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British Politics, The Fight To become the Next Conservative Party Leader; Boris Johnson Frontrunner to Become Prime Minister; Who is Boris Johnson?; Fraser Nelson, Editor, The Spectator, and Martin Fletcher, Former Foreign Editor, The Times of London, are Interviewed About Boris Johnson; Valerie Johnson's New Book, "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward"; Valerie Jarrett, Former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, is Interviewed About Democratic Presidential Hopefuls and Her Book. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 19, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. CONSERVATIVE LEADER CANDIDATE: We can get Brexit done and we can win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The selection process for the next British Conservative Party leader and prime minister. We delve into the life and politics of the
frontrunner, Boris Johnson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The United States is a great country. It's not the only country. And you can
learn a great deal outside of your shores.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama's senior advisor joins us. How she's found her own voice now dishing on life and politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS CHRISTAKIS: Despite the fact we're all different from each other, I believe we're united by our common humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Author and sociologist, Nicholas Christakis, looks on the bright side of humanity.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
British politics have been misshapen beyond recognition by the turmoil that is Brexit. It's knocked out two prime ministers since the 2016 referendum.
And now, the fight is on to become the next Conservative Party leader, and by default, prime minister. The party selection process is a little like a
U.S. primary where candidates battle it out to become the nominee. Only here, the winners skip straight to becoming prime minister without the
inconvenience of a general election.
The former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, is the favorite. He's a colorful media character, a populist, much like President Trump, which
might explain why he, too, is betting on his friend, Boris. We'll talk to two seasoned political analysts in a moment. But, first, our Nick Glass
gives us a taste of who Boris is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK GLASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's the most charismatic, shambolic and divisive of politicians about to become British prime minister. Nothing it
seems can hope the irresistible rise of Boris Johnson. Just turned 55. Not even his performance in a fractious television debate with his rivals.
By his standards, relatively controlled and joked and gap free. The key question of course was Brexit and the date Britain leaves Europe --
JOHNSON: We must come out on the 31st of October.
GLASS: But could he guarantee it?
JOHNSON: I think that October the 31st is eminently feasible.
GLASS: So, no absolute guarantee then.
SONIA PURNELL, BIOGRAPHER, "JUST BORIS": I get why he became popular. I totally get that. I'm just saying he's done nothing with it.
GLASS: A question during the debate from a British mom (ph) yielded a rare Boris apology.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the past you've said, "Muslim who wear veils are like letter boxes and bank robbers." Do you accept your words of
consequences? You've just heard from an --
JOHNSON: Yes, of course. And so far as my words have given offensive the last 20 or 30 years when I've been a journalist and people have taken those
words out of my articles and escaladed them. Of course, I'm sorry for the offense that have caused.
GLASS: His managers are aware of where the dangers lie in this campaign, as do the cartoonists that Boris might say the wrong thing and trip himself
up. Everything at the launch was carefully staged and managed. A room full of attentive supporters, a snappy 16-minute speech. Journalists
restricted to just six questions in all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, joining me for a look at the pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses is Martin Fletcher, columnist and former foreign editor for the
"London Times," and Fraser Nelson, the editor of the U.K. "Spectator Magazine," which Boris Johnson once edited himself.
So, gentlemen, welcome to the program.
First, I described it as a primary. I'm not sure whether you agree. But, you know, we've heard since 2016 that Brexit is the democratic rule of the
people, even it's a close vote and we have to -- it has to be implemented. And yet here is less than 1 percent of the Tory Party about to select the
next leader and next prime minister. How democratic is that?
FRASER NELSON, EDITOR, THE SPECTATOR: Well, this is the British system. If you look at the last five prime ministers, three came to power in this
way. Of course, it's not very democratic. We're talking about 160,000 Tory party members get to choose, and these are for the whole country.
But in our Parliamentary democratic system, that's what you do if one the prime ministers falls over mid-way through. I mean, there will be a
general election. These leaders tend to seek to mandate of Theresa May, it didn't work very well. And these are exceptional circumstances. We got
until the end of October, the E.U. has given us, to sort it out.
And so, when Boris Johnson, if he does come to power, he'll have 99 days to come up with a solution that alluded Theresa May in three years. So, these
are anything but ordinary times.
AMANPOUR: They are. And I said 1 percent of the party, it's obviously 1 percent of the [13:05:00] country, less than 1 percent of the country.
So, let's just -- we saw that setup package. Who is Boris Johnson? I mean, he is somebody who himself has said in answer to a question about,
you know, what are his political convictions. Basically, he said, "Well, you know, a driving conviction," but that was a long time ago. What does
he stand for, Martin?
MARTIN FLETCHER, FORMER FOREIGN EDITOR, THE TIMES OF LONDON: Well, first of all, he's a brilliant word smith and he's funny. People like him. But
he uses his gift with language to deceive, to dissemble, to dupe and to distract.
At heart, first of all, he's a newspaper columnist. He's paid to provoke and to be colorful. And there are no consequences or very few consequences
to what he writes. That doesn't qualify you to be prime minister. I think he's disqualified on two grounds. Firstly, his political record and
secondly, his character.
His political record consists of two years as foreign secretary, which were pretty wretched. I mean, by common consent, he was one of the worst
foreign secretaries we've had. It was two years characterized by gaffes, by and gratuitous insults at a time when we should have been building ties
and by (INAUDIBLE) about global Britain.
Character wise, he is a congenital liar, he is a serial philander, he is untrustworthy, disloyal as his former wives and a succession of Tory
leaders will tell you. He has -- he is lazy, he thinks he can wing it, bluster his way through. This is not a man fit to occupy an office that
was once occupied by Churchill and Thatcher.
