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Interview With "Prisoners Of The Castle" Author Ben Macintyre; Interview With "The Scheme" Co-Author Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Interview With "Half American," Author Matthew Delmont. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired October 19, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN. More people get their news from CNN than any other news source.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
As early voting in the midterms gets underway, we look at the competing issues and visions. And
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe V. Wade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: As President Biden puts a woman's right to choose front and center after the reversal of Roe, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
joins me with his new book, "The Scheme" on how the right-wing captured the Supreme Court.
Then, "Prisoners of the Castle". Best-selling author, Ben Macintyre joins me with a new perspective on the survival and escape from Colditz, the
infamous Nazi prison. Also ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW DELMONT, AUTHOR, "HALF AMERICAN": While they're trying to serve the country, they were discriminated against. That was deeply, deeply
hurtful to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The essential contribution of African Americas fighting World War II at home and abroad. Author Matthew Delmont joins Walter Isaacson.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Millions of Americans have already turned out in early voting for this year's midterm elections. In a number of states where they are setting up a
battle between two competing visions for America. While Republicans hammer home messages on inflation and the economy, Democrats focus on defending
democracy and the rights of women and families. Here is President Biden throwing down the gauntlet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Here is the promise I make to you and the American people. The first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to
codify Roe V. Wade. And when Congress passes it, I'll sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first decided to be the law of the land. And
together we'll restore the right to choose for every woman in every state in America. So, vote. You got to get out to vote. We can do this if we
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But with the president facing lower approval ratings on the economy, it is a tough political environment for Democrats right now.
Correspondent Jeff Zeleny brings us a closely watched race in Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI): To deal with inflation, you have to reduce costs for the American family while we get through this for sure.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Congressman Dan Kildee is still talking about inflation. Three weeks before
voters here in Michigan and across the country decide whether Democrats should retain control of Congress. By now, President Biden and his fellow
Democrats hope that high costs from the spring and summer would've eased. But the fierce economic headwinds seem as strong as ever.
KILDEE: Is it a challenge for us? Absolutely. People tend to hold the party, holds the White House, responsible for everything. We just ask folks
to really think carefully about what the alternatives are. Look at the current condition of the Republican Party. Look at their policies.
ZELENY (voiceover): Kildee is sounding the alarm about the prospects of Republicans taking the reins of the house. Even as his rival, Paul Junge,
is trying to keep the economy and inflation at the center of their race.
PUAL JUNGE, U.S REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: People are really concerned about the cost of living. I mean, everywhere I go, gas prices,
grocery prices. It is really hitting their budgets.
ZELENY (voiceover): The battle for control of Congress runs right through Michigan's eighth district, which includes Saginaw County. A battleground
within a battleground that voted twice for Obama, once for Trump, and for Biden. One of only 25 such counties in America. This year, the verdict will
be shaped by the dueling sentiments from voters like Tom Roy, a Republican who blames Democratic policies for inflation.
TOM ROY, MICHIGAN REPUBLICAN VOTER: Gas prices in the economy and in inflation. I hope that things get -- we cannot continue to spend, spend,
spend. This got to be -- you know, it's like a credit card. You can only tap that --it's a long word, you know, over loan.
ZELENY (voiceover): And from Tracy Bottecelli, a Democrat who says there's plenty blame to go around for inflation.
TRACY BOTTECELLI, MICHIGAN DEMOCRAT VOTER: I wanted to scream from the mountain tops. It's not one guy who is doing this in one part.
ZELENY (on camera): So, at one point the Democrats don't blame the president --
BOTTECELLI No, blame corporations and the corporate greed. And -- yes. Don't blame politics for every single thing that happens in our world.
ZELENY (voiceover): With early voting underway, campaigns are taking final shape. And in Michigan, abortion is also on the ballot as voters are asked
whether to enshrine the protection of abortion rights into the state constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My body.
CROWD: My choice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My body.
ZELENY (voiceover): Democrats believe it could motivate voters and boost Kildee and neighboring Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. Both of whom had made
abortion rights central to their closing arguments.
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN, (D-MI): Junge want to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape, incest.
ZELENY (voiceover): Two years ago, Junge narrowly lost the race to Slotkin. This year, he moved to a new district to take on Kildee.
JUNGE: 46 years of Kildee's in Congress comes to an end this November.
ZELENY (voiceover): He said he is running to offer a check on the economic policies of the Biden administration.
JUNGE: When the -- one party has the White House and both parts of Congress, that government is often as seen as too extreme by people. And I
see those at campaign all the time.
ZELENY (voiceover): Kildee first elected to Congress a decade ago after his uncle held a Michigan seat for 36 years, conceded the Democrats faced
steep challenges on the economy. But implored voters to see it as a choice.
