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Fauci: I Believe FDA Will Approve Vaccines 'Very Soon'; Lear's Life, Career, And Being Social Activist; Interview With Ben Jealous And Norman Lear; Interview With Andrew Sullivan. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 11, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello everyone and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDON SCOTT, BALTIMORE MAYOR: If you're not vaccinated, shut up. Don't complain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The Deadly struggle for vaccination and herd immunity. Dr. Anthony Fauci tells us what we should be doing now to beat this virus and
stay alive. Then --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now on three, OK? One, two, three.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: T.V. visionary, Norman Lear, on sitcoms and social justice. I speak to him and Ben Jealous about their advocacy group, People for the
Also ahead --
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ANDREW SULLIVAN, BRITISH-AMERICAN AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND BLOGGER: I'll confess, I find really thorny topics, the places I really want to jump in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The provocative social commentator Andrew Sullivan talks to Walter Isaacson about "Going Out on a Limb."
And finally, soccer superstar Lionel Messi's emotional move to Paris.
Welcome to the program everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Who could have thought that such a life and death public health matter, as
getting vaccinated or not, would become such a hot button political issue in the United States and in some other parts of the world?
The silent majority who back vaccination are now getting a lot less silence as bitterness rises against holdouts were putting lives at risk. Despite
the availability of many effective vaccines, despite billions of doses being jabbed into arms with scare side effects, the Mayor of Baltimore,
Maryland captures the anger and the frustration of this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT: None of us want to go back to what we went through the last two times and for anyone that's frustrated about wearing a mask and you're not
vaccinated, then look in the mirror, it's your fault that we're going back to -- going back to having an indoor mask mandate. Make sure that folks get
vaccinated. If you're not vaccinated, shut up, don't complain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, COVID cases are at an all-time high in U.S. states like Louisiana and Florida. And with kids heading back to school, presenting the
very real worry about the highly contagious Delta variant and perhaps others emerging. Now the majority of U.S. parents backed mask mandates for
staff and students who are not vaccinated.
So we welcome Dr. Anthony Fauci to the program for some sound medical advice. He of course, is director of the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases, and is chief medical adviser to the President. Dr. Fauci, welcome to the program. You know, I know you're worried. I know many
parents are at peak worry, this is back to school moment around the corner. What is the key thing that you're focusing on in this regard right now
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, the best ways, Christiane, to protect children is to surround them to the
extent possible with people who are eligible to be vaccinated who are vaccinated, that would be teachers, personnel in the school, and children
from 12 and older, who are now eligible to be vaccinated to get them vaccinated.
Now, obviously, younger children, not yet have been approved to get vaccinated, those we need to protect. And that's the reason for our CDC
coming up with the recommendation of having everybody wear a mask in school, even those who are vaccinated because we know so well, the
detrimental effects of having children not be physically present in school. We know that from mental health issues, from social development issues,
from a variety of other issues that is so important. So we've got to do both. We've got to get them back to school, but we've got to do it safely.
You were mentioning issues about vaccination. It just as extraordinary when you have vaccines that have been proven through hundreds of millions of
doses to be highly effective and safe, even against this very troublesome Delta variant. And yet we still have recalcitrance in some areas of the
country of people who just don't want to get vaccinated. It's almost in explicable that that's the case.
AMANPOUR: Indeed, and can I ask you because there's also quite a lot of politics and health data being, you know, some of us, some people don't
quite know who's saying what. So what do you see, what does the data show us about young children right now in those states in the south, which is
Are they getting sick? How sick for instance, the Florida Governor says he's seeing no difference in proportions of admissions but otherwise there
are other numbers that say that actually there's spikes even amongst children, tell us and for parents as well.
FAUCI: Well, there are spikes among children for a couple of reasons. First of all, we're dealing now Christiane with an entirely different virus in
the sense of its ability to transmit highly efficiently. If you look at the alpha variant, the one that was originally in the U.K. and now was became
dominant in the United States, that's been completely pushed aside by the Delta variant, which has an extraordinarily high capability of transmitting
from person to person.
The level of virus in the nasal pharynx of people who have the Delta variant is much, much higher than that in the nasal pharynx of people who
are originally infected with the alpha variant. So what you're seeing is for everyone involved, there's a greater chance if you're unvaccinated to
get infected, that's point number one.
Point number two, in the United States, we have, for the most part, done very well, in getting the elderly vaccinated. We have more than 85 percent
of individuals older than 65, who've had at least one dose, and that is really quite good.
