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Interview With Rafael Nadal; Interview With International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 26, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
KRISTALINA GEORGIEVA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: We have been handling the pandemic better over time.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): A glimmer of hope on the horizon. IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva joins us on the economic growth ahead, but also a
warning about inequality in the age of COVID.
RAFAEL NADAL, PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: I have never been obsessed about trying to be the best.
AMANPOUR: A champion and a gentleman, the Zen of Rafael Nadal. The tennis phenomenon joins us from quarantine in Australia ahead of this year's Open.
EZRA KLEIN, CO-FOUNDER, VOX: Unity is not about what 15 people in Washington decide it is. Unity is not about seven Republican senators and
seven Democratic senators having lunch together.
AMANPOUR: You can't have unity without justice and accountability. Vox co- founder Ezra Klein talks to Walter Isaacson about why the U.S. must stop leading the world in government gridlock.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, where the U.K. has hit a grim milestone, 100,000 deaths from COVID-
It is an unbearable loss of life. And here's what the prime minister had to say:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost. And, of course, as prime minister, I take full
responsibility for everything that the government has done.
What I can tell you is that we truly did everything we could and continue to do everything that we can to minimize loss of life and minimize
suffering in what has been a very, very difficult stage and a very, very difficult crisis for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, official statistics say more than two million have died around the world, which has devastated not just lives, but also, of course,
But 2021 could be the year the global economy starts to bounce back. A new report from the International Monetary Fund says that, after last year's
severe recession, global growth for this year is projected at 5.5 percent. That's sunnier forecast is thanks to vaccinations ramping up over much of
But the report also warns the recovery is far from certain, and the growth will not happen if the vaccine rollout fail to keep up with the mutating
virus. The IMF also warns that the recovery will be unequal and uneven. As most things COVID, people on the margins will be hit the hardest.
So, joining me now to discuss all of this is the managing director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva.
Thank you so much for being on the program with us again.
And so let me hear the good news first, Madam Managing Director. Do you really think there's going to be an economic bumper ahead this year?
GEORGIEVA: Indeed, we expect a better year ahead.
We have upgraded our protections for 2021, not by much, from 5.2 to 5.5 percent. And it is on the grounds of, of course, vaccines now being
available, but also on relentless support from central banks and from finance authorities, and the fact that we have learned to function better
with the pandemic still around us.
This being said, there are very heavy clouds of uncertainty over the world economy. And if I were to give you my take on what to watch for in 2021,
first, the race between a mutating virus and multiple vaccines. And this race ought to be won everywhere if we are to succeed.
Second, the resolve of policy-makers to continue to support the most vulnerable people, the most vulnerable parts of the economy, until we see
the health crisis in the rearview mirror, and the resolve to use this crisis as an opportunity to shift to green, a digital, fairer growth in the
And I wouldn't do my job if I don't give you the third R in this '21 equation, and it is reinvigorated global corporation. There's a better
chance in 2021 to come together.
AMANPOUR: And is that because -- why do you think there's better chance for reinvigorated corporation? Is that because of the change in
administration in the United States, with different view on that issue?
GEORGIEVA: Because we are now seeing a much more engaged world on the very big challenges we face, more engaged on climate.
Remarkably, in 2020, many of us worried that we would lose sight of this looming climate crisis. The opposite happened. There is much more
determination to take a green turn. The fact that we have a much more engaged internationally U.S. -- this is the largest economy -- their
And also that we now have a better understanding of the world how interdependent we are. The pandemic is teaching us very straightforward
But let me -- Christiane, let me say something hugely important. I deeply worry that this crisis has led to divergence between rich and poor
GEORGIEVA: For decades, for decades, we were coming closer together.
Now 50 percent of the developing world is falling behind. And if we don't reverse this trend, then we risk not only damage for these countries, for
the people there, but damage to global growth and damage to global security.
AMANPOUR: So, let's take that, because it's kind of almost catastrophically immoral, as the World Health Organization leader says:
"The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure, and the price will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the poorest countries."
And that is because you base all this slight optimism -- we're talking a couple of percentage decimal points on economic growth -- with mass
vaccination, and yet that isn't happening. Vaccine nationalism has suddenly erupted. Almost no Western vaccines, none of the major approved vaccines
have gone to the developing nation -- nations.
And let me just read this to you and see if you agree with this, because it goes to the recovery that you're talking about: "If advanced economies
continue to prioritize vaccination of their susceptible populations, without ensuring equitable vaccination for developing economies, the total
cost to the world varies between $1.5 trillion and $9.2 trillion."
That is the International Chamber of Commerce, and furthermore says that is not the poor countries who are going to sustain that pain, but it would be
the rich countries as well, like the U.K., Canada, Great Britain.
