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New York City Holds Mayoral Primary; Interview With Russian Ambassador to U.K. Andrei Kelin; Interview with Host, Brian Lehrer, and Former New York City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn. Interview with Syndicate Columnist, George F. Will. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 22, 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.
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We have shown all along the way that we're not going to pull our punches, whether it's on SolarWinds or
election interference or Navalny.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Engage and hold to account. What next for Russia and America after the Biden-Putin summit? My exclusive interview with the
Russian ambassador to the U.K.
ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I never had a doubt, not one day, that we were not going to win this.
AMANPOUR: The race to be New York City's next mayor, the top candidates and why this election matters for the country.
Plus: Conservative thinker George Will tells Walter Isaacson why he broke with the party of Trump and what the sleeper issue could be in the 2022
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
When it comes to reframing the U.S.-Russia relationship, President Biden said the proof would be in the eating of the pudding. So, it's been nearly
a week since his Geneva summit with President Putin, and already their respective ambassadors are returning to their posts. President Biden is
feeling hopeful, according to some of his aides, that Putin could change course from constantly undermining the Western allies.
But let us not celebrate rapprochement just yet. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is back in Europe, as Washington says it's preparing a whole new
raft of sanctions, this time for the nerve agent attack on the opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
And the Kremlin says it doesn't think Washington will stop trying to contain Russia. So what does this post-summit environment look like from
Joining me for an exclusive interview is Russia's ambassador to the U.K., Andrei Kelin.
Ambassador, welcome back to our program.
So, let me ask you. President Putin called the meeting with President Biden professional. He called it constructive. So, how are you and Moscow
assessing the U.S. or Russia-Western relationship right now?
ANDREI KELIN, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: OK, thank you for this very good question.
Of course, it is not a secret that, in the recent months, tension has arised in Europe, and not only in political statements, but also in deeds.
We -- from Moscow, we have seen quite a lot of movement of NATO troops close to our borders. It was called maneuvers, defend Europe.
The troops were moving in the north, as well in Baltic Sea. We have seen many NATO ships in the Black Sea as well. So not only Baltics, but along
the borders, we have seen tension increased.
Of course, we moved some troops as well, which has been taken as a bad step. Now, there was a summit. Summit was conducted constructively, as both
president has recognized.
So, what has happened? First, there was a statement that we were waiting for stated about nuclear weapons, and it is said that nuclear war cannot be
won, and it has never should be -- must be fought. It is a very important conclusion, because, for quite some time, we had certain doubts that it is
realistic and administration stick to this principle.
Second, with statement after prolongation of START treaty. And I think it is not yet a turning point, but it is a certain point in rising tension.
After that, we probably will need many more summits, not many, but they have some summits, in order to have certain detente in this world of
AMANPOUR: OK. So, your tone seems fairly hopeful, certainly a lot less belligerent than many Russian officials when they address the current stage
So, I sense a kind of a shift. And it coincides with what President Putin - - I'm just going read what he's written in a German newspaper, "Die Zeit," because today is the 80th anniversary, as I know you mark in Russia, of
Hitler's invasion of the USSR.
And to mark that, Putin has said: "The whole system of European security has now degraded significantly." He said: "Tensions are rising and the
risks of a new arms race are becoming real," even though you have said the statements on that are encouraging.
But he says that prosperity and security in Europe can only happen through cooperation between Europe, the United States and Russia. And he says:
"Russia is in favor of restoring a comprehensive partnership with Europe."
So, from your perspective, what will Russia do to restore a comprehensive partnership that has been so badly damaged? You know, NATO called Russia a
threat in its latest communique. What do you think you need to do to restore that partnership? And then we will talk about the others.
First, about this date, it is true. Today, it is 80th anniversary when Nazis invaded Soviet Union. And it is deep in our memory, I should say. We
have -- it was a devastating war, of course. We have lost millions and millions of people. We continue still to count how many it is.
And we will remember this forever. And the most important is that we will never allow that similar things will happen once again on the European
continent or whenever in the world.
And, for this, we need to restore security in Europe. We need to restore security architecture, which was long desired by Europeans and others. By
now, it is true that this security architecture, all treaties, nearly all of them have been abandoned and demolished.
So, we need to reengage on that. We need to reengage with the United States. And we start probably next month, I hope, talks on strategic
stability. This strategic stability, it will be a prolongation of the START treaty. And I hope it will involve all components necessary for that.
So, it will be certainly a restart, which might, might bring a good new relationship. Probably this is not very new, but, some years ago, we have
already come to this relationship where we shall have whole Europe without dividing lines and secure.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you, because, as you know, President Biden took a little bit of a risk by having this summit with President Putin.
