Return to Transcripts main page
Democratic Presidential Candidates Discuss Climate Crisis; Climate Change on Top of Agenda; Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Presidential Candidate, is Interviewed About Climate Change; Boris Johnson's Parliamentary Defeat; Parliament Won't Allow Snap Election; Alistair Burt, British Independent MP, is Interviewed About Brexit and Britain, Yascha Mounk, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University, is Interviewed About the British System; Brexit Developments; 1619 Project. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 5, 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)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're the only nation that has a major political party that denies climate science and says this
is not a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The climate crisis makes its way to the top of the democratic agenda. I speak to Presidential Candidate Cory Booker about his plan to
turn America's economy green.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order, order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Then the British Parliament rejects no-deal Brexit. I speak to a rebel lawmaker who helped defeat the prime minister. And the political
scientist, Yascha Mounk, explains just what is happening to British democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA VILLAROSA, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: The first step is admitting that many of the current day structures are based on this
400-year legacy and 250 years of slavery and --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: 400 years since the first slaves were brought from Africa to America. We look into how that moment still touches every part of life
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
As Hurricane Dorian slices now toward the Eastern Seaboard, leaving behind devastation and death in the Bahamas, Democratic presidential candidates
met for CNN's seven-hour long town hall, focusing solely on the global climate crisis, a topic that was glaringly absent from the 2016
presidential debates, and has now risen to the top of the agenda. Here's a quick taste of the evening's conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Life on earth is at risk. And if we don't make this commitment, we not only cheat our
children, we cheat their future and their children's future, and that is morally wrong. We have to be --
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you believe that God is watching as poison is being belched into the air of
creation and people are being harmed by it, countries are at risk of vanishing in low lying areas, what do you suppose God thinks of that?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are fighting for the survival of the planet earth, our only planet. How is this not a major
priority? It must be a major priority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Viewers of the marathon town hall might have felt they were living in an alternative universe because President Trump's administration
is racing to roll back climate regulation on every level. And now, here are the Democrats vying for his job, offering the biggest, the boldest, the
most comprehensive, most expensive plans to achieve a carbon neutral planet.
In so doing, they're riding a wave of intense voter interest in climate that is sweeping across the world. I spoke with New Jersey senator, Cory
Booker, shortly before he took part in last night's town hall, and we talked about why climate change is on the agenda like never before.
Senator Cory Booker, welcome to the program.
BOOKER: It is very, very -- it is an honor to sit here. I've watched and admired you a lot over the years.
AMANPOUR: Well, we're all watching you and watching your presidential campaign. When you have a president and, you know, a group of politicians
who like to pit themselves as the defenders of the people against the elite and who talk about things like climate change as if it was just an elite
joke or a hoax or something that just benefitted the elite. How do you get to the heart of that to convince people that hard choices need to be made,
that, you know, certain aspects of life-style have to change? How do you convince people that this is an election issue as well as existential
BOOKER: This is the irony of my nation that I love and would die for, is that we live in a nation that has the only major political party on the
planet earth. And you know this in Europe, there are right-wing, left-wing parties but we are the only nation with a major political party that denies
climate science and says this is not a problem.
AMANPOUR: Brazil is doing a good run with the new president, Bolsonaro.
BOOKER: They -- right now. But you know what, this anger that he has, telling Europe to like plant trees, by the way, which scientifically we
need to plant billions of trees on this planet. There's an understanding for people who have been colonized and -- the chip on his shoulder, well,
it is wrong headed in many ways. We are the lead nation on the planet, we are the dispensable nation on planet earth. America has to understand, we
must lead. And this election, tactically, we will either deal with this problem.
If we have another four years, once -- the climate scientists already say to us that by the time the next election rolls around, we have a decade to
deal with this problem or not. If we lose that because four more years of [13:05:00] Donald Trump, and I'm not going to leave it on him. Remember,
most Republicans agree with us. It's their leaders who are often the tools of big polluters and fossil fuel industry.
So, you have Mitch McConnell and you have Donald Trump literally saying nothing is going to change on this issue. They haven't proposed one plan,
one idea. In fact, they're actively rolling back. Every week, I read something. Now, it's the restrictions on light bulbs and fuel-efficient
light bulbs, things that people don't even notice that are making us lose ground.
And so, this is a crisis. But the one thing I want to say is, they're trying to pitch this as being climate conscious is anti-economy, when it is
100 percent different. This can actually -- if we redo our infrastructure, high speed rail, electric charging stations, this could be one of the
biggest job booms. Millions of new jobs. We can turn a crisis, as the Chinese symbol which is danger, but we can make it also the second part of
that symbol, an opportunity for this country like we've never seen before and lead the planet out of peril.
AMANPOUR: Everybody is trying to do their best to recycle, to turn off their light bulbs, to do all their little energy efficient things that they
think that they can do.
BOOKER: People like you going vegan.
AMANPOUR: Well, there you go. You're vegan, I know. But it will take life-style changes and, you know, all of the candidates are now getting
heavily behind this and putting climate at the top of agendas. You've got Senator Sanders proposing, I don't know, $16 trillion for his plan, you've
got Beto O'Rourke in the $5 trillion. I think you're somewhere in 1.5 or - -
BOOKER: $3 trillion.
AMANPOUR: $3 trillion. OK.
BOOKER: Direct investment.
