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Interview With "The Destructionists" Author And Journalist Dana Milbank; Interview With Haaretz Deputy Editor-In-Chief Noa Landau; Interview With "The Last White Man" Author Mohsin Hamid; Interview With Harvard University William A. Ackman Professor Of Economic And Opportunity Insights Director Raj Chetty. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 10, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN. More people get their news from CNN than any other news source.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to "AMANPOUR". Here is what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This Russian war against Ukraine and against all of free Europe began with Crimea and
must end with Crimea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Ukraine's leader vows to liberate Crimea from Russian control. I get the latest from Correspondent David McKenzie on the ground in Kyiv. And
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Nobody is above the law. But the law needs to be above politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Trump allies go on the attack, slamming the FBI for their search at Mar-a-Lago. We take a look at the dynamics of the GOP today and how we
got here with writer Dana Milbank. And --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: After days of violence, a cease-fire between Israeli and Palestinian militants appears to be holding. So, will it last? I ask
journalist Noa Landau in Tel Aviv.
And, bestselling author of the "Reluctant Fundamentalist", Mohsen Hamed joins us. He tells me what motivated him to write his new book, "The Last
Plus, economist Raj Chetty tells Walter Isaacson why cross-class friendships are the key to lifting kids out of poverty.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy has a message for
Vladimir Putin. Not only will you not take any new Ukrainian land, but we will claw back what you stole nearly a decade ago. He's talking about
Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. Zelenskyy made the comments after the Russian airbase in Crimea was hit by several
explosions. Though Ukraine has not said whether its forces were behind it.
David McKenzie is on the ground in Kyiv, and he joins us now for the latest. So, David, we know that Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for
this attack on that airbase in Crimea, but it would be a rather large strategic shift on the part of the Ukrainians if, in fact, they were behind
it. Because up until this point, they have just been focusing on pushing back Russian forces from territory that they'd occupied since the invasion
in 2014 -- on the 24th of February.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, that's right. That really is potentially a very significant moment, these
explosions rocking this airbase on that western part of the Russian- occupied Crimea. We saw those extraordinary images of vacationers from Russia looking behind them from their beach deck chairs at these massive
plumes of smoke.
People rushing from the scene. Authorities there evacuating an area around that airbase. It was so powerful that almost a mile away, there were
windows blown out of apartment buildings. As you say, Ukrainian officials aren't saying much, but this could potentially be a game-changer. Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: And we know that Moscow is trying to downplay this. Initially they said that this has just been a munitions explosion there. But as you
said, the reaction from those beachgoers there, there had been images on social media of traffic for miles of Russians trying to leave Crimea now.
What is the messaging out of the Kremlin? This could be a rather embarrassing moment for them, no?
MCKENZIE: Well, it is very embarrassing. The excuse or reasoning is that it was a munitions explosion. An accident, which, of course, is embarrassing.
But the indications could be that this is some kind of strike. And if you put that into perspective, that's very significant. This area is about 200
miles from the nearest Ukrainian positions in that theater of the conflict, which means this is something new. The ability to strike that distance with
this devastating effect, but again, we don't know for sure yet. And that tells you how sensitive this escalation of the conflict could be, should it
be a Ukrainian strike. Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: In the meantime, the battle on the mainland continues there. Russia fired a new round of missiles close to a city there in Zaporizhzhia.
What more are we learning?
MCKENZIE: There's been escalation, it's probably not the right word, but continued heavy strikes in the Donetsk, in the region around Zaporizhzhia.
The Ukrainian military is saying that it's pushed back potential counteroffensives or offensives from the Russians in Donetsk and the east,
as well as in the south and southeast.
I just want to touch on one more thing about Crimea, which is worth mentioning. This is a hugely important psychological moment, as you both
know. Those beachgoers are sitting there, or they were there because they thought they were safe. And the Russian assets, like the warplanes that
operated from there to strike deep into Ukraine, I believe, would also think that they were safe.
So, this could change things. There has been an escalation in the longer- range strikes of Ukrainian military, using the HIMAR and other systems that is both targeting the supply lines of the Russians, and potentially the
Russian air bases themselves.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, you're right. And this is about the first time that we've heard in a long time from President Zelenskyy that they will end, and this
war will not end until Ukraine reclaims Crimea. Up until recently, they have been focusing more on territory that Russian had claimed after the
24th of February. So, this is potentially a game-changer on that front as well. David McKenzie, thank you so much.
Well, returning now to the United States, where Donald Trump was deposed this morning by the New York attorney general as part of civil
investigation into the finances of the Trump organization. This, while the former president's allies continue to ferociously attack the FBI and U.S.
Attorney General Merrick Garland after agents searched his Mar-a-Lago home on Monday.
Trump's grip on the Republican Party is the inevitable result of the party's decades-long transformations, says my next guest, Dana Milbank. He
lays it all out in his new book, "The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five Year Crackup of the Republican Party." And Dana joins us now from Washington.
Dana, it's always good to see you.
DANA MILBANK, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR, "THE DESTRUCTIONISTS": Hi, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: So, before we get back to the previous 25 years, let's talk about just the previous 24 hours here.
MILBANK: Right, right, right.