So when you look at a highly efficient virus in transmission, and you look at the relative proportion of vulnerable people, relatively speaking, the
young are now more vulnerable, because they are in the cohort, who is under vaccinated either children like 12 to 15, 12 to 18, who are eligible, who
are not yet gotten vaccinated when they should, or the children who are too young to get vaccinated.
So when you look anywhere in a hospital, you are seeing a relative proportion of people who are sick, a leaning much more towards the younger
group. And that's not surprising, the combination of a highly efficient virus in transmitting together with a relatively unprotected group when you
compare them to the older individuals.
AMANPOUR: So regarding the children and the parents, I know you back a vaccine mandate for teachers. I don't know whether you have really
realistic hope for that to happen. But in some states, some children and school authorities are being banned by the governors and by the local
authorities from actually wearing masks. Is that even a viable concern? We're seeing some schools just take matters into their own hand and mandate
their own mask mandates.
FAUCI: Right. I mean, that to me is so disconcerting, Christiane, when you have authorities for reasons that I mean, I can't explain, is it political?
Is it libertarian? What is it? I mean, how can you prevent the local authorities from doing what it takes to protect the children, for what
reason is more important than protecting the health of the children.
And that's the thing that, as you probably know, as you will lead into in the introduction, is the reason for such friction and for such conflict
here. We've got to protect the children. We have a vaccine that you will know, is highly effective, and it's safe.
We have the tools within our own armamentarium to fight this virus very effectively. I just cannot imagine why people are not looking at this as
let's say we're all in this together. The common enemy is the virus. Let's not the common enemy, be arguing with each other and have ideological
differences dictate whether or not you're going to get vaccinated or not.
Because then -- I think the reason you're seeing a lot more tension now, Christiane, because the vaccinated people who have done the right thing,
realize that as long as you have, and we do in this country, 93 million people who are eligible for being vaccinated, who are not yet getting
vaccinated, that allows the virus to circulate regularly and easily.
And therefore, you have the possibility of the emergence of another variant that might actually evade the vaccine that the people who've been
vaccinated with. So you're not only negatively impacting potentially your own health by not getting vaccinated, you're becoming part of a potential
problem that would lead to the development or the evolution of another variant. That's the problem.
AMANPOUR: And staying on the science for a moment because I do want to get to some of these issues that you've raised on that, you know, there really
are obviously important and life and death. Do you have any anticipation or when do you think children under 12 might be authorized or a vaccine might
be authorized for children under the age of 12?
FAUCI: Well, we're doing the clinical studies now on what's called age de- escalation. We're looking for the safety and the ability to induce a proper immune response and the proper dose for that for children from 11 to nine,
and then nine to six, and then six to two. And then six months to two years, we're well into those studies.
Thus far things look good, but then it's left up to a regulatory decision, what's going to be the regulatory mechanism to get the approval to get
these younger children vaccinated. So we're doing the science that's being done in a quick pace, we'll have to wait for the regulatory decision. I
hope that is as we get into the fall, late fall, early winter.
AMANPOUR: So that's just around the corner, that's some encouragement.
AMANPOUR: And what about the other regulatory decision that many in the unvaccinated can't point to? These vaccines have only received emergency
authorization. Do you have any expectation that those which are on the market right now will get full authorization by the FDA and maybe have a
psychological effect on those who continue to say they're worried about them?
FAUCI: Well, we never want to get ahead of the regulatory agency, because then you will get the kind of pushback that you need to say you are unduly
influencing them. And you have the counterproductive effect of saying, well, maybe it isn't so safe.
But they approve that because you push them. They have their own process, which has served us well, I believe, Christiane, that this is going to be
very soon. I can't predict. But I certainly hope it will be within the next couple of weeks.
And when you get that in the next couple of weeks --
FAUCI: -- two things are going to happen. One, individuals who are waiting for that imprimatur of a full approval will say, OK, now I'm more
confident. But then you will also have a situation where individual entities at the local level will feel more empowered to mandate for
example, colleges, universities, large businesses, would feel much more comfortable if they want to do a local mandate when you have a fully
approved vaccine. And again, I don't know when it's going to happen. But I hope it's going to be in the next few weeks, before we come to the end of
AMANPOUR: Wow, that is -- that would be amazing, certainly. Can I ask you about antibodies and boosters? Many of the elderly who have been
vaccinated, you know, are they -- is there an issue? Does the data show that the antibodies lost? Do they need boosters? How effective six months
down the line now are some of the vaccines that have already, you know, been administered?
FAUCI: Well, you have to look at it from two standpoints because this is sometimes confusing. When you look at immune compromised people, namely
those with cancers, those on chemotherapy for a variety of diseases, those who have immune depression of some sort or another, they likely never got a
good immune response to begin with.