AMANPOUR: So, not a Boris fan. And let's just add for facts, he was fired from the "London Times" and he was fired from the "Telegraph," I believe.
FLETCHER: No, he was fired for the "London Times" for making up a quote. He was then fired as art spokesman for lying about one of his several
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's the record there. I mean, look, Fraser, you occupy the position he used to occupy. I mean, Martin is kind of right.
NELSON: Well, Martin didn't tell you the whole parts of the story. What Martin didn't say was he was twice elected for mayor of London and Labour
City. The largest personal democratic mandate in Europe. Nor did Martin say that against all odds he won, relieve (ph) referendum. He won more
votes, 70.7 million than anybody has won for anything in the history of this country.
So, yes, there is a side to Boris which (INAUDIBLE) focus on, but they always air brush out the incredible achievements he's had, nobody comes to
it. When you look at what David Cameron), what Tony Blair achieved before they become prime minister, it was as nothing compared to Boris' record.
Not just of electoral success but of administrative success.
And London is a city of 10 million people, that is more than the lots of European countries. Now, sure, I'm not going to say that Boris is a saint,
I'm not going to say that his personal life is beyond all reproach, but if you think that all he is is a philandering deceiving journalist, then
you're diluting yourself and not understanding why he is so popular.
AMANPOUR: So, we'll get back to the character in a moment. What I want to understand is this, we have gone through three years in this country unable
to get Brexit through. We didn't hear anything in the debate now that the contest has been whittled down, Rory Stewart is out, there's only four left
in the contest after the latest vote.
Boris is the frontrunner. We did not hear him guarantee that Brexit will actually happen on the 31st of October. Deal or no deal. And this is an
issue because he's meant to be convincing people that he can unite the party, get Brexit through, and basically, you know, seek those sunny up
lands that he's -- are we not worried about that?
FLETCHER: Boris promises whatever it takes to get elected or to win a referendum. So, the reason Brexit has not been delivered after three years
is the promises he made during the 2016 referendum campaign, undeliverable. He says, "You can have your cake and eat it," you can't. You cannot --
AMANPOUR: That is actually one of his slogans. I'm pro cake and pro eating it.
FLETCHER: Yes. So, you cannot have all the advantages of being in the European Union if you're leaving it. And now, we see exactly the same
thing. He is saying that he is going to force the E.U. to give us a better deal or going to withhold our 39 billion pounds. Never mind --
AMANPOUR: The divorce settlement.
FLETCHER: -- that that's, you know, illegal. He cannot do that. First of all, the E.U. will not negotiate with him because most European leaders
detest the man and they don't trust him. Secondly, he says, "If we don't get a better deal, we're going to crash out." The Parliament won't allow
that. So, you know, we're back into a general election or referendum, probably a general election.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, this is actually very important. Where is the Parliament now? I mean, will they not allow a crash out? Are they still
firm on that? And what [13:10:00] about a general election?
One of the things that people like yourself say, and the party membership and the grandees is that Boris can unify the party. It's all about party,
party, party. And the latest polling is really scary. It basically says that majority is in the Conservative Party are willing to see Northern
Ireland spin off or reunify with Ireland, Scotland spin off. They're even willing for a big economic hit just to get Brexit done. Is that where
NELSON: No, I don't think is where we're headed at all. Most people who vote leave will tell you that they knew there might be an economic cost but
to them greater issues are at stake. It's about sovereignty control, democracy.
And when it comes to like what Boris is likely to do, I mean, Parliament, for example, doesn't like that you have no deal. Of course, it doesn't.
But can it stop it? It's an open question as to whether the mechanisms exist.
Of course, they can have a general election. It would take something like six Tory MPs to vote to bring down the Tory government, to force a general
election and to stop no deal from happening. But given that Jeremy Corbyn would most likely win that election, will you really find six Tory MPs who
will effectively put in Corbyn, thinking he will find a solution that the Tories couldn't?
So, I am not as 100 percent certain as others that Parliament will look no deal. I think they'll certainly try to but they tried last week and that
failed. So, it's more of an open question and if there's a leader with momentum. And remember, all we need to get a deal with the E.U. is just
one of two sentences, agreed at the end of this deal. We are incredibly close.
Now, I am not so sure why the E.U. is so unwilling to comprise, but it wouldn't give the very small distance that we need to come to an agreement
here. I might be an optimist, I might a bit (INAUDIBLE) for my own good, but I do think there is a common sense deal to be done.
AMANPOUR: Well, there was and apparently, it didn't get through Parliament. I spoke to Angela Merkel, I mean, the de facto leader of
Europe and they have no appetite for reopening and particularly the Northern Ireland border, which was kind of given short shrift in the debate
NELSON: It's not about reopening though, it's about just adding a simple exit clause, which is in most modern treaties. An exit clause in NATO, a
clause in E.U. membership. If there were an exit clause of this agreement saying, either party can serve notice in two years, then it would pass
Parliament. Is that an unreasonable request? In this day and age, it's not. So, I think that's a potential for comprise.
AMANPOUR: So, I mean, you were saying, Martin, European leaders would be frustrated if it was Boris and not inclined to be kind. I mean, let's face
it, he started his journalistic career essentially making a whole load of stuff up as he admits himself. Chucking stones over the channel and
listening to them crash the greenhouses here back in London.
You know, he made up stupid stories that were lies about fake bananas sized and the -- you know, the sized of condoms and all sorts of things which
weren't true but they were entertaining. And now, he has to go and talk to these people who didn't like him as foreign minister and are not going to
like him as prime minister if he thinks that he, which is what he says, can beat them over the head with a baseball bat.
