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Replacing Benjamin Netanyahu; Support Grows For Naomi Osaka. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 02, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
YAIR LAPID, LEADER, YESH ATID PARTY (through translator): If this government is formed, the key word will be responsibility.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The scramble to replace the Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power. Bibi biographer Anshel Pfeffer breaks down what's
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naomi Osaka.
GOLODRYGA: Support for tennis star Naomi Osaka continues to pour in. I will discuss her stand on mental health with tennis Hall of Famer Pam
Shriver and sports journalists Kavitha Davidson.
Plus, Walter Isaacson speaks to lifelong Republican and former Congressman Mickey Edwards about the party he calls a cult.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1971, I don't think the music was a reflection of the times, as much as the music also caused the times.
GOLODRYGA: It was the year that gave us hit albums like "Imagine" and "What's Going On." The co-director of the new docuseries "1971: The Year
That Music Changed Everything" tells me about that transformative time.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Benjamin Netanyahu's run as the longest-serving Israeli prime minister may well be coming to an end. A coalition of opposition parties is working to
form a new government. Naftali Bennett, leader of the right wing party Yamina, has joined forces with centrist leader Yair Lapid.
It's being seen as the most serious challenge to Netanyahu's leadership to date. He's calling the coalition a -- quote -- "danger" to the security of
Now, Bennett and Lapid's efforts to pull together a number of different parties comes after no clear majority was reached in the latest election
back in March.
Israelis have now gone to the polls four times in just the last two years.
So, what could a change in leadership mean for the country?
Anshel Pfeffer is a columnist for "Haaretz." He also wrote the biography "Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu."
And he's joining me now from Jerusalem.
Great to have you on.
I want to start to get the latest on what the latest state of play is right now. We can never rule Bibi out until we have a definitive answer. But
things have really come down to the wire, Anshel.
ANSHEL PFEFFER, "HAARETZ": Good evening, Bianna, from Jerusalem.
Yes, as we speak, the leaders of the eight parties who are committed to join this coalition, which will form a government to replace Netanyahu, are
meeting in a hotel near Tel Aviv to basically finalize the coalition agreements. They have another four hours before the deadline expires.
And they seem very close to signing the agreements. Five of the parties have already agreed. Three parties are left. There are a few outstanding
issues, but they will probably overcome those in the next two or three hours.
But, as you said, it's not over yet. Once the coalition has signed the agreements, they have to actually swear in the new government. To do that,
they have to pass a confidence vote in the Knesset. That will take place sometime probably next week.
And Netanyahu is doing everything he can to pressure some of the coalition's members into somehow dropping out and to deny the coalition of
GOLODRYGA: And this coalition is made up of eight different parties of completely different political spectrums.
Can you give us a sense of what they have in common, other than wanting to ask Bibi Netanyahu?
PFEFFER: Well, that really is their unifying purpose. They're -- so, they're from the right wing, centrist, left wing, Arab, Islamist,
They really have very, very little in common, except this desire not just to replace them to Netanyahu, but to restore some kind of stability, some
kind of equilibrium to Israeli politics. And they also will talk about the need to try and restore some kind of sense of unity to Israeli society that
they feel Netanyahu has damaged, has created all these divisions, certainly exacerbated the divisions in Israeli society.
And that will -- well, that will be the coalition's rhetoric: This will be a unifying government. They're even calling it a healing government.
That may be a step too far. But that's -- but that is -- that's the kind of words they're using.
And it's hard to imagine a healing government or a viable longer-term government when, in the best-case scenario, the most that all of these
parties can agree on is agreeing to disagree on so many of these issues.
Do you see this as a viable coalition?
PFEFFER: Well, as we said, the unifying purpose of this coalition is to replace Netanyahu.
But Netanyahu, even if he is forced to leave office in a week or so, will not be going away. He will remain the leader of the opposition. He will
continue to rally his base and the parties which supported him which are now -- which will now be -- if this happens, they will be in the
And it won't be an easy period for the government. It won't be easy for Israeli society. But the fact that Netanyahu now is trying, will be trying
to break them up, to get -- to get back into office, I think that will continue their sense of purpose in sticking together.
And we may see this government lasting more than most people expect.
GOLODRYGA: So Bibi's presence alone, just the fact that he would still remain in the Knesset and leader of a party there, could give them by
ability to move forward.
But anyone who's been covering and following Israeli politics over the last few months, you can't blame them for having whiplash, because it seems,
prior to the latest rise in violence between the Israelis and Gaza. You saw the potential for a coalition to oust Bibi as well, a different type of
But his political career seemed to be hanging by a thread. Then, all of a sudden, you had the violence, and he seemed to be secure in his leadership.
And here we are again.
Can you sort of walk us through what's transpired here?
PFEFFER: Well, let's go back even further than that.
Let's go back just over a year ago, when it also seemed that there may be a coalition to remove Netanyahu. And then along came the coronavirus
pandemic. And the sense of national emergency was what saved Netanyahu and allowed him to bring in then the lead coalition, Benny Gantz, in what was
supposed to be an emergency government.
It didn't last very long. But these crises are happening in this region in Israel all the time. It's not just when there's a global pandemic. So, this
is a challenge for the new government, if it is actually sworn in. But it also creates for them opportunities to show that politics can be done
differently in Israel.
