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Interview With Director Frank Schaeffer; Interview With Fmr. Gov. Chris Christie (D-NJ); Interview with CNN Political Analyst and "Lincoln and the Fight for Peace" Author John Avlon. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 04, 2022 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a huge shift, like an earthquake.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Supreme Court in the dark over Roe vs. Wade.
I speak to film director Frank Schaeffer about how abortion became an issue on the right and why he regrets his role in making it one.
Then, New Jersey's former Governor Chris Christie talks to Walter Isaacson about Republicans amping up the culture wars and the future of his party.
J.D. VANCE (R), OHIO SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have absolutely got to think the 45th, the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump,
AMANPOUR: Trump's chosen Senate candidate, J.D. Vance, prevails in Ohio's Republican primary. Political analyst John Avlon joins me with insight on
what this says about the former president's grip on the party.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Americans on both sides of the abortion issue are fired up following the leak of a draft opinion that shows the Supreme Court is likely to end a
woman's right to choose after nearly 50 years.
In swift succession, the governor of Oklahoma has now signed a law banning abortion after six weeks. It's modeled on the controversial Texas law that
allows citizens to help enforce it for payment. Abortion is at the center of the U.S. culture wars, a battle for dominance between conflicting
values. It has long split the two political parties and the country.
But how did it get this way? Evangelical Christian groups have rallied to limit access to abortion for years. But it wasn't always a political issue
Enter Frank Schaeffer, an evangelical scholar whose son Frank encouraged him to campaign against Roe vs. Wade with Christian literature and movies
that they were producing. It is an extraordinary story, for, without the Schaeffers, this cultural war might not have been so fired up.
And Frank is joining me now from Boston. His latest book is called "Fall in Love, Have Children, Stay Put, Save the Planet, Be Happy."
Frank, welcome to the program.
I'm smiling a little bit because that title is really very, very chilled, compared to some of the more apocalyptic literature and movies that you put
I'm correct in assuming, because we stated it, that you are now very regretful of your role in this movement?
FRANK SCHAEFFER, FORMER ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVIST: Yes, I'm -- it's like hearing about someone else's life conducted on a different planet.
I did the work with my father and the pro-life movement in the 1970s. I'm now pushing 70 years old. This is 50 years ago. And, as I look back, I can
only say that not only do I regret the impact we had.
Of course, it was completely unforeseen, all the way up to, including the murder of abortion doctors, the fact that now it looks like Roe v. Wade
will be rolled back by a Supreme Court dominated by Republican operatives that have taken what we did back in the 1970s and extrapolate it out into a
future 50 years later that I find shocking.
I would describe myself as a progressive, someone of liberal political views. I'm a father and grandfather. And from this perspective in my life,
I look back on what I did in my youth maybe the way I guess some people would at wartime experiences or political experiences maybe in the 1930s in
Europe, if they had joined one of the fascist parties, lived to see it play out in a World War and what happened.
I feel much that level of regret and culpability.
AMANPOUR: So let's talk about what exactly you regret and how exactly you are culpable.
So, there you are, a young man. Your father is pretty much Christian, and you decide to convince him to oppose Roe vs. Wade. Why did you do that? How
did you do that? What was your father's actions and your actions at that time?
SCHAEFFER: Well, I had made a film series with him on art and culture called "How Should We Then Live?" which was not about Roe v. Wade, but was
about a Christian view of art and philosophy to counter what he regarded as secular humanism, the threat of secular humanism.
And after we made that series, in shooting the last episode, Roe v. Wade was handed down at that time. And C. Everett Koop, who then was surgeon in
chief of Philadelphia children's hospital, who a few years later would become Ronald Reagan's surgeon general, a political appointee, was a friend
of my family's, also an evangelical Christian.
And he came to my father's ministry, which was in Switzerland, by the way, even though it was an American English-speaking ministry called L'Abri
Fellowship. And he talked me, as someone barely out of my teens, into a very staunch, anti-abortion position.
He said, look, you talk about Roe v. Wade in the last episode of "How Should We Then Live?" You need to make a whole series.
Now, I have to be honest, and it saddens me, that, at the time, it was also the idea of another paycheck. I was newly married. I was a teenage father
talking about teen pregnancy and abortion. I was kind of living it. My wife, Genie, and I, we have been together 52 years now. And it worked out.
But back at the time, we just had this little girl, Jessica. And I was saying, well, we kept our child, abortion is horrible. I listened to C.
Everett Koop, and I was convinced. I was sincere.
And so I talked my father into making the series. And, of course, one of my regrets is, is, looking back, it was totally unfair. We were living in a
community. We had support. My parents were helping me. We were living free of charge in the mission.
The kind of idea that somehow we had had this child and everything turned out OK and so everybody ought to be able to do this was really -- you had
to be a kind of an idiot 20-, 21-year-old, 22-year-old that I was at the time, selfish, self-involved, to not be able to understand that that was
not the position most people who were facing difficult pregnancies were in.
So that's how it started.
SCHAEFFER: I was convinced by C. Everett Koop. And then I convinced my dad and then we went from there.
AMANPOUR: And you went from there to make this film with C. Everett Koop.
And this film was called "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" Again, it was an anti-abortion sort of dog trim. And here he is in the clip that
we're about to show standing near the Dead Sea surrounded by hundreds of baby dolls, plastic baby dolls. And this was to symbolize aborted fetuses.
