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Climate Activists Under Threat; Vaccine Inequity. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 15, 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 INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The great vaccine divide. As wealthy nations plow ahead with booster shots, the WHO's Europe chief, Hans Kluge, joins me.
Then: the people risking their lives to defend our planet. With a record number of climate activists murdered, I speak to one on the front lines and
to the watchdog tracking this, Mike Davis of Global Witness.
STEVE SCHMIDT, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: What we're seeing is a home brew of America and radicalism.
AMANPOUR: COVID and the American culture wars. Co-founder of The Lincoln Project's Steve Schmidt's take on the battle over mask mandates and
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing, that warning from the WHO chief, as many wealthy
nations get ready to start rolling out booster shots.
Here in the U.K., the most vulnerable will be offered a third dose from next week. And in the United States, the Biden administration is pushing to
make them widely available by Monday.
Meanwhile, in poorer countries, many are still waiting for their first shot. And with vaccine uptake waning in Europe, the WHO warns that the
continent could see over 200,000 additional COVID deaths by December.
Here's European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her annual state of the union speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: Our first and most urgent priority is to speed up global vaccination. With less than 1 percent
of global doses administered in low-income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious.
This is one of the great geopolitic issues in our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Hans Kluge is Europe chief for the WHO. And he's joining me now from Copenhagen.
Dr. Kluge, welcome to our program.
So, that's a pretty extraordinary number, which is, as you said, nearly quarter-of-a-million potential deaths you predict in Europe by December, if
certain -- well, under the current circumstances. Why do you think that is happening right now?
DR. HANS KLUGE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Thank you for having me on the program.
Well, what we see is that, after an initial sharp increase in vaccination uptake in about 35 out of the 53 European countries, we see a plateauing.
And if we look across the region, there's a huge inequity. In fact, that's been the need of the hour, of the day, I would say, to close the gap.
In the high-income countries, 59 percent of the eligible population got the full series, in the upper-middle-income countries, 31 percent, and the
lower-middle-income countries, only about 10 percent. So we're not getting to the desired level. We're not out of the woods yet.
AMANPOUR: The desired level is what exactly?
KLUGE: The European Technical Advisory Group advises 80 percent.
But we have to take it stepwise. By the end of the year, we would like to see 40 percent. So, in the richer countries, we're there, but not yet in
the middle-income and particularly the low-income countries.
And then if I look globally, we're speaking about 1 or 2 or 3 percent, like, for example, in the African region. And that's the reason why I
invited, for example, the regional director of the WHO of the African region to my governing board. We just closed this week because we have to
And what we need is political leadership and coordination, because there are excess doses. There are some estimates of 1.2 billion excess doses in
the West between now and the end of the year, but we have to ensure that those excess doses get where they are most needed.
AMANPOUR: OK, so I'm going to put up this graphic that we have, which shows the different income levels and the different percentages of
But I want to ask you, beyond the fact that it's plateauing, why is this happening? It's not really access, we understand. I mean, the European
Commission president has said, and I think you would all agree, that after a pretty shaky start on vaccines last December, Europe has ramped them up,
there are vaccines available.
And a lot is being put down to misinformation in certain countries. Can you expand on that and tell me, what is the main reason for this -- for this
lag and this inequity?
KLUGE: We are taking a holistic approach.
So, three things. First, we have to increase the uptake. And you're hinting to that one, Christiane, indeed, that there is quite some vaccine
skepticism, and this is nothing good. And the only way to tackle that one is community engagement and empowerment.
I invited Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the U.S. presidents, to my governing board on Monday, and we have the same issues.
We need community champions. We need to involve the people and based our policies on data.
This is number one, the uptake. Number two is access. Still, some countries, particularly the lower-income, have an issue, for example, the
Central Asian countries, some countries in the Eastern and then, globally, in the African region, basic issues, because some countries are donating
100 million, 200 million. But that's not enough.
We need political leadership. We need 11 billion doses to kill off the pandemic. And the third one is to increase the production capacity, which
can happen with, for example, technology transfer, and, at the later stage, maybe, waving of the patents and the intellectual property rights.
AMANPOUR: OK, so can I actually then focus on that issue that you raised? You say you invited the head of the African Union expert on this. And he's
obviously been speaking about this, particularly about what Europe and others and WHO, I'm sure, hoped would be a sort of partnership also with
And there's still problems. And the African Union's special envoy has said they wanted to buy them, but they have been shut out. Let's play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STRIVE MASIYIWA, AFRICAN UNION SPECIAL ENVOY FOR COVID-19: Those manufacturers know very well that they never gave us proper access. They
gave access on a very different basis, when they knew that supplies were restricted at the beginning, there was no production.