In fact, we know they generally don't get a good immune response. We think they should get that additional boost sooner rather than later, very soon.
And I hope that's going to be very soon. Then there's the question that you asked about otherwise normal people of various ages, always seeing an
attenuation of the immune response, as well as an attenuation in the effectiveness of the vaccine, which is complicated, because now today, most
of us are dealing with a Delta variant.
The answer to your question is that we are now rapidly doing the studies to try and determine to whom, when, and what kind of a booster we're going to
be doing. So you're going to be hearing about that reasonably soon. If you look at studies from Israel, from the U.K., from other places, and even the
company studies, there's no doubt that the protection over time does attenuate.
The real question is going to be when do you get to the point where in an orderly fashion, if you do have to boost, how do you do that? And how do
you do it in a way that's orderly and fair? All of these things, Christiane, are under very active discussion right now.
AMANPOUR: And of course, if you broaden it out from the United States, or some of our rich Western, you know, developed nations, the fairness issue
is already being challenged by the WHO, who is saying, don't do boosters as long as the rest of the world hasn't even had, you know, one vaccine. Where
do you stand on that?
FAUCI: Yes, I believe we can do both. I really do. I really -- I believe that the rich countries including the United States, which is already doing
a lot, we already have now, a half a billion doses that are going to go out plus 80 of our own supply plus 4 billion in COVAX. So we're doing a lot,
but I believe we can do more. And if we do more, I hope the other rich countries will do more.
And the way to do that is to expand the capacity of the companies that have the capability of making it and to develop the capability in other
countries to be able to do that. If we put enough resources in, I believe we can do both. We can get the little lower and middle-income countries
that are not getting adequately vaccinated yet to get them vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can, at the same time, as we address the situation
of the potential need for boosters to get an adequate and durable response.
AMANPOUR: And on a political issue, you've obviously been around a long time, I mean, you know, going all the way back to AIDS/HIV and before,
you've seen the political battles over these health matters. Do you -- when you look at the political issue in the U.S. and compare it, let's say to
France, also quite hesitant, are quite hostile in certain sectors, until the President himself came and issued not just vaccine mandates, but also
vaccine passes, they're literally you can't do certain things if you're not vaccinated.
And that has created a massive uptick in vaccination. Where do you stand on that leadership, you know, gamble, if you like, in matters of life and
FAUCI: Yes, what we're going to have very likely, Christiane, and it gets to the question you asked me a moment ago, and that is, when we get the
full approval of the vaccines, you are going to see a couple of things, you're going to see the local authorities, essentially implementing
mandates at the local level. And you will very likely see, as we have seen thus far, for example, with the Veterans Administration, you're going to
see government agencies for those who work for in a connected with the federal government to have a mandate.
So the -- President Biden has shown a lot of leadership in this from a number of standpoints. And you're going to see even more mandating
predominantly at the local level.
AMANPOUR: Well, I think that's really interesting, and really trying to digest what you've just said, because this is all sort of moving the ball
forward, as I say, at this incredibly important time with schools opening. Do you think, given your experience, that COVID-19 is something that can be
eradicated within a reasonable period of time? Or can and will one simply have to coexist with it?
FAUCI: I believe that if we get the rest of the world, the vaccinations to them that I mentioned, that we will be able to I don't think necessarily
eradicate, we've only successfully eradicated one viral infection for humans and that smallpox. I believe we can eliminate it, things that we've
done in many countries with polio, things that we've done in many countries with measles, but that would require a global response because this is a
global pandemic, which requires a global response.
And that's the reason why I feel so strongly that in addition to the USA, as a rich country to be doing what they're doing, take a leadership role
not only in protecting our own citizens, but providing the capability to get the entire world vaccinated. Now you do that, you're going to see a
blanket of protection that would really be able to get this off the table maybe not eradicated in the technical sense, but to not make it an issue
that has now essentially paralyzed the planet for 18 months now.
AMANPOUR: Well, eliminate is a good word on this evening. We'll take eliminate. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
FAUCI: Thank you for having me, pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Now, as we've discussed, the pandemic has further exposed societies fault lines, and my next guests are trying to heal many of those
divisions. Norman Lear is the legendary T.V. writer and producer behind sitcom hits like "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons," "One Day at a
Time." But he's also a keen social activist, founding the progressive advocacy group, People for the American Way. He's also in his 100th year
and so has a sense of urgency nipping at his heels. And he's joining us now alongside Ben Jealous, who's president of Lear's organization. And he's
also former head of the NAACP. Gentlemen, welcome both to the program.