He's not very popular in Washington. And there was plenty in the chattering classes and the political classes who accused him of a bit of appeasement
and of being naive for believing that Putin might change his stripes.
Some of Biden's aides say that the president remains hopeful that, despite what's been going on over the last few years, the president, your
president, will stop trying to undermine the Western alliance.
Is President Biden right to be hopeful? Do you believe that that is on the agenda?
KELIN: Well, I'm sure of that threats that has been mentioned in different capitals, including London, are false.
We are not threatening the West. We are not representing a threat to the countries. We would like to discuss these issues. For instance, in the
recent months, we have seen many accusations about an attack in the cybersphere. Most of them -- not most of them, but, mainly, they were false
because they are ungrounded.
We would like to discuss these issues with facts on the table. And that is only way to do this. By the way, while Putin was talking to Biden, he said
that there were at least 50 demands last year and 20 this year from Washington to Moscow to explain these cyber threats, to which we responded
positively. And we provided answers to all the issues.
Unfortunately, U.S. does not respond to our questions. And they were nearly 40. So, what is the outcome? It is just to establish a working group,
expert session, and to discuss it with facts, and not via media, not, well, via megaphone, accusing each other. It only revives tensions.
So this is our approach. And we hope, in the coming months, we will be able to do this directly with the United States, as well as with the United
AMANPOUR: So, you sound conciliatory. Again, it sounds like a shift in tone, for sure.
But the fact of the matter is, Ambassador, that not only the United States, Great Britain, but NATO believes that there would be no so much cyber
hacking -- I mean, just take SolarWinds. Just take the thing that just -- I mean, it just -- it affected so much of the U.S. infrastructure.
They -- intelligence believes that that was either done by the Moscow government or sanctioned by it, by other players. They believe that
hackers, that whoever they might be, often have sanction, whether it is turning blind eye or direct encouragement from the government.
This is what President Biden said about his discussion about cyber warfare with President Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I pointed out to him we have significant cyber capability, and he knows it. He doesn't know exactly what
it is, but it is significant. And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's pretty clear, Mr. Ambassador. That raises the possibility of retaliation.
KELIN: In what you have said, you have at least three times said that certain people do believe in something.
We, of course, also have many people that do believe in something. And this formulation, highly likely it has arised several years ago. And since that
time, it is being repeated. And some people would like to accuse Russia about everything bad what is happening in the world.
This might, of course, continue. But we have similar suspicion. And we know also from United States' sources the bulk of attack comes from United
States territory, as well as from the territory of Canada and the United Kingdom.
But we are not making out of it a war. We suggest that we should professionally approach to this, professionally meaning an expert talk and
an expert explanation. And, believe me, in -- only in that way, we will find the way how to beat it, how to contradict it, because no one would
like attacks against each other's infrastructure.
AMANPOUR: Well, in the meantime, despite President Biden's hope that there can be a different relationship going for, the United States is preparing
new raft of sanctions because of the -- what they believe is the government-sanctioned nerve agent attack against your opposition leader,
So, the idea from the United States is, sure, engage, but hold Russia to account. I mean, clearly, that has to happen. And the question is, and the
united -- they have a united Western unified backing for this now.
Will that affect Russia's calculations? Why does President Putin use such heavy-handed methods against an opposition leader who he doesn't even deign
KELIN: Well, I'm not in a position to comment on the judgment of the Russian court when this, well, definition has been done.
I can only refer you to the sentence that has been done. What Navalny and his company are doing, it is -- well, they are trying to destabilize
society. They are trying to undermine the constitutional order, it is clear, elections. They are trying to set up hatred and hostilities in my
And it is natural that the state is not very satisfied with this activity. We have to do something with it.
What I am surprised with is such an attention to be given to one person who is not very popular at all in Russia. He is popular in the West, mainly in
Europe. But he is not a politician. He is just assembling facts in order to assault ministers in our government, political parties that are supporting
And it is surprising for me. We, of course, can choose also some people, those who has attacked, who has tried to seize United States Congress and
say our relations will depend on the fate of these people, but it will look ridiculous.
AMANPOUR: Yes, well, the people who attacked the U.S. Congress were insurgents who have been chased down by the FBI, will face prosecution.
Navalny is an opposition leader. You may or may not like it, but he's the one who's brought out the most supporters, the biggest demonstrations ever
in the history of opposition politics in your country.
So, basically, what you are saying is that there is no tolerance for anything other than official opposition.
