Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello everyone, and welcome to the 156th episode of the Atlas Society asks, my name is Jennifer Anju Grossman. My friends call me Jag. I'm the c e o of the Atlas Society. We are the leading nonprofit, introducing young people to the ideas of Ayn Rand in fun, creative ways, like our animated videos and graphic novels and our summer conference Coming up next month. Today we are joined by Ambassador Gordon Sandlin. Before I even begin to introduce our guests, I wanna remind all of you who are watching us on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, you know the drill. Uh, you can go ahead and use the comment section to type into your questions. We'll get to as many of them as we can. So, uh, today we are joined again by Ambassador Gordon Sandlin. Um, in 2018, president Donald Trump appointed Sandlin to serve as the 20th United States Ambassador to the European Union. Uh, he recounts his experience, which ended after his testimony during Trump's impeachment trial. In his book, the Envoy Mastering the Art of Diplomacy with Trump and the World, A successful entrepreneur, Sandlin is the founder of Providence Hotels and director and managing member of the Aspen Companies diversified private equity firm, which has presided over a billion dollar in transactions since 1987. Is also the son of Holocaust survivors and Ambassador Sandlin recently sponsored the Auschwitz exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Ambassador. Thank you for joining us.
Speaker 1 00:01:49 Thank you for having me, Jennifer.
Speaker 0 00:01:52 So, uh, we usually like to start with a bit of backstory on our guests, and in your case, perhaps you'll reach back a bit farther to share the remarkable saga of your parents and what they survived and had to overcome to eventually become American citizens.
Speaker 1 00:02:12 Well, I was clearly born a mistake. Uh, my parents met in Germany during the war. My mother was 15, my father was 20, and they fell in love, um, just as the war was beginning. Uh, my mother got pregnant in Germany and had to escape with her family to Uruguay, where many of the German Jews went. My father was not so fortunate. He had to send his new wife off, and he did not know she was pregnant at the time and had to be smuggled out of Germany. He actually was put on the bow of a vegetable freighter in a box, uh, in the North Atlantic. Nearly lost two of his limbs, uh, because of the cold. He wound up in France and, uh, joined the French Foreign Legion, which many Jews that fled were conscripted to do. Uh, he fought, uh, for the French, uh, against the Germans, uh, wound up then being transferred to Northern Africa and was imprisoned in a concentration camp for almost a year until he was rescued by the British Army.
Speaker 1 00:03:28 Uh, he then joined the British Army, given the fact that he was German and that he spoke the language fluently. He decoded, uh, intercepted cables, uh, for the British, uh, until the end of the war. Um, he saw a lot of battle. Um, he clearly had P T S D and was reunited with my mother and his brand new six year old daughter in Monte, Val Deo Uruguay at the end of the war, first time he'd ever laid eyes on her. Um, they eventually wound up in Seattle. And 20 years after my sister Luc was born, I was born and with the same two parents and no one in between. So as I started this, I think I was a mistake.
Speaker 0 00:04:15 Uh, well, clearly you have turned out to be a rather happy mistake. Um, now you mentioned migrating to Seattle. If I'm right, you grew up on Mercer Island in Washington State. Uh, you know, we think of it as home to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. How did your parents settle there and what were some of the early experiences that fueled your sizable ambition and drive for success?
Speaker 1 00:04:44 Well, Mercer Island was an interesting laboratory. Um, I actually grew up in Seattle in a very sort of lower middle class neighborhood. Uh, my parents both worked. They came to the United States with no money. Uh, but my mother was very concerned about my education and realized that the public schools on Mercer Island were far superior to the public schools in Seattle. I clearly, they clearly could not afford a private school for me, so they moved to the cheapest house they could find on Mercer Island. And Mercer Island is home to some of the most wealthy people in the world, and it has small pockets of sort of lower income, lower middle class, and that's where we lived. So I wound up getting the benefit of the Mercer Island School system, which was absolutely terrific. Uh, and I also got the benefit, which is, uh, one of the reasons why I tend to gravitate toward, uh, the objective philosophy is I was very envious. A lot of my classmates got new cars when they turned 16. They were taken around the world on trips by their wealthy parents, and mine couldn't afford that. So envy is an incredible driver, and I vowed I was gonna make money. And, uh, that drive has stayed with me throughout my entire life, and it was formed at those early years.
Speaker 0 00:06:13 Well, it's interesting because Ayn Rand describes envy as the hatred of the good, as those who, uh, do not want to succeed, but want you to fail, do not want, um, to live, but want you to die. So in a way, I'd almost say you didn't have that. You didn't then set out to say, I wanna tear down the rich and the successful. You said, I want to be that. So in, in a way, uh, you're almost the, a much healthier and more productive oriented, uh, reaction to, to seeing others who have more than than you do. Um, but speaking of Ayn Rand, uh, you and I originally connected over our shared fondness for Ayn Rand's literature and philosophies. So how did you discover the books and any particular novels or characters or themes that resonated with you?
