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Influencers Transcript: Samantha Power, September 12, 2019

ANDY SERWER: Some influencers climb to the top from the inside. Others pushed from the outside. Samantha Power has done both in her mission to protect the world's most vulnerable. Power served as the US ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama for nearly four years. Before that, she led a Human Rights Policy Center at the Harvard Kennedy School and worked as a journalist covering genocide and war.

She has been featured on "Time's" list of the 100 Most Influential People. And in 2016, "Forbes" named her the 41st most powerful woman in the world. She's here to talk about the global crisis that threatens nations, economies, and markets, and how to address these crises head on.


Hello, everyone. And welcome to "Influencers." I'm Andy Serwer, and welcome to our guest, Ambassador Samantha Power, former US ambassador to the United Nations and currently a professor at Harvard and author of a new book, "The Education of an Idealist." Ambassador Power, welcome.


ANDY SERWER: Want to talk about your book in a minute but also want to ask you about some current news. And that is that President Trump seems to have fired National Security Advisor John Bolton. Do you think that that helps or hurts US foreign policy?

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, instability in the world is never aided by instability, you know, at the center of the government that is the most powerful in the world. And this, with John Bolton's exit, Trump will be looking for his fourth national security advisor in under three years.

The job is so important. I've seen it firsthand, you know, when a crisis happens, this is the individual who brings together the intelligence community, the Defense Department, Treasury Department, your diplomats to try to diffuse a crisis. It's the job that-- it's the individual who talks to the president, in principle, when he wakes up in the morning and before he goes to sleep at night.

It's meant to be an incredibly calming presence. And it hasn't been that in the case of John Bolton's tenure. But I think we even see in the form in which this firing/resignation occurred a deeper problem, which is, nobody knows what's true anymore. Nobody knows whether what the president said is accurate, inaccurate.

So Trump said, I fired him. John Bolton-- no, actually, I resigned or tried to resign. And, you know, when America's word is contested, when it's questioned, that's not good for our national security irrespective of who the national security advisor is.

ANDY SERWER: I want to ask you a little bit about China and the trade war. And that seems to be escalating rather than being resolved. What is your take on how effectively President Trump has handled the relationship with China?

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, China-- I saw firsthand-- is rising, is going to continue to rise. President Xi is interested in flexing China's muscles in a way that he wasn't. Even just several years ago, you see every year, more assertiveness at the UN, more deployment of Chinese military forces, for example, as part of peacekeeping presence internationally.

And you see I think President Xi now feeling like he's bargaining from a position of strength in the trade war as he sees the economic figures in the United States. Some of the deep underlying structural worries that so many people have here, including in Trump's inner circle. So my biggest concern, though, is less the state of play in the very moment, and more the people who are getting hurt in the United States.

And people, the very people who actually probably were part of the constituency that brought President Trump to power who thought that he was going to be somebody looking out for them, you're seeing jobs, work, production migrate to other countries besides the United States-- countries, like Vietnam benefiting from the tariffs.

And products and prices going up in this country in a way that's going to just hurt the ordinary consumer. So I think it's worrying. And I think going into election year, you see President Xi sitting back and feeling as if the bargaining advantage shifts into his corner.

ANDY SERWER: You expect a resolution before the election?

SAMANTHA POWER: It depends on how much President Trump is willing to concede. How much face he feels like he's going to lose. But I know one thing. And that's that President Trump will put his own political fortunes above the welfare of the workers that he claimed to be representing.

ANDY SERWER: And it sounds like you think that President Xi might have the stronger hand at this point.

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I think it's shifted a lot over time. And as, again, these underlying concerns about the economy surface, there's some evidence that President Xi's line is getting harder and harder as time passes. But it's not doing any favors for the Chinese economy either. So this is just a sort of mutually assured destruction at the present. And it's a shame that it wasn't handled in a more professional way from the beginning.

ANDY SERWER: And an adjacent issue, Hong Kong.


ANDY SERWER: What do you anticipate happening there, Samantha? Do you think the Chinese military might intervene?

