Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joined me this morning:
HH: I’m so honored to welcome Secretary of State, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the program. She served as our 64th Secretary of State from 1997-2001. Of course, she was our ambassador to the United Nations before that, a long and distinguished teaching career. She’s the author of a brand new book, Fascism: A Warning. And Madame Secretary, welcome, it’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MA: Great to be with you. Thanks an awful lot.
HH: You know, this is the third time I’ve interviewed a Secretary of State who happened to be a woman. Condi Rice has been on many times, Secretary Clinton was on earlier this year. So I’ve got the trip tick. I’ve got the actual all three of you, and I am very…
MA: That’s very good.
HH: Very happy about that, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Fascism appears with its chapters on Mussolini, Hitler, Milosevic, Chavez, Erdogan, Orban. We’ll talk about all this, but as we prepare to strike another fascist, Assad. What are your thoughts on this morning, Madame Secretary?
MA: Well, I am very concerned about what’s going on in Syria, because it’s one of the more difficult situations that’s out there. And then I’m not sure what our strategy is. I do think that it’s important to respond to the kind of horror that took place with a chemical attack, which is a war crime. But I’d like to know if there’s a real strategy here, because we can’t have a one-off. And so I’m waiting to see what comes out. And maybe in the hearings that Director Pompeo’s having, we will have some more answers on this.
HH: Now in Fascism, Madame Secretary, you write some may view this book and its title as alarmist. Good. I want my audience to know, because this is a conservative audience. You’re not calling Donald Trump a fascist, but you are warning about fascists past, present and future, and how authoritarianism when it embraces violence slips into fascism. And boy, is it timely, especially your chapter on Erdogan. What do we do about Erdogan in this situation with Syria? And what do we do about him generally?
MA: Well, let me just make clear that I am not calling Donald Trump a fascist.
MA: So I do think that what is going on is an anger in various societies that is being responded to by leaders who take advantage of it. So for instance, with Erdogan, it’s a very interesting story, because he was elected fair and square the first time, partially because the elitists had not, or in the military at a certain stage, had not given anything to the people. So what he had done was he went out into the rural areas and parts of Turkey and delivered constituency services, and he was elected. And then what happened was he began to try to figure out how to limit everybody else’s power, threw people into jail, and in so many ways, and is trying now to change the constitution. So it is kind of a classic story in terms of things that we’ve seen before. And I have to say, Hugh, much to my surprise as I did the historical approach to the book, it showed that Mussolini, Hitler, all the people that you mentioned, were either elected or power was transferred constitutionally. And that’s really what I’m, this is a warning.
HH: It’s a terrific primer, Madame Secretary. I read it in two days, and I know your class helped you sort of formulate your thinking about this. But as yourself a refugee from fascism, your family had to flee Europe and then got to go back after World War II, you’re well prepared to do this. But when you actually timed the book to come out when Orban in Hungary, who does demonstrate some authoritarian but not yet fascistic tendencies, and you write that the alienation from the European project is growing not just there but in Poland, you’re right to sound this warning.
MA: Well, and there are things going on that I did not think would happen. I have to say that I was part of a group that was, the term is always euphoric at what happened at the end of the Cold War. And Orban is an interesting person. I met him in 1986 or so when he was the young dissident for a party called Fidesz. By the way, as they got older, it was no longer a young party. He still head this Fidesz. And he’s somebody, believe it or not, he’s been attacking George Soros, who was funded by George Soros. And so, and then I’ve decided his term, illiberal democracy, is an oxymoron. So I am concerned about the things that I have already read now that he’s planning to do after this election on Sunday in which he is going to make sure that any groups that are democratic groups that are funded by anybody from the outside, it’s really an anti-Soros thing, and then also talking more again about changing the constitution, exactly the kind of steps, and by the way, I don’t know whether you like this quote, but I thought it really summed things up that Mussolini said, that what you do is you pluck the chicken one feather at a time.
HH: One feather, yes, I bet…
MA: And that people don’t notice it.
HH: Underlined. Underlined in my copy. I’ve got to tell you, this will surprise you. I don’t want to quote him, because it was in a green room, but Seb Gorka, of all people, agrees with you on Orban. Madeleine Albright and Seb Gorka agreeing that there’s a threat in Hungary from an authoritarian-minded leader with a huge, I mean, he won a huge victory, Madame Secretary. What’s that tell you?
MA: It’s stunning. And I think part of it is that there is this, I’d like to see a breakdown in terms of the young people and how that all worked, but he did win a huge one. And this is the part that really is very troubling. His whole approach to this is kind of ethnic purity in terms of wanting only Hungarians to have anything to do with Hungary and not have all the migrants. And to go back to the original question you asked me about, Syria, one of the issues why should we care, one, because horrible things are happening to those people. But a lot of those people are the migrants.
MA: And they need to be somewhere. And so one of the things that I’ve been trying to explain is how interconnected we all really are, and something that happens in one place does affect all of us.
HH: Very well accomplished. Madame Secretary, in Fascism, you also remind us about the Balkans conflict. I want to read from Page 100. “The horror reached its apex in 1995 when within the space of 10 July days, troops commanded by General Ratko Mladic executed 7,800 Muslim men and boys in and around the town of Srebrenica and deposited their bodies in mass graves.” I confess I had forgotten that. Your book is a great reminder of the horror. So Syrian horror followed Rwandan horror, followed the horror of the Balkans. Are we becoming immune to this or completely so overwhelmed by its recurrence that we’re not paying attention?
