Ep. 125 - Jeffrey Goldberg

Update: 2017-02-27


Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic magazine, talks with David Axelrod about the prospects for Middle East peace during the Trump administration, the demands of leading a news organization in the Trump era, and what Trump’s foreign policy intentions could mean for global stability.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

the board for the acts files comes from rockin' mortgage my Quicken loans lift the burden of getting a home loan with rockin' mortgage and get a secure transparent home loan approval in minutes skip the bank of the waiting then go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files This podcast is brought you by sixty DB listen to conversations that go beyond the headlines business sports politics today's news plus all of your favorite podcasts download the free sixty DB at today the the the and now from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN The X Files with your host David Axelrod the the the given the state of the world it's good to sit down someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about it reporting on it writing about it and Jeffrey Goldberg is one of the saddest and most insightful commentators in global affairs and now as the editor of The Atlantic he's leading a venerable news organization into this uncharted waters of life with Donald Trump we sat down and talked about all of that more the the the Jeff Goldberg welcome welcome to the park guests welcome to the Institute of Politics good to see a thank you thanks for having a very interesting times this momentous times I wanna I wanna get it into what this moment means but before we get to all of that I just wanna talk a little bit about about you you're now sitting in one of the really prestigious purchase of American journalism editing Atlantic but of the hated mainstream media exactly but you've got a lot of coffee oasis of you've got a lot you've got a lot a lot of good happening Yeah but I want to ask you about them how you came to all of this I was interested in in reading about your early years your formative years and particularly of your your your search for identity in the way that that safe we know I would for president who talked alot about his search for identity but you're identified very much with Middle East issues with issues of Israel has a relate to how you grew how you grew up so we're going to psycho analyze me were doing well yes with this a special two hour paid us a special two hour want to get the double know it it isn't just me thinking alot about this for policy reasons more than personal reasons were coming up on the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War and talk about that certainly and obviously the current president has been talking about that in new and interesting ways the you know I I grew up in a strange circumstance that mad that I grieve only a few miles from or Donald Trump are up and actually understand him I think a little little better than many people do because I understand that the highly emphasized highly insulted and discourse that yes that ye become a New Yorker my so that no Stuyvesant Town yes the I think I understand I mean I was a jump from Brooklyn right over Queens and Nassau but it was the same sort of stew sort of hot crazy stew of ethnic and racial groups pressing up against each other I am at my parents managed to find the one place on the island the rest of Jews why was that I was wondering about the I think it's because they were our left leaning Jews out of Brooklyn think diaper baby it's not red diaper baby and they thought of themselves this is this is just this is a more common Jewish or even a non Jewish Torah they thought we want our kids to want a lawn or backyard so we can get a broken who can afford to live here but we want our kids to go to integrated schools or mainly African American school so they found a school district the mile on a sixty percent African American the rest of us are Catholic that I Irish with my whole upbringing was shaped by the fact that that the Italian Irish contingent and where I grew up didn't have much feeling for Jews and a love that the euphemism getting the crap beat outta me but the it was black kids who actually couple of black friends back in middle school taught me how to fight and that was interesting for me his experience what it did was it it's a classic Sarge had this notion of the of Jews being created by anti Semitism to find a way I think it's partially true it's not very pleasant but it's partially true in my case where when people outside are telling you you're different you're bad and many cases as a young person very young he become the flea Judaism the Jewish so you sort of and embrace it and say What is this thing and so when I went to Israel for the first times a thirteen year old foreign bar mitzvah something clicked and I said this is interesting a Jewish majority state a powerful place Stars of David on tanks you know if you are powerless kid I wrote about this in a book you're powerless kid this UConn to this and that that set off what I think would be fair the term slightly more intellectual I's journey toe or this set of issues and toward understanding what Israel is an understanding Israel's place in the world in the Jewish world and how we as American Jews can relate to it I did move there I join the Army for brief time I thought of Zambia kibbutz that for a couple years turns out the chicken farming is incredibly boring and there you have an interlude where you came back to the state I was back and forth for a while I was actually it was kind of odd situation which I was running was the washing Post internships and then moving back to my kibbutz to work as a chicken farmer and then going back to the Washington Post are a living with Malcolm Gladwell at one point three Malcolm and I were room outcome actually introduced me to my wife this is well before he was Malcolm Gladwell he wishes the Washington Post reporter came home one day and he said I met the woman you should marry this is obviously I don't know thirty almost thirty years ago and I said sure whatever but this is this was blink an action that would actually work lastly what about the stuff is not to notice talking about it yeah I think he is talking about and and so you went you went back and forth between Israel and the US which edition experience I felt very much Israeli and a kind of way in America until I actually moved to Israel and that's where I sort of discovered how organically American I am you know I mean I you have to go to another place to sort of