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Ukraine Outgunned?; Interview With Author Kerry Brown; Interview With David Gergen; Interview with New York Magazine Writer-at-Large Rebecca Traister. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 14, 2022 - 13:00:00 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): Inflation spikes, and President Joe Biden's poll numbers tumble. Bad luck or bad leadership? Former presidential adviser
David Gergen weighs in.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And the battles in Donbass, they will surely go down in military history as one of
the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe.
GOLODRYGA: Outgunned Ukraine forces could lose control of the east. Correspondent Matthew Chance has the latest from Severodonetsk.
WEI FENGHE, CHINESE DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): Let me make this clear. If anyone dares to secede Taiwan from China, we will not
hesitate to fight.
GOLODRYGA: More bellicose rhetoric from China. Historian Kerry Brown looks at the global swagger of President Xi Jinping.
Also, a generation of women leader sees their progress rolled back. Journalist Rebecca Traister looks at the 50-year career of Senator Dianne
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
U.S. President Joe Biden defended his record on inflation today. Speaking at a friendly convention of America's largest federation of labor unions,
he blamed Republicans for derailing his vision for rebuilding the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem is, Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to stop my plans to bring down costs
on ordinary families. That's why my plan is not finished and why the results aren't finished either.
Jobs are back, but prices are still too high. COVID is down, but gas prices are up. Our work isn't done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: But as inflation hit 8.6 percent in May, gas prices soared above $5 nationwide and stocks sank into a bear market.
The White House message just isn't breaking through to Americans. The CNN poll of poll shows Biden's approval rating below 40 percent. And a new
Quinnipiac University poll says just 28 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy.
Now, these numbers indicate a disastrous midterm election coming for Democrats in November.
David Gergen was an adviser to four presidents in two parties. He's distilled those experiences in his new book, "Hearts Touched With Fire: How
Great Leaders are Made."
David Gergen, welcome to the program.
So, there you heard the president today blaming Republicans for the state of the economy in terms of inflation right now by blocking some key
legislation. You have heard him over and over and the administration continue to blame Putin and his invasion of Ukraine for soaring oil prices.
There is legitimacy to all of that, yet it doesn't seem to be resonating with Americans. Why do you think that is?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think most Americans are exhausted.
They're tired of all these crises we have had. We have had crisis after crisis cascading upon each other. And in none of these areas have we really
broken through and really solved the problem
But I think this one, this is such a bread-and-butter issue for most Americans. It's far more important right now in the national discourse than
pandemic. It is far more important in Ukraine. It's even far more important than about what happened on January 6, as we have these hearings.
I think -- I know -- I think more people are paying attention to the inflation numbers than they are to the hearings. And I think that's what's
in part has hurt Biden.
But, most of all, I also think that it's finger-pointing, it's just not -- it's just not working. It's not appropriate. What would be -- what would
work, I think, is having an agenda which people can believe in.
And, frankly, if the -- if -- what we have right now is the Federal Reserve stepping on the brakes, as it should. But what Biden wants to do is to
spend more money, which -- put his foot on the gas pedal. And that is just a contradictory message, a contradictory strategy. And I think most
Americans are feeling that's not going to -- you're not solving my problem.
The problem is, it cost me $60 -- my wife was just out, $60 for a tank of gasoline, $60. A lot of Americans can't afford anything close to that. And
it's really putting a pinch on the family finances.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and those prices have really spiked within just a matter of a few months.
GOLODRYGA: I'm curious to get your thoughts on this crisis and issue of inflation itself. It's something that has mired other administrations in
GOLODRYGA: You have advised presidents as they have tried to tackle inflation.
GOLODRYGA: It's a thorny issue. And, as you noted, it's one that can, I guess most unilaterally, be handled by the Federal Reserve.
Given that, what else can the president be doing? Because he's right to give that independence to the Federal Reserve. His predecessor didn't do as
GERGEN: I agree. I agree absolutely.
I was actually in the White House early on when Ronald Reagan took office back in the early 1980s. And Paul Volcker was then head of the Federal
Reserve, had been appointed by Jimmy Carter, a Democrat. And we had them what was called the Misery Index. And it was the combination of
unemployment with inflation. If you added those two numbers, where did it come out?
And, at that point, the Misery Index was over 20 when Reagan took office. But instead of firing Volcker, as some Republicans wanted him to do, he got
together with Volcker and agreed to support him. And they went through hell in the first couple of years of the Reagan administration. The inflation
rate went way up. The unemployment rate went way up.
But Volcker hung in there. Reagan hung in there, at great expense to him. He lost the midterms, a lot of room in the midterms. But they -- because
they stood by him, and they broke the back of inflation. And, frankly, this is the first time since those early '80 years when we have been threatened
with the kind of inflation we're seeing right now.
And I think that the administration in some way (AUDIO GAP) tough it out. If it doesn't happen, it's going to be -- it probably means a lot more
defeats than they ever anticipated having in midterms and even the general election.