GOLODRYGA: Because from a legal perspective, it has not been a good week for that former president. FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home in an
unprecedented move on Monday. Yesterday, Federal Appeals Court said that the House can obtain his tax returns. And as we just said today, he was
deposed by the New York attorney general on -- for his organization's finances. An investigation into that, he had pleaded the fifth.
So, from a legal perspective, not a good week for the president. The political perspective, though, could be a bit different. What is your take?
MILBANK: Right. I think, that's key, Bianna. It's not a good situation legally. But what's really astonishing is the way the president, and even
more so the Republicans. Without very much information, nobody really knows what's going on, particularly in the Mar-a-Lago search, but are lashing out
at the FBI, at the Justice Department in the most reckless terms. Saying that the FBI, the Justice Department are corrupt, nobody is safe. They're
coming after you.
Rhetoric really designed to rile people up, and you can see it in the pro- Trump social media. A lot of talk of civil war and picking up arms and bloodshed. We're seeing a lot of violent rhetoric from Fox News, saying
it's war. You're -- you are under attack. So, they're very much doing this in a reckless way that has the ability to foment violence.
And that -- in this sense, the last 24 hours does tie into what I've been writing about the last 25 years, because we've had these repeated episodes
of violent rhetoric from the Republicans and from conservative TV and radio that have resulted in protracted periods of violence. And there's a lot of
concern that we may be headed, here in the United States, for another, say, Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 variety.
GOLODRYGA: That is really frightening to hear. You've written a piece just this week expressing your concerns on the aftermath of the news of this FBI
search on Mar-a-Lago and the increased number of threatening social media posts that we've seen out there. And Fox News just recently, just a few
minutes ago, reported that there's been an increased number of threats against Attorney General Garland, the FBI agents, and FBI Director
That having been said, I'm curious as to what this means about the former president's grip on the party as a whole. There had been some questions
that perhaps, the January 6th Committee investigation had been weakening the president's hold on the party, that other candidates, perhaps, were
starting to rise, and that his time in the limelight was fading. Does this change all of that?
MILBANK: Right. And of course. There had been so many moments over the last several years when we thought his grip on the party was fading, and it
turned out not to be the case. Now, these legal developments, in the long run, may loosen his grip, as may the January 6th Committee. But in the
short run, what's happening is it's allowing him again to say they're not just coming after me, they're coming after you. As Congresswoman Liz Cheney
said, he's playing on peoples' patriotism to say that their country is under attack. They are under attack.
So, that causes them to rally around him. It also has the ability to ferment violence. This idea of, sort of, rallying people based on their
patriotism, saying that people in our party are patriots. The people in the other party are traitors. There's certainly a trademark of Trump's
presidency, but this is also something that goes back to the Gingrich era, and certainly happened during the George W. Bush's presidency where they
began to say that the people on the other side of the aisle are not just our opponents but they are the enemy. They are our enemies. That began
about 25 years ago. And we're really at this point now where, you know, you have the Republican party saying, the enemy within is the Democrats.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and the irony is, and even saying, if they could come after you, they can come after the president and you should be alarmed. In fact,
it should be the reverse that it shows that justice is blind in this country and no one is above the law. But you do address a critical question
that many are asking and have been asking over the past eight years or so, as to whether President Trump and Trumpism is the cause of the division in
the country or a symptom of it. And let's talk about what you find, and that is some 25 years ago, the country changed and politics change in the
country. Not that everything was sunshine and roses before.
GOLODRYGA: But things, you know, the divisions within the two parties, for the most part, dealt with policy. That changed with Newt Gingrich. How?
MILBANK: It really did, Bianna. With the Republican revolution of 1994, you saw, you know, a title changed in the way people think about politics. It
was the beginning of, I would say, an assault on the truth. The beginning of admitting conspiracy theories. And at the highest level of the
Republican Party admitting them into the mainstream. It was the beginning of making a common cause with the white nationalists by the Republican
Party, and militia, and patriot groups that were potentially violent.
So, the combination of those two things set us off on a very caustic path, and there have been various iterations of this that have occurred. Now,
Donald Trump, I don't know how many people realize this, back in 1999, he was pro-choice. He wanted universal health care. He was railing against
intolerance and racism. He completely remade himself when he saw the direction the Republican Party was going, and particularly with the tea
party in 2010, when he launched the further campaign.
GOLODRYGA: He made campaign contributions.
MILBANK: That's absolutely right.
GOLODRYGA: He made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates, more so than even Republican.
MILBANK: Absolutely right.
GOLODRYGA: Let's play --
MILBANK: He held up a mirror to the Republican Party. That's essentially what happened.
GOLODRYGA: Let's play a clip from Newt Gingrich in 1994, where he really revealed his contract with America, as he labeled it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, THEN-U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: The fact is that America is in trouble, and our trouble extends beyond the White House. The fact is, as a
history teacher, I would insist that it is impossible to maintain American civilization with 12-year-old having babies, 15-year-olds killing each
other, 17-year-olds dying of AIDS, and 18-year-olds getting diplomas they can't even read.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Dana, that sounds an awful lot like President Trump's 2017 inauguration speech, that America was all full of carnage and darkness.
