“These great days are today!” – Reno Domenico

Reno Domenico, courtesy

Reno Domenico, courtesy

Run up to the most important elections this autumn is about to end. Preliminary voting has already started and even current President of the USA has voted. The second round of the debates (out of three) has passed as well, but despite all these the situation is not much clearer, the intrigue is still very strong.

Lifetime Democrats supporter, a member of the Democratic party of the USA, member of the United States Electoral College, Chairman of Democrats Abroad Ukraine, Founder of the Sterling Business School – Reno Domenico, kindly agreed to share his views and pour some light on such an important event.

(Denis Iatshyshyn) How to make America great again?

I don’t think we have to make America great again, I think America is great as it is. I think, America is the greatest country on the planet and one of the indicators – you don’t see people running away from America to go immigrate to some place else. We are still the destination, I guess, where immigrants want to go and this is an issue of this election. But I think people understand the economic opportunity, fairness, and rule of law — the things that make America great are still there and will continue to be. But I don’t understand, make America great again is a very catchy slogan, but I don’t know what it means. If Trump has never been able to explain it in the way I could understand it. Because if it’s about the past, I don’t think we were great in the past. I think he never said what period of time he is talking about. Were we great when we had slavery institution? Were we great when we had segregation? Were we great when we had great depression in 1930? I don’t think so. These great days are today!

You’ve been democrat since your childhood. How did that happen?

It happened during John Kennedy. It started at that age when I really started to pay attention, I had 12 years old and Kennedy was running. I grew up as a child of the Eisenhower presidency. Eisenhower was a grandfather on TV for me, I was very young so I didn’t really appreciate his pluses or minuses, I didn’t understand them. But when Kennedy ran it wasn’t like I felt like Nixon was really evil, I didn’t know that much about him, then it turns out that he was. But Kennedy was so exciting and so different. Certainly, he was different to what I have seen in Eisenhower. Kennedy was young, he was dynamic, he was forward looking, he was talking about improving the country, space program and things like that.



That got me excited and I went down to the democratic HQ in town and just walked in the door and I said: “I need some stickers for Kennedy”. And the interesting thing is that my father was running for the city council as republican and he never questioned what I was doing, he never said to me it was a bad idea. That is how I started and I never stopped.

Why the next President of the US must be Hillary?

Well, I think because of our federal system a lot of people do not understand why we have two party system, that is the subject for another day, but because of our federal system, basically, we bind up with the binary choice, there are other candidates, you see, the Gary Johnson is running with 78 % maybe more sometimes and it hurts Hillary a bit. I think, with this binary choice between Hillary Clinton, as Barak Obama characterized her, as a most prepared person ever to seek the presidency including himself, she is very matured and prepared candidate.



Many people even in the US said that Hillary wasn’t the perfect Secretary of State. How can you characterize her as Secretary of State?

I thought her job as Secretary of State was probably exemplary, but again “perfect” is the strange word, I don’t know a perfect person, I haven’t met them, I am certainly not one and I doubt that you met. When you are in a position like Secretary of State you going to get something right, you going to get something wrong. I think, on the balance, she got more things right than wrong. The Iranian sanctions regime, which brought to the nuclear agreement and involved a lot of international cooperation, more than people think, could not be done without cooperation with Russia. Everybody says that Russian reset was a complete failure, I think they need to study more. The other option of that was a real war, no one came up with the better option. She did a great job in a ceasefire in Gaza, she represents the US well. People forget that G.W. Bush didn’t leave the US in a good standing around the world for a number of reasons. She helped to rehabilitate our national image all around the world. On the balance, her work as Secretary of State is very good.

What are the differences between Hillary and Trump supporters? Why can we find so many Hillary’s supporters abroad and few Trump’s supporters?