This is what we're going to play from your film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Salt. This is the site on which the city of Sodom one stood, here on the Dead Sea in Israel. Once here, under this surreal field
of salt, Sodom was the most humanly corrupt city on Earth, a place of evil and of death.
Sodom comes readily to mind when one contemplates the evils of abortion and the death of moral law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Frank, it's a pretty extraordinary site, and it does conjure up a whole dystopian world.
But you were not a particularly known filmmaker. You're a young man. How did this film impact and galvanize the anti-abortion movement?
SCHAEFFER: Well, first of all, you're right.
And the only reason I was directing the movie -- I'd been making Super 8 films, for people remember movies, back in the day since I was about 12.
And I got the job producing "How Should We Then Live?" and then went on and directed "Whatever Happened to the Human Race?" and wrote the screenplay
for my father and Dr. C. Everett Koop for the book version.
Nepotism, pure and simple, me and the Korean leaders. I was Schaeffer. My father was a big evangelical star. And so I got the job. And it turned out
that I had enough talent to make a strong piece of propaganda that was very effective. It was effective with evangelical audiences.
But here's the thing that I think most people don't understand. At the time we brought this out in a seminar series from -- in about 1978 through to
1980, evangelicals were not interested. Not only that. They didn't want to know.
Our friend, Billy Graham, the great evangelist, was pro-choice. Most evangelicals don't know that. He refused to participate with us in our
seminars, even though he and my father were friends. He said, Fran, you have made a mistake here. I think people -- women ought to have a choice.
Dr. Criswell of the Southern Baptist Convention, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention -- and, for Americans, they will understand
that's the most conservative group of evangelicals in America -- he was pro-choice. He even preached sermons on choice.
We had to convince evangelicals. I think a lot of commentators looking back think somehow this was always part of the evangelical movement. It was not.
Abortion was legal in the United States up until the 19th century, when -- and into the early 20th century, when the American Medical Association
tried to push women out of the midwife business, as it were, and take this over for professional gynecologists and so on.
It had not been part of American history to be anti-abortion. It was a new phenomena that we had to talk evangelicals into. But once we talked them
into it, the reason it became a thing is Republican leaders, like our friend Jack Kemp, Gerald Ford, the president -- my parents were friends
with his -- they would stay in the White House. His son Mike was living in my house. His wife, Gayle, was babysitting our daughter, Jessica, et
cetera, et cetera.
We were very connected with the early stages of the religious right. Once other evangelical leaders saw this as an easy fund-raising tactic to keep
people angry, babies are being murdered, we can raise money, and when people like Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan and other people we knew realized
that the apathetic evangelical majority that didn't even care about voting suddenly could be energized because they had lost the fight on segregation.
And the segregationists like Jerry Falwell, now we gave them something new to fight. And so two big agendas happened, an anti-gay agenda and an anti-
abortion agenda. And the anti-abortion agenda became the litmus test, became the red meat.
That's why it caught on. It caught on because of money, fund-raising by evangelical leaders. And it caught on because the Republicans suddenly
said, aha, this apathetic group that barely votes, and half of them vote for Democrats, we can energize them if we can create this into a moral
SCHAEFFER: So it was a very convenient thing for Republican leaders.
AMANPOUR: And I think, all these decades later, it is extraordinary to learn from you that it was not a political issue for the evangelicals.
Pretty much, it was really the Catholics, right, who were mostly in the forefront of anti...
SCHAEFFER: Yes. Yes. Not...
Not only was it not a political issue. You have to understand our big fight was with evangelicals. The editorial board of "Christianity Today"
magazine, the bastion flag shop -- flagship of evangelical Christianity, they were pro-choice at the time. They refused to endorse our film, billy
Graham, Dr. Criswell, on and on and on.
It changed when it became a matter of convenience for people like...
AMANPOUR: But -- so, what time...
SCHAEFFER: ... Paul Weyrich and other right-wing activists.
So, what time period are we talking about? Because we know -- we just mentioned and you did -- that C. Everett Koop was President Reagan's
surgeon general, and that that was at the same time the rise of what's known as the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell and others.
What actually changed? How did it -- you have talked about people realizing that it's a fund-raising issue and they could fire up the base, so to
speak. How -- what was the process of making it into the issue that it is today?
SCHAEFFER: We made a good film series, if you want to call it good, in the technical sense. It had a huge impact on people. And as the audiences began
to grow, and then we were getting picketed by people like the National -- NARAL and other pro-choice organizations, and it started getting into the
But what really changed was, my father and I would go around talking to people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, the televangelist, and convincing
them that this was going to be a big thing, an issue. They had to be talked into it. And that's where my father really played an instrumental role on
One, tens of thousands of evangelical Christians started watching these films in seminars, and then in churches and in schools and in high schools
and so forth. And then the next thing that changed, we began to convince them through the films. They were very effective as propaganda.
And then the next thing that happened is that leaders like Jerry Falwell, who had been a segregationist, decided his next big issue was going to be
to fight the gay rights movement and the pro-life movement. He would adopt these things as a kind of a clarion call to his people.
They were talked into this by my dad. And before that, they had not been in this camp.
AMANPOUR: And they used your films, as you yourself say, very effective, actually well-made visual propaganda that you were able to...
AMANPOUR: You were able to use and they were able to use.
