tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg July 8, 2017 5:00am-6:00am EDT
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." susan: good evening. i am susan glasser filling in for charlie rose who is traveling. in a speech in poland on thursday, president trump attacked the news media, president obama, and american intelligence agencies while voicing confidence in the will of western nations to defend themselves against common enemies. the president's stop in warsaw was the first of an international trip that will take into homburg, germany, where the g-20 summit begins tomorrow. the meeting marks the first time president trump and russian president vladimir putin will meet in person. joining me now is peter baker,
my husband, my friend, my colleague, and chief white house correspondent for the "new york times." karen, is the senior national respondent and the u.s. columnist for the financial times. i am delighted to be welcoming all of you to "charlie rose" tonight. we are all delighted to be standing in his stead. i cannot think of a better group to talk about the trump administration and foreign policy. this is the beginning of this big second leg of his overseas adventures as president. peter, what do you think about what happened today in poland? this was a major moment i think for president trump. peter: the choice of poland is instructive. why does he go to poland before meeting with vladimir putin in germany? he goes to poland to reassure central and eastern europeans who have been dubious about his expressed friendship with the president of russia and feel the
need for reassurance. he gave what his staff wanted him to give them, a robust speech in the center of warsaw. very pro-polish, and he said russia needed to be confronted on destabilizing activity in ukraine and syria. by the end of the day, he had a press conference where he was not on script and seemed to get a different message. he was asked again, do you believe russia meddled in the election last year and what would you do about it? he said i think it was russia, it could have been some other countries, nobody knows for sure. again, casting doubt on it. and attacking president obama for not doing more about it even though president trump is not sure it happened. and then he mentioned the iraq war intelligence fiasco. these mixed messages are an interesting product of his first day. susan: it is the full spectrum of donald trump.
you have the obsessive, micromanaging partisan figure. and then this bombastic speech. i want to ask you about this speech. donald trump seems to have embraced the full on clash of civilizations rhetoric in this speech. did you hear anything new in what he had to say? >> no, but the context of where he gave the speech. the first stop in europe is poland, warsaw, where they had the law and justice party government that is right wing. catholic, right-wing government. they refuse to allow muslim refugees. the european union is suing poland because it is in breach of european rules. they very much share the anti-globalist, steve bannon sort of worldview that i think trump expressed strongly in his speech. the speech talked of western civilization being under an
existential challenge. he mentioned western civilization several times. the word democracy does not appear anywhere. remember, the venue he chose is an illiberal democracy. i would say this is a speech without mentioning her name aimed squarely at angela merkel. i do not share your worldview, this is not my worldview. my worldview is western civilization first, if you like, sort of an acknowledgment of america first. susan: do you think this was aimed at merkel or vladimir putin? did trump manage to send a message to russia and a message to our nervous allies that we were still on their side? karen: i think part of the speech was obviously aimed at putin and nato members. he did do the obligatory support of article five.
he did say russia needs to watch what it is doing and stop threatening the west. but i do think, as ed said, the crux of the speech was the clash of civilizations. the clash he outlined was the west versus dangers out there, which he mostly defined as terrorism and extremists. but it was also his part of the west and poland's part of the west, with merkel's part of the west. he said faith and family are more important than government and bureaucracy. he said the question is whether the west has the will to survive. and then he made it clear what that will meant for him. it meant being anti-immigration. it meant standing up for values. but those values were not values of globalization, and the kind of values we consider in recent years as part of the west.
he drew a really firm line in what was a pretty dark speech. susan: somebody said it is the european carnage speech, the bookend to the american carnage inaugural. i'm glad that you brought it up. to me, that sounds a lot like vladimir putin's definition of the west. he often speaks in very similar terms about traditional values and our war against terrorism. he defines russia in those terms as allied with that kind of west. i was really struck by that. the themes donald trump is sounding are not the kind of themes that would be naturally reassuring to western allies in europe but are similar ideologically to those of vladimir putin. peter, do you think if this speech was meant to shore up nervous allies in nato and eastern europe that he succeeded in doing that?