AMANPOUR: OK. But --
BOOKER: These numbers are --
AMANPOUR: -- what does that even mean? Because there are so many different numbers and everybody sort of pokes holes in numbers and says,
"Well, it doesn't mean that and it doesn't mean that." But it is about changing farming habits, changing eating habits and how you raise cattle or
do you raise cattle. It is about the fossil fuel industry, which still is subsidized.
BOOKER: Well, before I even get into that because you bring up really good issues, I just want to say it is easy in history to sit back and look at
the bold of dreamers, the defiant actors who are trying to do things that other people say is impossible and throw stones.
If Kennedy stood up and said, "We are going to put a human being on the moon," everybody sat back and said, "Well, you can't do that. Look at the
rocket design. What's this going to do?" We changed our society from stem subject. It was an amazing mobilization where it captured the aspirations
of a nation to lead again. This is the kind of leader we need now.
And so, yes. I ran a city. And I used to always say, "God, we trust," but everybody else bring me data. Because we learned how to run everything by
the numbers. And we saw -- I was just mayor. Back then, Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Accords. So, there was a whole network of us mayors that
said, "If he won't do it on the federal level, we're going to do it." And guess what I realized. This is a boom for my city. We did environmental
retrofits for our buildings where I lowered taxpayer expenditures, I got kids jobs, apprenticeship programs, union work. I could go through all the
things we did and I kept on winning. Wow, this is a win, win, win on many fronts.
So, this should be done. You talk about farming practices. A big pillar of mine is being very specific. Anyone out in Iowa sees now farms with
windmills. We created incentives. Farmers have new strings of revenue. Well, we could do that dramatically more, incentivizing cover crops and
pulling carbon out of the air.
Oil industries. Why is my taxpayer dollars subsidizing industries? Many of them pay zero in taxes. So, they are really living off of (INAUDIBLE).
End of that, use that revenue to invest in my $3 trillion of investment, which you know will leverage a dollar to two dollars of private investment
and will have multiplier effects. This isn't that complicated.
AMANPOUR: You're obviously incredibly passionate and you are a doer. But you mentioned your time as mayor of Newark.
AMANPOUR: And you know very well that your city is now suffering some lead poisoning in the water --
AMANPOUR: -- leeching into the pipes.
AMANPOUR: It's been put at the foot of the current mayor but others are saying, you know, certain things happened under your administration.
BOOKER: When you run for president, people find things to throw stones I'm sure.
AMANPOUR: Of course. And here's one of them. Criticism of how you handled the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation.
This is New Jersey Sierra Club, "When you turn your water company and your water corporation into a dumping ground for political hacks, this is what
You know, should voters be worried about the way you handle this vital clean water situation in your city?
BOOKER: I'm proud that we had incredible clean water when I was mayor of the City of Newark and ran this system right. What I'm frustrated about is
that people are trying to make this a particularistic problem when it is a national crisis. Newark is not the only city in the midst of a lead
crisis. In fact, we now have a nation that -- where there are 3,000 jurisdictions, 3,000 where children have more than twice blood lead levels
of Flint, Michigan.
And so, as much as people might want to try to point fingers at my current mayor or whatever, when are we all going to step back in saying we have a
massive clean [13:10:00] water, this is not a developing nation, but we have millions and millions of families and children. And it's not just
lead in the water, you have New Hampshire people coming -- so many of my town halls talking about PFAS chemicals that come from flame retardants and
more poisoning water.
Our in Iowa, I just did a virtual town hall where people were talking about what fracking is doing to their water. Clean water in this country should
be a right.
AMANPOUR: I just spoke to General Mattis, former defense secretary, and he said one of the most -- one of the biggest threats to democracy is this
tribalization. You're right in the middle of it here in the United States in your presidential campaign. I think you're the kind of politician who
enjoys trying to work across the aisle to get things done. Do you really see a time when that might happen in the near future?
BOOKER: We have agency. We can choose a way as Americans. We have seen wretchedness and divisiveness of the worst imaginable kind and we have
chosen to put more indivisible into this one nation under God.
My book that I wrote was entitled "United" because this is the issue I wanted to go to. And I caution my party, we cannot define the aspirations
of the Democratic Party as we are here to beat Republicans. We're at a moral moment that requires our party to speak about uniting Americans again
in a -- not a partisan way, new American majorities that can allow us to catch up. And when I say catch up, I watched China build 18,000 miles of
high-speed rail. And busiest rail corridor in all the North America goes between Boston and Washington D.C. called the Northeast Corridor. It
literally runs half an hour slower than it did in the 1960s.
And so, democracies cannot function when we don't have -- we don't affirm our shared values. And this idea that the lines divide us, they're
important but they're not stronger than the ties that bind us.
AMANPOUR: I mean, there's so much racial division in the country right now. I just want to ask you from your own childhood. Your parents meant a
huge amount to you, obviously personally but also in the example they set. Middle class, educated, they got themselves out of whatever situation they
were and they became, I think, among the first black executives at IBM, but it wasn't easy for them.
BOOKER: No, no.
AMANPOUR: They couldn't even accumulate the money they needed to buy a house.
BOOKER: Well, it was not (INAUDIBLE) accumulate the money, they were trying to move into an area with great public schools in the suburbs of New
Jersey and they would be met repeatedly by real estate agents who would tell them, lie to them, "This house is sold. It's been pulled off the
market," because they were doing everything they could to keep blacks out of the community they grew up in.