I do think something is extraordinary that maybe our viewers won't remember, that also Falwell and the Moral Majority, they were trying to
oust from power and deny a second term to then-President Jimmy Carter. They will trying to get Ronald Reagan in.
And, of course, Jimmy Carter was the first evangelical Christian to be president. You would think they will would like that. What's that weird
twist? Why were they so focused on getting him out and Reagan in?
SCHAEFFER: Well, Jimmy Carter was too decent a human being.
He was compassionate to women. He was pro-choice. He was not a racist. He believed in integration. He wanted to increase voter rights for African-
Americans. Jerry Falwell was a segregationist. He was a far right-winger. He was a homophobe and a nasty piece of work. It's as simple as that.
And, basically, he couldn't -- Jerry Falwell and these other guys could not manipulate Jimmy Carter. He was an evangelical Christian and a Bible
teacher, literally, in Sunday school. But he was, in their view, the wrong kind of Christian, because they had already so politicized their vision of
the Gospel that they were far more interested in the politics than they were in, if you want to put it in evangelical terms, sharing the love of
This is not what interested these guys anymore. They wanted to win elections. They wanted access to power, and they got it. And, of course, in
Donald Trump, you have the hypothesis of this 50 years later, where this group, not these individual people, but the group that they left behind
became totally politicized, and were no longer even a religion anymore, but a political movement of the far right.
AMANPOUR: And very, very effective legal movement too that has waged this campaign and has now got to where it's got.
You mentioned Donald Trump. Well, they got him in based on a promise to name anti-abortion judges, which he did, three of them. And this is where
we are right now.
I just want to read for you a statement after the leak of this SCOTUS ruling by the National Association of Evangelicals.
They say: "Evangelical commitment to protecting the unborn stems from our deep understanding that God created human beings in his image, and that
every human life from conception to death has inestimable worth."
One has to, of course, take into account the religious beliefs, the moral beliefs, some would even say some of the scientific beliefs in this
statement. Talk to me about that, because that is also part of this story. There's a big part of the country and the world who believes precisely
SCHAEFFER: Yes, well, first of all, the evangelicals do not believe that, because, if they did, they would be fighting for paid parental leave, so
fathers and mothers could go home and be with their children, instead of women going back to work, three low-paid jobs, with a terrible minimum
wage, while they're still bleeding from a cesarean section.
Evangelicals don't care about that. They would not have fought, as the Republicans did, against the child tax credit that for a brief shining
moment lifted millions of American children out of poverty, but they're not going to spend that money. They want to get rid of it. They call it
If this group of people was pro-life, and actually were consistent in their pro-life position, you could have some admiration for them, while
disagreeing on the matter of choice. But they are an anti-family group of people who put the welfare of billionaires in this country ahead of
children, ahead of women, ahead of poor people, ahead of families. They're not even for paid parental leave. They're not for the child tax credit.
They do nothing for children in terms of schools and education. They have never raised the minimum wage. They believe in people working two, three
jobs on the margin of poverty, and, tough luck, you're on your own. So the minute that child is born, they are anti-life. They're not just anti-
And so this is a hypocritical movement. And then I want to say a second thing. When it comes down to these moral issues of choosing life, it all as
a matter of trust. Who do we trust? Do we trust judges on the Supreme Court or the federal bench put there by Donald Trump in a bargain with people
like Ralph Reed and the other evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham, who said, look, here's our list from the Federalist Society, you appoint them,
and we will bring you millions of voters?
And it worked. Or do we trust women? But we have to trust someone, someone's opinion. And me personally, if I have learned anything over the
last 70 years of being a father and grandfather, and someone who does child care for my own children and grandchildren, it's this.
If you don't trust women, why would you trust a gynecologist, a male white gynecologist? If you don't trust women to make choices, why would you trust
a group of nine judges, instead of the individual woman, in making the choice?
I trust women. Does that mean I think women or men or nonbinary people, whomever, always make the right choice? No. But you have got to give
someone that choice in these matters, all matters, where to educate a child, who to marry, pair bonded, to be -- to live a gay lifestyle, to be
These are choices that belong to individuals. They do not belong to the state.
SCHAEFFER: And so when you see what's happening now, you understand that it's not going to end there.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's what I was going to ask you, Frank.
SCHAEFFER: These same people are going to start taking choices away. Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: That's what I was going to finish up with, because you're very passionate now.
You obviously regret deeply how your talent got the U.S. to this point in terms of a culture war. But what do you think will happen next? Because we
spoke to the opposing view yesterday on this program. We gave her plenty of time to lay out her position. And she said, no, no, no, the fact that we
don't want abortion doesn't mean that we're going to lobby to turn back gay marriage, interracial marriage, or any of the other human rights issues
that have been adjudicated by the Supreme Court.
Do you believe that?
SCHAEFFER: Of course not.
Look at Gorsuch. Look at these people who sat there in this -- in the Senate confirmation hearings and looked right into the eyes of the senators
and said, we believe that this is a stated principle that will not be changed. They gave their word. They said they would not change it. These
are -- people are our political ideologues.
And the same ideology that takes away the right to choose is going to take away the right to gay marriage, the same ideology that is now changing the
law in statehouse after statehouse in favor of Republican, not only gerrymandering, but the kind of thing that Donald Trump said, where he's
still claiming to be president somehow, that the vote was stolen, and now, all of a sudden, voting rights themselves are in question.