It doesn't necessarily have to be the politics of divided, and nor the politics of what Netanyahu has done of playing off communities, inciting
Israeli and Jewish communities against each other.
There is a different way of doing politics. Israeli politics hasn't always been just about ganging up on each other and being either for or against
Netanyahu. And I know, from speaking to some of the leaders of these parties, that they want to prove that politics can be done differently, and
that they can overcome some major policy disagreements in the interest of proving that there is a different way of doing things.
GOLODRYGA: So, is Naftali Bennett the man who can bring that change and that the unity and the healing to the country?
Because say what you will. So much of the world associates Israeli leadership now with Benjamin Netanyahu, for better or worse. What do we
know about Naftali Bennett? And what does he bring to the table?
PFEFFER: Well, Naftali Bennett was, at least at the beginning of his political career, groomed by Netanyahu.
He came into mid-30s into politics, after making a fortune in high tech. And he basically volunteered to serve as Netanyahu's chief of staff at the
time, and in 2006, though they fell out pretty quickly.
And Bennett doesn't really bring any political power. He brings the last few seats necessary for there to be a coalition. And he also sort of brings
this idea that the right wing can sit with the center and the left, which is why Yair Lapid, who is the real architect of the coalition and the
leader of the biggest party in the coalition, is going to give Bennett the first two years of the term to prove that right-wingers can sit with the
rest of the political wings in Israel and have a government together.
Now, Bennett will not have much political power of his own. He's a leader of a small party. He will be prime minister, but he will have to prove that
he can work with all these different partners to keep this government together.
And, in some ways, I think that's a good development for Israeli politics, because, instead of having this all-powerful mega-statesman leader like
Netanyahu, who has, like, been identified with the role of prime minister for so long, the prime minister's role or position will be, I think,
reduced to its proper proportions.
Israel is not a presidential system of government. It's a parliamentary system. The prime minister is supposed to be the first among equals. He's
not supposed to be this massive character like Netanyahu has been for so long.
And I think it would be a good -- a good experience for Israel to have a prime minister who needs to work in harmony with his partners, rather than
GOLODRYGA: So, let's say this goes forward, and we do have a government where Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid share power, switching after two
What would that look like? Because we know Naftali Bennett is far right, right, and we know that Yair Lapid is left of center. Why isn't Yair Lapid
the one who is going to be taking over, if, in fact, this does go through, the first two years, if his party has, in fact, more seats, and it's more
PFEFFER: Well, Yair Lapid made a strategic decision that the most important thing was to replace Netanyahu and put a new government in place
of his government.
And he put his own personal ambitions and his own party's precedents, he put that aside. And, for him, the priority was just to get a government. He
didn't have -- he said, from the beginning: I don't necessarily have to be the prime minister of this government.
And I think that, in itself, is also a very -- a very counterintuitive move to anything we have seen in the Netanyahu period, where it's all been about
being the top dog, taking power. Lapid has said: For me, it's much more important the process, rather than that I should be the number one person.
So, that I think is a very, very positive move by Lapid. And, so far, it seems to be working. By prioritizing the government and not his own
position, he has actually brought this coalition into being. We're still not quite there yet, but we're the closest we have ever been to replacing
And he's done that by putting his ego aside. Now, obviously, Lapid will be the most powerful person in this government, at least next to Naftali
PFEFFER: But, by deferring his own ambitions, I think he's allowed this process to go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: How would a change in government impact the impasse now between Israelis and Hamas in particular, this fragile cease-fire that's now in its
What does that signify in terms of where the situation is right now, in terms of Egyptians, who are taking part in these negotiations of the cease-
fire? Is there any difference at all that this new leadership would bring to the table?
PFEFFER: Well, you have identified the most vulnerable issue for this government, because this government is combined from leaders who can't
agree on Israel's policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians and what should be done in Gaza.
And if the issue of Gaza flares up again, certainly early in this government's term, it will be very difficult for them to come up with some
kind of policy.
But let's not forget that, for the last 12 years, ever since Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, there has been no Israeli policy on Gaza. It's
just been, stick to the status quo, stick to the blockade, which began in 2007, the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, ever since Hamas took over
Gaza in 2007 in a bloody coup.
That's been Netanyahu's policy throughout. And he has not changed the policy that was already there when he came into government. And I think
that this new government, if it is indeed sworn in, will try to stick to that, at least for the time being, because they can't, I think, come up
with a new policy.
But if they are challenged, if Hamas renews rocket firings, or if the Egyptian somehow manage to reach some kind of a draft agreement between
Israel and Hamas, then this government will have to take a position, and it will be tested.
It will be really the moment where we will see if this government is viable.
GOLODRYGA: I was struck by listening to some of the comments out of Bibi Netanyahu over the past couple of days, as things have become more tense
and, in his political career, has become more of a crisis for him, or I guess the biggest crisis he's faced in years, one of the things he said is,
what is Washington going to think, how is the U.S. going to react to this change in government, as if the two, especially the current administration,
is attached at the hip with Bibi Netanyahu.
But it does raise the question of, what impact would a change in government have on the U.S.-Israeli policies? And does Bennett have if any sort of
relationships in Washington and within the Biden administration?