So, talk to me about that.
GEORGIEVA: We completely subscribe to this research.
In fact, we have done analysis of our own. And we came up with remarkably similar conclusion that, between 2020 and 2025, we are going to gain $9
trillion as a world if we vaccinate rapidly everybody everywhere, or you can put it the other way around. We're going to lose $9 trillion.
And the split is quite remarkable. Sixty percent of this gain or loss is going to go to developing countries, 40 percent to advanced economies. So,
for advanced economies, moving fast to share vaccination capacity, with the developing world, is the best value for money.
So, we are out there advocating very strongly for lifting up production capacity, working with the producers everywhere, so we can catch up with
the demand in the developing world.
But, Christiane, let me make another point, and it is hugely, hugely important. Vaccines are only as good as being a shot in the arm. In
developing countries, we do face massive constraints because of weak health systems, because of difficulty to transport, deliver.
And, as we talk about vaccines, the immediate priority, we also have to embrace significant increase in grants and concessional finance for
developing countries, so they have the space to invest in their doctors, their nurses, their medical capacity.
And at the IMF, last year, we have done a lot to lift up financial capacity in developing countries. We have provided lifelines to 83 countries; 49 of
them are low-income countries. And this year, we are stepping up again our concessional lending capacity. And this is what I'm lobbying our
Think of it as a great investment, not only in the interest of these countries, but in the interest -- in the interest of global growth, in the
interest of our world doing better.
OK, so, let me just take two points, one, what you say, that you and presumably other institutions are trying to do.
But there's pushback on that, because, look, poor countries, which enter the pandemic with massive debt burdens and really terrible health care
structures, as you have just said, were -- were they let down by you and the World Bank, who had promised injections of help, but they haven't come
What do you need to do to actually ramp it up?
GEORGIEVA: So, let me first say loud and clear we have come through.
As I mentioned, we have provided financial support at highly concessional terms to 49 low-income countries. We have lent more than ever before in
terms of immediate immediacy of response. And we have done two more things, Christiane.
And one is, we have provided that relief to our poorest members. For those countries that are truly not in a position to pay us back, we have
mobilized ground support, so they don't have to serve their loans to the IMF. And we have worked with the World Bank to lobby the G20, so they can
be debt service suspension, and that there would be more commitment to debt relief.
But I take your pressure. I take it to heart. Yes, we have to do more. We have seen debt levels going up in countries that can least afford it,
suffocating their capacity to help their own people.
There are two numbers that are really shocking. Advanced economies, rich countries, have provided 20 percent of GDP equivalent in fiscal support and
in monetary policy accommodation. Poor countries have provided 2 percent of GDP, and their GDP is much, much, much smaller.
So, yes, do pressure us. Do pressure us, because we do need to step up.
GEORGIEVA: I hope that we would -- we would do more in specific countries, specific debt restructuring in the next months for countries that truly
cannot bear this burden of debt.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about -- let me pressure you, as you say, on the issue of vaccines, because, at the virtual opening of the Davos summit
today, the president of South Africa talked about the complete inequity when it comes to distributing the vaccine.
And this is after all the kumbaya at the beginning of this pandemic, where, oh, yes, we're going to share the patents, we're going to share equitably
around the world, we will pay for the rest of the world to have a vaccine. Not a bit of it. They don't have it.
This is what Cyril Ramaphosa said:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from developers and
manufacturers of these vaccines.
And some countries have even gone beyond and acquired up to four times what their population needs. And that was aimed at hoarding these vaccines. And
now this is being done to the exclusion of countries -- of other countries in the world that most need this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Honestly, it's awful to hear that--
AMANPOUR: -- hoarding vaccines at this time, after all the promises that everybody, you all made at the beginning.
And it's not just to Africa. Even here in the in Europe, there's vaccine nationalism going on right now. Can the IMF do anything to bust that
GEORGIEVA: What we do is to make it so very clear to our membership that vaccine policy is an economic policy.
And we are very strongly advocating with our advanced economy members that they do need to step up their contribution to COVAX, which has been falling
short, and that it is in their own interests to do so.
What we see as opportunity in 2021 is for all advanced economies that have booked up, as the president said, multiple times the number of people in
their countries to then look into ways in which we can go aggressively for redistribution.
And while we are not an agency that deals with health, we are an agency that deals with the health of the economy. And it depends on accelerating
this redistribution. We are pressing on this issue. We are -- what we are doing is what we can do to make it very clear why this is an economic
priority for everyone.
And, hopefully, we will see the redistribution happening. There are now more discussions around, as we learn more about the new variants, what
would that mean for stepping up that redistributive action?
AMANPOUR: OK, so let me ask you also about another one of your observations. And that is, it's going to be a K-shaped recovery. In other
words, some will recover and others won't. It'll be really unfair.