If you had gone back 40 years ago and asked Gerald Ford or any of these people, are you ever going to be part of a Demo -- of a Republican Party
that's going to push against voter rights for African-Americans, they would have said, that's never going to happen.
It's happening now. And so if anyone thinks that these people -- I have to explain something. You have an Iranian background. You're going to get
these words. We are trying in this country to fight against people who are -- not just Democrats, but anybody who believes in democracy, people who
believe in a theocracy.
And what these people want is a Christian white nationalist version of what you have in Iran today and Saudi Arabia.
AMANPOUR: All right.
SCHAEFFER: And so, if you want to live in that country, then that's where we're headed.
AMANPOUR: Frank Schaeffer, you were there at the beginning. It is really, really interesting and hugely instructive to hear this story.
Thank you very much for being with us tonight.
Now, almost half the states in America have laws ready to go that would outlaw abortion if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. That would cement a
Democratic/Republican divide across the United States. That, plus former President Donald Trump's unprecedented entry into the current primaries,
poses a dilemma for some Republicans.
New Jersey's former Governor Chris Christie is considering running for president himself. And he's been in and out of Trump's orbit for years.
Here he is speaking to Walter Isaacson about trying to navigate the way forward.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Governor Chris Christie, welcome to the show.
FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): Walter, thanks for having me.
ISAACSON: The Supreme Court seems like it may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Do you think that's going to throw the issue of abortion politics
back into the political arena for the midterms? And what effect will that have?
CHRISTIE: Well, look, I think certainly it will throw the issue of abortion back into the politics of each and every state.
And that's, I think, the way it should be. I think that's the right decision to make for the court, if that's the decision they ultimately
reach whenever they issue it.
In terms of its effect on the midterms. Walter, I have to tell you, I just don't believe it'll have a big effect. I think, first and foremost, the
folks who are single-issue voters on the issue of abortion, either from the pro-choice perspective or the pro-life perspective, they're already voted
in these midterms and they know how they're voting.
The pro-choice voters are voting Democrat and the pro-life voters are voting Republican, in the main. And so I don't think this is something,
especially given the issue matrix we have in front of us for the midterms, at $5-a-gallon gasoline, 8.5 percent inflation, crime problems on the
nation's streets, the war in Ukraine, all those things, I think, are going to be issues that will overwhelm this one in terms of the independent
voters who make the decisions in these midterms, and what they're going to have as their list of priorities.
ISAACSON: But what about when it comes to state legislatures? That's where the decision really will be, if, indeed, the Supreme Court moves the way
that might be indicated.
Do you think that abortion politics will really start playing roles in legislative and maybe even governor's elections?
CHRISTIE: Much more than it will on the national level, I think, Walter. I think that's correct, because I think what the public will recognize is,
that is where the decisions are being made now.
So if they want to have their voices heard on this issue, if they want to have an impact on how it will be decided, then what they need to do is to
have their voices heard at the state level in electing state legislators and obviously governors who either will or won't sign the laws that the
And so I think it will definitely have an effect in those places. What effect it will have, you can't be sure. But I think it will be an issue
that will be much more aggressively joined, and with a greater impact, at state legislatures and the governor's races.
ISAACSON: Do you think it's a good idea in this country, though, to have wildly different laws affecting something that's pretty basic for most
women, which is, as you just said, New Jersey and New York have it pretty far in one way, and then my state of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, totally
the other, having a patchwork quilt in America?
CHRISTIE: Yes, I think that's the way America works on almost everything.
And I think that when you read Justice Alito's draft opinion, at least, I think he makes the right point, which is, this is not an enumerated right
in the Constitution. And it's not one that I think was ever appropriately decided. That's always been my opinion regarding Roe, and it remains my
We deal with most issues in this country. As a former governor, I can tell you, most really important issues in this country are done that way. For
instance, let's talk about Medicaid eligibility, Walter. You know that it's different in every state. The levels of eligibility, the levels of
coverage, the breadth and width of coverage for Medicaid is different in my state of New Jersey than it is in your home state of Louisiana.
And that's in providing people who are underprivileged, economically challenged the basic health care that they need. That's certainly an
extraordinarily important issue. And we deal with that differently in every state, depending upon the population of that state, the conditions of that
state, and what the norms are in that state.
We do that on hundreds and hundreds of issues. And I don't think it creates a problem.
ISAACSON: But there's a basic human rights involved that are not, as you say, correctly enumerated specifically in the Constitution that have been
part of this broad way the Supreme Court has looked at individual rights. And that even includes gay marriage, for example, which is not an
enumerated right in the Constitution.
Should that go back to being a state decision as well?
CHRISTIE: Look, I think that, when you read Justice Alito's draft opinion, if it stays that way, he makes very clear that issues of intimate sexual
relations, issues of marriage and contraception are not covered by a decision like this one or the philosophy that underpins it.
Why is that? He makes it clear because this issue of abortion, because it is the taking of life, is contrary to one of the basic foundational
principles in the Constitution that guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You don't have that situation in intimate sexual
relations, in the issue of marriage, or in the issue of contraception.
It's not at a contradictory point to a basic fundamental right that's enumerated in the Constitution, where the issue of abortion is.
ISAACSON: But contraception, gay marriage, whatever, these are not enumerated rights.
Do you think the Supreme Court has gone too far in sort of finding a number of privacy, as they call it, that include all of these things?