PFEFFER: Well, certainly, Bennett has nowhere near the kind of relationships and connections and experience that Netanyahu has had.
Netanyahu has been in Israeli political life for 34 years. And before that, he was an Israeli diplomat in Washington and in New York. So, there's no
way anybody can compete with Netanyahu's wealth of connections and relationships in the U.S.
But I think it's also pretty clear that, as far as the Biden administration is concerned, that they would be quite happy to be dealing with someone
else. I mean, Joe Biden is a very polite and very reserved person. He hasn't shown -- any of his exasperation with the Netanyahu show, but we
know that he would be quite happy for a fresh set of interlocutors in the Israeli government.
And once this government is sworn in, Yair Lapid will be the foreign minister for the first year. So, for all purposes, he will be one of
Israel's main spokespeople and faces in the U.S. And I think that they will want to work both with Bennett and with Lapid.
And I think that, quite frankly, they will be happy to take a break from Netanyahu.
PFEFFER: And Bennett himself is a son of American parents. He's lived in the U.S. He can deal with it.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, he's very familiar with the U.S.
But let's end on a note of where we began, and that is never say never. And you have seen many political lives for Bibi Netanyahu. You, of course, have
written a book on him. He has been in control of his narrative and his family's narrative throughout his political career. This may be the first
time that he's not in control.
But, as you said, he is not going anywhere, even if, in fact, a new government is formed. How is this impacting him personally, do you think?
PFEFFER: Well, certainly, he's very worried. I wouldn't say he's desperate, but he is not far from that.
We saw, in his statement on Sunday night, when he spoke about this new government being a threat to Israel's security and even comparing this new
government to the Assad regime in Syria and to the Iranian leadership, we saw him almost losing control.
And he's been so long used to ruling Israel, to having all this power at his disposal. He has been in the past, at least twice, leader of the
PFEFFER: But I don't think he's prepared, at the age of 71, to go back to that. He will have to, but he really is -- he really is on the brink
himself. And he's pulling out all the stops to try and prevent this from happening.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, he is. He has legal challenges ahead of him. But, of course, there's no term limits in Israel again. So, even if he's out this
time, who knows what will happen in the next few years.
Anshel Pfeffer, always great to have you on and hear your perspective. Thank you so much.
PFEFFER: Thank you, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Well, now the leaders of all four tennis Grand Slams have given their support to Naomi Osaka after the world's number two player withdrew
from the French Open.
She pulled out on Monday following her refusal to speak to the media in order to -- quote -- "protect her mental health." The tennis star has
revealed that she's been suffering with bouts of depression since winning the 2018 U.S. Open.
Fellow athletes are speaking out in support of her decision.
Take a listen to what Novak Djokovic said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NOVAK DJOKOVIC, PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: This was, I must say, a very bold decision from her side. But she knows how she feels best. And if she
needs to take time and reflect and just recharge, and -- that's what she needed to do. And I respect it fully.
And I hope that she will come back stronger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: With me now to discuss the important story is Pam Shriver, former pro player and a Hall of Famer. Also joining us is journalist
Kavitha Davidson from "The Atlantic (sic)."
Welcome, both of you.
Pam, let me get to you first, because you have been on tour many, many years. You have taken part in these press conferences. Can you give us a
sense of the pressure that these players feel when they come and face these journalists and these cameras?
PAM SHRIVER, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Well, I really think it depends on the player and the personality and maybe what's happened in the
Generally, in my years of playing, I didn't struggle with it. But I'm much more of an extrovert, and I was always very comfortable in that arena. But
I do think that some players, like Naomi Osaka, who are shy and introverted, and during this time of the pandemic, where it's all been
virtual, and you can't actually see the media, people asking questions in person, you sort of lose some of the personal touch of walking into a press
conference and maybe having a little bit of banter.
So, it's kind of like students in school. Not all of them on Zoom school are comfortable. In the case of Naomi Osaka, the growing anxiety was a bit
much for her.
GOLODRYGA: And your reaction to how the officials initially responded there to her refusing to participate? Because it seemed as if they -- they
were angry and they exposed. I mean, they talked about other athletes. They even tweeted that they -- the other athletes understand the assignment.
Perhaps she doesn't.
They later retracted that tweet and deleted it. But there was an initial cold response to that. And it was not until she disclosed her own struggles
and bouts with depression that I think -- that the conversation shifted.
How important, Pam, is it, in your opinion, to have these conversations right now?
SHRIVER: Well, I think it's very important to have them
I do think that Naomi's original post in the middle of qualifying week of Roland-Garros, the French Open, caught everybody by surprise. All these
tournaments, just like the players, they're stretched right now, their bandwidth. They have very little extra bandwidth given, trying to put these
international sporting events on during a global pandemic.
But I think the French Federation got -- they were on their heels. I did not think they responded well, I think they needed to really take their
time and assess and try and get through to some communication, even if it took some days, and don't sort of fuel the fire with some public
I especially didn't like Sunday's statements by the four majors that included the threats of a possible default, with the code of conduct coming
into play. That's really what pushed Naomi into a corner. I thought that statement was very unfortunate.