FLETCHER: I mean, I was a victim of Boris in this sense that I was the Brussels correspondent at the "Times" from 1999 to 2002, and I suffered
from what he had done. He, in his four or five years as "Telegraph" correspondent, virtually created Eurosceptic journalism. I once spent
several hours sitting in the British library going through his stories. It was a tsunami of mendacious stories, had only the most tangential relation
to the truth.
But they came at a time -- and the common theme was the European super state ganging up on poor defenseless Britain, 27 scheming member states up
to do us down and destroy our ancient liberties. That was the tenure of it. It played into a sort of simmering Euroscepticism in the Tory Party,
and it took off.
And most British newspapers thought this is wonderful. This is good, colorful, fun stuff coming out of Brussels. Much more interesting the
usual grace. So, it was impossible to get a positive story about Brussels into the -- many British papers for a quarter of a century.
The idea that Britain was a big, powerful, influential member of the European Union and when it engaged, it won the argument and it set up the
single market and won the arguments on expanding eastwards and competition policies and much else besides. And what it didn't on the euro and
(INAUDIBLE) and it got opt out. So, what's not to like about that. That never got put to the British people.
So, the referendum wasn't just lost in the few weeks in June of 2016, it was lost over 25 years. And more than anyone, Boris set the tone for it.
AMANPOUR: I mean, including, let's face it, with the bus, which was packed with lies, talking about hundreds of millions of pounds that were going to
go from Europe into the National Health Service, which is, frankly, not true.
But Fraser, given all this, can anybody beat him?
NELSON: I very much doubt it. I mean, Boris is an incredibly good [13:15:00] communicator. This is his huge skill. He comes out with great
soundbites. In fact, I've been counting, you've said five of them already tonight, Boris quotes. He's very quotable. And when he says things, they
resonate, and that's a great skill for a political leader to have.
He is sort of -- and the comparison, I often think of him of being a bit like Donald Trump. (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump by the way. But Trump has
this ability of bending the universe towards him. You switch on the TV and it's all about what Trump said. It's the same with Boris. People just
talk about him the whole time.
Now, this is a very powerful political tool for a Conservative Party worried about two things. It's worried about Nigel Farage and the Brexit
party. Farage has got -- it's the biggest party in Britain now. By the poll say Farage. Secondly, Jeremy Corbin. Both of them are sort populist
A lot of Tory says, "It takes a populist to beat a populist."
AMANPOUR: You see I'm hearing that the Tories are putting party ahead of country. I worry about that.
FLETCHER: Look, let's be clear about this, the Conservative MPs, most of them loathe Boris. They're not choosing him as a leader because they
admire his integrity or his honestly or his sense of duty or because they think he can heal the country. They think he's the only person who can
out-Farage Farage when it comes to populism.
Let me pick up on one-point Fraser made earlier. You know, they think he's electable, they think he can make the Tories electable again. It is true
that he won two terms as London mayor in the Labour living city. But he took over from -- he beat a fairly unpopular incumbent. He took over at a
time when London was booming.
Cameron -- David Cameron, prime minister, just won the chancellor, pumped money into London before the Olympics. He had the Olympics, which is a
huge boom for any incumbent. I mean, it was pretty hard for him to do badly. Since then, he's taken the first really divisive decision of his
political career, which was to come down in favor of leave. That has cost him an enormous amount as (INAUDIBLE) in his very strong and his absolute
bastion, which is London. I don't think he is so electable anymore.
There's an opinion poll in YouGov the other day, it showed 28 percent vote he would make a good prime minister, 54 percent vote he'd make a bad one.
That's higher than any of the other Tory candidates, in both categories submittedly (ph).
AMANPOUR: It's really an interesting story. We're going have you both back on when this leadership contest is over.
NELSON: All right.
AMANPOUR: Fraser Nelson, Martin Fletcher, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
So, today may be the populist age. But not so long ago, leaders left and right alike tried to reach beyond their bases to unify people and get
things done. My next guest worked for one of them. Valerie Jarrett was in Chicago's local government before rising to be a senior advisor to her
friend, the future president, Barack Obama.
Her new book "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward" reflects on that incredible career. When she joined me here in
London, we spoke about her life, politics today and what she's telling the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls.
Valerie Jarrett, welcome to the program.
JARRETT: Thank you so much. Delighted to be here in London.
AMANPOUR: In London. And now, you can speak for yourself. You're no longer speaking for President Obama and you have written your book,
"Finding My Voice."
AMANPOUR: So, I want to go back to the beginning. Because not many people know that you were born in Iran, that your parents left the United States
of the '50s, I guess.
AMANPOUR: And why? Tell me why they did it? What was your father doing? What was your mother doing?
JARRETT: My father was a physician and he was just leaving the army and wanted to teach at an academic teaching hospital in the United States. And
he couldn't find a job comparable to what his White counter parts were receiving. And so, he and my mom, who were adventurous spirits decided to
look for opportunities outside the United States. And he landed a job where he was asked to chair the Department of Pathology and help start a
brand-new hospital in Shirazi, Iran an (INAUDIBLE) hospital. And I was the second baby born in that hospital.
AMANPOUR: But it's huge the distance they traveled and the idea of going to Iran in the early to mid '50s, it wasn't obvious, I mean, racism, Jim
JARRETT: Well, my parents grew up under Jim Crow and my mother in Chicago, my dad in D.C. So, they were used to it. My father went to Howard
undergrad, Howard Medical School. My mother had a different education, she went to Sarah Lawrence and boarding school before that, but they both kind
of hit this wall.
And so, it's interesting, because from Iran, my father worked there for five years then he was recruited to come here to the United Kingdom where
he worked at the Galton Laboratories. And there, he did deliver a paper at some international conference in the (INAUDIBLE) Chicago, medical center
heard him deliver the paper.