But what my parents reminded me, these were activists in the civil rights movement. My mom was on the march on Washington, manning a booth working
for the Urban League. These encrypts (ph). My mom did sit ins. I mean, these are heroes of mine. But what they would remind me is how did we
break real estate segregation in this community that I lived in, it was white people from that neighborhood who decided to pose as my parents in
order to buy the house. On the day of closing, the white couple didn't show up, my got another volunteer, a white man named Marty Freedman (ph),
Marty was punched in the face by the real estate agent, a dog (INAUDIBLE) on my dad. And so, this story that I heard while I was growing up and
every time I heard it, the dog got bigger. The story I heard growing up was a celebration not of black versus white but of goodness versus the
sinisterness and evil and wretchedness of bigotry.
And the way we overcome those things as Americans is by all great strides in this country, from workers' rights to suffrage, to civil rights who are
always done by larger, new American majorities, coalitions of people who are different who saw -- people who saw that truth so well-articulated by
King, which was, in justice -- anywhere as a threat to justice everywhere.
I'm not -- you can't pin rise of white nationalism in this country on the election of a black president. We have always had bigotry. Down to the
beginnings of our country where native Americans who we referred to as savages, women were second class citizens. The gardens of our democracy
have never been free of those weeds. But the way we got it out was by people coming together across racial ethnic religious lines and pulling
When four girls died in a bombing in Birmingham, when Emmett Till was killed, the whole country's consciousness expanded and said, "We have to
put a stop on that -- onto this, and joining together." That's what my parents taught me, that the way we advance is by pulling together and
expanding the moral imagination of a nation.
That's where we are right now. We're in a perilous point where we have a president that spews white supremacist rhetoric, that's being used by the
very people that are carrying out a lot of these atrocities and mass shootings. So, we have a choice to make and we're coming up to the biggest
culture defining moment of my lifetime, which will be the 2020 elections.
Are we going to continue to have someone who evidences behavior on [13:15:00] Twitter that we don't sanction from our children in playgrounds,
who bullies, who demeans and degrades or are we going to reject that in our culture and say, "It's time for a revival of civic grace, a more courageous
empathy," and understand that patriotism is love of country, but you can't love your country unless you love fellow country men and women. It doesn't
mean we always agree, but it means we understand that we have common purpose, common cause and one common destiny.
AMANPOUR: And what about the other huge issue at plagues the United States and that is gun crime, gun shootings, gun sprees that we see all over the
place, and still can't get a gun reform passed through Congress? I mean, the Congress has done but the Senate refuses to take it up. And for
instance, some of -- one of your challenges in the presidential primary wants to do buy backs, like they did in Australia, and it actually worked.
You're not for that, are you, buy backs?
BOOKER: I am, absolutely.
AMANPOUR: Are you?
BOOKER: Yes. Look, you keep hitting on issues that are very close to home. I'm the only person in the United States Senate that's had people
shot in their neighborhood. Shawn Smith was shot on my block with an assault rifle last year, in my community on the 4th of July when people are
celebrating the beauty and the grandeur of this country and our history.
When my kids hear firecrackers, parents tell me about signs of posttraumatic stress, anxiety, kids hiding and cowering. We're now at a
national point where we are surrendering our freedom. We're about to -- the strongest nation in the country -- and excuse me, the strongest nation
on the planet earth is about to tell children going back to school that, "We can't protect you. So, let's teach you how to hide, let's teach you to
shelter in place."
The small grade school that I grew up in, somebody just sent me terrified that they are now making thousands of dollars of expenditure for classrooms
to have bulletproof glass. This is astonishing what we're doing. There will be no president more passionate on this issue because to me this is a
national crisis. But in urban communities, remember, the majority of homicide victims in America are black men. We have mass shootings in urban
communities that don't get reported all the time.
So, one strategy is not enough. We need to have buy backs. We need to have gun licensing. If you need a license to drive a car, you should have
a license to own and -- to buy and own a gun. There are so many common sense done but the data shows actually works. And you have that
international perspective. Other countries have done this.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's what I was going to say. I mean, you know, you sort of preached to the converted when you speak to reporters outside the
United States because so many of our countries have responded to tragedies by taking very serious counter measures and it has worked. And many
people, including foreign leaders, still cannot believe that the United States, despite public polling, which is for sensible gun control, that the
United States Congress, Senate, president cannot fix this problem.
Why do you think you'll be able to do it?
BOOKER: I'm going to go into the White House and not play by the normal play book. We have a president right now who is not doing it. In fact,
he's using a social media platform every day to demean, degrade and divide. When I am president of the United States the first (INAUDIBLE) that's ever
going to be in, that show the kind of creativity to find ways out of no way under the most difficult circumstances, inheriting a city that unjustly was
known only for crime and corruption and now a place that major corporations are moving back to, building (INAUDIBLE) hotels in 40 years, super markets
and food desert, turned around our school system to number one performing school system hall in America (INAUDIBLE) high poverty to high performance.