CHRISTIE: Look, I think that what Justice Alito says on this is correct.
The court's jurisprudence in that regard, whether you agreed with it initially or not, is not doing harm to a fundamental right enumerated in
the Constitution, where the issue of abortion is. And I think that's the way you make the differentiation, Walter.
ISAACSON: But if it's been 50 years since women have had this right, isn't this going to be a wrenching change for the first time to overrule a
precedent, not like the Dred Scott or Plessy v. Ferguson, but a precedent that gave a right to individuals?
CHRISTIE: Look, I don't think that the Supreme Court should have to rely upon decisions that they believe were wrongly decided.
In the same way, as you just mentioned, that Dred Scott was wrongly decided, stare decisis shouldn't rule and have kept that in place. It
shouldn't have kept Plessy in place either, because they were wrongly decided. Brown vs. Board -- Brown vs. Board of Education was correct. And
that's the way our law in our country should be and now remains that way now for nearly 70 years after Brown was decided.
This is regarding a fundamental guarantee of the Constitution, the right to life. And I think we can't use stare decisis to hide what was and always
has been, in my opinion, Walter, a flawed legal decision, both in terms of its reliance on the Constitution and its taking away of states' rights
under the 10th Amendment.
ISAACSON: Let me ask you a historical question.
You go back 50 years to when Mr. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the decision in Roe. He was a Republican. The court was led by Republicans, very
Republican court. And back then, the issue of abortion had not become partisan. There were Republicans and Democrats on either side of the issue.
What has caused the United States to make all issues, especially this most important issue, into something that divides us in a partisan way?
CHRISTIE: Well, Walter, I think that the action of the court did that. You know, I think that the way people dealt with abortion prior to Roe v. Wade
was that each state made their own decision about how that worked.
In the State of New York, for instance, abortion was legal. In many, many other states, it was not. But each state dealt with it on their own. I
think people felt like they had their opportunity of their input at the most local level to making these decisions. When those decisions were taken
away from each individual state, and nationalized, I think that made the issue much more divisive and much more partisan. And I think that the
founders were very, very smart in terms of the way they set up this system of balance between a strong national government, but still strong and very
independent states, that could make their own judgment off things that were not included in the constitution.
When we move away from that model, Walter, I think it makes people feel like the government that is furthest from them, but they have the least
ability to have input with are making big decisions like this, I think it makes these issues more divisive.
Now, the issue of abortion, obviously, because it involves life and how precious life is, and how to treat those lives, I think it makes it even
more an emotional issue. There may be some others we could talk about. But I think that that wrenching this away from the states 50 years ago is part
of what led to the real division we see in this country in a partisan way on this issue.
ISAACSON: In Ohio yesterday, J.D. Vance, won the Republican nomination. He was a venture capitalist from Yale who said of Trump that he is
reprehensible, idiotic, was anti-Trump who suddenly became very pro-Trump, and then Trump endorsed him, and it pushed him into the nomination.
You have said that your party really hasn't moved beyond Trump. Tell me your assessment of what happened in Ohio, and how important Donald Trump
still seems to be to deciding the future of the Republican Party.
CHRISTIE: Well, Walter, look. First of all, he is a former president and former leader of the party. And so, he's always going to have influence,
what he speaks. But yesterday, was a split decision in Ohio. He worked hard against Governor Mike DeWine. And Governor DeWine won the nomination for
reelection as governor, and I think will be overwhelmingly reelected by the people of Ohio come November. In the Senate race, a close race, J.D. Vance
won and was endorsed by the former president.
So, I think it is a split decision. I think we have to look at what else happens going forward in these primaries. We have a lot of them. In May and
in June where the president -- former president, rather, has weighed in. We will see how it goes from there.
But I think right now, the way you keep the scorecard, I think, after Ohio yesterday is, split this decision, one that the president said (INAUDIBLE)
candidate won and one that the president's favorite candidate lost. And now, we'll see what happens as we move forward to states like Georgia,
Alabama, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska and others where the president has taken positions on these primaries.
ISAACSON: You have been very involved in the election in Georgia, so has Former President Bush, in favor of Governor Kemp whom Donald Trump has
fought against strongly because Governor Kemp didn't support him in trying to overturn the election results in Georgia.
Do you think that is going to be a referendum? And will not be a way to say, we can move beyond Trump, and people like yourself can have more
influence on the party?
CHRISTIE: Well, in, Georgia I think the single biggest factor in determining the results of that election will be the performance of
Governor Kemp. Look, I think he handled the COVID crisis in Georgia in exemplary fashion, protecting life while also protecting the economy in
Georgia in a way that I think looking back, all of us can say was admirable and gutsy. I think he has also done a great job on education in Georgia.
And I think when the Georgia Republican voters look at that record on May 24th, they are going to overwhelmingly renominated Governor Kemp. And what
that says is two things. First, that they do not resent Governor Kemp for having followed the law. That is what he did. And he took an oath to
enforce the law as governor, and that is what he did by certifying the election in 2020 when there was no evidence in Georgia of any type of theft
of the election in the State of Georgia.
Secondly, it's going to tell everyone that this politics of personal grievance and vendetta, because that is really what this is with the former
president and Governor Kemp. If you went down the list of issues, Walter, that they agreed on, you would find most of the issues they agree on. So,
this is purely personal and vindictive by Donald Trump. And I don't think that our party wants to be led in that direction.
