December 8, 2006
Emily Lenzner, NPR


Washington, DC; December 8, 2006 Ė Vernon Jordan, a member of the Iraq Study Group, appeared on NPR News News & Notes today for a discussion with host Farai Chideya on the study groupís report, American foreign policy going forward in Iraq, his thoughts on a national draft, and the civil rights movement.

The conversation also turned briefly to politics when Ms Chideya asked Mr. Jordan if he expects to see a black person elected president. His response: ďÖI think it can happen and I think that it will happen and I hope so.Ē

A transcript of Ms. Chideyaís interview with Vernon Jordan airing on News & Notes today is below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News News & Notes.

Hosted by Farai Chideya, News & Notes made its premiere in January 2005 and is produced at NPR West studios in Los Angeles. It currently airs on 88 stations and has an audience of 700,000 weekly listeners.


VERNON JORDAN: Because itís about war and itís about young people dying and its about sectarian violence and its about families losing their loved ones. And this is a difficult war and itís a deteriorating grave circumstance. And so that was the difficult part of it. Now thereís another very positive aspect of it: we are five democrats and five republicans Ė all of whom checked our partisanship at the door.

FARAI CHIDEYA (HOST): All 79 recommendations that you made are unanimous. But can you take us inside the room; did you ever reach a point where you thought -- Okay, thereís no way that weíre gonna reach consensus. Although weíre a bipartisan group, itís just too tough for us to reach a compromise on what we say.

JORDAN: I never, never doubted that we could reach the consensus that we reached. Because we all went into that room having checked our partisanship, believing in each other, believing that we could Ė through working together Ė come to a consensus. And we did.

CHIDEYA: Who were you in that room, let me ask: Were you someone who played a role of bringing people together who were of different like minds? Were you someone who cooled hot tempers? It seems to me, in a way, that you guys were like a sequestered grand jury.

JORDAN: Well Iíll tell you this Farai. This is the first time that Iíve served on this kind of commission, and Iíve been privileged to serve on many, that there were no heated arguments and nobody jumping up screaming and nobody stomping out of the room. That did not happen. Now, maybe thatís because weíre all old. But that did not happen. Nobody cursed anybody out Ė and Iíve seen that before. There were no written dissents or threats of written dissents. We had a common purpose and we accomplished it together.

CHIDEYA: Let me kind of put this in the framework of the United States. Youíve got Iraq which is a nation that is ethnically and religiously divided by different factions, but the United States has been divided by race, class and religion. And in reading your autobiography, I was struck again by the fact that you were shot by a white supremacist who almost took your life. What lessons can we learn from our divisions in the United States, past and present, that could be applied to how we think of Iraq?

JORDAN: When youíve got a problem, you have to deal with it. And you have to talk to everybody. All of these people who are railing against us talking to Iran and SyriaÖ you know it reminds me of being in the south in the 1960s. We talked to the sheriffs and the police chiefs who were beating us, who were arresting us, who were harassing us and who were shooting us. We talked to them and they were not our friends. But we had to talk to them to make them understand what it is that we were about and there was a negotiation that took place, sometimes successfully but sometimes not so successfully. But nothing happens if you donít talk.

CHIDEYA: Now one more thing on the recommendations specifically: you donít advocate an increase in US troops Ė but we donít have them. At least thatís what we heard as the report was being debriefed. Now Congressman Charlie Rangel has advocated a draft that would be one way of increasing troops. If we did have a draft or if there was some incentive for people to enlist in larger numbers, would the commission have recommended an increase instead of a drawdown?

JORDAN: Well we did not, because we actually believe that, as we said in one of our primary recommendations, that we need a transition in our troops. Years ago, I served in 1966 on the national advisory commission on selective service. That was all about the draft. Actually, Charlie Rangel was the first general counsel to the commission; thatís where I first met Charlie Rangel. And I am sympathetic to his view about national service that would also include the draft. But that has fallen on deaf ears, both in the congress and in the administration. But I think that is one way to equalize who protects us and defends us.

CHIDEYA: Finally, this is a question that is unrelated to your work on the Iraq Study Group. People are putting together their exploratory committees for president and one person who is exploring his exploratory committee is Senator Barack Obama.

JORDAN: Well Iím not going to talk to you about politics.

CHIDEYA: Can I ask you this question and then you can say ďI donít want to answer it?Ē


CHIDEYA: Do you envision a time in your life when one of the major parties will nominate a black person for president and that person will win and take office.

JORDAN: Well I believe that can happen. Iím now 70 years old, so Iím one year beyond my promised time according to scripture. So I donít know that Iíll be here. But I think it can happen and I think that it will happen and I hope so.