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Interview with The Wall Street Journal Chief China Correspondent and "Superpower Showdown" Author Lingling Wei; Interview with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); Interview with "Partisans" Author Nicole Hemmer. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 01, 2022 - 13:00:00   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what is coming up.

A long-awaited report from the U.N. drops, what it says about Beijing's treatment of the Uyghurs. "Wall Street Journal" China chief correspondent

Lingling Wei joins me.

Plus, a year on since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. I ask Senator Jeanne Shaheen about her continued fight for Afghan women and girls. Then -



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I can't watch it now. I will save it to the Cloud and leave it for my grandchildren and children. They

should know about this crime and always remember who our neighbors are.


SIDNER: Ukrainian officials say it's a war crime caught on camera. How a gruesome recording may help bring some justice in Ukraine. And --


NICOLE HEMMER, AUTHOR, "PARTISANS": The problem isn't just Donald Trump. It is this much bigger change that has been happening on the right for a

quarter of a century.


SIDNER: The rise of grievance conservatism. Historian Nicole Hemmer tells our Walter Isaacson how partisans reshaped the Republican Party.

Welcome to the program. I'm Sara Sidner in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. That is the conclusion of a long-awaited and much-delayed report from the United

Nations. China's vast western region of Xinjiang is home to a large population of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups. The Uyghurs, the largest

among them. The blistering report condemns what journalists and human rights organizations have reported on for years now.

The arbitrary, discriminatory, and violent detention of a people that Beijing sees as a threat. And while Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi,

claims Xinjiang is a shining example of human rights progress, the United Nations says the serious human rights violations there cannot be denied.

And Beijing has denounced the report saying it is based on disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces. Correspond Anna Coren has the



ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Tears from missing family, harrowing details of torture, of imprisonment, and even


MEHRAY TAHER, HUSBAND DETAINED IN XINJIANG: The next thing you know, your husband is in a detention center. And you can't even see him. You can't

even communicate with him.

COREN (voiceover): Now, a vindication of some of that pain suffered by Muslim minorities in China's west at the hands of the state apparatus.

Four years after stating its initial concerns, the United Nations has documented that abuses are occurring in Xinjiang. And since China may have

committed crimes against humanity in its interment of some one million people in what Beijing calls vocational education training camps.

The damning report, published minutes, before U.N. Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, left her post. China vehemently opposed its release.

RAYHAN ASAT, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER, UYGHUR ADVOCATE: Since World War II, this is the second time we're ever seeing a government, a powerful

government, building massive and large-scale concentration camps to collectively punish a population for just being who they are.

COREN (voiceover): China insists its camps are used to deradicalize religious extremists. And that the facilities are closed, a claim the U.N.

says it couldn't verify this claim. Its propaganda paints a picture of violent separatism in the Xinjiang region.

The U.N. says, ultimately, China's antiterror campaign has led to the large-scale arbitrary deprivation of liberty. The liberty of people like

Ekpar, brother of New York human rights lawyer, Rayhan Asat. A successful entrepreneur, Ekpar traveled with the Chinese delegation to the U.S. in

2016 for a month-long trip. Even visiting CNN headquarters in Atlanta.

ASAT: It was in weeks returning from the United States. He was forcibly disappeared by the Chinese government into the shadows of its -- to one of

these camps. And it's been six years, four months, and still counting.

COREN (voiceover): China has kept the world away from its alleged crimes in Xinjiang. Bachelet herself was not allowed to speak to any Uyghurs in

Xinjiang for her report.


But for years, rights groups and news organizations, including CNN, have uncovered alleged abuses in Xinjiang. Including sexual violence and forced

sterilization inside the Xinjiang camps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't do this. Don't do this. I cried. Please, don't do this.

COREN (voiceover): Human rights groups says the international community can no longer remain silent.

SOPHIE RICHARDSON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: States should be going into the human rights council thinking, armed with this report, what best can we do

to end the violations in that region and find justice for the victims and survivors? That's what should be driving their next actions, not boil back

from Beijing.

COREN (voiceover): Despite the mounting evidence, Beijing refers to the human rights allegations as the great lie of the century. It says the

report is a farce. That the United Nations has succumbed to a western plot to discredit China. The report itself accuses China of intimidating Uyghurs

abroad. Threatening those brave enough to speak out against a system they say is designed to destroy them.


SIDNER: That was Anna Coren reporting there for us. And the U.N. report comes on top of a series of difficulties for Beijing, from a growing real

estate crisis to a record-breaking heat wave and new lockdowns as the country continues to pursue its zero-COVID policy.

Lingling Wei is chief China correspondent at "The Wall Street Journal" and she's joining me now from New York. Welcome to the program.


