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Leaving One's Homeland; Interview With Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired August 25, 2021 - 13:00   ET




Here's what's coming up.


GOLODRYGA (voice-over): As Afghans flee in the tens of thousands, Albania's prime minister tells me why he's giving them refuge.

Then: Two literary titans discuss the pain of leaving one's homeland, Khaled Hosseini, author of "The Kite Runner," and Viet Thanh Nguyen of "The

Sympathizer" join us.

Also ahead:

PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN: Charlie was a rock band, a fantastic drummer.

GOLODRYGA: The tributes pour in for the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts. Max Weinberg, longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen, tells us what made Watts



SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: This cannot go on forever. This is not a sustainable way to live in this country.

GOLODRYGA: Australia and New Zealand led the world with their zero COVID strategy. Is the Delta variant now making them fall behind?


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.

The race to get out of Afghanistan is ramping up with just six days left until the evacuation deadline. U.S. troops have began leaving and the

former head of the British Army says U.K. forces may wrap up civilian evacuations within 48 hours.

As the crisis escalates, the West is bracing for a wave of refugees. Millions were already internally displaced before the Taliban seized power.

And that number has been surging.

This week, the U.S. thanked Albania, a fellow NATO member, for stepping up to the plate on this issue. The nation has volunteered to play host as

refugees are processed for resettlement.

In a phone call, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Prime Minister Edi Rama for -- quote -- "continuing Albania's proud tradition of

sheltering people in need."

And Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama joins me now from Tirana, Albania.

Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Prime Minister.

Let me first get your sense of what is happening on the ground with Albanian nationals there and those Afghans who have worked with you.

EDI RAMA, PRIME MINISTER OF ALBANIA: First of all, thank you very much for having me.

And I want to repeat what I said several times about this. It's about who we are. It's about being also a member of NATO and feeling the

responsibility to act as part of NATO, while, unfortunately, not everyone is going in that direction.

We have stepped up exactly because it's our history. Albania was the only country in Europe that had more Jews after the Second World War than

before. Albania was a very brutal communist regime. We had our red Talibans, and we know exactly what it is to live with them.

And it's because, at the end, we owe it to our children. Our children need to be -- to have this experience and to be also very aware that, in this

world, there is a time to get, there is time to give.

GOLODRYGA: And you have beautifully laid out how it is in your DNA to help others in need, refugees right now from Afghanistan.

I just want to go back to my initial question on what this deadline means for you and Albanian nationals. Are there any still remaining in

Afghanistan, as well as those Afghans who had assisted you?

RAMA: No, there is no Albanian national remaining there. And we are ready to welcome the Afghanis that believed in us as NATO, that worked with us,

and that we can't not help while they risk to die.

It's a death-or-life question for them. And it's a very big moral question for all of us as a NATO alliance.


RAMA: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: Let me pick up on that, because you had alluded to not all NATO member stepping up to their responsibility, as you said, not going in the

direction that you believe is the right one to take.

What do you mean by that? Is it the withdrawal itself that you do not agree with? Is it this time timeline imposed by President Biden?


RAMA: Listen, as I stated in different occasions, we are not in the time to raise all the questions that need to be raised and to find all the

answers that we need to be -- find about the future of the organization itself.

This is the time to think about them who are between life and death. And Albania is not among the richest countries, it's very well-known, but we

have a memory, and we very strongly believe that it's in the honor of all the NATO members and of all this community of countries that have been

promoting, by the force of example, and protecting, by the examples of force, ideas and values, to stand up.

Otherwise, we risk to see NATO itself fading away in the eyes of so many people around the world craving for freedom, for democracy, for human

rights, for women equal treatment, and not only NATO, but all our part of the world that is based on these values and principles.

GOLODRYGA: The head of Angela Merkel's party in Germany reiterated similar words to what you have just said, that this is, to rephrase what he had

said, one of the biggest threats that NATO has faced since its inception.

Do you agree with that assessment?

RAMA: I think it's very, very obvious that we are challenged in a way that we were never challenged before, not by an adversary or by a force that is

against us, but by our own inner self.

We are challenged to stand or -- for who we are telling the world we are or for the next elections here and there. So we are between polls and goals.

And I think this is a big goal that we cannot fail.

GOLODRYGA: You talked about your history and ethnic cleansing, the U.S. and other allies stepping up, you protecting Jews there in the country.

And I want to read a quote that you gave to "The Sunday Times of London."