And I think it Brian Kemp wins that primary, the 4th, especially wins it without a need for a runoff, meaning he got over 50 percent of the vote, I
think it's going to send a very strong message that to the extent candidates who want to run for president are willing to look forward, look
to tomorrow, articulate a feature that is, you know, in contrast to what the Democrats were doing in Washington right now, that those are going to
be important parts of our party.
But to the extent we're looking in the rearview mirror, being vindictive, executing vendettas that are only about me and not about us as a
collective, I think if Georgia goes the way I think it will, that is going to send a very strong message against that type of politics.
ISAACSON: You wrote a book last year which I really like. It is called, "Republican Rescue." What do you mean by rescuing the Republican Party? And
you're talking about rescuing it from truth deniers and conspiracy theorists?
CHRISTIE: Yes. Look, I think, after the last election, I felt it was necessary to lay back down for my party, how we, once again, could become a
majority party in Washington, D.C. The only place we remain the majority party after 2020, Walter, as you know, was in the nation's governor
mansion. And I think that sent a message too, those governors were not caught up in these politics of pettiness and vindictiveness, but they were
doing the job the way the public wanted them to do the job.
And so, yes, I went through in that book, as you know, all of these different QAnon and Pizzagate and, you know, the birther issue. Some of
these, what I consider to be crazy conspiracy theories, that have gripped sections of our party to try to go as far as a former prosecutor and to
bunk them and make sure that people understood. There were no facts that supported these things.
And then, also, the election results, and went through state by state why there is no evidence that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. Most
particularly because we added 15 seats in the House. We flipped two state legislator chambers and we flip the governorship. We had very good
(INAUDIBLE) Republicans. And if it hadn't been for Donald Trump's personal me first intervention into the Georgia Senate races, we probably would have
retained a majority in the Senate.
And so, I felt it all needed to be laid out for Republicans to say there is a pathway forward that looks through the windshield and not three rearview
ISAACSON: Why do you think it's been hard for the Republican Party to move on beyond Trump?
CHRISTIE: Well, look, I think part of it is, you know, we are about, now, what, 16 months after the former president has left office. He occupied
every particle of oxygen, politically in this country for five years. And the idea that somehow moving beyond that time is going to be easy and
quick, I think, is just not understanding the way our political system works.
What we need to be focused on is how do we provide an alternative vision that will be attractive to the American people and help to bring our
country in a new direction. And I think that is very, very important.
Look, I agree with many of the policies that President Trump pursued while he was in office. Where I broke with him was on his personal conduct in the
aftermath of the election and on January 6th. And to me, that type of personal conduct goes beyond policy. And so, we have to decide as a party
whether we want to focus on policy again, focus on what we are going to do for the country, or whether we want to focus on one person's personal
ISAACSON: Do you think you might run for president?
CHRISTIE: I am thinking about it, Walter. I have not made any final decision yet. I will wait until after the midterms this year and into 2023
to make a decision. But at this stage of my life, only if I see a pathway to winning will I get into the race. But if I do, I will do it to win. I
care deeply about our country and I want to make sure that we are led the way that makes America the very best it can be.
And so, we will give that some thought the rest of this year and probably make a decision into the year first quarter '23.
ISAACSON: Governor Chris Christie, thank you so much for joining us.
CHRISTIE: Walter, thank you so much for having me. It's always great talking to you.
AMANPOUR: And with just months to go before those midterms, the governor was referring, the Republican Party despite its splintering does look set
to outperform the Democrats. But the Supreme Court abortion news has thrown a wild card into that mix.
Here with some insight is Political Analyst John Avlon. His latest book is called "Lincoln and the Fight for Peace." And he is joining me now from New
John, welcome back to our program. And I know you were listening to that discussion. And really, this whole hour has been a discussion on both sides
of the abortion debate. So, let's start there. I want to ask you, because you have also worked with both sides of the aisle in your -- you know, in
your previous life, before becoming an analyst and a writer. Is this just heading for a much, much more permanently divided United States of America?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND AUTHOR, "LINCOLN AND THE FIGHT FOR PEACE": Yes. You know, conservatives always told themselves, and you heard
Chris Christie articulate it there, that the problem was abortion becoming politicized with the Roe v. Wade decision, and that set off these culture
wars in effect.
I think that you can already see that if this draft opinion is adopted and overturns Roe and Casey and precedent and kicks it to the States, that the
cooling off periods that was promised is not going to occur. It is not going to occur for a number of different reasons. One of which is that
states that already set to ban abortion are doing so with a new laws that do not even include even exceptions for rape and incest.
And so, when Christie aligns himself with the leader's opinion, a fellow New Jersey, I'll say, former prosecutor, and says that, well, it is because
it's a (INAUDIBLE) in the constitution. I think he's going to find that people care lot more about it than they do, the example he gave about
Because if people are being denied the right to liberty, self- determination, some could say the pursuit of happiness, being told by the state, in effect, they have to carry, potentially, their rapist's child to
term, I think that is going to get people motivated, frustrated, and furious in a very different way. It all affect federal races as well, state
AMANPOUR: So, that is interesting because the governor and most Republicans want to -- I don't know the right word is -- want to spin, want
to say, want to suggest that this issue will not be a presidential issue and probably not a midterm issue. What do you think?