GOLODRYGA: Kavitha, when we hear now from Naomi that she'd been struggling with bouts of depression and mentally since that 2018 U.S. Open victory
over Serena Williams, I can't help but go back and look at images of that day, how the crowds were booing, how she was apologizing, quite frankly,
when she was saying that -- in giving that interview, that she knows the crowd wanted things to go differently.
How should we reflect back to those images of her hiding underneath her visor and crying and think about what this has done to her emotionally and
KAVITHA DAVIDSON, "THE ATHLETIC": Well, I mean, I think that it's one of those things where, like Pam said, we have to take this as an individual
Naomi Osaka is a human being. And it is quite striking to go back and look at -- look at some of those images. But you can also just see that she's an
introverted person by seeing how she's answered questions in the past.
I also think it's really important to point out that Naomi Osaka did answer questions on the court after winning her first round match at Roland-
Garros. So she wasn't refusing to do all media. And I think that that's kind of getting lost in some of this conversation.
GOLODRYGA: And so go into that, because you have these corporations and these entities saying that this is part of the deal, that they know what
they sign up for, that it's not only the play, but it's obviously talking to the press afterwards. There's a lot of money involved in these sports
and these tournaments
Is there a point to be made that this is sort of an athlete's obligation, and, if they can't fulfill it, then they will be fined? Or should we look
at things differently now?
DAVIDSON: I mean, I think that we have to look at this with just a little bit of empathy.
But Naomi Osaka knew that she was going to get fine, because she does have this obligation, and she signed up for it. And she was willing to be fine.
She actually said in her initial statement that she hopes the fine would be given to a mental health charity.
I think that it was really the overreaction of the four Slams to threatened default and to threaten -- to threaten forcing her out of the tournament
that took this to a whole other level. And we have had this conversation before about whether athletes owe us our -- owe us their time.
As a journalist, access is all that we have to go on. And it's so important to what we do. But at the same time, if somebody is telling you that
they're going to be in distress from having to answer some questions, then I think we really do need to listen to that.
GOLODRYGA: And this is a subject that, obviously, we haven't addressed nearly enough. And other athletes and tennis stars are weighing in.
Venus Williams was asked about how she feels, given Naomi's situation and what she's going through, and her perspective. I think we have audio. Let's
listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VENUS WILLIAMS, PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: For me, personally, how I quote -- how I deal with it was that I know every single person that asks
me a question can't play as well as I can and never will. So, no matter what you say or what you write, you will never light a candle to me.
So, that's how I deal with it. But each person deals with it differently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Pam, do you identify with how Williams perceives this and approaches these questions? Or is this sort of an each player has their own
way of dealing with the pressure?
SHRIVER: Well, let's face it, Venus and Serena have been getting questions since the mid-'90s, when they were just teenagers. And now Venus is 40 and
Serena is chasing the all-time mark. So, they're true professionals.
Certainly, Venus has walked out once or twice after matches. She's never made an announcement before a tournament. Serena has had some difficult
moments, obviously, especially at U.S. open, in the media conference room.
But, in the end, they accept it as part of a job. And I like the way Venus kind of turns it into like she knows she's the tennis expert, and they're
just asking questions to get my expertise about my match. I thought that was a pretty good way of looking at it.
GOLODRYGA: Kavitha, are female players in particular are subjected to a different line of questioning more so than male athletes?
DAVIDSON: I think so.
And it's really unfortunate, because I really, truly believe that me and most of my colleagues just want to do the best job that we can. But if you
have ever sat in on any of these post-match press conferences, you have heard some pretty offensive questions being asked, particularly of women
players, and particularly of women of color.
You talk about -- Pam talked about how seasoned pros Venus and Serena are, which is absolutely true. If you were also growing up as a player like
Naomi Osaka watching the kinds of questioning that Venus and Serena have had to endure over the last couple of years -- the last couple of decades,
I think that you might be wary about the media as well.
GOLODRYGA: And what do you say to that, Pam?
Because I think that there's been this perception that, A, this is part of their job, they signed up for this. They make endorsement deals. They make
a lot of money. We shouldn't be so sympathetic, given that all that they're asking for is to answer a few questions from the media.
Given that now so many athletes are speaking out about what a challenge this is for them and their emotional -- the toll that it's taking on them
emotionally, should we, as fans, should we, as part of the media, approach things differently?
SHRIVER: Well, in the case of a tennis media conference, especially at a major, I mean, the lion's share of the journalists asking questions are
tennis beat writers or they write about sports all the time.
But, sometimes, you get into a country like, say, Wimbledon in the U.K., you can get some tabloid journalism, and you can get some questions that
are really -- you can tell they're not coming from a sportswriter or a tennis writer. They're sort of in a different realm.
And I think, sometimes, those questions, those surprise questions can really make some players really anxious. But I think that's why you have
media training. That's why most of the top players, not only do they have their coach and their physio, and -- but they also have people to help them
with the media.
And I think Naomi has been asked before whether or not she should get some media training, but it was like, no, let's just have Naomi Osaka as her
authentic self. But I think this proves that maybe she could use a little bit of media training in how to bridge -- if she gets a question she
doesn't like, how to bridge to something positive, a message that she wants to get across, like she did 10 months ago at the U.S. Open so effectively.