peter: probably not. it would take more than one speech. they understand this was a pre-scripted text he was given and he approved and delivered. as we have seen in the past, it does not necessarily stand the test of time as policies defining his administration going forward. i think you are right about the connection between the way vladimir putin defines our shared values is a place of commonality for the two of them to talk about tomorrow. you did not hear angela merkel say that when they met today. in fact, you saw mostly stony silence as the two of them appeared. ed, i think you wrote the leader of the liberal world order will be hosting the president of the united states. angela merkel has emerged as a dominant player in this conversation. that is a meeting you almost
wish you were a fly on the wall for as much as the putin one. ed: there are two wests here in competition. there is one angela merkel is standing up for, a rules-based global order. and is increasingly de facto being seen as the leader of. and then there is this more bannon-ite one. your point about checking the boxes on article 5 of nato and asking russia to stand back in terms of hostilities in eastern ukraine, these were two sentences and one sentence respectively in a five-page speech about western civilization. those were the things the national security side insisted trump sign off on. the rest was him. peter: this seemed out of the blue although there have been a number of sessions and negotiations going on behind the
scenes. karen: theoretically, we have no talks with russia at all. the russians said they handheld -- they canceled the d confliction talks. -- the deconfliction talks. american officials said the talks are better than ever and going on all the time. one thing trump said before he came into office is he thought the united states and russia should cooperate against the islamic state. that has gotten buried under all the other conflict with russia. i think tillerson is trying to revive that, not only because to the administration it seems like the right thing to do, but because of what is going on in syria on the ground. you have all of a sudden assad with his allies, russia and iran, taking off away from populated areas in the west toward eastern syria where the islamic state is while the
united states to the north of that around the islamic state capital in syria moving against the islamic state. those forces are getting closer and closer together. rather than warning off assad, russia, iran, we said let's cooperate. let's make sure we don't run into each other. i think that is what tillerson is saying, that should be the subject of the talks between putin and trump. the white house has said nothing about what they want to talk about. will that be the subject of their talks? i don't think we know. susan: i want to get everybody on this question. i personally am perplexed everyday. people ask about trump's foreign policy. i don't know what it is. in particular, on russia. i think if you put a gun to the head of a trump white house official, they cannot tell you right now what our policy is toward russia.
what do you think about that, karen? you have thought about trying to write about trump and foreign policy. do you think he has one yet? karen: i think there are pieces of policy, but i am not sure they come together in terms of a strategy. i think they would like to get rid of some of what they call the sort of minor issues, the housekeeping issues, in terms of -- we took over their compound under the obama administration in this country, they won't let us build a new consulate in st. petersburg. russian security under obama was harassing u.s. diplomats -- they would like to get rid of all that stuff, so you have had lower level talks that have dealt with those issues. susan: that is not really policy. karen: but they feel like they need russia. i think they still believe, as trump said during the campaign, that it does not make sense to
have bad relations with russia. i think most of europe would agree with that as long as we hold firm in ukraine and to a certain extent in syria. i think the ukraine issue is really important. i don't think the administration knows what they want to do about ukraine. trump has been all over the map talking about it or not talking about it at all. you see other officials in the administration that have been very firm saying this will not stand, russian incursion in ukraine. the annexation of crimea is still according to europe and officially the united states, that is bedrock strategy. i am not sure it is bedrock for the trump administration. peter: what does he say to putin about the meddling in last year's elections the first time the two of them have met since the intelligence agencies of the united states told president trump the russian president directly ordered the meddling in
last year's election to benefit president trump and his election? he was asked about this today at a press conference. not only did he cast doubt again on the idea russia was behind it, but he sounded angry at obama for not doing enough about it. or the intelligence agencies for overstating it. karen: also he also picked up the fight he has picked on several occasions with the u.s. intelligence community. on iraq, they were wrong, why do we think they are right now? peter: that is reversing and rewinding to before he got here. susan: he was saying it was not 17, it was only four. by the way, he was wrong about that, just to be clear. peter: he was right in the sense -- he said who even knows if there are 17. there are 17 intelligence agencies led by the officer of one.