Speaker 1 00:07:13 Well, I'm a huge Atlas Shrugged fan, uh, and anyone in the, in the real estate business, uh, that has read her work generally is, um, I think I can summarize my affection for her work as, uh, as inspirational. Uh, it's, it's, uh, prescriptive. Uh, it sort of cuts to the chase, which is how I've tried to live my life, which is sort of, let's get to the bottom line. What do I want? What do you want? And how can we make that happen? And I know we're gonna be speaking about this in a little while, but that is how I conducted myself as an ambassador. I felt there was too much wasted time and diplomacy and not enough, uh, focus on the ultimate objective. And Ayn Rand, uh, consciously or subconsciously was an incredible guide, uh, that every diplomat actually should read. And few do <laugh>
Speaker 0 00:08:17 Probably because, uh, some of the characters that she describes probably hit a little bit too close to home, to those who are of the bureaucratic, um, mindset who, uh, like to, to cog up, cog up the wheels. Um, alright, I don't wanna leave your early life before talking about your love of flying. Any close calls
Speaker 1 00:08:42 <laugh>. Well, I started flying, uh, at the age of 15. Uh, I soloed at the youngest age, you're allowed to solo, which was 16. Uh, and then I began working on all of my various licenses to the point where I achieved what is considered the highest level license in aviation, which is the same license that the pilots that fly you around on a commercial airliner have, it's called an airline transport pilot rating, which I have. And I've flown probably 50 different kinds of airplanes, jets, sea planes, twin engine, single engine, everything under the sun. And I was a flight instructor for a while. Uh, in my youth during college, I taught about a hundred people how to fly and signed off on their ability to solo, which is something that you don't take lightly because when you get out of that airplane and they're on their own for the first time, if something happens, uh, if not legally, morally, and ethically, you're responsible.
Speaker 1 00:09:46 So it's always, uh, fun to kind of stand there and hold your breath while your student, uh, takes off and makes a landing all on their own with, with, with no assistance whatsoever. Uh, yes, I've had close calls and those close calls actually taught me a lot about the use of checklists, not just in flying, but in, in my own business life and my own diplomatic life. When a pilot gets in an airplane, uh, every single time, no matter how often they've flown, no matter how many hours they have, and even if they flew that very same airplane a couple of hours ago, earlier in the day, they always go through a checklist, which is the only infallible way to as to assure that you've done everything you need to do for a safe flight. So using checklists in business, using checklists even in your personal life, is something that I took from flying. But fortunately, those close calls taught me lessons, and they weren't fatal.
Speaker 0 00:10:52 So let's turn to your business life first. I, I do wanna dig into this and I wanna get to the questions that are piling up, but Ayn Rand, uh, one, one of the things that makes her unique was the way that she celebrated entrepreneurs and celebrated capitalism and celebrated the art of the deal. So tell us a little bit about how you got into the hotel business.
Speaker 1 00:11:16 Well, I started in the commercial real estate business. I dropped out of school. I went to the University of Washington for barely two years. I was restless, I was bored. I didn't think I was smarter than anyone else. In fact, I definitely was not. Uh, but I just wanted to, as I said previously, I wanted to get to the point, I just couldn't sit in a classroom with three, 400 people listening to a professor drone on about how to be successful and make money when clearly that professor had no such experience on, on his or her own. So I went into the, the most pure form of capitalism, which is doing a job where you're paid only on commission, basically, you eat what you kill. And for the first year, I did miserably. I made no money. Fortunately, I was very young, I was still living at home in my parents' home.
Speaker 1 00:12:14 So I had no overhead. And literally as I was getting discouraged to the point of giving up, I closed a deal, my first deal, and it happened to be the largest deal closed in Seattle that year because I was constantly swinging for the fences. And that gave me the capital to really start out and work on larger deals that were riskier. But that paid more. And at one point, a few years into my career, I was supervising a group of other real estate brokers, and one of them brought me a hotel that was in bankruptcy. I didn't know anything about the hotel business, but I did understand the bankruptcy process because I had sold several other buildings out of bankruptcy. So I got permission from the company that I worked for. I said, listen, if I can raise the money to buy this, can I buy this property? And they said, as long as you pay us the full commission that we would earn selling it to another client, we have no problem with that. Now, today, that would never happen. That would be a huge conflict of interest, but back then, kind of anything went. So that's what I did. And that was my first hotel back in 1985. And let's, I'm sorry,
Speaker 0 00:13:27 I I would, I would just wanted to, uh, go ahead and then we're gonna transition into your second career.
Speaker 1 00:13:33 No, and that, that really began my career in the real estate private equity business. Uh, I bought and sold dozens of other hotels, multi-billions of dollars of real estate. Some successfully, some not so successfully. But all in all, it worked out in my favor and in my investor's favor. And we all did quite well. And that's what ultimately gave me the stability and the capital to serve my country, which is I think what you wanna talk about in my book.
Speaker 0 00:14:04 Yes. And, but even before you became President Trump's ambassador to the eu, you be, became involved with Republican politics. Tell us a bit about what drew you to that.