SIDNER: So, we just heard Anna Coren's report and -- where she detailed some of the, you know, major issues that the U.N. sees there naming the,

you know, sort of human rights violations many of them. But there has been a huge pushback from China. It's been fierce. It's been strong. And it's

nearly three times the amount -- length of the report itself from the U.N. So, inside China, has there been any fallout? Are people even seeing this


WEI: Sure. Not surprisingly. We haven't seen too much coverage in the very tightly controlled state media. But "The Wall Street Journal" reported this

morning that the propaganda department of the top leadership has already instructed state media outlets basically to portray this U.N. report as an

effort led by the United States and other anti-China forces.

You know, as you pointed out, Sara, this report really represents another big challenge for Beijing. Earlier this year, we have seen China's much-

touted partnership with Russia right before Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Already created this kind of guff, right, on with China on one side and

much of the rest of the world on the other side.

Now, given that the Xinjiang report likely will make China even more isolated and on the world stage, China likely would intensify its efforts

to get governments that are friendly to Beijing to support its positions at major forms, including the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is

due to coming (ph) this month.

SIDNER: So, just last week I spoke with the outgoing U.N. human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, who put this report together. And she told me

that she did actually confront Chinese officials when she was there with these allegations. Here's what she had to say.



years. I mean, many people were talking about what was happening in China but didn't have the possibility to raise this concern directly to the

authorities. For example, I did it with all the authorities I spoke to.

So, I have to say, it was supposed -- a real possibility that very few people have had to raise direct concerns and direct allegations with the

most important people.


SIDNER: She faced criticism for going in the first place and speaking to Chinese officials. But she said, as you heard there, that it's been 17

years since there's been engagement and it needs to happen. Then they come out with this damning report. But the next steps as to what happens with

China and its relationship, for example, with the rest of the world and the U.N. is still unclear. Do you get a sense that this is a game-changer for

how the world will respond to China?

WEI: This document, for sure, is a milestone document, right? Because it's -- for the first time in recent history, the U.N. has come out and directly

criticize China on human rights violations. But, in terms of what kind of changes it can lead to, obviously, it's too early to see -- to say this for



You know, for the immediate future we are going to see very, very strong -- continued very strong response coming out of Beijing and an intensified

effort from China to try to, you know, get their views shared by more contrasting international community.

And also, right now, the Chinese leadership is very much laser-focused on having this big part of Congress that's scheduled for October, when we're

going to see a new leadership line -- leadership lineup unveiled. So, they're very much focused on a very smooth power transition, you know.

We're not going to see too much change in terms of policies --

SIDNER: And it's clear that China --

WEI: -- right now.

SIDNER: Yes, China holds significant sway there at the U.N. And so, there's going to be a lot of questioning as to whether there's going to be

a deeper formal U.N. investigation.

I do want to move on to other issues. Because China is facing a bevy of really serious issues that its population is suffering through. And one of

them are the lockdowns, which happen very quickly, with little notice. And we have seen -- we have all seen the pictures. Sometimes they're pretty

brutal. They just, you know, lock everything down. And if you haven't gone to get groceries, you're in trouble.

So, what -- why has China continued with this zero-COVID policy? Despite all of the disruptions it is causing its people, who are quite upset about

it and its economy?

WEI: You're exactly right, Sara. The zero-COVID policy has been devastating to the overall economy and also to people's lives and China. It

becomes increasingly intolerable. However, you know, everything, these days in China, is very much driven by politics. The zero-COVID policy is the

signature policy launched by President Xi Jinping. You know, it has a lot of political significance for him at a very crucial year for him,

politically speaking.

So, in order to change the policy, you know, there has to be a number of things that have to happen before that can take place. You know, in

addition to, basically, make sure that any change in the policy doesn't represent, you know, a loss of face for the top leader. Practically

speaking, China also has had to beef up the vaccination rate among the population. Right now, the rate is relatively low compared to western

countries, especially among the elderly population.

So, you know, as you pointed out, the economy really has been in the worse shape it has been in years. The zero-COVID policy, the housing market

crisis, and most recently we have seen this extremely extreme heat, and the, you know, resounding energy crunch. It has all, you know, jacked down

growth further.

You know, the government recently has decked up some efforts to stimulate growth, you know, central bank has cut interest rates. The government also

is trying to encourage localities to borrow more to invest in infrastructure, you know. However, the fundamental problem in China's

economy these days is a lack of demand from those consumers and businesses alike.

And there have been rising levels of discontent with China -- within China as a result of the zero-COVID policy. You know, we, in our conversations

with some entrepreneurs back in China, they're really wondering aloud, are the best days behind China now?

SIDNER: Wow, that -- you know, that's big because China has been such a driver of growth. But do you think, at this point, that it is headed for a

recession like other parts of the world, partly due to COVID? And if so, and how it's doing now, which isn't great economically, will the rest of

the world feel that because China is so tied in? It's good sending it out to the rest of the world.