And you said: "For the generations that is in power in many countries of Europe, war is Netflix, black and white. For us, war has been very real."

Given that sentiment, how many refugees are you planning and willing to take in at this point? Let's remind our viewers, you are not a rich

country, and you have a population of about three million now.

RAMA: We're a small country, frankly, but it doesn't matter. It's not about the size. It's not about the wealth. It's not about the strength.

It's about who you are. And it's about standing for something that is fundamentally important for the future of our societies, and our society.

It's fundamentally important for our children. And, as you said, we lived war. I have seen war. We have seen people dying. We have seen 500,000 war

refugees moving from brotherly Kosovo to our lands.

And, at the time, we were much -- in a much more difficult situation economically, financially than we are today. And hosting half-a-million

people in a country of 3 million, 28,000 kilometers square, didn't make us disappear from the face of the Earth, didn't make us starve, but made us, I

think, morally richer.

So I think it's important, because, otherwise, who will trust in our world, and in NATO, and in our words, and in all we try to promote beyond the

hemisphere of democratic countries...


RAMA: ... if we fail these people?

GOLODRYGA: So, Mr. Prime Minister, how many refugees are you capable and willing of accepting right now?

RAMA: We are -- we were the first to step up. And we said that we are ready to welcome people that have worked with us. And we are working

closely with several American organizations.

For the moment, we are working on lists that they are bringing to us. And we now, as we speak, can count around 2,000 that are listed and another two

other thousand that we are working to prepare for welcome.


So, it will be around 400 -- 4,000.

GOLODRYGA: About 4,000.

RAMA: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: About 4,000. And that is as they're going through the resettlement process, and many of them will be ultimately leaving for other

countries, including the United States.

If in fact, for whatever reason, they are not allowed to travel to the United States, are you willing to accept that many permanently?

RAMA: It's not that I'm willing. It's that this is a country that, in its first constitution, the commonsense law of some 100 years ago, in the first

paragraph, has -- had written the houses of the Albanian belong to God and the guest.

So, they will be our guests. If they want to stay, they're welcome to stay.

GOLODRYGA: And let's put this into perspective. You're a country of around three million. Right now, you're accepting a few thousand, up to 4,000,

perhaps 5,000.

And the United Kingdom, a much wealthier country, population about 66 million, has said that they will accept 20,000 refugees over the course of

five years, I believe, just to give our viewers a perspective on your numbers vs. other wealthier European countries.

There is the moral question, which no doubt this is a priority number one for you. But there's obviously a political question too. And many go back

to the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016 and the refugees coming in from Syria through to Europe and the backlash that created politically. Many say

that that ultimately led to Brexit.

We know that it puts Angela Merkel in political peril as well and put a lot of pressure on Turkey and Erdogan, who have said, the president has said

that Turkey right now, in terms of accepting Afghans, will not be Europe's refugee warehouse.

Are you concerned that we may see history repeating itself again with this refugee crisis?

RAMA: First of all, I think that the brightest page of the history of nations is the page Angela Merkel wrote by standing up and opening the arms

to all these desperate people. And by doing so, Angela Merkel saved the honor of Europe at that time.

Secondly, for sure, we know and we respect the constraints and respect the debate and respect the needs and the interests of all our friends and

allies. And we are not going to lecture anyone.

But I don't really understand what it means 20,000 in five years. So hoping that, in five years, the Taliban will be gracious to them and will not hurt

them, I don't understand this.

GOLODRYGA: That number is too low, in your opinion?

RAMA: I don't discuss the numbers because, at the end, it's not about high or low number. It's about responsibility or lack of responsibility.

I'm discussing the time. We are -- maybe because we had the misfortune and the fortune to know what is to leave under a very likely Taliban regime, we

were North Korea of Europe for 50 years -- because we were the Afghans 30 years ago escaping the hell that we were -- where we were shut down for


We looked like aliens to our today Italian brothers and sisters when we approached their borders, their sea border. And, by the way, we now are

fully integrated there. Italy is taking big advantage of this integration. And millions are taking big advantage of being integrated there.

So, at that time, we had to get and we got, when it's time to give, you have to give. This is what life has learned us. And, as I said, maybe when

you are not too rich, memory is still very rich.

GOLODRYGA: I don't know if many of our viewers are aware, but that the majority of the population in Albania is Muslim. This is not a very

religious country, per se. You yourself happen to be Catholic.

