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Anger Plaguing American Democracy; Tackling World Poverty; Interview with Author Evan Osnos; Interview with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 17, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): As COVID and the climate crisis drive world poverty to new heights, development expert Rajiv Shah calls for a new
global initiative to level the playing field for the world's two billion poorest people.
And a foreign correspondent reports from home. Evan Osnos dives into the anger plaguing American democracy and the threat of more violence still to
Then: taking the long view, the next chapter in American space exploration. Walter Isaacson speaks to NASA Chief Bill Nelson.
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 World Health Organization is making an urgent plea for global vaccine equality, as rich nations see vaccination rates more than 60 times higher
than poorer countries. While countries like Britain and the United States look to booster shots, a strikingly different picture in many other
countries and regions, in particular Africa, where stark numbers show the extent of vaccine inequity.
There are now more than eight million COVID cases there and fewer than 4 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated. Threats like COVID-19 and climate
change hurt the world's most vulnerable first and, sadly, worse.
So, my guest today, Rockefeller foundation president Dr. Rajiv Shah, says the richest countries must commit to a new global charter to ensure
humanity can tackle the daunting challenges ahead. Shah headed U.S. development efforts under President Obama. And he joins me now from
Dr. Shah, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us.
Let's begin by talking about this COVID charter, because you compare it to the Atlantic Charter originally signed in 1941 and renewed at the G7 this
past summer. Explain what you are calling for specifically.
DR. RAJIV SHAH, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well, first, thank you for having me, Bianna.
And I really appreciate the great reporting you're doing.
The reality is, like 1941, we find ourselves at war. And we're at war with a pandemic that has taken 4.6 million lives and threatens to take millions
more. We're at war with climate considerations and climate change that threatens to undermine our ability to exist on Earth.
And we are not stepping up in the way that we need to. We need much stronger ways to cooperate as countries, to reinvest in our multilateral
institutions, and to reimagine what it takes to protect and serve humanity in this moment as a shared global community.
So, we are calling for -- much like the Atlantic Charter, which was forged during wartime, we're calling for countries to come together around a COVID
charter and recommit themselves to multilateral action and manners that can work, can be effective at achieving the goals we need to achieve to both
beat back this pandemic and protect the planet going forward.
It is actually affordable and achievable. And it's only ever been the case that, during wartime, we have been able to mobilize to do these great
GOLODRYGA: Well, let's talk about some of the details, because you're calling for advanced economies to devote at least 1 percent of their GDP to
And this is coming at the same time that we're seeing the U.K. cut their aid from 0.7 percent of GDP to half-a-percent. So, obviously, this is an
ambitious, lofty and commendable goal, but is it really achievable?
SHAH: I think it's absolutely achievable.
Many of us have worked for decades to encourage at least 0.7 percent of GDP in industrial countries to be committed to foreign assistance. And when I
was in the Obama administration, I visited church groups and cities across America and rural communities and farmlands.
And across the nation, people I spoke to, when they understood that for about 1 percent of our federal budget, less than 1 percent, we were able to
get -- beat back AIDS, fight Ebola and keep it out of the United States, effectively move hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and off the
brink of hunger and starvation, they didn't ask me to do less. They said, why don't we do more?
And that's because I think people appreciate everywhere that, once they're aware of the fact that foreign assistance can be an effective tool to bring
stability and prosperity to the farthest corners of the globe, it's a smart investment for industrial countries to make.
And, frankly, it's an essential element to make right now. The threat of new variants of concern emerging from developing economies is four times
that of the risk that it will emerge from inside an industrial country's borders.
So, if we want to protect the economic recovery on which trillions of dollars rests in the balance, making a modest 1 percent investment of our
GDP to fight COVID abroad and to reinvest in creating real convergence across the global economy is absolutely essential and absolutely
GOLODRYGA: So let's talk about that, because it seems a bit frustrating that we know what the problem is, we know where the problems are, and yet
we continue to see them manifest.
Let's take just, a case in point, the introduction here and what's going on in Africa right now. We have a set 5.7 billion doses administered around
the world. Only 2 percent of those had been administered in Africa. I wish I could tell you that this is -- comes as a surprise, but people have been
warning about this since the start of the pandemic. And yet here we are.
What is the problem here? Just looking at a graph now, we're seeing the yellow line at the bottom representing Africa, whereas you see the red and
the blue representing North American and the European Union up over 60 percent vaccinated.
SHAH: Well, you're absolutely right that, until we get vaccination to 70 percent in every country and community across the planet, we will not have
moved on beyond COVID-19.
So the question is, why are we doing so poorly, when it is entirely knowable that it's going to be hard to both afford and distribute and
achieve the vaccination targets that are critical for all of us in some of the tougher economies and tougher parts of the globe?