WEI: For sure, Sara. You know, as China slows, the rest of the world feels the impact. The government, earlier this year, has set a very lofty gross

target for the country, it's about 5.5 percent. But right now, as things stand now, that target is increasingly out of reach.


We have seen analysts dramatically slashing their growth forecast for China for 2022 from initially as high as 4.5 percent to now as low as three

percent. So, we're definitely seeing China -- a dramatic China -- Chinese slowdown. And the big question is, you know, especially after the

leadership transition, if the government is going to do anything to help resuscitate growth? And are we going to see any meaningful course

correction in China's economic policy?

SIDNER: Lingling, I'm curious about the Chinese people who are living with this, as you mentioned, an unprecedented heat wave, hotter than it's ever

been. These lockdowns that come fast and furious. There was a mortgage revolt earlier with buyers of unfinished apartments saying, we're not going

to pay for these as they stand unfinished.

Despite the fact that China really does try to limit protest and limit dissent, is there a change? Are you sensing a change among the Chinese

population that are becoming more emboldened to stand up and say, we can't live like this?

WEI: Right. The political environment in China remains very restrictive. So, any kind of sizeable protest is very hard to be pulled off. You know,

but for sure all that you have mentioned couldn't have come at the worst possible time for the Chinese leadership, especially President Xi Jinping.

You know, going into this year, he had hoped for stability. Economically, socially, and geopolitically. As he's trying to rally support for an

unprecedented third term in office. But based on, you know, the conversations we have had with Chinese contacts, you know, there's very

little doubt that Xi Jinping won't get another term in power.

The one big question is -- given the rising economic pressure, given the rising levels of social discontent, the big question is, whether Xi Jinping

is going to get all that he want and whether he will have to make concessions on certain personnel and policy issues. You know, those

questions are very important because it really will matter to the policy direction of the country going forward.

SIDNER: You know, you talked about the enormous challenges that President Xi is facing. But I want to put this out to you to see what you think. The

University of Chicago political scientist, Dali Yang, said this, that very often, when there are challenges, it is not necessarily bad for the supreme

leader at all. In fact, authoritarian leaders like Xi thrive on challenges and often use such crises to enhance their power. Is there a chance that Xi

could, sort of, turn this around using the crises to actually take advantage of them? Because, as you said, he is expected to secure an

unprecedented third term.

WEI: Right. Professor Yang raised a very fair point. You know, for sure the Communist Party itself, over years, has thrived on crises. You know, in

China, the saying -- as the saying goes, they will never let one -- any crisis go, you know, unused.

But, you know, powerful as Xi Jinping is, he is still very much constrained by China's political system and economic reality. He's really facing

resistance within the party to his authority. And there has been politicking underway over leadership appointments that could further

enhance or hemming (ph) his power going forward. You know, notably this year, we have seen his number two, the premier, you know, who has been

sidelined for much of the past decade, regaining the mandate of managing the economy.

The Premier, Li Keqiang, you know, represents more pragmatic and technocratic side of the Chinese leadership. He believes economic

development should remain the central task of the party. While President Xi is still very much focused on, you know, politics and ideology.

So, you know, what has been going on in recent months is that, you know, the premier, basically Xi Jinping's number two, has been trying to

influence who his successor is as a premier. Whether he succeeds or not will impact the future direction of China's economic policymaking. And we

should know for sure in a couple of months.


SIDNER: Well, I thank you so much, Lingling Wei, for joining us and giving us that quite incredible insight into what is happening there in China.

WEI: Pleasure to be here.

SIDNER: And the United States has been vocal in its criticism of Beijing over its treatments of the Uyghurs. From the Trump administration accusing

the Chinese government of genocide, to the Biden administration banning all goods from the Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor. A bill, my

next co-sponsor -- my next guest, excuse me, co-sponsored.

Jeanne Shaheen is a Democratic senator from New Hampshire and a member of the foreign relations committee. A role where she has championed the rights

of Afghan women and girls for years. And she is joining me right now. Thank you so much for joining me and welcome to the program.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Thank you. Nice to be with you.

SIDNER: Jeanne, I want to start first with this China-U.N. report. A damning report, basically saying that China is violating human rights

against an entire region and an entire people, in particular, the Uyghurs. What do you think is going to happen now? Because China does hold quite a

bit of sway, for example, in U.N. member states.

SHAHEEN: Well, I was pleased to see the U.N. report say what most of the rest of the world has known for some time, and that is that the PRC and

President Xi are trying to wipe out the Uyghur population in China. And China has tried to use international organizations, like the U.N., to

prevent this kind of a report from being heard in the world.

So, I think it's important to have that information out there. And I hope it helps us as we try and prevent China from using their economic and other

tools internationally to prevent countries from telling the truth about what's really happening in China.

SIDNER: You know, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, do you think that there will be some very specific legislation, an action

taken by the U.S. in response to this report?

