'This Week' Transcript 11-19-23: Dep. National Security Adviser Jon Finer, Adm. Mike Mullen, Israeli Amb. Michael Herzog and Mayor London Breed
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, November 19.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, November 19, 2023 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Freedom for hostages. Israel and Hamas reportedly closing in on a deal to release hostages from Gaza and pause fighting.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We’ve been working intensely to try to bring hostages home.
RADDATZ: Israel expands its ground operations while raiding Gaza's largest hospital in search of Hamas.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO DIRECTOR GENERAL: Hospitals are not battlegrounds.
RADDATZ: The latest this morning with White House Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog, and Thomas White of the U.N. Palestinian Refugee Relief Agency. High-stakes talks.
High stakes talks.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that they’re some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had.
RADDATZ: The world's two most major powers hit a diplomatic reset, but remain divided on key issues. Can the U.S. and China work together and avoid conflict? We'll ask former Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen.
NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This debate next month, I expect there to be three candidates on the stage.
RADDATZ: Tim Scott drops out as Nikki Haley surges. But with just two months until the first votes, can any candidate catch Donald Trump? Our powerhouse roundtable weighs in.
MAYOR LONDON BREED, D) SAN FRANCISCO: We have to be prepared to make the hard decisions to get to a better place. And that is what I have done as mayor.
RADDATZ: With San Francisco on the world stage, we talk to its trailblazing mayor about tackling the major challenges facing her city and so many others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it’s THIS WEEK. Here now, Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to THIS WEEK.
President Biden likes to think of himself as the foreign policy president. But no matter the depth and breadth of his experience, this was a challenging and even harrowing week. In San Francisco, a summit that signaled a thaw in relations with China ended with President Biden undiplomatically calling China's president a dictator.
And in Israel, as we come on the air this morning, there is reporting that Israel and Hamas are close to a deal to free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day freeze in fighting. The White House says no final deal has been struck, but "The Washington Post" report has raised hopes once again.
ABC's Matt Gutman in Tel Aviv leads us off.
MATT GUTMAN, ABC NEWS CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This morning, after weeks of negotiations, amidst Israel's relentless pounding of Gaza, Israel and Hamas inching close tore a hostage deal. On the heels of that "Washington Post" report, Israeli officials telling ABC News the deal would see at least 50 hostages released in exchange for a five-day ceasefire and the release of Palestinian women and minors from Israeli jails.
This ceasefire would allow what's being described as a massive increase in humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, which the U.N. says is now beset by hunger.
It comes amid accusations in Israel of governmental foot-dragging.
GUTMAN: They're taking the gloves off. They're now demanding the ouster of the Israeli government for its failure to broker a hostage deal.
GUTMAN (voice over): This five-day march by hostage families ending Saturday in frustration. This relative saying, first bring them home, then fight your war.
It's a war that so far has left over 12,000 Palestinians dead according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and increasing calls for the Israeli government to cease fire. The U.N. reporting that dozens have been killed in an Israeli air strike at a U.N.-run school on Saturday, currently serving as a shelter for displaced Palestinians. The health ministry saying at least 50 people were killed in the strike on the al Fakhoura (ph) school. The Israeli military saying the incident is under review.
And Israel's siege of Gaza's hospitals also drawing international condemnation. On Saturday, a team from the World Health Organization visiting al Shifa hospital, Gaza's largest, describing piles of medical and human waste and calling the hospital a death zone.
Scores of critically ill patients remain, but today 30 premature infants taken out of their incubators last week due to lack of electricity have been evacuated. They join other patients and displaced people from the hospital seen marching south, joining the flood of Palestinians picking their way past the ruins of Gaza City.
GUTMAN (on camera): Martha, over the past month the issue of the hostages has emerged from a back burner issue to one of the main priorities of the Israeli government.
Now, that’s partly due to the public pressure being brought on the government by the families of the hostages in Gaza, but also due to an understanding that time is not on the Israeli government’s side. An increasing number of those hostages have been found dead. And while both sides appear to be very close to inking that deal, we are told there is so little trust on either side that this deal could evaporate at any moment.
RADDATZ: Matt Gutman, thanks for all your reporting.
Joining us now is President Biden’s deputy national security adviser, Jon Finer.
Mr. Finer, the NSC spokesperson overnight said that no deal has been reached yet, but you continue to work hard. “The Post” story did not say a deal had been reached, but that the U.S., Israel and Hamas were close to a deal. So, is that possible? What can you tell us?
JON FINER, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Thanks, Martha.
I guess what I would say about this at this point is that these talks have clearly reached a very sensitive stage. We’re following this minute by minute, hour by hour, and have been over a number of weeks. And this is an incredibly high priority for all of us in this administration up to and including certainly the president.
