There was plenty of sage advice available at this year's Aspen Ideas Festival.
Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

Listen to audio from Marissa Mayer, Mike Mullen, Joe Klein and others …

Marissa Mayer with Vijay Vaitheeswaran

Marissa Mayer, now the CEO of Yahoo!, was interviewed at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Monday, July 2, 2012, by Vijay Vaitheeswaran of the Economist in Paepcke Auditorium.

At the time, Mayer was VP of Local, Maps and Location Services at Google. Since then, she has taken a position as CEO of Yahoo!.

The interview, which is inserted above via SoundCloud, touches on a wide range of topics, including the future of online search, mapping, Google in China, hacking, privacy, and leadership. There was no discussion of Yahoo!.

Mayer’s employees at Yahoo! might be interested in listening to the section of the interview about her views on finding your “rhythm” in regard to work/life, as opposed to finding “balance.” Those comments come at about the 28-minute mark. At about the 26-minute mark, she talks about the need for more computer scientists and engineers.

Mike Mullen with Steve Inskeep

The audio above was recorded by Aspen Journalism at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival with the permission of the Aspen Institute, which produces the Ideas Festival.

The audio is from a discussion on July 1, 2012, between NPR’s Steve Inskeep and Mike Mullen, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The session was entitled “What Does It Mean to Be a Military Superpower.”


The discussion didn’t seem to get a lot of attention, but it is full of substantive issues and Mullen’s perspective, given his service, is unique.

Mullen says the U.S. is growing closer to intervening in Syria in some capacity, discusses the differences between Syria and Libya, the survival mentality of leaders such as Assad and the value of a no-fly zone action if appropriate.

At 10 minutes into the audio track, Mullen discusses the high suicide rate of active and retired U.S. soldiers and the growing cultural divide between the people serving in the U.S. military and the rest of the country.

And Mullen says it would be “a disaster” for Iran to obtain nuclear capability and that the “space is narrowing” on the issue.

In regard to drone attacks, he notes that “there is going to come a time when our enemies have drones” and raised the question of what happens when the weapons – increasingly both accurate and lethal – get into enemy hands.

Mullen also noted in regard to the use of drones, “we have to remain a principled, value-based country.”

He goes on to discuss corruption in other countries, the lack of leadership in countries emerging from dictatorships, cyber threats, and leaks of national security material.

The stone river outside Doerr-Hosier.
Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

“What happened to my country?” Joe Klein on voters

Joe Klein of TIME caught some ears last night during a discussion of the presidency at the Hotel Jerome. The subject had turned to the growth of minority voters in America when Klein made the following comments.

“There is a fear out there,” Klein said. “When I talk to Tea Party groups out in the middle of the country, the subtext is this: ‘You know, we can deal with white-black stuff, we understood that, and we know that blacks were inferior. But all of a sudden we got all these other people coming in. Where do these South Asians, who are running all the convenience stores come from? And we got all these Mexicans who don’t even want to learn English. And my granddaughter just announced she’s a lesbian and my grandson is dating this black girl and the president of the United States doesn’t have the good sense to be either white or black and his middle name is Hussein. What happened to my country?’ It is a … very legitimate and tremendous fear.”

Listen to the context of his remarks below. The segment starts with Ron Brownstein:

Andrea Mitchell of NBC followed up and talked about a subject that seems both over-covered and under-covered: the president’s race and people’s response to it.

“You hear it when you go out,” Mitchell said. “And Joe, you’ve touched on it. Some of it is race. Let’s face it. The White House doesn’t want to acknowledge that, certainly, but some of it is race.”

At an earlier session on politics this week, it was pointed out by E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post that President Obama did the worst in the 2008 election among white voters in the South. And Ron Brownstein of the National Journal pointed out that President Obama got the lowest percentage of votes by white voters in history, at 43 percent.

Former Senator George Mitchell then got the biggest applause of the evening when he addressed the idea that progress among minorities is somehow a “zero-sum” game.

“This is the last gasp of people who remember things better than they were and want to hold on to things and feel that is a zero-sum game and a fixed pie,” Mitchell said.

