Wendy R. Sherman, former Undersecretary of State and President Obama’s lead nuclear negotiator with Iran, spoke with Christiane Amanpour as explosive revelations about President Trump were leaking from Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear.”
“These are echoes of other books and other reporting we have heard about what the Trump White House is like,” Sherman told Amanpour on Wednesday. “What makes this a bombshell is the author. There is no one more credible than Bob Woodward.”
Sherman is a veteran US negotiator
, known as “The Silver Fox” by her colleagues. She spent years mediating the Iran nuclear deal, one that Trump has left at risk of collapse.
“It is totally unclear to me what the Trump administration strategy is,” she told CNN.
Sherman, a North Korea policy coordinator under President Clinton, said the stalled North Korea talks are similar to Iran-US diplomatic relations “without a policy, without a strategy.” She told Amanpour “We are at a place where North Korea never committed denuclearization.”
“I knew that President Clinton and President Obama would never pull the rug out from under me. I don’t think Steve (Biegun, the United States Special Representative for North Korea) can count on President Trump operating the same way,” she said.
Woodward’s portrait of a chaotic, dysfunctional, and ill-prepared Trump White House comes amid a blitz of newly released memoirs from Obama administration leaders.
Sherman’s new book, “Not for the Faint of Heart,” discusses her diplomatic career while illustrating how values of courage, power and persistence allow a tough negotiator to also be a human one. It’s a timely reminder during a time of diplomatic upheaval.
“Courage comes at a cost.” Sherman said, reflecting on the legacy of John McCain — who like her ex-boss John Kerry was radicalized for peace from war experiences.”You have to be willing to pay a cost.”
“We have a president of the United States who has no understanding of the world” and a Senate “that will not stand up to him” because “we are so focused on the immediate outcome of electoral politics,” Sherman added. “We need the courage to stand up to our values.”
Sherman said she learned lessons about power from a leading lady of international diplomacy, Madeleine Albright.
“When you are sitting across the negotiating table, you are not Wendy Sherman, you are not a woman, you are not in my case an American Jew, you are the United States of America — and that is a pretty damn extraordinary power.”
Sherman argues in her book that the art of diplomacy is being discredited by the art of the deal, saying the contrast in leadership is now between the autocrat and diplomat.
“Autocrats only deal with what is in front of them,” she told Amanpour. “Everything is quite transactional — no sense of history, no obligation to the future.”
Sherman came of political age during the civil and women right’s movements and believes more female diplomats must be bought into foreign policy negotiations.
“When you bring your authentic self to the negotiating table, it is a power of its own,” she said, recalling the moment she stunned her male Iranian counterparts with angry tears in the final hours of the Iran deal negotiations. “I found tears streaming down my face — because somewhere down the line I discovered women weren’t supposed to be angry.”
That anecdote is one of many from Sherman’s book. She told Amanpour she found common ground with Iran’s lead negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, by sharing photos of each other’s grandchildren.
“It made us human. It didn’t change our national interests, it didn’t change our tough positions — but it did make us understand each other a little better.”
Then there was the time Sherman broke her nose running into a glass door on the way to a call with John Kerry.
“The guys who were around me said, ‘Call an ambulance.’ I said, ‘No … none of you are clearly moms — just get me an icepack,'” she said, joking that her male colleagues “would have been in the hospital for days.”