We all accept that. There wasn't sufficient production. But they had a moral responsibility to ensure that others also had access. And we find
this very sad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What is the WHO stance on this, Dr. Kluge? Do you believe -- do you agree with what he said, that he's -- they have been shut out? And, if
so, how does one correct that?
KLUGE: Well, the principle is that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
I mean, the deaths and the suffering will be imprinted in our universal memory for a long time to come. But it also showed, it gave the opportunity
in society to see the links between all people in the world.
So we should leave really no one behind. What we need is courage, collaboration, innovation, and the political leadership. And that's, for
example, why I would like to commend the president of the United States for next week organizing a virtual summit of the heads of state, because that's
exactly what needs to be done.
This is not the health issue. This is an issue of the heads of state, and we need global solidarity.
AMANPOUR: So, you have had to accept and I guess suffer in the public domain a lot of complaints against the WHO, the leader of the WHO as well.
And you have actually written about this. You have said that the WHO needs to look inside, needs to look at itself and needs to learn from this
pandemic. You have said: "Learning lessons is one thing. But in order to implement those lessons, WHO itself as an organization needs to look at its
own institutional fitness. The worst thing WHO can do today is be self- defensive."
Can you expand on that? What then are the corrective measures the WHO should take, and especially in the area of vaccine inequity, which is
something you have all talked about, quite rightly, for so long? And yet it still persists.
KLUGE: So, for me, as a regional director in the European region, the diagnosis is indeed quite clear, three things.
The first is that we need much more inter-regional collaboration. The role of the regional offices needs to be strengthened, because we are close to
the countries. And that's what we're doing now.
For example, I gave the example of inviting the regional director of not only the African region, but also the Eastern Mediterranean region, where
we have to anticipate the health needs of the people in Afghanistan. So, that is number one.
Number two, we need much more political participation of the member states themselves under what we call the international health regulations, which
needs to include consequences for nonobservance by its signatories.
And that has to include, for example, unfettered access by WHO experts to countries and access to data. If the member states himself do not address
this elephant in the room, no new treaty, no new international health regulations will make the world a safer place.
And, third, WHO is underpowered and underfinanced. So there needs to be much more flexible financing. We had a good session at my governing body
board today. Only 16 percent of the funding of WHO comes from the member states, which govern organization; 84 percent is very specified and
earmarked. So this is an issue that the member states need to fix.
AMANPOUR: I mean, I will ask you, essentially, what powers do we have or do you have to hold them accountable for this?
But let me first go to some practical issues I'm sure people are going to want to know about.
The boosters have been widely touted for a long time. We know that Israel, which for a long time has been sort of a test case, is working hand in hand
with essentially the global community to use their data to show how what they're doing works or doesn't work, and they're doing boosters now.
So the U.S. hopes to do it. The U.K. is going to do it. You yourself have said: "We can no longer see that additional doses, or so-called luxury
boosters, it's an essential way to protect the most vulnerable in our society."
However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention says there's no need for booster doses for the fully vaccinated. So there's still complications
about, should you, shouldn't you? Why do you say it's not a luxury, but it's a necessary?
KLUGE: Yes, I don't think there is necessarily a contradiction here.
In fact, indeed, literally, as you were telling, Christiane, that for people with underlying medical conditions, it's very important, because
it's a way -- basically, it's for people whose immunity has waned. So if you have got two shots, let's say, two jabs, and your immunity has waned
because of underlying medical conditions, are you more or less priority than someone who has no jab yet?
When I discussed it with our experts, and also with Dr. Fauci, the answer is, do it all. We have doses. We need to do it all. Now, for the elderly,
that, we never told, because, there, the evidence is not crystal clear yet. We're following the evidence for the elderly.
But we got it, let's be honest, one time wrong in the beginning, and we left many elderly people behind. And that's why I'm very appreciative to
countries like Israel who are pioneers, because the other thing we have to consider, that, if we will continue to live with SARS-CoV-2, it's not going
to disappear, let's say it becomes endemic community transmission, then we desperately need urgently good information about the impact of additional
So, a number of front-runner countries, as long as they share data, like Israel and U.K. are, it's very important for the rest of the world.
AMANPOUR: So let me just say what this -- I have told you what they're doing in Israel.