And I just want to ask you to comment on what's just happened in Belarus. You know, fighter jets brought down a civilian aircraft that had permission
to overfly the territory just because a journalist was on board.
And, today, there's been sanctions imposed. The Belarusian government has reacted furiously. But the point to you is, why would Moscow side with such
a rogue operation? That's what I don't understand. Why? Especially as Putin is saying, we have to be jointly responsible for geopolitical stability.
KELIN: Christiane, I may be losing what you are saying because of the sound is flexing, but I will try to respond to that.
First, we have an opposition in the Parliament. And these are -- three party, you should know, disregard this. It is a majority of the opposition.
We have also opposition outside of the Parliament. And it is also a pretty organized opposition. And we have small group of people that are supporting
You said that we have huge demonstration. This demonstration were not in support of Navalny. They were handled by those young people, those paid
people, also paid by the organization which is supporting Navalny. So, it is complicated. Don't simplify all these things.
Now, coming to Belarussia, it is early to comment on what has happened. ICAO is conducting -- an international aviation investigation is conducting
a true investigation. And it is only up to them to make a judgment.
The first results of this investigation will be revealed on the 25th of June. And I'm eager to see what has happened and in order to establish.
Until this moment, until the conclusions will come to surface, it is too early to comment anything, I do believe.
AMANPOUR: I want to play this sound bite from your president, because what he says, he doesn't even mention Navalny's name, many people believe
because he doesn't want to give him more legitimacy, because he actually is a thorn in Putin's side.
And, as I say, your government has sided with a rogue action, a government using its military to force down a civilian aircraft to get a journalist.
I want to play this sound bite from President Putin and have you react to it, because it flies in the face of his desire to be a responsible
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The U.S. and the Russian Federation have a particular responsibility for strategic stability
in the world, inasmuch as we are the two biggest nuclear powers, in terms of the quantity of warheads and nuclear weapons and also in terms of the
quality of modern nuclear weaponry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, I guess my question to you, Ambassador is...
KELIN: ... about the nukes, and...
AMANPOUR: Is Putin saying -- I just want to say, is Putin saying he will try to be more responsible on a global stage and leave our internal
politics alone and don't talk about opposition, et cetera?
KELIN: Christiane, I'm very sorry. I cannot understand because of the -- your voice is floating. And I am leaving -- could you shorten the question,
AMANPOUR: How can President Putin be a responsible geopolitical strategic leader? And it flies in the face of international conventions, what he does
about Navalny and indeed his decision to support that action in Belarus?
KELIN: Well, I haven't seen that anyone from our government has said that they -- we -- that they have supported action in air over Belarus.
What we're saying, basically, is Belarus, it is our ally. And if it will suffer economically and from valid point of view, of course we will be
supportive. So that's the issue.
And, as for the nuclear situation, yes, we feel the responsibility, as well as Americans do. During Gorbachev-Reagan time, we have had about of 15,000
nuclear warhead, each other, on each side.
KELIN: Now it has been down by 1,500, but it is still sufficient and big amounts of nuclear warheads, of course.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Andrei Kelin, thank you so much for joining us.
Sorry about some sound issues, but we're really happy to have had you to explain this new environment. Thank you so much.
Now to New York, the biggest city in America, where voters are deciding who will steer them out of the pandemic, as they cast ballots in the mayoral
The Democratic winner may not be known for weeks, but whoever that is all but guaranteed to become mayor in the November election. There are more
than a dozen candidates vying for a role that comes with far-reaching powers and an impact that can often be felt nationally.
Correspondent Athena Jones gives us the state of the race in this report.
MAYA WILEY (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I hope you will consider voting me number one.
KATHRYN GARCIA (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Hopefully, I'm earning your number one vote.
ADAMS: I look for your vote for number one.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ranked choice voting...
NARRATOR: Hey, NYC voters. As you may already know, New York City is introducing ranked choice voting.
JONES: ... seeing its first big test in New York City's Democratic mayoral race.
ANDREW YANG (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I think it's going to help our campaign.
JONES: Unlike past elections, instead of picking just one candidate, primary voters will be able to rank up to five in order of preference.
YANG: I love ranked choice voting, and I hope it's the future of democracy, not just in New York City, but around the country.
ADAMS: It's a complicated process.
JONES: Here's how it works. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote of first choice ballots, the candidate with the least support is
eliminated, their votes reallocated to their voters' second choice candidates. The process continues until someone wins the majority of votes.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Maya Wiley is our number one pick.
JONES: Supporters say this allows voters to have more say over who is actually elected, while avoiding expensive and time consuming run-offs.