But I'm curious as to what the connection between so many of these Afghans, themselves Muslim, coming from a repressive regime once again returning to

Afghanistan, and that being the Taliban, how much of an impact that has on your decision and the responsibility that you feel perhaps to welcome them?


RAMA: I'm Catholic. My wife is Muslim. Our two kids from previous marriage are Orthodox. We have a little one that he may choose to be Jew. It's up to


The thing is that it's about humans. It's not about labels of color or language or religion. And, again, it's about humans that believed in what

we also believed 30 years ago, when we got out of this hell of red Talibanism.

And, for us, it went well, because we were in the middle of Europe. For them, it can't go well if Europe and the United States will not be there.

And by withdrawing, we have at least to give them shelter. We owe it to them, because -- and it's not just for them, but it's about for our

children. It's about for all the younger generation in our part of the world and in the other parts of the world, because how they will see us if

we fail these people, what they will think about us when we will continue to preach the idealism and values that have been promoting so much, so


GOLODRYGA: And among the values, I know, that are very important to you, as we wrap up here, is your background, and that is your passion for art.

You weren't necessarily thinking of politics when you were younger. You were a fan of artwork. And, in fact, you are so tall that you joined a

basketball team, I read, but only so that you could travel and see art throughout Europe.

How important is it to preserve art as so many are leaving Afghanistan in fear, and many that do remain there are concerned that the art that they

have created over the past 20 years may be eradicated?

RAMA: You have put it perfectly.

I was not thinking about politics when I went in the streets to kind of be together with others and to ask for regime change here. It was because the

limitation in art activity that I felt the need for freedom. And so it was for all Albanians at that time.

Now, going through the list that we are receiving, and going through the people's names and the people's backgrounds. I could see artists, I could

see journalists, I could see filmmakers, I could see even movie stars. I could see even faces that we have known through Netflix docu -- films or

through "Homeland," the -- Showtime.

So, how we can let these people down? How we can close forever the window of creativity and the window of dreams and hopes were for those people by

saying, in the next five years, we will try to get you out, while we know very well that, for them, it's just a dark rope prepared to hang all the

dreams, all the hopes and maybe even them personally?

GOLODRYGA: Well, Mr. Prime Minister, it looks like you're setting an example for some of your bigger and wealthier countries there and neighbors

to follow.

Thank you so much for the work that you're doing. We appreciate it. And we will continue to follow it. Thank you for joining us.

And still to come: As thousands of Afghans escape Taliban rule, we speak with two literary icons who know firsthand the pain of feeling their --

fleeing their homeland.

Khaled Hosseini and Viet Thanh Nguyen join us after the break.



GOLODRYGA: Welcome back.

Tens of thousands of Afghans will soon begin a new stage of their lives, becoming refugees, living outside the only place they have ever called


It's an emotional journey many have walked before, including two literary giants, Afghan American Khaled Hosseini and Vietnamese American Viet Thanh


Famous for their novels "The Kite Runner" and "The Sympathizer," both men's life experiences and form their works, giving readers a glimpse into the

gamut of human emotion that comes with uprooting and resettling.

Hosseini is also a goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency. And he joins me from San Jose. And Viet Thanh Nguyen also joins us

from California, from Los Angeles.

Welcome, both of you. It's so important to hear your voices on the show right now.

And I want to begin with you, Khaled, because you talk about this survivor's guilt that you feel. And to give our sense -- our viewers a

sense of your background, you came to the United States as a teenager with your parents, who sought asylum. This is before the Soviet invasion in

Afghanistan and the subsequent wars after that.

What are you thinking and feeling as you see these images of desperate Afghans trying to flee now?

KHALED HOSSEINI, AUTHOR, "THE KITE RUNNER": Well, thanks for giving me the chance.

It's absolutely gut-wrenching. I'm, frankly, heartbroken for those desperate families at the airport who are trying to get out who feel

they're going to be targeted by the Taliban. I'm deeply heartbroken for the millions of Afghans who have lived in a climate of violence and raised

their children in an atmosphere of persecution and war.

And more than anything, I'm heartbroken for the millions of ordinary women and girls who worked so hard over the last 20 years to achieve a measure of

autonomy and selfhood, gains that were made painstakingly that now stand to be lost. So that's how I'm experiencing this week.

GOLODRYGA: And I want to pick up on that and what this means for women and girls specifically.