And you have mentioned that, but here in the U.K., where they hope -- where they have already sent out, actually, their calls for those who are
compromised and who need it for the third booster, Sarah Gilbert, who's co- creator of the Oxford AstraZeneca, vaccine, has said: "We will look at each situation. The immunocompromised and elderly will receive boosters, but I
don't think we need to boost everyone. Immunity is lasting well in the majority of people."
So, just do you agree that it is lasting well in the majority of people?
KLUGE: Until now, we have no evidence that the general population would need a third jab.
And it's very important. Indeed, we cannot have a situation where, in the world, there are doctors, nurses, elderly people who haven't had their
first jab yet. But, at the same time, we need to follow the evidence and this evolution very, very close, because we also know what happened in
That is why the proportion of the people who are infected now or end up in the hospital who are the elderly people who got two jabs. So, in that
sense, we should be on alert.
AMANPOUR: And so let me ask you about resistance, as we talked about misinformation and some anti-vax -- well, the anti-vax effect.
But there's also now the courtroom effect. In the United States, some of these mandates that the president has announced have been challenged, and a
federal judge has temporarily blocked the state of New York just this week from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated.
Just want to say for our viewers that this is an issue that's gone back 100 years, if not more, while, in 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court actually upheld
a law that did impose a fine for not getting the smallpox vaccine.
So, I guess I'm asking you whether you think, like in the U.S., mandates, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, which exist in some countries, might end
up in court, and this whole thing might become a legal issue like it has in the U.S.
KLUGE: You're absolutely right. This is not a new issue.
So the principle is that, first and foremost, we have to engage the community, empower them, work with community champions, have an overload of
correct information through the social media, and get people who doubt into our clinical trials and research and development, because we know that is
reducing -- reducing vaccine skepticism.
Mandatory vaccination has also proven, in certain instances, to increase vaccine skepticism. At the same time, at WHO, we encourage all strategies
to increase vaccination uptake, as long as they respect human rights, and, very important, that they will not deplete hospital work force, which
already is quite overstressed, because, if mandatory measures would even lead to situations where we have less nurses or doctors working in the
health field, I mean, that would have an opposite effect.
So, in that sense, I would say I certainly can empathize with ministers who consider this. But it should be thought through only for certain population
groups at the professions exposed. And we have a number of caveats.
And we're very happy to think through case by case if the country wants this to happen.
AMANPOUR: Well, you're probably addressing the fact that there's a crisis in certain hospitals. Like, in France, there's a shortage of anesthetists.
Some operations have had to be canceled or postponed because the anesthetists or the health workers won't take the vaccine that's been
In the United States as well, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some operations, some procedures have had to be canceled because health workers
I mean, you're saying there should be caveats for health workers. But that -- I mean, doesn't that sound so counterintuitive? If a health worker, one
of those modeling professionals, one of those people who stand at the top of this particular crisis, if they won't take the vaccine, why should
anybody else take it?
KLUGE: Well, I think that we're not going to combat the pandemic if the health care workers are not vaccinated. That's true. So, it's a balance
that we have to strike here. And we have to work with those people who can convince the skeptics.
Often, there's a lot of misinformation. I see that in many countries. Policies are being developed based on assumptions, perceptions. So it's
very important that we do what we call formative research.
I created a unit here on behavioral and cultural insights. We have done in 34 countries surveys to really have a good, accurate, evidence-informed
I.D. what's in the mind of the people and then tailor solutions community by community.
And in a majority of the cases, it works. But there is no doubt vaccines work. Vaccines save lives and many lives. And it even has the potential to
decrease transmission, if everyone participates.
AMANPOUR: It's a long, hard slog ahead.
Dr. Hans Kluge, thank you so very much for joining us.
Another crisis is also taking lives. Recent extreme weather events that we have seen have laid bare the threats posed by the climate catastrophe. In
Germany and Belgium, 220 people lost their lives in severe flooding this summer. In China, some 20 inches of rain fell in just two days, killing
more than 300 people.
And in the Northeastern United States, dozens died after flash floods from the remnants of Hurricane Ida all the way down South. And while climate
activists rally to save the planet, many of them are facing increasing violence. A whopping 227 environmentalists were murdered last year. That is
according to Global Witness, which says most of the killings happened in Latin America.
I'm joined now by its CEO, Mike Davis, and by a Mexican climate activist Margarita Campuzano.
Thank you both very much for joining me.