SHAHEEN: Well, I hope so. I certainly think that those of us in the Senate are going to be looking very closely at ways in which we can address the

issues that are being raised in the report. We have continued -- I've worked with Senator Rubio to try and address investments in China so that

we're not allowing investments in China that will have an impact on public employees, for example.

So, I think we've got a look at a whole range of ways in which we can try and hold the PRC accountable for what's going on.

SIDNER: Is there worry though if, you know, if and when you do that that there will be blowback economically, and everyone is suffering economically

after the effects of the pandemic and the supply chains being broken? The world is in a difficult place right now.

SHAHEEN: Well, certainly, we have seen China try and hold hostage the rest of the world in many ways. But I don't think we can allow that to prevent

us from taking action when what we see going on in China against the Uyghur population is such a gross violation of human rights and of what the U. --

United Nations and what America stands for. So, I think we've got to continue to speak out. We've got to look for ways to hold China


SIDNER: I want to move on now to Afghanistan. It is the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from that country. And when, you know,

you looked at what happened there with the Taliban taking over again and the vulnerability of women and girls. You talked about that and worried

about that openly. Do you think the United States is doing enough or anything at all to protect Afghans who are in danger?

SHAHEEN: Well, I hope the whole world is going to think about more ways in which we can try and put pressure on the Taliban. The fact is, we have been

working hard to prevent diplomatic recognition by the country, not only in the United Nations but in countries, its neighboring countries, and

throughout the world.

We've been -- we are the largest contributor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. That is going to address the high percentage of people there

who are food insecure, particularly women and children.


The administration has set up an effort to dialogue with leaders in the -- in Afghanistan because we don't have the usual channels of communication.

And we've got to continue to work on that.

I have been to the U.N. with the bipartisan delegation to talk about ways in which we can provide additional assistance to women and girls. But

sadly, as you point out, the Taliban is doing exactly what many of us predicted -- they were going to do if they took over in Afghanistan.

They have restricted the ability of women to travel. They are preventing girls from going past elementary school, from being in school, in high

schools, and universities. They are requiring that women be totally covered when they go out in public. They are preventing women from participating in

work and professional jobs.

So, they are doing exactly what they did before they took back over when the United States went in and after September 11th. And we're seeing those

kinds of restrictive policies come back.

SIDNER: What is the status right now, because I know you're a part of this bipartisan group of senators who have been advocating for the rights of

Afghanistan's women. What is the status, on a whole, of women in Afghanistan from your vantage point?

SHAHEEN: It is very troubling to see that the Taliban have put back in place the kind of policies that so many in the United States, and in the

world, were so pleased to see go away when the Taliban were removed from control back after September 11th.

So, it's very troubling and we've got to look at ways in which we can keep the pressure on. Both the Taliban, I think there was a travel ban waiver

that has expired, fortunately, because there was no agreement on extending that. I think we should ban Taliban officials from traveling. They should

not have any of the diplomatic benefits that go to officials who are providing real leadership in their countries. I think the sanctions that we

have in place are very important. And we've also got to do everything we can to uplift the voices of women and girls in Afghanistan.

One of the things that I heard as -- after the United States announced that it would be pulling out of the country, and in meeting with some of the

women leaders in the country. One of the things they talked about was the importance of continuing to talk about their plight, of continuing to have

leaders, the president, the secretary of state. Leaders in the world who continue to raise the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan after the

Taliban takeover. And point out --

SIDNER: Senator --

SHAHEEN -- the importance op that.

SIDNER: -- Senator, I wanted to ask you, because you mentioned sanctions. And there is this two-minded idea about that. That the sanctions, yes, you

know, keep the money out of the hands of the Taliban. But it also, sort of, forces the Taliban back into that using of, you know, selling poppies and

that sort of thing.

And there is a great deal of worry that it will end up just hurting the population there. Is there any chance, at any point in time, that any of

that money is released because the population is just suffering so heavily?

SHAHEEN: Well, I think those negotiations continue and people are looking at that very closely. But anybody who thinks that the Taliban is not going

to promote the poppy trade, if we release those dollars. I've got some wetlands and New Hampshire, I'll sell you.

Because I just think they're going to continue to engage in their criminal activities regardless of what happens with those dollars. And

unfortunately, what we've seen is that they have not been willing to allow humanitarian aid to get to all of the people who really need it. And they

have been totally ineffective in their operations of the country.

So, when the Taliban started acting like officials who care about the people of their country and care about half of their population, then I'm

willing to have a serious conversation and advocate for the release of those funds. But until then, I think it's foolhardy to believe that the

Taliban is going to behave differently.


SIDNER: Senator, I have to ask you about this. I spoke to Craig Whitlock, the author of "The Afghanistan Papers" this week. And he goes into a litany

of things, from those who were running the war, to those who are on the ground, and basically, they are saying, look, the American people were sold

a bill of goods, and ultimately, they were lied to over and over and over again.

