Bob Graham, Former Senator and Governor of Florida HARDtalk

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Bob Graham, Former Senator and Governor of Florida

Zeinab Badawi speaks to Bob Graham. He hails from the liberal wing of the Democrat party. Has his type of politics gone out of fashion?

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Coming up next for you, it's HARDtalk.


Welcome to HARDtalk, with me, Zeinab Badawi, in the US state of Florida.


My guest is one of the most popular politicians in contemporary US


history. He is Senator Bob Graham, the former governor of Florida who


also served three terms in the U.S. Senate. But with Donald Trump in the


White House and the Republicans controlling capital Hill, have


Democrats like him lost the political arguments?


Senator Bob Graham, welcome to HARDtalk. Thank you very much, I


appreciate you coming to this side of the Atlantic. Thank you. You have


spent most of your life in public service as a politician. Does that


make you a professional politician? In some places that's considered a


pejorative. I think that being a politician in a democracy is one of


the highest callings. You have the responsibility to make this


difficult system of government work for the benefit of the people. And


if that makes you a professional politician, so much the better. You


have somebody in the White House now who has styled himself as the anti-


politician, Donald Trump, businessmen, and that has kind of


resonated quite well with a lot of voters. -- businessman. Politicians


are not always held in high esteem. Yes, and there has been a vein of


American political leadership which has prided itself in not having any


previous experience in politics all government before they were elected.


The results of that have been somewhat mixed. I personally think


that if you have open-heart surgery you wouldn't want to be the first


person that that position had ever operated on, and I think in


politics, there is some benefit in having experience and having dealt


with similar individuals and issues, and we can bring all of that to the


best resolution of the problem moving forward. So you are saying


Donald Trump does not have the right experience to do the job he is doing


now? Well, I think he would be better off in some of his actions in


the first 50 days of his presidency illustrate this, if he had had some


previous political experience. Has he packed his Cabinet with lots of


business people and so on, successful people like Rex


Tillerson, who had a very polishing career as an oil executive. I mean,


these are people who have got things done, and it is good to introduce


cloud like that into the political system. -- blood like that. I


believe that having had some experience doing the job for which


you have just been elected is advantageous. So were you surprised


when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by just over 1% in the


presidential election? Because Florida is not natural Republican


territory. It was Democrat under Barack Obama, and George W bush won


it by just a few votes. Were you surprised and disappointed? Yes, I


was surprised and disappointed. I thought Hillary Clinton was uniquely


prepared to be president of the United States at a very challenging


time. But I think one of the lessons, and there are a number of


lessons from the 2016 election, was that Trump, or people on his behalf,


had been listening to what the American people were saying, and


what they were hearing was that many people felt that the government had


forgotten about them and disrespected them, was not dealing


with the issues that affected their lives, particularly economic issues.


Trump, and Senator Sanders on the Democratic side, were the two


candidates who did listen and they spoke to those concerns. I think one


of the challenges for the Democratic Party is going to be to reconnect


with what had been its most reliable source of support, working people


who deal day today with those economic problems that caused them


to be so distressed. -- day to day. So have the Democrats lost the plot?


Barack Obama, after the defeat of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump,


said this, which is a very interesting quote. " We know that


the Republicans have been very systematic in building from the


ground up and communicating to state legislatures and financing school


board races and public utility commission races, and you know I am


a proud Democrat, but I do think we have a bias towards national issues


and International is used". -- International issues. Correct, I


bought -- I agree with President Obama. I believe we have lost touch


with our core constituents. The message we were communicating was


not something they were interested in listening to. We have a challenge


to come up with some creative solutions to the issue of the


forgotten Americans and the political skill to put those ideas


into place. So do you think now about the kind of people in the


United States who backed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and those