What I can say about the state of the talks and – and the prime minister of Qatar has said something similar this morning, is that some of the gaps have now narrowed. Some of the issues that were at odds have now been closed out. But we are not finished. There is not yet a deal in place. And I think it would be premature to conclude that this is inevitable given how close we have come in the past.
And I think one thing that I won’t do is – is go through all the outstanding areas in which there are still negotiations. We don’t negotiate these things in public, but it is a very high priority to try to get this done. They’re making some progress and we hope that that will be concluded soon so that these people can finally come home.
RADDATZ: Can – can you tell us if you feel you are much closer to a deal than you have been in recent weeks?
FINER: I mean, again, I don’t want to characterize with – with to many adjectives. What I will say, though, is that there has been significant progress, including in – in recent days, in recent hours. Some of the issues, whether it was disagreements, have now been either narrowed or – or an understanding has been reached, but it is not complete, it is not everything. And on – on something like this, I think a real cautionary note is that until it is done and until people actually start moving and start being released, we do not want to get ahead of ourselves because things can still be derailed at the last minute.
RADDATZ: Let – if we could, let’s talk about a ceasefire for a moment. The president has said that would – Hamas would benefit from that. Do you still see any sort of ceasefire or a freeze as something you don’t want?
FINER: Well, I’d say a few things about this. One is, we have said that certainly in the context of – of some sort of hostage deal, one of the things that that could enable is a much more extended period of pause that would first and foremost enable to the hostages to actually be released safely, but that would also make it much easier to both bring humanitarian assistance into Gaza and also distribute that assistance throughout Gaza. That’s a priority for us separate and apart from any hostage deal, but certainly a deal and a pause would make that easier to do. And that’s been a major challenge up till now.
What we are saying about a ceasefire, and I think it – it – it’s been very clear a position of this administration throughout, is that not only is Hamas not seeking a ceasefire, but they are saying that their goal is to repeat the events of October 7th, the horrific attacks that took place, again and again to the extent that they can, until Israel is – is eliminated. Again, their rhetoric, obviously.
We totally don’t accept that, and – and neither could Israel or would any country that has been subject to that sort of threat. And so calling on – on one side to – to – to accept a ceasefire under that circumstance, especially when Hamas retains the capabilities, Israel’s military operations are not yet complete, is not something that we’re going to support at this time.
RADDATZ: Are – are you confident that the majority of the hostages are alive? Hamas has said they are not holding all of them. Other groups are holding those hostages. Do you have any clarity on who is holding what hostage – which hostages?
FINER: So, this is not something about which we have perfect clarity. Obviously, we were relying on – on others who have been in touch with Hamas. The United States government does not speak directly with them. But we do believe that a significant number, and – and – and most likely the majority and even the vast majority of hostages are alive. We are certainly operating under that assumption, and we are going to work to get as many of them out, certainly including, by the way, a number of Americans who we believe are held hostage, as we can.
But we do not have perfect clarity and we are not on the ground. We are not in direct contact with Hamas. But – but we believe, based on their representations, that there are a significant number of hostages who could be released if this deal is completed.
RADDATZ: And when you say significant, dozens, 50?
FINER: Certainly, more than dozens, yes.
RADDATZ: And -- and I want to talk about Israeli forces that are conducting and have conducted that multi-day raid into Gaza’s largest hospital, al Shifa. We’re getting reports from aid groups that went in just yesterday, that the situation inside that hospital is now desperate and a death zone.
What should the Israelis be doing?
FINER: So, you know, we have talked at length about al Shifa in -- in recent days. It’s really a microcosm of the challenges associated with this conflict. Obviously, this is the largest hospital in Gaza. It is the most advanced hospital in Gaza. It is a place where there are patients who are acutely ill and where there have been civilians who gathered there seeking some sort of sanctuary and refuge. And we believe all of those lives are of equal value to lives anywhere and are -- and are sacred, the lives of innocents.
That said, we have also been clear that we have information, not just Israeli information, but American intelligence, that suggests that Hamas, over a period of time, has built up infrastructure, military infrastructure, in and around and underneath that hospital, has used it as a command and control center for the conduct of combat operations, and if that makes it a legitimate area of concern for the Israeli Defense Forces. We’re also said that that, in and of itself, does not give Israel the right, in our view, does not -- it would not be something we support to take air strikes against that hospital, to fight combat operations in and around that hospital.
So, that is the box that -- that Israel finds itself in. And it finds itself there largely because Hamas has chosen to use a hospital as a place from which to fight. And so we have been clear to the IDF that we need -- that they need to handle this situation in a very sensitive, very delicate way. And that’s an area of ongoing conversation between us and the government of Israel.
RADDATZ: Let -- let me just ask you quickly then, do you feel Israel is doing enough to adhere to the law of war to minimize civilian casualties?
FINER: What I say about this is, we are not going to make, and all my colleagues have said the same, real time judgments, real time verdicts on the way they’re conducting this conflict, including any particular incidents.