MILBANK: Yes, 22, 23 years before American carnage, Newt Gingrich really coined that. You know, he -- his innovation was -- in fact, he said that
the real problem with the Republican Party back in the 1980s is they don't have you been nasty enough. He sent out a memo to his fellow Republicans
saying, you need to use words like traitors, sick, corrupt, abuse of power to talk about Democrats.
So, he brought this whole new lexicon into our politics. Those words are commonplace now, but they weren't back then. And with it came the idea that
the other side was the enemy, and that you must stop them from making progress at any cost. It became war by other means.
GOLODRYGA: And Newt Gingrich is still in the public eye as a consultant to Kevin McCarthy. Obviously, his wife was an ambassador to the Vatican under
President Trump. I'm just curious, what hold, if any, does he still have on the party? And do you see Trumpism, with or without Trump, continuing to
MILBANK: That is the crucial point. Newt Gingrich was Trump before Trump. And it doesn't matter, to some extent, whether Trump maintains his grip on
the party because Trumpism has worn out. The white nationalism that has taken over the party, the flirtations with violence, the loss of being in
touch with the truth and campaigning against the truth, campaigning against the Democratic process. This is a vicious cycle.
And the party, unfortunately, is stuck in it right now and it's going to take a lot more than the disappearance of one man from the political scene
to erase this.
GOLODRYGA: Dana Milbank, the book is very timely, "The Destructionists". Always great to have you on.
MILBANK: Thanks, Bianna.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you. We appreciate it, Dana.
MILBANK: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we turn now to Israel and Islamic Jihad militants continuing their uneasy truce after a flare-up of violence this past
weekend in Gaza and Israel. Israel preemptively struck targets, attacking what it said were concrete threats from militants. And Islamic Jihad hit
back, but most of their rockets were intercepted by Israel's iron dome defense system. For Gazans, it's all too familiar story as our Ben Wedeman
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): It's over, for now. The airstrikes, the rocket barrages, have come to an end. But in
Gaza it never ends. 16-year-old Mahmoud (ph) surveys what's, until Saturday, was his home in Gaza's Sheikh Ijlin neighborhood.
You feel like you don't have a life here, he says.
For more than 20 years, this small strip of land, home to two million people, has reeled from one round of death and destruction to another. In
Gaza City Shifa Hospital, 10-year-old Miyar Shekyan (ph) is recovering from shrapnel wounds to her shoulder, chest, and abdomen. She was wounded on her
way to the corner store. Her 11-year-old cousin, Hussam (ph), was also wounded. Miyar's mother, Mona (ph), despairs for the children's future.
It seems when I die, she says, the generations after me will inherit bigger and bigger wars.
In the next room, two-year-old Basheer (ph) lies sleeping, shrapnel lodged in his head. Outside the hospital, life goes on. The markets are bustling.
WEDEMAN (on camera): Gaza seems to have an incredible ability to bounce back war after war. But each one of these wars leaves yet another layer of
WEDEMAN (voiceover): Psychologist Ayez Samour (ph) has been treating people here for decades. He lists the woes awaiting the young.
No work. No life. The feeling there is no tomorrow, he says. It's as if they're on death row. No hope. No optimism. 10-year-old Atalla (ph) tries
to find buyers for his mint, but no luck. Surviving war, surviving peace, it's all a struggle it never ends.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It's as if they are on death row, really powerful words there. Our thanks to Ben Wedeman.
Well, let's turn now to Noa Landau, the deputy editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Noa, welcome to the program. We appreciate your
time. So, give us the latest from a start here as to that fragile Egypt brokered ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad.
NOA LANDAU, DEPUTY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HAARETZ: Hi, Bianna. So, we're used to these, you know, vicious cycles of violence from time to time. And I think
there's a lot of frustration in Gaza and in Israel alike from these rounds that seem to never end.
This round was triggered by in arrest of a commander in the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, not in Gaza. Because Israel says it had intel about a
retaliation that Islamic Jihad in Gaza was spanning, and the fact that Israelis in the south, at the border with Gaza, were under certain siege
for a while, under quarantine. At one moment, Israel decided that it wants to launch the attack first.
So, they attacked in Gaza and they assassinated two commanders of Islamic Jihad. But I think, Bianna, what was different this time is that Israel
emphasized all the time that they are targeting Islamic Jihad and not Hamas. And Hamas actually did not intervene in this round, which is
different than -- there was something similar actually in 2019, but broadly speaking it is different from other rounds.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it is notable. And Hamas is the most dominant of the two militant groups in the occupied territory. It has sovereignty. It's an
elected body. Really, in that area. And the question is, why did they choose to sit this round out? Because had they not -- I mean, we could have
seen a repeat of what happened last year with those 11 -- that 11-day war.
LANDAU: Right, so it was different also in terms of the fact that Palestinians, Arabs within Israel did not demonstrate and participate this
And it was also, of course, different because of Hamas. The question, you know, whether why did Hamas did not intervene this time has to do also with
some of the measures and steps that Israel as a center left-leaning government was trying to start and have some civilian support, some
economic measures, some financial support to the Gaza Strip in the recent months. It also has to do with President Biden's visit. There were lots of
promises for that kind of support for the Gaza strip. And what people are saying is that Hamas did not want to risk that.