In your book "A Thousand Splendid Suns," it's told through the eyes of a woman from Herat who is forced through a family tragedy to marry a man from


What happens now to these women? What are your greatest fears, that whatever accomplishments we have seen over the past 20 years may now come

for them?

HOSSEINI: That's one of my, I think, greatest concerns. Any society that deprives half of its population, its women, of any active participation in

public life is doomed.

Over the last 20 years, at least in urban pockets -- it wasn't true of the entire country, but in pockets like Kabul, women achieved a great deal of

progress. They were able to work in the media, in health care and education. They represented their constituency in the Parliament. They work

as provincial governors, in the police force.

So while those may not impress your average listener, it was a great, great difference for women in Afghanistan. And one of the real markers of how

sincere the Taliban all about their newly found moderation is how they will approach women and how they will treat women's rights. That is -- remains

to be seen.

I personally am deeply skeptical and worry for those gains that women have made in Afghanistan for the last 20 years.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, you're right to be skeptical, given the history and now the warnings that the Taliban is issuing for women to stay indoors, so that

the men can -- quote, unquote -- "be taught properly" how to address and treat them.

But, as you said, we will be closely monitoring how women in particular are treated under Taliban rule.


Viet, some of the most heartbreaking images that we have seen -- and this is just a few. Of course, many will come over the next few weeks and

months. And that is family separations, children being separated from their siblings and their parents.

And this is something that that's deeply personal for you. You and your family escaped in 1975, I believe, one of 120,000 Vietnamese who had

escaped then and fled to many countries, most to the United States. You were separated from your family early on as a child.

And I want to play for you sound that our Sam Kiley had just interviewed a family on the ground who may have experienced something similar to yours.


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For most of these people, this is a moment of celebration in terms of their freedom, but also

bittersweet because of what they're leaving behind.

That bitterness is immediate to Hosna (ph). Her brother Haida (ph), who has a visa for the U.S., has been trapped outside the airport. She's moments

from flying. Marines do their best to help, as he's close to a gate still controlled by the Taliban. But her plane is due to take off, and she's

swept away with her younger sisters to a new life, not knowing if her brother will ever join her there.


GOLODRYGA: Viet, you hear that. You don't even know these people, but I'm sure you can relate and there are many emotions that go through you right


Can you talk about that?


Thanks for having me.

I think that I have been so heartbroken and so moved by watching what has been happening in Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan and to the Afghan

people, because it does bring back so many memories of what myself and many, many other Vietnamese people experienced in 1975 and in the decades


In the case of my family, when we fled, we left behind my adopted sister. My parents would not see her again for 20 years, and I wouldn't see her for

30 years. And when we came to the United States to a refugee camp in Pennsylvania, I was separated from my parents for a few months as well.

And my separation was temporary, but it was still really very painful. So when I hear stories like this and see stories like this, I know that wars

destroy families. Wars create refugees. It's inevitable.

And seeing stories of separation and loss are heartrending, but we have to understand that this is going to happen to so many families. There are

already reports of unaccompanied children arriving in the United States. We hope that they will be reunited with their families.

But there will be a huge emotional toll on these parents and their children.

GOLODRYGA: Viet, I myself, I should let you both know, I came to the United States as a refugee from the former Soviet Union. I was just 2 --

not even 2 years old.

But something that constantly crosses my mind is this idea -- and I think it comes from a good place -- of those who were supportive of refugees

coming, who are proponents of it, argue that refugees contribute so much to the economy, they open more businesses, they are good citizens, they give

so much.

And I just wonder. I know it comes from a good place, but do you think that adds more pressure on refugees, as opposed to just any other citizen whose

only obligation is to be law-abiding and pay their taxes?

THANH NGUYEN: I have said many times that I believe in an America that is equal for all, including the right to be mediocre.


THANH NGUYEN: Refugees and immigrants can come to this country and be mediocre, just like every other American. This is a human expectation.

And, of course, we have seen so many stories of the exceptional refugee, the exceptional immigrant, people that Khaled and myself, who have become

successful. And that story is important, of course, because we do want to emphasize to a lot of Americans that refugees and immigrants can contribute

economically and socially, just like every other group, but we're just human beings.

And we should have the opportunity and the right to fail or to simply be average, like everyone else. And part of what we do as novelists, or at

least myself, is to look at the human condition.

And in the human condition, we are all flawed. So I grew up in a Vietnamese refugee community in which there were many, many flawed people in the 1970s

and 1980s because they were human, but also because they were deeply traumatized by their refugee experience.

