September 13, 2003

Bill Moyers' NOW interviews George Soros

Meanwhile, while we all wait for SeeNotNews' Rather to
do what he knows he should do, AnythingButSee's
Jennings do what he secretly is tempted to do or
NotBeSeen's Brokaw to do what he will not do shor of
the collapse of the Repuboic itself, PrettyBlandStuff
(PBS) has allowed one shining bastion of sanity to
emerge on the TV airwavs...Friday at 10 p.m. (at
least, Left Coast time), Bill Moyers, like Cronkite,
Amy Goodman and KGO's Taliefero and Ward, news media
professional whose name has been scrawled on the John
O'Neill Wall of Heroes...Moyers' NOW observed the
two-year annikversay in a way that no one "US
mainstream news media" program did...He ran an
in-depth interview with billionaire George Soros,
another John O'Neill Wall of Heroes name, AND an
in-depth feature on the 9/11 widows who refuse to
leave the unanswered questions fade away from
memory...Here is the Soros transcript...I will follow
it with the 9/11 widows transcript...

SOROS: The Republican Party has been captured by a bunch of extremists… People who maintain that markets
will take care of everything, that you leave it to the
markets and the markets know best. Therefore, you need
no government, no interference with business. Let
everybody pursue his own interests. And that will
serve the common interest. Now, there is a good
foundation for this. But it's a half-truth.

BRANCACCIO: George Soros says he's convinced the Bush
administration is pursuing policies both foreign and
economic that in Soros's experience, will be

Soros has been hailed as a international financial
genius: "the world's greatest money manager" said the
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR; one of the most influential
philanthropists, according to TIME.

So he's not the kind of man you'd expect to be arguing
that when it comes to free market capitalism, it's
possible to have 'too much of a good thing,' that
unchecked capitalism fails to provide for certain
fundamental needs.

SOROS: We need to maintain law and order. We need to
maintain peace in the world. We need to protect the
environment. We need to have some degree of social
justice, equality of opportunity.

The markets are not designed to take care of those
needs. That's a political process. And the market
fundamentalists have managed to reduce providing those
public goods.

BRANCACCIO: Providing those public goods has long been
at the top of his agenda for making the world a better

He's not only called for more regulation of the global
economy but he's also been an outspoken advocate of
democracy throughout the world. In fact, he's been
described as the only American citizen with his own
foreign policy.

SOROS: I give away something up to $500 million a year
throughout the world promoting Open Society. My
foundations support people in the country who care
about an open society. It's their work that I'm
supporting. So it's not me doing it. But I can empower
them. I can support them, and I can help them.

BRANCACCIO: Indeed, over the past 20 years, Soros has
given away more than $4 billion of his personal

He's built a philanthropic network that spans more
than fifty countries, promoting what he calls "open
societies" with the goal of establishing
democratically elected governments that respect human
rights, the rule of law and market economies.

SOROS: And as long as there is enough support for it,
then actually you can make a difference in the world.
And I think we are succeeding in many of our efforts
in making a difference.

BRANCACCIO: His foundations have sponsored thousands
of development projects…everything from low-income
housing construction in Africa to medical clinics in
Russia to political movements worldwide.

As early as the 1970s, Soros gave money to dissident
groups in the old eastern bloc, helping bring down
those communist regimes.

Since 1987, he's pumped more than $1 billion dollars
into Russia alone … including his donation of $500
million to fund health and education programs there.

And in 1993, when Sarajevo was under siege, his
foundation built utilities to supply desperately
needed water and electricity.

All that made possible by the staggering profits he
earned directing his "Quantum" hedge fund. His
personal fortune is estimated as high as $7 billion
and he pledges to give most of it away.

But his success in business has not been without

SOROS: I've been called as a man who broke the Bank of
England when I attacked the sterling.

BRANCACCIO: In 1992, Soros made a spectacular bet,
taking in a billion dollars on a hunch the British
pound would be devalued. Many blamed Soros for forcing
the pound's fall.

But it was in France that Soros got into trouble with
the authorities. In 1988, he was asked to join a
takeover attempt of a French bank. He declined, but he
did buy the bank's stock. Last year, a French court
ruled that was insider trading.

BRANCACCIO: Why should I believe you, when I've read,
you say you did not conduct insider trading, instead
of a French judge?

SOROS: Well, that's up to you. I was found guilty. I
think, in a miscarriage of justice, frankly. And I'm
fighting it. I'm appealing it, and I'll continue
fighting it.