GOLODRYGA: What role did Egypt play in all of this, in terms of not only negotiating the ceasefire, but also having Hamas sit on the sidelines?
LANDAU: Right. So, Egypt's role is really crucial in each round. Egypt is the main negotiator. The one that kind of sits in between Israel and Hamas.
You know Israel defines Hamas as a terror organization. They don't really speak directly to Hamas. They speak to Hamas through Egypt. So, their
presence is crucial in these rounds as the party that actually conducts these negotiations together with the UN. So, they are the mediators in all
of these rounds. And this time also they played this crucial part.
GOLODRYGA: And there's also pressure within Gaza -- among Gazans themselves on Hamas. Is there not? In terms of the aftermath from last year's war,
which was devastating. There still hasn't been a real rebuilding of buildings there that had been attacked. And people were just now starting
to revive the economy, which remains in shambles.
LANDAU: Right. So, after President Biden's last visit, there were a lot of discussions about what kind of measures can be done to ease the situation
in terms of the everyday lives of people in Gaza. Of course, you know, Gaza is under siege. You can say, you know, from the Israeli side and also from
the Egyptian all these years.
So, they were talking about allowing some work permits for Palestinians in Gaza to come and work within Israel. And these are some of the steps that
were discussed before this round and, hopefully, they will happen.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, and we should note that given those work permits, since Monday, the border crossings between Israel and Palestinians has remained
open. You've written an interesting op-ed this week just in terms of the role of the Israeli government and its relationship with Hamas. Hamas has
now been in power for 15 years. And there has been somewhat of an ideological shift, just given that they are now in charge politically of
And you write that Israel now needs to really focus on restarting talks with Hamas. And you say, people who realize that in the end, the solution
to the conflict is diplomatic, not military, should welcome the understanding that whether we want it or not, Hamas is the only partner for
dialogue in the Gaza Strip.
LANDAU: Right. So, this is of course complicated because, as I said, Israel sees Hamas as a terror organization. But in the end, these are the people
who control the Gaza Strip. These are the people who decide if they want to join the fight against Israel when Islamic Jihad is being targeted. And
these are the people you need to talk to if you want to have, someday, in the long term, a diplomatic solution and peace, and an end to the conflict.
So, there's really no other address. I mean, of course, it's also complicated because you have the PA. And the efforts to kind of divide and
conquer also the Palestinian sides because you have the West Bank and you have Gaza. And ideally you would negotiate and talk to one partner in, you
know, the road to a two-state solution with someone that would represent all Palestinians.
But this is not the actual situation. The actual situation is that you have Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip. And if you want to somehow move forward,
you have to actually talk to these people. And what the Egyptians are doing, mediating between the sides, is somehow just providing, you know,
this kind of a blur to the fact that Israel is actually negotiating with Hamas.
Because even if it's through the Egyptians, this is what's happening.
GOLODRYGA: And you also have to factor in that there's an upcoming election in Israel. And Yair Lapid is basically just the caretaker right now of the
Israeli government. And I'm just curious, as he is approaching going up against Bibi Netanyahu. Is this a top priority for Israeli voters or is
their focus diverted to other issues like the economy?
LANDAU: So, it was really interesting to see that the first time in many years, in 12 years, there was actually a center left-leaning government
with an actual Arab Islamic party within the coalition that was in charge of this war in Gaza. And it was very risky from that point of view.
And what the government tried to do was to keep this round short as possible without a lot of casualties, because there were casualties on the
Palestinian side, but they tried to keep this as short as they can because they knew that their supporters would also have a hard time seeing this,
you know, going on for a longer period of time.
I think they did -- they succeeded with that mission. But still, if you look at the polls, it didn't really help the current caretaker government
in the polls. I think the major issue for Israelis is still Benjamin Netanyahu. There's still, you know, the big divide of people who support or
are against Benjamin Netanyahu.
GOLODRYGA: That sounds very similar to our politics here in the United States. But as we talk about the ceasefire, all ceasefires come to an end
and have to be resolved at some point. And that bigger issue is, what does the resolution look like because you've got two million people there living
in Gaza that, as we noted in Ben's piece, are living in essentially what is a prison for them? Noa Landau, always great to see you. Thank you.
LANDAU: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Well, imagine waking up to discover your skin color has changed. That is the reality best-selling author Mohsin Hamid creates in his latest
novel, "The Last White Man". The concept is rooted in his own experience after the 9/11 attacks. I spoke with him to explore how he tackles race
through magical realism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Mohsin Hamid, think you so much for joining us to talk about your latest book, "The Last White Man". Really interesting. Almost
kafkaesque concept here. The book opens with Anders, a white man waking up and realizing that he's turned a, "Deep and undeniable brown." Tell us the
back story here behind this concept.
MOHSIN HAMID, AUTHOR, "THE LAST WHITE MAN": So, it's hard to know where novels come from. But my sense is that this one probably began around 20
years ago when -- before 9/11. I was 30 years old, had lived more than half my life in the U.S., and had experienced, you know, in some degree of
discrimination, but had not thought of it as really that significant.