Speaker 1 00:14:15 I had a partner who was much older than I, uh, who was what I would call a centrist Republican. And he and I had a lot of conversations. Philosophically he would take me to fundraisers and other Republican meetings in Seattle. Uh, I was definitely like an intern. Uh, but I began to meet people in the Republican party. I began to understand what Republicans truly stand for, and it met with my own personal philosophy of self-reliance, small government work, hard capitalism. And as I spent more time with the other side of the aisle, uh, that was an anathem of me. Uh, I recall one incident which really, really taught me a lot of lessons. I was working as an intern at the local television station, uh, an unpaid intern. And I was in the studio. And back then the television cameras were huge, and the cables that, that they used to connect were enormous.
Speaker 1 00:15:20 They were two three inches thick, and there was a studio tour going on back then, people were interested in watching or, you know, taking tours of TV studios. And every single person walking into the studio tripped over the cord. And one woman almost really hurt herself. So there was no one else around. I grabbed the camera and pulled it out of the way and kicked the cord away from the doors so that people wouldn't trip. And the union that controlled that studio went ballistic. You would've thought that I would've taken their jobs away from them because I moved a camera. And instead of being praised, uh, for doing the right thing and taking initiative, I was almost fired. Uh, and chastised for, you know, being involved in something because I was not a union member that I shouldn't have been involved in, that taught me a lot about how unions think. And from that point on, I've always had issues with unions, and I've always been very, very wary of them.
Speaker 0 00:16:22 It reminds me of, uh, another one of the members of the Atlas Society community, chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, who, uh, recounts his experience dealing with unions at a very young age, actually, probably about how old you were then and how that kind of, uh, turned him off to this idea of a collectivized society. So, um, I wanna dig in to your book, the Envoy Mastering the Art of Diplomacy with Trump and the World. The path to your nomination as ambassador took a few Zigs and Zags. Tell us a bit about the process.
Speaker 1 00:17:06 Well, becoming a US ambassador, and again, I'm speaking in in great generalization because everyone has a different story. But if you look at a group, large group of political appoint appointed ambassadors, and I'm only speaking now about politically appointed ambassadors, not career ambassadors who are full-time, uh, professional members of the, of the Foreign Service, uh, political ambassadors come through generally either friends of the president or people that help support the president during their campaign, primarily financially. Not only do they make contributions, they raise money, they help with logistical support, they lend their homes for fundraisers, they travel with the candidate. And when I finally decided, probably at the age of around 30, after having met two or three individuals who had served as ambassadors under other presidents and to a person, they all said that this was the most interesting thing they'd ever done in their lives.
Speaker 1 00:18:09 And these were people who had pretty interesting lives. So for someone to say after they'd run a big company or been successful at, at another endeavor, that serving as an ambassador for 1, 2, 3 years was the most interesting thing they'd ever done. I really sort of sat up and took note, and I decided early on that that's something I wanted to strive for. So when George W. Bush ran for president, I worked on his campaign. I was not offered an ambassadorship. And naively I wouldn't have been in a position to take one as well. I was in the middle of building my business. I had at that point probably five, 600 employees, and I could not leave my business to go serve our country. Uh, after Bush's tenure, I supported, uh, John McCain. I supported MIT Romney, I supported Jeb Bush, uh, none of whom made it to the White House.
Speaker 1 00:19:07 But then when we finally had a Republican nominee that won Donald Trump, uh, I decided to swing for the fences and, uh, ask that I be, uh, appointed, uh, by a committee that generally makes these decisions with the president, you know, giving the nod. And I was fortunate that I had been sort of hanging around the hoop for all those years. A lot of the people who had responsibility for selecting ambassadors knew me from my previous work. They knew I had been very, very helpful to the party, to other candidates. And it was sort of my turn without implying that I was entitled to anything. So when I was up to bat, uh, I took it. Frankly, the first phone call I made, uh, once I got the offer was to President Bush 43, who I had gotten to know quite well. And I knew that he was not a fan of President Trump's. And I said, is this something I should do? And even though he wasn't a fan of, of, of Trump's, he said, you absolutely need to do this, uh, because you're, you're president is asking you to serve your country and you need to do it. So he said, if it's helpful to you, I will introduce you to the person who was my ambassador to the eu, and you can chat with him and get a sense of the job, which he connected us. And I did. And that's how it all began.
Speaker 0 00:20:35 So I had a brief stint working at the US Embassy in Paris in the late 1980s, and I got a glimpse of what you describe in your book concerning the tensions between the career diplomats and the political appointees when you went to the Foreign Service Institute, a k a charm school, uh, for new ambassadorial appointees. You observed some stark differences between those two categories. Tell us a little bit about that and also, what are some of the advantages that politically appointed ambassadors can bring to their jobs?
Speaker 1 00:21:11 Well, let me say at the outset, there are some career, uh, diplomats that do an outstanding job. They work hard. Uh, they know that the policy that they are supposed to implement is set by whoever the president of the United States is at the time. And even regardless of their own personal feelings about what should or should not be the US policy toward any particular country or our foreign policy in general, they salute smartly and they carry out the wishes of whoever is the elected leader of our country at the time. So I wanna stipulate that because that's important. Now, having said that, let me smack them around a little bit. Uh, there are a lot of career bureaucrats, career foreign service people who really are in it for the journey and not the destination. They love their lifestyle. They love what the government pays for, including housing, transportation, private schools for their children, chefs, maids, you name it.