WILEY: I'm a proponent of ranked choice voting. I co-chaired the campaign to bring it because I believe in democracy. And I believe in empowering the
voice of people.
JONES: New York City launched a $15 million voter education plan in April, including community outreach and TV ads in 14 languages. Some voters say
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think ranked choice voting is a phenomenal idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really have to read through -- you have to read up on it.
JONES: The new system has made assessing the state of the race challenging.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's much harder because you have to go through multiple rounds in order to determine who would come out as
the winner with 50-plus percent of the vote.
The reason there are 13 people running for mayor right now is nobody has an incentive to drop out. Everybody thinks that there's some path to victory,
because, if they're everybody's second choice, magically, they could, in fact, end up placing respectively or even winning.
AMANPOUR: Errol Louis, New York -- New York broadcaster ending Athena Jones' report there.
And now I'm joined by Christine Quinn, the former speaker of the New York City Council who ran for mayor back in 2013, and public radio broadcaster
Brian Lehrer, who's interviewed all the leading candidates on his "Brian Lehrer Show" for WNYC.
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
Could I just have you both weigh in on what we just heard from Athena and what's happening for the first time in your city, this system of first,
second, third choice?
Christine Quinn, you once ran for mayor. Is this a good system?
CHRISTINE QUINN (D), FORMER NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER: For me, the jury's out. It has great promise. But I want to see what happens at the end
of the day, because I am actually concerned about the New York City Board of Elections' ability to pull it off.
Now, that said, so far, we see good things, the most diverse number -- diverse candidates we have ever had run for mayor, three women, the most
ever, and two of them are in the top four right now, really in the hunt to win. So I think it looks promising. But I'm a skeptical New Yorker.
I want to see the proof in a couple of weeks, which, by the way, is ridiculous. They have to figure out a way to count these ballots and the
rounds more quickly.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's interesting.
Brian, you take the pulse of the people all the time. You talk to all the candidates on your program, a wonderful show. What do you think about this,
but also about who's in pole position? And why it is that Eric Adams seems to be leading the pack right now?
BRIAN LEHRER, WNYC: Well, I agree Christiane, with everything that Christine said about the pros and cons of ranked choice voting.
As to Eric Adams, I think there's a big question in the city right now as to whether this is a social justice moment or whether it's crackdown on
crime moment. And they may not be counterposed, because Adams is doing the best in the recent polling among black voters. So, obviously, if, as some
people have put it, you're afraid of the cops and the robbers, you might want somebody who's going to kind of crack down on both bad cops and
And Eric Adams is running in that way. His main progressive challenger, Maya Wiley, is running more on a long-term root causes of poverty and
inequality, which affect civilian crime. And I think voters are choosing -- those aren't the only two main candidates in the race. But voters, I think,
are asking them, is this a social justice moment, or is this a crackdown on crime moment?
And are they necessarily opposed to each other?
QUINN: And Eric, of course, also, was a police officer.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's really interesting.
AMANPOUR: Exactly, Christine. I was going to ask you about that.
QUINN: Yes, I mean, I think that adds to his resume, if you will, on cracking down on crime that he was a police officer, rose to the very high
rank of captain.
I think Brian's right that it's kind of these two prongs at the moment. And of the top four candidates, Maya Wiley is definitely the progressive
candidate. And Garcia, Yang and Adams are the three moderate candidates.
And I think we may see in this election a statement about what is the future of the Democratic Party going into 2022, based on not just who wins,
but how the one, two, three, fours all shake out.
AMANPOUR: Well, look, I just want to follow up. And I will ask you both about this, because, look, it seemed that 2020 and 2021 were potentially
progressive years. We saw it in the presidential election, and then they voted for the more moderate, although he's got a lot of progressive agenda,
Maya Wiley, who you're talking about, is number four right now of the four that you mentioned, and quite significantly lacking. Why -- lagging,
Why do you think, Christine, first, that crime seems to be a bigger, more potent issue for New Yorkers than social justice and progressive issues?
QUINN: Well, I think New Yorkers see crime and police-community relations together. So I think it's not quite the choice that we're talking about,
even though I do see that as a potential.
I think New Yorkers fear the -- quote, unquote -- "bad old days," right, when the Bronx was burning, and crime was so high, it bears no resemblance
to today. And some of the campaign rhetoric, in my opinion, has been fearmongering. And I think it puts those images back in people's minds and
they become afraid and react out of fear.
AMANPOUR: Brian, it may be fearmongering, but the statistics are really quite shocking. There is a crime spike in New York, homicides apparently up
53 percent over the last two years, shootings up by more than 100 percent, 40 percent of New Yorkers believing crime is the most important issue in
this year's election.