And then almost overnight after 9/11, I found that was being perceived differently. I was being stopped at airports, at immigration, and pulled
off aircraft on the runway one time. And people would, sort of, get uncomfortable if I came onto a bus with a backpack.
And it struck me that, you know, your position in society can change almost overnight. And I started thinking about, you know, what -- why I wanted
things to go back to what they were before. Like why -- what it meant to, sort of, want things to be pre-9/11. And should I, instead, be thinking,
you know, what is the structure of participating in it? Like, what is this whole construct around race and how we identify each other? And that, I
guess, over 20 years eventually became this book.
GOLODRYGA: You have a really fascinating background. You were born in Pakistan, grew up and went to school here in the United States, and then
subsequently moved to the United Kingdom. And you described sort of, your sort of pre-9/11 days as being white enough. And feeling comfortable
enough. And integrated enough into society, having gone to ivy league schools.
Looking back now, was the pre-9/11 what you would have considered normal, or is what has happened since then in your life over the past 21 years? Is
that what normal looks like now?
HAMID: Well, I think things weren't normal pre-9/11. It's just my awareness of how abnormal they were was more limited. And I think what 9/11, in a
sense, offered me and people like me, was a chance to, sort of, see this system that maybe had gone only partially recognized before. But the other
part of it is it's hard now to, maybe for some younger people to understand this or to imagine this.
But when I was young in, you know, the later part of the 20th century, so many of us believed that the world would just keep getting better. That,
you know, racism would diminish and the environment would be protected, and inequality would become less, and people will become more prosperous. And
there was this general sense that the world is getting better.
And I think what's happened in the last two decades is that that general sense has begun to erode. And it's now harder to imagine that the future is
some optimistic good place. And that's a huge shift. I think there's a big, big change, really, in my outlook and the outlook of people around me. The
idea that the future is no longer such an optimistic place.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, I agree with you. And there had been a sense that, prior to 9/11, really, that each generation became more progressive, more accepting,
more accommodating, more open to other peoples' views and ideas. And that, sort of, all came crashing down since.
It's interesting. You know, we spent a lot of time now as we are approaching the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from
Afghanistan, talking to people who have served in the military and this country, and the PTSD that they have suffered, and the weight they have
carried all these years, having served many tours in that country. And now to hear from people like you and to talk about, sort of, the PTSD and the
post 9/11 reality that you faced as well is really interesting. You've had your own challenges, notwithstanding the fact that you did not serve in the
HAMID: Yes. I mean, I think -- you know, to the extent that I've had challenges, I wouldn't put them, you know -- sort of, that high on the
scale of people who've had challenges, whether they've served in the military or they've lived in countries where wars have been fought, or that
they've, you know, suffered, you know, much more violently and egregiously from racism that anything I've suffered.
But I think what I would say is that I have had, I guess, a shift in my perception of how things work. And in this novel where Anders becomes
brown, this young man wakes up and he is brown. And he had been dark and he had been lighter skin when he went to bed. There's this notion that, in a
way, that he is losing something. And he feels that something has been lost to him.
But there's also, over the course of the novel, a way in which something is gained. And I think that you know, one of the things that's important at
this moment is to begin to think of, you know, what are sort of more optimistic, inclusive visions of the future that we can come up with?
Because otherwise, if we continue to view the future as this kind of pessimistic place, we will be drawn to the politics of nostalgia. Of going
back to the, you know, the better days of 20, 30, 50, 500 years ago. And I think that politics is very dangerous.
So, part of what's interesting to me is to view, I guess, some of these challenges of recent days as a chance to rethink how we can see the future
or where we want to go.
GOLODRYGA: I think now is a good opportunity for you, if you wouldn't mind, to read the opening paragraph of your book for us.
HAMID: One morning, Anders, a white man, woke up to find he had turned a deep and undeniable brown. This dawned upon him gradually. And then
suddenly, first, as a sense as he reached for his phone, but the early light was doing something strange to the color of his forearm.
Subsequently, and with a start, as a momentary conviction that there was somebody else in bed with him. Male, darker. But this, terrifying though it
was, was surely impossible.
And he was reassured that the other moved as he moved was in fact, not a person, not a separate person. But was just him. Anders. Causing a wave of
relief. For the idea that someone else was there, was only imagined. Then, of course, the notion that he had changed color was a trick, too. An
optical illusion or a mental artifact. Born in a slippery halfway place between dreams and wakefulness. Except that by now, he had his phone in his
hands and he had reversed the camera, and he saw that the face looking back at him was not his at all.
GOLODRYGA: And we would come to find out later in the book that Anders is really Patient Zero. That others awakened to find themselves brown and not
white any longer. Why use that as, sort of, an impetus here? To not focus exclusively on one man's transformation, but society as a whole?
HAMID: Well, I think that -- you know, what's happened in contemporary society is that we've come up with this imaginary category that we call
race. And it's been, sort of, imposed on us. It's been imagined on us. And once we imagine it into existence, it becomes very real.
But it is an imagined thing. You know, when Columbus set out to discover what he thought was India, or to get to India, and sort of wound up in the
Americas. He, you know, left a Spain that he just completed, it was called a re-conquest where the Muslim kings of Spain had been defeated by catholic
kings and queens.
