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Interview With Winner of Georgia's Governor Democratic Primary; Bernard-Henri Levy discusses his sadness towards the state of Europe. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired June 4, 2018 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight from Atlanta, Georgia my conversation with a democrat who could become America's first black female
governor. Stacey Abrams on what her historic candidacy means for the American south and the Democratic Party.
Plus here in our London studio, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy reveals his sadness and despair at the state of Europe, as it grapples with
Brexit, Trump's trade war, and thundering Trans-Atlantic links (ph).
Good evening everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. The week is opened with American allies from the E.U. to Canada
and Mexico and politicians inside the United States try to figure out how to fight back against the Trump effect.
Overseas allies are figuring out how to retaliate the trade tariffs, while inside America the Democratic Party is gearing up to fight back at the
ballot box this November. And there are some signs the base (ph) is fired up, hundreds more women, for instance, are running this election cycle. And
the one attracting most attention is Stacey Abrams who scored a decisive victory in Georgia's governor democratic primary, rallying women,
minorities, and never before voters. And she's not on the cusp of history, potentially becoming America's first ever black woman governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STACEY ABRAMS, WINNER OF GEORGIA'S GOVERNOR DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: We are writing the next chapter of Georgia's future where no one is unseen, no one
is unheard, and no one is uninspired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Of course she would also become Georgia's first ever female governor. Abram's history making moment is remarkable, and her personal
story is extraordinary as well. Just a snippet, she has written several romance novels. And she joins me now from Atlanta. Ms. Abrams, welcome to
STACEY ABRAMS, WINNER OF GEORGIA'S GOVERNOR DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: Thank you for having me.
AMANOUR: So do you mind me starting out by saying you are the successful, suspensed (ph) romance novelist that you are?
ABRAMS: I am happy people know that I write as Selena Montgomery, but I will add that I'm also the recent author of "Minority Leader: How to Lead
from the Outside and Create Real Change" which was just published in April.
AMANOUR: Well and that is -- you are the minority leader in Georgia. And what would you say writing has done for you, as you reach this incredible
moment at the - you won the primary, and you're facing the general in November. What have your books, whether they're novels or this political
memoir, done for you?
ABRAMS: My romance novels really help me think about the different lives that people lead, and how important it is to tell stories so you can bring
people to the table, and they understand why issues matter to them. And what I was able to do with "Minority Leader" is really talk about my
journey to this space, but in a way that I hope is more accessible and less about me and more about how other people can own their power and find their
paths to leaderships.
AMANOUR: So here you are in Atlanta. I mean you're running for office in Georgia, but you didn't grow up there. I mean a lot of your childhood was
in Gulfport, and you describe your childhood to an extent as one of genteel poverty - or at least that's what your mom said when you didn't have
running water or when, you know - there was a lot of poverty, but you nonetheless read and you went to the library. Tell me how your childhood
ABRAMS: I'm the daughter of two extraordinary people who grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I grew up in Gulfport, which is about an hour
south. My mom was a librarian, my dad was a shipyard worker, and they struggled to make ends meet. There are six of us. I'm the second of six
children. And it was entirely likely that my parents could have simply said "We did what we were supposed to do, it didn't work, let's give up hope."
But instead, my parents raised us to believe that education, that faith, and that service were really going to be the recipe for us to move forward.
And they told us all our lives that where we began was never going to dictate where we ended up, that our economic privity was not going to be a
reason that we couldn't be successful. And I want to give that to everyone else, because I had two parents who made sure we read, made sure we had
full experiences, who guaranteed that all six of their kids went to college. And because of that, we grew up with a broader perspective not
only of what we were capable of but of what our responsibility was to serve others so that they believe that they could have the same chances.
AMANPOUR: Of course you went on to Spelman College, to Yale University, you became Attorney General - well sorry became Atlanta's Deputy City Attorney
at 30, and you've really sort of raced up that career ladder.
What do you want? What is your main issue for people if you are elected governor in November?