What we are going to say, though, is our position is that they need to adhere to the law of war, as all armies do, as the United States Army needs to do when it conducts combat operations. And that when we see incidents that concern us, as we have, we raise them directly and right away with our Israel counterparts and get clarity and get their answers as to what they’re seeking to accomplish and what has happened.
It is hard to get real-time information out of Gaza. First reports are often wrong. And one thing I'll add is that Hamas certainly adheres to no such standard and holds itself to no such standard when it comes to how it’s fighting this conflict. And that’s one of the other challenges that Israel faces, is an enemy and adversary that not only doesn’t adhere to the laws of war but openly and wantonly perpetrates violations of them every chance it gets.
RADDATZ: So, it sounds like you have raised some concerns over the past month or so.
Thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.
FINER: Thank you.
RADDATZ: And we’re joined now by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Herzog.
Welcome, Mr. Ambassador.
MICHAEL HERZOG, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Good morning, Martha.
RADDATZ: Jon Finer seemed pretty hopeful in that interview about the sensitive nature clearly in the hostage situation, but how would you describe it at this point?
HERZOG: We are hopeful that we can get a significant -- significant number of hostages freed in the coming days. I don’t want to go into the details of these talks. They are obviously very sensitive. The less we’re going to the details, the better the chances of such a deal. But they are very serious efforts and I’m hopeful that we can have the deal in the coming days.
RADDATZ: In the next few days? The deal outlined in “The Post” said it would involve a freeze in combat operations for five days. This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu said a pause in combat is exactly what Hamas wants, so they can regroup.
HERZOG: So, I want to distinguish between a pause for a few days in order to get hostages released, and a ceasefire. The prime minister was referring to a ceasefire. We are against ceasefire because that would allow Hamas to retain power, to regroup, to rearm and strike again.
RADDATZ: But it would be a ceasefire for a few days?
HERZOG: This is a --
RADDATZ: Is that the difference?
HERZOG: We -- we’re talking about a pause in the fighting for a few days, so we can get the hostages out.
RADDATZ: But all sides?
HERZOG: It’s not -- it’s not a ceasefire because we will continue to push against Hamas to dismantle their military infrastructure and their terror infrastructure. We’re not going to stop that, but we are willing to go for a pause, for a significant number of hostages, if we have a deal.
RADDATZ: And tell me what the status is of the military operation now? We saw your forces go into Al Shifa Hospital. It’s described as horrific conditions in there now, premature babies and in fear of death. What should be doing there and what are you doing there?
HERZOG: We have very clear evidence that Hamas used Al Shifa Hospital and other hospitals as command and control centers and a hub for their -- their leaders and rockets and power generation (ph) -- generator for the tunnel. And we already discovered evidence. We’re going to show more evidence today of tunnels.
RADDATZ: You will show you more evidence?
HERZOG: Yet absolute --
RADDATZ: What kind of evidence can you show? Because what you’ve shown so far does not necessarily mean there is command and control centers.
HERZOG: No, we – we found -- we found a lot of weapons. We found computers. We found a lot of things. We found tunnels.
We’re now searching these tunnels. They’re all booby-trapped. But we are in the process of searching these tunnels and we show our findings to the world. While we were there, we’re still there, there’s no shootout. We’re very careful.
We have been in touch with the managerial staff of the hospital, with the manager. We allowed people who wanted to evacuate to evacuate. Of course, there’s --
RADDATZ: Where are they supposed to evacuate to?
HERZOG: No, there are other areas. There are shelters. There are hubs. There are hospitals in the south as well that are still, as we speak, and as our forces are working underground, there are patients being treated in that hospital.
And our forces brought fuel and incubators and all the babies are going out and the hospital continues to function.
But underneath, there’s a city of terror and we are after it.
RADDATZ: You have seen the numbers, more than 12,000 civilians, more that 4,500 children killed according to Hamas-run Gaza ministry, health ministry. Secretary Blinken says far too many civilians have died. You have said you’re making every effort to distinguish between terrorists and the civilian population, and yet the world has seen those images, those children, those civilians.
HERZOG: So, let me say, every loss of human life, Israeli or Palestinian, is a tragedy. We are not after innocent civilians. We are after the terrorists who have been hiding behind civilians.
I’ll be very careful about Hamas numbers. All the numbers you hear coming out of Gaza are Hamas numbers. Nobody really knows how many people died there. There’s no denying that there’s collateral, that the civilians died, but nobody knows how many. And you and I don’t know --
RADDATZ: So, the collateral damage, the children (ph)?
HERZOG: You don’t know, and I don’t know how many of them are terrorists and how many of them are civilians. Nobody really knows. I'll – I can tell you that --
RADDATZ: Well, you certainly don’t think the children are terrorists.
HERZOG: I don’t -- never said that and never implied that. And there are children in there. But the overall numbers, I don’t know, and you don’t know how many of them are terrorists and how many of them are innocent civilians.
