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Ask A Hostage Negotiator

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Ask A Hostage Negotiator

Ask A Hostage Negotiator

Ask A Hostage Negotiator

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President Obama says he's dealing with "hostage takers." To give him some advice, we talk to former FBI chief hostage negotiator Gary Noesner.

CARL KASELL, Host:

From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing this week with Kyrie O'Connor, Luke Burbank and Charlie Pierce. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

Thank you, Carl.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you so much. Coming up, Carl tries to break his limerick fever by taking two Rhyme-lenol. If you'd like to play, give us a call at 1-888-Wait- Wait, that's 1-888-924-8924. Now, lest go back to the budget battle just for one more minute. Back in December, the president described his Republican opponents as, quote, "hostage takers," as they argued over the Bush tax cuts. Then he had to go at it with them again over shutting down the government. And pretty soon he'll have to do it yet again, as Republicans threaten to refuse to raise the debt limit.

So if these are all truly hostage situations, we thought on the president's behalf, we should consult an expert. So, joining us now, is former chief hostage negotiator for the FBI, Gary Noesner. Gary, welcome to our show.

GARY NOESNER: Well, thank you, Peter. It's a pleasure to be here.

SAGAL: Great to have you. So first, as a professional hostage negotiator, what do you think of President Obama referring to his political opponents as hostage takers?

NOESNER: Well, I suspect the president may have engaged in a little political hyperbole.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: You think?

NOESNER: Yeah, it's just a hunch on my part.

SAGAL: So let's take minute. Let's say it's a hostage situation. He's dealing with a hostage taker. So if you can give one piece of advice, dealing with a hostage taker, what is it?

NOESNER: Well, I think you've got to be genuine and sincere. You know, when someone has a hostage, it's basically a form of extortion. They're trying to compel you to do something. So you have to convey to them that they're not as powerful as they think. If you simply concede, you're only going to encourage the opposition to ask for more.

SAGAL: So your rule is don't give them an inch, they'll take a mile.

NOESNER: Well, not necessarily. I mean the word - I know it's a strange word in today's political atmosphere, but compromise is really the key to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NOESNER: Getting people to work together and say I'll do this for you if you'll do that for me.

SAGAL: Okay, that's not going to work. What else you got?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, you know all we know about this is what we see in the movies. In the movies, like there's this moment sometimes where the negotiator says, I know, take me and let the hostage go. So do you think Obama can, like, let Boehner have him in exchange for raising the debt limit?

NOESNER: No. Once you give somebody that power, then they only want more, because they don't value anything that comes to them too easily. So the next thing they probably would ask for Pelosi and Reid.

SAGAL: Really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NOESNER: Yeah.

SAGAL: We could be worse off. Gary Noesner is the former chief hostage negotiator for the FBI and author of the book, "Stalling for Time." Gary, thank you so much for joining us.

NOESNER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thanks so much. Bye-bye.

NOESNER: Bye-bye.

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