And at that time, the question people are asking wasn't -- you know, are you of North African descent? It wasn't really a ration question. The
question people in Spain were asking is, are you a Muslim or a Jew, or are you a catholic? And at that time, that was what people, in a sense, were
dividing people into categories on the basis of.
And so, in the subsequent 500 hundred years, we have created, imagined into existence this, you know, fairly horrific racial system. And it's been sort
of made up by people throughout history. But I suspect that in the centuries to come, it'll be unmade. And we can, sort of, imagine our way
out of it. That there's a way to start to undermine and make this racial belief system, I guess, start to become unstable.
And so, in the novel, what happens is that becomes impossible for people to figure out, you know, what race somebody is. And that is, you know, deeply
troubling to some people and deeply upsetting to some people. But it forces them to begin to try to figure out other ways to understand who a person
GOLODRYGA: Thank you so much for your time. Really, really is a great read. We appreciate it.
HAMID: My pleasure. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Very thoughtful conversation we had.
Well, now we turn to the power of friendship. But not in the way you might expect. A new study has found that cross-class connections are key in
helping children rise out of poverty. Behind the research is Raj Chetty, professor of economics at Harvard University and Director of Opportunity
Insights, an organization studying have to give disadvantaged children a better chance of success. He speaks to Walter Isaacson about his research
and how to restore the American dream.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Bianna. And Professor Raj Chetty, welcome to the show.
RAJ CHETTY, WILLIAM A. ACKMAN PROFESSOR OF ECONOMIC, HARVARD UNIVERSITY AND OPPORTUNITY INSIGHTS DIRECTOR: Thank you, Walter. My pleasure.
ISAACSON: You published a while back, a few years ago, the Opportunity Atlas. And now, you have two papers in nature where you expand on that,
where you talk about opportunities for kids from different zip codes, different backgrounds. Explain the Opportunity Atlas and how that led to
CHETTY: Yes, absolutely. So, for the past several years and my research here at Harvard, Opportunity Insights. We've been interested in
understanding the roots of upward mobility in America. What gives children the best chances of rising up? What determines whether you go on to be
successful in life, rising out of poverty if you grew up in an above-income family, and so on.
And so, in some work we did several years ago to construct what we call the Opportunity Atlas, we use information from anonymized tax returns covering
a centrally all children born in the U.S. in the early 1980s to measure children's chances of rising up for every zip code in America.
So, what we did is map kids back to where they grew up, link them to their parents using information from tax returns, and asked, if you grew up in a
low-income family, say, a family making about $30,000 a year, how -- where would you end up 30 years later in the income distribution? And what we
found is there are really big differences in different parts of America in children's chances of rising up.
There are some parts of the country, like much of rural Iowa, for example, much of the Great Plains, where kids who grew up in a low-income families
have great chances of rising into the middle class or beyond. But then there are other parts of the country, much of the southeast, cities like
Charlotte and Atlanta. Places like Detroit and Indianapolis where kids' chances of rising up are much poorer.
And so, Walter, the key question that emerged from that earlier work is, what is driving that variation? Why is it that kids in certain cities and
some neighborhoods have much better chances of rising up than others? And naturally, we, and many other researchers, have investigated a variety of
explanations. Things like the quality of local schools, poverty rates, rates of crime, of issues like family structure, and so forth. And people
have found a role for each of these, but there is still a lot that remained to be explained. And that's what motivated this most recent work on trying
to understand the potential importance of social capital in driving economic mobility.
ISAACSON: One of the factors you didn't mention in that long list was race. To what extent is that correlated?
CHETTY: Yes. So, there are important differences by race in upward mobility in America. And I'm glad you emphasized that. I think race plays an
incredibly important role here.
And so, in some of our earlier work, we showed that black kids and black boys, in particular, have much lower chances of rising up in the income
distribution relative to white boys. Even controlling for parental income.
So, if you take a black boy and a white boy starting in a family, earning the same amount, living in the same neighborhood, going to the same school,
both raised in a two-parent household, you still see really significant differences in their prospects for rising up. And that is what underlies
racial disparities in America, and is an important ongoing factor that, of course, we're all aware of and something to be addressed going forward.
ISAACSON: In these new studies, you used a Gotcha (ph). I mean, a real Gotcha, a Facebook data. I mean, millions and millions. First of all, how
did you get Facebook to allow you to use that data? Was it anonymized? And to what -- how do you end up processing that much data?
CHETTY: I, with my collaborators, approached Meta, the owner of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to talk about this idea of whether we could use
Facebook data in a privacy protected manner to study these important social questions. In particular, whether social capital might be relevant for
economic mobility, and how we might be able to increase social capital in America.
And I think, like many private sector companies, naturally, there are concerns about protecting privacy, making sure the data are used in ways
that can inform policy but don't compromise any single person's information. And so, we took a number of steps, Walter, to anonymize the
data. To make sure any statistics we're releasing would not inadvertently reveal information about any one person. Taking all those safeguards, we
were then able to take, as you noted, an enormous data set.
Data on 70 million Facebook users between the ages of 25 and 44. So, why that age range? We want to focus on an age range for lots of people who are
on Facebook. In that age range, 85 percent of Americans are on the Facebook platform. So, you have good data and virtually everybody in the country in
that age range.