As we have said, Eric Adams was in the police force. He's the Brooklyn Borough Council president right now. And he does not support defund the
police or reallocating funds in any which way.
Can you tell us why New York City is in this -- in the grip of this crime wave? Why?
LEHRER: Well, there is a crime wave in cities across America.
There's a "Washington Post" article out just today about how mayors around the country have limited choices in dealing with a spike in crime.
But, to Christine's point about there being fearmongering, I think we have to look at this in relation to what people call the bad old days, 1970s
through the very early '90s, and see that we are still so far below that.
And when the effects of the pandemic ease, it may well go back to a moment of continued reduction on crime with the policies that were already in
I also want to point out that I think we're less a city divided by race on this, as some might casually assume, as we are a city divided by age. You
mentioned the bad old days. If you look at the major Marist poll that came out about a week ago, Maya Wiley comes in first, the progressive candidate,
among people under 45. Eric Adams only comes in tied for third among under 45.
But Adams comes in first among the over-45s in New York City. And these are pretty consistent across racial lines. So, I think, as in some other things
in politics in this country, we are a city divided by age.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's really interesting.
And I want to ask Christine her view of a fairly, I think, quite controversial comment that Eric Adams made along racial issues. And we're,
of course, in the Black Lives Matter moment, and all sorts of things are happening.
But because two of the candidates, Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang -- he's the former presidential candidate -- chose to campaign together, you know,
Eric Adams sort of try to equate this joint campaigning to a sort of racial voter suppression effort. Just listen to this. I just want you to react to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY DEMOCRATIC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: African Americans are very clear on voter suppression. We know about a poll tax. We know
about the fight that we've had historically, how you have had to go through hurdles to vote. And so, if they feel based on their perception that it is
suppress the vote, then I respect their feeling. It is not for me to interpret their feelings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you know, he's sort of evoking things that are happening in Republican-run -- yes, go ahead, Christine. What do you make of that
QUINN: Sorry, I think that comment is outrageous. You know, this is rank choice voting. People -- it was meant to engender things like candidates
campaigning together. And one of the candidates is a man of color. The other a woman who was adopted into a biracial family. And to equate that
appropriate get out the vote work and energy to poll taxes and things that would never happen in New York City and that no Democratic running for
mayor would ever support is outrageous. It is a distortion of what happened. And it is exactly why people get driven away from electoral
Eric knows better. I have a lot of respect for Eric Adams but that comment did not earn him more respect.
AMANPOUR: Let's move on to other issues that really do affect New York and New Yorkers and that, of course, is the economy, employment and all the
rest. A recent survey and a recent article show that it has lost more jobs than any other major U.S. city during the pandemic. 10.9 percent in May the
city's unemployment was nearly twice the national average which stands at about 5.8 percent. So, how much is this economic recovery driving voters?
Brian, what are you hearing from them?
LEHRER: Well, I want to add first to what Christine was just saying about the claim of voter suppression along racial lines and just say that Maya
Wiley who, again, is the progressive candidate in the race, the main progressive candidate, and she is also a black woman and a civil rights
attorney by trade. She also said, this may be many things, but it is not voter suppression, when there is such real voter suppression going on in a
whole bunch of states in the land today.
So, I think it is important and interesting to note that even Maya Wiley, Eric Adams, other main opponent but another African American and civil
rights attorney, did want to distance herself from that claim.
As for the economy, New York took a bigger hit than most of the country. It is starting to come back. I think that it is recovering fairly well.
Different sectors are recovering differently but I think there is a lot of optimism about the economy in the city right now. I think they are already
starting to see more tourists return to New York, with confidence that it is a post pandemic city, at least for the summer, than what was expect a
little while ago.
So, you would think that economics and long-term inequality to come back to that might have been top of mind for people. But I think people are, in
large measure, assuming the economy is going to come back at least in the way that it was growing before the pandemic and then how much they want to
deal with structural inequality is a major aspect of this race but one that has gotten kind of subsumed by the crime debate.
AMANPOUR: So, Christine, to you on that, because we also hear that maybe people are hopeful, maybe eventually the economy will get back to where it
was. But a lot of it depends, doesn't it, on how much actual people want to go back to office blocks in midtown and how much they want to work from
home or work there, how that affects these surrounding businesses, et cetera, et cetera. What do you make of that? Do you think employees will
continue to have the right to stay home?
I know some companies are trying to urge if not -- I don't know, I can't use the word force, but encourage employees to actually come into the
office. What do you think the future is?