So, you have you have written about this, Mike Davis.
Can I ask you why this is happening now and why, particularly, as we have mentioned, in places like Latin America, including Mexico, we have got the
Philippines, those seem to make the bulk of these cases where it's violent for the activists?
MIKE DAVIS, CEO, GLOBAL WITNESS: Yes, thanks, Christiane.
So, in 2020, these 227 land and environmental defenders were killed, essentially because of the relentless expansion of the predatory and
climate-wrecking resource exploitation model, which takes no account of national laws, does not subscribe to international norms.
And when people get in the way, people on the front lines standing up for their rights, they face intimidation, incarceration, attacks, and sometimes
So this is both a symptom and a cause of the climate crisis which is affecting us all.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just write -- again, 2020, in this regard was the worst year on record. And you have mentioned vital interests.
And of course, the journalist, the climate journalist Bill McKibben wrote the foreword to your report. And this is where he said.
"They're at risk because they find themselves living on or near something that some cooperation is demanding. That demand, the demand for the highest
possible profit, the quickest possible timeline, the cheapest possible operation, seems to translate eventually into the understanding somewhere
that the troublemaker must go."
Mike, do and have your investigations shown who is responsible? You have mentioned certain vested interests, but who's responsible for carrying out
the violence? Is it government, nongovernment? Is it military, paramilitary? Is it individuals taking what they think is the law into
their own hands?
DAVIS: Yes, thanks, Christiane.
What we find in many of these cases where we can clearly identify an association between a killing and particular industry -- and the most
deadly ones tend to be those to do with logging, agribusiness and mining -- is that you have a nexus of companies or a company, and also people who are
part of or associated with state security forces.
But it's worth bearing in mind when we talk about companies, although the ones who are most directly implicated may be local firms that you and I and
most of CNN's audience hasn't heard of, they are invariably plugged into global commodity supply chains. They're very often dependent on global
flows of international finance.
And that's where larger companies come in, and really need to face up to their complicity in these killings. And that's why we're calling for
governments not just in countries which are dangerous for defenders, but also countries, large economic jurisdictions, including the E.U., where
many large multinational companies are domiciled, to introduce legislation which would require companies to do checks -- the jargon is due diligence -
- along their supply chains to make sure that the commodities which they are sourcing are not being produced in a way which gives rise to or has
benefited from these types of attacks and killings.
And such legislation needs to be backed with clear criminal liability and strong penalties, if it's to be effective. Happily, we do have an
opportunity for such legislation in the E.U. coming up later this year.
AMANPOUR: Well, we will wait to see whether that actually produces the results you're talking about.
Let me turn to you, Margarita Campuzano, because there you are in Mexico. You're right on the front lines. There was just this week or last yet
another activist was killed in the state of Morelos, I think it is.
Let's just put up the graphic that we have that shows Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines, other Latin American and Central American countries, which are
the most offending countries.
And while we do that, let me ask you, Margarita, what you have had to experience, how you have seen this unfold in Mexico, and why Mexico is
number two on that list of essentially killing activists like yourself and those on the ground.
MARGARITA CAMPUZANO, CENTRO MEXICANO DE DERECHO AMBIENTAL: Yes, thank you very much, Christiane.
Yes, well, in Mexico, the violence against environmental defenders in Mexico is a structural and systematic problem that has been going on for
decades. Neither past governments nor this government have been able to stop it.
And we accompany a lot of communities, indigenous and rural communities around the country, in the defense of their land, their natural resources.
And, sometimes, we have been -- also been victims of some threats or some delegitimization, even from the president, unfortunately.
But mostly are these people in the communities that you're mentioning, these indigenous people that live in the communities where the mega
projects are being done, the main victims of these kind of aggressions, and different kind of aggressions, that go from threats, to criminalization,
kidnapping, and even murder.
This year -- last year -- I'm sorry -- we registered 18 homicides from environmental defenders. And, this year, we have accounted or registered 13
AMANPOUR: So, Margarita, your organization works to legally represent individuals, organizations who are being threatened like this.
According to Mike's report and Global Witness, I think it's like 95 percent of those in -- the offenders don't result in prosecution. How is this going
to change? Why do you think in your country and others, because I guess you have looked into it, they're not held accountable? Impunity is the word of
CAMPUZANO: Yes, that's the main problem in Mexico. We have a lot of impunity, in that the cases are not followed. Nobody's been sentenced
because of these crimes.