But, right now, I think what's needed from the -- from the White House is tough talk about, here's where we are,. It's going to take a long time. We
have been digging out of this for a long time. Stop pointing fingers, say, here's what I'm asking people to do.
Here are the three things I need from Congress. Here are the two things I need from the Federal Reserve. Get together with the head of the Federal
Reserve. Work this out.
They -- so much rides on this. This is not just about politics. It's about whether families can make it through. A lot of families are in trouble
right now in this country.
GOLODRYGA: Right. Yes.
And yet we keep hearing talk. Many Americans think that we're already in a recession. We clearly are not.
GOLODRYGA: You take inflation off the table, and I'm telling -- and I acknowledge that's a big chunk to take off the table -- but the economy
otherwise is relatively strong.
GOLODRYGA: You have got a very low unemployment rate. Consumer spending continues to be strong. Corporate spending continues to be strong.
GOLODRYGA: And yet that it clearly is not resonating, because it is being overshadowed by inflation.
GERGEN: Yes. Yes.
GOLODRYGA: Do you think the president -- do you think the president should impose a federal gas tax holiday? I mean, there are little things that he
could do that maybe at this point would be more symbolic, if nothing else, to show Americans that he's really trying to do something.
GERGEN: Yes, I do think he ought to be doing some things. Just don't claim too much.
Don't overpromise and underdeliver. That's been a history of the administration. And it's gotten them in trouble again and again. We're in -
- we're in a situation where the underlying economy, as you say, Bianna, is -- looks strong. But we have got these CEOs like Jamie Dimon saying there
are tornadoes coming. Things are really -- tough times are likely to come.
We have got economists. A lead story in "The Financial Times" yet again, the economists saying recession is very likely. We have got the stock
market, which is plunging. We have gone into a bear market, for goodness' sakes. So there is a lot here that I think the president -- the more he
takes responsibility, the better off he's going to be politically.
Don't point fingers, say, we're going through some rough times. We're doing the best we can. Here's how I think we can make it through. But don't
overpromise and don't sort of make it too rosy, because it's not rosy for tons and tons, millions of Americans.
GOLODRYGA: Should he be going to Saudi Arabia to presumably meet with MBS?
GERGEN: I just can't -- I can't -- I don't understand why it's necessary to go see MBS.
This is a man that Biden during the campaign called a pariah. And he went after MBS when he ran for president. For him to flip now, especially at
this moment, when his strength is being called into question, when his competence is being called into question -- and that's why the low numbers
he's seeing -- do you want one more big controversy with -- on this one, the left will come after him, because they think -- the human rights crowd
believes very strongly, and with justification, that the murder of Khashoggi rests heavily upon MBS and the team around him.
And why would you now, having called him a pariah -- it looks weak to sort of say, oh, I'm going to go kiss his ring.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, I guess the administration's take is that this isn't as much focused on getting the Saudis to release more oil, even though we know
that that is a significant part of the rationale behind going, given where oil prices are, given these high gas prices that Americans are facing.
GOLODRYGA: But they...
GERGEN: Yes, but, listen, I -- of course, he should -- getting gas from the Saudis is something we can do.
But we don't have to make a -- make it a feature and go stick it in people's eyes by going to visit because MBS in his home territory. I'm,
frankly, dumbfounded why the president's making that trip.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, I was just going to say that, in addition to having the Saudis release more oil, the administration saying that this visit is a
symbolic visit that speaks to the larger issues of geopolitics in the region, in particular, that trip to Israel, perhaps having Saudi Arabia
finally join the Abraham Accords.
GOLODRYGA: All of that together, and all of that having been said, you still think that this trip is not something this administration and this
president should be taking?
GERGEN: I would have advised, don't do this. Do this behind -- get on the telephone. Do what you need to do to protect the country. Obviously, that's
very, very important.
But making it now a -- he's announced it early, so it's going to be a political football for the next several days. People who are anti-Biden are
going to come use it as -- they will beat up him and that sort of thing.
I just -- I don't see what's being accomplished, and particularly at this moment, which is so sensitive in so many parts of the world, that his
leadership, his leadership is about how do you deal with a pariah state, not how you go bow and scrape to a pariah state.
GOLODRYGA: You mentioned something interesting earlier, as we have been watching these January 6 Committee hearings.
GOLODRYGA: You clearly understand and acknowledge that there's a lot of important information that Americans are hearing, many Americans for the
first time, out of these hearings.
But, as you noted, this is perhaps being overshadowed in terms of priorities for Americans...
GOLODRYGA: ... when they are dealing with economic woes, in particular, inflation.
GERGEN: Yes, that's right.
I think some of this is going to stick. And I think Trump is going to be a weaker candidate in a general election, if that's what -- if he becomes the
nominee. But, by and large, I think most Americans are worried about what the price of gasoline price and the price of putting food on the table is,
and not about what the -- January 6, for a lot of Americans, as much as we need to have people understand what happened and take it into account, I do
think it speaks more and more to our past.