The answer to your question is, there has been minimal investment in this effort. Our estimates, the IMF has estimated and other foundations have
estimated that you need about $50 billion to achieve the 70 percent. And maybe a third of that has been committed and even less has been drawn down.
Another reason is, there's no real single point of leadership to manage the procurement, distribution and planning and execution of what really should
be humanity's biggest urgent shared project. You have some partners that are out there doing the best they can, some countries donating vaccines,
and that's a good step forward.
But you don't have this sort of vast mobilization in a well-organized, planned manner. In fact, of the 91 countries that are part of the COVAX
initiative, which is, of course, the initiative to try to achieve this goal, only seven of them have real in-country plans to deploy the vaccine
to 70 percent of their population.
So think about that. We're quite far behind. And that's why we're calling for really the world to step up, industrial countries in particular, to
renew these commitments, reset this goal and be determined to achieve it by the end of next year.
GOLODRYGA: But where is the chain broken along this trajectory to get these vaccines to Africa, into arms among Africans specifically?
We have the U.N. General Assembly meeting next week, where we're hearing that the U.S. may be donating more vaccines. We have heard of this during
the G7 meetings as well, a pledge for millions of vaccines to be donated. And yet we hear from African officials at the same time, saying, listen, we
welcome the donations, but we would like to be able to import them as well.
And that's where there seems to be a roadblock. I actually want to play a sound bite to you from an African official on this exact issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STRIVE MASIYIWA, AFRICAN UNION SPECIAL ENVOY FOR COVID-19: You can donate to us, if you so wish, but our basis is not a donation. That means we want
access to purchase. We call on those countries that have put restrictions on exports, exports of vaccines as finished products, exports of
ingredients, drug substance.
These restrictions are even more urgent for us today than intellectual property.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Is he correct there, Doctor? And why would these restrictions be in place?
SHAH: Well, he's 100 percent correct.
The reality is, right now, as you know, the world's largest suppliers of vaccine, the manufacturers in India, and the Serum Institute of India in
particular, are restricted from exporting their vaccine sales until Indian vaccination rates achieve some of the national domestic targets.
That is blocking the ability for COVAX and other partners to acquire and distribute enough vaccines to the rest of the world to achieve their
targets. And in a fundamentally constrained supply economy, those types of restrictions make it very, very difficult for African nations in particular
to reach their targets.
I'd also point out -- and I think this is underlying the statement we just heard -- that countries actually have resources at their disposal from
domestic budgets and from multilateral institutions to -- like the World Bank and others, to be able to accelerate their investments in this effort.
So, so the speaker, which I believe was Strive Masiyiwa, was right, in that we need the market to be open, and we need market mechanisms to be able to
function effectively if we're actually going to tackle this problem.
GOLODRYGA: OK, so that is one major problem.
Let's talk about another major problem we're not just seeing in Western countries, but in Africa as well, and that is vaccine hesitancy. And you
took part in administering vaccines when you were a part and worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You know firsthand about the
hesitancy, and it is real there.
Surveys show that every second South African does not want to get a vaccine. We actually have video of Kenyans concerned about getting the
vaccine as well and speaking about their hesitancy I want to play that for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you want it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe people, they are not dying because of virus. They are dying because of their -- another disease.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should I take something that I don't have -- I don't know what will it do to my body?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If -- and I say if with capital letters -- if we understand about it, maybe we can do it. But, for now, it's no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: OK, so let's separate the vaccine hesitancy that we're seeing in the U.S. and Western countries, because I would say there's no excuse
for that. We have all of our top health officials and elected officials speaking out on a daily basis about why they are effective and safe.
But when it comes to developing nations, are we seeing enough from their health officials, from their leaders saying the same?
SHAH: Well, we're not. And we need to see more leadership domestically from countries all around the planet.
I would also point out, though, that we have known for decades that there are some tried-and-true ways to get local communities to increase their
adoption of public health measures like vaccines that are safe and extraordinarily effective.
Those include enlisting local leaders. They involve often enlisting local pastors, local churches, local teachers, local community leaders, helping
them have the resources to go out and advocate for people in their community who trust them, maybe trust them more than they trust their
national health minister, because they know their local -- their local leaders. And they listen to them.
I was on the ground in rural Liberia when we were convincing communities to move beyond tried-and-true practices of washing and hugging and paying
respects to the bodies of deceased individuals, people who had died from Ebola.
And it ultimately were local community leaders who were able to convince families that, instead of doing those practices, which they have done for
generations to show love and respect, that they would be protecting themselves better if they allowed WHO burial teams to come in and remove
the bodies in safe body bags and use different types of sanitary practices.
People will change, but you have to meet folks where they are, and you have to invest in local communities. And, right now, the biggest gaps in the
global vaccination effort include a complete lack of organized funding and financing for that sort of community-based outreach to get from 5 percent
or 20 percent to 70 percent coverage in 60, 70, 80 countries around the world.