BRANCACCIO: Soros denies any wrongdoing and says news
of the takeover was public knowledge. Nevertheless, he
was fined more than $2 million…roughly the amount
French authorities say he made from the trades.

More than a dozen other people were investigated in
the incident. All except Soros were either acquitted
or pardoned.

SOROS: It is something that troubles me a great deal.
And I'll fight it with all I've got. But the French
judicial system is not perfect, either.

BRANCACCIO: Does it worry you, for instance, that
maybe some of your actions in the past would have hurt
some people, when you withdrew capital from certain

SOROS: Yes. No, you see you can't… as a market
participant, if you want to be successful, I think you
just have to look out for your own interests.

BRANCACCIO: It sounds amoral.

SOROS: Pardon?

BRANCACCIO: It sounds amoral.

SOROS: It is amoral. Now, it's very often understood
and understood as immoral. And that is a very
different, being immoral. If you hurt people
deliberately or you know, that's immoral. If you break
the law, that's immoral. If you play by the rules,
that is the market itself is amoral.

If you impose morality on it, it means that you are
actually with your hands tied behind your back and
you're not going to be successful. It's extremely hard
to be successful.

BRANCACCIO: Do you think, on balance, that your
philanthropic work counteracts the more ruthless
decisions that you had to make when you were a

SOROS: It is no connection whatsoever. I'm not doing
my philanthropic work, out of any kind of guilt, or
any need to create good public relations. I'm doing it
because I can afford to do it, and I believe in it.

BRANCACCIO: Now retired from his job of making money,
Soros is spending his time giving it away. And how he
spends his money, he says, has a lot to do with his
experiences growing up…surviving one of history's
darkest periods.

George Soros was born into a well-to-do Jewish family
in Budapest. When the Nazis invaded, Soros's father
hid the children with sympathetic families.

BRANCACCIO: Do you see a thread that links your
childhood experience with your career as a financier,
with your philanthropy, and now political activist?

SOROS: Oh, it's a very strong thread, that leads right
through. You know, I learned at a very early age that
what kind of social system or political system
prevails is very important. Not just for your
well-being, but for your very survival.

Because, you know, I could have been killed by the
Nazis. I could have wasted my life under the
Communists. So, that's what led me to this idea of an
open society. And that is the idea that is motivating

BRANCACCIO: At the London School of Economics after
the war, he was exposed to the philosophy of the "open

That's been the basis of his philanthropy throughout
the world. But the political struggle for an open
society, says Soros, now has to be fought right here
in the United States.

SOROS: The people currently in charge have forgotten
the first principle of an open society, namely that we
may be wrong and that there has to be free discussion.
That it's possible to be opposed to the policies
without being unpatriotic.

BRANCACCIO: And says Soros, the biggest obstacle to an
open society is the Bush administration's philosophy
that on both the domestic and international fronts,
either you're with us or against us.

SOROS: You know, it's a distortion of what this
country stands for.

BRANCACCIO: And that offends you?

SOROS: It offends me because I think it's a
misinterpretation of what America's role in the world
ought to be. We are the dominant power. And that
imposes on us a responsibility to be actually
concerned with the well being of the world. Because we
set the agenda.

And there are a lot of problems, including terrorism
and weapons of mass destruction, that can only be
tackled by collective action. And we ought to be
leading that collective action, instead of riding
roughshod over other people's opinions and interests.

BRANCACCIO: It's just so hard, Mr. Soros. I mean two
years ago, a few blocks from where we're speaking
right now, the World Trade Center came down. The
notion that we should have harnessed our response to
make nice with the world may be too much to ask.

SOROS: Maybe. Certainly, being nice to the world won't
stop terrorism. So, we've got to fight terrorism. But
how do you fight it?

If the terrorists have the sympathy of people, it's
much harder to find them. So we need people on our
side, and that leads us to be responsible leaders of
the world, show some concern with the problems.

BRANCACCIO: Problems in places like Iraq, where, says
Soros, the Bush administration's actions have
alienated traditional allies and fueled anti-American

SOROS: Now that we did not find weapons and there was
no known connection with al-Qaeda, they say, "Well, we
came to liberate Iraq, to introduce democracy,
nation-building." But that's exactly what President
Bush was opposed to in the elections. And it's a
business that I am engaged in.

BRANCACCIO: You have wide credentials in this whole
field of nation building.

SOROS: You know, with all my experience, Iraq would
have been the last place on earth that I would have
chosen for introducing democracy.

I mean, democracy has to be built painstakingly and
very slowly. And, you know, I've been engaged in that
now for the last 15 years.

BRANCACCIO: This is a place with bitter religious
rivalries, with even recent history as terrible
animosity between groups in society.