So, six years later, he was officered a tenured position, tenure track position at the University of Chicago. And so, he used to always say to me
that sometimes the shortest distance to where you really want to go means you have to be prepared to take the long way around.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it really is extraordinary. So, did you speak Persian?
AMANPOUR: I know you were -- did you?
JARRETT: I spoke French, I spoke English [13:20:00]. We lived on a hospital compound with physician's families from all over the world. And
it was such a wonderful way to grow up. And, of course, you know this, but the United States had very strong diplomatic relationships back then with
And so, in that sense, it wasn't so unusual. But it was on the other side of the world and it was a big leap of faith but my father went from being a
Black doctor to being an American doctor where he was judged on his merit and that's why I spent my first five years, which was very formative and a
lot of profound ways.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to talk to you a little bit about the politics in a moment because, yet again, there's a big spike in real problems between
Iran and the United States.
But first, when you went back, finally, to the United States, I mean, presumably you had not encountered racism in Iran. I don't know, did you
encounter it here in England?
JARRETT: No. I don't remember at all. But I do remember going to Chicago and I was bullied by everybody. I was bullied and for a whole range of
reasons. I was from a country born in a country no one had heard of. I was light skinned with freckles and red hair. I was two years ahead of
myself in school. I was five years old in second grade. And I just was different.
And it was hard for me and my parents, it was going back home and for me, it was like going to a foreign country.
AMANPOUR: It struck me that there were you were, a young woman or young girl, growing up in a foreign country and you ended up working for somebody
who was a young boy who grew up in a foreign country, Barack Obama.
AMANPOUR: Do you think there was a bond between you and him partly over the kind of weird childhoods you had?
JARRETT: Absolutely. And I'll say this, the first time that I met Barack Obama, which is 1991, so a long time ago, nearly 30 years ago. I was
trying to recruit his fiance to come and work with me in the mayor's office and he wasn't very high on the idea. And so, the three of us had dinner to
talk about it.
AMANPOUR: Fiance, being one Michelle Robinson?
JARRETT: Michelle Robinson, yes. I desperately wanted her and she had been at a big law firm and was really interested in exploring public
service and I had done the same thing, left a big law firm to join local government.
And so, at dinner, he asked me that, you know, "Well, where are you from?" "Chicago." You grew up here?" "Yes." Were you born here?" "No. I was
born in Iran." And I prepared my myself for the normal kind of reaction and he said, "Well, that's interesting. I lived in Indonesia." And then
the next thing you know, we're talking about our shared experiences.
And we agreed really on three things that shaped a lot of foreign policy. Number one, we could walk in a room and find something in common with
anybody. Because we were used to growing up with people who spoke different languages, we're from different countries but found a common bond
as children. The second thing is that sometimes people who haven't lived outside the United States, particularly in undeveloped countries, take so
much for granted.
JARRETT: And it's everything from, you know, clean water, food, my mother boiled everything I drank, peeled everything I ate, worried about diseases
for which they were not cures the way we had conquered so much of health care in the United States. But, also, our civil liberties and what all the
underpinnings of a democracy that sometimes we just take that for granted when we live in one.
And the final thing, I think we both talked about that night is that the United States is a great country. It's not the only country. And you can
learn a great deal outside of your shores. And I think that we did bond around that at the same time as I bonded with his fiance about coming from
the incredible nuclear families with parents who loved us, who valued education and excellence and wanted -- instilled in us a responsibility to
AMANPOUR: It is remarkable that Michelle said, "I need you to come and convince my fiance." I mean, at the one time, she's a very strong
feminist, at the other time, she's very concerned about what her life partner was going to think about what she was doing.
JARRETT: Life partner is exactly the way to put it. I mean, when people react when I tell them that story, I say to them, "Look, there wasn't a
single decision that he made in his professional career without her at the table, as well." And so, it was more of a reflection on how they
approached their partnership than it was simply looking for her fiance's approval. He saw hers and, in fact, at many parts along the way, if she
said no, he would not have sought higher office.
AMANPOUR: That is actually amazing. So, I just want to ask you, because we're in this really acute moment right now between the U.S. and Iran. To
me, it has all the sort of nightmarish memories of what happened before the Iraq war. But I wonder what you think as you see the president, President
Obama's legacy of the Iran nuclear deal, which seemed to have taken a lot of air out of the enmity and the tension.
JARRETT: Well, as you mentioned, the deal that President Obama negotiated wasn't just the United States and Iran, it was the U.K., Germany, France,
China, Russia, the European Union. Really, all the major world powers came together to put pressure on Iran, to commit to not developing nuclear
weapons. And we thought that that diplomatic strategy tied with severe restrictions, should they violate it, was the best hope.
And so now we don't know. It's [13:25:00] terribly troubling, profoundly troubling. I don't know what the plan of the United States is, frankly. I
don't know what the end game is here. It shouldn't be war.
AMANPOUR: When you see other elements of the president, President Obama's legacy, being systemically dismantled, I'm thinking Obamacare, although,
that survives, what do you think about the sort of reactionary new president and seeming to want to put his stamp on everything?
JARRETT: Well, it's interesting we never really looked at it as a legacy. We looked at as it as service. They're here to try to make life better for
the American people.
And so, yes, we spent a lot of time working on the Affordable Care Act. But what troubles me isn't the fact that we worked very hard. What
troubles me is the fact that people might have a preexisting condition and then have to go without insurance, or 20 million people who might go
uninsured completely, or women who can longer have access to preventive care or senior citizens who are stretching their prescription drugs
sometimes to their detriment because they can't afford them.