Speaker 1 00:22:23 They live a very, very good life abroad, uh, a life that they probably would never live if they were employed in the private sector because they just wouldn't command the wages necessary to pay for all of those things. So they're in it for the long haul. They're not interested in rocking the boat, they're not interested necessarily in getting anything done, but simply pleasing their superiors to the point of where they get promoted to the next level. It's very much a military system. And I don't mean to smear the military with this broad brush, I'm speaking only of the promotion system, which is they start, you know, as a lieutenant and wanna someday become a general, which is a career ambassador. And only very few get to that point. So when a political appointee such as myself comes in from the outside, it would almost be like you worked your way through the military for 30 years. You make the rank of, you know, colonel, and all of a sudden someone comes in from the outside who's never served in the military, and they instantly become a three-star general. So it creates a lot of jealousy, it creates a lot of animosity, the smart career folks who understand why you're there in the first place. They go with it and they work with you and you help them and they help you, the others, do everything they can to undermine what you are trying to do for your elected president.
Speaker 0 00:23:54 Yeah. And then there are the advantages, I mean, in a way, because you're term limited, right? You are there to do what you believe is right, you know, and not necessarily, um, be thinking about, uh, decades or career, you know, a career in, in the, uh, foreign service. And, um, then, you know, many of these politically appointed ambassadors have achieved great success in their professional lives in business and, and can also bring more of that private sector perspective with a focus on, uh, the economic agenda as well.
Speaker 1 00:24:32 Well, if you asked a foreign leader of any country and you said, I'm gonna give you two choices for the United States Ambassador to your country, choice number one is a highly educated diplomat with decades of experience speaks your language fluently, understands your history, uh, knows your culture, knows your people, uh, knows everything there is to know about your country. And choice B is a successful business person in the United States that does not speak your language, has a general knowledge of your country and its history, but has direct access to the President of the United States and can pick up the phone and call him or her whenever he deems necessary and operates at the highest levels of the United States government. Which would you prefer as your ambassador? And I can tell you, most foreign leaders would pick the latter because they would say, you know what? I don't need a subject matter expert on my country. I have plenty of those. I need someone who can listen to me and convey my desires, my wishes, my concerns directly to the leader of the free world, which the career person by virtue of the system is unable to do.
Speaker 0 00:25:51 I hadn't thought of it that way, but that makes a lot of sense. So tell us a bit about Trump's vision, which you shared about the need to redefine our relationship with Europe, whether he's insistent that our NATO allies should be paying their dues or his frustration with what he saw as trade imbalances.
Speaker 1 00:26:10 Well, listen, I've been very vocal in the fact that I am not supporting President Trump for reelection. And we can talk about that separately, but I want everyone to understand the context. Uh, when I speak about President Trump, because I was very, very much aligned with him on a lot of the policies and on a lot of what he identified as sort of the fundamental working failures that had been experienced by many of his predecessors, uh, both Republican and Democrat, it didn't matter. They approached Europe in a very different way than Trump did. Uh, most of his predecessors, again, Republicans and Democrats, uh, still continue to view Europe as, uh, coming out of the ashes of World War II as being sort of a weaker, lesser partner that needed our defense, needed our help, et cetera, et cetera. We were there for the Europeans when the war ended.
Speaker 1 00:27:16 And we used our treasure. We clearly used our lives to rebuild Europe on a p post-war basis. And what you would think is given our long history and our shared values, that we would have some kind of a credit account with Europe in an emotional sense. In other words, Europe would treat us very, very special compared to the way they would treat any other bilateral relationship between either the European Union as an entity or any of the member countries. Trump identified correctly that that was not the case. In fact, Europe was very much like forget about what happened 70, 60, 40, 30 years ago. Europe's attitude was, what have you done for us lately? And as a result, uh, regulations that cut us out of European markets, uh, their desire to have global supremacy over, uh, how things, uh, work in terms of taxes, in terms of safety issues, in terms of agriculture, without being congenial allies about these things, they're always friendly and you could always count on them to give a great party.
Speaker 1 00:28:36 But they were not willing to cut us any slack. And Trump said, wait a minute, we're the ones paying the bills over here. If we weren't defending you through the mechanism of nato, you wouldn't have the social safety net and lifestyle that you're enjoying. In fact, we were fighting with you about putting 2% of your G D P against your, your defense commitment. If we weren't involved, you'd have to put 6, 7, 8, 10% of your G D P, in which case there would not be a lot of people sitting in Brasseries in Paris eating a croissant three in the afternoon. They would be working and they'd be working 60, 70 hour weeks like we do. And Trump really identified that in a visceral sense and said, look, I wanna rebalance this relationship. If we're gonna do what we're doing for you, I want you to do some things for us. And that's how he sort of started. And it rocked the boat a great deal because the Europeans up till Trump were very, very happy with the status quo.
Speaker 0 00:29:42 So you've shared some positive views on Trump's decisiveness and putting America first, um, in this book. And I believe, I wanna make sure that we're putting the links for purchasing it in all of our chat streams. Um, you also used an interesting metaphor in describing what it was like working for him, likening it to staying at an all-inclusive resort. You're thrilled when you first arrive, but things start to go downhill fast. Can you elaborate on that? Create metaphor?