I think most Americans have sort of concluded, oh, yes, what they think about Trump. And most people are very negative about him as a leader right
now. But, nonetheless, it's just not on the front burner right now. And I think getting -- and getting the price of gasoline and supplies and getting
this economy with stronger underpinnings is really the most vital part of what he can do to preserve the future.
GOLODRYGA: This president notes that he takes pride and has taken pride with being able to work across the aisle in the past with Republicans, as
well as Democrats within his own party.
GOLODRYGA: In reference to your new book, and given that you have worked with presidents from both parties...
GOLODRYGA: ... what do you -- what advice do you think he could learn and take away from past presidents in how to deal with crises like this, be it
a Republican president or a past Democratic president?
GERGEN: Well, I think that he has a fine, experienced group of people around him.
I do think that he would benefit from having one or two heavyweights from the past in the White House with him helping him through this period. I
think he would benefit from having another counselor, perhaps at the State Department or certainly in national security.
There -- we don't have enough household names in the administration right now. And there are -- as I say, there are some fine people who came with
him, especially from Capitol Hill, where they worked for him in his Senate offices. They did very well as Senate aides. They have had less experience
in the executive office.
And the presidency is the most important, the most complex, the most powerful executive office in the world. And for something this big with so
many cascading crises, I think -- I think Joe Biden would do well to bring in one or two top-notch people that could be around and reassure the
country that the government is in safe hands on and that Joe Biden may look a little weak now, but he has good really, really good people, he has very
good judgment about bringing in good people.
GOLODRYGA: And those kind of...
GERGEN: From my point of view -- from my point of view, I just think -- I just think he needs some heavyweights, and he needs to stop pointing
fingers, and also just have a clear, simple, consistent message about what he's doing to get this economy under control and to save American families.
GOLODRYGA: David Gergen, thank you, as always, for your analysis and expertise. We appreciate it.
GERGEN: Thank you, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you.
GERGEN: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, the war in Ukraine threatens to continue to drag on the global economy, as the brutal fighting shows no sign of letting up.
In the east, Russian forces are taking control of most of Severodonetsk, one of Ukraine's last holdouts in the battle for the Eastern Donbass
Correspondent Matthew Chance has the latest.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no end in sight to this war, but its horror is plain to see.
An old woman crosses herself in prayer, as troops fight street to street. It's the battle here in and around the city of Severodonetsk where the
Ukrainian president says the fate of Donbass in Eastern Ukraine is being decided. But it seems more a case of when, not if, this devastated region
will fall into Russian hands.
The embattled Ukrainian president is again expressing his frustration.
"Ukraine needs modern missile defense systems," he says in his latest address. "Did we get them? No. Do we need them? Yes."
On both sides, there are signs of fatigue setting in, but these latest images from the Russian Defense Ministry show its forces on the offensive,
a squadron of attack helicopters hitting what Russian military officials say are Ukrainian positions.
"Target hit," the pilot reports.
"Thanks very much, guys. God be with you," comes the response.
By concentrating its fire, Russia appears to be gaining momentum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Operational, tactical and army aviation hit three Ukrainian command posts in 25 areas of concentration of
manpower and military equipment. As a result, more than 150 Ukrainian nationalists, six tanks, five filled artillery pieces and 10 special
vehicles for various purposes were destroyed.
CHANCE (on camera): Of course, Russia is paying a heavy price for waging this war, what it calls its special military operation, in Ukraine too.
It's estimated to have lost thousands of troops and countless tanks and other armored vehicles, some of which have been placed here in the center
of the capitol, Kyiv, on public display.
But nearly four months into this grinding and relentless conflict, Ukraine seems dangerously outnumbered and outgunned.
CHANCE (voice-over): From the Black Sea, Russia's naval bombardment continues apace, these four cruise missiles fired at a warehouse of anti-
tank weapons supplied by the United States and its allies, according to the Russian military.
Ukraine says the missiles hit mostly residential areas in the west of the country, injuring 22 civilians, including a 12-year-old child.
Of course, Ukrainian forces are fighting back, like here near the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where they say this old captured Russian
rocket launcher has been turned on the invaders.
But Ukrainian officials say they need many more long-range weapons from the U.S. and its Western allies if they are to push or even hold the Russians
GOLODRYGA: Matthew Chance reporting there.
Well, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made another of his global appearances on Sunday. Speaking to an Asian security conference in
Singapore, he said it is on the battlefields of Ukraine that the future rules of this world are being decided.
His implicit message, as Ukraine goes, so could go Taiwan.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping vows that reunification must be fulfilled, Kerry Brown is professor of Chinese studies at King's College London and
author of almost 20 books on modern China, including his latest, "Xi: A Study in Power."
Kerry Brown, welcome to the program.
Let's begin by asking you about Xi Jinping and China's response and actions since the war in Ukraine. Have the Chinese become more emboldened or
perhaps more embarrassed?
KERRY BROWN, AUTHOR, "XI: A STUDY IN POWER": Well, I don't think that they were particularly expecting what happened to happen.