I will tell you that on October 7th those who went to Israel, 3,000 terrorists, we already -- we are still counting bodies of terrorists in our side. We have 1,100. And Hamas counts them as people who died in Gaza.
RADDATZ: Mr. Ambassador, I – I want to -- I want to end here. President Biden wrote an op-ed over the weekend making clear what the U.S. wants. He said, “There must be no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade and no reduction in territory. And after this war is over, the voices of Palestinian people and their aspirations must be at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza.”
Can you commit to that?
HERZOG: I think there’s no real daylight between us and the U.S. Our forces know that in order to reoccupy Gaza, to govern Gaza, it is not our desire. It is not our wish.
We do not wish to take territory from Gaza. That’s not the intention. Our intention is to dismantle the Hamas terror machine, the war machine.
And President Biden says it in his article that we should dismantle that terror machine or else they will strike again and again.
We are in the dialogue with U.S. administration about the day after Hamas in Gaza, and that includes, of course, the idea that Palestinians will govern over Palestinians. Nobody else wants to do that.
RADDATZ: OK, thank you so much for joining us this morning, Mr. Ambassador. Much appreciate it.
HERZOG: Thank you very much.
RADDATZ: Let’s now turn to the view from inside Gaza. Let’s bring in Thomas White from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
Mr. White, we just heard from the Israeli ambassador and his view. From what you are seeing, what’s the reality in Gaza right now?
THOMAS WHITE, DIRECTOR OF UNRWA AFFAIRS IN GAZA: Martha, the situation is still very desperate. And, of course, the fighting rages in the north. And, once again, we have horrific scenes coming out of one of our schools that was hit during that fighting. A large number of people killed. We’re still trying to verify the – the information from up there. It's very clear it is an UNRWA school. And so the death toll continues to mount. And these are people sheltering inside of an UNRWA School.
RADDATZ: And -- and the Israeli ambassador told me, just before we sat down, that they believe it might have been an errant Israeli shell that hit that area, although he said he does dispute the numbers.
And let's talk about Al-Shifa. What -- what are you seeing now? It sounds absolutely desperate there.
WHITE: Today there was a – a team that went up to Al-Shifa. It composed of the World Food Programme -- correction, it composed of WHO, UNICEF and UNRWA, and in partnership with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. And we moved 31 neonatal babies out of Shifa. From all accounts, the situation in Shifa sounds desperate, and there are still a large number of people in a critical situation in that hospital.
RADDATZ: Israel said that people should probably just go to a different hospital, move south. Is that possible?
WHITE: Look, this is the reality of this conflict, is that people in Gaza have got nowhere to go. It's unlike other conflicts where, you know, there's fighting in one city and you move to another city. In Gaza, there is nowhere to go. You know, houses are being hit all across the Gaza Strip. People are worried about, if they're in the north or in the south, are they safe?
I mean, just to give you a sense, during the course of this war, we've had 13 of the UNRWA shelters, you know, people sheltering under a U.N. flag, that have been directly hit. There's countless other shelters, over 30 shelters, that have suffered collateral damage. Many of them are actually in the South. You know, 73 people have been killed in these shelters, a large proportion of them in the south.
You know, the reality is, the Gazans have got nowhere to go for safety. And they are all exposed to the threat of fighting, and particularly air strikes.
RADDATZ: And -- and briefly, if you can, what is Gaza’s future?
WHITE: That’s a really good question. I mean, I think it’s – what I can say is it's going through the mind of every Gazan here. You know, obviously, well over half of the population had been displaced at very short notice, many of them arriving in the south with the clothes they stood in. But many of them, right now, it's just a -- a struggle to survive. It's a struggle to get enough bread, somewhere -- somewhere out of the rain, access medical care, find somewhere that's safe, really. So, for many of them it's just, you know, they're thinking about how they provide for their family tomorrow.
But, increasingly, people are very worried about what does the future hold for them? Where are they doing to live? Where are they going to get their children educated? What does the future hold? And that's the – that's the big question on the minds of Gazans right now.
RADDATZ: Thanks so much for your time this morning, Mr. White, and your courageous work.
Up next, after President Biden and Xi's meeting, will U.S.-China relations chart a new course? Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen joins us. We're back in just two minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will continue to compete vigorously with the PRC, but we'll manage that competition responsibly so it doesn't veer into conflict or accidental conflict. We're going to continue to preserve and pursue high-level diplomacy to PRC in both directions to keep the lines of communication open including between President Xi and me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: That was President Biden following his meeting with President Xi on the sidelines of the APEC summit this week.
For more, let's go to ABC's Britt Clennett in Hong Kong.
Britt, so what's the read there?
BRITT CLENNETT, ABC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Martha, China sees this as a successful trip. Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to have met his main goal which was to really lower the temperature of tensions to allow more focus on his economy, which after decades of high-speed growth is now slowing down.
