't just hack them, we overthrow them'! I think, and I may be dead wrong on this, but I think that, if Trump gets into trouble it would have to do more with his business dealings rather than Russian meddling.
What's wrong there?
He can't get a bank loan in the United States! He had, what, 9 bankruptcies, you don't get money from banks if you've bankrupt 9 times. Where does the money coming from? The source of his funds, his refusal to release his taxes, these would all be important information to have. There will be some indictment coming very soon, especially for people close to Trump that have been involved in his political activities. Muller is a very fine and tough prosecutor, we will see what comes out of there.
ON THE GREEK ECONOMIC DEPRESSION
Is Greece responsible for the situation it's in and to what degree?
Greeks made all kinds of mistakes and wouldn't get into this mess if they didn’t have done so. Parenthetically, with an annual deficit of $700 billion, the United States should not be lecturing others, we've got plenty to deal with ourselves and Trump now wants to tax and blow up the deficit even more! But austerity can't get you out of a depression. Greece is in a depression; 25% unemployment is a depression not a recession. And for the E.U to continue to impose austere measures on Greece to get them out of their economic state is a terrible mistake! You can't turn a recession or a depression around with budget cuts and tax increases! It just doesn't work! I hope at some point our friends at the E.U. will understand this, some of them do and with strong supervision -Greece can't go the road it went down before- a good aggressive economic growth strategy will take place. And it's not as if the E.U. has not done this before. I think they forgave about 20-25% of the Ukraine national debt. They owe to do that for Greece as well.
ON THE CYPRUS PROBLEM
Is the Cyprus problem taking too long to be solved?
I wish I had an answer to this. Honestly, I can't understand why it shouldn't now be possible for Greek and Turkish Cypriots to come together and come to an agreement. I suspect if they were left alone to do that, they could do it. The Turkish side obviously insists on playing a major role. In my discussion with Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who they even look alike (laughs), they seem to really want to collaborate and in many ways, it's their home governments and especially Turkey that's making the negotiations very difficult. The only thing I can say is that they'd keep working at it and finally come to some agreement. If you’re going to resolve these issues you need people with good political skills, with hope in mind, that respect the folks on the other side of the table and who are good listeners.
What's the average American's knowledge on Cyprus and its problem?
Not great… I don't know many Americans that are familiar with Cyprus and its issue. I will say this to you. If a prosecutor found some evidence of serious money laundering that involved Cypriot banks, believe me, we'd hear about it! And a lot more Americans would be aware of what Cyprus is, of where it is but short of that, it's mostly our community and the Turkish-American community that have the strongest interest. I remember having some interesting discussions with Turkish journalists who were following me on the campaign and they were very concerned because I was of Greek descent. What would that mean for a potential peaceful settlement? I said, 'What better than to have an American president of Greek descent, whose father was born in Edremit? My heritage includes both Greece and Turkey and I have a father who was raised and grew up as a minor and became an American success story. I am absolutely the right guy to negotiate a settlement'! And they were looking at me trying to tell if I was kidding them or if I was serious. I was deadly serious! I really believed that I would have been very useful because I was not somebody who carried a lot of hatred around for Turkey. Many Greeks couldn't understand why, they were and are very angry with Turkey. I remember meeting at the Kennedy school at Harvard, with a group of Greek and Turkish Cypriots who have been brought there to discuss the possibility of a future settlement. I walked into the room, sat down, looked around and my first comment was 'I can't tell which ones of you are Greek and which ones are Turkish'! I think this owes to tell us something of our ability to come to some agreement. Needless to say, I would have done everything in my power to achieve that.
ON THE FUTURE
What's the greatest challenge the world faces and how do we deal with it?
Our major challenge internationally is creating a world in which there are Institutions, in this case the U.N. that can resolve differences before they turn into shooting wars. Modern warfare is so destructive that's unacceptable to even talk about pursuing it. I can't understand why the U.S. and Russia are still investing in the modernization of nuclear, I thought we were trying to get rid of it. Even Henry Kissinger wanted to get rid of them. Having Institutions that make it possible for people to live in peace, no matter who they are or what the colour of their skin is, that's our most important challenge.