The people who tend to travel, Americans who either live abroad or been abroad or travel abroad, have a broader perspective in life and they are a different type of people. The Americans who are here in Ukraine in general, I mean this is not the top tourist destination in the world, so it’s not like a bunch of people are traveling here, everybody is here for some specific reason, so they attend to be educated, people. I think they understand that the world is highly connected, and we can’t isolate ourselves. When you have a candidate like Hillary, who talks about “building bridges”, and have a candidate like D. Trump, who talks about “building walls”, I think, for the international community American group of people who are internationalist it is not a very difficult decision to make. I think back in home its more complicated story, it has a lot more to do with economic dislocation particularly with working class and particularly with male working class. Globalization and the recovery from the prices of 2008 have been very damaging to the traditional working class in America, coal miners stand in my mind as a prime example. Coal is dying as a fuel, it will take some huge increase in natural gas prices and it will take some time to make coal profitable again. I guess, in people’s minds when he says “I will make America great again”, he goes and tells them “I’m going to make coal big again” but this is lying, he is telling them “I am going make fracking and natural gas big and we are going to have coal big”. While these are two are opposite forces.

How will the domestic policy change if the Hillary becomes the President?

 I think, one of the strengths, that Hillary has, is an exhibit. When she was a senator, she became senator right away after 9/11, she was extremely effective at getting real concrete aid for the state of New York, for the city of New York and for all first responders afterward in the first responder core. A lot of people said, she is a typical liberal democrat but she showed the capacity to be able to  work with republicans and get things done, she was able to get an agreement with republicans in the Congress to get aid for New York. She will bring different skills set to the Presidency and I’m hopeful, she will be more successful than Barak Obama has been and getting things done. One of the things, that comes out of DNC was Bernie Senders. He was powerful, he had 1900 delegates, that’s a lot of people, I was a delegate, we had primary for democrats abroad and Senders won about 70% of the vote. So he had 9 delegates and Hillary had 4, I was running one of 4 positions. Ukraine, because we have a small number of Americans here, we have point 2 votes, I beat the guy from the UK who had 10 points, I was very fortunate because I have very good friends in Germany and France that helped me, so I was elected one of the 4 candidates for the Hillary from the planet. One male from Europe, I was a delegate at the DNC in Philadelphia, it was very exciting. It was quite a historic moment, the leading American party nominates the woman.



How will the foreign policy change with Hillary?

She will be a bit more aggressive than Barak Obama has been. I can’t predict how someone going to be, but I think that she is more interventionist and she is more willing to confront, she has learned a lot as a result of being Secretary of State. For example, in the situation we are trying to have some relations with Russia, she understands, that this is not going to be so easy. Do I think there will be some significant change, will we see some dramatic. I don’t know if she will start WW3. I hope people in Ukraine understood from the very beginning, that it is not the question who is the president, there wasn’t going to be some huge American deployment coming here, that was never in the cards. But it is not a doubt that the sanctions regime is still on the agenda thanks to the US and the UK.

What are the biggest threats to the US foreign policy? Can we say that Russia is one of the threats?

We can. But the difference what I see as the most dangerous things is that Russia is basically the sane state, they are not crazy people. I can’t imagine them launching a nuclear missile for no good reason. We are able to negotiate those things with them. Yes, maybe they do provocative things, but they don’t cross the line, they don’t start sending bombers over NATO countries. ISIS days are numbered, I mean ISIS states are numbered.

Let us talk about triangle USA-UA-Russia. Can we expect more support for Ukraine from the US side after/if Hillary becomes the President?

I think, people underestimate the level of support that Ukraine has already received and I think people quite don’t get a picture. A lot of people are critical that Obama did not visit Ukraine while his Presidency and if you look back at it, especially 6 months ago, which is when such decision would have been taken, you have to say, what would he come to celebrate exactly?



