Edwin J. Feulner, the chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and the founder and former president of The Heritage Foundation, and Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, president and CEO of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, joined “The Bill Walton Show” to discuss this disturbing trend.
Read a portion of the transcript, lightly edited, below or watch the full episode above.
Bill Walton: Welcome to “The Bill Walton Show,” featuring conversations with leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, and thinkers, fresh perspectives on money, culture, politics, and human flourishing. Interesting people, interesting things.
America has a problem. Positive attitudes toward communism and socialism are in an all-time high in the United States. Forty percent of Americans now have a favorable view of both and almost half of our kids in their 20s say they favor socialism, which is up from just 40% a year ago.
This demonstrates a stunning lack of knowledge of the history and realities and evils of communism. In the last century, communism murdered more than 100 million people and forced billions into Marxist tyranny.
Joining me to talk about these threats and what to do about them are two enormously talented leaders with vast knowledge of the issues. Dr. Edwin J. Feulner, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, is here.
Also with me is Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, the president and CEO of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. He … previously served as a representative of the United States to the office of the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva. Prior to his work with the U.N., he served as assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council for the executive office, President Donald Trump.
Ed, I think let’s start with you. How did we come to where we are today with this issue?
Ed Feulner: Oh, Bill. I’ve got a little more gray hair than either of you. So I guess I got into it earlier. It was brief recap my 20th birthday, my first trip to Europe with a bunch of college classmates, and the priest who was our chaperone. We were in Munich, Aug. 12, 1961. We were scheduled to drive in on the Autobahn to Berlin and drive through Eastern Germany, which was very conventional back in those days. Then something happened that night.
We couldn’t go to Berlin. The communists were doing something. They were trying to stop people from making the transit, trying to stop people from going to the east side, from the communist side, into West Berlin. It turned out that was the night the Berlin Wall started.
So, I was kind of there and communism was very real. Subsequent years, in both my research at first at the Center for Strategic [and] International Studies, where I worked on questions like trading with the communist, what that was doing during the Vietnam War.
So, I came to know it and to see it up close. And it was a very sobering kind of experience because the differences were so dramatic between their system and our system.
Over here, yes, we have different political parties, different emphasis, but fundamentally the individual is able to be what he can be or what she can be and move ahead. So those opportunities are just not there. And that’s what really woke me up to what was going on later in China.
Walton: So, Andrew, you and I worked together in the Trump transition. Ed, we were all in that together, a band of brothers. You were domestic policy. I remember you knew everything about every single rig on the planet and it was very impressive. And then four years later, you’ve reemerged as somebody that’s very passionate about China and the worldwide threat of communism. I mean, what happened?
Andrew Bremberg: Thanks, Bill. So, I have a shorter story than Ed’s. I grew up with the pillar figures and experience of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II—heroic leadership witness about communism.
And as a child, I remember when the wall fell. You were there when the wall went up. As a child, I remember when the wall fell and the fall of Soviet Union shortly after that. And like many Americans, I grew up experiencing, obviously, the evils and horrors of communism in the past.
Far away and in the past, that was over. And that to the degree that communism remained a threat in the world today, it was these little dictator countries that aren’t really communists was the idea. And just happened to be dictators where no free people would want to live.
And China, “But don’t worry about China. They’re going to become market-oriented, they’re going to Western and liberalized. So they’re not really going to be communist. So it’s OK.” And that that’s the world that I grew up, came of age in.
And when I entered public policy and doing policy work, I focused on domestic issues because I saw the need to preserve economic liberty and freedom at home as the main focus that I wanted to work on. So that’s where I wanted to make sure we preserved the ability for individuals to retain their economic freedom, religious freedom and working in that space.
And I’m sure like many Americans, it wasn’t until the experience of the last several years that my eyes were open and I learned a lot and I was incredibly honored to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva. And that experience, which I’m sure we can talk about, was just stunning in helping me really understand the real nature of the threat that communism still poses to the United States, to our way of life today.
And principally through what we see globally, the actions of the Chinese Communist Party. That’s what drove me when I left government to come and I was honored to join lead Victims of Communism Foundation.
Walton: I think we all need a mea culpa on this one because I was on Wall Street and we were pumping all kinds of money into China, and everybody was trying to take their business there and put their factories there. And the idea was, “We’re going to bring China into the world economy, World Trade Organization, etc. We’ll make them rich. They’ll become liberal, they’ll become democratic. And we’ll all be part of this happy rural community.” That didn’t happen.
Feulner: Well, Bill, another mea culpa from this side. I remember pulling together the presidents of the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institution, the Cato Institute, and Heritage. We all sat down and said, “We all agree on one thing: China should become a member of the World Trade Organization and China should have most-favored nation status because then the market system will work and China will become more like us.”
And, well, that hasn’t been what’s happened. And that was a very much a bipartisan perspective at that time—it was a combination of wishful thinking, but it was also at the end of the Soviet Union. I remember a professor at Harvard wrote a book called “The End of History.” Well, it wasn’t the end of history. I mean, what we know with Victims of Communism Foundation, it’s worse than ever.
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