Speaker 1 00:30:17 Well, you know, Donald Trump had great instincts. He's very smart. He understands what the real issue is when an intellectual and elitist will bury him in a lot of Ps, either in a meeting or a lot of documents. He is like many other business people, he cuts through all of the noise and says, let's just get to the issue here. And more often than not, he correctly identifies the issue that's the positive and that's helpful to our country. The negative is he views everything through a very personal and narcissistic lens because, uh, he doesn't stop with how is this good for our country or bad for our country? But he also adds to that, how is this good for me or bad for me? And I don't mean in a general sense of, am I gonna be reelected someday? But everything is viewed through the lens of his own ego to the point of where it becomes absurd.
Speaker 1 00:31:28 And you know, there's an old maxim in the sale, in the sales game when you're taught how to sell whatever you're selling. They say, when you've made the sale, shut up and let the customers say yes. And Trump just couldn't shut up. He would convince a lot of people to see things his way, but then he would keep talking or he would keep grinding, or he would somehow bring up issues relating to things that don't have any place in the discussion. And while someone previous to that point would've been willing to embrace his idea and say, yes, I'll go along with you, all of a sudden was shut down and turned off. And that happened more often than not
Speaker 0 00:32:15 Looking back, um, on your, and I'm going to get to our questions cuz they are really piling up and I know our audience will get mad at me if I don't, uh, start to incorporate them into the interview. But, um, more broadly, looking back at your time as ambassador, um, what were some of your proudest accomplishments and what might you have done differently if you had the chance?
Speaker 1 00:32:39 Well, I was very proud of the fact that even though Ukraine was not directly in my remit, uh, the career foreign service folks starting at the Foreign Service Institute, uh, made it abundantly clear to me that Ukraine was an important part of my portfolio, even though it's not an EU member. And the the view was this, Europe and the United States need to have no daylight whatsoever when it comes to Ukraine, because as long as they have no daylight in how they wanna treat Ukraine and how they wanna protect Ukraine and how they wanna end corruption in Ukraine, it scares the shit out of the Russians. It really does. And that was proven time and time again. Uh, I took the Secretary General of the European Commission, uh, to Odessa. We stood there and gave a very pro eu pro u s anti-Russian speech on the deck of one of our guided missile destroyers that was docked there.
Speaker 1 00:33:46 And once that speech ended, we gathered our intelligence as we usually do. And clearly the Russians were not only perturbed by it, which we expected them to be, but they were also frightened by it. And we knew we had hit the right nerve. We wanted to lash ourselves with the EU to the point of where the Russians really could see no daylight. That proved to be the right strategy. And it's unfortunate that this invasion occurred under President Biden's watch again without, uh, making Trump appear to be superhuman, which he is not. I don't believe this would've occurred during the Trump administration because the Russians really believed that Trump would've been crazy enough to do something to them immediately had they invaded Biden gave the opposite signals, and that's what caused this in the first place.
Speaker 0 00:34:46 All right. Gonna turn to some of our questions. A lot. Very interested in learning more about your, uh, views on the economy. Um, and as an entrepreneur, Wyatt five 16 on YouTube asks thoughts on the commercial real estate market in the wake of Covid lockdowns, people working at home more.
Speaker 1 00:35:07 Well, I suffered greatly during Covid because I'm in the hotel business and in the cities in which we were located, we weren't really in the resort part of the business where people would drive to these resorts during Covid. We were in the, uh, urban full service hotel business and still are, I shouldn't say that in the past tense. Uh, and we had many, many hotels completely shut down for the better part of a year. And that becomes very expensive to carry a building that has no revenue. Uh, so I have a healthy respect for what a, uh, pandemic can do. I'm sorry, I don't recall the second part of the question, Jennifer.
Speaker 0 00:35:49 It was just with people now, you know, after the lockdowns in particular, a lot of people shifting to working from home. Um, are you optimistic about commercial real estate coming back?
Speaker 1 00:36:03 Well, I think a lot of it will depend on our country's philosophy. We have literally trillions of dollars invested in our urban centers around the country. And those urban centers are built around a residential, retail and office model as well as hotels that requires workers to gather together in buildings in an urban center to learn from one another, to collaborate with each other, to mentor each other, to have fun with each other. That is not possible to do from home over Zoom. And the more CEOs continue to coddle employees and not require them to come back to work, it's going to create the destruction of many of our most important and powerful cities. I was just in San Francisco and it's devastating what's going on there. Yes, there's crime, yes, there's homelessness, yes, there's drug use, but if those buildings were full of people, a lot of that activity would subside because it would be displaced. The restaurants would be full, the stores would be full, and they're not. So until CEOs stop placating their people and telling them it's a requirement of this job that you'll be in the office at least four days a week, if not five, a lot of our cities are going to die a very slow death, which I think is unfortunate.
Speaker 0 00:37:37 Jackson Sinclair on Facebook, uh, has a question, I think that is apropo to you. You have two, um, children who are in embark on their careers. He's asking, what would you say to young people today who want to succeed but feel there are too many impediments, government interference, et cetera, making it difficult to get ahead?