As the senator with the oversight over that war, do you believe that you were lied to, that the American public was lied about really what was

happening on the ground in Afghanistan during the war?

SHAHEEN: I think most of our leadership, whether it was in the embassy and our diplomats, or whether it was our military leadership on the ground

there, we are trying to do the right thing. They were working hard, trying to make a difference for the people of Afghanistan.

If -- that didn't always get translated into a realistic picture of what the long-term situation might be, that certainly something that I regret

and I know those of us who care about what's happened in that country regret. But I don't think there was a deliberate attempt to set out to

mislead the American people about what was happening there.

SIDNER: I think Craig would disagree with you on that, because he has some quotes from people saying, we knew it was going to end badly. We knew we

didn't know exactly how to get through this, even who all of the parties were that where the "enemy" but went for it anyway, kind of sticking their

heads in the sand. I do want to move on to one thing and that is --

SHAHEEN: Well, I certainly would agree that in the negotiations that the previous administration engaged with with the Taliban, there was not a

realistic assessment of what the future might bring. So, I would certainly agree with that. But that's why we, Congress, has established the

commission, to take a look at what happened during that war and to get some answers for the American people, to see who's right here and how we can

make sure this never happens again.

SIDNER: A lot of people, both soldiers and Afghans, suffered for a very long time. And now, they are suffering again there in Afghanistan.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, thank you so much for your candid conversation.

SHAHEEN: Thank you.

SIDNER: An international team of nuclear experts arrived at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant today in Eastern Ukraine. The team hopes to

establish a permanent presence at the plant, which was captured by Russian troops in March in a bid to avert catastrophe.

Ukraine has seen its share of horror since the beginning of this war. The memory of Bucha, still fresh. Local prosecutors are looking into other

possible war crimes committed by Russian troops. And there might be direct video evidence of one. CNN obtained an exclusive look at what Ukraine

authorities say is a war crime. And a warning, this report contains graphic images that you may find disturbing.


SIDNER (voiceover): Ukrainian prosecutors say, this is the moment, an undeniable war crime was carried out by Russian soldiers. This video clip

obtained by CNN has yet to be seen by the public. It shows Russian soldiers firing at something alongside a business they have just overtaken on the

outskirts of Kyiv. It turns out, their target is two unsuspecting and unarmed Ukrainian civilians, who they shoot in the back.

We first reported on this portion of the video in May, showing the business owner dying where he falls. And the guard initially surviving, but bleeding

to death after making it back to his guard shack. Both men had just spent the last few minutes speaking calmly with the Russian soldiers, who

appeared to let them go. But we now see, two of the soldiers return and fire on them.

YULIA PLYATS, FATHER OF ALLEGEDLY KILLED BY RUSSIANS (through translator): My father's name is Leonid Alekseevich Plyats.

SIDNER (voiceover): The guard's daughter, Yulia, told us then she wanted the world to know her father's name and what the Russians did to him.

SIDNER (on camera): Yulia, have you seen the video?

PLYATS (through translator): I can't watch it now. I will save it to the cloud and leave it for my grandchildren and children. They should know

about this crime and always remember who our neighbors are.

SIDNER (voiceover): And now, the Bucha prosecutor's office says, with the help of CNN's story, it has finally identified one of his executioners. The

suspect's name, Nikolai Sergeevich Sokovikov. Ukraine has informed Russia that their pretrial investigation has zeroed in on Sokovikov as the

perpetrator of the cold-blooded killing.

While prosecutors will not reveal exactly how they identified this particular soldier, we have seen one part of the process being used by

Ukrainian officials, facial recognition technology.

SIDNER (on camera): It's really fast.

SIDNER (voiceover): The Ministry of Digital Transformation gets an image, loads it into the program they have created, and it scrubs social media,

looking for a match.


Once they have a match of a soldier, dead or alive, they try to corroborate it with friends and family on the soldier's social media sites.

We have identified about 300 cases, he says.

The identification of the latest suspect for war crimes was months in the making. But is at least one step towards justice for the families who have

had something taken from them they can never get back, the life of someone they loved.


SIDNER (on camera): The soldier, Sokovikov, has been indicted in absentia.

The last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, will be laid to rest on Saturday with elements of a state funeral. But President Vladimir

Putin will not attend, according to a Kremlin spokesperson. Our next guest said, the dissolution on the USSR created a vacuum in American politics as

it emerged as the sole global superpower.

Historian, Nicole Hemmer's latest book, "Partisans," explores the conservatives who remade U.S. politics in the 1990s. She talks with Walter

Isaacson about how the decade paved the way for Donald Trump's presidency.


WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Sara. And professor Nicole Hemmer, welcome back to the show.

NICOLE HEMMER, AUTHOR, "PARTISANS": Thank you so much for having me back.