Norman Lear, I, you know, you're in your 100th year, you've made a big deal about it. So I'm not breaking any secrecy, you're soon to be 100. But you
said and I find it really interesting at this moment, that when you were a young man, you flew more than 50 bomber missions over Europe during World
War II, and we've got amazing pictures. And in context of your social advocacy and civil rights, I wonder what from there stuck with you through
these years what you experience to bring you to the social activism you're engaged in now.
NORMAN LEAR, FOUNDER, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: I think it began with a very early love of America. I was in my sophomore year at Emerson College
in Boston when the Pearl Harbor was bombed. I called that afternoon to my mom in Hartford to tell her I wanted to enlist. It was reflective and
urgent and she begged me, begged me and in a 3rd or 4th or 12th o'clock, she said she was absolutely die if I, there was no draft, I was enlisting
freely. But she was scared to death about it.
And but as I look back on it, there was a, you know, I had had I'm in college now but I had I had it seemed to me educational lifetime of civics
classes. And I knew far better than today's youth what America meant to the world, what the promises of the founding fathers met what equality and,
yeah, it was it was all together unquestionable and wonderful.
And then came World War II. I remember coming back and wondering if we now learn to, we were the good guys very clearly in World War II. But wondered
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean -- yes, I'm sorry to interrupt on this, yes?
LEAR: Well, I do tend to go on. Christiane, I just want to --
AMANPOUR: I'm just trying to --
AMANPOUR: I mean, you were the good guys. You snatch freedom from the jaws of fascism. And I guess what I want to ask you and Ben as well, you know,
you said that you're baffled that all these years later, in the 21st century, America, democracy and all that you fought for back then, is in
such a fragile place. Norman, did you ever imagine that that would happen all these years after you fought for it?
LEAR: I never, ever imagined. I never imagined that the concerns we had at the time, People for the American Way came about. And bless Ben Jealous
who's joined us recently. And I'm talking too long. I can I haven't heard him say anything yet.
But the reason it came about was the fear of exactly what's going on right now from the religious right. The political right, the far right, not, you
know, I have too many good Republican friends to feel right and left alone. It's the far right. It's the crazy right. It's time for you, Ben.
AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask Ben. Yes, let me ask you, Ben, because, you know, former head of the NAACP, now president of Norman's organization,
People for the American Way. And right now, as we can see in Congress, they're struggling with how to protect people's voting rights in the United
States of America. Describe this situation and what you think your organization can help do about it.
BEN JEALOUS, PRESIDENT, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: You know, first of all, just deeply inspired by Norman. What history has shown us is that
every generation has to step up to defend our democracy. What's great about Norman is he didn't just step up with his own generation in the 40s. He
kept stepping up again in the 60s, in the 80s, in the 2000s, and now, now.
What both of us are focused on is making sure that there's bold federal action to protect voting rights. We're very pleased to see what's happening
in the Senate. We're concerned that the President needs to go the full distance, Biden's comments at his town hall the other night were a bit
disconcerting. My own family is testament to the fact that laws can in fact, stop people from voting. My grandmother turns 105 in November. Her
grandfather was born a slave, who was one of the last blacks who served during Reconstruction in Virginia.
And indeed, his career in politics was ended because of voter suppression laws. And for the first time in my life, I'm talking to peers who are
thinking about running for statewide office, as I did in my state a couple years ago, and for the first time are saying, I'm not sure that I should do
it. This is I'm talking because in their states, their governor now has the power to overturn the election if they don't like the results. And so we're
in a very dire moment. Norman and I are both working intently to make sure that strong federal voting rights laws get passed now.
AMANPOUR: So you said you were disconcerted, Ben by the town hall? What particularly disconcerted you about what President Biden said? And do you
have any faith that Congress will act to save, you know, full voting rights?
JEALOUS: There was a moment in the town hall where Biden was pushed and on standing up against these voter suppression laws and doing literally
everything in his power to get it done. And he said, you know, you just can't stop people from voting. Look at the last election.
We had record turnout. It's just a historical. I wish it were the case, but it's not. And what we're seeing right now on the state level, assaults on
voting rights is they're so massive, they're so thorough, that for the first time, in a -- in like more than a century, we're seeing black
politicians in certain states say, I don't think it makes sense to run because the incumbent can literally overturn the election if they wanted
AMANPOUR: But it's obviously very troubling and because we saw what happened in 2020. But we also did see local authorities, governors the, you
know, the courts and stuff hold to the facts of the election. But I hear you, and I want to ask Norman.