SAMANTHA POWER: I'm worried about that. One of the stories I tell in the book is of my own kind of political awakening. Back in 1989, I was a college freshman when I watched Chinese students come into Tiananmen Square so hopeful believing that they had a chance to protest to express themselves, potentially, to demand freedoms and actually see those demands realized.

And then I happen to be-- I was an intern in the sports department at the CBS affiliate in Atlanta. And on the CBS feed came the footage from Tiananmen Square, as the Chinese tanks rolled in and crushed those protests. So I personally have-- not that the people have the worst memories of the people who were in the square.

But, you know, it's clear that China has been prepared to be very ruthless in the past on the mainland when it comes to political protests. If President Xi decides to go in even more coercively than Chinese-backed security forces have already, I think it's going to be not only horrible for Hong Kong, because once you've tasted the kinds of freedoms that the people in Hong Kong have grown up with, you're not going to surrender those freedoms, even if tanks come storming into your neighborhood.

But it's also going to be very dangerous for China because-- and really for the China model, which President Xi has tried to sell to so many countries around the world that the claim is you can have booming economic growth, no social problems. And you can run a tight ship. You can sort of repress people. But you do it in a way where it doesn't come back. It doesn't blow up in some very dramatic way.

With Hong Kong, if China handles Hong Kong in a much more aggressive way, as I worry they will with time, that's going to do more than violate the rights and harm the welfare of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of Hong Kongers. But also, again, it has bearing for Chinese leadership in the world, which is something that President Xi has invested a great deal in.

ANDY SERWER: Interesting. You mentioned the book. So let's talk about that a little bit. And it's a memoir rather than, say, just strictly a policy, a wonky book about your time in the administration, the Obama administration. Why did you decide to do a memoir rather than just a more narrow book?

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, it's no secret that, now, we're living in such a divided America, you know, where as soon as you say, Obama or Trump, everybody kind of goes to their respective corner. And I actually think there's an awful lot still that unites us-- a belief that everyone should get a fair shake-- a basic regard for individual dignity.

And yet, the only way to get a hearing in a way about America's inclusively about the need for global cooperation, I think, is to tell a good story. And so I decided to go back to my journalistic days and try to mind my own life for moments that were reflective of larger issues that are facing our country and our people today.

I also in being on a campus and teaching young people, I've noticed that so many young people today really want to get involved politically. They see the planet warming, the inequality in our economy, conflict around the world, human rights recession. And they're, like, I want to do something.

But they see me having had the privilege of serving in the cabinet of the president of the United States. And they think, well, you know, you do that. Like, you-- OK, you can go make a difference. Other people can make a difference. But I'm a young person. I'm in my 20s. I'm in my early 30s. I just don't know if I, just little me, can make a difference in light of the magnitude of the problems that are facing us.

And one advantage of a memoir is that life is not lived retrospectively. It's not lived with your CV already rounded out. It's lived prospectively where you stand at a number of crossroads with all kinds of doubts about whether you can make a difference. And many of the same thoughts that the young people I meet today were thoughts that I had.

And so in opening up the journey, you know, to getting to be in a position where I was in the government trying to make a difference, I thought I could make that story more relatable and potentially make the world a public service, community service, whatever it is for the individual, but more relatable, more accessible, more appealing.

ANDY SERWER: I mean, it's an amazing story. You came from Ireland. You lived in Pittsburgh. And then you went to high school in Atlanta and then to Yale. When did you stop feeling like an immigrant and feeling like an American? Or is there that feeling?

SAMANTHA POWER: You know, you never-- I don't know how other immigrants feel. But you always have your family. My whole family other than my mother, my younger brother, and my stepfather, who came over with my mother from Ireland, everybody else lives in Ireland.

And so, you know, I never stop hearing about the United States as virtues or our mistakes from my family members in Ireland. I never stopped when I was a kid, even, getting access to a perspective on America that was that of a small country-- an island country on the face of climate change these days.

