Garry Kasparov III Transcript
Taped June 7, 2016
Table of Contents
KRISTOL: Hi, I’m Bill Kristol. Welcome back to CONVERSATIONS. I’m very pleased to be joined again by Garry Kasparov, the World Chess Champion, human rights and democracy activist in Russia, his homeland, and now living in America.
An astute observer of America for at least a quarter-century. And I thought often foreigners have the best understanding of what’s happening in our country from Tocqueville on. I thought we’d have a conversation not about the Soviet Union and its collapse, and not about what happen afterwards as we’ve discussed before, in the 90s and after that, but about America.
It’s an unusual moment. You’ve been very outspoken in your views about the sort of seriousness of this moment. Help us analyze what is happening, why it’s happening, as we speak here on June 7th, 2016. Thanks for taking the time. So where are we? You’ve followed America closely for three decades at least.
KASPAROV: Yes, three decades.
KRISTOL: When were you first here?
KASPAROV: 1988. I watched America even from afar. I always had a great interest in studying American democracy and development of the democratic system here. I can say it’s highly unusual this moment. It’s highly serious, but, you know, things like that happened before. It didn’t happen over our times, so just during our lifetime, but it doesn’t mean that things like that – dramatic changes – cannot happen. No one at no time is immune, I guess, to changes. I just want to say that it’s a serious challenge, but the resilience of democratic system must be tested from time to time. This is the moment that, in my view, will prove the strengths and the resilience of the American political system.
People should understand change is inevitable. Sometimes, you reach a point where the old system is no longer functioning to satisfy all the key players, the different interests in society, so I guess we’ve just reached this point.
KRISTOL: Let’s be specific for a second. What is so different? Why are we just – we’re having another election –
KASPAROV: I don’t think it’s an election because we saw, you know, during our lifetime moments where one party or another party – two major parties – one of them was in trouble. You could see the radical takeover just in pushing the party to the extreme. And, you know, this party was punished by losing general elections.
But this is the first time when you see both parties pushed to the extreme, basically, creating a critical mass in the center that is left with no proper representation. I think that the rise of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders on the other side – and let’s not be mistaken; Bernie Sanders is the winner, the ideological winner of the primaries.
KRISTOL: Trump has gotten more attention, and certainly, I’ve been preoccupied from saving conservatives from Trump, but let’s talk about Sanders.
KASPAROV: I think both Trump and Sanders – it’s like two sides of the same coin. It’s a best indicators that the temperature has risen. The temperature of the body is sick. You can see the signs on both sides of the political spectrum. Sanders revived the word socialism as a part of the mainstream debate, and it’s much more dangerous than people think because, as you correctly stated, Trump consumed all the attention.
Though, of course, Trump is just an individual. I think he’s very dangerous because he doesn’t fit the President, but you know, he also exposed the weakness, fundamental weakness of the Republican Party. The GOP proved to be incapable of coming up with a candidate at a time when the election was for them to lose. Hillary Clinton was always inevitable, and she is a bad candidate. I would say she’s probably the second-worst candidate in US history, but the GOP managed to come up with the worst. By far, the worst.
The parties spend too much time, the so-called elites spent too much time trying to bring another Bush, and then when they realized it was not working, they couldn’t agree on one candidate, and it ended up with the party being in disarray, and Trump was relatively small support so, maybe, he gets 35, 36 percent. He managed to take over the party by just using all sorts of aggressive and arrogant techniques.
But speaking of Trump, we should pay attention to the long-term threat comes from the Left. Because when you look at the demographics, people who are voting for Trump or supporting Trump, they are not going to decide the future of this country, both in numbers but also in quality and intellect. There’s a lot of power, intellectual power. And also the youth has been allocated on the opposite side. They have a little idea about socialism, about all of this ideological debates of the past, and Bernie’s rhetoric was very inviting. It’s nice. It painted some pictures of the bright future, and I think this trend, it might become dominant unless the conservative America comes up with a real alternative that will attract the center. The center that is left, so no probable political framework.
KRISTOL: And what do you make of the Sanders appeal? I mean, some of it just an alternative to Clinton, I suppose, but I mean, do people believe in socialism as an economic force?
KASPAROV: People believe that something is wrong, and this is the moment where you have the best opportunities. So fertile ground for demagogues and populists, both on the Right and the Left, rise. And this is very dangerous because they rise at the same time, which shows the great dissatisfaction.
And they win because they offer a vision. Trump doesn’t have a proper vision, he can change views. Bernie is solid in offering his vision. They’re trying to speak in plain language, they’re trying to come up with simple solutions. And people, you can hardly blame people for following these two demagogues and populists because there’s nothing else, there’s no alternative. There’s no vision for the future. Trying to hate Trump or Sanders with punches, that’s wrong. That’s wrong. It’s not going to work because you have to come up with a comprehensive vision that will help to revive America. They both talk about reviving America in their own terms, going back to the roots. To the sort of entrepreneurial spirit of the country. To explain to the American public, especially to American youths, what were the reasons of the great success of this country, why this country was so dominant, why, in 200 years, the great predecessors were able to build a country that is still shining, despite so many problems and wrongdoings?