Oxfam has said the wealth increase of 10 men during the pandemic could have bought vaccines for everybody in the whole world. "The top 1,000
billionaires, mainly white men, have received all the wealth they have lost, even while the real economy faces the deepest recession in a
So, to that, I want to add what Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, told me just a few days ago, that, actually, the world's
governments do have the money to deal with this. Let's just play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The world is awash in savings looking for someplace to go. The bond market is begging the
government to borrow some money and put it to some use.
So, it's a very different kind of economic crisis. But the lesson that we should have learned that some of us were tearing our hair out about in 2009
remains, go big. Don't do it by half-measures. The risk of doing too little is much greater than the risk of doing too much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Kristalina Georgieva, do you think the world has learned that, that the risk of doing too little is much, much greater than going too big?
GEORGIEVA: We're doing better than after the global financial crisis in this regard.
By now, there has been $14 trillion of fiscal measures to put the floor under the world economy. But the question is, are we doing enough to
address inequalities? The fact that parts of the economy, the digital economy, the high tech, is doing great, and people that are employed in
this part are flourishing, and another part, low-skilled workers, women, young people, they are disproportionately negatively impacted.
And, for this, governments have a huge role to play to reform fiscal policies, so we have more redistribution of wealth, and more attention paid
to access to opportunities for all.
GEORGIEVA: And, again, the moral here is that, if we do -- if you open up more opportunities, if you have financial inclusions, and women can start
businesses, if we lift the productivity, it benefits society as a whole.
GEORGIEVA: And I strongly believe that, out of this crisis, we have to come as a fairer world.
And we at the Fund, we will do our part, our part to promote that fairness.
AMANPOUR: All right, good to hear.
Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF, thank you so much for joining us.
GEORGIEVA: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, COVID, of course, has played havoc with so many sports fixtures as well around the world. But tennis has managed to stage most of
its biggest tournament. And now it's gearing up for the first Grand Slam of this year, which is the Australian Open. That starts February the 8th.
But some of the top players are warming up where? Inside their hotel rooms. Dozens of players remain in strict quarantine after a number of COVID cases
were confirmed upon landing on chartered flights for the event.
Even those who have not been exposed, like world number two Rafael Nadal, are in quasi-quarantine, per government rules, able to leave their hotel
for just five hours a day to train.
Nadal is one of the game's all-time greats. He's won the French Open an astonishing 13 times, and he shares a record 20 Grand Slam titles with his
friend and rival Roger Federer. Now the Spaniard has his eye on this next title.
But, as I discovered when he joined me from his room, his hotel room down under, he's also content and comfortable with where he is in his life, as
in the game.
AMANPOUR: Rafael Nadal, welcome to the program.
NADAL: Hello. How are you?
AMANPOUR: I'm really good.
But how are you? Because we hear lots of stories about what's happening in Australia, obviously a very successful, but severe lockdown there in the
country. How is it affecting you? What's it been like over the last two weeks?
NADAL: Well, of course, it's a different situation than usual now. It's much more sad for everyone.
But at least we're here. And we're going to have the chance to play here the Australian swing. And the world is suffering in general now, so we
can't complain. We only can say thanks to Tennis Australia, to the Australian community to welcome us now and to accept us to come, because I
know they have been under very strict measures for a lot of months.
So, yes, for us, this is good at least that we can keep playing tennis.
AMANPOUR: Rafael, you say, we can't complain. You're very, very philosophical. And you have always had a pretty interesting view on what
players do and say publicly.
So, what do you say about some of the players that are complaining, for instance, particularly those who've had to stay in quarantine and can't
even get out to practice?
NADAL: Well, of course, has been a tough situation for -- 72 players, I think, lose their teams, coaches.
Yes, of course, it's not the ideal situation. And, of course, I feel very sorry for all of them. But when we came here, we knew that the measures is
going to be straight, because we knew that the country is doing great with the pandemic. Australia probably is one of the best examples in the world
how they react through these very challenging times.
So, I mean, it's normal to complain in some way. But, in the other hand, when you have a little bit wider perspective of what's going on, on the
world, well, you have to think and say, well, OK, I am not happy to be 14 days in my own room without having the chance to practice, to go out, to do
my normal preparation for a tournament.
But, in the other hand, you see how many people is dying around the world. You see how many people is losing -- are losing their father, their moms,
without having the chance to say goodbye, is a real thing. That's what's happening in my county, for example.
And close people to me are suffering these situations. So, when you see all of this, you have to stay a little bit more positive.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because, again, it's almost like a military operation. You're in a hotel.
You do get to go out and practice a few hours. But what's it like. Who are you seeing? What is a daily routine like for you right now, Rafael?