QUINN: You know, I think the future on working from home or in the office is going to be mixed and may be very different industry by industry. We're
seeing the financial sector really push, maybe on the verge of force, people to come into the office. Obviously, the tech sector is very
different. Was already fairly remote. Really moving in that direction.
I do think the critical thing we're going see though is flexibility. I know even at the not-for-profit that I run, WIN, we have built flexibility into
our hiring in a way that might not have been there before. So, I think that's going to be critical and also, listening to employees as they
express what they need and they don't need.
And I think the thing about the recovery is -- Brian is right. It is happening. And I think that is giving the city a big boost. And hopefully.
then giving us the bandwidth to look at where we were deficient in the economy before. You know, at WIN, which is an organization that helps
homeless families, 25 percent of our homeless mothers lost their jobs in the pandemic. That is a huge hit to somebody who is trying to get out of
shelter and get into permanent housing. They didn't have the best jobs to begin with.
So. our goal needs to be to get that part of the working economy back to work in even better jobs. Because then we're really going to see New York
fully back, fully in a robust way that brings all of our energy and positivity back.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much. Christine Quinn, Brian Lehrer, and of course, as we said, so many of these issues affect so many other cities and states
across the country. So, New York is a very important metropolis to focus on. Thanks a lot.
Broadening out now across the nation, the hardening divisions between Republicans and Democrats are impacting everything from the economy to
infrastructure to voting rights, as we've just been mentioning.
George Will, one of the country's most well-known libertarian conservative journalists has been following that evolution for decades. And here he is
now with our Walter Isaacson discussing his take on the current state of the nation.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNNI HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And, George Will, welcome to the show.
GEORGE F. WILL, PULITZER PRICE-WINNING COLUMNIST: Glad to be with you.
ISAACSON: This week, Congress is debating various voting rights, proposals. You called one of them -- you called the Democratic proposal
before the people a constitutional desecration. Why are you so against it?
WILL: Well, first of all, the constitution is extremely clear that the primary responsibility for conducting elections rests with state
legislatures, and there is no particularly compelling reason to change that. There is a lot of, I think, sympathetic hysteria on the left about
the voting bills passed around the country. As voter suppression bills. A great many of the measures sort of being passed are simply going back to
the status quo ante. That is status quo before the extra measures taken into the liberalized voting procedures because of the pandemic.
So, as I said there is a lot of -- I think people are more alarmed by the voting bills than there are people reading the voting bills. I've notice
when the Major League Baseball decided to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver, I predicted to some friends of mine in Major League
Baseball, they would take about 10 minutes for journalists to find in Colorado voting provisions that are more restrictive, if you will, than the
voting provisions -- some of the voting provisions in Georgia. And then 10 minutes is about how long it took.
ISAACSON: Well, you say it is constitutional desecration because some of these bills would determine how states can run elections. But I remember
you once wrote that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was one of the noblest and best things Congress had ever done. Wasn't that also determining how
elections should be run in states?
WILL: Sure, it was. And it was to address an egregious century-long post- civil war violation of the spirit of the 14th Amendment and I believe the letter of the 14th Amendment. That is a very different situation than we
are today, which although advocates of H.R. 1 and S. 1, the two bills in question here, say this is the resurrection of Jim Crow. That is, as I say,
people go from 0 to 60 hysteria in about 10 minutes in today's political discourse.
ISAACSON: But do you think there's been hysteria on the Republican side as well trying to pass these new restrictive laws in state legislatures?
WILL: Well first of all, the use of the word restrictive is bothersome. People say, well, for example, to require a voter ID procedure is
restrictive. If so, I think every member of the European Union, say (INAUDIBLE) is restrictive in that regard. I think that is just a loose way
But yes, my lord, there's Niagara nonsense on the Republican side about voter fraud, which there is vanishingly small evidence. In part, because,
just think about this as an economist would, the effort that has to go into organizing voter fraud on a large scale is disproportionate to any probable
electoral outcome. It is just absurd in theory and non-existent in practice. So, yes, there is hysteria all around. But, again, what else is
ISAACSON: Senator Joe Manchin, who is our great swing senator, apparently these days has a bill this week that tries to compromise on the whole
voting issue and it includes, as you suggest it should, some voter ID provisions. It also has voter security. On the other hand, it has more easy
ways for people to vote, to register and to vote early. Do you think that compromise makes sense and is a compromise possible here?
