‘I like to think I would have avoided those mistakes’

Most of us are pretty sure that the world would have been better off after 9/11 if you were the president. Do you ever think about how you would have handled such a thing, that kind of crisis? Well, thank you for feeling that way. I would have made different mistakes. And, while all presidents make mistakes, I like to think that I would have avoided the very serious mistakes of the last few years. For example, invading a country that did not attack us, and failing to take action against the most serious threat we’ve ever faced: the climate crisis. But, while I like to think I would have avoided those mistakes, I’m certain I would have made others, but, overall, I like to think that the world would have been a different and better place, but, of course, other things have… so… Is this a repairable damage, in your opinion? Yes, I think it can be repaired, sure. Democracies are resilient, and with new leadership and with a return to honesty as a basis for policy-making, the repair of the damage could occur much more quickly than anyone now believes is possible. But the invasion of Iraq was the most serious strategic mistake in the history of the United States, and it is not over yet, and it will be difficult to bring a peaceful and successful conclusion to this fiasco. Do you have any suggestions? One of the hallmarks of a fiasco is that there are no good alternatives, ways to get out of it. In my opinion, we should follow two objectives: First, to bring American troops home as quickly as possible, but, No 2, to do that in a way that acknowledges the moral obligation we have to the Iraqi people, to avoid making a horrible situation even worse in the manner of our leaving. So, it is not at all easy and there are no good options but we should concentrate on finding ways to get the troops out of there as quickly as possible. A question you hate to be asked, I’m afraid: Are you going to run for president? Are you interested in that deal? I appreciate you asking that question, and I’m sure that you have, at one point or another, seen the answer that I’ve given for quite some time, and I say it that way only by way of apologizing if it sounds repetitive: I don’t have plans to run for president, and I don’t expect to run for president. I have not ruled out the possibility of running again at some point in the future but I doubt that that will happen. Climate crisis Are you going to endorse anybody? I don’t know. I am concentrating on a different kind of campaign – to try to convince people in my own country, and all around the world, including here in Greece, that the climate crisis is the most serious challenge we have ever confronted and we must confront it. What is the most important thing that has to be done right now? People have to learn about it, and learn why it’s so serious, and then find the best ways they can be a part of the solution in their own lives. Once they engage on the basis of knowledge, then they’ll find multiple solutions that save them money and make the economy better at the same time they are reducing pollution. You’ve been to Greece before – I know you were on Crete, at a time of self-reflection, I gather – how do you feel about the country? You’re used to Americans coming here and complimenting Greece, and I am not going to be an exception. I love Greece, and my family and I are really in love with Greece because of the friendliness of the people, the vitality of the culture, the deep common bonds that we as Americans feel for the birthplace of democracy and for the natural beauty of the surroundings and the richness of the history and the legacy of culture. It’s really unparalleled, and we have enjoyed it each and every time we’ve come here. I look forward to coming back often. You seemed to have a lot of common interests with the Patriarch yesterday when you met in Istanbul. Yes, he and I have met in the past and he gives me credit for first calling him the «green Patriarch,» and I did so because of his deep knowledge of the environmental crisis and his advocacy for the integrity of creation. And he is a wonderful man, and I like to feel that I have the honor to call him a friend, although he’s such a great man, it’s perhaps impertinent for me to put myself in that category because he’s a spiritual leader and I respect him very deeply.

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