MA: I think that’s what’s happening. And by the way, on Monday, I taught at Georgetown, and my whole class was about humanitarian intervention, the kind of thing that you’re talking about. And the call question is why should we care about people in faraway places with unpronounceable names? And basically, one could say, I would not, but one could say that we didn’t know what was going on during World War II. Now, we know everything about what’s happening, and so there’s a real question as to whether we should try everything we can to stop it or prevent it from happening in the first place. And then I do think it’s hard to persuade anybody, but the American people, about why it’s our responsibility. And it’s only that I think Americans are the most generous people in the world and that we need to know how this affects our national security. It’s not just our hearts.
HH: I’m talking with Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, the author of a brand new book, Fascism: A Warning, which is a great primer for anyone who has forgotten the recent past. And it’s exceptionally readable. It’s like Admiral Stavridis’ book. They work, you worked overtime to make this accessible to people who may not spend a lot of time in foreign affairs. Two more case studies, and then a big question – Chavez and the DPRK. Hugo Chavez left behind a hellhole. Venezuela is falling apart. You chart his rise and how he used elections, and how he survived the coup. It’s all recounted here. But what do we do now, Madame Secretary, when Venezuela is actually starving to death?
MA: Well, I hope that we can figure out a way to help, because I do think that humanitarian help is a very important aspect. The other part, again to bring this down to why should we care, there are discussions about migrants that are coming out of Latin and Central America. This is what’s going on. Where are these people supposed to go? And so I do think, and by the way, I do have a story where we left the country where I was born twice. But most people would prefer to live in the country where they’re born.
MA: …because of language and family. And therefore, what I think is useful is to try to be as helpful as we can to those that are suffering as they are in Venezuela. And you were talking about my students. We talked about this last week, you know, what could be done about Venezuela in terms of pushing the government there to do the right thing. I’m sorry that the President’s not able to go to Lima for the meeting of the Summit of Americas, because this has to be done in conjunction with others. And so I’m hoping that some joint activity will take place.
HH: When he was my guest, Admiral Stavridis said we should not use American troops, but we ought to be prepared to support Organization of American State efforts there. Do you agree with that assessment?
MA: Absolutely, yes.
HH: All right.
MA: And I think the OAS is something that can help. And I do believe the following thing. When it is possible, it should always be kind of a multilateral action or coalitions of the willing, because we are stronger when we have our partners with us in all of this.
HH: Madame Secretary, you’re one of the few Americans who have actually been to North Korea on a senior diplomatic mission. And the most bracing line in Fascism: A Warning, is on Page 203. “The DPRK is a secular ISIS.” That really does sum it up. And so as we approach a meeting, what’s your advice to President Trump and soon to be Secretary of State Pompeo, I think, about negotiating with these people with whom you have negotiated?
MA: Well, I have to say the following thing, that diplomacy and talking is not a gift to the other side. It is a way of trying to figure out how to solve a problem and how to really see what the issues are. And so I know some people think oh, well, just talking to them is bad. I have a belief that you quoted Milosevic before. I met with him. But I really do think that what has to happen, and in my case, we have to be prepared. I mean, before I went over there, what happened with President Clinton had asked former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry to do a complete review of our North Korea policy. Then, there were a lot of kind of preparatory talks at lower levels. And by the way, what was interesting, the man who was the number two guy, their Vice Marshall Cho, had come to the United States in order to invite President Clinton to go. And we’re in the Oval, and President Clinton gets the invitation, and he says, well, you know, at some point, I might go. But I have to, this has to be prepared, and so I’m sending the Secretary of State. And so I’m hoping that there is a lot of preparation going on. What’s unfortunate is the guy in the State Department that had been the expert on North Korea left, and we don’t have an ambassador in South Korea. So, but I do think that one of the first jobs that, if he’s confirmed, Director Pompeo should do, has to be diplomatic, because Rex Tillerson was working, I think, on some of that when he was asked to leave.
HH: Do you expect Director Pompeo to be confirmed? Do you think he ought to be confirmed?
MA: Well, I don’t want to, you know, I’m not a senator, but I do think what is important is for them to, hearings are very important, confirmation hearings, having gone through two of them. And I think that from what I’ve read, he is very well prepared for those. He has been a member of Congress. And he’s had a job recently that has put him in a position of knowing an awful lot. So I do think the State Department needs a Secretary of State quickly, and that he will be somebody that replenishes the State Department so that there really are people that can do the job of diplomacy. You can’t do diplomacy without diplomats.
HH: And a last question, Madame Secretary, again, the book, Fascism: A Warning, a must-read for people. Do you know Gina Haspel? And what do you think of her?
MA: I do not know her. You know, it’s interesting, because I was very interested in what was happening to women at the CIA. So I want to see women promoted, especially qualified ones. But I never had a chance to meet her.
HH: Do you think it will become more a routine, I’m cheating here with one extra question, I’ve interviewed three secretaries of state who have been women. You’re the third. Do you think that will become more routine and almost a default position as we go forward?
MA: I have to respond to that in my favorite way, which is seven years ago, my granddaughter said so what’s the big deal about Grandma Maddie being Secretary of State? Only girls are Secretary of State.
MA: And what she had done was seen Condi and Hillary, you know, so yes, I do. But I think there probably are a lot of little boys that have been encouraged by John Kerry and Rex Tillerson.
HH: And do you three get together? I mean, do you ever talk about the time at Foggy Bottom together?
MA: Well, not all three of us together, but we do talk a lot. Condi and I, you know, one of the other crazy parts in life, my father was Condi’s professor at the University of Denver.
HH: I remember that now from her memoir, Extraordinary Ordinary People. I had forgotten that, yeah.
MA: She has been so wonderful about him, and of course, Hillary and I talk. But I think there are people that would like to get the three of us together.
HH: Well, I hope that happens. I hope they talk about Fascism: A Warning. Madeleine Albright, great to talk with you, terrific book, and thank you for finding time this morning.
MA: Great, thanks, Hugh, I really appreciate it. Have a good day. Bye bye.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.