SOROS: Right. So, it was a horrendous naiveté,
actually, to think that you can go into Iraq and you
can introduce democracy by military force.

BRANCACCIO: Could you share with me three concrete
ideas of things we should be doing in Iraq now?

SOROS: I think just one. We've got to get the United
Nations involved. We have to transfer enough authority
to the United Nations, to internationalize the issue.
Because we cannot do it, and we should not do it
alone. It was a mistake to do it alone. We have made
the mistake. And the sooner we correct it, the better.

BRANCACCIO: So, you argue certainly don't withdraw our
military forces from Iraq. It's gonna require more

SOROS: That's right. We have made a terrible mistake.
And we have to pay the price. We have to pay the
price. But we have to recognize that we've been very
badly misled.

BRANCACCIO: And says Soros, we've been badly misled by
the Bush administration at home as well from its lack
of regulation on Wall Street … to the curtailment of
civil liberties under the Patriot Act.

SOROS: I mean, you know, you pass the USA Patriot Act
without proper discussion. And anybody who opposed it
was accused of giving aid and comfort to the
terrorists. So I think we've gone off the rail in this

BRANCACCIO: Yet the Patriot Act was passed with a lot
of democratic support. There was debate, but not
proper discussion you don't believe?

SOROS: Yeah, I mean, it was done in six weeks.
Lawmakers didn't even get a copy of the bill. They
couldn't even read it before it was passed.

Now, the Democrats caved in. I'm very critical of the
Democrats. But of course, it was a moment of, I
suppose, national calamity. It was a tragedy and
people were very emotional. It's a traumatic event.

But there was a group of people who took advantage of
it and who's been leading us in the wrong direction.

BRANCACCIO: All this has led Soros to conclude the
most important thing he can do is stop George Bush.

SOROS: I think he's a man of good intentions. I don't
doubt it. But I think he's leading us in the wrong

BRANCACCIO: So just last month, Soros put his money
where his mouth is one more time. He gave $10 million
to America Coming Together, a liberal coalition
pledged to defeat the President in 2004.

SOROS: By putting up $10 million and getting other
people engaged, there's enough there to get the show
going. In other words, to get the organizing going.
Half of it still needs funding.

BRANCACCIO: What is the show? It's a get out the vote

GEORGE SOROS: Get out the vote and get people engaged
on issues.

This is the same kind of grassroots organizing that we
did or we helped in Slovakia when Mechar was defeated,
in Croatia when Tudjman was defeated and in Yugoslavia
when Milosevic.

BRANCACCIO: But gee whiz, Tudjman, Milosevic, George
Bush, almost in the same phrase? Those are fighting

SOROS: But I do think that our leaders…If you take
John Ashcroft, I don't think he's an Open Society
person, Donald Rumsfeld…I do think that we have an
extremist element in the government. I think that
President Bush has been captured by these people as a
result of September 11.

BRANCACCIO: But you really think that if it's true
that the current administration has been hijacked by
extremists, that the American public, which by and
large and history doesn't tolerate extremism all that
well, resents extremism, that the American public by
and large wouldn't notice?

SOROS: I think that they are noticing it. It think
that it's happening. And this is exactly why I think
that people are about, may I say that, coming to their

SOROS: And I think the moment of truth has come in
Iraq. Because we really got into a terrible, terrible
mess, into a quagmire. And our soldiers are at risk.
But it's worse. Because our armed forces, the Army is
at risk. In other words, our capacity to project power
that it has greatly diminished because we have misused
our power. And I think that people will wake up.

BRANCACCIO: Misuse of power, quagmire, a wake up call
for reform: these are heavy assessments of the current
state of American policy in Iraq. As for how it will
turn out, even George Soros, who has gambled on the
future so often and so well, ventures no specific

But Soros is very clear on what he believes should
happen next:

SOROS: If we re-elect Bush, we are endorsing the Bush
doctrine. And then we are off to a vicious circle of
escalating violence in the world. And I think, you
know, terrorism, counter-terrorism, it's a very scary
spectacle to me. If we reject him, then we are
effectively rejecting the Bush doctrine. Because he
was elected on a platform of a more humble foreign
policy. Then we can go back to a more humble foreign
policy. And treat this episode as an aberration. We
have to pay a heavy price. You know, 100 billion
dollars a year in Iraq. We can't get out of that. We
mustn't get out of it. But still, we can then regain
the confidence of the world, and our rightful place as
leaders of the world, working to make the world a
better place.

Posted by richard at September 13, 2003 02:06 PM