And that is something that I think many people are not ready to hear. We're focused so much on what's happening now. But part of the reason why I'm so

affected is I think that we will see so much emotional devastation and trauma inflicted upon many, many Afghan people for decades to come.

GOLODRYGA: And you talk about your own parents, Viet, who came here and didn't even have time to go to your award ceremonies or know much about

your writing growth and strength and accolades that you achieved, because they had been -- they had been so busy working and opening a business.



Khaled, the responsibility that you say America holds right now, you don't hold back and you write in the New York Times that the U.S. has been

calling the Afghan people, our partners for 20 years. We cannot allow our partners to be murdered, to be imprisoned, to be beaten, and tortured and

persecuted. Now that we have left, we have a moral obligation to follow through.

Are you concerned, especially given this timeline this this August 31, timeline self-imposed by President Biden, but there does seem to be

indication that there could be American troops that come in harm's way if in fact, they stay longer. Are you concerned that that moral obligation

won't be fulfilled?

KHALED HOSSEINI, AUTHOR, "THE KITE RUNNER": I am, look, I do believe the U.S. has a slam dunk moral obligation to evacuate those Afghans who risked

their lives for U.S. troops who assisted and protected U.S. troops for years. That's what support the troop means. It's more than a slogan, that's

what those folks did. And for their services that do deserve, that the U.S. keep its pledge to them and evacuate them because they're not progress for

the Taliban.

But we're talking about evacuation. We're also talking, I heard the words of the Albanian Prime Minister earlier. And I appreciate it so much what he

said, and I thank him for solidarity. And I also applaud those countries that have stepped up and said that they would welcome Afghan refugees.

But look, we're talking about resettlement here. And resettlement as an option for just a narrow portion of refugees. It's a slow, tedious process

that benefits only less than 1 percent of refugees. And those are the most at risk and most vulnerable. I'm also gravely concerned for the entire

other population of Afghans who will not benefit who don't have special visas and who will not benefit from resettlement.

Already we're seeing inside Afghanistan, more than half a million people have been displaced internally since the start of the year, that has

created a significant humanitarian crisis, Rright now the displacements inside the country. But it is entirely conceivable that given the changing

realities on the ground, that those people will opt to head for an international border, and should they do so. It's vitally important that

number one, neighboring countries keep their doors open, so that refugees, Afghans, can have access to territory, to emergency services, and to asylum


That number two, the international community, which includes the U.S. and its partners do everything they can to help and support those neighboring

countries in a spirit of solidarity and burden sharing, and three, that we fund those organizations that are on the ground to provide emergency

services and legal protection to displaced Afghans like UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and others.

GOLODRYGA: Can you talk a bit about the work that you're doing with the UN?

HOSSEINI: Sure, I've worked with the UNHCR since 2006 as an asylum seeker in the United States. I feel a personal kinship with the plight of

displaced people. And so I've been advocating for refugees for since -- essentially since 2006. I've traveled to Afghanistan a number of times and

visited with those folks who have returned to the country after the fall of the Taliban. And so I've seen the work that organizations like UNHCR do on

the ground is absolutely essential.

Right now, the organization has access to two-thirds of the districts in the country and most of the provinces, but security is making work

difficult. But they are implementing partners on the ground. And I understand that they're delivering critical services to Afghan people.

So right now, the focus is on those Afghans who are at risk inside the country, who don't have a special visa, who don't necessarily qualify for

resettlement, those Afghans who are at risk inside the country, that they can move to a safe place elsewhere inside the country or to an

international border, if possible.

GOLODRYGA: And Viet to pick up on that here as we wrap up, you also talk about America's responsibility, its moral obligations, and you compare it

to Vietnam and the war there. And let me just read a brief portion of what you wrote in The New York Times. And you said history is happening again

and again, as tragedy and farce the wars in Vietnam. And Afghanistan happened as a result of American hubris. And in both cases, Americans

mostly focused on the political costs of war for them. You go on to say that they need to focus on the consequences as well. And that is the

millions of people whose lives are uprooted. How important is it that that America get this right, for lack of a better word?

VIET THANH NGUYEN, AUTHOR, "THE SYMPATHIZER": Well, I think it's tremendously important. I think the United States does owe a moral debt

does have a moral obligation to the people in the countries that it's intervened in oftentimes in countries where the people did not ask for

American intervention but are then left to deal with the consequences of what matters Americans have done.