GOLODRYGA: So, let's shift gears now, because we spend a lot of time talking about the need, the urgency of getting at least one vaccine into
the arms of millions of people around the world.
In other countries, including the U.S., there's a debate and discussion and the process of those getting their third shot. And the FDA is meeting as we
speak about whether or not they will recommend an authorized booster as well.
Where do you stand on the issue? You have people like Dr. Scott Gottlieb saying this is not a zero sum game. There are enough vaccine doses to go
around. And in his mind, what he sees, the data coming in from world examples in the U.K. and Israel, suggests that a booster would be
SHAH: Yes, I think Scott's right to point out that it looks like, in some cases, boosters are effective and are necessary to maintain herd immunity
in certain communities.
And I expect many industrial countries will move in that direction. I also think we need much more transparency on the supply side of the market. It
turns out that it's actually been very, very hard to get publicly available data on how many doses are being manufactured that are effective that could
be distributed around the world.
Scott and other experts, I think, believe there are about a billion doses a month in the current supply system. And, at that rate, we should be able to
allocate to both careful and appropriate booster campaign in certain parts of the world, while massively increasing availability of doses for reaching
70 percent for the first time in other parts of the world.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, there have been some miscommunication between the FDA officials and the White House as well over this very issue over the past
Let me end by asking you something that I know is very important to you. You are the son of immigrants. You have spent a lot of time with your
family in India. You have really been a pillar for the investment in education. And education is how an economy grows, as I hear you have been
quoted many, many times.
You ran USAID between 2010 and 2015. And you helped put eight million girls into schools in Afghanistan. And, politics aside, I'm just wondering, from
your perspective, what impact the Taliban taking over again and the concern that girls may not be able to reach the ambitions that they have strived
for and that you had helped oversee, how are you feeling about that?
SHAH: Well, Bianna, I'm so glad you asked that question.
I have sat in rural communities in schools with young girls and their mothers who have told me that their ability to get educated, their ability
to go to school and their ability to dream about a future as an educated woman and a community leader means everything to them, and to their fathers
and their brothers as well.
And I fear for them, I fear that they will not have nearly the opportunities they otherwise would. I think that reality is why I'm calling
for a COVID charter.
It's until we realize that young girl in rural Afghanistan, or that unvaccinated mother in maybe a slum community in Nairobi, or that business
executive in South Africa who can't get vaccinated and go about their work safely, until we realize we're all connected, that by investing 1 percent
of our GDP in each other's basic health and human welfare, and working together to tackle challenges like climate change, until we make that
judgment as political leaders across the world, we won't live in a world that is safe, that is growing, and where the hope and prosperity reaches
every corner of the globe.
And until we get there, we will be dealing with threats like the Taliban and others for many, many decades to come. And we will be at the mercy of a
changing climate that threatens all of us.
So I'm very, very hopeful that, as the world goes into the General Assembly next week, as we imagine a road to the COP 26 and the G20 later this fall,
that leaders will, in fact, reembrace the spirit of the Atlantic Charter, recognize we're in this together, and make some of the tough, but critical
investments and actions necessary to protect all of us.
GOLODRYGA: You have connected this all so well for us, Dr. Shah.
Thank you so much for all the work that you have been doing and focusing and highlighting on the need for equity around the world. We appreciate it.
SHAH: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, one alarming impact of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is the danger of facing women who served as Afghan judges.
They're now in hiding and on the run, living in fear of what will happen to them if the Taliban or former prisoners they incarcerated find them.
In a CNN exclusive, Anna Coren takes a look at the judges left behind and others who managed to escape.
ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Childhood laughter shared by two young sisters who have no idea about the dangers
they now face.
Their mother, Nabila, was a judge in Afghanistan, a profession now made impossible for women. The Taliban has told them not to return to work. And
now the whole family has a target on their heads.
NABILA, AFGHAN JUDGE (through translator): A day or two after the Taliban arrived in Kabul, my personal number was called, and I was threatened with
revenge, threatened with murder. And I had to cancel my phone numbers.
COREN: The family is currently in hiding, in fear of being hunted down by men she put behind bars, some of whom have now been freed by the Taliban.
NABILA (through translator): Because of this threat from the prisoners, I change my house once every four days. I hide there and I try to never go
COREN: Her fear compounded after a police woman eight months' pregnant was murdered by the Taliban, according to her family, a claim the Taliban deny.
Nabila is one of around 200 women judges left stranded in Afghanistan. Many of them presided over the worst cases of violence against women, including
rape, murder and domestic abuse. Some have them had even traveled to the U.S. for a judicial education program.
Under the cover of darkness and gunfire, a few dozen others have managed to get out. One experienced high court judge risked her life to flee the
country after the Taliban came looking for her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Five members of the Taliban came to my area asking my neighbors about me. I relocated again because I was so
scared they could find me.
