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Samantha Power is Interviewed on Her New Book; 9/11 Ceremony. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 11, 2019 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump claims he will name a new national security adviser next week. John Bolton was the third person to hold that position in less than three years. No president has ever had four national security advisers in the first term.

Joining me now is Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama, and she is the author of a wonderful new book, "The Education of an Idealist."

Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us.

Let me ask you, because John Bolton was your predecessor as ambassador to the United Nations. What do you make of his departure from the White House?

SAMANTHA POWER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, I think it's a sign that President Trump wants around him people who reflect back Trump's own views, rather than people who dissent. But also, I have to say, Bolton was somebody who -- who, through his career, but also while at the White House, has been inclined to push military force in Iran and to invoke it even in the case of Venezuela. And so for some around the world, it will be a big source of relief, in fact, that Bolton has departed. For others, and I think I see it both ways, but it's a sign that Trump wants yes men around him and doesn't want people who dissent, which is very disturbing.

BERMAN: You know, Senator Rand Paul says, I think the threat of war worldwide goes down exponentially with John Bolton out of the White House.

POWER: Yes, although Trump is -- has made his own decisions up to this point. I mean certainly what Bolton was advocating was more militaristic than where Trump was inclined to go. But at the same time, Bolton was saying, you know, be careful about legitimating the Taliban, be careful about all of these nice things you're saying about Kim Jong-un, who killed an American student not that long ago and, you know, murders many people within his own country and pursues nuclear weapons. So he was cautionary on the legitimation of bad guys, aggressive when it came to using military force. But the bigger question is, you know, how do people trust that what

they see is what they get in the United States? And how does the national security apparatus work when we have no secretary of homeland security, no deputy secretary of homeland security, no director of national intelligence, no deputy director of national intelligence and now no national security adviser.

BERMAN: Well, so, you asked the question there, what's the impact of all of that?

POWER: Profound. I mean in the sense that nobody also even knows what they can believe, who to trust, which relationships to invest in. I mean there's really one decider, and that's the president, which is, of course, always the case up to a point. But people generally feel that they can invest in relationships and know that there's going to be stable, that what they hear back is likely a predictor of what is going to happen. Now they're just watching Trump's Twitter feed and what he says on a Monday departs radically sometimes from what he says on a Tuesday.

BERMAN: One of the big sticking points between the two men was apparently Afghanistan. The president inviting the Taliban to Camp David to negotiate. John Bolton didn't want that. The spat became quite public.

But what's your view of the notion of negotiating with the Taliban?

POWER: We have to have some kind of peaceful -- peaceful -- negotiated exit out of an 18-year conflict. It's just not sustainable to have one segment of our society bearing this burden for us, taking casualties, as we did just last week. Sixteen Americans killed this year. And this is 18 years after September 11th.

But that said, there's a time for the president to be involved, and there needs to be an awful lot of work done. This was going to be just a first step in what will be a probably a lengthy and certainly a very complex negotiation. So I'm for negotiated settlement. I'm skeptical that the Taliban will deliver, as many are, and I think one thing that I want to stress is that women so far have not been included at all in even the negotiating room. Of course, they wouldn't be present on the Taliban side. But for us to push that as the Afghan government and Taliban are brought together is very important and all the data shows that peace settlements that don't include women are far more likely to fail.

BERMAN: You brought up women. And all throughout your book and all throughout your career you talk about the struggle for human rights around the world and your own personal efforts on that front. Where do you think it stands right now? How much of a priority do you see human rights for this administration?

POWER: Well, I mean, I don't think human rights are a priority for this administration domestically in terms of the attacks on the media, and judges, the rule of law, political opponents. You know, that's not where President Trump's head is.


And, internationally, we've seen great affection for very abusive regimes and great criticisms, in fact, of some of the great democracies around the world.

But what I try to do in the book is tell the story also of what it was like to be a woman in national security, to be a woman at the United Nations where there are very few women. All these years after the founding of the U.N., there's still never been a woman secretary- general. Quite few women ambassadors even.

But also talk about the solidarity that women can create in these pretty male dominated institutions, even as we differ over policy, because there's no formula -- it's not like just because you're a woman you have a certain view of how things are going to go, but you can look out for each other in these difficult environments.

BERMAN: The book is an unbelievable combination of policy and personal and incredibly well-written and compelling and funny at times also.

But to that point, you talk about what it was like to be a woman in the middle of all this. Also you tell a story about your son, who -- he wanted to tell you the score of a game, right?

POWER: Yes, he's a baseball nut.

BERMAN: Which means you're a great parent, first of all, if you're raising a baseball nut.

But he -- and you couldn't talk to him because you were on the phone with the secretary-general?

POWER: Well, there's not a parent watching your show who hasn't had a version of this experience, right, because you're -- you're there. You're on the phone on a work call, as it happens, you know, this happened -- this has happened so many times I can't even count. But talking to the secretary-general or talking to the secretary of state, in this case I was having a conversation about Russian sanctions, and my son's coming up and he just wants -- he's at me and he's at me and I'm shooting him away. Again, every parent knows this experience. Not right now, I'm on the phone. Just -- just, hold that thought.