And I think it's because of these big disputes among the economic interests and political interests that are involved. In one hand, you have -- we are
the fifth country with -- most mega-diverse in the planet. But a lot of indigenous and rural people live in these communities.
On the other hand, we have this development model that seeks for extractivism and mega projects. And these two interests collapse. And
that's why in -- even in the federal state or on the federal level or state level, they are not interested in prosecuting these cases because they
think it's going to represent a loss -- a loss of employment, a loss of investment.
And that is the problem we are facing. And, sometimes, it's also because, in many cases, there are officials involved in these kind of situations
AMANPOUR: So, Mike, I mean, you hear that.
Obviously, you know about these things, and you have talked about it in the report. It looks like from the report that the level of killings in Mexico
and the violence, 67 percent increase in number of attacks from 2019 to 2020, in Africa, almost double the number of killings compared to -- in
2020 compared to the year before.
Specifically -- I mean, you have talked about a European law that you hope is going to do something, but wider around the world, is there anything
that you would say right now, if you could wave a magic wand, that could actually be done institutionally and make a difference?
DAVIS: Yes, thank you, Christiane.
I very much wish I had that magic wand. I think it is a case of governments in the countries where these land and environmental defenders are at most
risk ensuring there are legal protections in place for freedom of assembly, freedom to demonstrate, clear environmental and social impact assessment
requirements for projects of the kind which we see implicated in these killings, and also recognition that enforcement of the rights for
indigenous people and communities to what's called free prior and informed consent before projects happen.
And at the more global level, we do need to see, as I mentioned, the main economies, whether that's individual countries or blocs like the E.U.,
passing legislation which makes companies accountable.
Now, one thing which could happen in the next few months would be, if those countries which are coming together at COP in November undertook to
introduce such legislation across the board, and do so within the next year or two, that would make a very big difference, and would have an immediate
-- introduce an immediate shift to the tone of the debate.
Companies would have to start taking notice, and then in due course, with the real accountability, which is what we need.
AMANPOUR: Margarita, let me ask you because, again, you are right, you know, on the front lines of this. And of course, everybody knows and Bill
McKibben has written in the report that, you know, essentially what you and activists and everybody is trying to do is defend our shared habitat, our
shared planet and try to mitigate this catastrophe that's been built up that we created it and we have the solution in terms of humans.
Tell me just as a personal feeling, having done this for so long, what -- you know, what kind of toll it takes on you and what hope do you have? I
mean, COP 26 is coming up. The next big international conference on this. How much hope do you have that where we are can be reversed or mitigated?
CAMPUZANO: Well, I don't think that a lot is going to be achieved in this upcoming COP because the COVID has presented a lot of challenges and a lot
of countries will not be able to go because they are in the red list, that's to begin with. But secondarily, I am happy because I can see we have
been following the COP for the past 10 years. And I see that the theme of justice and environmental defenders and climate justice is now a main
issue, that it was not like that.
I mean, 10 years ago, it was all about mitigation and adaptation only. And everything in terms of, you know, the greenhouse emissions. But now, they
are more and more talking about justice -- climate justice and immigrations and indigenous communities that are also present in the COP. So, I am happy
about that. Also, they are including more and more gender perspective in these COPs. And well, that's my hope that this is going to be moving
AMANPOUR: Yes. You are absolutely right, it has become a main issue, certainly for a very large demographic, mostly young people. And even,
Mike, it is a main issue in Germany, which is going to go to elections and people are very energized about this. It's their future. But you also
profile a specific case in South Africa where a local activist, she was protesting, I think it was a coal mining concession bordering their
community. What happened to her? She was killed in 2020.
DAVIS: Yes. That's right Christiane. So, this is a case of Fikile Ntshangase, who was a 65-year-old grandmother who became an activist when
she saw the impacts at a nearby opencast coal mine were having on her community in terms of the health and the very infrastructure of the place.
And she began organizing with fellow community members to oppose a proposed expansion of this coal mine, which is being pushed by a company called
And it was in the context of her work that people in the community who were resisting the expansion were being -- efforts were being made to buy them
off. Evidence came to light after Fikile's killing of threats made against others.
And in this situation, one day in October last year, four men came to her house, they spoke to her 11-year-old grandson who was there in the yard.