it is a large issue he does not seem to be that worried about. susan: they are meeting in germany with the new leader of the free world. she was hosting this. she obviously intended for this to be a very different kind of meeting. they settle on these things far in advance. let's talk about the g-20. it is an hamburg. it is the capital in many ways of the german left. merkel thought she would be bringing together the world's industrialized nations to talk leading about their unprecedented cooperation on climate change, to talk about strengthening global economic cooperation. instead, as far as i understand it, her advisors were begging
trump not to make his decision about the paris accord, not to pull out in advance of this. they did not want to rain on the parade. how did it help or hurt her in her efforts to become reelected as chancellor of germany? ed: this will be the third time she meets. she came here earlier in the year. he met her in may at the g-7 summit in sicily. he did not give the speech on nato people wanted him to give. in brussels at the nato headquarters. he did not make the article 5 pledge on mutual defense. a few days later, he made it here, rather grudgingly standing next to the romanian prime minister. she has made it clear she has kind of washed her hands of him. she has taken his measure. she said our fate in europe is in our own hands. america has gone off the reservation. britain has exited. i think the action here in hamburg, in addition to the protests on the street, the action is in the bilateral
rather than the g-20 communique. what kind of communique can you have when the global priorities such as global warming and free trade are things trump does not want to sign up to? the real action is the trump-putin bilateral, but equally importantly, arguably more importantly, is the second meeting between trump and xi jinping because that relationship is going south. peter: interesting time. north korea just tested an icbm for the first time. president trump is saying he will take severe measures in response. he had dinner thursday night with the prime minister of south korea and the prime minister of japan, but not with president xi jinping because he has gone somewhat sour on the chinese president's ability to influence north korea. ed: the feeling of perplex-ment
is a large club of people. susan: let me ask you about the europeans before we turn back to asia. merkel, despite the rhetoric, can she be the leader of the free world? the germans are almost constitutionally wired not to take a position of unilateral leadership. they embed themselves in the multilateral institutions like the e.u., that was their passive response to the cold war, to the new institutions built after world war ii. they are not going to step up into some american vacuum. emmanuel macron seems he is doing his best to troll trump, but i do not see him as a leader that can challenge america. ed: i agree with the premise of
your question. she can be the moral, spiritual spokesman for western global liberal values. there will not be a german navy patrolling the south china sea. clearly the hard power element of it is american and american only. i think she is clearly the leader, the spokesperson for the values those who oppose trump support. i was mentioning the club of the perplexed. a colleague of mine at "the financial times" gave a speech for the canadian prime minister saying we will have to chart our own sovereign course here. ♪
♪ susan: let me bring you in on this question of the north korea crisis. you read some headlines and they are alarming. this notion we are talking about the possibility of a military response and how horrific that would be. are there additional measures, short of the military option, that people agree is basically unthinkable, for escalating our response to north korean aggression? karen: i think there is
widespread agreement that a military response is unthinkable. secretary mattis has pretty much said that. he has said this would spark an immediate north korean attack on south korea, and it would be, as he said, a war like we have never seen in our lifetimes. the question is, what else can they do? there was a security council meeting yesterday at the united nations. i think the western powers at least made it clear they want new resolutions for new sanctions, and they want to make sure the sanctions we already have are adhered to. one of the problems, and trump's lightbulb seems to have gone off that after having said his china policy was to be friends with china because china was the way to crack down on north korea, he has acknowledged now that has
not happened. and in fact as he noted yesterday or today, chinese trade with north korea despite new sanctions at the end of the year has increased by 40%. so the question is now, do they start sanctioning some of the people in china and some of the chinese companies carrying out this trade? i think certainly the americans, the brits, the french, are willing to do that at this point. and there is also a push to start talks, basically to say the policy now is denuclearization has to precede talks. that was the policy of the obama administration and theoretically the policy of the trump administration. is there anything to talk about before this large precondition is met, which is basically you give up and we will talk to you?
i think there may be some movement in that direction. first of all will come more sanctions. susan: it is a large diplomatic undertaking for an administration that does not yet have a fully formed state department, that does not seem interested in being coercive in international diplomacy and coalitions. can they pull this off? do they have anyone in charge of the north korean crisis? karen: they have a state department envoy in charge of relations with north korea. he has been traveling around. there were secret talks held in oslo earlier this year that ultimately led to the unfortunate situation with otto warmbier, the american hostage in north korea, being released and his death. you do not see the national security council staffed up the -- beyond this one envoy office.