President Biden once again calling Xi a dictator. Well, it did put a bit of a damper on things, but, you know, mentioned Biden’s comments were censored, and Chinese social media very much focused on the positive aspects of the meeting.
But, you know, at the end of the day, the two sides know they are ideologically different, but in San Francisco, Xi talked about peaceful coexistence, and here (ph), he wanted to underline during this trip that China does not want to replace anyone, that its goal really is to improve the well-being of its people.
But, you know, at the same time, Xi made it very clear that China demands full respect for its position on Taiwan saying, the U.S. needs to stop arming Taiwan and support what it calls China's peaceful reunification.
You know, the proposed reopening of military channels is also seen as a step in the right direction, especially when it comes to avoiding any misunderstandings that could potentially lead to a conflict, but it's unlikely to dramatically change China's military actions to its ambitions in the South China Sea or aggression towards Taiwan -- Martha.
RADDATZ: Fascinating. Britt, thanks so much.
Joining us now is retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Good morning, Admiral. It's good to see you.
It's rarely a bad thing when two leaders come together and re-establish military to military contact, and some progress on fentanyl. But what did the U.S. really accomplish there?
ADM. MIKE MULLEN (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: Well, I think it really is important because we shouldn't underestimate how bad the relationship has been, how difficult it is not just now, but I think in the future.
So -- and I felt for some time that President Biden and President Xi need to lead this relationship, and if they don't, it will just continue to deteriorate.
So I think it's a -- the meeting was a big deal, and in particular, as we've talked about how bad the military to military communications issue was, now that it's re-established, to me, that's a big accomplishment.
RADDATZ: But those activities in the South China Sea and those engagements and that aerial harassment, that's not going away?
MULLEN: I don't think it's going away. It's actually really dangerous. We would hope with added communications, we might be able to mitigate that over time, but I don't think that’s going away -- going away in the near future at all.
RADDATZ: And Britt gave us a readout there, but the Chinese readout was quite clear, saying China will eventually be unified and will inevitably be unified -- talking about Taiwan there.
RADDATZ: That's the danger.
MULLEN: The Taiwan issue I think is the most significant and most dangerous, near-term and long-term. And there was no progress with respect to that. I think the message from certainly President Xi is they will be unified at some point. He's been very aggressive on that issue.
I think it’s very important that those two leaders say we’re not going to do this by way of conflict, yet that didn’t happen. And that’s still out there and we have to focus on that and make sure that if there is a reunification, that is done peacefully, consistent with the One China policy.
RADDATZ: The Chinese were not particularly happy about President Biden calling President Xi a dictator. I want to play the reaction to that statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken -- a noticeable wince when he hears the word “dictator”.
Look, you’ve always had one of the best poker faces no matter what’s going on in the world, but would you have been privately, secretly wincing as well?
MULLEN: I think the wincing is accurate and I actually think we need to stay away from name-calling at that level. It doesn’t help in any way. One of the things I’ve learned across the globe is people like to be treated with respect. And you need to do that, particularly at that level.
RADDATZ: When you look back at your time as chairman from 2007 to 2011, it was. Are things worse or better, which are (ph)?
MULLEN: Things were better, there were still -- they were very, very difficult. But things have changed over the last decade. I mean, we've got a new leader in China. He's very strong, much more activity in the South China Sea in the part of China and the U.S., we've got tariffs, China's got a nuclear buildup, but there's lots of things that have moved in that region as well as our relationship which has caused further deterioration. That's why this meeting was so important.
RADDATZ: And we hope they'll probably be more, but still all that tension out there. Thanks so much for joining us this morning --
MULLEN: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: -- Admiral.
Coming up, how is conflict overseas playing out here at home? That conversation and more on our Powerhouse Roundtable.
RADDATZ: The table is here, ready to go. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember 2016 how many candidates were running? And they stayed in for – for many contests. So now you have a narrowing already and we're still two months from Iowa.
CHRIS CHISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It’s the fourth quarter of this game now, everybody, and that is the time for unserious people to get the hell off the stage.
NIKKI HALEY (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This debate next month, it'll be December 6th in Alabama, I expect there to be three candidates on the stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Some of the GOP 2024 contenders weighing in on the shrinking field. We'll get to that and much more with our powerhouse roundtable.
NPR “All Things Considered” co-host Juana Summers, “Washington Post” chief correspondent Dan Balz, "New York Times" White House and national security correspondent David Sanger, and we want to welcome our ABC senior White House correspondent Selina Wang.
Welcome to all of you.
Selina, I want to start with you.
You reported from China for many years. You were out there at APEC. You were actually the pool reporter and in the room with Xi and Biden before they started their meeting.
What – what was your takeaway? And just some personal thoughts.
SELINA WANG, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was, for President Biden, mission accomplished, but it was a low bar. He just wanted Xi Jinping to agree to talk to him more, to pick up the phones in times of crisis, and they got that done.