KILDEE: I don't walk lockstep with a political party. But what's the Republican brand that we are running against? It is a party that has lost
its soul, if not its mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was Jeff Zeleny. And we will hear from the Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, in a moment. But first, of
course, those economic issues in the United States and around the world, are also driven by Putin's war. The Russian president has now put under
martial law four regions of Ukraine that he claims to have annexed.
Moscow is using its propaganda machine to obscure the grim realities of war from its public. Now, though, we are hearing more about the efforts from
someone who is on the inside. Correspondent Nic Robertson reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN'S INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voiceover): Since the war in Ukraine began, Russians have been denied the truth about what is
happening to their army.
GLEB IRISOV, FORMER RUSSIAN AIR FORCE LIEUTENANT AND JOURNALIST: So, when the war started, I was at military desk at TASS agency. We run Russian
information agency --
ROBERTSON (voiceover): Gleb Irisov, a former Russian air force lieutenant turned state journalist is lifting the lid on the state secrecy.
IGOR KONASHENKOV, SPOKESPERSON, RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE (through translator): 498 Russian servicemen died.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): It was March 2nd, more than a week into the war before Russia admitted its troops were dying in Ukraine. But Gleb says they
know since the get-go, he was manning the military desk phones at TASS as the war began.
IRISOV: I started to receive a lot of messages from my sources. They are taking heavy, extremely heavy casualties.
ROBERTSON (on camera): What numbers?
IRISOV: Numbers was enormous.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): He'd served in Syria in the air force but quit in disgust over Russia's part in Assad's war. His wife worked at TASS. He got
a job there, thinking he'd be able to report facts about the poor state of Russia's military. But as soon as the war started in Ukraine, and Russian
casualties began piling up, his hopes fell victim to Putin's propaganda machine.
IRISOV: Freedom of press was canceled immediately, February 24th. Instructions from the ministry of defense, from FSB, from the office of the
president. They just started to use these agencies as their own mechanisms of propaganda.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): New laws preventing protests over the war in Ukraine put Gleb, his wife, and young family in danger. He quit a week into
the war. A week later, they fled for safety to Armenia, then Georgia, then Turkey, then Mexico, finally to the USA. And a chance to tell the truth
about the war.
IRISOV: If you want really to speak out, you need to be in some kind of safe place.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): His insights are remarkable. Rampant corruption and warlordism.
IRISOV: Putin himself and his friends, they used these military systems. There were tons of money through this military system.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): Gleb's observations about Putin's newly promoted general, Sergey Surovikin, reveal the propaganda machine he fled remains in
overdrive. General Armageddon, as Surovikin is known, actually a danger to his own side.
IRISOV: He has made the life of his commanding officers there absolutely impossible.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): Gleb knows Surovikin. Served under him in Syria. He says, the general signed off on his resignation.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Is he going to change the morale in the Russian forces?
IRISOV: I strongly believe that nothing can change the morale of Russian forces there. No way.
ROBERTSON (voiceover): Putin's propaganda machine may be working. His army is not. Gleb is witness to both. And brave enough to speak about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Nic Robertson reporting there.
And back to U.S. midterms, you know, the House Republican leader, the minority leader there, had said that if they take back the Congress in the
midterms, there might not be any more blank check for Ukraine and its defense against Russia's war. We have seen the battle for the soul of the
Republican Party play out in this election cycle. Just over half the nominees deny or question the 2020 election results. The Trump MAGA grip on
the GOP seems firm for now.
My first guess believes the right-wing has been using hard to trace money to change the makeup of the courts. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is all on this new book, "The Scheme". And Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island is joining me now from Washington.
Welcome back to the program, Senator.
We were going to go to the senator. But instead, we are going to turn to our guest who's sitting right with us. And again, further information and
context on wars. This is a story of extraordinary courage. Many of us, of course, have heard the stories of daring escapes from Colditz. That was the
Nazi's notorious prison that held World War II prisoners. Tails made famous in the 1954 film, "The Colditz Story". Here is a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you will remain until the war is won by Germany. There will be no escape unless you wish to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that was the film. And my next guess, the masterful teller of war and espionage story says, there is much more to these tales of
audacious escape. In his latest book, "Prisoners of the Castle", he looks at the characters behind the legend. And beg -- Ben Macintyre is joining me
now here on set.
That was the movie, yours is the book. What is a different perspective? Actually, first, put Colditz into cultural context for our viewers.