i think that is increasingly a problem as crises spread across the world. you don't have people in place who can deal with them. peter, all of this turmoil we susan: -- susan: peter, all of this turmoil we have read about inside the white house, when a crisis hits like this with north korea were a huge international event like the g-20, do you discern as a reporter trying to cover them any actual consequences when it comes to what we are doing or not doing in our foreign policy? does it matter trump and his team seem to be subject to internal intrigue? peter: i think it does matter. we normally take the measure of a president by how he runs his shop. they see what is happening and the palace intrigue is not lost on them. they understand there are some people inside the administration closer to them than others. that is why they want to talk to
mattis or tillerson and do not reach out to steve bannon and some of the others. it is interesting to watch the north korea crisis play out because for a president known for bombast, known for very macho, chest beating behavior on a domestic level, he has been relatively restrained so far on north korea. he has been briefed in a way to make him understand that what sounds like an appealing option in syria with a quick military strike does not work in north korea. they have up to 300,000 artillery rounds, north korea, to shower on south korea within the first hour of a war. seoul is not far from the border. karen: that is aside from the fact they have nuclear weapons. peter: clearly, president trump who might not have known this would he came into office, has clearly been sobered by this
information his advisors have briefed him on. while they are not staffed up and do not have a bandwidth a fully formed administration would have, he does seem to be listening to secretary mattis on this. susan: you spent a lot of time as a foreign correspondent in asia. do you sense this uncertainty on the part of the united states offers a new opening for the chinese to play a different kind of leadership role in the world? is that what xi jinping is aspiring to? ed: i think xi jinping's first priority is the party congress in september where he will cement his next five years as president with very strong powers, even by chinese presidential standards. and he wants to keep things calm until he has cemented his domestic political authority. but undoubtedly, this is a major geopolitical windfall for china. now there is trump's election, so china has been growing bigger
and faster and standing taller than it was expecting to by this point. it has a neighbor in india. that prime minister is another head of state in hamburg. he is an ambitious and strong man like president trump. he has just in in washington, in fact. he appeared to get on reasonably well with trump. japan under abe is getting less pacifist in its constitution. it is talking about getting more forward involved roles for its military. china is not cooperating in a vacuum even if the united states chooses to walk off the chessboard. it is a very nervous environment. it is a bit like european nationalism in the mid 19th and 20th centuries.
there are a lot of countries that do not have ways of doing business with each other, and america was the one that kept the peace. it is an opportunity for china but also a danger. the two sides of the chinese character. susan: exactly. there is an old russian saying which seems apt when looking at the meeting tomorrow ahead of vladimir putin and donald trump. sitting down with all this incredible buildup and expectation, i want to ask what we think. is donald trump ever going to move away from his admiration? is it likelier they will end up really liking each other or hating each other? it has almost seemed to me like a 50/50 shot. what do you think, karen?
karen: i knew you were going to call on me. i think it does make sense for russia to have a relationship with the united states. they need it in north korea. they need it in syria. they need it in a lot of other places around the world. putin has a reputation the same as trump does as -- in putin's case as a wily, smart operator, not a lot of laughs, somebody who is thinking several steps ahead. who knows if that is the real putin? i don't know. you guys served in moscow. you probably know more than i do. i think as was said last night, this is a chance to start having a relationship regardless of whether something firm comes out of it or not. this meeting had to happen. they had to sit down in the same room. but again, where trump is concerned, you just never know. peter: yeah.