And in China right now, given how much power has consolidated around Xi Jinping, it is important that the top leaders are actually talking to each other to enact change.
But, look, on the major topics, the most sensitive parts of the issues, including Taiwan, no progress. And clearly this doesn't solve the deep mistrust between these countries.
When I was in the room I did asked Xi Jinping multiple times in Mandarin, do you trust Biden? I know he heard the question. He looked at me in the eyes. He smiled, but didn't answer.
And then when Biden was asked the question about whether he trusts Xi, he said, trust, but verify, showing just the deep ideological divide. This is a leader in China who's consolidated the power of the CCP and every part of Chinese society. Very, very far away from each other. No one meeting is going to solve that.
RADDATZ: And, David Sanger, you were out there in San Francisco as well, with your years of experience, but you put somewhat of a dark cloud over the whole thing.
DAVID SANGER, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE & NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Martha.
RADDATZ: Not you personally, but, for them, kind of negative.
SANGER: So – So, Selina and I were at the – at the summit together. And, you know, what I thought was most notable was that there was a bit of a change in the balance of power somewhat in the United States' favor. I think mostly that has come from the fact that this was by and large the first time that we've seen a Chinese leader have to come to the United States when China was growing at 1 percent or 2 percent, not at 8 percent. When they’ve got a huge overhang of real estate property debt and a lot of economic crises. And Xi basically had to make the case, come invest in us.
When was the last time you've heard a Chinese leader have to say, we need American investment? We need American technology. I think he -- inside the meeting -- I'm told by participants, he complained bitterly about the U.S. restrictions on American semiconductors, on semi – on the equipment that you use to produce semiconductors, because this is keeping China from the most advanced military goods, but it’s also keeping them from competing the way they want to in artificial intelligence.
RADDATZ: But generally I know you – you basically said not a whole lot was accomplished before (INAUDIBLE).
SANGER: That’s right. And I – look, we didn't expect a huge amount here. The fentanyl agreement I think was significant because this is a killer of -- a huge killer of Americans, you know, over 18. And so that had to be dealt with.
The real question here is, do they follow through?
We've seen other moments where the Chinese have said, "Sure, we will set up military-to-military communications," and then, when a crisis comes up, like the balloon incident a few months ago, no one answers the phone. This happened during the Bush administration, and it's happened now.
RADDATZ: Always the follow-through. It's always the follow-through that we have to keep our eyes on.
And -- and, Juana, Republicans were quick to criticize Joe Biden for not being tough enough on China?
JUANA SUMMERS, NPR 'ALL THINGS CONSIDERED' CO-HOST: That's right, and the other thing that we should keep in mind here is that, for the first time in a number of years, we're seeing through polling obtained by my colleagues on NPR's Washington desk that the issue of China is one that is really resonating with voters across the ideological spectrum. I think that's why you hear Republican candidates like Nikki Haley, like former President Trump, bringing up this issue again and again as a way to attempt to discredit this White House and as a way to point to weaknesses in President Joe Biden's campaign.
I think it's an issue that is certainly salient, but it's -- always, the big question is that, whether this will actually move votes. This has not been an issue that we have typically seen voters actually mobilize on once we hit those elections a year out. So we'll be waiting to see just how impactful it is then.
RADDATZ: Exactly. Dan, and I was going to say that, he's got all these foreign policy issues facing him, Ukraine, Israel, China. But that's not going to win him an election?
DAN BALZ, WASHINGTON POST CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. Foreign policy rarely wins an election. And I think, particularly where this country is at this point, and given the two likely nominees, Trump and Biden, it's unlikely that foreign policy will dominate.
Having said that, though, the president is caught up in crises that he has to deal with, and those are -- I don't want to call them distractions. These are real issues that he has to worry about, which do take him away from some of the things he may need to do to try to improve his standing politically in this country, with domestic issues, particularly the economy.
RADDATZ: And, Juana, I just want to -- last thing on this. especially on Israel, that's a real challenge for him right now. We saw protesters. We've seen protesters around the world. We certainly saw support here in Washington as well, but you saw those DNC protesters.
SUMMERS: That's absolutely right, and I think this is particularly of issue for the president and his re-election campaign, when you look at the different factions of the broad, multi-racial coalition that was able to deliver him the White House back in 2020. Particularly I was struck by the number of young people who were out voicing their opposition to the White House's stance on this, and I know that that's something those close to the president are keenly watching.
But as we look at this polling, the thing that I keep keeping in mind is we're still a year out for an election. And voicing displeasure with the president at this moment in time is very different than going out and choosing to not support him if the alternative -- I'm thinking from the perspective of a young, left-leaning person here -- is perhaps a re-election of President Trump. And that's the big question we have, is whether or not the sentiment holds. But there's no question that it is a challenging moment for the president on this issue.