“And if those blacks and those Hispanics get something, it means I get less,” Mitchell said, paraphrasing the atitude of the people he was referencing.

“The challenge of leadership is for a president, black or white, to make clear that America was built on the opposite premise,” Mitchell said. “It isn’t a zero-sum game. Let’s expand the pie and everybody benefits. And I benefit when black children are educated. And you benefit when Hispanic children get to go to school, and everybody is better off. And that’s the real challenge of leadership in this country.”

Earlier in the panel discussion, which was entitled “What does it take to be an effective president?”, Joe Klein summed up what he has learned in covering different presidents.

“With Jimmy Carter I learned that an essential quality is that you got to respect the town,” Klein said. “You got to respect Washington and deal with it.

“With Ronald Reagen I learned that you got to respect the details. You just couldn’t let the staff do it for you.

“With George H.W. Bush, I learned that you had to have a vision.

“With Bill Clinton, I learned you that you had to have discipline,” Klein said, to laughter.

“With George W. Bush, I learned that you had to have an intellectual curiosity that invovled incovenient thoughts for yourself.

“And with Barack Obama, I’ve learned that you got to love the game,” Klein said before suggesting President Obama could have made more political hay out of some of his initiatives.

“There’s a sense … that I’ve gotten from him that he finds the hugger-mugger, you know the gritty dirty dealing of politics, somehow demeaning and something that he wants to rise above,” Klein said. “And if you don’t love the game, it’s gonna hurt you.”

His complete remarks are below:

Eric Schmidt with Jeffrey Goldberg

What can bubble up from the deep?
Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

Eric Schmidt of Google cited the importance and value of “long-term investigative research” by journalism organizations.

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic interviewed Schmidt at the Aspen Ideas Festival today and he asked about “the future of journalism and Google’s role in either saving or destroying journalism.”

“Aggregation is not the same thing as original reporting,” Goldberg continued. “And obviously this is a pararohical concern. Somebody on The Atlantic said to me today, ‘Ask him if he thinks there is still a purpose for a monthly magazine.’ So I’ll ask you that … ”

“What I particularly like about the question about The Atlantic is The Atlantic is actually making money and growing in popularity,” said Schmidt, who is the executive chairman of Google. “So good judgement, good leadership, excellent reporting … .”

“Keep going, keep going,” Goldberg said. “No, that’s great.”

“So what we’re seeing now is we’re seeing a number of institutions, of which The Atlantic is one of a number, that are figuring it out,” Schmidt said. “Let me point out two.

“Politico. Very successful, largely online but has a print component. The Huffington Post, also very successful … does not have a print component.

“All monetizing in different ways. So clever entrepreneurs are figuring out a way to make money in this new model. So a reasonable model going forward is that the traditional incumbents have been reduced, if you will, in scale but there are plenty of new voices.

“And by the way, if you take a look, we just announced a tablet which includes the ability to have dynamic magazines, where the magazines are not just static, but actually on a page, you can go deep in it and it’s interactive in various clever ways.

“If you, again, think about it over a five- or 10-year period, most people here will probably be reading this sort of media on tablets, because the tablets will get better and better and better and better and faster and so forth and there will be new monetization sources.

“So what to really worry about?” Schmidt said.

“What you really want to worry about is that there was kind of an interesting bargain that we grew up with, which is that the newspapers had enough cash flow from classifieds and subscriptions and so forth that they could fund long-term investigative research. It is much harder to do that now.

“And I think that there is a loss to democracy of losing that, and there are a number of people – ProPublica was formed – a number of other people who have tried to address this. I don’t think it is fully solved and I think it is important,” Schmidt said.

“Do you think Google has a role to solve it?” Goldberg asked.

“We’ve debated how to do it,” Schmidt replied. The problem is we don’t want to cross the content line.”

“Why not?”

“Because if we cross the content line and we started to own companies like The Atlantic we would always be accused of bias in our rankings, our own versus somebody elses.