GOLODRYGA: Pam, Chris Evert was asked about this last night with Chris Cuomo on CNN, and I found her answer to be really interesting. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS EVERT, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: There are times in my life when I lost a final to Virginia Wade in -- at Wimbledon, and I went into my
hotel room and didn't leave my hotel room for three days and just ate and just was in my robe and was totally depressed.
There is a time, in 1976, when I won Wimbledon, and I went back to a hotel room and I lay down the ground, and I couldn't get up, because I felt so
lonely and so isolated. I took four months off in the middle of my career because I was burned out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And these are things that we haven't heard much about from athletes. We know when they take time off because they may have some aches
and injuries, sports injuries to their bodies, right, but for their mental, state and mental injuries. We don't talk nearly enough about that.
Should we? Should depression and bouts with struggles with depression be right up there with a hamstring pull?
I think that's going to be one of the positive silver linings coming out of this debacle, is that mental health and some of the struggles, whether it's
depression, anxiety, or OCD, any of the conditions that can come forward and be triggered and be made worse, that the athlete, that the teams around
the athletes, the WTA Tour, the majors, we have to look at that.
Just as you say, it's not that different from a physical injury, and it takes time to recover. And you can't race back into the arena until you're
healthy again. So it's going to be interesting to see when Osaka decides that she's healthy again and ready to play.
GOLODRYGA: What is your message, Pam, to Naomi?
SHRIVER: Oh, my message is part of the wording she did in her statement the other day when she withdrew, which is to really understand self-care.
And in a complicated time during a global pandemic, where her home country is about to host the Olympic Games, and she's the highest paid female
athlete, I mean, she really needs to take care of not just her physical self, but all of herself and have a team around her that helps that self-
care take place.
GOLODRYGA: Kavitha, do you see this as a game-changing moment, seeing as so many of her sponsors have come out in full support of her? We have seen
more athletes come out in support of her as well?
Is this a game-changing moment in women's tennis?
DAVIDSON: I do think so.
And I think that this is also a continuation of a conversation that we have been having, that athletes have been having for at least a year now, where
they're more comfortable talking about their own struggles with mental health. And there's -- there are all of these notions about playing through
pain, playing through physical pain, without acknowledging the emotional and mental pain so many of these athletes are going through.
And especially in tennis, which is such an isolating, individual sport, I really do think that this is a conversation that Naomi Osaka has started
that we're going to be having for a very long time.
GOLODRYGA: Kavitha Davidson from "The Athletic," thank you so much.
Pam Shriver, thank you as well.
This was a really important conversation. We appreciate it.
Well, now we're going to be turning to U.S. politics and the changing face of the GOP. Lifelong Republican and former Congressman Mickey Edwards
walked away from his party earlier this year, saying that it had become less of a party and more of a cult.
Here he is speaking to our Walter Isaacson about whether they're fit to run the highest office in America and the myth that the election was stolen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And, Mickey Edwards, welcome to the show.
MICKEY EDWARDS, FORMER U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Thanks, Walter. Good to see you.
ISAACSON: So many of what were once your fellow Republicans in Congress voted not to look at the January 6th insurrection and even said that they
weren't willing to certify Trump's vote. Do you think they really believe that the election was fraudulent?
EDWARDS: Well, I think some of them do, but I think a lot more and I think their voters do because their voters have been -- you know, they watch the
newscasts that they watch and they listen to the president, but I think a lot of members of Congress are terrified of being attacked in primaries.
You know that Trump endorses somebody to run against them in their party primary and they lose. And I think fear -- to a large extent, Walter, I
think it is cowardness. They will do anything to hold onto these precious offices they hold.
ISAACSON: And explain to me Leader McConnell or Kevin McCarthy in Congress, what is motivating them, do you think?
EDWARDS: You know, part of it is, as you know, I have been critical of the whole party system for a long time, but it is about power. They see that
the House and Senate are both very much in play. The Democrats barely won the two Houses, barely won the presidency, although it was a pretty good
size, but Trump got a lot of votes.
And I think they see that they have to do what they're doing now to energize their base and win back control in two years, control of Congress
in two years. And I think that's the only thing that's motivating them. They don't care about policies. They care about how they're going to regain
ISAACSON: You say they're afraid of being primaried. Is there some structural reform we could do to the primary and party system that would
make the country be balanced once again?
EDWARDS: Well, sure. I mean, you look to California and Washington State, this is something I'd advocated for a long time. As you remove the party
process from the election process and you just have open primaries, anybody of whatever party could run. That's how Kamala Harris got elected to the
Senate in California, it was Democrats and Republicans all on one ticket rather than party primary, and then the top two people run against each
other. That's a much better system. It takes away ability of extremes in either party to dictate.
Because under the rules, if you don't win your party's nomination now in most states, you can't run. You know, voters don't get a chance to consider
you. So, yes, there are -- we need structural changes in the system.
ISAACSON: You know Liz Cheney. What do you think of her ouster from Republican leadership?
EDWARDS: It is funny, when they ousted her, they sort of made her a hero because -- so, she was the conference chair. Most people who follow
politics, I don't know, Walter, if you could name who was conference chair before she was --
ISAACSON: You were the conference chair once when you were an Oklahoma congressman. I know that.