RADDATZ: Whether the sentiment holds and whether they're -- they're really motivated, right?
SANGER: Yeah, no, I think that's the -- the big issue. This is the first time -- the first foreign policy issue where we have seen the president split with completely the progressive wing of -- of his own party. And you've seen this in the protests. You hear it in those State Department cables that have been, you know, from State Department employees who are basically...
RADDATZ: Five hundred, 700 -- a whole lot of people signing up?
SANGER: A lot of people signing up, basically saying our policy is in the wrong place; we've given too much support to Israel. I thought it was interesting, in your interview with Jon Finer, that not only did he stress the -- the negotiations over the hostage releases, which we hope comes to pass -- it's hard to tell -- but particularly the care he used in trying to say, "We are communicating to the Israelis our displeasure," without quite saying, "The Israelis need to stop doing what they're doing."
RADDATZ: Yeah, I thought -- I thought that was interesting and surprising. And -- and back to young people. The --this issue has really spread on college campuses, about Antisemitic language, about Islamophobia. What does Joe Biden do about that? Has the White House done enough?
WANG: Well, they have announced these national strategies to combat Islamophobia, as well as Antisemitism.
RADDATZ: And you saw the op-ed, as well, right?
WANG: Yes, the op-ed spoke volumes. And I actually went to Harvard's campus shortly after this, when all of these major tensions were really coming to the surface. And the students are angry. They're divided on both sides. And what really struck me when I was on campus is that, a lot of the students, they weren't talking to each other. The -- there was Gazan and Palestinian students I spoke to who said they felt very hurt and raw. And the Jewish students, some of them told me they felt like the campus was Antisemitic.
So the president trying to use as much rhetoric as he can to bring the country together, but it's not always resonating.
RADDATZ: And, Juana, I want to turn -- we've, kind of, touched on this, the 2024 election. One South Carolinian, Tim Scott, out; Nikki Haley surging, but what does that mean, and what does it matter? Can she really beat President Trump?
SUMMERS: It’s a great question. Even if she were to have a tremendous couple of weeks, the question – she would still be likely in a distant position in the polls to President Trump. And at the same time as we see former Ambassador Haley rising, we also see both President Biden and former President Trump increasingly focusing on each other. Both – I mean we’ve heard the president, and Selina's heard this as well I'm sure, talking more than he's talked, I think, in recent months about President Trump -- former President Trump, warning about the threats that his policies would bring, particularly on the issues of abortion and immigration. The rhetoric is really ramping up. These two men seem to be treating this as a two-man contest as though that rematch of the 2020 election is already baked in.
And that seems to be the position we're going to see moving forward. I know that the Haley team would like to see her have that good stretch of a couple of weeks. I think there are a lot of people who are curious about her, but the question is, can she beat Trump? And so far a lot of the Republicans that I'm speaking with don't seem convinced that she can do so.
RADDATZ: And, Dan, I want – I want you to touch on that as well. You've seen candidates leave over many years of covering campaigns. Is it important that – that we hear the voices of those candidates right now? Does it change the race? Does it change the way Donald Trump looks at it? Does it change the way Joe Biden looks at it?
BALZ: You know, this is the most unusual campaign we've ever been through for all the obvious reasons that we're talking about already, and in addition to the fact that the former president is under indictment with 91 felony counts against him. I mean there is so much that's going on in this country that has – that has nothing to do with what's actually being done and said on the campaign trail. So, it's a question of, how much of that is actually breaking through? I don't think that the traditional kind of campaigning is having as much effect.
Now, if you look at where things are in the Republican race, yes, Nikki Haley has – has risen. She's risen in Iowa. She’s risen in New Hampshire. But she has to get through Iowa in a substantial way. If the former president comes through with a very big victory in Iowa and does the same in New Hampshire, that race is pretty much over. And I think that the anticipation is that might there be a surprise in Iowa? Yes, it's possible. But I don't think anybody's betting on that. And that's why the president and the former president are doing what they're doing right now.
RADDATZ: And – and, Selina, we have just a little bit of time here, but we had Joe Manchin say -- saying he's not running for re-election, but he certainly is not ruling out a run for president. What will that mean for Joe Biden?
SELINA WANG, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, ,the Biden campaign, I was just on the phone with them, and they keep on saying they're confident and they really do see this, as Juana was saying, as a two-person race. And there's a recognition that they cannot just continue to run on Biden's record. Bidenomics is clearly not getting through to the people. But they need to paint this picture as a choice for Americans. It’s a choice between Biden. It’s a choice between Trump. And they believe that, as we get closer, that choice will crystallize and they will be turned off by the MAGA policies.
RADDATZ: We’re going to be talking about this for a very long time.
Thanks for all of – all of you opinions this morning.
Coming up, as world leaders gathered in San Francisco, I sat down with the city’s trailblazing mayor on the challenges the city faces and why she's optimistic about the road ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Two years ago, when the United States offered to host this summit, we knew we'd need a location dynamic and diverse, and as APEC itself. And APEC in San Francisco, here we are.