My whole career has been running out the toughest problems that people said couldn't get done and finding ways to get them done. Even as a United
States senator, when I got there, I had the chairman of the judiciary committee on the floor preaching against the kind of criminal justice
reform that I was imagining that would liberate thousands of people from prison. Well, guess what, it took me years to do it but now we have the
only major bipartisan bill to pass under this president was criminal justice reform which I was one of the leaders of in the United States
So, I know as president of the United States I'm not playing by the normal rules, but I'm going to be sure that we unify this country, we heal. But
more importantly, we get back to taking a lot of our common pain and generating our new sense, a renewed sense of common purpose, common
aspiration and common cause. That's what America needs.
And it can't be partisan. I'm sorry. If people want to fight fire with fire, president to be the next one, I'm not your guy. I ran a fire
department as a mayor, not a good strategy. We need a president that reminds people that the way we beat bullies and demagogues -- I had a guy
in an Iowa town hall say to me, "Dude, I want you to punch Donald Trump in the face." And I didn't miss a beat and I go, "Dude, that's a felony." I
said, "We're not going to beat Donald Trump by using his tactics and his -- fighting him on his terms, being more like him. That's the worst of who we
AMANPOUR: Senator Cory Booker, thank you very much indeed.
BOOKER: Thank you for the time.
AMANPOUR: So, from trying to patch up a divided republic to a divided kingdom in Britain where the public is consumed with Brexit chaos. Prime
minister Boris Johnson's [13:20:00] bold plan to ram through Brexit at all cost by October 31st has gone to spectacular Parliamentary defeat. And for
now, Parliament won't even allow a snap election. It's an unprecedented string of losses for a new leader, capped off by resignation of Mr.
Johnson's own brother and minister, Joe Johnson, who says he's leaving Parliament because he is torn between family loyalty and the national
So, joining us is one of the Tory rebels who voted against the prime minister and found himself purged and out of a job. Alistair Burt has been
a Tory MP for more than 30 years. And he's joining me now from London.
Mr. Burt, welcome back to our program.
ALISTAIR BURT, BRITISH INDEPENDENT MP: Thank you, Christiane, very much.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, we have spoken many times on this program trying to make sense of Brexit and in many occasions, trying to make sense of the
Middle East, which you have been dealing with in your ministerial capacity. But now, you're out of a job, and who knows what's going to happen. This
is after 30 years as an MP.
What does that feel like? What does it even mean in today's modern democracy?
BURT: It's quite hurtful really. I accept that the rules of our party and Parliament is that if you vote against the party on a confidence issue, you
lose the party whip. What that means is you stop being a member of the Parliamentary party. This is a rule that has been enforced for us. There
have been many votes against the government, recently on Brexit as you're aware, and a number of members of the cabinet, including the prime minister
himself, voted against the previous prime minister and did not suffer a similar consequence.
I do appreciate the party discipline has to be restored. It is not me that I'm so much worried about. But if the Conservative Party is losing the
sort of figures represented by our former chancellors and not the least Mr. Kenneth Clark and Sir Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Sir Winston
Churchill, who is now no longer after over 30 years a member of the Parliamentary Conservative Party. I think neutral observers in the United
Kingdom are wondering what has happened to the Conservative Party.
So, it is very hurtful, a bit bemusing and I don't think a good strategy by the current government.
AMANPOUR: Well, you mention some of the eminent -- people who have been purged. I mean, just that word, as you know, has terrible connotations
because it goes back to, you know, Stalin in his times. I mean, the purges are a means of undemocratic processes. And for instance, one of the
chancellors who is also gone is Philip Hammond, former chancellor, currently MP. And this is what he said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILIP HAMMOND, BRITISH INDEPENDENT MP: A lot of my colleagues have come under immense pressure, some of them have responded to that pressure by
saying, "Enough. I'm going." That is not going to be my approach. This is my party. I have been a member of this party for 45 years. I am going
to defend my party against incomers, entryists who are trying to turn it from broad church into a narrow faction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Alistair Burt, what exactly does that mean? Because everybody is trying to figure out what happens next. I mean, Philip
Hammond says, "I'm not going. I'm not going to be kicked out. I'm going to defend our party." And you have just said that, you know, the rules say
that if you vote against the government in a confidence then you lose your ability to stand for election. But most people are surprised at the
historic nature of the depth of this clearing out of people who wouldn't follow the prime minister's lead. What does this mean for your party?
BURT: OK. Let me try and disentangle a couple of things. What Philip Hammond is saying is that if he can no longer stand as an official
Conservative candidate at the election, he is very determined that he will stand in his own seat as an independent Conservative, and that means he
will take on the Conservative Party.
He, like me, remains a member of the Conservative Party. I have not given up my party membership either. I will not fight my own friends in my own
constituency. I have chosen not to do that. But I will certainly join Philip Hammond in his fight in the Conservative Party.
The issue of purging is a really serious one. It's a word that was used in a newspaper article recently, the "Daily Telegraph," it was then retweeted
by a former senior cabinet minister with apparent approval. And you're absolutely right, the word purge has terrible connotations. And I said in
House of Commons yesterday when I made a speech, I turned to my colleagues and said, "Today it is us. Who is next? Who's next? What is it that you
believe in that one day will no longer be part of the (INAUDIBLE) of the party and they decide to squeeze you out?"