BEN MACINTYRE, AUTHOR, "PRISONERS OF THE CASTLE": OK. Even the word Colditz itself summons up this grim, gothic castle in East Germany. It had
700 rooms. And it perches on a cliff overlooking the town of Colditz. And it was intended to be the most-high security prison in the third Reich.
And it was used to contain all of the prisoners who had tried to escape from somewhere else. British, French, American, and the latter part of the
war, Polish, Dutch, Belgian. But they were all distinguished by the fact that they had tried to escape from somewhere else. And so, in contrast to
what the Germans expected, it became a kind of escape university. And getting out of it became the single most driving conversation of the whole
AMANPOUR: And I find it interesting the fact that you, obviously, talked about this, they're officers. They are not just grunts. They are not the
ordinary prisoners of war. And it's not a labor camp, is it?
AMANPOUR: Colditz is a different kind of camp.
MACINTYRE: This is a very important point. It's an officer's camp. And therefore, the officers have certain rights and privileges under the Geneva
Convention. So, it's not a murder camp. It's not a concentration camp. It is not run by the SS. It is run by the German army. It is not a holiday
camp. But it is not -- it isn't one of the, sort of, brutal places of, sort of, routine savagery. And of course, the officers, amazingly, had servants.
And those servants were also prisoners. So --
AMANPOUR: The old hierarchy in the days.
MACINTYRE: The old hierarchy.
AMANPOUR: As always.
MACINTYRE: That's right. There was a, sort of, huge social chasm running right through the middle of Colditz.
AMANPOUR: So, we know -- I mean, of course, I grew up in those -- educated at a British boarding school. Of course, we called Colditz like --
MACINTYRE: Of course.
AMANPOUR: Of course, naturally. So, it was part of our, you know, pop culture. But of course, we also grew up on the mythological escapes and the
incredible daring do. That did exist, right? But you, you talk about a different perspective as well. It is not all about that.
MACINTYRE: It is not all about that. And like all myths, it -- that myth has a basis in fact. I mean, there were some extraordinary acts of, kind
of, bravery and resolve and ingenuity. They built a glider at one point in the attic in their efforts to get out. They scaled down the walls. They
But actually, behind that story, behind the black and white story that we've just, sort of, watched in that lovely clip, there is another story.
And it's a story of society divided in some ways.
I mean, this became a strange, kind of, microcosm of why the society -- and the officers imported an awful lot of the, sort of, traditions and
prejudices and biases that they had on the outside.
So, actually the Colditz society was deeply divided over class, as we've just talked about, over race, over sexuality. There was serious mental
health issues, as you would expect inside a big, you know, a huge prison that kept going for five years. So, the real story is much more
interesting, I think, and much more complicated than the myth that we all inherited.
AMANPOUR: And what made you want to, you know, dig down on this? I mean, Colditz is a story that's been told and re-told. Maybe Americans don't know
it as well but as I said, certainly in Europe, we do. Where did you get the idea to dig further?
MACINTYRE: Well, it came from two sources, really. One was the feeling that as with many wartime stories, we inherited a black and white moral
version of them. I mean, as we saw in the clip. But actually, it's black in white in more than ways than one. It's almost, the wartime is -- stories
often presented as if it was a moral fable. Goodies and baddies, heroes and villains, and -- you know, you're one side or the other. And, of course,
life isn't like that. And war isn't really like that either.
So, I knew that there was another story to Colditz. I grew up playing the Colditz board game, which was this extraordinary board game that came out
in the 1960s, and it was a very simple game of escape. The real story, I knew there was something else.
And there is a lot more information on Colditz. The British government has now routinely started releasing its declassified files. And British
intelligence played a very key role in Colditz. Believe it or not -- and this is, of course, one of the things that I am fascinated by, there was a
fully functioning espionage network operating from inside of the castle. And they were using this extraordinarily complicated alphabetical and
numerical code to send back high-grade intelligence back to allied centers of power.
AMANPOUR: I mean, that is incredible when you consider it was right under the nose --
AMANPOUR: -- of the Nazis there. You described one is -- attempt in detail. So, the escape by the British lieutenant Michael Sinclair. Tell me
about him. He disguised himself as a German sergeant. How did it -- how -- what happened?
MACINTYRE: Well, this was one of the more bizarre escapes. And it very, very nearly succeeded. This was an escape led by Michael Sinclair who was
an absolutely obsessive escaper. And he developed --
AMANPOUR: Which means what? He kept trying?
MACINTYRE: He kept trying. He tried no less than 10 times. And there's a tragic end to his story, which I won't give it away. But, no. One of his
most famous attempts was that he led an attempt to impersonate a particular German officer, who had very bushy mustaches. And so, they created for him
a completely fake, sort of, set of whiskers made out of saving brushes. Dyed the right color. And a fake uniform that was almost perfect. I believe
it was very near the real thing.