who backed Donald Trump, that there is a divide there? You know, gay


marriage, that kind of thing appeals to one group of people indie


American population, others are more interested in economics. You think


society is now polarised, or the think Democrats will move towards


the kind of territory Trump is now occupying? I think there is a


divide, but it is more in terms of how you express the issue rather


than sharing common values on the issue. I think if you gave Senator


Sanders and Hillary Clinton and exam on the key issues, and they would be


in 90% of instances, their answers would be the same. But Bernie


Sanders made those issues that he had heard people lamenting about the


centrepiece of his campaign, and it was somewhat of a less important


part of the message that Hillary Clinton communicated. I think that


was a significant reason that Donald Trump was elected President. Do it


Democrats like you, known as the dog house Democrats, because you are


from the progressive wing of the party a few years ago, when you have


the more conservative Democrats and you always in the doghouse with them


because your liberal stance, you support things like the environment,


you are very active in trying to get clean water in Florida and so on,


but these issues again are not necessarily priorities for the


American people. The pew research survey did a survey in July 2016,


before the election, and out of 14 issues, the environment was number


12 out of 14. The top issues were things like economy, jobs,


healthcare, education, which are the very subjects Donald Trump is


focused on. He says, you know, unemployment was only 4.7% in


February, I am bringing jobs in. He is hitting the right notes. Yes,


clearly he was hitting the right notes. I also believe he took the


opportunities that were available to him to localise it, to say, well,


this is not just a theory. I am concerned about the people in


Indiana who have worked this company that is about to move to thousands


jobs to Mexico. -- 2000 jobs. He took a general issue and put it in a


very specific, tangible, understandable setting, and said, as


president I am going to do something about it, such as changing our trade


relationships with Mexico. Do you think he is striking the right note


when, for example, he accuses the Obama admin is to -- Administration


of, during the election, budding Trump Tower. No... He tweeted that


Obama was either bad or sick. You do not have to resort to schoolyard


yelling and defamation of other people in order to listen to people


and understands what they are fundamental concerns are, and show


that you care about those people. I think that President Trump has


fallen into a pattern of making this very emotional, in this case, he has


just called the former president of the United States a criminal because


of wiretapping without going through a judicial process, which is a


crime, and he has... Overstepped the line? He has a responsibility to


make some basis on making that charge, and to be able to back up


that basis. It has been over ten days since he has done this and he


is yet to come forward and say, here is why I feel that President Obama


committed this criminal act. James Kearney, the head of the FBI, has


dismissed the claim. -- James Kearney. -- Comey. There has been


quite a lot of invective held at the US intelligence agencies by Donald


Trump, in particular over the alleged leaking by them of certain


activities that he undertook in Moscow. Is it good for a president


to be a plain speaker like that Lord do you think it is dangerous,


because he needs to keep the intelligence establishment on side?


-- like that, or do you think. It is not only bad practice. It is an


assault against our national security for the President to have


such a toxic relationship of the intelligence community. The purpose


of the intelligence community, primarily, is to inform


decision-makers and especially the president of the United States, as


commander-in-chief, on issues that might threaten the security of the


American people. If there is not a relationship of trust and respect


between the President and the intelligence community leadership,


we have just wasted tens of billions of dollars every year as we try to


collect the information that will put the President in the best


position to make wise decisions that are beneficial to world peace and to


the security of Americans. You are calling for a bipartisan, bicameral


enquiry into quite what Donald Trump and his colleagues' links to Russia


were during and after the election. We already have some enquiries, the


FBI is doing one. Isn't that enough? Do we need any more? I have


advocated that the existing intelligence committees in the house


and the senate take the first shot at doubling the information. That is


what happened after 9/11. For the first two years, the committees of


Congress were responsible for gathering the information about what


happened. Then it was turned over to a citizens' commission, who took


another two years to further examine 9/11. That is the process. I think


it is particularly important now, because if we do not show to the


Russians that we take this very seriously, that an attack against


the fundamental essence of our democracy is totally unacceptable,


then I think they are going to hear a message of immunity. We did this,


lots of people have verified that we were responsible, and yet the


government didn't do anything, so let's keep doing it. Not only


against the United States, but next year, or later this year, 2017, we


are going to have elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands,


other places around the globe, and they are likely to be subjected to


Russian interference in their elections. Do you think we will ever


get to know quite what has gone on? Yes, I think it is a no ball fact.


-- knowable fact. We just have to take it out of being a partisan


political issue and make it an issue about the sanctity of American


democracy. I think we can get fully to the bottom of this and be able to


answer to the people of the world just what was the nature and why did


the Russians become so involved in US elections. You were a chair of


the senate intelligence committee. You also chaired the Congressional


enquiry into the September 11 attacks. We have also seen, on the


grounds of security, Donald Trump is saying that it is necessary to ban


citizens from half a dozen Muslim majority countries. He has also been


very critical of judges and officials who have said that they do


not agree with that move. Is that also something that worries you?


It does. First at a practical level. If we are going to be successful in


the war against Isis it will be largely because we formed successful


partnerships with Muslims as individuals and Muslim nations. And


to go out of their way to throw sand in their face and be disrespectful


of their religion is no way to build those partnerships. So I think this


attitude of singling out Muslims and specifically saying that their


access to the US will be more limited than anyone else to announce


from the podium that he would like to exclude all Muslims from coming


to the United States, those are exactly what we'll energise Isis and


make it even more of a threat than it is today. So when Donald Trump


says, I want to make America a safer place and therefore these measures


are necessary and we know that terrorism is one of the top


priorities for American citizens, you think this kind of measures will


not make America safer? I think they are absolutely the opposite effect.