Speaker 1 00:38:01 I would say practice the art of gradual incrementalism. Don't try to go for the whole enchilada at once. Get an internship and use every card you have at your disposal. Don't think you can do these things on your own, because relationships matter. They matter today. They mattered 20 years ago. They mattered 200 years ago. If you have a friend, a relative, an uncle, a friend of a friend who runs a business, who can get you in the door on even an unpaid internship to learn how things work in the real world, do it. Use every influencer at your disposal to help you get there. Don't think less of yourself by doing that and then work your way up the ladder. Do things that are now becoming derided in terms of a work ethic. Be the first in, in the morning, in the last home at night.
Speaker 1 00:38:59 Do whatever you're asked to do as long as it's legal, uh, without saying, that's not my job, that's not my department. Make yourself invaluable. And that may not be your ultimate career, the place where you have your internship, in fact, in many cases it's not. But it will get you started on the right trajectory and you never know who you'll meet along the way that will offer you the job or the opportunity or the invention or whatever your future will bring. Uh, that we will make you happy. Because at the end of the day, happiness is the key to this. It's not the money, the money follows the happiness not the other way around.
Speaker 0 00:39:39 Yeah, I would definitely second that. I always thought in my early internships, in my first jobs, you know, maybe I wasn't the brightest or maybe I didn't have the best connections. There were things I didn't have control over, but I had control over how hard I worked and I could always show up first. I could always leave, uh, the last, I could always work the hardest. And I do think that I, I do see among some young people this, uh, idea of, oh, their weekends are sac or sanct and, um, just, and, and that's fine. I mean people, it's just really all about what you value and, and what you want to achieve and right sizing the kind of life that you want, uh, now with the kind of life that, that you want in, um, in the future. So, uh, Anne m on YouTube asks, did you and Trump somewhat bond over commercial real estate and being hotel owners? I recall he had a pretty obnoxious comment to you along those lines.
Speaker 1 00:40:44 Well, the first time I met Donald Trump, the press for some reason thinks that Donald Trump and I go way back and we're old friends and we weren't. As I mentioned previously, I supported Jeb Bush out of all of the 16 or 17 Republican candidates in the 2016 election. He was my candidate of choice. And then I only migrated to Trump when he got the domination. But I had met Donald Trump only once prior to being offered the ambassadorship until we reconnected during the campaign. And that was in 1988 at the Republican Convention in New Orleans. I had just bought a hotel. Trump had just bought the plaza. Uh, there was a lot of press about the fact that he was in a big dispute with Weston at the time that was managing the plaza for him. And we had just bought a hotel that Weston was managing and we had a similar dispute over similar issues.
Speaker 1 00:41:38 So I ran into Trump in the lobby of the hotel, never met him before. He didn't know who I was. He was a very young Donald Trump at the time. And I was a much younger Gordon Sondland. And I introduced myself and I said, I understand you're having troubles with Weston. We're having the same problems. Could we compare notes perhaps? And he was completely dismissive. He got on the elevator, he sort of brushed me off and away he went. The next evening, I was in the bar at that hotel. Donald Trump walked in, looked around, and I was sitting with the person who then became George h w Bush's chief of Staff, governor John Sununu and others. He came over, Trump came over, obviously recognized Sun Nunu, sat down and started talking, turned and looked at me and remembered me from the day before. And he couldn't have been nicer. And so I brought that up to him when we reconnected in 2015. And I said, Donald, you were a real dick to me when I met you back in 1988. And he said, I was, what did I do? And I explained, told him the story and he said, well, of course I was nice to you the next day because you were with very important people, <laugh>. And I said, who says that? Only Donald?
Speaker 0 00:42:54 Yeah. Well at least he's saying what's uh, on his mind. Exactly. Um, alright, I'm gonna put a pause in the questions from the audience. I wanna talk a little bit about the whistleblower complaint about Trump's call to Zelensky un Pompeo both agreed that nothing improper occurred and that the complaint was off base. But in retrospect, you also saw it as a validation of the presence of the deep state, um, quote, highly partisan left-wing career bureaucrats who Bela believe they have a divine right to determine US policies no matter who's sitting in the White House end. Can you elaborate on that and outline some of their tactics?
Speaker 1 00:43:40 Well, I thought that the entire Ukraine matter was a big red herring in my mind. If you really read the transcript, which is not a very long transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky. And again, I only knew of the call after the fact. I knew there was a call and someone had told me the call went well. I had never seen a readout of the call until many months later. But to go back to my original point, much was made of that call, and it really was a red herring. Once it was exposed by the whistleblower, I felt very strongly that the public was now fully aware of what had gone on, what was said or not said. And I thought that that amounted to nothing more than a ballot box issue. And what I mean by that was take that into account when you're voting for Trump for reelection. If you didn't think that was a proper call, then don't vote for him, vote for the other person. That was not an impeachable offense by any stretch of the imagination. And I thought the impeachment was handled as almost a political circus by the Democrats compared to a serious impeachment, uh, that that should have been, uh, you know, put forth over something as critical as the January 6th matter, which was in an entirely different category.