This is not simply about building walls or redistributing wealth. It’s about reviving the spirit of capitalism, it’s about reviving the spirit of competition and creating political institutions that will represent the interest of the majority, that will stop fighting a fight that is already over. We’ll not have debates that’s already – it’s long overdue. That’s done. We have to look at the future, and that is why I think both parties will undergo significant transformation. I think that –
KRISTOL: Let’s talk about that on the Democratic side, first, because the obvious answer to you is, “Well, Sanders is about, it seems, to lose the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. He was a protest candidate, and he lost. Why are you taking it so seriously?”
KASPAROV: Because the majority of intellectual Democrats, the youths, when you look at demographics, they are behind Sanders.
KRISTOL: You think he is winning even though he’s losing.
KASPAROV: He already won. But also he has one powerful ally that hasn’t spoken yet. And I think many people just simply ignore the fact that this powerful ally is not going anywhere. His name is Barack Obama.
KRISTOL: Talk about that.
KASPAROV: I’m sure Obama has been watching this primary with greatest joy. Because it exposed Hillary. It showed how weak she was.
She is a lousy candidate, he proved it eight years ago. Now, she is winning because the Democratic Party is very much the private enterprise of Clinton’s family. I think people just didn’t pay enough attention to Obama’s statement that he would stay in DC for at least two more years. I don’t think anybody can buy seriously the argument that he wants his youngest daughter to finish her school there. Correct me if I’m wrong, except Woodrow Wilson who was terminally ill, I mean, no US President stayed in DC after leaving the office.
KRISTOL: The custom has been to leave and clear the decks for your successor.
KASPAROV: Staying in DC, it’s a message. I don’t think Obama, who’s very young, very popular, could raise a lot of money. He could go from DC to New York, to Los Angeles, he’d be welcomed almost everywhere by the liberal crowd. But he wants to stay there. Staying in DC, he believes he could play a role. What kind of a role he could play if another Democrat, namely Hillary Clinton, is President, and I don’t think there’s love lost between Clinton and Obama.
KRISTOL: So what kind of role could he play? This is an interesting speculation.
KASPAROV: It is a speculation, but I think Hillary will be forced to have a progressive VP. I think it might be a young Sanders. Okay, Sanders, someone with similar views. Very much online with Obama’s vision of the future. I wouldn’t be surprised if – Hillary is turning 70, her health is not great – in 2020, this VP will run as the first progressive candidate, and I think by that time the party will be totally under the control of Obama’s vision of socialism.
KRISTOL: You take Sanders in a way as the heir to Obama or the carrying forth of the Obama vision?
KASPAROV: Sanders is a kind of ice-breaker for Obama. Sanders exposed the weakness of the Democratic establishment, why it’s for Hillary. Let’s have it for her, and surely, there will be many arguments – next year, the 100th anniversary of the amendment of the Constitution that gave women the right to vote, so I mean, you can have a lot of nice stories of why Hillary should be the President. She will do a lot of good things for the Democrats, she will guarantee the control of the Supreme Court for the next 25 years.
But I think Obama is planning to have a significant role, if not a decisive role, in his mind, to shape American politics. He hasn’t finished his job. He moved the country in this direction, but he hasn’t finished his job, and I think now he feels that, with the Republican Party in disarray, with no real opposition, and with a chance to retake the Senate, maybe the House, and to take control of Supreme Court, he can fulfill his agenda.
KRISTOL: Characterize that agenda. How does it look to you? Having watched him closely for seven and a half years?
KASPAROV: His agenda – His foreign policy is very apologetic. He believes America is a prime source of trouble. Some may say evil in the world. He doesn’t want America just to continue its leadership role. Here in the United States, his domestic agenda will be to create an all-powerful state. Obamacare is just the first step, and I think we’ll see much more. Not only single-payer, but I think we’ll see much more power allocated in the hands of the state, and we’ll see, you know, just the total accumulation of the functions that used to belong to the American people and other institutions in the hands of the federal government.
KRISTOL: You don’t buy the argument that Obama has been a weak and failed President?
KASPAROV: Obama is one of the most successful Presidents in history. We can and should disagree with his agenda, but he has succeeded in pushing it through. Over this eight-year period, only two years, he enjoyed support of majority in the Senate and the House. He did it by facing opposition from the Hill, and Republicans failed to stop him pushing his agenda. When he couldn’t do it with lame-duck House and Senate in 2010, he just did executive orders.
He proved to be very capable in selling his agenda. He’s a great communicator. And I think people make a mistake by disagreeing with what he represented. With the success of the implementation of his agenda, which I think was phenomenal. Now, when the Republican Party will be such a terrible shape, and I believe now it’s facing its extinction. The party that pronounces Donald Trump the next President of the United States, I think, is no longer a viable institution.
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