And the plan was very simple. He was going to march with two other soldiers who looked like they were German patrolman that accompany him. Dismiss the
guard at the main gate. Then summon the rest of the British contingent who are waiting in an upper floor. They would scale down the walls, climb onto
the parapet, then go through the main great and escape. And it came within seconds of working.
AMANPOUR: And you're not going to --
MACINTYRE: Should I give away why?
AMANPOUR: Yes, go ahead.
MACINTYRE: There was one major error they may which was that they had faked a pass to get out. But the problem was the pass on that particular
day, the color had been changed. And so, they presented the pass. And I'm really not going to give away the next bit --
AMANPOUR: OK. OK. OK. No.
MACINTYRE: -- because it gets very exciting.
AMANPOUR: OK. Is this the same prisoner then who didn't -- who is quite story that the allies were about to win?
AMANPOUR: Because he actually wanted to escape and join those amazing people who had escaped.
MACINTYRE: That's right.
AMANPOUR: Because there was a culture there.
MACINTYRE: They're -- that's right. I mean, he was one of those soldiers who was captured very early in the war and who felt that he had, sort of,
failed in his duty --
AMANPOUR: To escape.
MACINTYRE: -- to escape. And did to rejoin the fighting forces because he was caught at Dunkirk very early on. And he tried again and again and again
to escape. And at the tail end of the war, at a point when it was pretty clear to everyone in Colditz. The America army was approaching, they were
about to be liberated, nonetheless, he attempted one last escape.
Now, whether that was a real escape or whether it was a kind of suicide attempt, we will never know. Because he holed himself at the outer wire of
Colditz. And despite the German guards shouting at him to stop, they open fire and he was killed.
AMANPOUR: Tell me about one of the main German guards, or one of the leaders, the German leaders of the camp who was an anglophile and who --
tell me because it's actually fascinating the way he treated these people who had been trying to escape and brought back.
MACINTYRE: This was an extraordinary character called Reinhold Eggers who was a schoolmaster before the war. He fought in the first world war. And he
was an anglophile. As you say, he had taught at a British boarding school for some years. He wrote a Ph.D. on the British education system. He could
never quite get over the fact that the British prisoners were so rude to him in Colditz.
Whereas the British people he'd met in, sort of, rural Britain had all been very polite. But he was an extraordinary man. And he -- while he was
dedicated. He was head of security. He was dedicated to stopping the prisoners from getting out. He was also a man of great civilization. He was
very polite. He tried to stick to the rules.
And he was also the great archivist of Colditz because he gathered together every piece of escape equipment he could find and created a, kind of -- a,
sort of, memorial to them, really. And built something that he called the Colditz museum.
And very early on, in my research for this, I was given by the grandson of one of the Colditz prisoners a scrapbook that Eggers had combined -- had
compiled. Filled with these wonderful photographs. Because Eggers actually managed to persuade escapers who had failed to get out, whose escapes had
been foiled to reenact them, believe it or not.
So, there are these extraordinary pictures of grinning prisoners as they're peeking out from, sort of, tunnels that have failed. Including one
hilarious one of an officer who tried to get out in drag, who dressed as a woman, and was foiled at the last moment. I think because he had a 5:00
shadow and was caught before he could get out. And amazingly, Eggers managed to persuade him to dress up again as a woman so that he could
photograph it --
AMANPOUR: Honestly, that is extraordinary. I hadn't realized that bit. What motivates you? Because this, you know, not the first of your espionage
and actually, you know, dissembling to try to get places. What is it about lies and whether it was "Operation Mincemeat". Whether it was, you know,
the other one you wrote about the -- the spy in Russia who was defected.
And now, you know, we've just had a report on the propaganda and the lies by the current Russian regime during -- you know, to its own people and to
the Ukrainians. What is it about lies and this kind of espionage that attracts you?
MACINTYRE: Isn't it fascinating the way that espionage in this particular conflict has played such a crucial role. I mean, I suppose I'm fascinated
by it because I think it's a way of examining a different kind of war.
The war we're familiar war and the horrible war that is taking place in Ukraine at the moment is about guns and bombs and bullets and death and
tactics. But there is another kind of war that takes place underneath the surface. Often half hidden from sight. But it's absolutely crucial and it
makes a huge difference. And spying, sometimes, is one of those, sort of -- I mean, it has a very bad reputation but actually it can be a noble
endeavor spying. And sometimes it strategically changes the way states behave. And I'm fascinated by that.
AMANPOUR: Well, Ben Macintyre, author of the castle -- "Prisoners of the Castle: The Epic Story of Survival, Escape from Colditz, the Nazis'
Fortress Prison". Thank you very much indeed.