They went inside and they shot her dead in her living room. And to date, nobody has been held responsible for this killing. The company, Tendele
Coal, denies that it has anything to do with them. But there is very little doubt that they are heavily implicated in creating the conditions of
conflicts and division in which she was murdered.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, I guess, you know, just finally to both of you, when you look down the road, and let me ask you, Margarita, you have talked
about your hope, you have talked about, you know, how it's become so front and center for so many people around the world. Do you see a point, you
know, we're all worried about there are so many, you know, expert who is say, you know, in the blink of an eye, it is going to be too late and these
big countries are not meeting their -- you know, their targets like China and U.S. and others? Just give me your sense of how much the activist
community is, I guess, responsible for pushing this issue front and center now?
CAMPUZANO: I think it is essential, the fact that the world is now more and more interested in what is happening with the environmental defenders
because they are the ones who are actually fighting, you know, and helping us to fight climate change. And the fact that now the world is watching and
putting pressure on all governments.
We need the world to see what is happening in Mexico so the government feels pressure and feels obligated to fulfill the commitments that we made,
you know, before the U.N. and the climate fight. So, that's my hope and that's what I think it will happen. But if we do not protect the
environmental defenders, if the government does not provide more economic, human resources and guarantees the right to information participation and
to be involved in the project that are affecting their land and natural resources, we cannot do anything from, you know, the urban (ph) spaces. We
can talk lot of things happening there in the communities where the ecosystems are being damaged.
AMANPOUR: Margarita Campuzano, Mike Davis, thank you both very much for joining us on this really important topic of course. Existential one.
And protecting the planet has been a key issue also, of course, for the California governor, Gavin Newsom. And he has just handily beat back a
recall challenge from Republicans who appoint him to his climate agenda amongst other things. Newsom has also staked his reputation on mask and
vaccine mandates. And that's in stark contrast to governors from states like Texas and Florida who have not.
GOP strategist, Steve Schmidt, says their anti-science stand is a selfish ploy to woo the far right. Schmidt who resigned from the board of the
Lincoln Project in February tells Michel Martin how Democrats should seize the day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Steve Schmidt, thank you so much for joining us once again.
STEVE SCHIMDT, CO-FOUNDER, THE LINCOLN PROJECT: It's good to be back with you.
MARTIN: So, I'm going to just start by asking you, how do you understand what's going on right now? I mean, as we are speaking, a number of
Republican governors are just furious about both mask mandates and vaccine mandates even though their states are among the most heavily affected. I
mean, at one point, 1 out of 7 new infections were coming out -- COVID-19 infections were coming out of Florida. At the same time the governor there
is suing jurisdictions for imposing mask mandates.
So, how do you understand what is going on in our politics right now?
SCHIMDT: I think the proper way to look at this is part of an ongoing series of events at a very momentous time, in a momentous season. And what
we're seeing is a homebrew of America radicalism, extremism, a type of nihilism.
For sure. Ron DeSanctis of Harvard University understands completely the efficacy of these life-saving vaccines. But he has gambled. And his gamble
is that it is expeditious for him to climb the ladder of power in the Republican Party, to position himself as an heir to Trump to be with regard
to COVID, with regard to the mask mandates, to cater to an extreme and intense base, that he views will be determinant of in the next Republican
Now, Saudi Arabia is a good example how to thing about this. You have the king. The king is Trump. My view is that Trump will certainly be the
Republican nominee in 2024. But he won't be around forever. So, when you look at Abbot in Texas, when you look at DeSanctis in Florida, when you
look at Noem in South Dakota, when you look at others, what you see now is a battle amongst the crowned princes and princesses for control of the Maga
(ph) Empire. And the things that they are doing to get to the top very sadly demonstrate a profound callousness towards life, towards any sense of
public responsibility. And it all accumulates into what we're seeing right now, literally in the history of the country.
You have never seen people, no matter how corrupt they are, charged with actual life and death responsibility advocate that responsibility for their
selfish political interests. And so, we're in this bidding war right now the see how extreme it can get to gain favor in this era of negative
partisanship where the louder the outrage is from the majority, from the majority of normal people such as it is in this country, the more fuel they
will have to advance their political rise inside of Maga (ph).
MARTIN: I want to hear a little more about the Saudi Arabia analogy. Like why do you say that? Is it because you are saying sort of educated -- just
because people are educated elites doesn't mean that they have is same world view and same sense of what the purpose of the nation is? Like tell a
little bit more about why that is the analogy you draw on.
SCHIMDT: I think it is important that we stop pretending. That we stop pretending that men like Kevin McCarthy, Ron DeSanctis, Greg Abbot don't
understand the efficacy of vaccines, don't understand basic American history, that they don't understand the lawful authority of government at a
federal level, at a state level, at a county level to enforce quarantines if necessary for the purposes of the public health. For the public good.