“Plus, as you know, content is very difficult. And we’re not necessarily good at that,” Schmidt said.

An Aspen investment vehicle.
Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith / Aspen Journalism

Keith Banks with Bill Mayer

Keith Banks, the president of U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management and Bill Mayer of Park Avenue Equity Partners presented a fairly upbeat picture of the economy.

Banks, whose clients have to have at least $3 million in net assets to invest, said many people are concerned about leaving their money to unprepared children in their 20s and 30s.

“We’ve developed a program to work with the children,” Banks said, noting that inheriting money can either be a blessing or a burden and that many of his clients did not think their kids were remotely ready to successfully manage newfound wealth.

(It’s not clear how many of his clients have happy-go-lucky adult children in Aspen, which at least can inform one how to live the good life, if not invest wisely.)

In discussing the larger economic trends, Banks said companies are sitting on lots of cash but are not hiring or making capital investments.

“In the United States, profits are still very good,” Banks said. In fact, he said, many companies are experiencing record levels of profits and record levels of cash flows.

But many of the executives Banks talks to on a regular basis say there is too much uncertainity in the marketplace to hire or spend the cash, especially with the “fiscal cliff” looming at the end of the year.

Banks was bullish, however, on some aspects of the economy.

He said the inventory of single-family homes on the market is at an all time low, yet prices remain low. At some point, he said, the demand for new homes will surge and the resulting new construction will have a positive ripple effect throughout the economy.

He also said the auto industry should also see a surge as many people are overdue to replace their aging automobiles.

In terms of places to invest, Banks said, “We don’t like Europe, for obvious reasons. And we still don’t like Japan.”

Bill Mayer observed that he is seeing more companies decide to move jobs back to the U.S. from China as labor costs increase there. He said he knew of one company that just decided to move 40 jobs back to the U.S. It’s not many jobs, he noted, but it was indicative of a trend.

One audience member asked Banks if he could recommend a “safe haven” for money, now that gold and Swiss francs and other previously good bets didn’t look so good.

“It also used to be Aspen, Colorado, real estate,” Mayer quipped.

Banks said U.S. Trust doesn’t embrace the concept of “safe haven,” other than cash, and said a “broad-based strategy” is best.

Panel on Supreme Court’s decision on Health Care

The talent roster at the Aspen Ideas Festival was in evidence when a hastily assembled panel was put together to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision on the health care law.

CNN’s Suzanne Malvaux moderated the panel, which included David Brooks of The New York Times, Joe Klein of TIME, former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle and former Congressman Vin Weber.

“Roberts proved himself today to be a modest minimalist, someone who believes in restraint,” Brooks said of Chief Justice John Roberts, who was seen as guiding the court’s 5-to-4 decision to uphold the health insurance mandate in “Obamacare.”

“The first thing he did I think was restrain the power of the court, not to use the potential power to overule the democratic process, not to, frankly, create an institutional crisis in the court,” Brooks said. “And so I think that was an act of minimalist restraint.”

Joe Klein of TIME said he was “really pleased that ‘Romneycare’ was sustained today.”

That drew cheers from what seemed to be a pro-Obama crowd in Paepcke Auditorium who apparently agree with Klein that Romney is in no position to criticize President Obama’s plan, which closely resembles the plan put in place in Massachusetts when Romney was governor.

“It would have been a very tough argument for Romney to make … if his plan had been shown to be unconstitional,” Klein said.

Vin Weber, a Republican, pointed out that the court’s decision positioned the health insurance mandate as a tax, which the court said Congress had the power to pass.

“This is not a mandate, this is a tax,” Weber said.

Former Senator Daschle, a Democrat, said the court’s decision provides “an extraordinary green light to go forward with implementation on three levels,” including insurance reform, payment reform, and delivery reform.

“What it doesn’t do is to end the debate about health reform and health care in America, and that debate is largely one involving the role of government,” Daschle said.

Brent Gardner-Smith, the founder of Aspen Journalism, and who served as AJ’s executive director until August 2021 and as editor from 2011-2020, is the news director at Aspen Public Radio. He's also been...