ABRAMS: At the core of my mission is, I think, poverty is a moral, I think it's economically inefficient, and I think that we need a leader who
believes everyone should have the freedom and opportunity to thrive. That means focusing on education, on economic development and economic security,
and focusing on making sure that leadership works for everyone and not just privilege.
AMANPOUR: So I mean, obviously, you're doing this in a pretty Republican state and you're doing this in the south of the United States where, you
know, not to put too fine a word on it, it's hard to be a black woman. It's hard to be black in America today and get to where you want to get to,
and you're vying to become the first every black female governor in the Untied States. And I mean, is this your moment? Do you feel that there is
an opening right now? And if so, why?
ABRAMS: I think there's an opening because America and the south changing. And it's not just the demographic changes that I think have certainly come
to Georgia and made this possible, but it's also a change in ethos. We saw in November of 2016 that voting matters, that your voice matters and that
it does, indeed, make a difference who gets elected. And so, I think my opportunity is to harness that energy. It also is to harness the urgency
of this moment. Every single day we wake up to news about a new atrocity and a new quite bigotry, and what I want folks to understand in my campaign
is that this is about them. It's about their voices and their opportunity to actually change the direction of the south. It's going to be hard, but
it's absolutely possible. We saw in the primary people turned out who had not voted before, and if we do this right with people at the core of our
campaign, we will win in November.
AMANPOUR: So give me the strategy then because, obviously, we read and we sort of observe a lot of these races - excuse me - and, obviously, a lot of
Democrats feel that they should go after the sort of voters who voted for Trump, try to peel them back or peel them away. But I think you're going
after a different demographic, right? Explain us the strategy and who the numbers are.
ABRAMS: Sure. Traditionally, there has been a tendency to spend more money on Republicans who have disagreed with us than to invest in those who
share our values and share our beliefs. My goals is to go after Democratic-leaning voters and any independent thinker who wants their voice
to matter. And that can sound sort of naive, but here's the reality. We know that people want their children to be educated. They want good jobs
that pay well, that they want government that works for everyone, including expansion of Medicaid, which is something we just saw happen in Virginia.
And the numbers in Georgia say that I need 250,000 who didn't vote in the last election to turn out and to lift up their voices. We know that we
have more than a million voters who share these beliefs but have not had a candidate who is willing to invest in their voices. And my campaign from
the very beginning has been about investing in voter engagement and voter turnout because we know that's the pathway to success.
AMANPOUR: So how are you going to, again, do this because I was talking to a, you know, (inaudible) and, obviously, that Democrats are gaining sort of
primaries there as well, including a Hispanic Texan, and we understand that a huge number register, but a very small number, a small percentage of
those registered actually come out to vote. So how do you convince people? And looks at the 2016 election, a lot of people in the black community
didn't come out to vote. Is that right?
ABRAMS: So here's the thing. Registering voters is the critical part of building our electorate, but it's up to candidates to give voters a reason
to actually exercise their right to vote, and what we have seen happen too often in the south is that you do not have candidates who invest a
commensurate amount in those voters who stay home. They don't stay because they don't want to vote. They stay home because they don't see a reason to
vote. My campaign has been grounded from the beginning in actually talking to voters. So you asked about strategy. Going door-to-door, having real
conversations. It's making certain people understand what it does (ph) because if they know the government (ph) and that they make more money,
that they have access to transit, that they have access to healthcare, and that there's someone willing to talk to them about real issues.
I have a younger brother who's an ex-felon. I talk about the reality of how hard it is to transition back into community, what it means for
families to have one of your loved ones incarcerated. We have to have leaders who have real conversations. And so, I do think that for African
American voters specifically, but for every voter writ large, you want something to vote for, not just something to vote against, and you have to
have candidates who are willing to invest in your voice and say that your issues matter, too. And that's what I've been doing, and that's what I
will continue to do.