Mayor Breed, Congratulations. Being the mayor, crazy. I think is the hardest job in American politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Biden opening the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in San Francisco this week. The city has struggled like many in recent years with homelessness, rampant drug use, and crime. So, we talked with Mayor London Breed, the first black woman in the role, a lifelong Bay Area resident who grew up in poverty, and now a fierce advocate for the city, she leads.
RADDATZ: You know, and I know it annoys you, when people look at the city and say it's either dangerous or crime-ridden or drugs are a huge problem. But you've got your own citizens saying the same thing I think about 17 percent, think the city's on the right track.
LONDON BREED, (D) MAYOR, SAN FRANCISCO: Well, San Francisco is doing a lot to help combat some of the challenges that we face. I mean, we are a major city during the COVID pandemic, as you see San Francisco shut down first, and we got a lot of attention. From a numbers perspective, when you look at homelessness in San Francisco, we have since 2018 helped over 10,000 people exit homeless myths (ph) in San Francisco. When you look at the data of what is happening with our crime numbers over the past five years, they are showing a decline, especially with car break ins, burglaries and other challenges that people are, are talking about. And in comparison, to other U.S. cities, San Francisco is really at the bottom.
So, I get that people feel that their problems and their concerns. They see the viral videos, and they think, oh, what's going on in San Francisco, and then what is happening with people --
RADDATZ: But those statistics are from people who live here, the 17 percent think it's on the right track. They live here.
BREED: But it's not always attributed just to the issues around crime, you know, is attributed to the issues around homelessness as well. Is significant to really continue to do the work that we're doing so that people can not only see and feel the difference. But when people are coming to San Francisco, they are surprised that things aren't as bad as what they thought they were. Are things perfect in San Francisco? No, they're not. But we continue to work aggressively at it in order to solve some of our most pressing problems.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Breed was elected mayor in 2018. And her ideas have not been without controversy. The city was sued over clearing homeless encampments last year. And her proposal to mandate drug screenings for welfare recipients has drawn comparisons to Reagan-era policies.
RADDATZ: You know that your critics will also say, look, now she's gone too far-right. And she's criminalizing homelessness or wanting drug tests for, for welfare recipients. Do you think you're coming down too hard on this?
BREED: I grew up in the most challenging conditions of the city and lived over 20 years of my life in public housing in the midst of the crack pen epidemic that destroyed our community. So, I've lived in these kinds of conditions. No, it's not always the popular thing to do. And this is not about right or left. This is about do we want to save lives.
RADDATZ: You have experience with addiction. You lost your sister to an overdose. Brother in prison. Tell me what that was like and how you got where you are today?
BREED: Well, in my community, that was normal. It wasn't just my family that suffered a lot of challenges -- challenges. It was everyone I live next to.
My grandmother was very no-nonsense. You know, you either go school or you can't live here. And so, I decided I’m going to go to school, and I’m going to get good grades.
And plus, growing up in poverty, I didn't want to live like that the rest of my life. I felt that there was something better, and fortunately I was able to go to college. But that didn't happen for everyone that grew up around me.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Despite the challenges her city faces, Breed maintains steadfast optimism about San Francisco's future.
What worries you most?
BREED: Well, I -- I must say that I have hope. I have optimism about the future because --
RADDATZ: You know people always say hope isn't a plan.
BREED: Well, I have an economic recovery plan. I have a homeless plan. And the thing that gives me hope is the fact that finally some of the policy decisions, some of the financial investments, they are working, and they are making a difference. They are attracting businesses. New leases are being signed in the downtown area and other parts of the city in every single day.
RADDATZ: So, you're not going to tell me you're worried about anything?
BREED: Well, part of it is it’s really -- part -- as a leader, it's important that I am confident about the condition of the city and that I’m continuing to communicate the message necessary to ensure that people know how these things are working.
I think the thing I’m worried about the most is people don't always get an opportunity to see or to understand exactly how these things are working to make a difference in San Francisco. So we got to work harder on our communication strategy.
RADDATZ: You are optimistic and you're doing things and you're making changes, but people see what's happening. They do see.
BREED: But here's the problem with that. It's not just San Francisco. Cities all over this country are experiencing challenges with drug use, with fentanyl, with methamphetamines and other things of that nature.
The difference is how we are handling it here in San Francisco. We have made the courageous decision to make arrests of not only people who are dealing drugs, but people who are using drugs.
So, at the end of the day -- yes, we have problems. I’m not pretending that we don't, but we can't just throw our hands up. We have to keep working to our (ph) solutions, and we have to be prepared to make the hard decisions to get to a better place.
RADDATZ: Our thanks to Mayor Breed.
We'll be right back.
RADDATZ: That's all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us, and have a great Thanksgiving holiday.