Speaker 0 00:45:04 Early on, you recognized promise in Vladimir Zelensky and you pressed for an early White House meeting with him and President Trump, and you were pretty single-minded in wanting to, uh, make that happen. The effort seemed to take you on a circuitous trip that eventually landed you, um, in front of the House Intelligence Committee testifying in the Trump impeachment trial. That sounds like a horrifically expensive and stressful ordeal. So looking back, was it all worth it?
Speaker 1 00:45:42 A hundred percent and I would serve again in a heartbeat, uh, for the right president. And were I given the opportunity? Um, the, uh, the, the zelensky uh, meeting at the White House in my mind was critical in order to begin to cement the relationship. After spending time with Zelensky, I joined, uh, secretary Rick Perry, uh, Senator Ron Johnson and others in Kiev for his inauguration. I hosted him in Brussels for a small dinner party. Uh, I brought my friend Jay Leno to that dinner because I knew that Leno was in the same business as Zelensky before Zelensky became a politician. And he and Zelensky admired him. And I, I had no idea what a tough person Zelensky would've turned out to be. I mean, he was clearly charming and funny and smart. Uh, I think he wants the best for his country. Uh, but until he was tested by war, I would have no idea what kind of metal, uh, this guy has.
Speaker 1 00:46:50 Um, but I also knew after having met him, and I would say Secretary Perry and Senator Johnson agreed, we all looked at each other after we spent the day with him and said, Trump is gonna love this guy. We just need to bring him to dc. They need to have a meeting. Let Trump take him and show him around. Let them get to know one another, and all of a sudden, Ukraine will be right on his radar and good things will happen. And that's all we were trying to do was get a meeting with no preconditions, no quid pro quos as the press likes to say, we just wanted to have a meeting. And that took on sort of a life of its own.
Speaker 0 00:47:30 Looking forward to next year's presidential election, what would you like to see debated and advanced by various candidates in terms of European policy? What do you think the priorities ought to be?
Speaker 1 00:47:44 Well, I think the policy ought to be, first of all, uh, some inward looking. I do think we need to secure our border. I do need think we need to cut government expenditures, and we need to dramatically increase our military budget, which I know sounds like at a contradiction in terms, but we need to cut elsewhere in order to be able to afford to rebuild our Navy, to rebuild our, our, uh, ammunition stockpiles to modernize our nuclear triad. All of these things need to be done, and they need to be done quickly because we've now seen that there are malign actors out there, uh, and they are not going away, and they are not backing down. And I think it's an existential threat to Western democracy to not do that. Once we're on that pathway, we can walk and chew gum at the same time, I think we need to fundamentally reset our relationship with Europe in a way that we use the leverage that we have with them, not against them, but with them.
Speaker 1 00:48:48 Because when we act in concert with the European Union on any issue, we're pretty unstoppable. When you combine our size, our population, and the fact that you're now looking at 28 different trading partners, the 27 EU members plus the United States, it's impossible for anyone on the planet, including China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, to thwart our wishes. We don't leverage our relationship the way in which we should. And I believe that the United States mission of the European Union needs to be led by a political appointee that is very close to the president, and that that individual, whoever that is, he or she, uh, work directly with the president, the National Security Advisor, and the Secretary of State to set that up and it not be just a cable sending bureaucratic office.
Speaker 0 00:49:47 Looking back on, on your time as ambassador, what were some of the biggest surprises to you, but what did you learn that, uh, maybe changed your mind of the mindset that you came into office with?
Speaker 1 00:50:01 Well, I was surprised really at the amount of people involved in the process that really don't accomplish much. You always read about waste and abuse and, you know, bureaucrats that don't do very much, but I was shocked to see it firsthand. And what made it particularly egregious in my mind were, was that there were bureaucrats, and I don't use that in a pejorative sense, that really worked hard. They worked seven days a week, they put their relationships with their family at risk in order to get the job done, but they were few and far between, and many, many, many just did not deliver. Um, and they could have literally been gone and nothing would've changed. So that surprised me. I was also very sobered by the fact that any ambassador has a great deal of power because you are the personal representative of the United States of America, and you are there in the stead of the President. So what you say carries a lot of weight. You can commit the country unwittingly to something because you have the power, you have like the power of attorney for the United States. So it's a very, very sobering job to do. You have to be very careful and move very deliberately, but it's also one of those very unique jobs that if you're working for the right president and the right administration, there is nothing more fulfilling than getting things done for your country and actually making them happen.
Speaker 0 00:51:37 Now I wanna turn and close with talking a bit about the Auschwitz exhibit, uh, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. But first on a personal level, having been through, uh, a very tr trying ordeal trial by fire. Um, I mean, I look back when my house burned down or other things that, uh, happened in, it's not to necessarily look for a silver lining, but, um, but to try to grain gain some sense of agency, uh, as you go through something like that and find ways to help it make you stronger. You, you talked in the book about all of the little annoyances, the things that, so you, you know, in that sense that you don't quite sweat the small stuff anymore, but any other ironic gifts that the experience gave you?