This is as old as the country itself. The exercise of this type of lawful authority.
So, let's stop pretending that any of these people think it is a good idea to take horse dewormer or that it is OK to inject some type of household
disinfectant. They all know this is insanity. Every one of them knows for sure there wasn't election fraud. They know that Joe Biden won the
election. Yet, every time they speak and they lie about these things, we're all supposed to pretend that they are making these statements as part of a
conviction or some level of good faith, and the evidence contrary to that is their own spoken words over the course of many years. So, let's stop
What we have in this country is an extremist movement that's autocratic, that is rejecting central pillars of American democracy. It is ascendant.
It is on the march. It is both more extreme, more powerful and more prepared for victory in September of '21 than this was in January of '21
when the insurrection took place in the first place.
MARTIN: Tom Ridge, another former governor, Pennsylvania, former head of the Department of Homeland Security, called this the Taliban wing of the
Republican Party. And so, the question is, why? Why did that take over so quickly?
I think you dispute this. But I'm sort of arguing, is it that identity politics was always more important to the party than perhaps people were
willing to admit, and by that, I mean, white identity politics or is it something else? Is it some sort of continuum of things? What do you say?
What do you think it is?
SCHIMDT: At each instance of black progress, or even maybe more devastatingly, when there was hope for black progress in the 1870s until
reconstruction ended and it was snuffed out. There is a profound whitelash, a backlash, to that black progress. I believed, largely, for a lot of my
adult life, that the civil rights movement was largely over. And it had been achieved with the election of a black president. I had a profound
naivety. And I'm not alone in this, about the backlash that came for our having a black president in this country.
And we've seen that manifested over these years from a whisper and maybe people less naive for me were able to hear it better and it wasn't such a
whisper to them, or even a signal at all. But now, what we see is loud overt, clear as day, hundreds of pieces of legislation that are set to
break what I thought was an understanding that we all had in this country, whether you were Republican or Democrat, which is that we all get a say
regardless of our creed, our race, our gender, our sexual orientation. This is what's been shattered here. This is what Trump has broken.
And so, now, for the purposes of power, you see people claiming that freedom requires that some of us don't get to participate. This is always
the argument that right wing authoritarians make.
MARTIN: So, we talked about the sort of the DNA of the Republican Party and how it has evolved in recent years. What about the Democrats? What
would you see is the DNA of the Democratic Party right now?
SCHIMDT: Well, the Democratic Party is the majority, but it is a fragile coalition. And I think it is really important to understand that coalition
which extends from Republicans who've only cast a couple of votes, who are a small part of it but determinative in victory all the way to AOC. And
what that coalition has in common is a belief in democracy, in the dignity of the human being above the power of the state.
That coalition put Nancy Pelosi in the speaker's chair in 2018. It fell apart by 2020. It did not hold together below Joe Biden thought it came
back briefly together for the two Senate races in Georgia. And now, this coalition is being tested and it will be tested by the type of attacks that
Donald Trump is making, that are race-based, full of animus, that are essentially this, to those white Republicans, those independent voters,
Republican men, Republican women, what they are saying is, you may not like Trump.
But these people over here, the ones that are trying to indoctrinate your kids with critical race theory, they hate you. They want to teach your kids
to hate you. They want to take your possessions. They are waging a culture war, right, and they are inciting a passionate minority. The Democratic
Party, and we'll get a good look at this in California. I think is not as intense, not as focused as the Republicans are at taking power right now.
It is the more docile of the parties. It is not fierce enough. It has not done a good job of holding the extremism back over the last nine months.
So, this coalition, while larger, is more vulnerable, more diverse, more diffuse, more disagreeable than the cult of personality that it's facing.
MARTIN: A number of columnists have sort of said in recent days that, you know, Democrats seem worried about offending Republicans and Republicans
want to win. And so, how do you understand their sort of reluctance to, for example, take steps that, what, forestall these restrictions on voter
access, for example? There -- really, at this point, there is only one way to do it. And that is through federal legislation. So, how do you
understand the Democrat's reluctance to address these issues?