ISAACSON: I covered the Ronald Reagan campaign back in the 1980s, when I was young, and we thought this was the beginning of a new era of

conservatism. Reading your great book, I realize that in some ways, it was the end of a certain era of conservatism. Why do you make that argument?

HEMMER: So, Ronald Reagan's victory really was a sea change in American politics in many ways. But he was very much a cold war president. He was

someone who's rhetoric and policies had been shaped by this existential struggle with the Soviet Union. And when the Cold War ended, it created

this space for a new kind of conservatism to emerge, and it's that conservatism that over the course of the next quarter century, would become

dominant in Republican Party.

ISAACSON: Yes, we see with Trump a conservatism of resentment in many ways, whereas with Reagan, I remember him as sunny, as optimistic, and even

oddly enough, as pragmatic. And tell me about what Reagan really stood for. Was that a facade, that sort of happy, cheerful optimism, or was he really

somebody who had a different brand of conservatism than we see today?

HEMMER: It really was a different branch. He was someone who thought that America had real promise and the way that you sold the American promise was

through that happy warrior persona. It's not to say that he was popular everywhere. His popularity was largely among white voters, not black or

Latino voters. And it's not to say that he never played into the politics of resentment. But in -- overall, his campaign, his presidency, was about a

kind of big tent Republicanism and mourning in America.

And it's that that the Republican Party moves away from really quickly after the 1980s. You get a harsher, more resentment driven politics with

somebody like Pat Buchanan, which looks very different from Ronald Reagan's.

ISAACSON: Reagan governed somewhat as a pragmatist, which I think surprise people. I remember when he put, for example, Jim Baker to be secretary of

the treasury. Did that cause some problems on the right for him?

HEMMER: Oh, it caused huge problems. So, there were many conservatives who celebrated the election of Ronald Reagan as, now, we finally get our chance

to put our policies in place. And when Reagan would do things like -- you know, he passes one of the biggest tax cuts in American history, but then

he follows it with two of the biggest tax hikes in American history. And he would appoint people like Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, someone

conservatives had real questions about.

And so, there was a group of conservatives known as the new right, who spent the entire Reagan presidency just pummeling Reagan for those

compromises, for that pragmatism. And it's something we kind of don't remember about Ronald Reagan, but that was a core part of how he kept his

popularity so high. Whenever he started to do something unpopular, too hardline, he would back away when the public turned against it.

ISAACSON: When you talk about those sorts of partisans who took them on, whether they'd be religious ones like Pat Robertson or political

fundraisers like Richard Vickery, they took him on because he didn't really push social issues. Why did the Republican Party at that point decide that

social wedge issues, which Reagan never really hammered home, were an important part for the party?

HEMMER: So, people like Richard Vickery and then Robertson and Pat Buchanan really believed that those wedge issues were where all of the

excitement and the activism was for the base. That you could expand the base, that you could attract white Democrats to the Republican Party by

leaning into issues of culture, of race, of religion, and of resentment against the rising power of women and people of color.


And, you know, they were starting to make that argument in the 1970s, but because Reagan wasn't quite playing along as much as they would like, it

really took that next push for Reagan to get out of office and to have the space, to begin to push that politics of resentment. But they really

believed that that's how you would win elections, by polarizing them and by really leaning into that sense of loss and resentment.

ISAACSON: But I do remember there were a lot of dog whistles that Ronald Reagan did during his presidency, things that sort of verged on stoking up

racial resentment, talking about welfare queens, that sort of thing. Was that to play to the hard right or was that something that was in his


HEMMER: It was definitely something to play to the hard right. It was, you know, something that he did in his campaign. He went down to Philadelphia,

Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been killed in the 1960s and gave a speech on states' rights. There were all of these ways that he

was trying to appeal to say the people who voted for George Wallace in 1968 and 1972, the segregationist governor of Alabama.

But it is important that Reagan felt he had to use a dog whistle rather than a bull horn to attract those voters. And that's what you see in the

1990s. You see politicians put down the dog whistle, pick up the bull horn, and make much more explicit racist appeals. So, some of the attempts to

attract voters through racism, that was the same. It was just done in a very different way.

ISAACSON: One of the values of your book is that it shows how things change and brought us to the era of Trumpism, moving from Reagan-ism to

Trumpism. And you say Reagan didn't exactly pave the way for Trump, it was partly a reaction of Reagan that paves the way for Trump. Explain that

shift from Reagan-ism to Trumpism.

HEMMER: So, it's a big shift that's triggered by a lot of different factors. The end of the Cold War really is important because the Cold War

required you to celebrate democracy, right? Because that was the difference between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Almost as soon as the Cold War ends, you have partisans like Pat Buchanan who are saying, is democracy really all that important? And raising

questions about the very form of government that had been celebrated for so many years. You also have a very different media environment. And Reagan

had met an actor, but he had some real political experience by the time he became president. You see a new generation of presidential candidates who

have no political experience, but who have a platform and a base in media, and that's really different too.