Because things haven’t really changed that much here. Has the system changed that much here? We have to think deeply about that. On the other hand, again, without the US and the UK the sanctions regime against Russia, which is the only thing preventing Russia from doing more, would collapse. American military involvement is very robust here, much more robust than people think. Both in terms of what we publicly say and we are doing – we’re training and so on. And what I also know, we are doing covertly, there is a lot of advisers on the east now, working with the military directly. And listen to President Poroshenko with Fareed Zakaria on Sunday in terms of weaponry. I think, Ukraine has all that they need, they have very sophisticated weapons, it is not the question of weapons needed. I think, what Ukraine needs is continuous support from the west and without the US and the UK you don’t go to get that. There is no economic opportunity here for people, I mean, this is an oligarchy. And that’s what I am saying, what you could come to celebrate here? The revolution, that you had, was amid at replacing people but it didn’t replace the system yet. I think until that happens you are not going to see the kind of public display, I guess, that people want. But, again, your president says that he has everything that he wants. Ukrainians have more questions than the Americans.



Ukraine has managed to create the poorest country in Europe for 25 years. How did that happen? That happened because oligarchy here is basically uncontrolled. Even in Russia, there is some control over oligarchy. I worked there. If you want to do some business in Russia, you have to create a factory, you have to do certain things, you have to create some sort of economic activity. Here people just take. Americans have created the concept – “take the money and run”, and friend of mine told me, that Ukrainians have created the concept “take the money and stay”. I think, you are making progress but still there’s no situation where a young entrepreneur can go out borrow the money and create the business really thrive. Look at media, all media here is somebody’s project. Except yours and the KyivPost, which is also somebody’s project, but he keeps his hands out. Until the system starts to operate like a normal market nothing really going to change it. And that may come.

How can you evaluate Ukrainian government? Is it the government which can do reforms?

It’s a tough one for me. I’m a guest here. I try do not get involved in Ukraine politics, the only thing I do per se is I do election observation. I am not really involved with your actors. It looks to me that the new group is better than the other group. From the business point of view, it is not good. Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Everything here takes so long, and so slow, and complicated. I am afraid more pressure from the west will crack it.

Back to the US. Does the Congress support Hillary?

The Congress is republican right now. They did everything possible to make Barak Obama life miserable. I think it is a two-way street, you have to find the way to work with one another. But this group, many of them cannot be worked with, they’re not rational actors, not all of them. Two things I hope from these elections: we will back the senate, which will give her a big leverage. I hope that republicans will come up to some sort of reality of their own. Trump is not establishment republican, he doesn’t have any establishment republican with him. The traditional leadership of their party is completely devoid. Trump doesn’t really have the agenda. What’s Trump’s agenda? Building a wall, Mexico pays for it, that’s what I got, and the rest of it — absent for me. I really don’t know what the rest of the agenda is. Build up the military — there is no information about it, who will pay for it, and for what. We are the largest, biggest and strongest military in the world. We spent a lot of money on it and I am not sure I want to spend more.

What is the percentage of undecided?

That’s the interesting thing. Why that percent is the high, as it is, is because there are many people who are undecided still. For a lot of Americans it is tough to vote for a woman, but, again, when you put this thing to a binary choice it’s pretty clear for most people who think.

What are the key states?

For me, it is more important Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Iowa and Ohio. If on the election night you hear that Florida has gone for Trump, it’s a really bad sign for Hillary and vice versa. First of all, its 29 electoral votes, it’s huge.

Sterling business school. What kind of school is it?

Basically, we are in the 10 years of operations. This is our 10 year’s anniversary coming up. I am educator professionally, when I left public education in the US, I have been involved in public exchanges here for years.



In 2006 we started Sterling business school, we are in partnership with Rowan University which is state University and pretty big one in New Jersey. Our programs are authentic and accredited through them, basically have been doing customize, business training, Toyota production system, project management and we also do have MBA program and engineering program. I think, we are the best and I am sure we are, we never had an unsatisfied client, but again it’s about Ukrainian market which is very depressed. We have traveled all over Ukraine and Russia, doing consulting, training and programs which are lasting for 5, 10 or 20 days.

by Denys Yatsyshin