And so, we look at it really through the lens of the people whose lives will be adversely affected by the seemingly knee-jerk reaction to just try
to reverse everything that President Obama did. And you mentioned the Affordable Care Act. The reason why it is still the law of the land is
because so many people came out and protested at town halls and sent a strong message to their Republican leaders about how they felt about losing
this important benefit. And that's what people have to do. That's the only way that we keep moving forward is when people stay engaged with their
government and don't just abdicate that responsibility.
AMANPOUR: Your book is called "Finding My Voice." But now, you are able to speak for yourself, perhaps for the first time, certainly in the last 30
odd years. What is it you want to say and how frustrating was it or not to have your voice channeled through the people who you worked for?
JARRETT: It wasn't a friction at all. What there was was this a terrible fear of messing up and hurting another person who I respected greatly,
whether it was the mayor of Chicago or the president of the United States.
And so, now, in a sense, it's liberating to not have to worry about that and just worry about what I want to say. And part of why I wrote the book
was to help people find their voices and then figure out what they want to do with them to help the positive agents for change and also to help other
people find their voices.
And so, I'm hoping when people read it, they'll find it interesting and make them laugh and cry and think, but I hope that it's helpful. I'm very
open about the securities journey of my life and the way after about six years of practicing law, I woke up and I was in an unhappy marriage and I
was not happy with my professional, and I had to decide, well, what am I going to do about that.
And I swerved way outside my comfort zone and I joined city government and I felt a sense of being part of something bigger than myself. And it was
the first time I listened to the quiet voice inside me, and I found that satisfying. And so, I wanted to encourage other people to do the same.
AMANPOUR: You worked for Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago. Is that correct?
JARRETT: That is right. Right after he was re-elected in 1987, that's when I joined his administration.
AMANPOUR: And then, obviously, for the first Black president of the United States.
AMANPOUR: You are African-American yourself. I mean, what is it like to have been there on both those?
JARRETT: Well, you were part of history in the sense you're working for trail blazers. But, honestly, at the time, you're so busy you don't have
the luxury of basking in the glory of the accomplishment, you're just so busy trying to get to work.
AMANPOUR: So, I was fascinating to read that you had said that, you know, fast-forward from when you first met in 1991 to 2004, the Democratic
convention in Massachusetts and Senator Barack Obama, who almost nobody had heard of, gave this rip-roaring speech that anybody who heard it will never
forget. What did you think as you were sitting there?
JARRETT: Well, at first, I was very nervous. For about the first two minutes he was speaking, I just thought, you know, "What if he goes blank?
What if whatever he says doesn't resonate? What if the room isn't with him?" And after about two minutes, I thought, "OK. He's got this." And I
became just like everybody else.
And I thought that his vision was so. not just optimistic but a strong vision of what we have in common, of how we are stronger when we're finding
that sense of shared experience, shared values, the best of our country. And you could feel in the room, and after I left that room, around the
world just how powerfully it resonated with so many.
I didn't think he would be a unifying figure. What I miscalculated was the Republican strategy to put their short-term political interests ahead of
what was best for the country. And the reason I thought he could be a unifying figure wasn't just because of one speech, it's because I watched
him his whole career, where he was able to go into a room with Republicans and reach common ground, be willing to comprise. And frankly, what we were
up against in Washington was a diabolical strategy of just saying no.
AMANPOUR: Just say no but also you can see with the election of President Trump that there was a lot of resentment, a lot of white lashes. Van Jones
said on CNN on election night, a lot of people felt presumably some way that the black president wasn't legitimate and that there's so much racism.
So, of course, there was the birther movement that President Trump --
AMANPOUR: -- sponsored and led. I find it very odd, and I wonder whether you do too, that people who do good policies, for instance, let's just say
the Affordable Care Act among others, but also Angela Merkel who is the unifying figure in Germany, who was courageous and compassion in her
treatment of refugees and has had to pay for it practically at the ballot box.
What are your reflections on people who do what they believe is in the best interest of their values, of their people, of their country and then it
gives rise to dark forces?
JARRETT: Well, I think you have to take the long view. I have to say I think that as a leader you have to do what you think is right. I think
it's a mistake to get caught up in the short term political machinations and to recognize that, look democracies are hard.
I don't think we should read too much into the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton did receive the majority of the vote. She lost in three states by
fewer than a hundred thousand votes.
Our country has been closely divided. Even when President Obama won. And, though, I hasten to add that what troubled me profoundly about the 2016
race, other than the outcome, was the fact that 43 percent of eligible voters did not vote. And that's a problem in any democracy
AMANPOUR: Well, in fact, I was going to ask you to read a little bit. Because obviously, it speaks to the future, this idea of civil society, of
JARRETT: Sure. So I said, to me, the thousands of what-ifs of that election all come down to one fact. Nearly 43 percent of eligible voters
did not vote. How could so many people, especially young people with so much to lose, feel so disempowered that they would shun their most basic
and fundamental responsibility of citizenship -- to vote.
Yes. I still agree very much with that.
AMANPOUR: Here we have this lovely picture of President Obama talking to Greta Thunberg who is one of the main political leaders of our time. She
has empowered kids her age and changed the political dynamic.
And the votes and the recent elections have shown that. I wonder whether you think that actually there is a bit of a backlash to the backlash, that
young people are coming out.
They voted in record numbers in the midterms and in these elections and they actually voted for progressive and environmental causes.
JARRETT: Well, absolutely. And I think it began the day after the inauguration where we had the Women's March in Washington, D.C., and we saw
so many women come out really deeply and profoundly concerned about the election.
The young people from Parkland who organized March for our Lives where millions of people demonstrated all across our country to try to reduce and
eliminate gun violence in our country. The number of people who ran for office, the number of women who were elected to Congress in the midterms,
Six women running for president, record numbers. So I think we have seen a wakeup call.