Norman, let's go back a little bit to your, you know, producing and writing career because you were amongst the first if not the first, to bring issues
of social justice, you know, into the -- can I play a little, I guess I want to ask you, what do you think your T.V. hits and your sitcoms
contributed not just to culture and people's enjoyment and great ratings, but to the way Americans saw their world and the way the others watching
LEAR: Well, look, what comes to mind reflexively is I don't remember doing a show where the following week show was on Saturday night and Monday. I
was reading about and hearing from people about the conversations that followed the show and the families that in their homes watching it. And the
expression the water fountain in the offices, people stood around the water fountain talking about the on the family episode, the way Archie carried on
about this Saturday, the other thing beyond as mud, I mean.
So I had the -- I could be certain that what we were dealing with in the shows by way of the topics we selected was causing families to talk and
think and express their opinions and that all felt good and extremely American. So I had every reason to --
AMANPOUR: So we're going play, Norman --
LEAR: I beg your pardon?
AMANPOUR: Go ahead.
LEAR: Well, we're going to play a clip from "Sanford and son." And it's where the elder Sanford is reporting a robbery to the police. We're going
to play this clip because it has a very stinging, stinging end to this ill conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First, what is your full name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sam Ford. That's S-A-M F-O-R-D, period.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you were in the Bronx. And you were attacked and robbed. How many men were there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many I say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four? Is that too many?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, if that's it. Were they colored?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, white.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ben, all the way back then, that was a phenomenal line, I guess. Do you remember as a child of the '70s watching Norman's, you know,
JEALOUS: Oh, my gosh. Absolutely. I mean, as a Generation Xer, I was raised on a diet of Norman Lear's shows. I was a latchkey kid. I saw many
of them when they came on and I saw them again as reruns. For me, as the child of a marriage between a white man and a black woman, you know, it was
deeply affirming to see a couple like my parents on "Good Times." And, you know, as a kid who grew up with lots of white friends. You know, one of
Norman's proteges made Punky Brewster.
It was nice when I was older to just, you know, kind of see that affirmed in a big way. It wasn't just kind of what Norman did. It was who he
surrounded himself with and what they went on to do. And as a cadre, they really created television that moved our society forward.
You know, I think one of the things that's kind of most long lasting is that Norman taught the country, what we all knew in our private lives and
never saw reflected on television, which was that families that love each other sometimes have to fight. That that sort of fight and that struggle in
the family is a reflection of your love for each other. You know, when it is done right. And so, it is in our country as a whole.
AMANPOUR: Norman, I want to go back to your World War II experience. And I just wonder, whether what you have said about how the Tuskegee airmen you
say saved your skin, you know, during many of the encounters you had, and yet, they were segregated during that time and couldn't sleep where you
did, couldn't eat where you did. How did that shape what you then went to write for a broader public audience?
LEAR: You know, I'm not sure at all that I was aware during the war. You know, I got credit from 52 missions, actually dropped bombs 35 times. So, I
always think the ones in which I dropped bombs were the -- ought to be the total. But in America, we go with the larger figure. And so, it was 52.
I remember I was the radio operator/gunner on a B-17. I sat closest to the Bombay doors. So, I was the crew member who could see when the Bombay doors
were empty, when the last bomb had dropped and I could tell the pilot to close the doors.
So, I had the memory of looking down and watching our dozens of bombs leave our plane and join hundreds upon hundreds of other bombs from the squadron
that we were flying with and imagining a family at a long dinner table or luncheon table and these bombs raining down on them.
And I remembered with my teeth grit thinking, screw them, the hell with them. And then, an hour later flying back to hour base, I recall so well
wondering if anybody came to me over the years that followed with a pencil and paper and said, Mr. Lear, sign this and you'll never regret having
wished to -- not necessarily the wish to kill but not caring that a bomb dropped on a family. And I like to think I remember so well thinking I
would never sign that. I would never sign that.
But it has always -- the next thought reflexively, the next thought always was, but I wasn't tested. It didn't happen that I was tested. I like to
think I would not have signed that paper. But so, it is with these --
AMANPOUR: But you have incredible memories.
LEAR: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Norman, we can't end without playing a sound from "All in the Family." You know, more people know about that around the world than just
about anything. And, you know, you epitomize the -- I don't know, the meat heads, so to speak. I'm going play this right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you doing? You say America love it or leave it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. It's a free country. So am-scray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would include me, Mr. Bunker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And tooliyou [ph] to you too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what would all leaving solve? I mean, with or without protests this country would still have the same problems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What problems?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, there's the war, the racial problem, the economic problem, the pollution problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on you want to nitpick.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nitpick? Let me tell you something, Mr. Bunker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Let me tell you something, Mr. Stivic. You are a meat head.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you call me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A meat head. Dead from the neck up. Meat head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Honestly, it is a scene that looks like it could have been written today. You were very prescient. Norman Lear, thank you so much for
your years and years of service and entertainment. Ben Jealous, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
LEAR: Can I just take a moment to remind you, we were dinner mates at the Bradley's Ben and Sally's --
LEAR: -- a great many years ago.