NADAL: Well, for me, it's -- depends. We have three periods of practice.
For example, today have been from 7:30 in the morning through 11:30 to go out. And our time is between 12:30 to 4:30. And the other one is 5:30 to
around 10:00, no?
So, we practice for around two hours, two hours 15, every single day. Try to stay positive. I feel that we are privileged people today, having the
chance to keep doing our jobs.
AMANPOUR: I have to say, it's really great to hear you staying positive and to -- really giving the world a positive message.
I want to ask you, because you have won one Australian Open so far. You have won 20 titles now. You're equal with Roger Federer. And you were very,
very -- it was poignant when you won the last French Open, and the conversation between you and Federer and how he praised you immediately and
said, this is the greatest sports achievement.
Talk to me a little bit about that, about where you are, and this ongoing competition, because he said, it's almost -- it's almost great to have this
competition, because you both push each other to more and more heights.
NADAL: Well, it's true that we have been here for such a very long time, no? Since 2005, we are competing.
And, of course, it's -- I am very proud and happy to be part of this momentum of our history, of our sport, no? So, be part of this, of these
years, I'm happy. I shared a lot of good experiences.
And I was able to live things that I never dreamed about. So, just thanks to tennis -- to the tennis, I was able to travel to places that I never
expected, to know a lot of people.
And in terms of tennis, I always try to do my way. I just try to try my best every single day. That's all, no, and just try to be better player. Go
every day on the practice court with the goal to improve something. And that's my approach to my tennis career, no?
Of course, for me, the records are important. Of course, I am a competitor. But I have never been obsessed about trying to be the best or not. I just
have been focused on trying to give my best in every single moment, no?
And then, if that gives me the possibility to compete for the most important things or for the things that I want to compete, great. But, for
me, the main thing is come back home after the -- after every season and say, OK, I am proud that I did everything that I could.
AMANPOUR: So, you're happy and you're content?
NADAL: Yes, I--
NADAL: Honestly, I did much more than what I ever dreamed in my tennis career.
So, of course, it will be amazing for me to win one more and to be the -- at the end of my career to be the player with more Gram Slams. But you know
what? I know that will not be the key for my happiness in the future, no?
So, just it's something about trying every single day or in every tournament that I'm going to compete. But, for me, it's not an extra
pressure and is not an obsession, no. I just keep going, do it my way. If that happens, fantastic, of course. But, if not, I am more than happy about
everything that happened to me.
AMANPOUR: So, that must be a real weight off your shoulders not to have this obsession.
I just want to ask you one more question about individual competitors, because I kind of remember way back, when John McEnroe had that amazing
rivalry with Bjorn Borg. And it's quite famous that he said he was sad that Borg retired, and that he felt that he didn't have the opportunity to keep
that incredible rivalry up.
So, just the rivalry between you and Federer, which is generally -- looks friendly, anyway, on the outside, and Djokovic as well, I just wonder how
you describe the dynamic, the personal and the professional dynamic.
NADAL: Well, have been, I think, a positive rivalry, no?
Honestly, I always had a great relationship with most of the people and most of my competitors on tour. That's -- honestly, that's how I feel, no?
And that's true. And with both of them, with Novak and Roger, I think we always had a good -- a good relationship, a lot of respect. I think we did
beautiful things together and important things for our sport.
And in terms of professional tennis career, I think we push each other to be better. Have somebody in front of you that is doing a lot of things
better than you, you know, gives you a clear way about what you need to improve to, to achieve your goals.
That's what happened, I think, between Roger and I, at the beginning to then a little bit later with Novak. I enjoyed the challenge to try to be
very competitive against everyone.
AMANPOUR: And I'm not going to ask you about when you're going to retire or whatever. But did you -- because I know you're not telling me. And
anyway, it's an irrelevant question.
NADAL: No, no. I can't tell you because I don't know.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. That's what I'm saying, it is an irrelevant question. So -- but I want to know, do you think about what might happen post
competition? Do you see -- do you have a vision of your life after competition?
NADAL: Yes. Yes. It is something that never worried much to me. I'm happy in my personal life, away from tennis. No, I have my foundation that is
growing. And, of course, will be important -- will be an important part of my future. So, when I want to take care more about my foundation that --
what I can do today and of course, I have my academy, the Rafael Nadal Academy that is growing too. We have different centers around the world.
AMANPOUR: You know, we've talked a lot about tennis but we've also talked about, you know, the things that you think about and, you know, say outside
of tennis. And this year many tennis players, let's say Naomi Osaka and others along with Lebron James, along with just many sports people have
really put their mouth out there for defending racial injustice and, you know, even gender injustice and the like. Where do you see your role as a
sportsman, as high-profile, you know, role model on some of these issues?