And there's been lots of speculation about whether, because of Xi Jinping's very close relationship with Putin, he would do more, he would offer
military assistance, for instance.
I think that would be very, very unlikely. It was talked about a couple of months ago. But from what we have seen since, I think China's objective is
to try to pretend to be neutral, obviously, but supportive of Russia, because it's such a key alliance for it, but not to be sucked into what it
thinks is a conflict which is irrelevant for its own strategic needs.
It had big interests with Ukraine. It had energy interests with Ukraine and investment interests. And I think it's also clearly got very big interests
with Russia in energy and other areas. So it wants to kind of balance things, but it does not want to be dragged into what it thinks probably is
largely a European, American and Russia-Ukrainian issue, which is not central to its core strategic objectives in its region.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, publicly, at least, China has said that NATO has been the -- and the West has been the aggressor here.
Just days before the invasion, there was obviously that famous photo-op between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping where they announced that their
friendship had no limits. A few days later, Russia did invade.
There seems to be a shift in tone, however. We just, for the first time since the invasion, heard from the Chinese defense minister on the issue of
Taiwan, as we played in the intro of the program, and he said: "We will fight at all costs. And we will fight to the very end if, in fact, anyone
attempted to address or militarily protect Taiwan."
As we know, China views Taiwan as part of its country, as the U.S. has in the past. But there has been a bit of change in dynamics from policy in the
U.S. and definitely rhetoric from the Chinese.
BROWN: Yes, I mean, so the Chinese have got a quandary.
Taiwan is a strategic objective. And they have this nominal date of 2049, the centenary of the foundation of the People's Republic, when
reunification will be resolved.
But what does reunification mean? Ukraine-Russia is a land war. China- Taiwan would be an amphibious landing. That hasn't been achieved since the Second World War. And we're talking multiple times of complexity with what
China is facing across 100 kilometers of water with Taiwan.
Taiwan is well-armed, much of it from the United States, with whom it has, obviously a very close relationship. President Biden said that he would
definitely support America being involved in any conflict between China and Taiwan.
I mean, we have to recognize that the rhetoric of Chinese leaders, from Xi Jinping to all of those around him in the military, yes, that sounds pretty
terrifying. The reality, however, is that they have 23 million people in Taiwan who definitely would not accept any moves to reunify, I mean,
probably at all, but certainly on the basis of what's offered at the moment.
And, also, the real possibility of any aggressive move against Taiwan leading to global conflict, to something like the Third World war, smashing
apart the world's economic infrastructure because of the importance of this region, that is an incredible cost to pay.
It's not impossible, but I think that it would be an incredible calamity, not just for the world, but for China, were we to get to that position.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we have come a lot closer, I guess, than many would have expected in a short period of time.
Xi Jinping's predecessors really seemed to focus a lot on growing China's economy. And it was that -- sort of the coupling of the West and East in
China's economic growth becoming the behemoth, second largest economy in the world, that at least gave some level and assurances of stability
between the United States and China.
And I'm just curious to get your analysis from the research in this book how much value Xi Jinping puts in China's economy, which, as we know, has
grown very slowly the past quarter relative to just last year.
BROWN: Yes, I mean, it always used to be the economy's the source of the party's legitimacy after the reforms under Deng Xiaoping in the late '70s.
But I think, with Xi Jinping, the economy is a tool, it's an asset, but it's not the objective. To be rich is important, but to be rich and
something, that's more important. And that means to have status. So it's about identity. It's the -- it's the identity, stupid. It's not the
economy, stupid. It's identity, stupid, this sort of kind of Clinton era thing, which -- slogan, which I think you could adapt to China today.
And that means basically wrestling with this issue of China probably being the world's largest economy sometime in the next five to 10 years. So we
live in a world where the world's greatest capitalist is going to be a country under a Communist Party leadership.
And that's something that no one really knows how to kind of handle that, the symbolism of that, that the China of today can be the way it is because
it has this huge and still growing economy, although it's going through challenges at the moment, meaning it has assets, it has the capacity to do
things it never had before.
And what does that mean for the country's identity, pride and to be number one in a world where it's never, ever dreamt to being that before?
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and his power as leader can only be compared to that of Mao.
The Chinese Communist Party is meeting in November, where he's expected to be confirmed for a third five-year term. Tell us a little bit more about
him, about his background, and the fact that he was the son of a revolutionary who was brought down by Mao himself. And yet is it ironic
that he is being compared to Mao in many of his visions for the future of the country?
BROWN: Well, I suppose it's not ironic. It's rational, because Mao was a great nationalist for China, and Xi Jinping is a nationalist.
I mean, that's the most important thing, to believe in great, powerful Chinese state. Xi Jinping is from an elite background. His father was a
senior leader in the Mao period, before being felled for, I think, about 20 years and put under house arrest.