The Conservative Party should not be in this position. I think it represents a hardening of attitude of the Conservative Party, a
determination which we hear from some strategists to remove people of a particular view in the faint hope that somehow that will make the party not
only more coherent, which it might, but more [13:25:00] attractive, which it won't. This is a doomed strategy for a broadly-based political party
which is now narrowing its base and becoming something dangerous, akin to something like an English nationalist party which is deeply disturbing.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, it is deeply disturbing what you're saying because the idea of an English nationalist party goes against the grain of so many
people who look for, you know, as you said, a broader church.
And particularly, I want you to try to sort of break this down for me. Boris Johnson himself was not elected by the British people, not elected by
the Conservative Party, he was selected by a group of dues paying members, like -- something like 90,000 people. And yet, he has positioned himself
and this do or die, you know, out of Brexit one way or the other as standing up for the people and he has positioned himself as potentially
wanting to have election, whereby he would defend the people against the Parliament.
I mean, what exactly does that mean when the executive, unelected or elected, sets himself up against the Parliament?
BURT: Again, let me try and sort of decipher a little bit of this. To defend his legitimacy, our rules in United Kingdom do allow if a serving
prime minister in a Parliament stands down, the next prime minister is not subject to general election because we don't vote for our president, we
don't vote for our prime minister, we vote for our parties in the general election.
The prime minister is the individual who goes to the queen to say they can command a majority in the House. There is no doubt about Boris Johnson's
Your point of pitching him against the Parliament, what the prime minister has taken on is a belief that it is Parliament that is stopping the will of
the people as expressed in the referendum. This is arguable. What Parliament has done has been to try and assist in delivering the
referendum. But Parliament is very clear that one of the risks of leaving the E.U. with no-deal is so severe that we shouldn't do it. And what
Parliament has been doing has been seeking to persuade the prime minister that he must continue seeking a deal.
The prime minister has decided to pitch that effort to get a deal and reject no-deal as somehow rejecting the will of the people. I disagree.
That is why I took the stance that I did with my 20 other colleagues. That is why we have been thrown out of the party. We think he's wrong. I think
it is legitimate to think that he's wrong. And he is pitching that fight. And ultimately, it will come to a general election where I'm quite sure he
will pitch the Conservative Party as against what he has described as a remainor Parliament. It is a political construct, it's not entirely
correct, it's not entirely incorrect, but that's where politics will lie in Britain and it is very, very fluid, and I don't think anyone can guess what
the result of an imminent general election might be.
AMANPOUR: So, how does one get an election? How does he get an election?
BURT: What we're seeing in the U.K. at the moment is our normal system of first pass the post voting usually creates a government with a clear
majority, in which case you can get things done. The prime minister is operating in a hung Parliament. No one has a majority. And I think this
week he's learning that if you simply try and bludgeon things through, if you seek to bully to a degree your own members, it doesn't work. If you're
operating in an environment where you don't have a majority, you are going to have to change your tactics and compromise.
Those leading the strategy in number 10 Downing Street were not Conservative Party members necessarily, they're members of Vote Leave
campaign in the referendum. They are directing operations. They think they can run the government like a political campaign, they can't. And the
government needs to change its strategy.
It is not unfair for the prime minister to say to Parliament and to the people, "I can't govern. There's got to -- that's why I need an election
so the public can choose either to give me a majority so I can get things done or not."
BURT: Sooner or later, he must have that opportunity. I don't quite know when it will be, but politics is so fluid here, Christiane, I'm not sure if
anybody knows what the outcome of such an election might be.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. Well, thank you for helping us try to navigate what's going on. Alistair Burt, thank you so much.
BURT: You're welcome, my friend. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, what does this mean for one of the oldest democracies with that perspective? I'm joined by political scientist and author, Yascha
Mounk, and he's in Berlin.
Yascha Mounk, welcome back to our program, where we have discussed the assault on democracy from within many of the old established democracies.
So, have you been surprised by the extent of the breakdown, if you like, in the British system?
YASCHA MOUNK, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Yes, I mean, it is remarkable. Look, if somebody had asked me five or 10 years ago to
speculate on which country is definitely going to be a stable democracy without deep institutional crisis, without deep crisis of legitimacy in
2020, in 2030, in 2040, I'd only been able to choose choose one country in the world. I might very well have said the United Kingdom.
And yet here we are in the midst of deep political chaos and a real attack on some of the basic long-standing democratic norms of a country. So it is
remarkable but I think the reason for that is that the Brexit referendum set up this deep competition, this deep clash between parliamentary,
sovereignty, and popular sovereignty between the will of the people as expressed in a referendum and the duty of parliament to actually interpret
what on earth the referendum actually meant.
AMANPOUR: Well, OK, so that's really interesting. Because as you know, Boris Johnson and the hardline Brexiteers had been saying that democracy
has been hijacked by the fact that parliament is not allowing them to come out of the E.U. come what may. In other words, by banning a no deal exit,
that's hijacking democracy.
I know Alistair Burt tried to talk to us about that as well. But just from your perspective in Europe, how are they viewing that accusation?
MOUNK: Well, I don't know exactly how Europeans view it as such. But as a political scientist, the way I think about is that the referendum set up a
choice between one very clear option and one very unclear option.
So if Britain had voted to remain the European Union, it was quite clear what that meant. David Cameron had negotiated a deal of exactly what
Britain status of membership would have looked like, so people had an exact scenario of what would have happened. And in the next steps, parliament
would have voted to ratify to confirm that that would be the end of that.