COREN: This judge managed to escape with her nieces and nephews on a flight from Kabul after days of waiting at the airport. She wants to keep
their identity hidden, as she fears for family members back home.
They landed safely in Poland, and are now trying to get to the U.S. But the judge can't forget the life she left behind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Now I feel like I lost everything. Imagine you have a personality, a career, respect, a home, a
car, a life and everything, and suddenly you leave everything.
COREN: As chaos and uncertainty unfolds inside Afghanistan, the U.S.-based International Association of Women Judges is trying to help more of their
Afghan members to leave. But they say Western countries need to do more.
VANESSA RUIZ, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN JUDGES: Governments need to be better, more agile, more generous, frankly, in giving admission to
people who are in danger in Afghanistan. We're not going to abandon them, we're not going to forget them, and we're not going to let the world ignore
COREN: For those left behind like Nabila, escape is their only hope, as they see no future in their homeland under Taliban rule.
But she hopes one day she will be allowed to return to the bench.
NABILA (through translator): We have been working for many years to combat violence, oppression and justice. And I want to continue with my work.
COREN: Her bravery in protecting Afghanistan's women, despite the dangers, was to create a better future for her daughters, a generation that now
faces a dark reality under the new regime.
GOLODRYGA: Wonderful reporting about such, brave incredible women
Anna Coren, thank you so much for that.
And while the fight against violence and oppression continues across the world, America is reckoning with angry divisions here at home.
Journalist Evan Osnos, who has spent much of his career covering global turmoil for "The New Yorker," has now turned his attention to his own
country. In his new book called "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury," Osnos compares the U.S. to a dried-out forest where, after years of
political institutional failure, a single spark can erupt into a raging inferno.
And Evan Osnos, welcome to the program with that image in viewers' minds right now. It is really interesting that you spend so much of your career
focused internationally to come home to a country that was basically unrecognizable.
And it reminded me a lot of what we heard from President Bush over the weekend at the 9/11 -- the 20 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when he
kept talking about the America that he knew.
EVAN OSNOS, AUTHOR, "WILDLAND: THE MAKING OF AMERICA'S FURY": Yes, very much so, actually, Bianna.
He -- when he was talking about it, I think a lot of us had that sense of a kind of moment of awareness of really how much ground has been covered and
the things that we feel like we have lost in those 20 years since 9/11. He talked about children of the same foul spirit, by which he meant, in a
sense, this idea of these intolerances, these rejections of things that I think we used to take for granted.
And, fundamentally, the way I have come to see it is that the thing that I noticed most when I came back, after all these years away, was that we seem
to have lost this very specific American tendency to see ourselves as a country, as larger than the sum of our parts.
That piece of it seems to have sort of fallen through our fingers. And the project before us now is to say, how do we get that back?
GOLODRYGA: And you highlight three Americans, we should note, not in Washington, D.C. One's a hedge funder in Greenwich, Connecticut. Another
was a war veteran in West Virginia, and another was a man who was convicted of teen gang-related crimes in Chicago.
Why did you specifically seek these three stories out?
OSNOS: These are three places that mean a lot to me. They're all places where I have lived in my life.
Greenwich, Connecticut, after all, is where I grew up as a kid. It was just an extraordinarily fortunate place to grow up, outside of New York City.
It's always been prosperous. And over the last 20 years, it has sort of, in many ways, become a place that is -- it's known as the hedge fund capital
of the world. And it's a place where you can learn a lot about what the impact of the financialization of the economy has been in America.
Clarksburg, West Virginia, is a small city in the northern part of the state, very different from Greenwich, very different from Chicago. It's the
place where I worked as a young journalist, my first job out of college, and it's also a place that for years has sent people off to fight abroad in
And, in fact, if you go back to Clarksburg now, you can begin to understand some of the impacts that the wars have had at home, people going overseas
for repeated deployments. And you see it right there on the front page of the little newspaper, "The Exponent Telegram," where I started my career.
And Chicago in its own way has often been described over the years as the great American city. It's this -- the place where, as -- it was Frederick
Jackson Turner, actually, 120 years ago who said, it's the place where all the forces of the nation intersect, both positively and negatively.
And, today, it's also a place where you see the compounded effects of segregation and of violence. And it's a place that I think helps us really
understand some of the challenges you see in American cities.
GOLODRYGA: And the story you tell of Chicago is of a man named Maurice Clark.
I would like for you to read, if you will, an excerpt from the book about him.
Maurice Clark is an extraordinary person who I met in the course of my reporting. And he was -- to give people a bit of background, he was a very
promising young student. He was the youngest of four kids. He was doing very well in math class. He came from a struggling neighborhood, and his
mother sent him across town to another elementary school.
And then, when he hit about eighth grade, there was a pivot point in his life, as he describes it. And I will tell it as he puts it here.