SCHIMDT: I don't understand it. This was inevitable. It was predictable. And there is no issue that should make Democrats or any person who loves
democracy more furious than this. In response to the lie about the stolen election, there was an actual vote that took place where 147 Republicans
voted to nullify, disenfranchise the votes of millions of black Americans on the basis of BS. What followed next was the first filings of
legislation, the intent of every piece of legislation is maliced. That's because none of it would have ever been filed if Donald Trump hadn't won
And every piece is designed to make it more difficult for minorities to vote. But most importantly, to make it more difficult to certify elections
when one side factlessly claims fraud. And so, this was coming. And the only way to stop it was the repeal of the filibuster. And from the very
beginning, the repeal of the filibuster should have been framed by Democratic leaders as a moral necessity in an act of last resort should
Republicans dare try to unravel the civil rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 and pull this country back.
And so, across the broad front of an unrelenting series of events, the Democratic Party, as a whole, has done a horrendous job confronting the
growing extremism in this country and framing for the American people the terrible place where it all leads. And filibuster is part of that.
MARTIN: But I'm asking you why. I mean, you know these people. Why do you think that is?
SCHIMDT: I'm not a psychologist. What I can tell you about politics is this. Is restraint in the exercise of power is an underappreciated virtue.
But the exercise of power at necessary times and times bluntly is a prerequisite for effective leadership. Democrats have the majority. They
should pass Roe v. Wade statutorily. They should act with all the power they have to bring this pandemic to an end by increasing liability for
companies that won't act responsibly.
Democrats will soon be asking their donors for hundreds of millions of dollars. They will be asking to elect candidates. They must be able to
explain to what end. And if the Democratic Party and its most important loyal constituency, black Americans, cannot count on the leadership of the
party to be all in as a moral proposition to defend voting and civil rights, 150 years on, five years before the 250th anniversary of this
country, the voters will be disappointed at a level that is beyond my ability to articulate and it will have the effect in the end of propelling
a fascist movement back into congressional power in my view in this country.
MARTIN: I know you have been asked this before, but, you know, the Lincoln Project tweeted earlier this year that said, our mission is clear, destroy
the Republican Party. But I know you have been asked a lot about some of the tactics. And I have to ask some of this again, is just this kind of
this fight fire with fire approach, part of your message to folks is that you are getting screwed and these are the people doing the screwing. But
the former president's message is, to the people that he cared about was, you are getting screwed and I'm going to fix it.
If everybody's message is, you are getting screwed and I'm going to fix it, where do we go from here as a country?
SCHIMDT: I think the country is in a lot of trouble. And I want to speak to what I'll call the both siderisms that I think is inherent in the frame
of the question. In fact, critical race theory isn't being taught to kids in high schools in America. One political party is not lying about a life-
saving vaccine. One political party is not partly responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead Americans because of those lies. One political party
hasn't whitewashed the insurrection on 1/6. And one political party is not a danger to American democracy.
And there is not a symmetry between the two sides. The rottenness. And frankly, the evil. And we don't use that word enough. But I need to linger
here for a second. There was a meeting that took place in the White House that Jared Kushner chaired. I'm sure with coffee and doughnuts and all the
good stuff. And they decided in that meeting that there wouldn't be a COVID strategy for the blue states because they could pin it on the blue state
governors. It's evil. It kills hundreds of thousands of people in this country.
We're about to enter into the children's pandemic. So, anything that we can do, grab people by the proverbial collar, by the neck, hit them in the
head, get their attention, make them laugh, make them cry, make them think, anything, to get them to wake up and understand the danger that we face in
this country from extremists and in the fight for American democracy, exhaustion is our enemy. The idea that there is not a difference between
the two sides. Everybody is equally corrupt. Everyone is equally maliced. And it is just not true.
MARTIN: Steve Schmidt, thank you so much for talking with us.
SCHIMDT: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Throwing down the gauntlet, defending democracy. And finally, tonight, some of Broadway's biggest shows have finally reopened after the
pandemic lockdown. "Hamilton," "The Lion King," "Wicked" and "Chicago" are all welcoming audiences back. Provided they have been vaccinated and they
do wear masks. And audiences can hardly contain their excitement.
"No One Mourns the Wicked" as the song goes. But for theater lovers the long hiatus on Broadway won't be as easily dismissed. "Wicker's" original
Glinda, Kristin Chenoweth, gave a surprise speech before last night's show and one fan got so emotional, he said he felt his soul leave his body. And
there was also an appearance by the current king of Broadway, himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Lin-Manuel Miranda there outside the theater showing "Hamilton" and taking a leaf from a Hollywood song book and playing tribute to New
York. Proving that even when the lights go dark, the show will always find a way to go on.
That is it for now. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.