-- they have. Are the right countries on the list? I would have


put Saudi Arabia on the list. To me, Saudi Arabia is the country that had


the closest relationship with Osama Bin Laden and in support of the 19


hijackers who carried out 9/11. To leave them off the list of Muslim


countries, middle eastern countries which have acted in a way


detrimental it against the US, to me makes no sense at all. But of course


the Saudi authorities have said consistently and persistently that


they had no institutional involvement in the September the


11th attacks and that was really the finding of the congressional


enquiry. My conclusion, having read most maybe even more of the


available material on the issue, is that Saudi Arabia was the principal


facilitator of the hijackers and that 9/11 would not have occurred


but for that facilitation. The Saudi government refutes that totally.


Talking of immigration of a different kind, the wall that


President Trump says he will build and of course Florida's Hispanic


population is about 23%. This is actually still, again, a move which


was quite popular with a lot of people because they are concerned


about drug pushers coming in and also migrants coming in and pushing


down wages because they are taking jobs from low paid and unskilled


workers, so again he is striking a chord with a lot of voters in


Florida. I have two concerns. One, a history of trying to build walls or


bans or other physical barriers and keep out your enemies has not been a


very good one. The French invested greatly in building the marginal war


before World War Two started and Hitler in a couple of days ran his


tanks are for all around it. I think the same thing will happen to this


wall in terms of its ability to exclude people from coming to the


United States. Second, I think it takes your eye off the real issue.


The real issue in my opinion is that, yes, we need to have secure


borders, but we also need to be contributing to the well-being of


our neighbours, so that they will have less of an impetus to want to


come to the United States. And more of cooperation, not less, in my


opinion, is an important key to stabilising the border between the


US and Mexico. It is interesting that a lot has been made about this


statement by Trump having to deport 2 million, maybe as many as 3


million, because President Obama deported 2.7 million in regular


migrants from Carberry, far more than any other president before him.


-- migrants, far more. So is what President Trump suggesting very


different from what Barack Obama did? In the early days of the Trump


administration, it appears as if he has been more aggressive and


assertive in deporting those who came to the United States without


documentation. I think what we need is what President Obama advocated


and came very close to accomplishing, which is a


comprehensive immigration law that deals with all of the issues that we


have. Legal immigration, whether people can come to the US and get


proper papers and work legally, what do we do about the now 11 million


undocumented aliens who are in the United States? Do we let them live


as a shadow class forever or do we figure out some way which they can


be assimilated into the US? President Trump blustering in his


proposal of things that are dramatic and intangible, like the wall, have


taken us away from dealing with what I think is really going to be


permanent and significant in resolving this issue of immigration


in the US. Just finally looking at the state of the Democrats in the


United States, I mean, really your fortunes are very low at the moment.


The Republicans control both houses of Congress, obviously the White


House... Ewen McKenzie six states -- you control. Democrats like you are


really losing the argument. Your kind of politics is out of fashion.


I don't think so. I think you are being a little bit harsh. Let's


remember that Mrs Clinton did get almost 3 million more votes than


Donald Trump. The difference particularly in the US Senate is


only two... 52. So it isn't as if it's a tidal wave of change. I think


the Democratic Party does need to look seriously at itself, more than


trying to organise around specifically identifiable groups of


voters. That we organise around policies that will be beneficial to


those voters, as our traditional base. The Democratic Party has been


the party that represents the interests to the working American


family. It has done enormously good things from education to healthcare,


the economic opportunities. We need to go back to those values and I


think the Democratic Party will be around for a long time. How should


they conduct themselves now on Capitol Hill? We have the US Supreme


Court, the Senate hearing will have -- be happening soon. The Democrat


support is needed. Do you think they should play hardball? It is tempting


to say that they wouldn't even give a hearing to the person that


President Obama nominated to fill this vacancy in the Supreme Court,


why should we give their selection any particular support? I think that


would add further to the public's discontent about the way that


government is being operated. It's almost childish to say they did a


bad thing, so we're going to reciprocate with an equally bad


thing. I think we ought to judge this... The gentleman who has been


nominated on his merits, which seemed to be superficially at least


very solid, and if he stands the test of close scrutiny vote for him.


Similarly, look for opportunities such as on infrastructure, which


Democrats have long supported, to find common ground. Let's show the


American people that the American democracy can work for them. Senator


Bob Graham, thank you very much for coming on HARDtalk thank you.


Things are going to turn more unsettled as we head towards the end


Zeinab Badawi speaks to one of the most popular politicians in contemporary American history - Bob Graham. He has never lost an election and has served as a state legislator, Florida governor, and three time Senator in the US Senate. He hails from the progressive, liberal wing of the Democrat party. But with Donald Trump in the White House and the Republicans controlling Capitol Hill, has his type of politics gone out of fashion?