And between them, they have 21 billion friendships, which we then analyzed using the power of modern technology to construct measures for every zip
code and every high school and every college in America on different notions of social capital. So, one example is to what extent are low-income
and high-income people friends with each other in a given place?
Another example is what we call cohesiveness. To what extent is a network of friends fragmented into separate clicks versus everyone being friends
with everyone? A more cohesive community. So, we were able to construct a variety of different measures of social capital using these unprecedented
ISAACSON: So, what were the findings? What did you figure out about what allow some kids to rise from the lowest levels of poverty to upper and
middle class, and some kids not to be able to?
CHETTY: So, there is a very simple and clear finding from the data, which is, if you look at these different measures of social capital, measures of
connections between people in different levels of income, measures of cohesiveness, the fragmentation of networks, or other measures that people
have talked about like volunteering rates. How much people trust each other? How strong are -- is the community?
The data show clearly that that first set of measures of cross-class interaction are strongly predictive of upward mobility. In fact, the
strongest predictor we have identified, to date, in numerous studies that researchers have done. So, what I mean by that is, if you grow up in a zip
code where low-income folks are interacting more with high-income folks, you see significantly higher rates of upward mobility. You are more likely
to rise out of poverty if you move at a young age to a zip code where there's more interaction across class lines.
So, that's a very clear result that emerges from the data. And what's more, Walter, and what really, I think, had us excited is that that relationship
explains a lot of prior findings that people had established in the literature.
So, we talked earlier, for example, about the role of race. It's been well documented that more racially segregated neighborhoods tend to have lower
rates of upward economic mobility. Kids are less likely to stay poverty in areas that are predominantly black neighborhoods, for example. And so, what
we show in this study is that pattern is completely explained by this measure of cross-class interaction that we call economic connectedness.
Those types of neighborhoods, racially segregated areas, tend to be very disconnected. Low-income kids there tend not to have many interactions with
folks from higher income backgrounds who might provide them with job opportunities, with internships, with information about how to apply to
college, who might shift their aspirations. And once we account for that, we can fully explain why more racially segregated areas have lower levels
of upward mobility.
So, a number of previous patterns have been documented that are somewhat puzzling can be explained by this new measure of cross-class interaction.
ISAACSON: So, you looked at Facebook friending, for example, and you found in some zip codes, people made friends from people of different economic
classes. And some zip codes, they tended to stick in their own class. And I think you compared Silver Spring, Maryland to Little Rock, right? How do
you factor out the other possible things that are different between Little Rock and Silver Spring, Maryland?
CHETTY: Yes, that's a great question. What we're able to do, Walter, is two things. First, by looking at kids who move at different ages to these
neighborhoods. We're able to show that it's something about growing up in a neighborhood that has a lot of cross-class interaction that leads kids to
do better in adulthood.
So, if you move at an early year age to one of these places, you have a better chance of rising out of poverty than if you move later. So, that
shows us there's kind of a dosage effect and indicates that it's something about the environment in which you are growing up that is having an
influence. It rules out the possibility that it's just different types of people living in different places, who get different jobs. You know, it
can't be something as simple as that.
But then second, you know, let's take one specific example. We see that places where people have more higher-income friends, they tend to be places
with lower poverty rates. That makes intuitive sense, right? You tend to be friends with the people around you. If you live in a very poor community,
you're going to have fewer high-income friends.
So, you might wonder, well, places with - that have lower incomes, they also have less resources for their schools, with property tax, financing.
They may have higher rates of crime. They may have other lack of resources on various dimensions. And so, how do we know that it's about the economic
connectedness and not the poverty rates directly that are affecting kids' outcomes? So, what we're able to do is an analysis where we compare the
effects of poverty rates versus cross-class interaction.
So, basically, think of an example where we take a bunch of places that have different rates of poverty, but all have the same level of interaction
across class lines. What we show is across those places, there's not much a difference in kids' chances of rising up, even though some are much richer
But now, think about the opposite dimension. Suppose I look at places where the poor interact a lot more with the rich, but they all have the same
level of incomes overall. There I find an enormous difference in economic mobility as I move to the places where the poor interacting more with the
rich. So, doing comparisons like this across the thousands of zip codes in America, it really looks like the key factor that predicts differences in
economic mobility are the degree of cross-class interaction, not poverty rates.
ISAACSON: OK. I get it. And I really loved reading the papers. But what should we do about it? What are the policy implications?
CHETTY: Yes, so I think what this data suggests, like a lot of recent work on these issues, is that first of all this is changeable. We don't have to
look to the Scandinavian system or back to the 1950s to a period where we had much higher economic mobility in order to figure out how to change
things. Often, you just need to look two miles down the road and you see kids having much better chances of rising up.
So, we should see that as an encouraging sign in an era with a lot of pessimism about many social and economic issues. There are places where
things are thriving. And I think we need to focus on those, learn from them, and figure out how we can, A, maybe give kids access to those
opportunities by helping them perhaps move those neighborhoods. Desegregating our cities through things like affordable housing programs,
housing measures, changing and zoning regulations, and so on. All of which can create that integration and provide greater access to opportunity.