The problem with the Brexit campaign from the beginning was that people were saying some very different things about how exactly Brexit would look.
Now virtually, every Brexiteer said there would of course be a deal with European Union. It would be very easy to make a far reaching free trade
deal with Europe.
And by the way, by the time we would leave the European Union, Britain would also have this free trade deals in place with all these other
countries in the world. Now, once Britain voted to Brexit, the idea of what the referendum supposedly ratified or demanded kept growing more
Because whenever somebody said hey, here's my idea of what Brexit might look like, here I am, Theresa May, I've negotiated some kind of transition
deal with the European Union, it was possible for populists within the Brexit coalition to say that's not enough for us. This is actually a
betrayal of what the people really want.
And unfortunately, there's no real way of figuring out what the people really did want. Because as I'm saying, at the time when Britains did vote
to leave the European Union, most of the leading advocates of it were talking about things, sort of far as radical than what Boris Johnson wants
to do today.
AMANPOUR: Yascha, let's just pull back a little bit and just see where parliamentary and the democracy stands. So as you know, which we haven't
barely mentioned, that one of the big crisesthat caused protests last week was when Boris Johnson said that he was going to suspend parliament for a
very long period of time, and many believed that it was to ram through this deal for no deal or whatever to get out on October 31st.
Well, that didn't work and now we have the former prime minister of Italy having tweeted because similarly the interior minister, Mateo Salvini,
Populist National leader in Italy, he also wanted to push Italy to early elections and that didn't work.
So Renzi is saying the U.K. and Italy have shown in the past few hours that our institutions are a serious thing, stronger than Boris Johnson and
Salvini. Parliaments two, Populists zero. What is your take on that?
MOUNK: Well, I mean -- so this is the heart of the clash that I'm talking about. We live in a political system in which we vote for our
representatives and they make the law. So Britain has a very long history of parliamentary sovereignty. It is parliament that makes the laws of a
What the Brexit referendum has done and what the radicalization of it by people like Boris Johnson has done is to pit that supposed popular will
which is very doubtful when you look at the details against the core institutions of the country.
And so what Boris Johnson has ended up doing is to not just to suspend parliament for about a month, which is worrying in itself, he has done it
precisely because he knew that his preferred course of action and his own leadership no longer seemed to enjoy a majority in parliament.
Now, the last time somebody that has tried to stop parliament from meeting because it would have concluded things that he didn't like was through
Charles I. So this is an attack on a very very basic principle of democracy. We spent time on it in Britain for many centuries.
Now, the situation in Italy is a little bit more complicated. There, too, it is absolutely within the right of parliament to choose a prime minister,
but it certainly is true that the parties that now have formed the coalition there are not particularly popular in polls at the moment,
especially the center left, particularly Democratico had lost the last elections in some important ways.
And so they have the constitutional right to form this new government, and I can see why it doesn't appear to be particularly legitimate. In the same
way which Boris Johnson doesn't appear to be particularly legitimate at the moment because he no longer has the support of majority of MPs.
AMANPOUR: Let's just also ask you about a factual case. Boris Johnson is basically calling this a surrender move, voting against him. And he is
saying that negotiations are going pretty well with the E.U. but now parliament has cut the legs from under him.
But the E.U. is saying that there are no negotiations, there have been no new proposals on the sticking points provided by the British at all, and
that, you know, it has sort of come to a full stop. Have you heard that there's any movement, any negotiations that might have been compromised by
these defeats that have been handed to Boris Johnson?
MOUNK: No, I haven't. And I think there's been a lot of false claims coming out of Britain about a political situation in Europe all along. So
if you go all the way back to 2016, there were all of these claims that Germany would immediately cave to Britain because the German politicians
are very beholden to John McCormick because John McCormick had a deep interest in cutting a deal with Britain.
That never materialized. And so this is just the latest incarnation of long-standing set of claims about how Europe was just about to fall, if
only we go extreme enough.
Look, the heart of the matter is that British politicians have made a set of mutually irreconcilable promises. They want some real trading
relationship with the rest of the European Union. They want to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the European Union,
and they certainly don't want a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
And the problem is, but unless you accept European regulations, and the whole thing becomes one free trade zone, you just have to choose about
where the border is going to be.
AMANPOUR: So this political stalemate continues. Yasha Mounk, thank you very much indeed.
Now, four hundred years ago, a ship carrying more than 20 enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, starting the long and painful history of
slavery here in America.
The "New York Times" Magazine is marking this anniversary with the groundbreaking 1619 Project. It's a collection of articles, essays, poems,
and audio series that challenges us to rethink this ark history.
Veteran Journalist and Writer Linda Villarosa is a contributor to the project and she says myths about racial differences are still believed by
doctors today, effecting the medical treatment that African-Americans receive in some cases. And she sat down with our Walter Isaacson.
WALTER ISAACSON, CONTRIBUTOR: This is an amazing journalistic project, the 1619 Project, about the time slavery began in America in the "New York
Times." Explain to me how it came about and what it's supposed to be doing.
LINDA VILLAROSA, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: So 1619 was the year, in August 1619 actually, when the first enslaved person came to
America in Jamestown, Virginia. So the project in the "New York Times", it started as a magazine piece to look back at how slavery, 250 years of it,
had affected the structures of America and how they're still present in our everyday life.