And so Xi Jinping has a complicated background, because, in his adolescence, he was basically one of the downtrodden, kind of removed from
his privileged position. But one thing that is really key about his whole career is this kind of almost religious fidelity to the party and the party
mission, and something that kind of marked him off really even from other members of the elite around him in the '80s and '90s as he rose up the
system, this belief that it's not about getting rich.
It's not about kind of doing business. The party is not a business. The party is a political organization that will make China great again. And
that message has now had its moment, because we're now on the cusp of probably China being, as I said, number one, and Xi Jinping is the face and
the symbol of that. He's not really Mao because Mao was never the leader of a country that was number one.
Xi Jinping is going to be a different kind of leader because of that.
GOLODRYGA: Is that definite that China will be number one?
And I'm asking because that seemed to be the trajectory the country was headed in. But given COVID -- and, initially, they had been a success
story, despite their draconian measures that they took. They have been under massive lockdowns now with a zero COVID policy that many experts say
just can't be sustained going forward.
He's gone after private companies and the private sector there, to the point where there are headlines like this one in "The Wall Street Journal"
just a couple of weeks ago: "Rollback of Xi Jinping's Economic Campaign Exposes Cracks in His Power."
Are there cracks in his power? And is it -- have some of his actions been a detriment to the status of the country, at least on an economic footing?
BROWN: I mean, I think one of the issues is with a leader who's so central and has become so central to China, everything flows from him, in a way.
It's a kind of imperial kind of leadership.
And, like with Putin, suddenly, once the sort of magic goes, you can get bad decisions. The zero COVID lockdowns have been pretty savage. China's
economy now is going through a tough time. There's been pretty savage attacks on non-state sector and other actors.
And I think that's part of this idea from seeing that it's got to be about loyalty to the great cause, which is making China a great state and a great
I would still say, though, that they have many, many options. They're going through difficult economic times. But so is the rest of the world. We're
all probably going to be level down together. China has other options. It has a middle-class market emerging domestically, which is going to be
potentially a huge source of growth.
Yes, they could kind of trip up. That would be a huge problem for them and the rest of the world because of China's economic centrality. But my kind
of instinct is that they are going to be able to do this because almost every single time in the last 40 years that people have said that they have
got problems and they weren't going to do what they said they would do, on the whole, they have managed to do it.
So I would be more supportive of what they think they're going to do now, rather than maybe in the past.
GOLODRYGA: In terms of the future and U.S. focus on the East and on China in particular, I know obviously, this war on Ukraine has redirected
But are you surprised at all that you still have U.S. administration officials, like the secretary of state and others, saying that China,
regardless of what's happening in Ukraine right now in Russia, is the primary threat for the United States going forward, both militarily and
economically? The President would like to say that he wants to have a competitive relationship between the two countries. Can that be the case
without any sort of, hopefully not, any military conflict?
BROWN: China is the great challenge because of the enormity of its economy and where it could go. And the fact that that means it has now, you know, a
big military. Is it the same kind of power as the United States? No, I don't think so. It's a different kind of power. It doesn't want, I guess,
the kind of security responsibilities that United States has wanted.
The problem is not so much that China wants to assert itself in the world. But the China probably doesn't want responsibilities for many things that
probably people expect it to take a role in. Russia-Ukraine is an example. It would be good, I suppose. What China has used is pressure and influence
on Russia to do things. But it's clear, not willing to do that. It's very passive and inactive.
I mean, I think the problem, I suppose is that, you know -- kind of, for the United States, in particular, China -- you know, just by being a big
economy under a very different political system is a challenge. But no one quite knows what exactly that challenge is.
The only thing I can say with certain -- you know, complete certainty is that this is not going to go away. We're going to have to manage this
challenge. We won't solve this challenge. We're going to have to manage it. So, this is going to be a golden year for diplomacy, if nothing else.
GOLODRYGA: Something to watch. Kerry Brown, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Well, staying with China where a recent attack on a group of young women is causing outrage in a country where punishment for violence already against
women is already -- is rarely seen. Selina Wang reports on the assaults that have often seemingly had few consequences. A warning, her report
contains disturbing images of violence and may be difficult to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): A late-night dinner turned violent in Northern China. Graphic surveillance video of what follows
unleashed fear and outrage across China. It shows a man approaching one of the women. He touches her back. An unwanted advance. She pushes him away.
He slaps her in response. The assault escalates. A scuffle breaks out as she and her friends try to defend themselves. The woman is dragged outside
by her hair. Hit with a beer. The men relentlessly kick her. As one yells, beat her to death. Her friend's head hits the pavement with a thud.
The viral video sparked uproar, not just over the brazen brutality of the attack, but the indifference from bystanders with only women seen
intervening. A woman at the scene called the police and told the authorities the following according to state media. Before this happened, I
always thought that going out to dinner at night was a perfectly normal thing, but now I have some sort of PTSD.
YAQIU WANG, SR. RESEARCHER ON CHINA, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: These men feel they could just freely attack a woman in such a public place. Worse,
because so many men in the past who have done the same. So, the men feel, you know, I can do the same without any consequences.