EDWARDS: I was chairman of the policy committee. But, you know, is -- you know, people don't know who that is. And they elevated her prestige quite a
bit by getting rid of her. But it does say something that there's no tolerance for the sin. That as in any cult, what happens now, in this case,
it was in the House, you toe the line.
You do -- you're part of our team. You're not a representative from Wyoming, you're not an individual person who took an oath of office as a
member of Congress, you are part of our team and you're expected to be with our team, stick with our team, vote with our team, and if you don't do
that, we're getting rid of you. And that's what happened to her. And I think it made her stronger by doing it.
ISAACSON: You have used the word cult to describe the Republican Party. That's a pretty strong word. Why do you think it is a cult?
ISAACSON: You know, the definition of cult, you think of Jonestown, right, you think of Ruby Ridge. It is systems where you have a strong leader who
takes a position and says, this is what we're doing, and everybody just salutes and says, yes, sir, yes, ma'am, and does it.
They stick together with whatever rules they've adopted rather than -- it does away with free thinking, it away with individual people making
individual decisions on the merits of the questions that are before them, and I think that's pretty much the definition of a cult. Certainly, the
definition of what the Republican Party is now.
ISAACSON: Do you think QAnon is a cult and that it's infected the Republican Party?
EDWARDS: You know, I don't know enough about QAnon. You know, to some extent, it is that, it's -- you know, there are so many different little
groups that have formed around or within the Trump orbit that just spew nonsense. It is not just the -- there's lies, but it is nonsense, just
ridiculous theories and for whatever reason.
You know, Eric Hoffer wrote this great book, "The True Believer," where people want to be part of something bigger and transcendent beyond
themselves and Erich Fromm wrote his book, you know, "Escape from Freedom," about how people want a leader, somebody to follow. And I think a lot of
that's in play in the country right now. There are a lot of people who just want to latch onto something that they can feel that they have a guide,
they have something they can follow.
We need a counter narrative. We need to recreate a sense of support and belief in democracy as opposed to these weird ideas that come out of these
ISAACSON: The most extreme case of this in the past week has been talk of reinstatement as Trump himself may have even said that he wants to be
reinstated in August or even a military coup. This seems so wacky and so (INAUDIBLE) that some people would just dismiss it. Is it actually
dangerous, this talk?
EDWARDS: Yes. And the reason is -- I mean, a lot of things, Walter, but you and I both would have dismissed as just nutty and you know, don't even
pay any attention, don't write an op-ed about it, you know, this is some fringe crazy idea, now those things are taking root and people are doing
it, they're buying into it. Why that is, I don't know. That's way beyond my pay grade to figure out what it is.
I mean, there are legitimate grievances. There are a lot of places in this country that got left out of economic expansion. A lot of people are
bothered by the income gap between the top wealthy people and the working class. There are a lot of legitimate grievances. But that doesn't excuse
seizing onto these crazy theories in order to deal with it.
So, we have to do both. We have to address the grievances, which so many of them are legitimate. And at the same time, we have to rebuild belief in
democracy and the reasons why ever since the enlightenment we have been saying that we should be able, as free people, to govern ourselves
responsibly and create government that works.
ISAACSON: Let me ask you a philosophical question. Do you think that the Republican Party, as it is now constituted, still has a valid role to play
in a constitutional democracy?
EDWARDS: You know, Walter, you know, and I get asked that sometimes in terms of what's the future of the Republican Party, can it exist? You know,
it is complicated because there are two sides to this. I don't any longer think the Republican Party, as it is currently, has any kind of valid role
to play in a constitutional democracy because it doesn't accept the norms of a constitutional democracy.
But that said, that doesn't mean the Republican Party is doomed. A large part of what the party does in its campaigns is run against the left. And
there's resonance to that. So, I think it is quite possible that the Republican Party can both be outside the norms of what a constitutional
democracy requires and still win elections, still win the presidency, still win control of Congress. I think that's a real possibility.
ISAACSON: Would that be dangerous to our constitutional democracy?
EDWARDS: I think it would be terribly dangerous. The Republican Party today has taken on a lot of the trappings of an authoritarian state. They
have a strong leader who dictates and doesn't tolerate dissent, who lies about election results, who attacks the practice of the free press, who
wants to have judges who are going to -- well, obviously, both parties didn't want judges who would just going to do what they want them to do.
But no, I think that if Republicans were to take control of the House, Senate and the presidency, I think our whole constitutional democracy would
be in serious danger.
ISAACSON: What do you think of efforts in Georgia, Texas and many other Republican legislatures to try to tamp down the votes and in particular,
EDWARDS: You know, we are -- people think we are a pure democracy, we're not, we are a constitutional Republic. But we elect in a democratic system
the people who are going to make the laws that we live under, whether we go to war, whether our (INAUDIBLE) everything else, and tamping down vote,
whether it's of African-Americans or whites, whatever it is, tamping down the vote in a democracy is just anti-democratic and anti-American. It is
against everything that we have stood for as a nation, you know, since our founding.
So, as long as you have the basic rules, you know, make sure that you can't vote in an election, for example, you know, you can vote in New Orleans but
can't vote in Baton Rouge because you don't live in Baton Rouge, as long as we have those kinds of protections in place, we need to do everything we
can to allow people to vote, not make it harder for them, but make it easier.