AVLON: I think that is wishful thinking. And one way you can tell that, Christiane, is that on Capitol Hill on yesterday, our colleague, Manu Raju,
at CNN said, Republican senators didn't really want to talk about the draft decision. The buzz was really about how this could be bad, create headwinds
for the midterms the Republicans thought they were going win handily. And it will provide headwinds. It will motivate the Democratic base in ways
that perhaps they had not have been before.
Now, it will come down to independent voters. But one of the key issues, and you see this in polling around whether Roe v. Wade should be
overturned, it's that 72 percent of independent voters say no. So, this is a -- this is something that only 19 percent of the country believes that
abortion should be illegal under all circumstances.
And a lot of these states, the legislatures are being held by the Republican Party's via aggressive gerrymandering. So, you do not have the
normal check and balance, let along anything resembling majoritarian rule or the court take me and consider public opinion, let alone 50 years of
precedent. After the nominees who apparently took -- signed onto this had promise this was precedent on precedent, and they would not touch it.
So, this is about special interests, pursuing an agenda contrary to the will of the vast majority of the American people. That is a political
powder keg as well as an issue of basic prides.
AMANPOUR: Can we get to -- because, you know, your book -- and I'm going to quote its title again. OK. "Lincoln and the Fight for Peace." We all
remember he was a Republican president, obviously a differing kind of Republican president. But he went through one of the worst divisions
imaginable in the United States, and his role was to then unite the country.
AMANPOUR: This, you know, magnanimity after, you know, total surrender and his side being victorious. Do you see any leader shaping up in the United
States that can take on a healer unifier role?
AVLON: It is not that we are going to find another Lincoln right now, Christiane. But what I think we can look for is people of a similar spirit.
And I think that the personal qualities that defined Lincoln's principles and his politics were empathy, honesty, humor, humility, particularly moral
humility. I believe that you have to reach out and try to empathize with your opponents as a means of reasoning with them. The belief that you
practice the politics of the golden rule, treating other people as you would like to be treated.
Lincoln's qualities were rare in his own time. They are certainly rare in ours. But we can look for people of a similar spirit. I think the problem
is that the primary process, particularly in Republican Party, which -- the Republican Party was a moderate progressive party in Lincoln's time. It was
a tent party devoted to expanding liberty through restricting or even ending slavery.
Those primary processes give the power to the most extreme elements of the base, which right now, particularly in the Republican Party, is hell-bent
on vengeance, not unity or magnanimity, as we have seen with the fact that Donald Trump still controls the vast majority of the Republican Party no
matter what, you know, Chris Christie tried to triangulate that, after trying to overturn an election, foment an insurrection on the back of a big
Those are not the context that lead to unity. That said, the fact that Lincoln was able to, even in the middle of a civil war, to remember,
there's always more than unites us that divides us, is a challenge to us, right? It's a matter of -- so, we can take courage and comfort from this
bit of history. And so, we need to challenge ourselves to rise to that level.
There is no obvious political figures, certainly not one who is running for president right now, who can claim that mental with credibility on both
sides of the aisle. But the important thing is we've got to try. That is the essence of leadership in a democracy, it is the essence of citizen led
leadership that we need to exemplify in a self-governing society.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you then about where the United States stands today on the democracy index. Because, you know, your book was first
published just in February, just around the time of the war in Ukraine. President Biden and the western alliance have focused on fighting for
democracy, human rights and independence. It's a test case.
So, coming back to the United States, and let's just -- let me just read this, both President Trump and second President Bush, they did not win the
popular vote, at least, Bush didn't in 2000. Yet, both those presidents combined appointed five judges to the Supreme Court, out, of course, the
total of nine. Those justices, who have been quoted in this draft and who very well may end up overturning these 50 years of precedent. What does
that say about American democracy and the rule of law?
AVLON: It says we are confronting a major challenge to both. But remember, you know, the goal is to form a more perfect union, we never get there. We
make fitful progress and sometimes, there's backsliding. One of the things that history teaches us is we cannot take our gains for granted.
You know, there were three constitutional amendments after the civil war that were supposed to guarantee equal rights and voting rights for African-
Americans, and they were not effectively enforced for a century. So, none of this is self-actualize-ing.
What I think you also see is the resistance in our history to majoritarian democracy and its companion, multi-racial democracy. And that's what we are
dealing with today. You are right, we have not seen a situation where one political party loses the popular vote in seven out eight elections and
appoint six Supreme Court justices. That's a challenge to the rule of law, just as it is when state legislatures and -- are trying to disregard state
constitutions to pass gerrymandered maps to keep their control of power. That's why this fight matters, but it's important to conducted in an
One of the gifts of this challenging time is that we don't take our democracy for granted in the way that we perhaps once did. Just in the way
I think that Zelenskyy and the fighting in Ukraine has reminded people of the importance to stand up and be active citizens, and that we can't take
peace for granted. The architectures of peace that were put in place almost 75 years ago with the Marshall plan, after we invested in winning the piece
after the Second World War.
So, those are the kinds of lessons we all need to waken up to right now, urgently, and straighten our civic backbone and roll up our sleeves to do
the work to form a more perfect union. Because, yes, democracy, peace, the rule of law, all are under threat right now.
AMANPOUR: Just to get back to the constitution, because, again, one side of this abortion debate keeps saying, and again, Governor Christie did,
that this is not an enumerated constitutional right, that it was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court anyway, in 1973 with Roe v. Wade.