"He went on a tour of Morgan Park High School, and he imagined himself there. 'I see this nice fresh school. It's integrated, white, black. It's
kind of upscale.' Then his parents were informed that the school bus that he'd been riding stopped at eighth grade. His parents didn't have the money
for the public bus fare. So, Maurice Clark enrolled instead at his local school, Fenger High, which was known for terrific football and terrible
"Looking back at that moment, Clark gave a short, rueful laugh. 'And that started my life of crime.'"
I think it's worth explaining that, in the years that followed, he found himself in a high school that was being steadily starved of resources. At
the time, the parents wrote a letter to the local school board pleading with greater investment. And they said, there's not enough money to manage
the lunchroom. There's not enough money to furnish the most basic elements of an education.
And he started to feel that in his own life. He said, there were kids from the neighborhood from local gangs who would come into the lunchroom, and he
would find himself sort of drawn into these encounters. He ended up following his brothers into the gangster disciples. And, as he describes
it, it was the path that defined the life that followed.
And the story that he tells -- and he's just been very generous with me over the years in explaining his own experiences -- takes you through not
only his time in prison, but the struggle he faced after getting out, the challenges of getting into the legal economy that face a felon in his
condition, and then also, ultimately, his encounter with the subprime mortgage crisis, and the ways that redefined his life and those of the
people around him.
So, for him, he has been really one of the ways that I have come to understand my own country in ways that I hadn't seen it before.
And to piggyback off of that I was struck by a point you made in a recent interview about the book, where you said: "We don't spend enough time on
the role that pride and dignity play in the current divide."
It really does explain the struggles, the strifes, the divisions, right, within the country itself.
GOLODRYGA: But let me talk to you about what you focus the majority of your career on, and that is how the rest of the world sees the U.S. and
And I want to get your take on just the latest news this week of the president announcing that he's going to be sharing submarine nuclear
technology with our allies the Australians.
Now we know that that really angered the French, and they even canceled a party that they were expecting to host in Washington, D.C., said that they
were blindsided by this, that they weren't given a heads-up, similar to the heads-up they weren't provided with before we left Afghanistan, and then I
think, in the biggest insult one could lob politically, at least, comparing this administration to the Trump administration.
How did you interpret it all of that? Obviously, you wrote a book on President Biden too.
Well, China is a place that I tend to focus a lot on. It has been -- this is an example, I think, of a period that has come to be understood not just
in the United States, but around the world, as a redefinition of how countries are dealing with China.
China was the piece of this story that was unannounced.
OSNOS: In a sense, the reason why the United States and Australia and the U.K. have struck up this new partnership is a full-throated...
GOLODRYGA: The elephant in the room.
OSNOS: Yes, exactly right.
And it was, in a sense, a way of saying, we are feeling now uncertain about China's future in the region. China is finding itself in greater -- greater
conflict, not only with the United States, but with many of its neighbors. And Australia for years has said, we don't want to choose a side.
This, frankly, was
OSNOS: -- in greater conflict not only with the United States but with many of its neighbors. And Australia, for years, had said, we don't want to
choose a side. This, frankly, was a choosing of the sides. And they said, we feel as if we are going to build a future with the United States.
But I think, you know, Bianna, it is also a sign of a period of uncertainty to come. China, of course, is feeling this as a moment, a sort of
threatening moment, which is not to say that it wasn't a wise move on the part of either of these powers. But it was a sign that we are entering a
phase of greater uncertainty, particularly as it relates to control of the Pacific.
GOLODRYGA: And it is clear that Australia was feeling a lot of tension from China as well with increased tariffs that China was imposing on
Australia, but at the same time, we have historic allies in Europe, in particular France and Germany, that continue to balance this relationship
with China in a way that this administration, and I would argue the Trump administration had not been pivoting towards.
And that leads me to this next question. Because I want to get your perspective on the foreign policy perspective from this president right
now, and that is the autocrats versus democracy. And he continues to hone in on that. And it is something that I'm hearing from other interviews that
we've been conducting, whether it be opposition leaders in Belarus or even in opposition activist from Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez, he struck on this
when I spoke with him just yesterday. I want to play for you that sound and then, we can talk about it after.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEOPOLDO LOPEZ, VENEZUELAN OPPOSITION LEADER: This is a global issue. It is an issue that affects Belorussia, Grusia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and
many other countries that are fighting the same reality, how to confront autocrats that are taking ahold of power in countries that are also being
impoverished and losing the possibility to have a better future for its population.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: There are opposition leaders and autocratic regimes right now that listening to President Biden and trying to use this as a way to get to
him to focus on the issues happening domestically for them. How would you rate how Biden is handling this right now?
OSNOS: Well, he has come into office drawing a clearer line, and I think than many expected of saying, look, this is a period which the United
States finds itself in a foot race with authoritarian regimes, that there are countries around the world that look at what has happened in the United
States over the last few years at the Democratic disorder at what happened on January 6th with people storming the capitol. And I've looked at it as a
moment of vulnerability and said, OK, this is a chance for us to make a place for authoritarianism.