ISAACSON: How much of a problem is gerrymandering and how can it be fixed?
EDWARDS: Well, you know, it's been a big problem for a long time. The Democrats did this in California in the 1970s with great effect.
Gerrymandering means essentially the elected officials get to choose who their voters are and they draw the districts so that they increase their
chances of winning and make sure the other side doesn't have a chance.
Under the constitution which requires every elected representative and senator must be in must be an actual inhabitant of the state from which
they're elected envisions that you have a representative kind of the government. And when you start to drawing lines in really weird, crazy ways
just to freeze people out of voting in that election, it goes against everything that our constitutional system was designed to protect.
ISAACSON: There seems to be contradiction or paradox where the parties are getting more and more hardline and hardcore, each of them, and yet, a lot
of people seem to be fleeing the traditional two parties, becoming independents. Do you think there could ever be an independent movement in
EDWARDS: Oh, I absolutely think so. There are a lot of people working on these things right now. I'm spending a lot of time on it. You know, Walter,
our founders did not want political parties, George Washington said, don't create political parties. Our original parties were nothing like the
parties now. They were basically shifting coalitions on a few issues.
I think that the current system in which we allow parties to control both the governing process and the election process is not only obsolete but,
you know, I bet in 20 years it will be gone, that we will move much more in the direction of what California has done and Washington has done and we
will get rid of this system where parties are able to control every step of the process.
ISAACSON: Explain to me what you mean by parties controlling the election system. How do you reduce the influence of the Democratic and Republican
parties in choosing who gets to run?
EDWARDS: Well, there's a couple ways. One of them is, if you have an open primary where everybody can run in the same place, so that you eliminate
the party activists from being able to control the outcome. That's one way. You also do it by getting rid of sore loser laws.
So, in almost every state -- people aren't familiar of that term, in almost every state there is a law on the books that if you run in a primary of
your party and you don't win, you can't be on the ballot in November, which means you might be much more popular in the state at large among all of the
But if the people, the activists, the smaller number who vote in primary didn't -- weren't pleased with you, then you're off the ballot. You're
through. You can't run. You can get rid of sore loser laws, which is part of what California and Washington did, and that would be a big step
ISAACSON: Well, sore loser laws, gerrymandering, closed primaries, all of those are done by both the Democrats and the Republicans because it
protects the party apparatus in each state. So how do you break that?
EDWARDS: Well, you know, a lot of states, Walter, have ability to have initiative petition or a referendum that you could use and the voter -- in
fact, in California and Washington, that's what happened. The voters went around the parties. They went around the legislative process. They took the
issue directly to the people, and they changed their systems. You can do that in a number of states.
And others, you just have to, you know, work on the legislators and try -- you have to have built a grass roots movement to break the hold of the
political parties over our political governing systems.
ISAACSON: As a longtime Oklahoma conservative and American conservative, how do you assess the beginning of Joe Biden's term as president?
EDWARDS: Well, you know, that's a great question, Walter. You know, I love the things he is saying. I think Joe Biden is a very good man with great
values and I think he is in a box, number one. I think he knows that there's a chance that Republicans are going to be able to take control in
four years and maybe of the House and Senate before that. He's got a short window.
So, he is trying to get everything done that FDR did over a period of many years, you know, in a two-year period. And he is in danger of overreaching.
I think his infrastructure bill has many good things in it, but it is really expensive and there are things in it that really have nothing to do
with infrastructure. That's too bad, but I understand why he feels that he needs to do it.
In terms of what he is saying, as he did in Tulsa and other places, he's really reawakening for people a belief in a good America as opposed to
Trump, a caring America. I think that's great. But he also has to be careful, Walter, about being pushed too far to the left because Republicans
don't have a lot to say. They don't -- they didn't even have a platform in the last presidential election. They don't have a lot to stay positive. But
they can run against the progressive left, and that's what they're doing. And the more he gets pushed into that orbit, the more it is going to help
ISAACSON: Mickey Edwards, thank you so much for joining the show.
EDWARDS: Walter, thanks. It's great to see you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, we want to take you back to a year that changed the face of music and culture. 1971 gifted us a collection of epic albums
from Marvin Gaye, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and many more. Well, now a new Apple TV+ docuseries, "1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything,"
explores what made that year so transformative for music. They a look at a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1971 was a year of revolutionary consciousness.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were fueled by this amazing music that everyone was making. It was articulating everything you're seeing and feeling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, yes. If I have everything that's gone down and come out strong --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: The series codirected and produced by Danielle Peck. And she joins us now from London.
Danielle, I have been looking forward to this conversation. Thank you so much for coming on, and not just because of the music that we are playing
but also just the exchange that you and I are going to have.
Because a lot of people that grew up to this music. They were there in 1971. My question, why 1971, that there was great music in the previous
years and subsequent years as well?
DANIELLE PECK, SERIES PRODUCER, "1971: THE YEAR THAT MUSIC CHANGED EVERYTHING": Yes. It's -- I mean, it is a really, really good question.
And it just seems that '71, it was a magical year. You look at key artists made their masterpieces that year, and there were breakthrough artists.