AMANPOUR: I remember. I remember. I wish -- it is great to see you again. I wish we could talk more about it. We will. On your 100th birthday, I'll
give you a call.
Anyway, issues of racial and social justice are also among the topics tackled by our next guest but from a very different vantage point. Andrew
Sullivan is one of today's most provocative social and political commentators and he's often critical of both left and right. And his new
book explores whether America has become too ideological in these politically charged times.
Here he is going out on a limb with Walter Isaacson.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Andrew Sullivan, congratulations on the book and welcome to the show.
ANDREW SULLIVAN, AUTHOR, "OUT ON A LIMB": Thank you so much for having me.
ISAACSON: You know, Michael Logshot (ph) who you write about, when I first met you as a graduate student and you were doing your dissertation, he's in
this book but he's not only a moderate conservative as you say, he is sort of anti-ideology, right? Do you feel that we've become too ideological?
SULLIVAN: Oh, of course we have, Walter. I think we forget and can often forget that life is a practical entity, a challenge. That we go through
life doing things. And we try and compromise with other people. And the world changes. And people change. So, we're in this constant flux. And if
you have this fixed ideology, it will never be able to take account of the society you live in.
And (INAUDIBLE) has this metaphor of a book that you are running society out of and you use the book as a guide. And eventually, after a little bit
of time, they start doing things the book doesn't say you are allowed to do. And so, you try and revise it. And then you keep revising until
eventually you realize the society is doing this on its own and you shut the book.
And I think shutting the book of ideology is really what he was about. Which means being alive to the present and being alive to the practical
possibilities of every moment. So, there is also a kind of Bohemian kind of eastern Daoist view behind (INAUDIBLE), which is things are mysterious,
let's live now and let's understand the world. He had this phrase, everything is truly so long as it isn't taken to be anything more than it
is. In other words, find exactly what you are talking about first and then understand the world that way.
ISAACSON: The other guiding light in your book was Plato. And I read about him in the republic in your book quite a bit. And he talks about in the
dialogue how tyranny is going to maybe grow out of democracy. Do you think we're seeing that?
SULLIVAN: I do. And that's what I saw in the piece I wrote about Trump in 2016. When a society becomes a kind of pathologically egalitarian society
in which we abolish distinctions between the learned and the unlearned, we -- the kid teaches his parents, the student teaches the teachers, the rich
wear clothes that the poor wear and people's complexity and variety of factions in the community become so great that you kind of get paralyze by
division, paralyzed by individual tribalism in ways you think your country is just not going anywhere because it is kind of stuck in this cacophony.
There is a yearning for someone to come along and just put it right. That sort of authoritative moment. A man will come up. And Plato believed that
out of that chaotic democracy, someone would have the skill to exploit that frustration, to tell the people that he alone among the elites understands
how corrupt this is and he will do it for them.
And with Trump, you had an absolutely perfect example of that. Now, it almost succeeded in some ways. If he hadn't been operational competent,
intelligent and not mentally unwell person, he could have used the epidemic, for example, to impose martial law if he'd wanted. I mean, that's
the kind of situation that Plato (ph) yearns for but he didn't, because he's not interested in controlling. What he's interested in is ego.
And so, eventually he subverted the constitution of this country trying to overturn election. Why? Because his own ego couldn't accept that he had
lost. And that is a person not in control of reason. That is someone guided by passion and impulse and whose built his entire appeal on resentment and
fear. But it happened and it can happen again. And you see a discomfort on both right and left with the mess of pluralism, the mess of compromise, the
mess of having people in your own society you really disagree with but you have to come to a compromise on.
And that can be frustrating. But that frustration is what the conservative says, when you want to cut through it and solve everything and get a
leader, conservatives should say, no, that's exactly when you shouldn't. And what's happened in America is conservativism has become the opposite.
That it is now worshipping a cult figure. Its authoritarian impulses have overwhelmed its sense of small government and individual freedom.
ISAACSON: And do you think that is Trump or do you think that is a deeper impulse affecting the conservative movement in America?
SULLIVAN: I think it is a deeper impulse. I think it's always been there. I think the failures of the elites in the early 21st century embittered
people. I think the fact that it seems as if half our industrial base was lost to China and people were left behind. I think the collapse of
Christianity and religion has left people adrift. These are ripe conditions for the demagogue. And -- but they are also lessons for the existing
Take note. Do not ignore the forces that he is exploiting. So, do not take immigration as something you have to have unrestricted in order to show
that you are not Trump. If you aren't (ph) going to enforce the borders, fascist will. And so, there's -- he's just a brilliant demagogue. And
that's -- I think that hasn't been properly appreciated. A gifted, really gifted demagogue out there with some of the worst and greatest. Like Huey
Long, people who would really rattle you with the power to rally a crowd.