So as long as you have those voices kind of keeping you honest and reminding you how you project in the world or what you're doing, ah, I think it's extremely valuable. But as a lifelong baseball, not even fan, but kind of addict, as soon as I threw my lot in and started walking around with the big league chew in my cheek when I was a kid and ripping open my Topps Baseball Cards, I mean, I adapted pretty quickly, as so many immigrants do.

ANDY SERWER: So wait-- Red Sox, Braves, or Pirates?

SAMANTHA POWER: Pirates to start. Then I had an American League slot vacant. And I made room, as my poor small market Pirates got left in the dust by these large-- with, like, there are teams in baseball that are like permanent members of the Security Council. They're almost like veto-wielding members of the Security Council. And living in Boston, I, of course, loved Fenway and love the Red Sox as well.

ANDY SERWER: I've never heard baseball meta--

SAMANTHA POWER: Likened too--

ANDY SERWER: But you like them too. That's-- and just a couple more things about growing up. And when you were in Atlanta, there was busing at your high school. And busing has come back into the campaign as it pertains to Joe Biden. What's your take on that?

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I mean, my experience of it, which I write about in the book, is just that for me, it made my educational experience so much richer. I mean, the perspectives I was hearing were ones I wouldn't have gotten in my suburban high school. But because half my class were kids who were bused from very, very difficult circumstances to my school, I benefited.

But what struck me was the kids who had to come on the bus, had to get up two, three hours earlier than I did. They'd get home at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. There weren't accommodations made for what they were going through to get the privilege of the better schooling. And so it was a mixed experience.

And it's really-- you know, it's fine for me to get something out of it. But it's really a question for them. And whether they feel all things considered that it was the right thing.

ANDY SERWER: Oh, interesting. So you're sort of equivocal about whether it's a good thing or not?

SAMANTHA POWER: It was great, again--


SAMANTHA POWER: --great for me. But, I mean, I really-- it's for them to say--


SAMANTHA POWER: --the people who were bussed.

ANDY SERWER: Right. And you mentioned, of course, that you're a journalist--


ANDY SERWER: --and made this transition to government. What was that transition like?

SAMANTHA POWER: Intruder alert-- intruder alert. What am I doing in the situation room? And I felt-- and I write about this that people were suspicious maybe of me thinking that since so many my close friends and former colleagues were journalists that if there was a leak, you know, that it inevitably had to be me.

And I was kind of-- you know, I had to have a Chinese wall with all of my friends where they could tell me what they thought we should be doing about various things. But I couldn't tell them anything about what was going on. But it was amazing how quickly in retrospect you just sort of figure it out.

It's in a way like being an immigrant. Or moving from Pittsburgh to Georgia, there's a new lingo. There's a new way of operating. And to try to get the job done that I was there to do, I had to learn all these new phrases and the sort of bureaucratic speak. And suddenly all these really quite horrible phrases in retrospect are kind of rolling off the tongue.

And so it's taken me a while, actually, since I left government to retrieve my normal way of talking and interacting. And it's just bureaucratise sort of seeps in. But I was fortunate in the sense that in my prior writing, I had interviewed hundreds of officials. I had always tried to capture what the policy experience was like. And so to be in the room at what-- it was unfamiliar in the sense that I had actually never been there before.

But the dynamics, the idea that you'd have a bargaining advantage if you were the military arguing about the need to provide military assistance and that it would be challenging as the president's human rights advisor to get your views at the center stage, none of that was surprising. So I sort of had a get on with it kind of attitude, I guess, when I got there.

ANDY SERWER: All right. Switching back to politics and current affairs and world affairs, you mentioned before that President Trump has threatened America's leadership in the world. And then you said that it will be hard for our nation to recover from his presidency. What exactly do you mean by that, Samantha?

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I mean, for starters, we've never in recorded history, at least, you know, had a president who doesn't tell the truth in a reliable way, I mean, who serially just makes things up. And that's very--

ANDY SERWER: Or Republicans would say that President Clinton didn't tell the truth.