understand how your thought patterns how your beliefs are shaped so deeply by growing up in America may be more of an American Patriot actually actually live over there you know when I was young reporter The Chicago Tribune I went to Israel and those twenty three and actually the opposite experience because I I grew up in New York and in the city and you I was five stylists and no shortage of Jews by that time right to a sort of unremarkable is only when I got to the Midwest that kind of majority experienced exactly yeah exactly yeah well into Israel to do some stories some feature stories and I was really really taken by the experiences was in the late seventies the reason I was taken by was there was still romanticism there and you know that people because and the people were faced with this sort of mortal these mortal concerns that there was less of a focus on sort of rampant materialism now it's all about I mean it's all about existential issues and I found that you can imagine I found that the really appealing and I thought it actually you know that was something that I appreciated having come from America because we were sort of awash in rampant in a rampant materialism country still trying to define itself which is interesting experiment to take part in although not less so today is not fair so you know I was when you said SEC you when you said romanticism of it in the seventies and there still are romanticism of it but it's more religious romanticism now right you were you were a period when there is a secular romanticism yes that's what I came you know in in eighties when when when the key books when this this this socialist idealism of the of the founding of the stay was still more of a salient feature now it's that there's I mean this is the shift obviously this is a world historical shift in into the nature of the country if it's moving is moving toward more of a theocratic model of existence it's becoming more Middle Eastern descent down and so there is romanticism but it's not Mr. Madison that somebody was basically secular oriented this doesn't change the character of the country and what are the implications for that the implications are huge is a there's obvious a struggle to define what Israel is a democratic state with a Jewish majority is it a Jewish state with a partial democratic values is a Jewish state that doesn't really care about democratic values these were settled issues but by the way this isn't unique to Israel a global global wave of liberalism or a democracy is on the defensive end Ross the born Israel is not immune to that that those discussions every Jewish cast because it's trying to figure out what is the main purposes it is it more important for Israel to be Jewish or is it more important for to be democratic and these are the is the fundamental question that's being debated fifty years after the Six Day War and the split obviously between much of American jury and much of Israeli Jewry is this on these questions yeah it's also central to current events and this transition of administrations because of Pres Obama was very much committed to the two state solution and said at the core of it was his concern about Israel's ability to survive as a Jewish democratic state I recall having a couple conversations will a lengthy one with you but it was actually an interesting thing I hope we can get it out it was an interesting thing how deeply commited intellectually and emotionally in a kind of way he was to this argument and trying to figure it out obviously the level of frustration was high for the little frustration was high because it was so important to him actually and ice to get in trouble as you recall for referring to him is the first Jewish president and what I meant by that was something very specific that to me he was he was having the same anxieties about Israel as a typical Reform Rabbi and I'm not just talking about the mill you and what she came up intellectually and politically but but there was a grappling with these questions on on Israel I found totally fascinating and relate to because I was having them myself I think he thought of himself as being part of community having that debate and that obviously didn't sit well with the Israeli prime minister or with certain portions of least of the American Jewish Committee I think you and I had this Radio Hour really become I walked into will get other parts of the world I walked into his office I think I told you the story once when I was working in the White House and he was sitting in the little dining room off of the Oval Office and he was clearly contemplative and it seemed a little down and eyes and I asked them what was wrong and he and he said he talked about how hurtful it was to be depicted as an anti Semite and he said what you said he said You know I think I'm the closest thing to accuse ever sat in this office he said my value system of the things that I think a lot of elaborate theories that I hope turn into a book about this but basically I think when he met Benjamin Netanyahu he met some a Jewish person who was not like the countless other Jews he met in High Park circles yet with his mentors Abner make Newton minnow these are labor sites said that he basically broke Obama the labors I guess but yet know that it and I didn't understand I got a full blast without wants of his of that hurt which of course one doesn't associate Barack Obama with having deep feelings her emotion anger so rational about it but I realized after talking to him once that that he was experiencing that accusation the way you order you would experience an accusation of being called a racist over and over again in public yes which is like i'm know i'm not how could you possibly think that I'm this thing is a policy debate obviously under lying the conversation and he might have been right about emphasizing the settlement issue might have been wrong about I don't know I have to think he was right to bring it up as a problem or is a cause for concern but that's completely separate from what he was experiencing which was these accusations that you're a hater of the Jews which was very painful for a guy who thinks himself as a file a semi and who also identifies the Jewish community with the civil rights movement that was something that he sprang from the iron and tell you God knows but I'll tell you that that is in Chicago one of seven political problems sometimes because he seems to close the Jewish mean yes in fact when he ran for Congress and lost by three runs in in two thousand that was one of the charges that was that was sealed say as you say I find it deeply ironic that