So, I think that the pessimistic politics of anti- small D democracy politics, and that fairly strongly media driven, emotion driven resentment

driven politics is a major difference between the years of Reagan-ism and the years of Trumpism.

ISAACSON: Something you just said really struck me, which is to turn away from democracy. And I guess I didn't really catch it when I was covering

politics in the '90s, but that's what it's culminating now, is this sense that democracy is not some grand value in and of itself, as Ronald Reagan

believed, and that you can be anti-democracy.

HEMMER: That's right. And it feels strange to say that, because I think that -- especially for Americans, you grow up believing that is the thing

that everyone believes in. We might have a lot of different political disagreements, but certainly, we agree on democracy as a form of


And what you begin to see over the course of the 1990s is a real questioning of that. The questioning not just whether democracy is the best

form of government, but whether everyone in the U.S. essentially is fit for democracy.

We had actually gone through this period in the 1960s, where the United States really opened up, in terms of voting rights, in terms of

immigration. And by the 1990s, you have books like "The Bell Curve" that argued for genetic differences and intelligence based on race. Books like

"Alien Nation" that say that only white people should be allowed to immigrate to the United States because only they are fit for democracy.

So, even when you have the people who are more or less pro-democracy, they are pro-democracy for a much smaller group of people, and that's an

important shift and both rhetoric and policy going into the 1990s.

ISAACSON: So, how important was the race card in driving that?

HEMMER: Oh, it was hugely important. One of the things that Pat Buchanan says as he's looking at the political landscape in the 1990s, is that where

Reagan-ism went wrong was that it didn't push hard enough into issues of culture and race, and he puts those issues right at the heart of his



He helps lead a new nativist movement in the United States, that anti- immigrant politics of the 1990s, which is very much based on the idea that the wrong kind of immigrants are coming to the United States. Immigrants

are coming from Africa, they're coming from Latin America, and those aren't the right kinds of people to come to the U.S.

And, you know, it's an area of high white resentment. You hear about the angry white male as one of the political architypes of the 1990s. These

groups that are in militias. And racial politics are absolutely underpinning those movements in the '90s.

ISAACSON: When you talk about Pat Buchanan, of course, he is a media-based politician. He grew up on the type of screens you and I are on right now.

As a TV commentator. To what extent did a new form of media, well before social media, well before Twitter and Facebook, but sort of an interactive

media and its own right, which was cable TV and talk radio and people phoning in, to what extent was that driving force?

HEMMER: It was enormously important changing the politics of the 1990s. And I love that you used the word interactive because that was what was new

about so much of this media, that you could call into the (INAUDIBLE) law show and actually participating in making the media you were listening to,

that you could call into Larry King live and talk to somebody like Rosborough who announces his presidential run in '92 on Larry King's show.

And that you could feel like you are part of this new media.

And this new media was also, in part, because it was more segmented, it was really focused on blending entertainment and politics. And it was training

both a generation of pundits and a generation of politicians to think of themselves not just as people delivering the news or delivering a form of

politics, but its entertainers meant to outrage and to keep viewers and listeners engaged through anger and through emotion.

ISAACSON: Well, the primary one of those was Rush Limbaugh, who was a great entertainer but stoked up resentment, stoked up anger, stocked up

that sort of populism and faux populism, almost malicious. And one of the really interesting scenes in your book is sort of the awkward relationship

between him and George H. W. Bush. The elder Bush, who is such the opposite of the type of trend you are talking about.

HEMMER: They're such different people. And so, it becomes really interesting when you see the two of them together. Rush Limbaugh, by 1992,

when George H. W. Bush was struggling with his reelection campaign, was a juggernaut. He was a powerhouse. No one had ever seen a media figure like

him. And Bush was very concerned that if he didn't win over Rush Limbaugh, he was not going to win reelection.

And so, he courts Rush Limbaugh, through Limbaugh's -- Limbaugh had a television show at the time, and Roger Ailes was the producer of it, who

would go into found Fox News. And Ailes and Limbaugh, they go to the White House, George H. W. Bush carries Rush Limbaugh's bag, he sleeps overnight

in the Lincoln bedroom, and he tells that story again and again because it is when he's sort of dubbed the leader of the conservative movement. And

when you begin to see politicians, even presidents, turn to conservative media for help in their campaigns.

ISAACSON: Let me drill down a little bit more on the basic theme of this book, which is, to my question, why? Why did the Republican Party and the

conservative movement scatter away from Ronald Reagan towards a new form of grievance and resentment? Was that because there was real grievances to be


HEMMER: There were real changes that were happening in the world in the 1990s. I mean, the end of the Cold War certainly changed what geopolitics

looked like. But on the ground, that meant things like a deep recession in the early 1990s, it meant people who were working in manufacturing jobs

we're finding those jobs disappear as the U.S. moved to a service economy. And so, there were these real changes alongside with changing demographics.