Now, there's some tension of the idea that he is mostly bringing American troops home from Afghanistan, which makes people feel as if perhaps he's
withdrawing within American borders the way he would say it and I think this is sort of running through not only his -- the deal with Australia but
also the decision in Afghanistan and ultimately, the decisions he's making in domestic politics is his belief that way that the United States
ultimately will prevail in a global competition with authoritarianism is by fortifying and reviving our system at home and demonstrating once again
that you can build public confidence and that you can make our institutions function.
As he often says, you know, democracy needs -- for it to work, for it to have a -- to restore the name of democracy around the world, we have to
demonstrate that we're willing to recommit to it at home. And that is actually, in sense, sort of how I come to bring my focus to the home front
as well. Trying to understand what it would take to get these institutions functioning again and regain public confidence.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And what stood out to me in Leopoldo Lopez' comments was that they were directed not only to President Biden obviously but to the
American public as a whole. He was trying to make the connection that the fight for democracy is just as important in those countries as it is in the
United States. And I'm curious, just from the research that you have done for this book, over the past 20 years, does that resonate as much as it
perhaps would have in decades prior at the American public?
OSNOS: You have seen over the course of the decades that the American public has been losing confidence in the ability of its own system to
deliver. I mean, in the mid-1960s, for instance, Americans gave overwhelmingly high marks in their trust for government. 77 percent of
Americans said they trusted the government.
Fast forward to half century, and you get to today, where that number has really plummeted. It is only about 18 percent today. And I think part of
the challenge becomes that for Americans to feel generous and openminded and willing to dedicate resources and commitment to building democracy
abroad, start of that -- that begins with rebuilding confidence in their system here.
And I think one of the things that I really was struck by, as I went around the country in working on the book, was the way in which there is a gap
between the public will and what you see in government. Case in point, take gun violence. 70 percent of Americans say they want to see Congress do
something fundamentally to protect American young people particularly in schools.
But -- and we've seen this over and over again. When issues come up, what we hear from Congress is thoughts and prayers. And we get empty words
without action. And as long as that's the case, I think you are going to continue to see Americans eroding confidence. And so, that is actually --
you know, the task at hand is to say, how do we rebuild confidence at home? And I hope that then will contribute to a greater confidence in building it
abroad. But there is a lot of work to be done.
GOLODRYGA: And you highlight that as we wrap up here with just one example. And that is those who are committing to public service in the
United States and you note that less than half of one percent of Americans actually fought defending this country over the past 20 years and wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan and the toll that you beautifully write about in the book that it had on their communities.
Thank you, Evan, so much for this reporting. We always appreciate it when it comes abroad and I think it is even more insightful now when it is
coming from here at home. Thank you.
OSNOS: Thank you. I appreciate it.
GOLODRYGA: And now, from divisions on earth to pursuits in outer space. This week, SpaceX made history with the launch of Inspiration4, the first
ever all-civilian mission to orbit. Correspondent Kristin Fisher has more on how the crew are getting way, way up high.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: SpaceX says that the crew is happy and healthy. They are conducting scientific experiments,
medical experiments but they're also just sitting back and enjoying the view. And they are enjoying a much more expansive view of planet earth than
Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson because Bezos and Branson just went on a quick suborbital spaceflight. The Insipiration4 crew is going all the up
into orbit and they are going to be circling the earth about 50 times before splashing down somewhere off the Coast of Florida.
Another important distinction about this mission is that it is the first all-civilian trip to orbit. None of the four people on board are
professional astronauts. They are essentially all amateurs. And then, the other big difference here is that this is really the first time that NASA
has not played any role whatsoever in a human spaceflight that took off from the Kennedy Space Center's historic launch pad 39A. So, a lot of
But what this means, the fact that this is not a government flight is the fact that we don't know a ton about what the crew is actually thinking and
feeling. So, hopefully, we'll learn more after they have splashed down on either Saturday or Sunday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Really unchartered territory there. Well, this milestone initiative offers a glimpse into the future of space exploration. And no
one is more qualified to speak on this next era than NASA administrator, Bill Nelson. The former senator and house representative is one of just a
handful of members of Congress ever to travel to space. And here he is talking to our Walter Isaacson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, welcome to the show.
BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you, Walter.
ISAACSON: Congratulations. This was a very inspiring thing that happened this week, the launch of the commercial crew, the four civilians that went
into space, lived up to its name, the Inspiration4. But for the first time, NASA was a little bit of a spectator in this. It was done by a private
company, SpaceX. Tell me why that's better than having government just do it itself.
NELSON: Well, we are promoting commercial activity in space, and I can go into that. But let me tell you, NASA wasn't a spectator. To get that to
vehicle ready, the vehicle being the Dragon Spacecraft, so that it is safe for humans, NASA has been all over that, partnering with SpaceX. We're
doing the same with Boeing now as they try to get off the launch pad, to make sure that the vehicle and the spacecraft are safe.