NADAL: Well, I think we as in athletes or public persons, I think we have a responsibility, of course. And I think for us is -- in my personal
opinion, for us it is mandatory to be a positive example for the society, you know. And it is important to send the right messages to the world and
especially to the young people. So, for me, what we have to say or what we don't have to say, we need to think before because a lot of people are
putting their eyes on what we are doing.
AMANPOUR: And I have spoken to Andy Murray and I've spoken to Billie Jean King about potential merger of women's and men's tour, even Federer talked
about it, even you seem to be supportive at one point. Do you still think that that's going to happen? Is it a good idea? Should it happen?
NADAL: What's going to happen or what's not going to happen, I have no idea because in this world it is difficult to predict what's going on.
Tennis is tennis. And why not in the future. We have one organization for both, men and women. Why not.
For the moment, I think that tennis is healthy how it is without a doubt. I think no one other sport in the world is as equal in tennis in terms of
prize money or in terms of treatment to the men and women tour. So, I feel that we as a sport, we should be happy about -- because I think we are a
positive example for the rest.
AMANPOUR: Are you going to be taking part in any of the tournaments just before the February 8 start of the Australian?
NADAL: Well, Yes. We are playing the ATP Cup in Melbourne. I think it starts the next Tuesday. So, let's say -- I am not used to playing the week
before the grand slam. Honestly, I think I never did. But this year is special year. So, let's see how I manage, how much I will be able to play
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, you know, a lot of your fans and obviously you've talked about it a little bit, notice, even if we're watching on television,
we notice your rituals and routines on court and I am fascinated by it. I mean, you know, whenever you serve and you touch your nose and your hair
and your shorts and the bottles and all of that stuff and you walk, you know, around the lines in a particular way, what is that all about?
NADAL: That's all about in some way this is stupid. On the other hand, for me, I am not doing not one of this stuff when I am practicing or in my
normal life. But when I am competing in tennis, in our sport, we compete a lot of things, you know. And, you know, in some ways, is a way to make a
difference between practices and matches.
And what I am doing called these routines, feel 100 percent focused on what I am doing. So, it's an extra focus. And probably these routines, when you
are playing a lot of matches per year and for such a long time, I think the routines, in some way, help you to be focused or to be under self-control,
to feel more secure about yourself.
AMANPOUR: That makes sense. Can I ask you though, again, you get this probably all the time, but when you have done this for so long, as you say,
since 2005, winning all of these titles, you know, you reached such a massive level. Everybody at the top of their game has to talk about
motivation and what keeps -- you know, and no matter what profession it is. What is the motivation for you now?
NADAL: Australian Open.
NADAL: That's my motivation now, you know. But in a way, that perspective, my motivation is I like what I'm doing. You know, I like to play tennis. I
like the competition. I know it is not forever. I know the sport, when you get to some age, it is so difficult. So, I know I am at this part of my
career because I have 24 -- 34-and-a-half, would love to have 44. And, I enjoy, you know.
Honestly, 10 years ago, I never thought that I will be what I am with 34. So, I enjoy. It is an opportunity for me to keep going. I suffered injuries
during my career. I feel very lucky to be what I am today and having the chance to keep doing what I am doing and keep being very competitive. So,
just I've said that and say thanks to life for this great thing that are happening to me and just keep going with the right activity.
AMANPOUR: Fantastic. Rafael Nadal, thank you so much for being with us.
NADAL: Thanks a lot, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: The words and wisdom of Rafael Nadal as he guns for yet another title.
Now, as the IMF chief told me, now is the time for countries to spend smartly on their recoveries. And for our next guest, he thinks President
Biden should make good on his promise to quickly put money in the pockets of the American people.
Ezra Klein is an author and a columnist for the "New York Times." He also writes about polarization in American politics and he tackles a whole host
of big issues in his new podcast, "The Ezra Klein Show" which premieres today. Here he is talking with our Walter Isaacson about bipartisanship and
reforming the two-party system in America.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Ezra Klein, welcome to the show.
EZRA KLEIN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you so much.
ISAACSON: So, Biden seems to have a choice right now, he can either go big or he can go bipartisan. He can go for a great COVID relief stimulus bill
or he can try to get bipartisan support. Which way should he go?
KLEIN: Isn't that a shame, by the way, that is a choice people face now? He needs to go big. The American people elected Joe Biden to change their
lives for the better. This is, I think, a really important point. It is very clear what he ran on. He offered a choice.
The way political systems are supposed to work, like this canonical or this is theory, and in many other countries, it is actually practice, is
politicians run for office, they make a series of promises about what they're going to do, voters vote for them or they vote for their opponents.
The people -- the voters choose are supposed to pass some rough facsimile of their agenda and then voters can judge them on that.