Now, I wish that it hadn't taken that election to trigger it, but the fact of the matter is, it's what gives me a reason to be quite optimistic. And
I think that what we have to do is figure out how to get everybody to appreciate their responsibility of citizenship.
So last summer, Mrs. Obama and I launched a new organization called When We All Vote. It's non-partisan because we believe we have to change the
culture in our country around voting and have every citizen appreciate that that's what a democracy is all about, it's about engagement, it's about
studying the candidates and figuring out who is the best.
It's not about picking the ideal. It's about picking the person among those running you think most reflects your values.
AMANPOUR: So what would you say? Because you just mentioned it's very big democratic field, a lot, a record number of women. What would you advise
this crop of Democratic candidates through this selection process?
JARRETT: Well, so first of all, I think we have an embarrassment of riches, very talented people. And what I've said to several candidates who
sought my advice is number one, be authentic, be who you are.
People can tell if you're not so don't pretend. Be true to yourself. Have a clear vision that not only articulates where you want to move our country
forward but your plan for executing on that vision.
And I think there is still a hungry for inclusion, for the sense that we are all in this together, to reduce the nasty rhetoric and tone that we see
so much permeating social media and our discourse today. And my view also is, I've counseled each of them, [13:35:00] do not spend time beating up on
For two reasons. Number one, I don't actually care what you think of the other guy and the Democratic primary. I want to know why I should vote for
And secondly, and also quite importantly, whoever emerges as the nominee for the Democratic Party, I want that person to win and not go into the
election general so badly beat up that they're in a weakened state. And so I think we have to rally together and recognize that the end game is the
AMANPOUR: Valerie Jarrett, thank you so much. "Finding My Voice."
JARRETT: Thank you so much for having me on, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Elections there, elections here, and what a fascinating career she's had.
Now, it might be hard to believe these days but our next guest says that while the historical arc of human behavior is long, it bends toward
goodness. The medical doctor and sociologist Nicholas Christakis says the proof is in evolution itself.
His new book is called "Blueprint, The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society." And he explained all about it to our Michelle Martin.
MARTIN: Nicholas Christakis, thank you so much for talking to us.
NICHOLAS CHRISTAKIS, AUTHOR, BLUEPRINT: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So you are a physician but you're also a sociologist who studies the way people behave in groups. What was your insight that made you
connect those two?
CHRISTAKIS: I would say that being a doctor, I was actually a hospice doctor. I took care of people who were dying for many many years.
There's no way you can be a physician and not become interested in humankind. And as part of my education as a doctor and part of my ideas
about the kind of scholar I wanted to be, I decided sort of early in my medical training to also study aspects of our lives as human beings that
weren't just about our bodies and how they work.
MARTIN: OK. So your latest book, "Blueprint" makes the argument that the scientific community has been overly focused on the worst of human
behavior. We certainly have ample examples of that.
You are saying that the bright side has been denied the attention it deserves. How did you come to that?
CHRISTAKIS: Well, I think, first of all, I'm an optimistic guy and it's my nature.
And I marvel at us, at the way humans are, at the way human beings is phenomena in a natural world. And I had become sort of upset with the way
that scientists and the person on the street all too often in my view focused on the dark parts of our heritage.
As you said, our propensity for violence or selfishness or tribalism or lying, and hatred. And we are also, as an animal, capable of wonderful
things, capable of love, and friendship, and cooperation, and teaching.
And these things must necessarily have outweighed the bad things. Look, if --
MARTIN: Why necessarily?
CHRISTAKIS: OK. Because if I came -- in our ancestral environment, and I'm talking about hundreds of thousands of years, our evolution. If
whenever I came near you, you killed me or you filled me with useless information, you lied to me or were mean to me in some way, or took
advantage of me, then I would be better off not coming near you.
I would be better off living as a solitary animal. So whatever the disadvantage is that there are in us connecting to each other, which -- and
there are disadvantages, the advantages must have surpassed those and because that's how natural selection works. And so I became very very
interested in those positive aspects of our humanity.
MARTIN: I was just pondering what you just said about the fact that social science has been so focused on the negative. I mean I could -- we could
walk out the door of this studio and find ample evidence of why they're focused on the negative. On the other hand, if I tripped, probably
somebody would help me, right?
MARTIN: So why is it you think that we've been so focused on the negative?
CHRISTAKIS: Well, part of that is we have been shaped, also, to pay attention to bad news, to things for a number of reasons. First of all, an
argument can be made that it's better for you to be more attentive to bad news than good news because bad news might be more likely to kill you.
But more than that, I think it's the same way that the journalists say if it bleeds, it leads. Social sciences are often that way.
They study homicide. They study crime. They study "deviance". They study all of these things that are bad, but there are also all these things that
are good about us.
And increasingly, in the last 10 or 20 years, not just me, many scientists have become very interested in, for instance, this notion of cooperation.
Like the story you just told about tripping.
It would be very odd for any other animal to do that. It turns out that other animals don't so easily cooperate with non-kin, unrelated
MARTIN: So talk to me about your evidence. Like how did you --
CHRISTAKIS: So there are various kinds of ways to do that. So there are different kinds of things.
One of the things I'm interested in is I was interested in what kind of society would human beings make if they were left on their own? And I was
not the [13:40:00] first person to wonder this question.
And in an ideal kind of world, what I would love to do, in a mad scientist way, is take a group of babies and abandon them on an island and having
taught them nothing and let them grow up and then see what kind of -- were they nice to each other? Did they love each other?
Now, of course, we can't do that.
MARTIN: No, you can't.
CHRISTAKIS: It's been called the forbidden experiment, precisely for that reason. So I was trying to think, well, what is a way that we could find a
proxy for such an experiment?
And so I hit upon the idea of using shipwrecks. And it turns out between 1500 and 1900, there were 9,000 shipwrecks during the age of European
exploration of the world.