Speaker 1 00:52:36 Well, not sweating the small stuff is a very, very important thing. It's easy to gloss over that. But again, when you look at what your life objectives are, what your business objectives are, what your relationship objectives are, your monetary objectives, whatever it is you are, you're looking to do, whether it's, you know, rehabilitating your health, uh, when you sweat the small stuff, all of a sudden you lose focus, you lose the big picture. And the most important thing you lose is time, because that is the most valuable commodity anyone has, is their time. So when you zoom back out and you look way down the road, it's sort of like when you're driving, you don't look at the hood of the car, you look way down the street in order to stay in the lane. The people who look at the hood of the car tend to be all over the place. The people who are looking way down the road tend to drive in a straight line and get to where they're going. So I know it's not a great analogy, but that is something that I have been personally fortunate to learn, not just as a diplomat, but as an entrepreneur and someone who, again, values the tenants of a Rand.
Speaker 0 00:53:52 Wonderful. Well, uh, let's talk about Alyssa Rosenbaum, who later became a Rand. Uh, she grew up in a Russian Jewish family, um, and she, uh, eventually fled not a co holocaust, but, but a different kind of, um, cranny in in totalitarian system in the Soviet Union. Um, your parents had personal experience with, uh, being dislocated and, um, imprisoned and, uh, all of that they had to endure. So let's talk a little bit more about the, uh, exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Um, I've been, it wouldn't have been possible, uh, without, uh, ambassador Sandlands, um, extremely generous sponsorship. It's, uh, absolutely remarkable both in its accessibility, you know, how personal it is, but also the scope of the over 700 artifacts that, uh, were incorporated. Michael Berenbaum has joined us on this show to discuss the exhibit and also his perspective on antisemitism. Tell me a bit about what your involvement in this project meant to you and what you hope visitors will take away.
Speaker 1 00:55:15 Well, the team at the Reagan Library did an incredible job in putting this together. Um, and it's not a so-called Disneyland exhibit where you walk through and there's a lot of, you know, flashing lights and video, uh, you know, hijinks and so on. It's a very, very somber, thoughtful exhibit that takes you through a lot of, um, copy where you have to read, you see photos, and then you see just enough three-dimensional objects, whether they're, uh, starting at the entrance, the box car that brought the Jews to the concentration camps, the rail cart. Uh, you see shoes and spectacles, uh, from, uh, people who are about to be exterminated. And you put the three together, the reading, the photos and the objects, and you listen to the audio guide. And it really takes you through how someone with a straight face can deny the holocaust in the face of not just the evidence coming from those who live through it, it who still are fortunate to be alive, but all of the historical documentation. It, it, it's almost so farfetched that people should not give credence. And when you have celebrities talking about the fact that the Holocaust may not have happened or didn't happen the way it was presented, uh, they should be canceled immediately. They should be canceled immediately. And I'm not a canceled person, but if, if anything crosses the line, it's that
Speaker 0 00:56:51 It was interesting that the, the title of the exhibit is not long ago, not far away. And, um, I think that is something that will surprise many people when they are, see how relatively, you know, modern, uh, that society was and how they, uh, devolved to such cruelty in barbarity. It's very, very sobering. Um, well,
Speaker 1 00:57:16 In the, when you mentioned the cruelty and the barbarity, remember these were people that were just ordinary German citizens. They were bakers and butchers and plumbers and doctors and lawyers. And they were conscripted, uh, through lies to murdering their fellow German citizens. And, you know, 10 or 15 years before the war started, if you would've told many of those people one of these days, uh, you know, there's going to be a leader here and you're gonna turn and kill your neighbor who you have dinner with twice a week, they would've thought you were crazy. But that's what happened. And it could happen again. Anywhere.
Speaker 0 00:57:58 I wanna put the link, especially for any of our viewers who are in the Southern California area, let's put the link to the exhibit on all of the chat streams. Um, but I, I definitely recommend that you try to make it a priority to go before it closes down. Uh, and before we close down, Gordon, any final thoughts? Uh, what are you working on now? How can we keep track of you? Or maybe you'd rather not be kept to track of <laugh>?
Speaker 1 00:58:29 Well, I'm speaking around the country to groups who wanna hear me speak and clearly the book is out there, the Envoy on Amazon. It's easy to get. It's actually very easy to read. It's a short, quick read. It has some great anecdotes, some great stories about what really went on. It's not a long boring book about, you know, the European Union. There are a lot of textbooks and other reference materials out there if someone really wants to dig deep. This is really what I call a bitchy beach read. And I think people will enjoy it a great deal and learn something.
Speaker 0 00:59:01 And I'll also highly recommend the audio version, which I've now listened to twice. It was really well done. Well, thank you. Thank you, Gordon. Thanks, uh, so much for joining us and we'll be keeping track of you and, uh, following your exploits.
Speaker 1 00:59:19 Thank you, Jennifer. It's great to be with you today.
Speaker 0 00:59:22 And I wanna thank all of you who joined us today. Uh, thank you for your great questions. Apologies that I couldn't get to all of them. If you enjoyed this video, if you enjoy the work of the Atlas Society, please consider making a tax deductible [email protected]
. And be sure to tune in next week when the senior fellow, uh, of the Manhattan Institute and host of the Last Optimist podcast, Mark Mills will be, uh, our guest on the Atlas Society asks to talk about his latest book, the Cloud Revolution, how the convergence of new technologies will unleash the next economic boom, uh, and a Roaring 2020s. See you then.