So just to give an example from Vietnam, in 1975, the United States did evacuated 120,000 or so South Vietnamese allies to the United States, which

was a large number. But there were about a million, at least a million South Vietnamese, who had some affiliation with the American military. And

many of them suffered in the years after the war with tens of thousands going into so called reeducation camps, which are basically hard labor

prisons, at least a million Vietnamese took to the seas, tens of thousands of them died on those seas.

And so I think that what's going to happen here is that the United States what I fear is that many Americans will start to lose interest in Afghan

after the next week or two. But for Afghans as with the Vietnamese, their experience with this war will not be over for a very long time.

GOLODRYGA: As you said recently, in an interview, Viet, to the U.S. takes two steps forward and one step back, let's continue to take steps forward.

And we of course, will continue to be covering this important story as well. Khaled Hosseini and Viet Thanh Nguyen, thank you so much for joining

us today.

HOSSEINI: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And if you'd like to support the U.N. Refugee agency's efforts, you can visit

And we'll be come back, Australia and New Zealand are enforcing tougher lockdowns as the Delta variant runs riot. Is there zero COVID strategy

sustainable? CNN's Ivan Watson has the latest, that's coming up next.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome back, singular global crisis with no singular solution. The changing face of the pandemic means ever changing challenges for

leaders trying to bring it under control.

Australia and New Zealand have long been advocates of a zero COVID policy and until recently had been largely successful. But the Delta variant is

changing all of that, with people being told to stay home right as Europe in the U.S. reopens. Ivan Watson has more.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Australia and New Zealand, two countries that stamped out each and every COVID-19

outbreak over the first year and a half of the pandemic, now in partial or complete lockdown as they struggle with a new surge of infections.

GOLODRYGA: At this point, I don't think my kids would go back to school this year.

WATSON: The outbreaks, prompting Australia's Prime Minister to suggest moving on from a zero case approach to COVID.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: This cannot go on forever. This is not a sustainable way to live in this country.

WATSON: Stay at home orders in the major cities Sydney, Melbourne and the capital Canberra, extended. COVID fatigue contributing to violent protests

that erupted in Melbourne last weekend.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison now promoting a plan to ease restrictions once 70 to 80 percent of adults get vaccinated. But vaccination rates in

both Australia and New Zealand are still low, with only about a quarter of Australians and a fifth of New Zealanders fully vaccinated.

This summer's outbreaks hopped the short lived travel bubble between both countries in late July. Their borders now largely shut to the outside

world. And New Zealand's leader wants to maintain her government's zero case COVID strategy for as long as she can.

JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: To now, absolutely elimination is the strategy. We need more certainty. We don't want to take any risks

with Delta. If the world has taught us anything, it is to be cautious with this variant of COVID-19.

WATSON: In just two months, Australia went from one confirmed case of COVID to over 16,000 fueled by the more contagious Delta variant.

(on camera): Do you believe that a zero cases strategy is still viable for Australia?

MARY-LOUISE MCLAWS, PROFESOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES: Sadly, not anymore. I think it's too late. But we may go to some type of mitigation,

while desperately trying to increase our vaccine rollout.

WATSON (voice-over): Some weary Australian say this island nation may need to accept the reality of the virus.

GOLODRYGA: At some point we're going to have to open up. I don't think we're ever going to be 100 percent confident and safe.

WATSON: Two countries grateful to have been spared the worst of the COVID- 19 pandemic. Delta now threatening to take away their hard won success. Ivan Watson, CNN.


GOLODRYGA: Thanks to Ivan for that reporting. And coming up after the break, legends never die. We dig into the life and legacy of Rolling Stones

drummer Charlie Watts and are joined by another drum legend. Don't miss a beat. We'll be right back.



GOLODRYGA: Welcome back. Tributes are coming thick and fast for legendary rocker Charlie Watts. The Rolling Stones drummer died at age 80 on Tuesday

in a London hospital. Watts became a part of rock history during his staggering 58 years playing, recording and touring with the stones.

Joining me now to reflect on Watts legacy is Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Max Weinberg, most famously he's the drummer and Bruce Springsteen's E

Street Band, Max Weinberg, welcome to the show from Florida. I know condolences are in order for all of those who are mourning his loss but we

also are celebrating his life and his contributions to music and drumming in particular. Can you talk about that?