WILL: I think it does, and I think it is possible. I would quibble with just a little bit. I don't think Manchin is the swing senator. I think
there are a whole lot of Democratic senators, half a dozen at least, who are prospering in his shadow. That is, they agree with him but they don't
want to get out front and center and expose themselves to the abuse from progressives.
Yes, I think a compromise is possible on this. You know, almost everything in politics is a realm of splitable differences. How much should we
subsidize soybeans? Should we subsidize soybeans? I mean, we can split differences on almost everything, and I would think on election procedures
as well. The one thing that I think any voter reform should have in mind is we want decisiveness quick in our elections. That is, if votes have to be
in and tabulated late on election night, because a great nation simply cannot wander along for a week, two weeks, three weeks while votes are
tabulated because it was somehow too much to ask of voters that they get their vote in on time.
ISAACSON: One of the provisions in Senator Manchin's proposal would try to reduce the amount of gerrymandering, or gerrymandering as it should be
pronounced, that's been around for more than 200 years. Does that make sense? Have we gone too far where politicians of both parties are
protecting themselves by drawing these weird looking districts?
WILL: Yes. Some of the districts look like roadkill splattered all over the map. There is a phrase in current use that makes me laugh or wince,
both, every time we say partisan gerrymandering. All gerrymandering is inherently partisan. All -- both parties do it. The Supreme Court has
correctly thrown up its hands when asked to come up with a metric by which we can determine what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, what
crosses the line, what line, who drew it, where is it.
You know, this -- it seems to me drawing district lines is one of the spoils of victory and both parties are going to enjoy the spoils for the
foreseeable future because the court will not rescue this.
ISAACSON: President Trump ran a $1 trillion deficit during a time of full employment. Do you think that Republicans have abandoned the notion of
fiscal responsibility more than they should have?
WILL: When did they adhere to it? I mean, it's been a very long time. People always (INAUDIBLE) making a fetish of balanced budgets. Good Lord.
That ended, if there was such a fetishization of balanced budget, many decades ago.
Walter, there are two rules. The first rule of economics is scarcity is real. Therefore, hard choices have to be made. The first rule of politics
is, ignore the first rule of economics. And both parties subscribe to this. The Democrats now subscribe to monetary theory. They believe it and praise
it. Monetary theory says when interest rates are low and are apt to remain low, big asterisk there, a nation can borrow without limits, which means
spend without limits. As long as the interest rate is lower than the rate of economic growth.
Republicans criticize modern monetary theory, and practice it also. There is -- we talk about the discord in American life. Lord knows it is real
enough. But I am much more alarmed by a consensus. It's a consensus as broad as the republic, as deep as the Grand Canyon, it extends from
Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz and it is this, we should have a large omnipresent, omni provident welfare state and not pay for it. Everyone's
(INAUDIBLE) on that.
Therefore, both political parties, the political class is more united by its class interest than it is divided by ideology. The class interest is to
continue giving the American people a dollar's worth of government goods and services and charging it 80 cents for it. The public loves it. The
political class loves it. Everybody loves it except the unconsenting because unborn future generations are going to have to pay for all this.
ISAACSON: And so, what should away out of that morass?
WILL: Probably a crisis, a general lack, loss of faith in the reliability of the American dollar and the government -- the government's willingness
to pay its bills or alternatively, inflation as a way of slow-motion repudiation of debts. That is what inflation actually is. It is
repudiation. You pile up debts in 2021 dollars and pay them off in 2031 dollars that are worth a lot less.
ISAACSON: How worried are you about K through 12 educations, the teaching of various new ways of looking at race in America?
WILL: Very worried about it. And it seems to me that is the sleeper political issue of 2022 and 2024. Enough parents, I think are, alarmed when
their third grader comes home and says they are ashamed, that their white skin puts them in an oppressor group. I think when their fifth grader comes
home and says they've been studying gender fluidity in the fifth grade, I think parent are going to push back.
We have a long history in this country. Most famously in Dayton, Tennessee and the Scopes Trial. When, in fact, high school, particularly curricula,
becomes a political football. Another arena for the culture wars.
ISAACSON: Do you think though that this has been ginned up on both sides really trying to push a culture war into the schools and, in fact, it is
probably not one of the top 50 problems we face in this country?
WILL: I think it is a serious problem. It's certainly in the top 50. It seems to me when you have a concerted effort to convince the rising
generation of Americans that their nation is defined by a sin, that is, white supremacy and racism, that is an important development to put it
mildly. A nation that cannot produce an educated population that rather likes their country and respects it and sees the drama of its attempts to
reach a more perfect union. That is a serious problem, much bigger, frankly, than most of the problems that people argue about.