And you have seen those rallies. That's -- not many politicians can do that. And he also listened to the crowd. He became one with them. When we
read stories of these charismatic dictators, there is this quality. And he had it. Ironically, New York real estate scion has this. But he did it. And
that's talent. And we have to be worried about that talent. Happily, not many people have it. But he saw the opportunity and instinctively seized
ISAACSON: You have endorsed Obama and you have taken on Trump. But you are mainly now aiming your lance at the far left, the woke left, the critical
race theory. Does that worry you as much as the Trumpist authoritarian impulse?
SULLIVAN: I don't think it worries me as much. But I do think it is at its core an illiberal impulse. And that if you remove the idea that we're all
individual citizens irrespective of our race, gender, sex and we are, as citizens, engaged in a project of reasoning through the common good, if
that is the basis of our society, then critical race theory, critical theory really detonates it at its foundation because it doesn't believe in
individuals, it believes in group rights. It doesn't believe that society is a function of individual freedom competing with one another, it believes
it's actually a story of oppression in which groups suppress other groups ad infinitum.
ISAACSON: By the way, don't we have a history of oppression in this country against blacks that needs to be righted?
SULLIVAN: Yes. We absolutely do. And I'm glad you brought it up. Because I don't want to be seen as someone dismissing that. The truth is that we have
whitewashed the past. It is shocking how much we have ignored or played down what was essentially a sort of gulag system in the American South for
a very long time.
And we have shamefully not actually brought to life the hideous reality for African Americans in this country for so long. If it was about that, if it
was about unearthing that history and making students face it and understand where we've come from, but and -- in so doing understanding how
we have managed to get past only some of that, how we still have work to do but America, as Obama said, is a project. It is still ongoing. Critical
race theory says, no, there will never be a moment where America can get past its racist essential DNA.
The founding of the America wasn't 1775, it was when slaves are brought in. This is a slavocracy not a democracy. The constitution was designed for
racial oppression, not for individual freedom. Now -- and therefore, the whole system has to be undone to undo that crime.
I don't believe that. I don't believe this country is rotten at its core. I don't. I think it is deeply flawed. I think its history has horrors in it.
But I emigrated here for a reason. Because it has improved and it betters itself and it has shown that individual freedom and small government leads
to a dynamic society.
And so, I don't want America's kids to be constantly aware of their race and their gender. I don't want them to be fixated on the identities of
their friends. I want them to be interested in the characters of their friends, their personalities, their lives. I want them to form friendships
the way I did as a kid. And eventually, we can understand the past and learn to adjust to it.
But the idea we've made no progress? The idea that Barack Obama's two terms were a waste of time? The idea that we have to actually reintroduce active
race discrimination and sex discrimination into the government and into society as a whole to rectify these historic injustices is deeply
antithetical to American principles. It's actually --
ISAACSON: But don't we have to inject something to rectify what are still injustices that are built in a bit so that we can make sure, including
affirmative action which you have been against?
SULLIVAN: Well, I don't think affirmative action does that. I think what we should do is invest in early education, in really caring about the next
generation of black kids. I think we should be concerned about the crime that terrorizes them on a daily basis and that is rising very fast. I think
we need to be concerned about family structure. And I think yes, we have an obligation to be honest about the problems that are there and propose
solutions to them and ways to improve.
But I don't think token gestures in which white people have based themselves from the past and give these symbolic gestures is healthy and I
don't think -- and I do not think the current generation is guilty of these crimes of previous generations. But think of all the new immigrants who
have come into this country from Asia and from Africa and around the world the last 30 years.
They are not responsible for something called white supremacy. And I don't think this country is a white supremacist country. I don't. I think it has
been. I think there are strains of it still here. I think there are legacies of it that need to be confronted. Specifically, the wealth gap.
But when you come to that kind of issue, the wealth gap, which is created in part by red lining and by discrimination by the government in the past.
The question then becomes, how would we make that right? And it is very complicated.
And I would rather focus on how do we make the next generation more successful than the last and we don't ignore or we don't euthanize or we
don't pretend there are no problems there. That's how I would approach it. The old liberal approach -- my approach to that is Obama's. It is not
exactly far right.