WANG (voiceover): Attacks like this are horrific and horrible to watch. But Chinese social media is flooded with them. And activists say, we cannot
look away. Violence against women is rampant in China.
A video from earlier this year in Xi'an shows a man viciously punching his wife while she holds their child in her lap. The man later pins his wife
down and continues to punch her head. The man was suspended by his company after the footage went viral. According to state media and police said they
detained him for five days.
Another shows a man kicking and punching a woman in broad daylight in 2020. State media reported that the man was investigated. But it's unclear if any
legal action was taken.
Domestic violence was only made punishable by law in 2016. Physical abuse was not even grounds for divorce but for 2001. So far, authorities have
detained nine people involved in the restaurant incident. Local police have ramped up patrols on the streets in the area. Authorities claim the woman
and her friend are in stable condition. Yet unverified video shows what is believed to be one of their brutally beaten bodies, lying motionless on a
gurney in the hospital. Bloodied and bandaged. Her helplessness, resonating across China. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Thanks to Selina Wang. A difficult, extremely difficult video to watch but something that's very important and the world must not look
One woman who has continually covered violence against women in her work is writer and author, Rebecca Traister. But today, she's here to talk about
one of the most senior members of the U.S. Senate, Dianne Feinstein. In her latest profile, Traister examined the five-decade career of the 88-year-old
politician. Rebecca Traister joined Michel Martin to discuss how, in her own words, the generation whose entry into politics was enabled by
progressive reforms has allowed those victories to be taken away.
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MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Rebecca Traister, thanks so much for talking with us.
REBECCA TRAISTER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE WRITER-AT-LARGE: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: You just published this very comprehensive, I might say, pretty tough piece on Dianne Feinstein. She's the oldest sitting senator. Now,
there's been a lot of reporting in recent months about concerns that she is not -- she's not up to the job anymore. That she's experiencing some
cognitive decline. Possibly age-related, possibly not. But that's not really the focus of your piece. I mean, you touched on that issue but
that's not really the focus of your piece. So, what is the focus of your piece? What is it that you were trying to tease out in your piece? What
were you looking for? What were you trying to figure out?
TRAISTER: Well, there were a couple of things that brought me to this piece. And I should say that I began it in March, before the recent round
of reporting on her cognitive decline. And the reason that I took it there were -- it was twofold. One, I was really interested in this politician who
has, you know, been in power in the Senate for 30 years and in San Francisco politics long before that.
She holds so much seniority in the Democratic Party at this point. I was really curious about her story because I think that the early part of her
political life, a lot of people who know her as a senior senator do not know about the early part of her political life. And I wanted -- I was very
curious about the individual.
But more than that, I was curious about how her individual story and her path through politics offered some illumination for her generation of
Democratic politicians. Many of whom, like Feinstein, came to power either through or, like Feinstein, adjacent to the disruptive social and political
movements of the mid-20th century. The civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay rights movement. The things that kind of changed the
And that generation of leadership in the Democratic Party was the most diverse of -- you know, more diverse than any that had preceded it. The bar
was admittedly very low. And they have been, you know, purportedly the stewards of the victories won by those social movements. Voting rights,
reproductive rights. You know, the Democratic Party sells itself as the party that is going to protect those victories that were won in the 20th
century. And yet we're living through a period in which many of those politicians who've been in power over these intervening decades are still
presiding over the erosion and rollback of many of those victories.
And I was really curious about the relationship to power and governing institutions that permitted that process and that timeline to have
unfolded. And so, that's -- that was my broader systemic curiosity about Dianne Feinstein, in addition to my curiosity about the individual human
MARTIN: What would you say is her North Star in staying -- not just seeking public office, but staying in public office?
TRAISTER: She really believes in the power of top-down authority as opposed to bottom-up authority. Again, she believes that function, rule-
bound, often technocratic top-down governance can quell and serve as a bomb for what she understands to be the kind of disorder of political upheaval.
And I think that was really forged in that period of the social and political movements.
And it's important to note that San Francisco, at the time that she came into political power, really was the place that was riven by violence. That
in some cases was tied to political discord. And she came to understand that sort of the social and political movements themselves as divided
partisan threats causing chaos and disorder and bloodshed. And I came to understand how she could have had that view. But she understood the --
whether it's city government, the police department. Dianne Feinstein loves police departments, right?
TRAISTER: Very much at odds with the political ethos of our current moment. She really believes in police forces. She used to dress up as a
firefighter when she was the mayor of San Francisco. Put on a fire coat and go to big fires.
She believed in the signifiers, the aesthetics of civic order because she believed that they could provide a bulwark against the insurgent chaos of
political discord. And one of the fascinating things about writing about Dianne Feinstein in that moment as I really came to understand how she
could come to that belief and why she is serving in the senate. Why she's serving in government. Because she believes in the government's ability to
steer through chaos.