i was struck by something that william tallman wrote, a pulitzer winning author. it was summarized, which would be worse, that trump and putin get along or that they don't? the idea that the americans and russians are at odds is a very dangerous proposition. there are reasons why the two of them should cooperate on various parts of the map. and a hostile new cold war relationship isn't what anybody would want either. the question is are you clear-eyed and open-eyed about what russia is, what putin really wants and what his goals really are. susan: that is a lot of burden to place on a meeting that is going to run an hour at most with extensive translation. you have the last word. ed: >> you and peter are better qualified to answer this question. that being said, i will give an answer. this is the fourth american
president that putin has men. he has a lot of experience. he is ex-k.g.b. i think however he reads trump tomorrow is going to be very consequential. it will have repercussions that will be significant. susan: we have been around putin so long. we were there when george w. bush had his first meeting with him. was that a surprise' tim, and -- was that a surprise at the time, and how much can we have surprises anymore? peter: i don't know if it was a surprise at the time, but there was a desire on the part of the west that putin be something that he wasn't. they wanted him to be a modernizer. they wanted him to be the consolidator of yeltsin's democratic revolution, and he turned out to be much different than what people hoped. susan: that is a great note to
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baker from the "new york times"" as chief white house correspondent for the times, he covered president obama's two terms in office. i know this well because i am his wife as well as his friend and colleague. his new book, obama, the history is a look back at those eight years. you framed this up as an interesting moment in time for a book about president obama to come out while president trump is in the midst of trying to redefine or even demolish his legacy. you asked can trump undo barack obama's legacy? what does the evidence so far suggest when it comes to whether the obama years will survive the trump years? peter: that is a great question. when you see a president leave office, normally you have a pretty good sense of what his legacy is going to be. this is a unique situation where you have a president basically seemingly determined brick by brick to demolish the last guy's
achievements in a way other guys haven't done. ronald reagan talked about eliminating the department of education that president carter started. he didn't do it. dwight eisenhower didn't undo the new deal. president trump seems determined to take out piece by piece parts of the legacy. health care is the most prominent one. we see clean energy regulations by the e.p.a. and so forth. you can say that president obama's legacy is still unwritten because we don't know how it is going to wind up. susan: was it too early to write the book then? peter: no, it is never too early to write a book. this is a book that captures the eight years of president obama's tenure both through pictures and texts. it is a coffee table book with about 200 photographs from our crack photography staff. it is also a mediocre text by
one of the writers. susan: ok, but i want to get to this question. what we have come to under about president obama and why it is really different. that is really something that you have -- you have covered president clinton, bush and obama. that is a lot. one of the things we are debating is how much is president trump really unique, really an outlier, really doing something different with the american presidency versus being in the chain, perhaps a surprising new element in that chain, but basically within the frame of the modern presidency? peter: well, i think president trump is very different than his predecessors. you could find some similarities between barack obama, george busch and others. not just on policy, but specific way that they approached the job. president trump has taken a very different look. you couldn't think of two more
opposite figures in temperament, personality and outlook on life than president trump and president obama. president obama was reserved, not a people person, not given to bombastic statements, sometimes cautious to a fault. sometimes his own staff would grow frustrated with the lengthy policy reviews before he would come to a decision. he was a very controlled, disciplined figure. president trump is the opposite. he is impulse unrestrained. there are no unfiltered thoughts. he is unmanaged by his staff, something some of his supporters is a good thing. he has decided to govern basically the way he ran his reality show. an ad hoc, very much unprecedented type of presidency. susan: but barack obama, to offer the counterpoint, also
came into office determined to undo george bush's legacy. he talked about restoring america's standing in the world. obama came in determined to extricate the united states from bush's wars in the middle east. how is that different in terms of what obama wanted to do and what trump is doing now? peter: i don't think obama came in determined to tear down specific programs that president bush had put in place. he came in to move in a different direction. he didn't have as much after course correction as he talked about. he kept the drone strikes, the other policies. guantanamo remained open even though he talked about wanting to close it. and foreign policy was a continuation. different courses, but not a radical change.
he did not undo some of the programs that were part of president bush's legacy, like the creation of homeland security, the pepfra programs, medicare part d expansion and like that. he wanted to be the ante bush, but he wanted to move forward. susan: we have heard people make the arguments here in washington in the last few months that if you take away the bombast and the twitter feed, that in fact there is some real continuity, more than you might imagine between obama's foreign policy and trump's foreign policy. at least when it comes to the middle east and use of force, there is a deep skepticism about engaging america too deeply in the middle east. there is a through line that you can discern between a realist approach to the world. peter: i think there is
something to that. president obama observed after the election that president trump in some ways was a validation of his desire to keep america from becoming too entangled in the middle east in all these wars in syria, afghanistan and the middle east. he did have the retaliation against sir for the chemical weapon use, which president obama avoided doing. he has not been eager to send american ground troops to the middle east or finding ourselves policing the internal policies of governments in the middle east. he has basically tried to keep us out of it, even though he is still waging a pretty aggressive war on isis and the terrorist organizations there. susan: it is hard to have a conversation about barack obama these dawson that isn't also a conversation about president trump. when you started working on this book, it was before it was clear at all that donald trump would
be the next president. so it was then just an exercise of sort of putting a bow around the eight years of the obama presidency, trying to add up what it amounted to in the end. obviously a key part of obama's legacy was cemented the day that he was elected in that he shattered this incredible barrier of becoming the first african-american president. but what did you learn in the course of working on this obama book, especially as it became more clear that trump was a potential successor to obama? that is not something that obama ever envisioned. but how did it revise your view of the obama presidency, which you watched unfold in real time? but how did it revise your view peter: what is really interesting about president obama is what we want him to be. we impute upon him our ideas of who he is.