AMANPOUR: And you're, obviously, very open to talking about your own experiences and connecting with voters through your own human, family,
professional experiences. So tell me what it's like to be an African American woman in a white society, or at least a white sort of dominant
society, trying to get ahead? Do you feel that even where you are now you get equal respect? Is it - or is it more difficult than if you're a white
ABRAMS: So the whole premise of "Minority Leader", my book, is exactly that, but it's the beginning - that issue is the beginning of the
conversation. Of course there's not equality. Of course there are challenges that are embedded and different, but the issues is do you allow
those challenges to hold you down, to paralyze you, or do you use them as a catapult? And I grew up believing that my differences are part of what
make me capable of doing what I need to do. And we all experience this in different ways. My mission is to create space so that everyone feels that
they belong. There is a woman I met in Macon, Georgia who wants to start a daycare center, but doesn't think that anyone would ever invest in her
because she's the cashier at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store. She needs to believe that her capacity for opportunity is as great as any CEO, and I
want to be the governor that says that no matter what your difference is, we believe in your capacity and your potential that everyone should have
the freedom and opportunity to thrive.
AMANPOUR: What - you know, Stacey Abrams, you have knocked down one door after the next. I still can't believe it. I'm literally having to read it
in black and white that when you were a high school valedictorian and invited to the governor's mansion, you actually weren't allowed in.
ABRAMS: So at first, the governor invites all valedictorians to come. My parents and I got on the public transit to get to the governor's mansion
because my parents couldn't afford a car. And the security guard at the gate looked at us, look at the bus, and told us it was a private event and
we didn't belong there. Luckily, my parents are very aggressive and they argued with him, and he agreed to check his checklist and let us inside.
But what I talk about is that I don't remember meeting the governor. And the governor had nothing to do with my denial and I don't remember meeting
my fellow valedictorians. What stuck with me was someone looking at me and looking at my circumstances and deciding I didn't belong in this most
powerful place in Georgia. And I want to be the person who says those gates are open for everyone because no one should be denied access because
of their circumstances.
AMANPOUR: And you also speak about the power of education, obviously, and how that is the fundamental pillar for anybody trying to make it, and
you're very open about the debt you have gotten into since being in your education. I mean, this is a terrible burden many, many Americans have to
shoulder as they try to come out into the world.
ABRAMS: Part of the reason I am so open about my life, I try to be as honest and transparent as possible because we can't elect people for
perfection. We have to like people who understand real lives, who know what it means to navigate education debt. But I'm also navigating the fact
that I'm financially responsible for my parents and for my niece who they're raising because my younger brother couldn't take of her. I'm - my
parents are taking care of my grandmother. And so, she's now part of our generational home. We need people in leadership who understand how
complicated life can be and that are willing to not only own their own responsibility, but help think about solutions for everyone. That's why I
want this job.
AMANPOUR: Well, Stacey Abrams, you certainly relate and you certainly understand. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
And turning now to President Trump's unprecedented trade offensive against several key U.S. allies overseas - Canada, Mexico, and the E.U. The
European Trade Commissioner warned that the U.S. is, quote, "playing a dangerous game by slapping tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports."
And Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, called the move insulting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRYSTIA FREELAND, CANADA MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I would just say to all of Canada's American friends - and there are so many - seriously? Do
you really believe that Canada, that your NATO allies represent a national security threat to you? And that's why the prime minister said it is,
frankly, insulting. When Ronald Reagan visited Canada in the 1980s, he said, "we are more than friends and neighbors and allies. We are kin who
who together have built the most productive relationship between any two countries in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It is an extraordinary day battle, and it comes at a particular uncertain time for Europe as Brexit negotiations remain stuck in trade
limbo. The U.K. leads the E.U. in March 2019. And there is still no deal on this issue.
My next guest, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy is somehow hoping to stop Brexit with his new one man play, it's called The Last Exit before
Brexit. And I spoke with him here in the studio before he took to the stage.
Bernard-Henri Levy, welcome to the program.