MAX WEINBERG, DRUMMER, E STREET BAND: Well, I certainly can, Bianna. Thank you for having me. I have to offer my condolences to Charlie's wife

Shirley, his daughter Seraphina.


Sherry Daly is closely associated, and the entire Rolling Stones family. I'm still in a state of shock, stunned, terribly saddened as this is just

an incredible turn of events for those of us who admired him, he was who -- he was our hero, and I was very fortunate to consider him among my friends

and listen terribly already. But as you say, the incredible musical legacy that he laid down in a variety of different modes and genres was so


And if I may, I can tell you the first time I saw the Rolling Stones live was November 7 1965, in Newark, New Jersey. And I remember it because I was

in the second row, and they opened up with a Solomon Burke cover. And it was among the most exciting moments of my entire life. I took the bus down

there from the suburbs with a friend of mine.

And from that day forward, Charlie Watts, for me, represented along with drummers like Ringo Starr and Dave Clark, but Charlie represented a certain

style tastes impeccability that he not only carried off in his drumming, but in his personal life as well. It was quite impressive never cease to

amaze me, both the individual and the drummer. I'd say that anyone of my generation, I'm just 10 years younger than Charlie was. Every one of us

carries a bit of his beat when we play.

GOLODRYGA: You mentioned his style and of course, physically, he stood out as you're a typical rock star. He was always dressed in a dapper suit and

seem to approach rock and roll as a nine to five job. He unlike some of his other band mates, was married to one woman and was very much a family man.

And yet he contributed talking about his style and enormous amount to the industry as a whole and to drumming. Tell me as someone who just listens to

it and enjoys it. What you heard that made him stand out above all else.

WEINBERG: Well beyond, Charlie was among the finest timekeepers keeping the beat steady. The drummers are sort of like goalies on a hockey team, or a

soccer team. We're the last line of defense. And Charlie did that better than anybody in the rock and roll form. But of course, at heart, he was a

jazz drummer, and a jazz fan. And he often said that he would have loved to have grown up in the 30s when the trumpeter was the star of the show. So he

took that jazz sensibility.

And, you know, in the industry as a drummer, we talk about Charlie Watts type fills, which are these staggered fills, never playing too much.

Charlie was the master of using the space between the beats, as the essence of the music.

If I can, when I was a kid, I used to watch -- read the wanteds (ph) looking for jobs. And invariably, you would particularly in the New York

metropolitan area, you would -- where I grew up, you would come across an ad that said wanted Charlie Watts type drummer. So he became a genre unto

himself talk and he was very humble.

GOLODRYGA: Talk about an achievement, having people call your own name and saying that's the style that they're looking for. And let's give our

viewers as just a sample of that because you specifically lay out how he influenced you in Born in the USA. And before we play Born in the USA,

let's play the Rolling Stones Street Fighting Man so we can hear the opening set on the drums here.



GOLODRYGA: Again to an amateur ear here, what did we listen to? And what was it from the Rolling Stones that inspired you so many years later?

WEINBERG: Well, specifically on Street Fighting Man, the original single, which was a lot slower in tempo than the way they played it live in that

rendition that you just played. I actually had been listening to the Stones' Greatest Hits on my way driving into New York City in 1982, when we

were recording what would become the Born in the USA album.

And when I'm presented with a song, as a drummer, you know, you sort of produce the drum part. So it might remind me of a 1960s girl group song, it

might remind me of the Beatles. In this case, when Bruce started playing these chugging chords on his guitar, it reminded me of Street Fighting Man.

And I said to myself, of course, you know, internally, OK, well, I'll be Charlie Watts on this. I -- What would Charlie do? And in there are certain

fills, and there's a certain tough feel that I tried to emulate.

Of course, a famous New Jersey songwriter once said that there are contenders, there are pretenders. But there is only one and I would say

that they are pretenders and contenders. There's only one Charlie Watts inimitable style. And whenever I've referenced him in my drumming, for

example, a lot of song called Darlington County, my (INAUDIBLE) just fell out. You're reminded of that as a drummer, and he was one of my great drum


And he had his own heroes. You know, he was in all phases of art, but particularly drumming and one of the ways we connected on a personal level

was through drum history and the drummers that the world at large, and even people in the music industry might not know these individuals, but they

made their mark.

Panama Francis, who was the great rhythm of blues drummer for Atlantic Records. Fred Below from the Chess Chicago Records. And, you know, it's fun

to sit around and talk about the people who influence the us as drummers on the generation behind Charlie, but you can't be a drummer today without, as

I say, carrying a bit of Charlie Watts in your drumming, and certainly in your soul.