he said one time in 2008, i am like a rorschach test, which meant everybody saw in him what they expected. liberals wanted him to be a great champion of the use of government activism and an opponent of everything president bush has done. centrists and even some republicans thought he would be a bridge builder and would end this blue america-red america divide that was polarizing the country. he spent a lot of that time defining his own identity and radically shattering expectations of everybody. he wasn't any of these things we thought he was. even now his identity changes by the month. it is very interesting to see. for a time he was seen as kind of a disappointment by liberals, an outrage by conservatives. his poll numbers were very mediocre. he couldn't get out of this stuff in the middle east. syria was a disaster.
his health care program seemed to be problematic. by the time his left office, his numbers started to go up. why? partly because of the successor. i think the contrast has helped him. people say he is not as bat as -- not as bad as we thought he was. things are appreciated when a president leaves off-season. susan: are there moments or events in the obama presidency that you think will talk on a bigger part of the narrative over time than they currently occupy? are there things we are not talking about right now that are part of the obama narrative that we will see as part of the obama narrative 10 or 20 years from now? peter: well, i think the middle east is the thing we will see ripple through time. he took what president bush had left him, was obviously was a pretty tumultuous region, roiled by the wars and more radicalism, a more islamic style of
leadership. he hoped to solve it, and thought he could make a difference there. it was probably a bigger mess after he left office whether through his fault or anyone else's. how that is going to play out over 10, 20 or 30 years, we are going to look back more powerfully at libya. we don't talk much about libya, but it was kind of a crucial moment in his presidency, where he chose to intervene, wanted nato to take over and did everything he could to get out and left behind a pretty big mess there. bush's formula didn't give the result he wanted. obama's formula didn't give the result he wanted. as a result, america is stuck in the region on whether it wants to be or not. susan: you said something pretty intriguing, which is maybe obama has more in common with george w. bush and president clinton, the presidents of the post cold
war era, than you might imagine. it is extraordinary when you think obama got elected as a repudiation of bush's presidency. but when you line them up against trump, would you actually lump those three presidents together in some way? peter: i would actually. all believe in the liberal international order. all three believed in the notion of america's leadership in the world, in different ways. president bush was accused of unilateralism, and by the time he left, he was working with the europeans on issues like russia and the middle east. i think that all three of them basically had a fundamental agreement with the consensus that we see in washington. president trump is an outlier on these things. he doesn't believe in multi-lateralism. he doesn't big league in the big sweeping trade teams.
he doesn't believe in globalism as defined by the last three administrations. what he does to change that and if it will be permanent or not, is the question of our time. susan: i would love to know what barack obama would have to say about you comparing him so closely with george w. bush. peter: he would hate it. susan: my guess is that his book is not going to make that argument when it comes out. but you have covered all of these white houses as a reporter too. try to give us a little bit of a sense -- watching you cover them over the years, i have noticed this, but how much is it alike to cover each of these white houses, and what is truly different about trump right now? i think one of the things is people often are idealistic when they come to washington and think the team you sympathize with will naturally be easier to get along with, and somehow reporters will get a better shake in a democratic administration. up until now, that is not the case. peter: i would say i got yelled
as much if not more by the obama white house than the bush or clinton white houses. they were tough on reporters at times. we i think covered him pretty toughly back. i think that that tension is natural. it is supposed to be there. it is written into the program. what is different now is it has basically been put on a megaphone, where a president has an antipathy toward the press and is willing to say that out loud in visceral terms. i don't think president bush, obama or others were more enamored of the press. they just chose not to make that a modus vivendi of their administration. there were boundaries they wouldn't cross. this isn't a president who believes in the same boundaries. susan: going back to the white house, getting another crack at daily journalism by going back and doing a book, were there stories you feel like we missed
at the time, that we did not do as good of a job as we could have done. there is a robust debate right now over the coverage of the russian hacking of the election in 2016. were there things where you begin to see that narrative popping up earlier than you otherwise would have? peter: i think the russian thing was something. they were divided on how to deal with it and how deep the evidence was they were dealing with and the factors at play for a president watching his successor be chosen in a very compromised area. it was a shame we didn't do a better job of airing some of that debate in real time, tough as it would have been. susan: let's talk about russia for a second.