But the thing that I came to think about her, and this is a critical observation, is that at times she has, seems to be unable to have seen that
the insurgency was at the door and inside the institutions in which she is serving, right? So, that she has served through, for example, her
colleagues on the other side of the aisle stealing a Supreme Court seat from a popularly elected president, right?
This has -- those are the people on the dais with her at the top. She has obviously served through a more literal insurgency, you know. Mobs coming
to the door of the Capitol. And I think that perhaps her solid belief in institutions like the senate, like city government, like police departments
and fire departments, as this safe bulwark against violent disorder. Actually, she continues to believe that in a moment where it has become
more obvious that it -- that things might not work that way.
MARTIN: Well, before we move on to the present moment, I do want to point out that she has been one of the most popular politicians in her State. So,
what's been the source of her popularity to this --
TRAISTER: Well, I --
MARTIN: -- to this point?
TRAISTER: I think -- there are a couple of things. First of all, she really was wildly popular in San Francisco. She also came for tremendous
criticism from all segments of the community. I don't want to pretend that she was, like, the most popular mayor ever.
But there -- but the other thing is, again, writing about the individual and the relationships to the systems in which they work, Feinstein believes
in the Senate. And the Senate rewards seniority. The way the Senate works, the longer you stay there, the more power you have which means that the
question of Feinstein, for example, the question of whether she would retire in 2018, when she could have, and chose to run again and came in for
a lot of criticism at, you know, at 85, for running for another term. And was challenged muscularly from the left but won.
In part, what that reflects is that Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the appropriations committee, has the ability to bring her State
all kinds of resources. Money. That -- and this is a systemic reality in the Senate. And it's certainly not just Dianne Feinstein who's been there
as long as she has. There are so many of her colleagues over 80, Mitch McConnell, Charles Grassley, Pat Leahy. In part, because they gain
authority and power to provide for their State. And the State, in turn, appreciates, in some cases, their ability to provide for voters. And so, it
is in fact here -- she's embedded in and believes in an institution that off incentivizes her never leaving that institution.
MARTIN: Is this a particular challenge for Democrats? The reason I ask this, as you point out, a number of people in the Senate, in fact in the
House, are elderly, you know. And so, Democrats seemed to be quite restive about this. Republicans either don't seem to mind or have been -- may --
look, Mitch McConnell was just reelected.
MARTIN: And he's 80 years old. People don't seem to have a problem with that. But they've also seemed to be either recruiting or attracting younger
people, who also tend to be some of the most radical.
MARTIN: Like Josh Hawley, for example. In Ohio, you know, J.D. Vance running for the senate. So, it's just -- is this a particular problem for
TRAISTER: So, I think that the gerontocracy is bipartisan. There are -- there's older leadership. Mitch McConnell, obviously, is the leader of the
Republican Party, and an extremely effective one. I think a lot of people would agree.
The fact that there are -- that senior leadership and senior members are, in fact, very old is true on both sides. My observation is that the
partisan difference is in how the parties treat their younger members. A Republican Party, again, perhaps having been on the losing side of a lot of
the social and political change that came in that -- in the middle of -- end of the 20th century, began strategizing in a very different way than
They began strategizing around winning local and State elections. Building State power. All investing in a pipeline of conservative justices to fill a
judiciary. There are all kinds of things the Republican Party did over these decades. That was very different from what the Democratic Party did.
Among them, the Republican Party does have a rising generation of more radical right-wing leadership in politicians. And that rising generation
has, in many ways, the older generation has submitted to those politics, right? The Democratic Party, to my eye, treats it's -- it also has a rising
generation of stars, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, members of the squad. You know, younger people with politics that are further left than
where the party has been.
But the difference, to my eye, is that the older leadership has been tremendously resistant to that younger generation. Has fought it, and in
some cases, openly vilified it and its tactics and its strategy which has - - and I believe, that's the difference. Is that you don't -- you may have older leadership in a Republican Party, but they are in fact, enacting an
agenda, in many cases very effectively, in the case of Mitch McConnell, for example, that is being set by younger members and their far-right politics.
On the Democratic side, you have older leadership that is, I believe in many ways, stonewalling the priorities, agenda, and tactics of its younger
and lefter generation. So, that's the way I see the difference. But there are certainly older leadership in both parties.
MARTIN: Let me -- did you -- you spent spend a lot of time digging into Dianne Feinstein's, sort of, belief system and how she came to it. Did you
come to understand or, at least, how does she feel about the fact that so many of the things that she fought for throughout her career are in fact
being challenged if not undone? She wrote the, in advance, the assault weapons ban. It was repealed years ago. And we see the situation we now
have with gun violence. It's not solely due to that but we see that that's certainly part of that. We see that the -- her support for reproductive
rights is being undone, in part, because of Supreme Court justices that she failed to stop. How does she feel about that?