ISAACSON: One of the most emotional and sort of layered essays in your book is a letter you wrote to Ta-Nehisi Coates, it is an open letter. And
it stems out of the fact that when you were added to the New Republic, you published the Bell Curve, which looked at the correlation of race and I.Q.
and the symposium in which people debated it and you were a truth seeker. And yet, in that letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates you talk about maybe being
empathetic should Trump being a truth seeker at times. You have to wrestle with that. Explain your thinking on that.
SULLIVAN: Well, I've thought about this a lot, honestly, and I was quite young when I decided to use the New Republic magazine as a place to air a
debate about this. And intellectually, I understand completely the need. In fact, I think it is important to air typical subjects and to demystify
them, not to let them be covered by subterranean, rather maligned forces. We should bring them out in the open and to subject them to reason.
I have no qualms about that. But when you hurt people's feelings, when you may actually create sentiment that can put back race relations, when your
own friends and people you love -- and I was friends with Ta-Nehisi, I respect him enormously, are wounded, deeply wounded and think I'm
personally winning them from this, I take stock.
ISAACSON: Isn't though that what note political correctness, which people criticize, in that at its core what it is supposed to be is taking stock of
whether you are wounding somebody by pretending to be too much of a truth seeker?
SULLIVAN: In part, yes. But in the same way, Christianity, which doesn't require all that kind of ideology tells you just to love your fellow person
and regardless of their race. We are neither Greek nor Jew. Neither male nor female. And that is a fundamental part of my own belief. To hurt people
and to invoke and to touch deep historical pain is something you should do very gingerly and only when it really requires an honest account. And you
need to do it in good faith and carefully.
But nonetheless, there are times when I feel that my duty as a truth seeker, in a way, has conflicted with my duty to be a better Christian and
to not pick up some old scabs, not look under the -- not pursue the things. But, you know, there are roles that we all play. And one of the roles of
the journalist is to be, and the public intellectual, is to be the skunk at the party and to be the person no one likes because they bring up
uncomfortable subjects and make people do that.
I don't believe a journalist should be popular or particularly amiable. I think we should be a kind of pariah class whose role is in part to play the
role of the court jester or the person who will ask the question no one is supposed to ask. And so, I've seen that as part of my role, to be honest
with you. Also, I'll confess.
I find really thorny topics the places I really want to jump in. I'm just curious. I want to know the truth about this. And I'm a long believer that
the best way to do that is have it all out on the table. Let this view compete with that view. I'm an old school liberal in that sense. And I
don't think words ultimately harm people. I think actions harm people.
ISAACSON: But words do harm people.
SULLIVAN: They can harm your psyche. But what happened to Eleanor Roosevelt's (INAUDIBLE) that no one can make you feel inferior without your
consent? People say hurtful things all the time. The things I have heard against me, whether I was a catholic in England, a gay person in Catholic
Church, you know, a gay person in America.
I've been hurt. People say mean things. People talk about promiscuity and they talked about -- when I had HIV, did I complain when people said he was
too stupid, he shouldn't have gotten this, or he's gay, of course they are going to get there this? No. You have to develop -- and this is key.
Minorities have to develop and have developed in the past resilience, tenacity, self-pride.
And to collapse all that into this desperate need for other people's love? Screw that. You don't need people's love. I want their respect and I want
equality. But I don't mind if they hate me. And instead of responding to people yelling at us, yelling back bigot, engage them, talk to them, be
America -- and here again, I will say this, people that talk about America as inherently bigoted or racist or homophobic, I've lived an adult life
where this country has gone from one position to another through a system of open debate, done civilly, no violence, occasional spectacular demos,
and some of them I disagreed with. But a lot of argument, a lot of talk around family tables, a lot of people taking risks with their own lives and
telling their story, and we change people's minds and hearts.
So, I'm not giving up on this place. I don't think it is rooted in evil and constantly going to always oppress people. It is a fantastic place. That's
why I came here.
ISAACSON: Andrew Sullivan, thank you so much for joining us.
SULLIVAN: Walter, it is wonderful to see you. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, Messi mania, Paris celebrates as the superstar soccer player, Lionel Messi, arrived to join his new team, Paris
Saint-Germain. After a glittering 19 years with Barcelona, and of course a lot of goals. Speaking to CNN, he reflected on this momentous move.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIONEL MESSI, PSG FORWARD (through translator): Well, the truth is it's hard to put in to words what I've had to live through this week. It was
really difficult what happened with Barcelona, saying farewell after being there my whole life in one place. And after three days without forgetting
what happened, everything changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And of course, saying goodbye to his talismanic number 10 jersey, he now will wear number 30. And does that mean he will be three
times as fiercely (ph) good? His rivals had better watch out still.
And that is it for now. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.