And my son is a drummer, and he's 31 and a very well-known drummer and he can, he knows all about Charlie Watts. He also knows about Buddy Rich and -


GOLODRYGA: And I want to show our viewers just what was perhaps one of his most famous songs in Honky Tonk Woman so we can get more play out of seeing

him doing what he did best at the drums, let's play this video.

Does that ever get old, just listening to that, Max?

WEINBERG: Never. It's as fresh as the first time I heard it. And if you listen to the Bruce and E Street Band playing the beginning of Darlington

County, you will hear me play my impression of Charlie Watts. And what Charlie had was, not to get too deep into the weeds of the technique of

drumming, but he swung. He swung the beat. And that was as a result, and the best drummers do. And that's what all drummers try to do.

To swing while rocking is not the easiest thing in the world to do. And Charlie was certainly the master of that. But the drummers he listened to

and admired from generations before him in England on records mainly, and the jazz drummers that expatriated to Europe. He was a scholar on that

stuff, and they all swung, that was the criteria.

GOLODRYGA: And you connected him actually. There's a famous story on one of your darkest days. Charlie asked you for a favor when he called you run and

you deliver it. Tell us quickly here as we have just a few moments left about that moment.

WEINBERG: Well, I will it was a dark day. It was the day the night of the day, actually that the E Street Band in 1989 as it turns out, went on an

extended hiatus for about 11 years.


But coincidentally, I got a phone call later that night from Charlie Watts, who, in October was coming to New York with the Stones to play at Shea

Stadium. And he asked me if, he said to me, you know, Joe Morello, the famous jazz drummer with Dave Brubeck Quartet, I said, yes, in fact he

lives in New Jersey. I'm a student of his. He said, you've told me you know, Mel Lewis, the great Bebop drummer from the Mel Lewis, Thad Jones

orchestra. I said, yes, I do. He said, I don't know why they would want to but it would be the greatest thrill for me if they would come and see the

Rolling Stones.

He always referred to the Rolling Stones, as they not our band. And I said, well, Charlie, if I can get that together, it would be my pleasure and an

honor to do that. So I particularly in the case of Mel Lewis, who for 40 years had railed against rock and roll, I was able to contact of course Joe

and Mel and a friend, a mutual friend of both of ours, Danny Gottlieb, who coincidentally went to music school with Patti Scialfa Springsteen, who is

a longtime friend of mine, he lived in New Jersey as well. I said, Guys, I'm going to organize everything. I'm going to take -- get the car, I'll

drive us out to Shea Stadium. I picked each of them up.

Now Mel Lewis was a drummer who had railed against rock and roll his entire career. And Joe had lost the use of his eyes. He was blind for many years

earlier. And Mel, unfortunately, was in the final stages of the cancer that took him four months later. But Charlie arranged for everything on his end.

We drove to the stadium. We were escorted down the ramp into the bowels of the stadium, where two security people met us and took us to the inner

sanctum of the Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones have about 10 levels of guests access. We went right to this sort of tented area where each of the four Stones had their own

private area for their guests.

GOLODRYGA: And we've seen the pictures.

WEINBERG: And I said -- it was absolutely, yes.

GOLODRYGA: And you have the pictures here.

WEINBERG: There was a pictures taken.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Would Charlie asks --

WEINBERG: Well, of course, Charlie Watts calls you. Do you -- move mountains if you can. In any case, when he -- when I said Charlie met Mel

Lewis and Joe Morello, he was like a 12 year old kid --


WEINBERG: -- on Christmas morning. And they started to talk about obscure jazz records. And it was the -- answer that -- I have to tell you the why

put the story --

GOLODRYGA: Yes, we were just we're tight. We're tight for time. I'm so sorry. I hate to cut you off, Max. I feel horrible about that. But I wanted

to get that story in because this is so important. And to see that smile on Charlie's face. There are many people out there.

WEINBERG: There's a happy ending.

GOLODRYGA: Out there --

WEINBERG: Mel Lewis loved the concert.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, well, that that is wonderful to hear.

WEINBERG: Mel Lewis love the concert.

GOLODRYGA: I'm sure everyone loved that concert that night. And there are many Rolling Stones fans out there who are listening to that music today

and celebrating his life. Thank you so much, Max. We appreciate you joining us.

Well that is it for now. You can always catch us online on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New