SAMANTHA POWER: And they would probably be able to count those instances on one hand, whereas, we're-- I don't know-- in the hundreds or the thousands-- I don't even know what the average number of falsehoods is per day. But it's extremely high.

We've even had several already today, I believe. But beyond that, because that's a credibility issue for an individual. But also, in undoing so much of the work that was done by, as it happens, the administration that I was a part of.

But with any prior administration, it raises the question of when even the Trump administration negotiates an agreement with a foreign government or with, let's say, with a non-state actor, like the Taliban, what is that going to mean for the terms of that agreement if the individuals on the other side of the table have no sense that America's word is one that will be sustained over time that will be respected?

So there had been a kind of convention that even though there are vast differences among Republicans that Democrats on a whole host of issues, but that if you lock down America's commitment, especially with your allies, like we did with the Iran Nuclear Deal or in the Paris Agreement on climate change, or in the Trans-Pacific Partnership for that matter, that that means something both for the intrinsic worth, let's say, of the issue.

But even if you disagree, and you thought that that was a mistake that your predecessor had made, you recognize the damage it will do to you and your ability to do deals if you just rip it up and act as though history hasn't happened. And so I worry a lot about that. I worry-- I mentioned earlier young people and their desire to make a difference, I think, in our country and for the world.

But so many of the young diplomats that I worked with who were the stars in the State Department-- I mean, the Mandarin speakers and the Arabic speakers and the sanctions experts-- they stayed in the Trump administration for six months, a year, a year and a half. And then it just got to the point where they felt that expertise was not valued where experience was not valued.

And now they've gone on to other lines of work. So even just on the task of rebuilding those relationships, we're going to need to bring, you know, a crop of new dynamic people back into the enterprise. And that's itself just a major piece of business.

ANDY SERWER: I mean, it's depressing, though, when you say we won't recover.

SAMANTHA POWER: No, I don't think I've ever put it as starkly as that. I think I've always said it's going to be extremely challenging.

ANDY SERWER: Challenging to rebound from--

SAMANTHA POWER: Yeah, absolutely, no. And the world is not standing still, right? We see our allies now-- very, very close allies who've been insulted by the president, who've had agreements with us ripped up, seeking other relationships, having very, very different ways of relating, for example, with China. It used to be when I was at the United Nations that I could just take-- pretty-- I'd never took them for granted.

But I could take for granted that we would see, for example, the crisis in Ukraine the same way. Or we would see the gas attacks in Syria the same way. We would just know that when Russia tried to paint black is white and up is down that we would stand together and that the democracies within the United Nations needed to stand together, because they're more non-democratic nations in the world than democratic nations. And that is very, very different.

You now see some of our closest allies forum shopping and looking for other kinds of partnerships so that they-- you know, it's like a stock portfolio. They're nervous about having all of their stock in the US relationship. And that is going to have consequences for us economically. And, thus, for our workers, it's going to have consequences for our ability to summon our allies when we need them as we did in the Ebola crisis, or as we did fighting ISIS.

And so rebuilding that trust, rebuilding those alliances, and convincing people that Trump was a symptom, yes, of a set of larger trends that we're seeing all around the world but that if they do deals with us in the future that they will not have the same experience. That's just going to be very challenging now that it's happened once.

ANDY SERWER: Our audience, the Yahoo Finance appreciates your allusion to a stock portfolio, by the way, so thank you--

SAMANTHA POWER: I do my best--

ANDY SERWER: --making it sense--

SAMANTHA POWER: --tailor my message.


SAMANTHA POWER: I didn't even know I was doing that, actually.

ANDY SERWER: Yes, thank you. I want to ask you sort of a holistic question, then, for our business audience, which is you're a humanitarian. And there are some people may be in the business community who think that business goals and humanitarian goals are in conflict with each other, say, for instance with China that if you pursue the human rights agenda too much, then you lose the ability to do good business with the Chinese. What's your take on that?