And certainly, SpaceX is proving that that is the case because this now, they have sent three crews to the International Space Station. We'll do the
fourth coming up the end of October. And then, in the meantime, they send this crew out not attached to the space station. It's showing that vehicle
ISAACSON: You described how NASA has helped design that Dragon capsule we all saw on TV. That wonderful thing with the open dome so they can see out.
Tell me about working with SpaceX to design that amazing 21st century space capsule they are in.
NELSON: SpaceX and Elon are an amazing success story. Now, they will tell you what I'm about to tell you, that they started out thinking that they
could do it themselves. And finally, they realized that they really needed NASA's help when it came to humans and the loop. NASA, likewise, has
learned a lot from commercial companies like SpaceX. And indeed, we now purchase the service of delivery of crew to the International Space
Station. And it's now come about as a cost savings.
And I would be quick to point out that no less than the U.S. Air Force has admitted to me that because of SpaceX driving down the cost of launches,
because primarily they reuse the rocket core of the first stage, they have saved just -- the Department of Defense has saved $40 billion over the last
several years in launch costs. So, you see there is synergy here between the private sector and the public sector. And it is all to the good of
ISAACSON: There is a great competition between Blue Origin run by Jeff Bezos and SpaceX run by Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell. And of course, Blue
Origin is suing NASA, I think, or is part of a lawsuit because you awarded a contract for the moon landing capsule to SpaceX. Tell me, are you
confident that that contract was awarded correctly? And what do you think of that lawsuit?
NELSON: Even though the contract was awarded before I came here, the answer to your question is yes. And in part, it was awarded because before
I came here, Congress did not give NASA enough money. And therefore, the decision was made in NASA, they only had enough money to award one for the
first demonstration flight.
I am now all over Capitol Hill trying to get them to understand that we need competition going forward. Because competition will keep us on time.
It will also bring the cost down. And if we're going to have that competition with other companies, like Blue Origin and Dynetics and others
that have now put in the bids, if we're going to have that, we got to have some more money. And I've made that argument to the White House and I've
made that argument to the Congress. And we'll see if they honor that.
ISAACSON: SpaceX is currently the only way that the U.S. can get astronauts to the International Space Station. It will be a public-private
partnership in some ways, because the lunar landing you will do in partnership with SpaceX and you are looking at other companies to help with
that. How long will this Artemis program take? And when are we going to get to the moon again?
NELSON: Well, the first two are entirely NASA. The first one is mandate as we always go through and test a vehicle without humans on it. The second
one, which is sometime in 2023, maybe early '24, that one will have a crew, and they will go way beyond the moon and then come back to the earth. And
then the third one is what you're talking about, where the NASA spacecraft, Orion will go into lunar orbit. It will be, more or less, one that goes way
up and comes down close. And it will rendezvous in lunar orbit with the commercial landing craft. That will take the astronauts to the surface and
back. That's the first demonstration.
To finally answer the rest of your question, it's going to be over a decade with about a landing a year, and that is what we are preparing for the
future and that's why we need that competition to keep it on time and keep it as economical as possible.
ISAACSON: When we start doing one landing per year on the moon, when will that be and what will the goal be? Will it be to have a permanent base on
NELSON: The goal for the first demonstration, assuming that all of this is not reversed in the court of claims where Blue Origin has now contested the
previous decision, and that will be a demonstration. But then, overtime, those landings will do all of the above. It will be a habitat. There will
be science. There is going to be a lot of that starting next year, by the way, in commercial landers having NASA payloads, university science
payloads all in preparation.
And here is something that's really exciting. We're sending three missions to the South Pole. It is the South Pole of the moon that we think has the
water. And if you have water, you can make fuel, hydrogen, and oxygen. And that could be very important for fueling future missions to Mars.
ISAACSON: This Inspiration4 launch has sometimes been called space tourism because it is for civilians. In fact, they are actually doing a lot of
work. But I still want to ask you, when we call it space tourism, is that actually a good thing? Do we want to encourage space tourism?
NELSON: Yes. The more that we can get commercial ventures out there, it is -- and they are successful and they build one success on another, learn
that much more, the more that that occurs, then the more we are able toward the end of this decade to turn over low earth orbit and the space station
to commercial ventures so they can manufacture in space, they can research in space, and NASA can get out of low earth orbit and go on and explore the
helix. And that is what we're doing. Back to the earth and then on to Mars.
ISAACSON: On the Mars, tell me how you are going to do that.
