Wednesday night Henry Kissinger and Robert Rubin were at the University of Pennsylvania to discuss the “Challenges facing the Next President” hosted by the bi-partisan organization IMPACT 08. The moderator was CNN reporter, Frank Sesno. As wasting much of the session with the usual questions, he called for “a lightening round” to deal with subjects he failed to raise.”Russia . . .”
“China . . .”
Part of the audience was shocked, the other sneered.
Turning to Kissinger, Sessno added: “You briefed her. How did it go?”
This was too much for Robert Rubin. He interrupted:
DR. RUBIN: I’LL BET IT WENT VERY WELL. SERIOUSLY.DR. KISSINGER: THANK YOU.
DR. RUBIN: I BET IT WENT VERY WELL.
DR. KISSINGER: SHE IS AN INTELLIGENT COURAGEOUS LAID Y. BUT THAT IS NOT THE ISSUE YOU ARE RAISING, WHICH I AM NOT GOING TO ANSWER.
Sesno tried to recapture his balance not by mentioning Biden’s prediction of that Obama’s inexperience will invite trouble but with
OBAMA.WE WILL LET YOU EACH SUM IT UP AND THEN YOU CAN GO HOME. I WANT A TARGET. VERY CHARISMATIC, BUT IS HE NAIVE?
DR. RUBIN: NO. LET ME EXPAND ON THAT, SLIGHTLY. I FIRST MET HIM ABOUT FOUR YEARS AGO WHEN HE ENTERED THE SENATE BECAUSE MY CHIEF OF TREASURY HAD BEEN AT THE HARVARD LAW REVIEW AND I GOT TO KNOW BARACK. IF YOU LOOK ON PAGES 71 THROUGH 75 ON “THE I WAS /TKASITY OF HOPE” IS THAT THE BOOK IT WAS ABOUT GLOBALIZATION. AFTER HILLARY DROPPED OUT BECAUSE I HAD BEEN SUPPORTING HER, AFTER HILLARY DROPPED OUT, I GOT INVOLVED WITH HIM. AND I SAID THIS TO HENRY ON THE WAY HERE, IN THE MIDST OF THIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN THERE IS AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK HE WILL TAKE OFF THE CAMPAIGN FOR A HALF-HOUR TO ENGAGE WITH LARRY, MYSELF, PAUL, A FEW OTHERS WITH 0 FOCUS ON THE POLITICS OF THE MOMENT BUT WATER, WHAT IS — RATHER, WHAT IS GOING ON, WHAT SHOULD WE DO ABOUT IT WITH A TREMENDOUS HE APPROACHES DECISIONS IN TERMS OF GETTING EVERYTHING OUT ON THE TABLE AS HE CAN. SO I DON’T THINK HE IS NAIVE AT ALL. HE HAS ALL THE PIECES TO REALLY BE A VERY SOPHISTICATED VERY INSIGHTFUL VERY THOUGHTFUL LEADER IF HE CAN GET ELECTED. SO THAT — I HAVE DEVELOPED ENORMOUS REGARD FOR HIM.
MR. SESNO: LET ME BRING THIS CONVERSATION TO A CLOSE BY ASKING EACH OF YOU TO SPEND A COUPLE MINUTES WRAPPING UP.
In other words, satisfied with Rubin’s plug for “good student, listens to wise man Obama,” Sesno was ready to close. It was Kissinger’s turn to call him to order;
DR. KISSINGER: I THINK WE WEREN’T GOING TO MAKE THIS A DISCUSSION ON CANDIDATES. AND BOB AND I ARE GOOD FRIENDS AND WE WILL WORK TOGETHER. BUT I SHOULD SAY SOMETHING ABOUT MCCAIN.MR. SESNO: PLEASE. PLEASE.
DR. KISSINGER: I MET MCCAIN, SENATOR MCCAIN OVER 30 YEARS AGO, IN 1973. I HAD BEEN IN HANOI TO WORK OUT THE MODALITIES OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PEACE ACCORD WE HAD SIGNED TWO WEEKS EARLIER AND THAT INVOLVED THE SCHEDULE FOR RELEASE OF PRISONERS. AND ON MY LAST NIGHT IN HANOI, THE VIETNAMESE TOLD ME THAT I COULD TAKE COMMANDER MCCAIN ON MY PLANE WITH ME AS I LEFT THE NEXT DAY. AND I SAID I WON’T TAKE ANYONE OUT OF ORDER, AND HE WILL HAVE TO COME OUT IN THE ORDER WE AGREED AND NOT ON A SPECIAL PLANE OF THE UNITED STATES, UNLIKE THE OTHERS. SO HE HAD TO STAY SIX MORE WEEKS. FOUR MONTHS LATER THERE WAS A RECEPTION AT THE WHITE HOUSE NOR ALL THE — FOR ALL THE RETURNING PRISONERS AND HE CAME UP TO ME AND HE SAID, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SAVING MY HONOR. AND HE DID NOT TELL ME THAT TWO AND A HALF YEARS EARLIER HE HAD ALREADY HAD AN OFFER TO BE RELEASED, AND REFUSED TO LEAVE UNLESS ALL HIS FELLOW PRISONERS WERE RELEASED WITH HIM.
SO, I THINK OF HIM AS A MAN OF EXTRAORDINARY CHARACTER, EXTRAORDINARY INTEGRITY, IN WHOM I HAVE VERY GREAT CONFIDENCE AND I DIDN’T COME HERE TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE, AND BOB AND I ARE CLOSE FRIENDS, REGARDLESS OF THE FACT THAT WE WERE NOT ON THE SAME SIDE IN THIS. SO, I HAVE CONFIDENCE THAT IN THE CRISIS THAT WE ARE FACING, HE WILL APPROACH IT IN THE SPIRIT I ADMIRE. AND THAT’S ALL I WILL SAY.
This was the only recorded applause of the evening. Kissinger’s story perfectly illustrated McCain the man just as Rubin’s story illustrated Obama the student. But, then, the entire evening was an amazing Kissinger tour de force. It is worth reading the entire transcript for the participants successfully eluded Sesno’s inapt questioning and managed to provide some significant insights to their reading of the current international crisis. More about that later. Let me just add that I hope Frank Sesno is never invited to moderate another session of IMPACT 08 or, indeed, any bipartisan discussion ever again. He is much too partisan for the role.