SAMANTHA POWER: I think it's very fair. And it's a lot like the kinds of debates that we have that I describe in the book. In the situation room, these different so-called equities-- another finance term, of course-- but playing themselves out. And I guess what I would say is, you know, sometimes it's a short-term, long-term issue.

And where it is true that in the very moment that you're trying, for example, to put the finishing touches on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that that may not be the moment that the president of United States comes out and condemns Vietnam's arrest of five bloggers.

That may not be the moment for that. But it is still the case that when you stifle freedom of expression, when you have a brittle society, like the one that is embodied in the China model or the Vietnam model, for that matter, there's less absorptive capacity. There's less inability to deal with shocks to the system.

And there's less accountability, which means that leaders who are not delivering for their people, whether that's economically, whether that's in terms of ridding their societies of corruption or delivering in a whole host of other ways, you know, fundamentally, that's unlikely to be good for business in the long-term.

Now, the long may be far out. And the short may be in the here and now. And I think that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. And I think there's a lot of evidence that when we've done that, we also present a model that a lot of actors and individuals and foreign leaders find very, very attractive.

When we muddy our message, and when we cozy up to unsavory regimes and even seem to even have more affection for repressive regimes, like that in North Korea or the Philippines or even China than we do for our closest allies who share our values, I think that gets very confusing because that's not clear, OK.

I understood when there is a China model and a Democratic model. Now, what's the American model again? I think that's the moment we're in now. And it's left people at sea little bit around the world about who to root for.

ANDY SERWER: Right. Can we go around the globe a little bit, Samantha, and kind of-- I don't want to say it's a lightning round. First of all, I don't think your business is sort of lends itself to that particularly anyway.

SAMANTHA POWER: But my personality certainly doesn't so--

ANDY SERWER: Well, just maybe just give a sort of pithy answers about some of these topics, like Brexit, for instance. Where do you think that's going to end up?

SAMANTHA POWER: You know, again, my Irish-- originally Irish soul here is at stake, because the one place it can't end up is with a hard border. And I lived as a child in Dublin, saw the refugees coming in from the north. The year my brother's birth there was in 1974, this huge explosion in downtown Dublin.

There are still a lot of very unresolved issues. And the one thing that has kept the peace intact has been just the commonality-- people getting to know each other again, crossing from north to south as if you're crossing from New York to Newark. And that's how it has to remain. And I commend the European Union for standing firm and having the back of Ireland, which of course, has benefited enormously from being part of the EU both in terms of the peace and in terms of the economy.

I don't know. I don't think that a no deal Brexit is something that anywhere near a quorum of parliamentarians or even a plurality of Britons would support, I mean, that the economic consequences for that country would be so dire. My hope is a second referendum. I think there's a huge amount of buyer's remorse in the country.

And the very people-- the swing voters, who, at the last minute, decided-- having been undecided to throw their weight behind Brexit are the ones who stand to lose the most from what lies ahead if it happens.

ANDY SERWER: Maybe some news in Iran happening again with Bolton out that maybe Trump will meet with Rouhani. What's your take there?

SAMANTHA POWER: I mean, I wish we would just talk less about, not you and me, but just, in general, less about big highfalutin meetings and photo ops. I mean, we, as part of the Obama administration, made the case that we should never negotiate in fear but should never fear to negotiate.

We're absolutely for engagement of regimes who are doing the wrong thing, as Iran is doing now in reigniting aspects of its nuclear program but also in its support for, you know, terrorists and it's fomenting of instability, its crackdown domestically. And there's plenty to talk to Iran about and to condemn Iran for.

But to go from 0 to 60 to have Trump and Rouhani meet as happened in North Korea, as we saw in North Korea, when you haven't done the legwork when you haven't done the preparation when you don't know why you're there other than to be able to tweet a photo of having been there, that is not a recipe for foreign policy success.

ANDY SERWER: So North Korea kind of a failure?