NELSON: Well, right now, we couldn't sustain human life all the way to Mars. You are talking about millions and millions of miles. Not 250,000
miles to the moon. So, we want to use the lunar habitat to learn more about how you sustain life. What can we do to keep our astronauts from being
fried by a solar explosion, which is in effect radiation? How can you grow enough food so you can sustain them? Because it is possible, depending on
the alignment of the planets. Once we got to Mars, it is possible you would have to stay six months a year on the surface before you'd come back. We
don't have that capability yet. But we're researching and developing all of those capabilities.
ISAACSON: What drives Elon Musk is making humans an interplanetary species, to be able eventually, and by eventually he means, you know,
within a few decades, to live on other planets. Is that a mission of NASA as well? Is it important to make sure that sometime in the foreseeable
future humans can live on other planets?
NELSON: NASA's mission is to venture out and explore. This is the new frontier, Walter. The frontier is upward. It used to be westward in this
country. And as we explore, we learn new things. We adapt to new things. Very likely, we could create civilizations. At the same time, all this is
happening, let me remind you, we're putting up a telescope in December that's going to be a million miles out from Earth and it is going to look
through a key hole and it is going to look back, if the you can believe this, 13 billion years capturing light from that long ago almost after the
And we're going to be able to discover those early, early galaxies, and we're going to be able to discover those suns and sea planets revolving
around those suns. And then, we're going to be able to look for a planet that has a habitable kind of atmosphere. When you think of the universe how
big it is, there are unlimited possibilities out there. This is the mission of NASA to explore.
ISAACSON: How will exploration of space help us in our fight on climate change?
NELSON: Well, any time we have technological breakthroughs, it immediately does. Now, having said that, look at what NASA has already done. You know,
you think of Noah and the National Weather Service? Who do you think does those spacecrafts? We design them, build them, launch them. Noah operates
But what about all the others? There are some 30 up there that is measuring the Earth's climate. What about the four or five that are to go in the
future that when we have the combination of all them talking to each other, we will create a 3D composite of everything that is happening climatically
on the Earth because we're going to look at the land, the seas, the ice and the atmosphere and collate all that information.
So, our ability to effect climate change today as a nation, as a people of Earth is because of the NASA instruments that are up in space.
ISAACSON: Up until your partnership with SpaceX, you were depending some on the Russians to be able to get American astronauts to the International
Space Station. I know you have met with your Russian counterpart. And you and I can remember back in the old days, in the early 60s even, when Yuri
Gagarin and John Glenn were all flying through up, there was a mix of competition and cooperation with different countries when it came to space.
Tell me what mix of competition and cooperation we're going to have with the Russians and Chinese in the future as we explore space?
NELSON: This partnership, that is almost a marriage between the Russians and the Americans in the civilian space program, started back, as you
noted, 1975 in the midst of the Cold War when an American spacecraft and a Soviet spacecraft rendezvoused and docked. And the crews lived together for
nine days in space. From that time, we have always cooperated in the civilian space program. And we still rely on the Russians.
They have major components on the space station. We worked it out where we are still sending, occasionally, an American astronaut on the Soviet Soyuz
and we're going to work it out where they have a Russian cosmonaut that is going on our spacecraft. So, that partnership is solid. I believe that
partnership is solid through the end of the International Space Station and we are trying to extend that until the 2030s.
ISAACSON: What is going to replace that International Space Station?
NELSON: Well, eventually, in the 2030s, we hope it will be a commercial space station. Because NASA wants to get out of low earth orbit. So, we can
get out and explore.
ISAACSON: You have had the amazing perspective that very few people have had of looking at our small blue planet when you went up on the shuttle
mission as an astronaut. Tell me, what did that inspire you to do? And did it also help you want to make sustainability, climate, this ability to
shepherd our planet part of the mission of NASA?
NELSON: That was clearly one result. When you look out at Earth, and it is so beautiful. And yet, it is this fragile creation suspended in the middle
of nothing. But, Walter, even though I became more of an environmentalist and wanted when returning to become a better steward of what we have here
on Earth, as a public servant, I saw something else as we orbited the Earth every 90 minutes. I did not see religious division. I did not see racial
division. I did not see the political division. What I saw was that we are all in this together, as citizens of planet Earth. And that has informed my
public service for the last 36 years ever since I flew on the space shuttle.
ISAACSON: NASA administrator, Bill Nelson, thank you so much for joining us.
NELSON: Thanks, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It's so great to hear his perspective and so important to be putting climate front and center in all aspects of our lives.
And finally, back here on Earth, wild fires in California made more severe by climate change are now burning perilously close to a world-famous
forest. Visitors of the Sequoia National Park will have no doubt seeing this tree. It is the largest in the world. Estimated at over 2,000 years
Well, firefighters are now taking extra precautions against the fire tearing through the park, wrapping the historic General Sherman tree with
protective foil to guard it from the blaze. While this fire season has already burned 1.6 million acres across the state, officials are hopeful
that this small slice of nature might remain unscathed. Let's hope they are right.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online and on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching. Have a great
weekend and good-bye from New York.