we were there in moscow, very green, inexperienced foreign correspondents for the rise and the beginning of vladimir putin's presidency. i think we both would have been shocked to realize that he was still in power 17 years later. but we have seen now three different american presidents basically come into office and say i want to do better with putin and then really struggled to do so. and obviously tomorrow donald trump and vladimir putin will meet for the first time face-to-face in this presidency, where russia has occupied so much of the stage. but obama in particular is a very frustrating example. i remember well your coverage of first year of the obama white house and their reset with russia and how heated and upset they were at any critical coverage from journalists about the fact that putin might not actually be willing to engage on the level with this reset.
the obama white house was absolutely determined to have this policy. they saw it as this brilliant definitive end of the cold war, and it didn't work out like that at all. what did that episode teach you as far as covering the white house? were we too gentle on the obama white house when it came to that reset with russia? did they get played? peter: i think on the reset, we were pretty skeptical from the start. i remember getting yelled at by obama people who were upset at us for being so skeptical. we said these are relatively minor policy concessions that russia made that president obama was trumpeting it like sliced bread. i remember press people from the white house yelling about a meeting between putin and obama in st. petersburg and how i mischaracterized what putin was
doing, and if anything, putin in fact showed that he was never planning to have a genuine reset, if you will, with obama, didn't respect obama. so i think that we will see this president now going to meet with putin. the press is appropriately skeptical because we have been through this before, we have seen it before. we understand that putin doesn't see the world the way america sees it. susan: i want to close this by getting back to obama and what you think his legacy will be. obviously trump is setting out to undo both legislatively and by executive order what he can undo of some of obama's accomplishments. what do you think will withstand that initial trumpian and republican onslaught and taking a somewhat longer view, it is not enough to say well, barrack obama was the first african-american president.
what do you think, having covered the whole thing, we are going to be reading about barack obama 50 years from now? peter: well, some things you can't undo. he inherited an economy on the edge of a great depression and brought it back from the abyss. the auto industry, which was about to go into the toilet was rescued. osama bin laden, who escaped american man hunters for a decade was caught and killed actually. so things like that can't be changed by the next administration. i think that the disappointments of his administration are things that are always going to live regardless of the next one that comes along. the legacy of syria is what you would hear is their biggest appointment, the thing they couldn't get right and couldn't stop. it aches in their hearts to see hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions more displaced. those things don't change as a
result of the next administration. whether health care survives, we don't know. congress could reach an impasse that leaves the currently program in place. the same with dodd-frank and other legislation. some presidents are remembered by what they try to do even their achievements don't last through the next administration anyway. i think president obama may -- made clear the priorities that he set and that he wants to outlast his time in office. susan: here is a tough question for you to end this conversation. do you think that, given the threats to his legacy, that barack obama bears some responsibility for the election of president trump as his successor, the repudiation of what he was trying to for? peter: his people would say we don't elect a replica. we elect a replacement, the opposite person. trump is certainly an opposite person than obama.
they would defend themselves by saying look, we had a weak candidate in hillary clinton. but you can't eliminate the fact that the country wasn't willing to re-elect a person that was essentially running as a third person of obama. there was a reason why many americans decided they had enough of that. some of that will be left at his door historically. he said his big disappointment was he failed to reconcile the blue america-red america divide. that he did not -- susan: failed to recognize -- it is wider than it has ever been. peter: no president was more polarizing than barack obama. he at any time set out to be a polarizing president, but he was one. that is something that people will have to look at in terms of how the election to succeed him played out. susan: peter baker, chief white house correspondent for the "new york times." his new book is "obama: the call of history."