TRAISTER: Well, when I spoke to her about these things, one of the things that struck me most profoundly was what felt like a distant optimism about
these issues. I pushed her, for example, around Roe to talk about what was on the horizon. As we expect Roe to either be overturned or gutted in
coming weeks. And what that would mean, she was somebody who, in fact, as part of early work in her 20s on sentencing and parole board in California
in the 19 -- early 1960s, actually determine sentence length for abortion providers in -- when the procedure was illegal in California and we were
And I asked her, what does it feel like to know that we are going back to? And she said, in very Feinstein, the way she had explained this in the past
was, the law was the law. She had to maintain the law. She believes in the law. And in these structures and authorities and rules.
And I asked or would we feel like, you know, in a few weeks perhaps, when the law will once again be the law in States around this country and
abortion will be criminalized is very likely to be? And she, sort of said, well, we go through different periods in this country. And the institutions
have gotten so much more progressive, which is actually factually not true. The criminal justice system has not gotten more progressive. It's become
far more expansive in part because of the kind of bipartisan work done around expanding a crucial state and the crime bill in the '90s, which is
something she strenuously supported.
She -- I don't want to use this word lightly, but she struck me as being in denial about a lot of the rollbacks. She didn't seem to me or didn't speak
as somebody who had done a lot of thinking of what it will be like in just a few short weeks or months should Roe fall.
She kept -- we spoke two days after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas. And she is -- gun control has been the mission of her life. She instituted a
handgun ban in San Francisco when she was mayor that was so controversial that it earned her a recall vote. She won, obviously, and remain mayor. But
this has been an issue she's fought for in her life.
And in those two days after that shooting, she said to me in this kind of sunny way, like, oh, we'll get it done. Don't worry. It takes time. When
every indication is over decades the assault weapons ban that she passed as a part of the crime bill in 1994 expired in 2004. And actually, its
expiration -- there are all different ways to trace this kind of marks the beginning of this era that we live in now, of just daily horror mass
And -- that she could've been so much optimism was one of the things that struck. And she said, I'm very optimistic about the future of this country.
She's still evinced a deep belief in governing structures to somehow move us forward to a better place. Even though, I think, there is a strong
argument that it's been the perversion over manipulation of some of those very same structures that have gotten us here to begin with.
MARTIN: Is it your view that that's the emblem of her personal decline? And I understand that some people find it deeply offensive that we're even
having this conversation publicly. But she represents 40 million people and occupies a pivotal role and our governance. And I think people are -- have
a right to ask if she is up to that job. Is this emblematic of a personal decline on her part or is that something bigger?
TRAISTER: I would say that it was the thing that struck me hardest. And there seemed to be such a distance between her apprehension of what is
happening and the terrible precipices we are on. And the -- you know, the - - she didn't seem to be deeply engaged with the crisis being faced by the country and the crisis being faced within her own workplace. And yes, that
does strike me, without any kind of diagnostic, you know, verdict on cognitive health. What it strikes me as is it is a sign of somebody who is
not totally engaged in the present moment.
MARTIN: Why does this matter, in your opinion.?
TRAISTER: I mean --
MARTIN: In your opinion.
TRAISTER: Well, it matters for a couple of reasons. It matters because this is who's leading our government. Not just Dianne Feinstein, right? I
really want to be careful not to single her out. I wrote about her because she's fascinating to me. We are in -- we are -- as I said, in what I view
and I -- is inarguably a very perilous moment, not just for this country, but for the world.
Climate change is bearing down on us. There are all kinds of threats, risks, and in fact, present injustice that I think, you know, is really
pressing. And we have a couple of bodies. We have the house. We have the Senate. We have the White House. We have our State and local leadership.
And they are the people who are able to make the regulations, pass the legislation, you know, choose the courts who then determine, you know, our
rights and our freedoms. And we need to be able to look critically at them and think about their approach to how they do that work.
MARTIN: Rebecca Traister, thanks so much for talking to us about this, you know, fascinating piece and this fascinating public figure.
TRAISTER: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
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GOLODRYGA: Really riveting discussion about a senator who's been at the center of American politics for more than five decades.
And finally, tonight, a wild car -- card entry for a champion. Serena Williams has announced on Instagram that she will be returning to the court
at Wimbledon where she has won seven of her 23 grand slam titles. Earlier this year, Christiane asked the former number one -- world number one about
her commitment to beating Margaret Court's record and getting that magic 24th.
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SERENA WILLIAMS, 23-Time Grand Slam Champion: I'm the kind of person who's like, well, honestly, I should have been like at 30 or 32. So, that's kind
of how I look at it but you know.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: So, you feel you've done it in some --
WILLIAMS: I haven't done it.
AMANPOUR: -- sort of way? No?
WILLIAMS: I haven't done it at all or else I would've done it, right? Let's just -- that's what it is. But I don't know. I should've had it.
Really. I should've had many opportunities to have it, but I'm not giving up to answer your question.
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GOLODRYGA: And we shouldn't bet against her. That's incredible news. Serena Williams has not competed since injuring her leg in the first round
of Wimbledon last year. The tournament gets underway June 27th and we wish her all the best.
Well, that is it for now. Remember you can always catch us online Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thank you so much for watching. And goodbye from