And in one case, it was even a perfect sort of natural experiment where there were two shipwreck crews on the same island at the same time in 1864,
south of New Zealand, north of Antarctica.
On the lower part of the island, the southern part of the island, the crew of the Grafton wreck. There were five men washed ashore. And on the
northern part of the island, the crew of the Invercauld, 19 men washed ashore.
And they were on the island at the same time. They didn't see or interact with each other and they had very different fates.
So the Grafton, they all survived, they worked together, they created a kind of social order that allowed them to survive whereas the crew of the
Invercauld, 16 of the 19 died. Only three made it off the island.
MARTIN: And that's because? An over-analysis?
CHRISTAKIS: Yes. So they weren't able to create any kind of functioning society. It was a kind of every man for himself kind of environment. They
even had some cannibalism.
I mean the point is the argument is not that we always make a society. The argument is that if we make a society, we make a society with these good
MARTIN: So is the argument that the people who have these qualities or who have developed these qualities of cooperation, kindness, empathy toward
each other are more likely to survive?
CHRISTAKIS: Yes. And I would argue --
MARTIN: Than people who are fundamentally belligerent, or like selfish --
MARTIN: -- et cetera because one would think just based on the superficial top of the mind analysis, the strong do what they will, the weak do what
they must. And what you're saying is actually the cooperative, the compassionate have a better chance to survive?
CHRISTAKIS: Yes. And, in fact, I would even take it a step further. There's a famous idea in the social science called Maslow's Hierarchy of
And it states that you first have to satisfy human's basic needs for like food and water. And then you have to satisfy their needs for shelter and
then their needs for sex and then their needs for kind of meaning and then their needs for something called self-actualization which is a kind of
sense of purpose.
CHRISTAKIS: And they organize these needs in this little pyramid. And I would argue that actually, the pyramid is almost backwards. That in order
to satisfy our needs for food and shelter and all these basic things that we think of as fundamental, first, you have to have friendship and
It's those groups that are able to manifest those traits that are able to survive. And, in fact, any one of us living alone would have a very
difficult time surviving.
The reason we humans have had a kind of social conquest of the earth is not because of our bodies. It's because of our culture.
It's because of the tools that we've invented. It's because we work together to produce knowledge and exchange ideas and pass along useful
I mean here is this a little nugget to think about. Many species learn.
A little fish swimming in the sea can learn that if it sees the light and it swims up to the light, there will be food there. So many animals learn.
Some animals learn socially. They learn by observing what another animal does.
And this is very efficient. For example, if you put your hand in the fire, you pull it out, you learn fire burns me. You've acquired this knowledge
that fire burns. But you've paid a price, you've burnt your hand.
Or I can look at you and see that you've burnt your hand. I learn, oh, fire burns but I pay none of the price by observing you.
That's called social learning. This is rare in the animal kingdom but it happens.
We even take it a step further. We teach each other things. We teach each other how to build fires.
And this is exceptionally rare in the animal kingdom. This whole capacity that we have to actually teach each other things, we have been shaped by
hundreds of thousands of years to have this capacity.
It's an amazing and wonderful thing that we do this. This means that you can learn stuff.
If you're born today and you take calculus in high school, you know more mathematics. If I took you back and put you 500 years ago, you would be
the most intelligent mathematician on the planet, just for what you learned in high school.
So all this accumulated wisdom that we humans can accumulate and we can pass on across time and also across space. I can teach someone over there
calculus today is miraculous.
And I think we forget it. We lose sight of some of these wonderful qualities.
So we need the group, we need the collectivity, [13:45:00] we need the wisdom that has accumulated within groups of people in order to survive.
MARTIN: OK. I credit your point and it's a very inspiring and comforting thought. Then, why are people still so terrible?
CHRISTAKIS: OK. So the point is, that I'm not like, you know, Dr. Pangloss. It's the best of all possible worlds.
I'm well aware that these types of division, this type of hatred, this type of warfare and violence and selfishness and tribalism exists everywhere.
But that's not the argument. The argument is that over the long sweep of history, that we are getting better and better.
And so the way I put it is that the arc of our evolution is long but it bends toward goodness and it does. And, in fact, it does do that.
And furthermore, this long arc of prehistory, of evolution that bends towards goodness underlies a more recent historical arc of history. So in
the last 2 to 400 years since the enlightenment, we've had all this scientific and technological inventions, and all these philosophical moves
where we sort of believe in equality and these principles of democratic participation, of democracy, and equality.
All of these philosophical innovations and technological innovations have shaped us to be -- it is the case, be richer and the whole world is better
off. Less starvation around the world, more safety, fewer wars, fewer deaths due to warfare.
All of these good things are happening but they're all happening for historical reasons in the last 2 to 400 years. And what I'm arguing is
that in addition to that, deeper, more powerful, more ancient forces are at work and that we cannot escape that.
Even despite all the horrors, still, there are these wonderful qualities that I think are worth foregrounding. Maybe even especially in a kind of
world in which we see ascend in populism and ascend in tribalism and ascendant appeals to us versus them kind of politics which I reject.
MARTIN: I'm going to ask you in a minute to how we could perhaps speed up the pace of learning for the benefit of the common good but I don't --
CHRISTAKIS: Yes. Well, founders --
MARTIN: Well, I just don't want to glide past a pain point though for you, which is this incident at Yale which become this big metaphor for something
else. You were head of house at Yale and there was a whole dust-up.
MARTIN: -- in 2016.
MARTIN: 2015 about Halloween costumes of all things, right?
MARTIN: OK. Where the administration had put sort of forth that people should avoid Halloween costumes that are insensitive to others,
specifically people of color, I think.