The U.S. was becoming a much less white country, there were women who are suddenly in the workforce and in high powered jobs. And all of that change

and all of that uncertainty really did open up a space that if you wanted to, instead of offering sort of the happy warrior conservatism of an

earlier era, you could say, you know what, things are bad and it's somebody else's fault, and we are going to find those people and we are going to

hold them accountable. And we are going to make them pay a price for you losing power in this country. And that form of politics, especially when

mixed with those new media, had real power in the U.S.

ISAACSON: Let me push back a little bit though on these grievances, which you kind of describe as sort of growing from sort of, you know, growing

from sort bad resentments and other things, which is partly true.


But there was a consensus, even in the era of Reagan, whether it be people like Ronald Reagan or George H. W. Bush, or for that matter, Bill Clinton,

that free trade was great, that immigration was good, that the free market and open ideas and even globalization was a good thing, that sort of trade.

Well, that left a lot of people behind and those people, including myself, who believe that, we turned out to be wrong in some ways and how that

hollowed out a middle class in America.

So, those seem like legitimate grievances against an establishment that leads you away from Reagan towards Trumpism. Is that fair?

HEMMER: I think it's absolutely fair that there were real grievances. And sometimes when the two parties have consensus, there are a lot of people

whose voices aren't being heard. The question is, what do you do with that sense of resentment and loss, the very real pain of loss? Do you try to

pass programs to ease the economic hardship caused by certain trade deals or do you point to immigrants from Mexico and say, oh, they are actually

the problem? It's them and the fact that they are not white and they are not American, they are to blame.

And so, it's a question less of where people really hurt and a question more of, how did you address that hurt? How did you approach that hurt and

what type of politics did used to try to remedy it?

ISAACSON: So, Donald Trump's ascension, according to your book, and which you just said, wasn't really a sudden transformation. It was something a

long time in the making, but it wasn't something that stems from Reagan- ism, it was something that stemmed from the 1990s. How did it end up leading to Trump?

HEMMER: So, all the conditions where there by the time Donald Trump ran for president in 2015. So, you can think about things like birtherism (ph)

and the kind of racist conspiracies that have their roots in the 1990s. The fact that he was a television star who had no political experience running

for president, the fact that he was eligible as somebody who could be a presidential contender was made possible by people like Pat Robertson and

Pat Buchanan who had run for office without ever having held office before.

And I think that the politics of nativism, which were so central to Trump's campaign, the calling for the border wall, that was something Republicans

were used to since the 1992 campaign when Pat Buchanan first called for the Buchanan Fence, this wall on the border, and really leaned in to the racist

politics of nativism when it came to immigration.

So, all of those things we associate with Donald Trump and his campaign in 2016 really do have echoes with this earlier era.

ISAACSON: So, what does all this mean for the future of both the Republican Party and for the ability of American democracy to work and, in

some ways, have some stability to it?

HEMMER: So, I think it's important to understand this because Trump is not an exception. Which is to say that the problem isn't just Donald Trump, it

is this much bigger change that has been happening on the right for a quarter of the century. And if you don't address some of the root causes of

that change, the media incentives, the way that populism and resentment really work in politics, if you don't begin to address some of those larger

structural issues, you are not going to solve the dangerous to democracy in the U.S. simply by ensuring that Donald Trump never becomes president


There's something much deeper that has to be addressed and an affirmative case for democracy that has to be made. The assumption that democracy is

the best form of government is not really a shared belief in the United States anymore. And so, you have to go back to those root arguments and

start their as we talk about politics.

ISAACSON: Nicole Hemmer, thank you so much for joining us.

HEMMER: Thank you so much for having me.


SIDNER: And finally, Serena Williams continues to create a fierce fairytale ending for herself. We told you earlier this week about the

hero's welcome she received at the U.S. Open. Many in the crowd, preparing to bid her farewell in the first round. Well, she's not saying goodbye just


In a stunning second round victory, Williams, who was currently ranked 605th in the world defeated the world number two over the course of three

tough sets. After the match, Williams said, this is the first time in decades she did not feel the normal pressure to meet expectations to win.


SERENA WILLIAMS, TENNIS CHAMPION: I don't have anything to prove, I don't have anything to win, and I have absolutely nothing to lose. And honestly,

I never get to play like this since '98, really. Literally, I've had an X on my back since '99. So, it's kind of fun and I really enjoy just coming

out and enjoying it. And it's been a long time since I've been able to do that.



SIDNER: With the sparkles in her hair, supporting through the game was a fellow superstar, the golfer, Tiger Woods. Famed for his own legendary

comebacks, Williams said, his support is one of the main reasons that she is still playing.

That is it for us for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from

New York.