And so then it expanded beyond just the magazine to the newspaper and to the "New York Times" daily podcast, and as a curriculum for schools and
school teachers to access.
ISAACSON: You're a health writer. So you write about things like the view of African-Americans' health back then, but you even connect it to today.
Tell me about Save the Lungs.
VILLAROSA: So the lung issue is really interesting. There's a machine that's used in current medical practice called the spirometer.
So a couple of years ago, I had bronchitis so my doctor was trying to see if I was getting better. So I breathe into this machine to study my lung
So for this piece that I wrote in the 1619, I look back at the history of the spirometer. So the spirometer was used to prove that African-Americans
had inferior lungs, to both justify slavery but also to say slavery was beneficial to enslave people because all that exercise and the forced labor
was building up the lungs.
So then I thought back to the present, I thought there's a race correction in the machine. And I'm wondering did my doctor put in my race, did this
affect the treatment I got because the machine correct for 10 to 15 percent I guess call it inferiority in black people's lungs.
And the idea that Samuel Cartwright, this doctor, who really believed in the worst of racial myths, was the one who hat sort of set the stage for
the use of this machine in America and that the history has traveled through centuries is alarming.
ISAACSON: But Thomas Jefferson does it as well.
VILLAROSA: And Samuel Cartwright probably got his ideas from Thomas Jefferson. So in Thomas Jefferson's notes on the State of Virginia, which
was really used to format laws and for guidance for the country at the time, if you read it, and it is a little bit of a throw away, what he says
about the lungs, but it is in a passage about black, white physiological differences.
And though obviously Thomas Jefferson obviously wasn't a physician, he was so influential, that when people were reading this, they're like oh, here's
this thing about black people having inferior lungs. And so doctors in the south and scientists in the south picked up on this myth in order to
justify the enslavement of people.
And so it's really -- if you look at that history, it is very strange and actually upsetting.
ISAACSON: How do you assess Jefferson when you look at all of this?
VILLAROSA: So I have very mixed feelings about Thomas Jefferson because I'm reading the way he harshly described black, white differences, and
really black inferiority. And he talked about how black people smell different, how should be treated like children, have inferior lungs.
At the same time, he had a black family, he had family members that were African-American, of African descent. And so I think it is hard to assess
him, although there are so many wonderful things about Thomas Jefferson, his writing, his conceptualizing of the constitution. It is hard to vibe
it also with the idea that he mortgaged human beings to build his estate.
ISAACSON: I ask about it because in some ways that's the broader context of this project which is how do we assess not just pointing blame, not just
being accusatory, but how do we assess American history with slavery as a central theme?
VILLAROSA: I think it is hard to read some of the stuff that happened to our ancestors. I found it hard. Some of us that were writers on it were
crying around some of the stuff we learned.
And it is hard to think that this happened to our ancestors, and then people say about my own work that oh, why do you talk so much about race.
What -- slavery is over. I wasn't involved in that.
And I think this piece while not casting blame on individuals now asks you to think about slavery as foundational in our country and not forget it,
and in fact learn about it so teach children about it, teach this in a fuller way than it has been taught in the past.
ISAACSON: When you say it's foundational, explain what you mean by that.
VILLAROSA: So if you look at -- I mean I looked at medicine but you also look at wealth. So even in today's world, there are people who say they
look at black communities and they say oh, look, your communities are so terrible, they're so dirty, there's rats, there's crime.
And it is sort of like well, A, that's not largely true, but B, if black communities are suffering, go back, all the way back and see oh, when
slavery ended, there was mass discrimination, obviously forced labor with enslaved people, and then it didn't just end.
These laws continued, laws continued red lining all of these issues. So it is no wonder that, you know, some black communities are in hard times.
ISAACSON: One of the most painful parts for me being from the State of Louisiana was the sugar part, and how the prevention of African-Americans
who had been freed from becoming land owners in the sugar industry, which could have been a wealth building thing.
VILLAROSA: I think that that piece is really important and interesting because it reframes a bit sugar. Because we think of cotton as king, but
really sugar is queen.
And so the sugar industry made so many millionaires out of, especially in Louisiana, and then black people were denied the rights to gain from it.
And even currently, there aren't a lot of black people who are I guess business owners in the sugar area where they're really successful.
At the same time, sugar was really harsh, so the enslaved people were working hard under extremely dangerous conditions. Children were working
in sugar factories.
And so again, that was part of industry at the time, so if oil made the 1900s rich, then sugar and cotton made the 1800s rich. Yet black people
largely aren't beneficiaries of it now and it is also harmful to us because sugar has a huge impact on our health.
ISAACSON: Yes, that was something that was a great resonance to me, that you talk about the slavery and sugar plantations. And now even the sugar
industry in some ways is disproportionate in its effect on African-American health.
VILLAROSA: And its negative effects on African-American health. That's what I like about this package, that it puts thing together that you don't
necessarily think of.
So you're thinking of sugar, wealth building, slavery, and then it goes back to also health. And so I like that the pieces fit together.
ISAACSON: One of the themes of this project is the lingering impact of slavery, and you said we probably don't think about on an hour by hour
basis in our day. Give me an example of that in health.
VILLAROSA: I think the one that strikes me most is in pain management. And so back in slave times, there were doctors who believed that blacks had
a super power against pain, so extremely high pain tolerance.
