Former Cisco CEO John Chambers: 'The extremes are controlling a lot of politics'

Discord in Washington D.C. escalated on Tuesday, when U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. In a newly released interview, taped in June, former Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers calls for unity, saying that the country has been divided by political forces on the far ends of the spectrum.

“What you're seeing in this country, you're seeing in other countries, which is the extremes are controlling a lot of politics,” Chambers told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer.

“We’re divided as a country,” he adds. “Our leadership both on the Democratic side and the Republican side have to bring us back to the middle. America likes to be guided from the middle, maybe leaning slightly conservative.”

For years, Chambers has been a major political donor, having given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats and Republicans alike. In 2008, he co-chaired the presidential campaign of Republican Arizona Senator John McCain.

“I'm somebody that gets along with Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy extremely well,” he says, referring to the Republican U.S. representative from California.

“I got along amazingly well with John McCain and Chuck Schumer,” he added, respectively referring to the late former Republican presidential candidate and the Democratic U.S. senator from New York.

“We need to get back to a nation that says, every decision should be what's right for the country and our country wants to have a better life for our kids than we had. And the American dream is being lost. Let's go fix that and let's do it together.”

Chambers made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

For a decade, Chambers ran internet hardware company Cisco, growing the business to yearly revenue of nearly $50 billion. He’s currently the CEO of the firm JC2 Ventures, where he funds and advises startups. He also guides Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron on how to make their countries favorable to startups.

The impeachment inquiry, backed by Pelosi and a number of moderate Democratic House members who had long resisted such an effort, has ushered in a period in which centrists in the Democratic Party are pushing for dramatic action to confront Trump. As of Thursday morning, 217 of 235 House Democrats supported an impeachment inquiry, The New York Times reported.

Trump called the impeachment inquiry “the greatest witch hunt in America,” saying it may jeopardize bipartisan agreements on issues like gun safety and the USMCA, a proposed free trade agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

In his June interview, Chambers said the problem of divisive politics “rests on all of us as Americans.”

“I think as long as we allow the extremes to influence our views, as long as we try to impose our views on others as opposed to say how do we win together, then I think we will get the extreme views,” he adds.

In response to a question about the role of social media in the current political climate, Chambers said sources of information can prevent people from engaging with opposing points of view.

“When your primary source of information is the people who already agree with you, you've got to create an environment that made America great,” he says. “Which is the willingness to really debate on tough issues, and then say, how do we solve it together and how do we think about the outcomes in general?”

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.

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