SAMANTHA POWER: Look, I mean, absolutely a failure when it comes to denuclearizing the peninsula, which is all of our shared objective. But that's a very difficult goal to achieve. Like, one has to concede the degree of difficulty on that is as high as it gets in foreign policy. At least we're not where Trump took us in the early months of his presidency where you felt like there was actually some percentage-- notable percentage risk that a military confrontation could occur. So the tensions have abated.

But the legitimation to a regime that has murdered American citizens that holds more than 100,000 members of its own citizenry in gulags that starves people to death, I mean, that stands for everything that we abhor in the world. The idea that we would, again, embrace that regime without them delivering just about anything that we seek on any axis is just-- it's very, very unfortunate what has happened.

But again, I think one can-- I will say this that prioritizing that issue in the way the Trump administration did at the outset was important putting more pressure on China, as the Trump administration did at the outset was the right thing to do. But right now we're at sea. And nothing is happening other than progressive nuclearization. And then the refinement of their missile program in a way that's more dangerous for us.

ANDY SERWER: President Trump used the threat of tariffs to push Mexico to reduce the flow of migrants into the US. Is it right for the president to link those two things?

SAMANTHA POWER: I give you another example of linkage, because the linkage is happening all over. And it's just deeply problematic. In the case of the China tariff negotiation, you've seen President Trump talk about Huawei and how, hey, you know, if things progress, we'll throw that into the deal as well. We'll shift our policy in Huawei. And all of us we get along again.

That's at the same time we've gone around the world to our allies and urge them not to put Huawei technology in their infrastructure and the technological infrastructure because it is a national security threat. If we call it a national security threat, it can't be a chit in a trade negotiation. These are either is a national security threat. Or it's a fungible issue of political preference.

And, you know, obviously in the case of Mexico when people are fleeing for their lives, when their families are seeing death threats show up, and they're actually coming to our border in desperate need of refuge, which is what America has stood for for so many years, they deserve to be heard. I mean, those are the refugee tenets that have undergirded the international system. And it's not about trade. It's about whether or not their lives are at stake.

ANDY SERWER: Samantha, I'm curious, how do you decide how many refugees to let into America? And what's the correct level of immigration?

SAMANTHA POWER: Yeah, well--

ANDY SERWER: How do we determine that?

SAMANTHA POWER: I don't know what the right formula is for that. But I will say that we're here in New York City. And when I was ambassador, I traveled to Buffalo, New York. And Buffalo is an example. And there's a ton of economic evidence to back me up. This is not me allowing my own experience as an immigrant to cloud my judgment.

A ton of evidence that Buffalo's attempt at revitalization was picking up steam and was beginning to succeed in part-- in significant part-- because of the influx of refugees who came in. And think of what a refugee is. Think of what a refugee has gone through-- the resilience, the dynamism, the can-do spirit to get yourself out of a Syria or in Iraq through the endless procedure it takes to actually be able to be to find yourself granted refugee here-- refuge here.

These are the kinds of people who were revitalizing communities where so many individuals had left. And now what you're seeing is as the refugee number has dropped to the lowest point since the refugee program was introduced in the early 1980s, you see Buffalo civic leaders saying, please, please, can you bring the refugees back? We need these people to, again, to continue the revitalization. And it's not just Buffalo.

So President Obama increased our refugee numbers compared to where we had been, because we are confronting the largest refugee flow in the world since the Second World War. Right now, the United States is taking fewer than 30,000 refugees, a third of what we-- less than a third even of what Obama took in his final year and that the knock-on effect of that is catastrophic around the world, because America leads no matter what we do.

We lead when we take refugees. And then we leverage that and get other countries to do their share. And when we close our doors, that invites other countries to do the same, leaving countries, like Lebanon, Turkey-- other countries where the United States has a vested interest in their stability much less stable, much more congested, less able to provide for the refugees who found refuge there.

And then what happens to refugees who can't go to school who don't have food? They get radicalized. And where does that take root? That ends up hurting US interests and even US security over time. So everything is related to everything else. You can't hide this off just to cater to your political base and not see the consequences damaging the United States over time.