BERNARD-HENRI LEVY, PHILOSOPHER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So why have you come to Britain to on the town as you say to launch this appeal, why here?
LEVY: Why here?
AMANPOUR: Yes, why this - why this is a debut?
LEVY: Because Brexit is supposed to happen here.
AMANPOUR: That's true.
LEVY: And after Brexit, Italian sits. And after that Brexit, France sits. Europe begins to dismember itself to fall in to pieces here in London, and
the worst is that London is the software of Europe. It's the DNA of Europe. Europe was built after English ideas.
AMANPOUR: Really, is that how you see it?
LEVY: I really believe that. I really believe that the craters of Europe are of course Athens, of course Roma and the U.K. After World War II, it
is English (inaudible) and others who really built the (inaudible) after which this space of free exchange offered refusal of (inaudible) in
principal of (inaudible) and so on was built. So, England, U.K. is (inaudible) a space which she, herself design and conceive.
AMANPOUR: So you're quite unusual for a French man. I mean, French men and women are quite chauvinistic about France. I mean, why do you love
Britain so much? Why are you such an (inaudible), why do you see this as an advantage for you in France to be capitalizing on?
LEVY: I am as you say, because my - one of the first sentences I've heard in my life was my mother telling me tat if I was alive, if I came in this
bloody world, it were thanks to Winston Churchill and the brave pilots of the royal air force.
That's why I am born, that's why I am here to today. So, I have an (inaudible) depth to one, America and England. And this is what I say
tonight in this Last Exit before Brexit.
AMANPOUR: So you feel you have a huge debt, and frankly so many people do. But it's not often that we get distinguished philosophers from across
the channel to come and try to persuade the Brits. How do you think you're going to be received?
LEVY: I think how I will be received, we'll see. Maybe with tomatoes, who knows. But I don't hate confrontation. But I think that the mood will
change in this country.
I cannot believe that this country goes through to the end in this huge mistake, mistake for Europe and mistake for U.K. (Inaudible) will become
leader England, if Brexit goes to its end. I know that some people have vote for Brexit because the austerity, because of an employment. There
will be even more of that, all of the (inaudible) know that.
So, my feeling is that something is going on now in the depth of this society and we will have some surprise. We're still to wait one year; many
things can happen in one year. I wouldn't be surprised if we had a big surprise before the end of the process.
AMANPOUR: But don't you think France dodged a bullet? I mean it would've been Brexit maybe if Marine Le Pen had won. But Emmanuel Macron won with a
proudly globalist, European, progressive liberal agenda.
LEVY: Exactly. But he won against Marine Le Pen, which was not considerable a few years later. And were very close to a dual between
Marine Le Pen and Melenchon (ph) who are honestly twins.
AMANPOUR: Melenchon (ph) is the (inaudible)-
LEVY: The - he so called extreme left. Extreme-left in my time was something else, I can't tell you. At least we said we all are German Jews,
it was a real internationalism to be extreme-left at that time. Today, to be extreme-left in France and in U.K. is (inaudible) and so on.
AMANPOUR: Isn't it a little like extreme-right today?
LEVY: Not a little right, I do believe that in France they are twins. Twins, Marine Le Pen and Melenchon. And on Europe, they think the same.
On media, the things are same, on establishment and the system, this short mind (inaudible), they think the same.
AMANPOUR: You are Jewish, you come from Algerian origin, and immigration is a huge - I mean, the idea of migration, refugees, foreigners has played
hugely into Brexit, into what happened with Marine Le Pen, into what happened in America with Donald Trump, and what's happening all over the
united - all over Europe right now. How does Europe counter this ugly narrative that we're seeing, you know, rising? It's not just anti-
Semitism. It's anti everything.
LEVY: How to fight again? That by saying the truth, by saying the roots of Jihadism and of terrorism has nothing to do with that. It has to do
with ideas. It has to do with a certain concept from Islam. It has to do with fascism. It has to do with the corpse of the ghost of their old
(inaudible), which has never been criticized in the Muslim world. It has to do with all of that, nothing to do with these poor men, children, and
women coming by sea to (inaudible) or wherever and stocked in Cale (ph). This is a terrible lie and a shame to make the amalgam between the two.