And your wife said, "You know what, maybe kids should have more of an opportunity to learn to make mistakes and to learn from their mistakes."
This was not well perceived.
MARTIN: And there's a video that went viral of students confronting you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTAKIS: I do not agree with that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why the [expletive] --
CHRISTAKIS: Because I have a different view.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should step down. If that is what you think about it, you should step down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: Is there anything in your own scholarship around -- that informed the way you responded to that?
CHRISTAKIS: Yes. So, first of all, I'll say that the essence of my wife's argument, my wife would be offended by many of the same costumes that many
people would find offensive. The of my wife's argument was that college students at Yale, do they really want the administration telling them what
So it was sort of taking the side of the students to say you can form your own opinions and talk among yourselves, learn from each other. That the
most important moral lessons are learned not by I tell you what is right. They're learned by experiencing and interacting with each other.
And that we -- she felt, and I agreed, that the students were capable as students of Yale of actually having these conversations. And apparently,
many students didn't agree with that.
Apparently, many students actually did want much more guidance from the administration about how to handle these matters. I think one of the most
depressing moments of my life was when I was in that courtyard and there were students who were very upset with me and they were also upset, I
think, with the ideas that I was trying -- we were trying to advance.
These ideas, part of them are expressed actually in this book, ideas about how human beings, for example, learn from each other. We were just talking
about teaching and learning and how that's so important for us as species or assembly, how people getting together, friends in group formations is an
inherent part of our species.
And at one point, a young woman says to me -- she was a young African- American woman and she says to me, she goes, "You cannot understand what my life has been like because, you know, you're an older white guy."
And I listened [13:50:00] patiently to her. And then I answered her with an answer which I fervently believe, which is that I said that despite the
fact that we're all different from each other, I believe we are united by our common humanity. I believe that we can communicate across any divide,
partly by taking advantage of these tools that we've been equipped to have.
And it was truly one of the most depressing moments of my career. It was defending the notion, the claim, what I see as a fundamentally liberal
claim, a fundamentally progressive claim, a fundamentally humanistic claim that we have a shared humanity and we are all human beings and we are
united by this common humanity and the students jeered.
MARTIN: For some of the students, standpoint of the students there, I think their argument might be, if I could make it in a non-yelling fashion
is that the entire structure of many of these institutions means that the white people don't have to yell.
MARTIN: Because it's set up so that the white people never have to yell because their preferences and desires are institutionalized.
CHRISTAKIS: These principles -- and, in fact, Martin Luther King in the Mountain Top speech, the day before he's assassinated, makes the same
arguments that I'm making. Exactly the same arguments.
Michael Bennet, to the football player, he talks about how important it is to be able to talk to people who are your opposite. He makes this argument
in a very actually powerful way sitting in this chair.
Eric Lou sitting in this chair makes the same argument that there's a kind of civic culture that's worth protecting. And so my argument is the same
as MLK's argument, it's the same as Michael Bennett's argument, it's the same of Eric Lou's argument.
It's probably the same as the argument you would make which is the argument that there are certain fundamental principles about organizing a good
society that we want the students to own and be a part of. So these principles include reasoned debate, open expression, right of assembly,
right to protest, right.
We protect the right to protest in our society. We're not a totalitarian state so we defend these principles.
And my argument is the students that are coming to these wonderful universities, they can make these traditions their own. They can own these
In fact, they're using those traditions precisely to express their dissatisfaction. And they should not cut at the root of the traditions.
That's my argument.
MARTIN: I understand. How did the whole thing end?
CHRISTAKIS: Well, I mean --
CHRISTAKIS: After a couple of hours in the courtyard and then I think one of the things that happened that day, which I was well aware of because of
my education, was we humans are also endowed with this capacity to suspend our individuality and become parts of a group.
And part of that involves a psychological process of deindividuation where anyone who has been a part of a rave, for example, or who's been--
MARTIN: Sporting event.
CHRISTAKIS: A sporting event.
MARTIN: Where your team is, whatever, winning and losing.
CHRISTAKIS: Yes. Or a riot or a religious experience, you know, you can have this kind of ecstatic experience, right, that people describe. These
phenomena all relate to a surrendering of the self and a participation in the larger whole.
And this is also part of our common humanity. We've been shaped to have these types -- I talked about this, shaped these experiences.
And I saw that happening in front of my eyes. I saw the students becoming part of a mob, actually.
And they were moving as one and they were losing their powers of reason. And also, in some sense, their humanity. And that also saddened me.
MARTIN: How do we actualize what you know, what you believe you have learned about society to make this a better one?
CHRISTAKIS: In my view, you can't read this book and not come away with a deeper and more empathetic understanding of the common humanity. For
example, in the book, I review different marital systems around the world.
So some societies are monogamous. Some are polygynous, one man, many women. Some are polyandrous, one woman, many men.
I talk about arranged marriages, for example. Some societies, the parents pick the partners for their spouses.
But in all of these societies, people love their mates. So even when the marriage is arranged, you interview couples in arranged marriages and they
have no different amount of intimate affection for their partners than love-matched marriages.
So in all of these societies, there's this fundamental recurrent, wonderful quality despite all this variation that we love our mates. And to me, this
is the magnificent thing that's worth highlighting, this insight that we're so similar to each other, regardless of all these other superficial
And to me, that's miraculous, worth-attending to, and it gives us a lever for common understanding. It gives us a way forward.
It gives us a way to sort of recognize that these things that we think divide us needn't divide us, shouldn't divide us. And it puts like a big
finger on the [13:55:00] scale on the pro-social good part of our humanity.
MARTIN: Nicholas Christakis, thank you so much for talking to us.
CHRISTAKIS: Thank you for having me, Michel.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: It's about hearing the story of the other.
And on that note, we end our show.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.