The way the American system works where voters vote for someone that someone may or may not take power, depending how the Electoral College
(INAUDIBLE) work out, then whoever does take power can't pass their agenda and then people argue about why nothing is happening and the electorate
becomes more and more and more frustrated and begins thinking more and more about populous to outsiders. That is not a good way for the system to work.
So, Joe Biden has a pass here (ph). He told the American people what he is going to do and he needs to keep that commitment to them. He always loves
to say, a Biden never breaks a promise, the campaign is a promise.
ISAACSON: Well, let me push back on you. He actually ran also on being a unifier, on being a healer. He won in the primaries by being a moderate. He
won the general election by saying he was going to unify us. Isn't that the most important task?
KLEIN: I think that's an interesting question of what he meant by unity. So, I have spoken to him during the campaign and watched what he said very
closely and he's always said that he wants to bring Americans together and he wants to try to win Republican support for his proposals. But never said
-- and he was always very careful never to say that he wouldn't do what was necessary if he couldn't get that support. There's the things you try and
then the things you adopt if you have to.
I think as a macro question about American politics, this issue of how do we -- unity, I think, is a very high goal to reach. But how do we engage
people more productively in American politics? How do we make sure our disagreements are constructive? How do we make sure people feel politics is
a more useful force in their lives? And that's where I think making certain that when the public chooses new leadership, they get different results,
actually becomes really important.
Unity is not about what 15 people in Washington decided. Unity is not about seven Republican senators and seven Democratic senators having lunch
together. In fact, a lot of things that seem to bring elite unity actually end up bringing public fracture because the public doesn't get what they
want. If a bunch of senators come together and cut the COVID Relief Bill in half and 500 million more people end up suffering because of that, that's
not going to unify the nation, that's going to enrage people and properly so.
So, I think that in the long history of not just American politics but international politics, you tend to see the most unifying effects coming
from successful governance. And so, that's my argument to Biden administration and in my "New York Times'" piece is the sole thing that's
going to matter or the thing they can control that is going to matters is, did they help people, did they help people fast enough for people to feel
it by the next election and visibly enough for people to know that it came from the government.
ISAACSON: The group of centrist senators, Republicans and Democrats, a few of them, that have been discussing this week with the White House the COVID
Relief Bill said $1,400 checks sent to a widespread group of Americans is not the most efficient or best way to do it. Leave aside the politics for a
second. Tell me policy wise, do we send out $1,400 checks to most Americans?
KLEIN: I think we should but for a specific reason. I think that this is an unbelievably painful period and cash transfers are a good way to help
people get through it. I think it is very, very important to recognize what we are doing here is not simply stimulating the economy.
This is not like 2009 where the issue is. We have a lot of people who are idle, a lot of factories that are idle and want to put them all back to
work. This is a period where we're trying to give people a bridge to get through, accepting public health advice, it is going to require them to
stay out of economy for an extended period of time.
And to have that policy be more universalistic -- we're not fully universal. This only goes about $75,000 in income. And to have it be much
simpler to administer, that is worth some tradeoff in targeting. There tends to be a fetishization of trying to get things exactly right through
complex means testing and proposals, but then the issue is it's hard to administer and lot of people should get them don't. And also, they don't
build political support for themselves.
I think one thing we have seen in recent years is you cannot separate the question of what is good policy and good politics. And I say that as
somebody who cares a lot about what is good policy. But I think the last point worth making on this is it is 100 percent plausible that there are
better alternatives out here. It would be wonderful if a bipartisan group of senators would come not with no or go slower or go half as big, but come
up with something that is as effective and as significant and that is more targeted.
This is the way these negotiations should work. There should be a goal that is relatively agreed on and then people should come up with better ways to
come -- to imagine the goal. If all they're coming up and saying is, well, I'm sorry, but I'm worried that some people who made $62,000 that still
have their job are going to get some help and they're going to have a slightly better year in this miserable health scape that we are in than
they otherwise would have, you got to offer something more constructive than that. The bipartisanship and centrists can't just be saying no.
ISAACSON: Why do we need to get rid of the filibuster?
KLEIN: The filibuster is a disaster. I cannot say this clearly enough. And it is very poorly understood how bad it has become. So, because we have --
for a very long time in American politics. So, the (INAUDIBLE), by the way. The filibuster is not part of the original design of the constitution. But
for quite some time, we've had a filibuster in American politics and people believe they know what it is.
You know, senators go to the floor and they talk and they talk and they talk, and -- you know, and they care so much. We've all seen Mr. Smith goes
to Washington, that's not it at all. Nobody talks. It is completely procedural thing where some group of senators or more, often a party, just
says, we are going to impose a 60-vote threshold, and if you can't get it, nothing passes.