ANDY SERWER: Let me ask you a little bit about the Democratic Party, which seems to be split between the Progressives and maybe the more moderate wing of the party. What do you make of AOC and Bernie Sanders, who want to, say, tax the rich and curb the power of big business?

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, my area of expertise, as you know, is foreign policy. And I probably would be well-advised to stick to my lane. But what I will say is that in that wing of the party, there is skepticism that I think you see in President Trump and the Trump supporters, as well, about internationalism and about having a foreign policy even of a certain kind. And you've seen Senator Sanders try to kind, of course, correct a little bit and present himself as more engaged internationally this time around than he did when he was competing against Secretary Clinton.

But I think one of the reasons I wrote the book that I did is-- and it is one of the reasons I wrote a memoir instead of a wonky political book-- policy book-- is that I do think elites have been speaking to one another for too long and that whatever consensus might have existed 70-plus years ago about the United States undergirding the international order from which we do benefit enormously, that consensus has frayed or broken down entirely.

And the fact that there could be overlap among people who support Donald Trump on the one hand and people who support AOC on the other I think is a reflection of that, just a deep skepticism that America can do good in the world and a sense that the international, the world-- and I'm not saying AOC holds this view but that sort of America's gotten a raw deal by being a country that has had a role in global stability for so long or by being the country that contributes a large amount to the United Nations or to taking our share of refugees around the world.

And so I think it's really important to have that conversation and for Democrats and Republicans, alike, to go back to first principles and explain why does it matter, in fact, to make emissions reductions? Why does that matter? You know, your flood insurance is going to go up because of the extreme weather events that we're have.

Why does it matter that we invest in humanitarian assistance for refugees in Turkey and Lebanon? Well, for the reason that I said earlier. You know, when refugees or any communities are living with great despair and no hope, they are more prone to fall prey to hateful messages that could come home to roost for Americans living in the region or beyond.

ANDY SERWER: In your book, you say, you didn't always agree with Senator Biden but that you had a good relationship with him. Do you support his--

SAMANTHA POWER: Vice President Biden when I knew him.

ANDY SERWER: Right, vice president. Right, exactly. OK, vice president. Do you support his bid for the presidency? And if not, then who?

SAMANTHA POWER: I'm not in the endorsement business. But I have great affection for Vice President Biden. One of the things that I was so struck by in getting to know him much better than I had when he was in the Senate was when the vice president traveled around the country-- and he did this when he was a senator, as well, I gather.

But I only found out about it when we were in the White House together. When he meets somebody who has suffered a loss of a loved one, and he does his Biden thing, tactile and warm and deeply empathetic, he, more often than not, will give the person his cell phone number. And he'll say, look, I've been there. If you have no place else to turn, here's my number. You can call me.

ANDY SERWER: He must have a lot of numbers on his phone.

SAMANTHA POWER: Well, I mean, but, I mean, to see him take calls from people who are relative strangers just to offer that kind of consolation, he's a big hearted Irishman. And I've nothing but respect for him.

ANDY SERWER: So would you get back into government and elected office? Would you ever run for office, Samantha? Or would you rather get appointed?

SAMANTHA POWER: [LAUGHS] It's a hell of a lot easier to get appointed. I would love to get back into public service. I mean, the story I tell is of one of getting to try an awful lot of careers. Somehow, I can't make up my mind. My mother is like, when are you going to decide what you want to be when you grow up?

But I've been incredibly lucky to be a professor and to be a journalist and to be an activist and then to be a diplomat. And I've just never found work as-- I found all of my different incarnations incredibly rewarding in their own way. But to actually be able to harness the great things about this country in the US government was the greatest privilege of my life.

And even though we made mistakes, which I document in some detail, the difference you're able to make in those jobs is profound. And so I'd love to do something like that again.

ANDY SERWER: All right, we will stay tuned. The book is "The Education of an Idealist Ambassador." Samantha Power, thanks so much for joining us.


ANDY SERWER: You've been watching "Influencers." I'm Andy Serwer. We'll see you next time.