But then second, figure out how you bring opportunity to the neighborhoods where it's currently lacking. And what these latest papers are suggesting
is that thinking about social interaction and how, in particular, you bring people together so that they actually interact across class lines may be an
important element to focus on.
And critically there, Walter, I think there's a lot of discussion about what we call the exposure dimension. So, bringing people together
physically, where we try and integrate schools, where we try to change school district boundaries, or change zoning laws, and so on. And I think
while we haven't been completely successful, there's a lot of focus on that type of thing, reducing segregation in America.
But what we show in this new work is that, even conditional on that, there is a tendency for people not to interact with people from different
backgrounds, even when they go to the same school, what we call friending biased, and figuring out how to tackle that dimension, I think, is equally
Trying to understand why kids are splitting apart within schools. How you might change that through things like changes in tracking policies, the
size of classrooms, and so forth.
ISAACSON: Yes, I noticed that when you look at the friending data. If it's a really big school or a really big institution of any type, it's harder.
People self-segregate a bit. But if you make it into smaller interactions, maybe you can have more socioeconomic mixing. Is that some policy we should
be doing in our schools, having smaller schools and --
CHETTY: I think that's exactly right, Walter. And the intuition is really very simple. I mean, think about going to a dinner party where there are 10
people who are invited. You probably will talk to everybody by the end of the evening. Suppose you go to a party with 500 people, you're probably
going to go look for the folks you know. People who are like you. And not end up interacting with everyone. So, that phenomenon plays out
systematically across our institutions.
ISAACSON: And on the flip side, it seems to be an argument against what happens at some schools, universities, whatever, in which you have clubs
based on various things. Including ethnic clubs, or racial clubs, or you know, fraternities. Does that work against cross-economic mixing?
CHETTY: That's exactly right. So, what we see in the data is places -- colleges, that have more group life, for example. To take one example that
you mentioned, fraternities and sororities, they tend to be the ones that have a lot of friending bias. So, you can have these big public
institutions that, in principle, on the surface, look very diverse. They look like they're bringing people together.
But in practice, and it's very interesting to read things like student newspapers that bring this out, you know, because of simple things like dos
or the costs associated with activities that certain kids might be able to participate in and not others. You start to get the segmentation within the
It also goes beyond colleges, Walter. So, an example, we've given the paper and I think it's telling is if you look at religious institutions, faith-
based organizations, or you look at recreational groups, those are some of the groups where we see the least friending bias, where we see the most
interaction across class lines. And my sense of what might be going on there is, at your church or in your synagogue, in your temple, you know,
you see people from different backgrounds and you have something in common. And that tends to lead to interactions across class lines that look
different than they do in other settings where there's this kind of stratification.
So, certainly, something to think more about. What is it about those places where we might be able to learn some lessons? And think about how we create
some of our interactions in other settings as well.
ISAACSON: What you're writing about goes to the heart of the American dream. This notion that people can -- as Benjamin Franklin wrote about in
his autobiography, start off poor with a few coins in his pocket, and move up in the world. So, based on all of these studies, what can people like
us, what can we do to make sure that America remains a land of opportunity?
CHETTY: So, what I would suggest is the simplest message. You know, when we think of issues like the American dream, inequality, trans and economic
mobility, there's a tendency to think, oh, that's all in the hands of federal policymakers. And we've got to resolve this in Washington before
anything is really going to change.
And I think, of course, federal policy is extremely important. But what these data are showing, the sharp community level differences are that
there's a lot we can do in our own communities to try to create more integration. In fact, you can look up the data yourself. Go to a website
called the Social Capital Atlas at socialcapital.org. Anyone can freely access. Just type in your address, and you can see in your community to
what extent are low-income folks interacting with high-income folks.
And if it's low, is that because of a lack of exposure. That people are attending different groups versus, you know, the friending bias phenomenon
within schools and so on. And using that kind of information, you know, it could be as simple as, when you're deciding where to send your kid, to a
camp, and if you're interested in creating more of this cross-class interaction, you know, maybe you make a different decision there or foster
a different set of interactions in terms of who you invite over, or where you volunteer, or the kinds of activities you participate in.
I honestly think each of us can make a significant difference at the individual level. I also think we need systematic policy changes and things
like zoning regulations, and affordable housing, and schools, and so forth. But these are complex problems where each of us can be empowered to really
make a difference in reviving the American dream.
ISAACSON: Professor Raj Chetty, thanks so much for joining us.
CHETTY: Thank you, Walter. My pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And finally, tonight, one of my favorite stories of the day. A lesson in sportsmanship from the little league. At the world series
regional playoffs, a ball from Texas East pitcher, Kaiden Shelton, hit Oklahoma batter Isaiah Jarvis in the head, knocking him to the ground.
Well, after a few moments, Isaiah was OK. Standing up and making his way to first base. But then he noticed Kaiden visibly upset about the incident and
walked over to comfort his opponent. A hug and some reassuring words from Isaiah to let him know that he was OK. Made the sporting scare a moment to
be remembered. Some major league players can learn a thing or two from Isaiah and Kaiden.
Well, that is it from now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast, and across social media. Thank you so much for watching, and goodbye from