Foremost throughout Senate's history, filibusters were rarely used. If you look in sort of 1940 to 1975 period, there is about one vote on average per
Senate session per year to break a filibuster. One. Now, the average session requires about 90, sometimes more than that. So, the filibuster has
gone from something that small groups of senators or sometimes bigger ones use in moments of extraordinary intense opposition.
And by the way, some of that opposition was quite grotesque looking back from any present perspective. The filibuster was primarily used in mid-20th
century to stop anti-lynching and civil rights laws. It does not have a good history in this country. But even so, it was used rarely. It is now
used all the time and it is in a more partisan scenario.
So, basically, the minority party uses the filibuster to make sure the majority party cannot govern in a way that people can benefit from and then
the minority party runs against the fact that the majority party failed to govern. That is a terrible way to set up incentives and accountability in a
So, even if it were not the case that this was an important -- an unusual important year for governance, we should not have a filibuster because for
-- to what I was saying earlier, the way democracy is supposed to work is the public elect's people, they get what they ask for and then they get to
judge it. The filibuster is a central reason that does not happen in our system anymore, for both parties. And it is made a dysfunctional and, I
think, increasingly toxic political system.
ISAACSON: But having to get 60 votes requires then that you get votes from the other party usually. Isn't that a good thing to have some
bipartisanship when we pass something really big like Obamacare?
KLEIN: It would be if you could. It would be if you could. But parties have incentive to win the next election, and that incentive overrides their
incentive to compromise. So, it is common now to hear this explained explicitly. Mitch McConnell said during the Obama era, and I'm quoting with
memory, so this is going to be sadly paraphrased, but he said that, I believed it was very important not to have our fingerprints on these bills.
Because if people see a bill that is bipartisan, they think there's consensus about it. And they see a bill that is partisan, they know there's
been great debate. It is the minority party's incentive to make bills either not happen or make people think the governing party is governing in
a partisan and poor way.
And so, the minority party does not want to jump on. This is how other political systems work. This is very common worldwide. It is a weird
American thing that we think bills are only plausible or they are only just if they have bipartisan majority. And other political systems or majorities
have the (INAUDIBLE) to govern. What happens is the minority criticizes the majority and the majority tries to govern, and the public judges them and
decides the minority is right in their criticisms.
This idea that you need minority parties to jump on board with the majority is asking them to work against their political incentives because to be
fair to Mitch McConnell who is often right in his assessment of how American politics works even if he is very cynical in what he does with the
knowledge, to be fair to Mitch McConnell, it is true that if say Barack Obama had got in 25 Republican senators on the Affordable Care Act, he and
the Democrats would have run around the country in 2010 saying, look at our great governance.
We have finally solved this huge problem. We have bipartisan support. Give us more seats. And give Barack Obama, two years later, a second term.
When minorities cooperate at that level of majority, they run the risk of losing their jobs and further losing power. When they obstruct majority,
they give themselves a better chance of gaining power and gaining more seats and gaining the gavel back.
So, you have to take the incentives at our system seriously. If you want to setup a system for cooperation, we could do that, we just haven't. The
filibuster is not a tool of compromise, it was a tool of sabotage.
ISAACSON: So, how do you set up a system of cooperation?
KLEIN: Well, there are a lot of better systems. We just import the New Zealand political system. Right now, I don't think we're going to
restructure the American government at a rhythm (ph) branch level. What I do thing we could do is recognize that it is very hard in the American
political system putting the filibuster entirely aside to get to a majority. We actually have every advanced democracy more what they call
electorally generated veto players, more institutions that can say no to a bill or a change than any other advanced democracy, and it's not actually
even all that close.
And so, it is hard. You usually have to win an election, a couple of elections in a row in order to gain majority power in this country. So,
Democrats have not had a governing trifecta since 2010. And in order to get it, they had to win in 2018 and then win again in 2020. It's a quite
extraordinary level of mandate you need in the American system, much higher than in other systems in order to govern.
So, when you have that, I think majorities should be able to govern. Getting rid of the filibuster, you could do a couple of other things on the
side would at least help that, it would not make us into a swift moving system, it would not make us as easy to govern within as it is say in
Canada or in the U.K. or in Germany or in a dozen other systems I could name, but it would help.
ISAACSON: About four years ago you moved back to your home state of California. You are a progressive. That State of California has pretty much
a progressive government at every level, they're able to pass a whole lot of progressive policies. Why are things so bad there?
KLEIN: California is a real problem for any vision of progressive governance. I want to say that as clearly as I can. It is not a well
governed state. We don't -- we have not been able to get housing right in the state. So, it is unaffordable for people to live near where they work.
We can't get transportation right.
And currently or at least last I look, the day or two ago, California is ranking dead last, dead last, on vaccine distribution. So, there's maybe
some issues with data there, people can argue. But as far as data that we have, we're dead last. That is a huge issue.