And -- and he stomps away and the only thing different about my experience than your average parent is, as he stomps away, he says, Putin, Putin, Putin, Putin, when is it going to be Declan, Declan, Declan, Declan. And to me it just became kind of a metaphor for the hapless juggle that I was in the midst of.

BERMAN: In another part of the book that really drew me in was how you wrote about President Obama and your relationship with President Obama over the years. You got to know him when he was first elected senator and obviously you're still in touch with him now.

But he depended on you for a certain kind of advice inside the Oval Office. And in some way, I mean, why -- I don't know how to -- he -- he basically said, we know where you come from, Samantha. Explain that.

POWER: Well, I think he was a believer that quite the contrary of what we were talking about in the Bolton context, President Obama really wanted diverse viewpoints. And he came from a -- having been a professor at constitutional law where he'd watch students kind of spar in front of him and sort of divine his truth or his way forward even in a classroom that way. And the environment he created at the White House was very similar.

When I wasn't present in a meeting and there was a human rights issue that was going -- he'd be like, where's Sam? It didn't mean he was -- that he was going to like what I said or that he was going to agree with what I said, but he really wanted to see people battling it out as he figured out what his decision was going to be.

Sometimes, as he would say, you know, I got on his nerves because, you know, sometimes, especially when it's a human rights issue, about women's rights or children's rights, you know, and you feel though there's a short-term expedient thing that you need to do in the here and now on behalf, of course, of the American people, that sort of internal conflict within yourself is not all that pleasant. It wouldn't be pleasant for me either.

But, I -- you know, really, his style of leadership was to cultivate dissent, and it was really important.

BERMAN: Ambassador Samantha Power, thank you very much for being with us. The book is an unbelievable read, "The Education of an Idealist."

I appreciate you being with us.

POWER: Thank you. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I love the story of juggling the calls between the secretary-general and your children. Yes, we all can relate to some portion of that.

All right, so in just moments, NEW DAY and much of the country will stop to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11 18 years after the terror attacks. We bring you that live, next.



CAMEROTA: Well, it was 18 years ago today that terror attacks claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans and changed all of us forever.

And you see the preparations, John, starting down at the 9/11 Memorial. There will be a moment of silence coming up momentarily and we're going to listen to the national anthem from this senior at Long Island High School named Cassidy Ryder (ph). And her mother was pregnant with her. Her mother was a police officer helping out down there and she was pregnant with her that day. BERMAN: And I think that's what makes this year, every year, it's

important to remember, but so interesting is that the children who were not yet born, from so many of the victims, they are now 18. They are now graduating high school. Some of them, we learned, training to be firefighters or policemen like their parents.

The generations go on, but the memory doesn't fade. And that is why I think today is so important and the ceremonies today so important and the names as they are read, it's so important not just (INAUDIBLE) the number of them, but listen to each one because each name is a story and each name is a void.








UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrew Anthony Abate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laurence Christopher Abel.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: William F. Abrahamson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Richard Anthony Aceto.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Heinrich Bernhard Ackermann.



CAMEROTA: The reading of the names of the victims who died that day has begun. It takes a long time to get through all of the names of the thousands of victims who were killed that day and, gosh, just watching the moment of silence and hearing the bagpipes, it's, you know, it's so touching. I mean it's, obviously, so poignant. And I know that everybody listening has someone that they think of or just remembers that moment that morning. And it just all comes right back, the pain and the loss that day, but, again, the human spirit, you know, prevailing over the hatred that we all felt that day.

BERMAN: And we saw the president and the first lady holding a moment of silence at the White House. The bell tolling at the moment that the first plane hit the north tower.

The commemorations will continue in New York and in Washington and in Pennsylvania. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: You are watching the reading of the names at Ground Zero. The 18th anniversary of the attacks on the United States, September 11, 2001.

There are commemorations going on in lower Manhattan. Also in Washington.

Moments ago, well, this is lower Manhattan right there. You can see former Mayor Giuliani, current Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is there. Leaders have gathered together.

And this is the bipartisan leadership of the House of Representatives walking down the steps at the Capitol there. They are holding their moment of silence there, too.

You know, one of the few days, dwindling number of days, I think, that America comes together as one to remember a singular event and to mourn and to pay respects together.

CAMEROTA: Well, if only we could stretch those days out a little bit longer and remember how we all felt on 9/11. And, I mean, what I remember is, obviously, the pain and the grief and the shock to the system. But how the world opened their arms and embraced us. And how people embraced each other and there was something, you know, so human in everyone's collective grief.


And, you know, who knew what was going to happen 18 years later. We could never have predicted it. I didn't know that we were going to all overcome it, but I also didn't know we'd all still be so divided today.

BERMAN: I knew we'd overcome it. I knew that day, based on the response that we saw from the first responders. I was in lower Manhattan that day. I knew from the response we saw from journalists who were running into the clouds and running out. The cameraman I worked with, Tony Hiroshiki (ph), emerged covered completely in dust, his camera overwhelmed. I knew we were going to get there, but it was hard. It was hard. And America proved itself then and will continue to prove itself going forward.

CAMEROTA: The human spirit is indomitable. There is the skyline this morning 18 years later.

BERMAN: We'll be back.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.