So that has lingered in current medical practice so that a 2016 study of doctors and residents found that residents and doctors when asked about
different kinds of pain. So if you get your hand slammed in a door or if you break your ankle, then what is the level of pain? And they believe
that black people had less sensitivity to those kinds of pain than white people.
And so that effects the way people are treated and their pain is managed. It also makes black people feel we have to be really strong against pain,
we do have this super power.
So it makes you minimize your own pain sometimes if you're an African- American because you're supposed to be strong, that's the myth. Or it makes you avoid the health care system because you know it is going to hurt
because you're not going to get proper pain management.
So that's one that comes from those days when a high tolerance of pain was a myth that was in society and in the air in order to justify beating
people and working them extremely hard.
ISAACSON: One of the pieces that struck me about how we today still have the reverberations from things that were from a long time ago is traffic in
the City of Atlanta. Explain that to me.
VILLAROSA: I really like that piece. It was very interesting because the highways in Atlanta were made so that they could purposely get rid of
And so they were put through the communities so that they could get rid of them, and also often to hem in black communities and avoid them. So the
highways that are present today, that are causing a lot of traffic, came from the segregationist idea that communities should be either removed,
black communities, or separate.
And so people on Twitter and in conversation are saying that's why my traffic is so bad because traffic is horrific often in Atlanta. And so if
that is a remnant of segregation, then we need to look at other ways that slavery, segregation and these kinds of discussions affected our current
ISAACSON: One of the things this series does is reimagine American history. But to me, it also reimagines what journalism could be. Was this
a conscious effort to sort of say let's expand the bounds of what a journalistic project is?
VILLAROSA: I think that is exactly right. And it is part of -- what I'm most proud of, I am also extremely proud that so many of us are black
journalists because sometimes our contributions don't get as celebrated as they should. And so it's really wonderful to have so many black
journalists contributing to this to allow us also to delve into some of the issues that we really care about.
For me, it allowed me to sort of prove the things I have been saying in my other articles that are about issues, public health, and present day, and
to go back and trace them. This project was a way to say no, we really care about this issue, we want to make it high quality and really look back
and prove everything.
Because I get a lot of push back when I am writing about race so I have to prove every single thing. I have two fact checkers that work with me on
all my stories. So to put rigorous journalism behind the history is really important.
ISAACSON: Dean Bakay, the African-American editor of the "New York Times" had a town hall meeting which he was talking about Trump, but he was also
talking about race and he said we have to refocus a bit and do things like this.
But people say "OK, the "New York Times" is doing this as a way to pivot away from the Mueller investigation and to attack Trump as racist. That
seemed weird since this has obviously been in the works a year or so. But explain that sort of criticism and how you rebut that.
VILLAROSA: I think it is hard to talk about race because when you talk about race, people immediately think you're calling them racist. And so
even looking back, tracing, getting all journalists, artists to discuss this in a very robust, rigorous, journalistic way, makes people defensive.
And so this is a way to say for me in my work I don't assign blame, I write about medicine. I'm not saying doctors, you're all very racist. I'm
saying the system is unequal, and it needs to be changed.
And so I think that's what this project is saying too, is to say the first step is admitting that many of the current day structures are based on this
400-year legacy, and 250 years of slavery, and another 100 years of government mandated segregation.
And so it is asking and really using rigorous journalistic practices in delving into history to say this is how to think of our country now, and to
acknowledge the contributions of insulated people and to really say the legacy remains. So I think that's what we want to do.
ISAACSON: There are very few white writers or artists involved in this project. In fact, almost none. How conscious was that, and did you debate
VILLAROSA: I think it was not intentional to exclude white writers, but it was intentional to hold up, lift up the work of black writers to show that
the sort of energy, the importance of black journalists, and artists and photographers. So that was very intentional.
I don't know how much, if it received any push back. I just know that it was really wonderful to see in the contributor's page, we were calling it
the blackest contributors page ever in the "New York Time's" Magazine because our pictures were there, which was important to show who we are and
that we exist.
ISAACSON: You say it wasn't supposed to be accusatory. In other words, you don't want people to feel defensive, but you do want people to feel
uncomfortable, right? Because it's a pretty -- it causes discomfort reading this series.
VILLAROSA: I think the discomfort is in the honesty and in the pain that our country was built on. And so if you didn't show that, you don't
understand the full scope.
I found it hard. I found it upsetting. But on the other hand, I would rather have the reality and show it so that people understand that this --
our country didn't just become this way by magic. This was built on the backs of human beings.
ISAACSON: In this period where there's been a resurgence of toxic racism and permission for people to say racist things, how is this series, how is
this project going to serve as an antidote to that?
VILLAROSA: I think one of the ways it does is it get people on the other side of this some ammunition to fight back with, and to use facts and to
use history to really push back against some of the ideas that are being discussed.
And what Nicole Hanna Jones says in her opening essay is that black people have intense belief in our democracy, that we believe in the structures of
the United States, despite being the victims of it. And so I really like that idea that we're the ones who believe in sort of the social safety
We believe in letting refugees in, more than other people, because we have been in this country for so long, longer than many other people, and that
we have rebuilt the structures of our current democracy.
ISAACSON: Linda, thank you very much.
VILLAROSA: Thank you.
ISAACSON: Good to have you.
AMANPOUR: An indispensable look at the making of modern America there.
But that's it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at amanpour.com and you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.