I think there are a couple reasons for it, although I would not proclaim myself enough of an expert to know them all. But one of them, certainly,
when it comes to housing and transportation issues, is progressives, in a funny way, they marry a comfort with federal -- with government power and
government action with also a discomfort in terms of how power is wielded.
And so, in some states where there's actually a lot of progressive control, what they end up doing is creating both. You both have sort of unified
Democratic control of the state. But on the other hand, the state's actually governing structure is shocked full of veto points.
All these different neighborhood associations and little councils and boards of supervisors and a hundred other ways. And the way that a lot of
these things were constructed was the hope was is it would make sure that those in power could not act without hearing those who would be affected.
It is very a good idea. It's a good progressive idea.
But you create too many of them, well, people who show up, number one, are very unrepresented groups. You have people who, you know, don't want
anything built near their home because it may ruin their view. On the other hand, the people who would be helped by that new apartment building being
built can actually -- or don't actually know to come to that meeting because they don't live there yet. So, it creates a very, very, very heavy
status quo bias. It ends up really advantaging those who already live in a place rather than those who need to live in a place.
On top of that -- and something I think about with California sometimes, you probably heard the old-line that Americans are symbolically
conservative and operational liberal. That means when you ask some about questions of philosophy, should the government be big or small, you know,
what is best done by the private sector or by the public, they sound pretty conservative.
And then when you ask them about specific issues in policy, they sound quite liberal. They do want to have more government to ride the health
insurance, a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich, et cetera.
I have a theory that California has become increasingly symbolically progressive but operationally conservative. That whatever it comes to a big
symbolic issue, you know, fighting the Trump administration in courts or, you know, pushing back against this or that outrage, it is on social media,
or, you know, making sure that every elected official roughly will say black lives matter, it is very, very liberal on those issues.
But then when it becomes something about actually changing how we live, we need to build housing right here near you so other people can live here, we
need to build a train station right here near you so we can have reasonable mass transit, we need to actually give out vaccines quickly even if that
might mean some people end up somehow cutting in line, they become very operationally conservative. California does not like to change what is
actually happening in it, it just likes to signal how progressive it is to the rest of the country. And that's a pretty bad -- that in my view is a
pretty bad equilibrium to be at.
So, if the California government is listening to me on this, like how you are running things here is a problem and it is a problem because you're not
going to have people in the long run trusting blue government and federal level either if they don't see it working out well at the state level.
ISAACSON: Something weird has happened to me in the past few weeks, which is I no longer get up early in the morning and start doom scrolling through
the Twitter feed and other things to find out, oh, my God, what just happened in politics. Is Joe Biden right, that it would be better if we all
calm down, quit being so interested in politics and sort of calmed ourselves and sort of didn't make politics such a fiery sport?
KLEIN: I think yes and no. I certainly think if you don't make politics such a fiery sport, that is better. I certainly think it is better to have
a president that who tweets boring things as opposed to keeping everybody transfixed with whatever outrage is going to come out of his phone next.
And I do think it is good in general to lower the temperature a little bit.
I would be a little careful because right now, what government is doing is so unbelievably consequential that I don't in any way want anybody to hear
me saying this is a time to tune out. In fact, this is a time for people to pay attention and to keep pressure on, but to pay attention not to symbolic
outrages and conflicts but ask you to what the government is really doing.
So, I mentioned earlier vaccine distribution. That is a place where there really does need to be attention on what the states and cities and for that
matter, the federal government are doing. It needs to go faster. There are a bunch of places where they need to put pressure on regulators to be a
little less conservative and a little less cautious.
In California in particular, it took some time. And L.A. took a very long time to update to a less restrictive eligibility criteria so that more
shots get in more arms more quickly. People need to be paying attention to things like this.
So, yes. The great thing about Joe Biden is that he is trying to get people to not pay so much attention to him. But I don't think he would say and I
certainly wouldn't say that it is a good time to not pay attention to things in the country.
The question is always, are you paying attention in a constructive way or are you paying attention a hobbyist way, right? Are you following politics
like a sport and looking for people who are just going to show you things that are going to make you furious, or are you following things that help
you be an engaged citizen, and maybe actually even help you act upon the world?
So, one thing in general that I always tell people to do is, it is great to do less following politics on your Twitter feed and more being engaged with
politics or engaged with civic structure in your local community. You can almost always do a lot more to effect how things work right around you than
you can nationally. But people are very attached to the political entertainment. And the important substantive consequences of the national
scene still a rebalancing of the effort a little bit more towards state and local politics is healthy for most people.
ISAACSON: Ezra Klein, as always, thank you so much for joining us.
KLEIN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And that's it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.