But what people from overseas look to the old (ph) constitution for is this classic, amazing separation of church and state. It is not meant to be a
theocracy. It is meant to be a separate entity. And they also look at this, you know, determination for people's liberty and life and happiness.
Well, how does all that square with a clearly moral and religious quasi- political movement being so dominant, and also, with them wanting to interfere with the lives of half the population, i.e., the women?
AVLON: We are confronting a contradiction. And that's one of the things reconciling leaders do, they try to make an inconsistent system hole and
not divided. But you are right. Look, right now, one of the major forces, I think, going around the globe is a backlash to globalization. Old tribal
certainties have been threatened. And one of the dynamic balances you have in the Democratic Republic and federalism can provide a release valve up to
a point on this, is to make sure that everyone's rights and groups including Christian and religious groups have a seat at the table, but they
do not get to run the government. And I think that's one of the many reasons this is such a difficult issue.
It's a moral issue. Good people can disagree on abortion. You can believe that all abortions are ultimately a tragedy and also, I believe, as a vast
majority of Americans do, that is between a woman, family, her doctor, and her God, not the state. And I think that's what's so galling to so many
people about this decision, is that it's not conservative, it's radical. It's not small government, it's nothing resembling libertarianism.
And we have a hangover in our country with the history of states' rights being used to stop equal rights and liberty, and human rights. And so,
those are the fault lines that work here. And that's why I think the idea that this can simply be dismissed or will be overlooked and not have an
impact on the midterms, the next presidential elections, or people's sense of urgency about where the political parties stand, is wishful thinking.
Separation of church and state is important. But that doesn't mean we need to run religion out of our public sphere, it's that it can't drive the
entire train. And you'd like to see more decisions that aim towards unanimity, towards common sense and common ground, including expressions of
faith, but this is not that.
AMANPOUR: John, let's then talk about what happened last night in the Republican primaries. Candidates supported and endorsed by president --
Former President Trump, won and lost according to Chris Christie. There was one win in Ohio and I don't know whether it was a loss elsewhere, but it
seems to have, you know, come out in the wash.
What would you say about that in terms of a predictor of what might come in the elections both -- you know, both -- not just only in the midterms, but,
you know, the presidential elections?
AVLON: Well, I think it shows that Donald Trump is still very much the kingmaker and powerbroker inside the Republican Party. You know, J.D.
Vance, who is a very smart guy and author, venture capitalists who, you know, four years ago, called him -- his words, not mine, a possible
American Hitler, realized that to get ahead and win a Republican primary, you needed to back Donald Trump and get his endorsement. That endorsement
moved him from third place in the polls with 11 percent to winning last night with just under a third of the voters.
But you know what people forget is that the number of people who voted for the Democratic win, the Republican primary is less than a quarter of the
total number of voters. The independent voters registered outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans in Ohio.
And so, the real question is, it's this polarization and hyper partisanship that's the root of all of our problems. Donald Trump's endorsement does not
help you win a general election, but you can't unring the bell once you've abandoned all your principles for power. And that's the problem that J.D.
Vance find himself in.
What Governor Christie was referring to is the fact that Mike DeWine, who stood up to some elements of the far-right regarding COVID, won his
nomination. Winning -- an incumbent winning the nomination by just half the votes isn't that impressive. And I will say, you know, J.D. Vance won with
just a third of the votes in the party. So this -- neither of these are broad endorsements.
The Democratic candidate, Tim Ryan, current member of Congress, is trying to run as a Democratic populist, and we will see how that works. De-
emphasizing, certainly, you know, coastal liberal (INAUDIBLE), saying he's workers first and represents it's the exhausted majority, and that will be
fascinating to see how that plays out.
The real test will be what happens at Georgia. Right now, the candidate, Brian Kemp, the incumbent governor, is handily leading, beating the Trump
successor, all around the litmus test of the big lie and the refusal to overturn the election. And we can't say that enough. What a departure that
is from basic, basic American values, let alone our best traditions.
And so, Trump will be a kingmaker in these low turnout partisan primaries. He will be kryptonite for most swing voters, many independents, and
certainly, Democrats. He will polarize. He will lose some of these races. Christie is hoping he can triangulate Trump in the Bush era, maybe he can.
We got more Republicans running for president than are willing to admit it right now because still, they are motivated by fear of Donald Trump and
AVLON: But, you know, watch out. We are a long way from this thing being played out and we are not out of the woods yet in America as I know you
AMANPOUR: Oh, it's so interesting to watch, especially in the context of everything that we are witnessing around the world at the moment.
AMANPOUR: John Avlon, thank you so much indeed.
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, as protest for women's rights sweep the United States, a common sight once more are the crimson cloaks and white
bonnets inspired by "The Handmaid's Tale." Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel set in a U.S. where women have become second class
And when I recently asked the author about threats to a woman's right to abortion, she was cleareyed about what could happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET ATWOOD, AUTHOR "THE HANDMAID'S TALE": I've never believed in exceptionalism. I've never believed that can't happen here. And one of the
reasons I set "The Handmaid's Tale" in Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University, bastion of democracy, is that I wanted to put it in a
very unlikely place. But if you go back in history, that was the center of the 17th century American theocracy. So, I just don't believe that it can't
happen here and I do believe in vigilance.
AMANPOUR: And vigilance is that key word right now, whether it's got regarding democracy and independence in Ukraine or human rights in the
United States and everywhere.
That is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.