a darkly amusing thing was is the expression that he might use yes was that Lucy would with Jeffrey Goldberg you might use motherland I'm sure when he's not on the record plunge in ways but obviously the all of this founders around this issue of the two state solution versus the one state solution has always been a non solution on solution ok but that but Tom Friedman was sitting right where you're sitting now you see in this very chair yes can you feel the aura I'm never going to watch but and and he basically said there is no two state solution anymore that that's that it has the voice Yeah I mean the only constant in the Middle East a sudden and dramatic change so I would never write off something a hundred for Sat there are events that take place that are disastrous and miraculous everyday so but with that being said it's hard to see a path to this thing well now you have an administration that you heard the president in his side by side with Bibi Netanyahu the other day saying one state to state whatever is good with analysts Tuesday three state is good with me yeah which of course was shocking to his sector stay who had not known that the reason to be a policy shift that upon that no hypocrisy ship but a bedrock foreign policy doctrine of the United States government going back you know the Oslo period twenty five years write this this is the way we should reserve that discussion for a couple minutes from now because I do want to talk about the implications of his approach to foreign policy but since we're on Israel of what where are we relative to the status of Israel and the Palestinians and wears Netanyahu now it seems to me that he now has a president who has basically said I'm going to Greenlight much of what you want and that presents almost a political problem for him because he always was able to say Willow but I'd like to do this to his his right flank but the Americans won't let me look the mystery at the core of the Netanyahu question is we don't really actually know what he wants we don't know this is something that Barack Obama try to drop out of him repeatedly is wat is the alternative to the status quo that exists today right now everything is temporary it's a fifty year temporary process but it's temporary it's all de facto there is a Jordan attacked Israel from the West Bank West Bank was seized by Israel and here we are and it's still up for discussion and resolution and we don't really know what I want I say that because he is not associated with the religious nationalist camp which believes there's a theological reason to be there and therefore we shouldn't be there and other considerations are secondary is not that can't but is politically reliant on their soup yet he doesn't I mean he is nervous is now about Trump is that Trump will buttress parties to his right not to his left I mean he's he might exude the day though that's my point yet you sat down with the bass are designated David Friedman at a conference so I question him at a conference yes yeah and we're strange he seems to be right there with the right flank of Netanyahu's active supporter of the settlement movement and he's now back peddled obviously because he is to get confirmed and he's taking back some of the things he said but I I I I believe mi hee hee Gras for five minutes for me I get twenty fifteen ten minutes I understand his his type as well there's a kind of a five towns orthodoxy that's very tight ends in New York Times as the town's orthodoxy that is very much committed to the settlement process where everybody has relatives now live in the settlement so I get where he is actually funded the So yeah he's he's given money and time so he's quite different than Dan Shapiro of the previous ambassador both are committed to strong U S is relationship it's completely different I have no idea what's going to happen and I think Netanyahu if he sat down and thought about it for second so first he breathed a sigh of relief because that pain and Obama is off the scene right now he's got a guy who could turn him on a dime because it has fixed the leaves well transaction also I mean and you know the siren song is always there the siren song of Middle East peace is always there for any president any sectors day Obama felt it for a while and then shut it down but John Kerry never was able to sort of turned off entirely there's a desire to make the deal because this is the big enchilada you don't get the Nobel Peace Prize for fixing to go in a car by Sir or Yes this is the big one and so the ultimate deal maker in his own mind would like to make the ultimate deal and who knows in two or three years what what screws is going to try to put on Bibi Netanyahu it's an interesting thought experiment that take a short break we'll be right back with Jeff Kolb or rocket mortgage by Quicken loans proudly supports the X Files when it comes to the big decision of choosing a mortgage lender it's important to work with someone you can trust leisure best interests in mind with rockin' mortgage you'll get a transparent online process that gives you the confidence you need to make an informed decision skip the bank of the waiting and go completely online at Quicken loans dot com slash X Files equal Housing lender license in all fifty states and MLS consumer access dot org Number thirty thirty what do you make of the president is signing his son in law Jared Kushner as his principal Middle East negotiator walking in the steps of Martin in the can George Mitchell and others who would you argue D for the icon that aside I would I would quote your previous guest Tom Friedman who had a very fine line on the city's principal qualification is that he's been to Jewish summer camp on the other hand I would note for the record I'm not being overly a survey here when I note that Martin Dick and George Mitchell and thirty or forty previous Dennis Ross towing all about Jim Bakker the great geniuses of American homes we fail to achieve it so I'm I have this semi series view which is I don't give it a shot let let Jared cushion or I mean it's almost there's almost like a Jewish comic novel in this his relationship with that yeah and then a boy named Jared Kushner emerge from Trump Tower and brought to the warring to the tribes of Abraham who knows but I'm not putting my actual money on this proposition because I don't think I don't think for reasons having to do with Palestinian politics and Muslim theology An Israeli politics and Jewish theology I don't think it's actually possible to bring peace to that part of the world but you know at least ten years ago to this absurd and ridiculous but nothing has