You know, David Bowie was wonder than the wilderness, Elton John. And then it's also a year where more mature artists, you know, Marvin Gaye, former
Beatles, John Lennon, they reinvented themselves. So, there's this wonderful confluence of new stars and maturing stars all striving to be
GOLODRYGA: And what role did war and all of the social changes and unrest happening not only in the U.S. but around the world play in making this
such a defining year for music?
PECK: Massively important. I mean, it wasn't just protest music. You know, there were some really important protest songs like "War Is Over," for
example -- and, you know, Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," in its own fashion was a protest song. But there was also a huge rise in African-
American mainstream music taking their story into the mainstream world, and that was fueled by like the Africa prison riots, the massacres of the
prisoners there in '71.
There is -- war was important, but it has been going on for a long time. So, that wasn't new. But the things that evolved out of that, for example,
the war on drugs, you know, there's a lot of GIs coming back from Vietnam who had got hooked on drugs, bringing that back to the states primarily,
and that generated a whole kind of culture in the states and that fueled its own music. So, it was a really interesting time for politics to really
play out in cultural field.
GOLODRYGA: How did that evolve, and I would say rather quickly from the '60s sort of era of free love?
PECK: Well, it evolved quite quickly because, you know, think of the summer of love. I mean, just a few years later, we're talking about 1971
happening and the hippie thing was pretty much done and dusted by then. I mean, one of our films was called "The End of the Acid Dreams," because
that bubble had burst.
So, you know, there were quite a lot of burnouts and some of them -- you know, the musical stars, unfortunately, people like Sly Stone, Jim
Morrison. And, you know, they were -- they had been the people that had driven through the summer of love and hippie period and it didn't last. So,
it transpired, you know, that negative aspect of the drugs in the music scene, it didn't last long, the positive side. I went negative quite
GOLODRYGA: And you're right, it really did shine a light on black artists, in particular Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. And yet, so many of the
issues that came to the forefront at the time that you could feel through their songs viscerally and through the lyrics, whether it's war, injustice
and racism, they permeate today as well. What have you seen in terms of the evolution over these past 50 years on those subjects?
PECK: Well, that was the really, really odd thing. I mean, we started making this series about three years ago. I mean, the idea started even
earlier than that, about five years ago. But as we were making it, and the staff was sort of working out how we're going to kind of coordinate all
this music and all this material together, these parallels with what was going on, you know, we were still in the Trump presidency at that point
obviously and #MeToo and Black Lives Matter and all this material seemed to speak of the same subjects 50 years later.
I mean, I always think that if Nixon had Twitter, we wouldn't have been too far off having the equivalence [phonetic] President Trump then. And it was
just peculiar that all these things started to come together. We hadn't really predicted that. But, you know, because we went into this with the
(INAUDIBLE) about the music and cultural aspect and political aspect, the parallels are really striking to us.
And so, an answer to your question, I guess, in a way, things haven't move moved on as much as we would like. And, you know, that's pretty
GOLODRYGA: It is disappointing. And look, it leads to more music and creativity, right, in expressing the times that we are in. Looking back
then, also, 1971 could be described as the year that sort of gave birth or the inspiration for hip-hop, what would later become hip-hop as well.
PECK: Absolutely. Yes. I mean, absolutely. I mean, Gil Scott Heron, "The Last Poets," were terminal [ph] and the work they did in '71 that was
fueled by the events of '71 were really important. We're still living that music very much today.
You know, I think that there is some fantastic being work. You know, I don't profess to be an expert of modern music now. But, I mean, you know,
the power of some of the artists out there today, they're still there saying their thing. So, I'm just not sure they're being heard quite easily
because of the way music is consumed nowadays.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. You know, it's always interesting because I think it's cliche when you hear an older generation say, they don't make music the way
they used to. But I have to say, well, when you watch a documentary and docuseries like yours and do some of the research that you're doing, it is
hard to argue against that. What was the most surprising thing that you've discovered throughout this research?
PECK: Goodness, that's a big question to answer. I think that the surprising thing is '71 was not really talked about before. I mean,
ultimately people think, oh, you know, '68 was a great year, maybe '84 or '89 was a great year. '71, everything -- why '71?
It was your first question. I think that's the most surprising thing is what was it about '71 that made it so magical? And it was just -- you know,
it's almost like a crystal, it has all these facets. So, lots of (INAUDIBLE) and things will grow from that. And that's kind of what '71
was. Lots of events happening. Lots of people getting to certain points in their career. And it was just a perfect storm. And that was a big surprise.
PECK: Look, one of the beauties of having this kind of longer conversations is that you learn so much, right? I didn't know much about
1971 music as well until now. I have to ask you before we leave, what was your favorite song? What favorite album from that year?
PECK: Well, I mean, I rediscovered "Hunky Dory." I was too young. I mean, I was born but I was only a little girl in '71. So, I didn't grow up in the
wealth of music. But I reconnected with "Hunky Dory" and that was a very powerful. You know, David Bowie was a hero and he very much, you know, the
quote from him in the film that he -- you know, we were inventing the 21st century in 1971, and that's basically -- you know, that was very through
GOLODRYGA: Well, he became so legendary after that year. It is a fantastic series. Danielle, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
PECK: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-
bye from New York.