ISAACSON: One of the arguments is about whether or not there is systemic racism. Your colleague, Michael Gerson just wrote a column this week saying
from a conservative viewpoint he really understands the concept that there are things baked into our system that provide head winds, that provide
disadvantages to people of color and to blacks. Do you believe there is some racism baked into our system of economy and laws that needs to be
ISAACSON: I do not believe that. I believe that we -- the '65 -- '64 and '65 Civil Rights Acts dealing with public accommodations of access to the
polls, I think the enormous (INAUDIBLE) that has been developed concerning the, what you call, equality of opportunity means and it is still evolving
as it is addressing the long legacy of slavery.
But the idea that is baked into the idea of equity now, that any disparity of social outcome must be, logically must be, is entailed by systemic
racism is an attempt to win an argument by semantic fiat. I -- there's far more denunciation of systemic racism than there is defining of that term.
ISAACSON: But isn't some of the inequity in our society possibly part of a system that still has some legacies of people like yourself and myself and
Mike Gerson who grew up in affluent white neighborhoods and had more advantages?
WILL: Sure. But that does -- I don't see why we should call that racism? It may be a legacy of slavery, but it is not an example of current racism.
There is a huge difference.
ISAACSON: And so, how would you redefine it so that we could address it?
WILL: I wouldn't redefine. I don't think it is a helpful term and I would stop using it.
ISAACSON: The Supreme Court had been trying to do a delicate balance between free speech rights, rights of gays and other people, as well as
freedom of religion. They balanced it a bit this past week when it came to a case about foster care and Catholic services. How do you think that
balances should go?
WILL: I think there is an enormous amount of bullying now going on over the free exercise of religion. That fellow in -- at the Masterpiece bakery
in Colorado is still being harassed by people who want him to bake cakes that -- for occasions that violate his sense of religious propriety. Same-
sex marriages, whatever.
Now, there is no shortage in the Denver area of bakeries willing to bake these cakes. Why don't they just leave the man alone? The rapid, swift, all
together welcome triumph of the gay rights movement is in danger of stepping over into now a kind of aggressive triumphant bullying on the
parts of the victors. Gay rights are now firmly protected in law. Firmly supported by majority opinion in the United States. Leave the baker alone.
Enjoy the fruits of victory. Let's -- everybody calm down and let -- live and let live spirit, which was the originally what the gay rights movement
was all about.
ISAACSON: The latest affirmative action case that will probably reach the court, one of them involves Harvard and potential discriminations against
Asian-Americans because of preferences in the admissions process or allegedly so that prefer blacks and other minorities. Why should Harvard be
told by the government how to pick and choose the people for the classes it wants to educate?
WILL: Well, that's a good question because the court has said that schools have enormous latitude to shape their student bodies for academic reasons
that they think serve the learning experience. I got that.
During the discovery in the lower courts about this particular case, it is winning its way towards the Supreme Court. A document was unearthed from
the Harvard admissions department that said the following, if admissions were simply by two objective metrics, that is, high school transcripts and
standardized tests, the admissions at Harvard would be 40 percent Asian- American and 1 percent African American.
Now, that's not an outcome Harvard wants. And Harvard should be -- it seems to me, should enjoy some latitude to prevent that. On the other hand,
Harvard, which is, shall we say, friendly to the progressive impulse in the United States has been the cheerleader for a central government that
finetunes the behavior of civil society's institutions in order to bring them into conformity with non-discrimination laws. So, Harvard is going to
have to find out a way to live with the laws that most of us like.
ISAACSON: George Will, as always, thank you so much for joining us.
WILL: I've enjoyed it. Let's do it again.
AMANPOUR: The conservative take of George Will. And finally, tonight, blazing trails in the sporting world this pride month. Carl Nassib becomes
the first openly gay active NFL player in the league's 101-year history. The Las Vegas Raiders' defensive linesman made this announcement on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL NASSIB, FIRST OPENLY GAY ACTIVE NFL PLAYER: I'm a pretty private person. So, I hope you guys know that I'm really not doing this for
attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important. I actually hope that like one day videos like this and the whole
coming out process are just not necessary. But until then, you know, I'm going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that's accepting,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And he's had support from across the league. The NFL says it is proud Nassib is "courageously sharing his truth." Nassib says he will
donate $100,000 to the Trevor Project which is the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth in the United States.
On the other side of the world, New Zealand has selected the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic games. Weightlifter, Laurel
Hubbard, will be part of the national team at the Tokyo Summit games. History being made on the pitch and on the map.
And that is it for our program tonight. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye
from London. See you tomorrow night.