AMANPOUR: Were you happy to see this amazing Malian immigrant really make a heroic of a young child in Paris last week and to see him go to the
Alizay and granted his citizenship as an, you know, as an example, as an extraordinary case?
I am always happy when I see a woman or a man showing these sort of virtues, this sort of highness, and giving this sort of example. We had a
(inaudible) in France called Geneva (ph). Johdon Belham (ph) risked his life and lost it in order to save a woman in front of a jihadist. We have
this Malian man who risked his life and did not lose it in the same sort of situations. This gives you hope in humanity and in your country. And in
the refugees, you are certainly many more men or women like this young Malian than terrorists linked people.
AMANPOUR: What do you think as a child of post war of the current President of the United State levying tariffs on his European allies and on
his Canadian allies and his Mexican allies, but the Canadians and the Europeans, they say, "hang on a second. We fought together. We've been
allies for 150 years. How can you be doing this?"
LEVY: This is completely crazy. It is not the least crazy decision which the President of the United States takes since when Europe. It's
completely crazy. The West - Europe and America - have so many common enemies. We have to face the blackmail of (inaudible). We have to face
the nuclear weapon of Iran. We have to face the imperialism of China. We have to face Putting whose main target is to destabilize the West. And we
are engaging a quarrel between America and Europe. This is completely - this is a suicide. This is a form of morale suicide, and it's completely
absurd and intellectually criminal.
AMANPOUR: Well, I want to play you a sound byte from your president, Emmanuel Macron, who I know you supported. I spoke to him in September in
New York, and at that time he was hopefully that he could talk to President Trump and persuade him about the Iran nuclear deal, about climate, about
all the things that you've just mentioned and the mutual challenges. This is what he said.
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: I have very direct discussions with President Trump. I do appreciate him. We have very good personal
relationship and I have very direct discussion with him. We share our views, he's very direct, and I think he'll listen to what I propose.
AMANPOUR: Well, I don't think he's listened to what President Macron proposes. President Macron is now very well-known in the United States,
and, obviously, Europe wished that he would use his good relationship with President Trump to get him to listen. But on climate, he hasn't listened.
On the moving the embassy to Jerusalem, he hasn't listened, on the Iran nuclear deal, and now with tariffs. What is Europe's defense, I guess, I
LEVY: What I think that thanks God America is so, so much taller, so much higher with such a bigger memory and so much brighter future than President
Trump. President Trump will have his time, and America will last.
[14:25:00] And I suppose that President Macron talked to America, and when he spoke to Congress -
AMANPOUR: To Congress.
LEVY: - by the way, he spoke to America himself, and look at the standing - the military (ph) standing ovations he had. So you have a president - a
bureaucrat (ph) president who is strengthening the link of life - the link of blood, the link of life, the link of hope between the two continents.
And you have an American president - provisional American president elating (ph) democracy the next four years who is trying to -
AMANPOUR: Or eight.
LEVY: Maybe eight. OK. I would bet four - who is trying to break the link. But this -
AMANPOUR: And the norms, the global norms.
LEVY: The global norms, yes. But the league (ph), America was built really as a sort of re-beginning of Europe. This is the spirit of America.
The spirit of America is since the founding fathers to (inaudible) at least is based on the idea that the values which made Europe are going and are
replanted in another Earth in order to bloom in a more beautiful and more brilliant way. This is the strongest and the most beautiful America. OK,
Mr. Trump thinks other way. America will last longer than Mr. Trump.
AMANPOUR: Bernard-Henri Levy, thank you very much for joining.
LEVY: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: And that is it for our program tonight. Join us again tomorrow to see how Europe will respond to this unprecedented trade war. The E.U.
Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, will join me. Thanks for watching, and good night from London.