worked and so you know knock and it totally disparaged the idea may be new thinking is needed you um I'm sure use of the story that service as the day that we're recording this about John Kerry's initiative and pushing hard and apparently had by an at least as the story was written from other leaders in the Middle East to recognize Israel in exchange for his returning to the the to the table and negotiating with the Palestinians and Netanyahu said no because the city even think you could survive that politically do you believe that that happened you look all the reporting around Middle East peace is shrouded in fog and there's obviously agenda is being played out in every direction I believe that John Kerry tried very hard I believe that some of the things he did were flawed body basically pushed hard and look for creative solutions I believe that bottom that this process founder as Barack Obama I think predicted it would its founder Dawn on two main issues the first was the weakness of Palestinian politics that Abu Mazen Mahmoud Abbas the president of the palace in authority is in many ways a moderate on if you look at continuum is a moderate but was hopelessly weak and corrupt and couldn't deliver and in even more important in his calculation was that Netanyahu would never take the steps necessary to bring about peace process that would work the day that the shorthand in Israel for this is that the Beast thinks he's the mayor of Jerusalem he has this kind of vision free municipal understanding of everyone's got through the day after the next day there's no vision there and and i bought from what I can tell I think Barak Obama his biggest complaint about BV is legitimate complaint which is that you would never spend political capital in order to achieve a bold bold solution would never risk his base he BB is I think he's now ranked second behind and gory entire length of service as prime minister apparently he's more interested in being the longest serving prime minister of Israel any isn't trying to deliver an elaborate theory about this that I can give you in twelve seconds if you want however can it be well I'm pretty good boiling stock I think we're on Twitter you know I can get this three seats in the Israeli pantheon designs pantheon hurts a huge ramped up the modern political Zionism replace spiritual Zionism and Zionism Greene who made it a reality and in that third seat is empty that's the person who would ensure Israel's permanent place under the sun right permanent borders recognition by its neighbors it was supposed to be it's ever been he was assassinated it could have been Arial Sharon but he was felled by a stroke and he's the guy the tragedy of BB is that he's the only person who could deliver sixty to seventy percent of Israeli public to a painful compromise precisely because he so hard headed and treacherous and all those things that you know first hand but he is there any any I don't think he's ever going to be there one of the changes you said that's been the sort of fifty or status quo but one of the things that's changed other than demographics which is making it harder to come to any sort of accord is you mention Sharon Rabin the is the passing from the scene of these great military leaders who had the stature and were able to reassure people on security and ease of apologies a very pro fission politician but he doesn't have that he doesn't have and there's no one who has yet emerged on them in the On the other side of the debate who can fill left with the Israeli left wing will not make peace the Israeli left wing can make war but can't make peace and right wing is curtailed its ability to make war but could make peace but BB is funny only in Israel would someone who has been six years as a commando be thought of as light in the military resume department but it's true he's not a great general and he's certainly not a founding father of Israel in a way that Rabin Sharon Moore but he still never last because he's so hard headed he does have the credibility that and he does have this political capital he could conceivably spend at least two but there's no final status solution there's no there's no permanent fix to this right now but there are steps that can be take intermediate steps that would lead to maybe better steps down the road and but he won't even go there let last question about this is the this discussion of moving the capital which always come to the embassy the embassy I should say to the capital of or the capital it is rare Israel claims which is Jerusalem but moving from TV to Jerusalem which would be a incredibly provocative act from the standpoint of Palestinians would but everything's provocative act I mean the existence of Israel's provocative act so I mean this this this is huge if that would not do you think you would not be there so it could cause riots but you know but a lot of things can cause riots just as one of those it seems to me it's for a pragmatic perspective it's not particularly necessary you would be moving a building from territory that was Israel in nineteen forty eight the territory that was as real nineteen forty eight to Westerners love the capital of Israel is Jerusalem Knesset the parliament is there the prime ministers or the president is there it's become this stand an issue for a lot of anxieties and obviously if you're a president is in making a deal it's one of these things that you hold out to the Israelis and say look if you go I'm pushing the Palestinians on the set of issues in our reward them for moving in my direction and I'll reward you by moving the embassy to Jerusalem there's no particular need if your negotiator sort of give that one away for free this doesn't strike me as it just doesn't strike me though who who made a point of this all presidents do all the candidates do well or the Republican candidate for the Democrat candidates yeah I think that's why he probably overblown I think is an overblown issue and I think you mean I think if he thought about five minutes he would do it because why would you why would you give away something free that you can use to extract a concession talk about the rest of the region it's very cozy fleece us because because as frayed as this is it it seems easy compared to the joke of his conversations that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is the six most important conflict in the Middle East it doesn't matter as a as a subject you know your or your President Obama his first Ash Security advisor Jim Jones was PA
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Ep. 125 - Jeffrey Goldberg

The Axe Files with David Axelrod