MACINTYRE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, now we return to U.S. politics and the upcoming midterm elections. And we finally do have Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
from Rhode Island with us. His new book is called "The Scheme". It is about how the right-wing capture the Supreme Court.
Senator Whitehouse, welcome to the program from Washington. Technology can and often does work against us but we have you back for now. So --
SENATOR SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI), CO-AUTHOR, "THE SCHEME": We solved it.
AMANPOUR: We solved it. We solved it. Better late than never. Before we had you on, we showed President Biden who was throwing down the gauntlet.
Talking about defending democracy as a hallmark of this midterm. Also saying that he would codify -- send to Congress to codify Roe versus Wade
if they kept Congress and if the Democrats won.
What do you make of the battle of ideas? Because what's happening is, it seems the Republicans are on what most people are worried about. You know,
inflation, the economy.
WHITEHOUSE: To me, the battle of ideas is one that big Republican donors are losing and that is why they make this effort to capture and control the
Supreme Court so they can go to the non-Democratic branch of government and get decisions like the Dobbs decision. Undoing abortion rights in a way
that they could never get Congress to do.
AMANPOUR: So, back in February, you told "The Guardian" newspaper, which is obviously a British newspaper, you said that the court -- the Supreme
Court would, "Nibble away at Roe versus Wade", which as we all know is the '73 -- 1973 decision enshrining the women's right to a choice. You said,
there are some things that it's not worth doing all at once and creating a big political blow back. And then, it did. The Supreme Court did do --
WHITEHOUSE: They did.
AMANPOUR: -- it all at one.
WHITEHOUSE: And they did.
AMANPOUR: What did you get wrong about that? What did you read wrong?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, I think they felt -- Justice Barrett's addition to the court, they no longer had to deal with making sure that all five of the so-
called conservatives on the court were aligned. They had one to spare.
And that, I think, has emboldened them in a lot of respects. It's emboldened them on recent dark money decision. It emboldened them on a
recent polluter favoring decision. And it certainly emboldened them on undoing women's reproductive rights.
AMANPOUR: So, that is the theme of your book, obviously, "The Scheme". So, for our viewers --
AMANPOUR: -- can you, in a nutshell, describe what you've investigated in terms of dark money and, as you say, how it captured the Supreme Court.
What exactly does that look like?
WHITEHOUSE: In a nutshell, what has taken place at the Supreme Court didn't just happen. It was done. It was done using means that you would be
familiar with as an international correspondent. The trade craft of covert operations. It has had the effect of turning the Supreme Court from an
independent court into a --the equivalent of a captured agency.
Like in the old days, you know, railroad commissions would be taken over by the railroads so they could set the rates that they wanted. And the result
has been an absolute massacre in favor of big Republican donor interests in 80-plus decisions.
And dark money has been a fuel that made this possible because the people behind it have been able to hide their hands as they plowed money into the
federal society. Picking the judges as they plowed money into the judicial crisis network running the campaigns. And as they plowed money to the front
groups who show up in the court telling them what to do.
AMANPOUR: And just to be clear, basically, it does not look good. Because about 47 percent of the American people say they trust the Supreme Court,
which is, you know, less than half. 20 percent dropped from two years ago. Seven points just since last year. 58 percent outright disapprove of the
way the Supreme Court is doing its job in handling these really important and often privacy matters. Matters around people's private businesses in
their own homes, and with their own doctors.
AMANPOUR: So, what will it take? Why have the Democrats not been able to stop this? You're exposing what you -- you know, what you say is to blame
for it. Why is it not possible to fix this situation?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, the first step to facing it is to explaining it -- is explaining it. In the same way that it is hard to get a patient to accept a
particular medication unless they know what the illness is and that it will fix it. So, that's one of the reasons I wrote this book.
But the history here is that for many decades, Republicans have cared more about judges than Democrats have. Partly that was a reaction to Brown
versus Board of Education, another case from the '60s. Partly it was a recognition that the really harsh far-right corporate interests behind the
Republican Party were failing over and over again at getting the elected and Democratic branches of government to do their bidding. There are some
things that even elected Republicans just won't do.
So, they had to focus on capturing courts which can do, more or less, whatever they want behind the protection of lifetime appointment. So, it
has been a very robust, very long term, more than half a billion dollar expenditure campaign. And we've had very little to match-up against it. So,
we need to fight back now and hard.
AMANPOUR: One of the things you said, you know, as you were starting this, you know, to my question about why isn't it fixed. And you said, we have to
get the story out. So, I spoke, just coincidentally, to a journalist -- a very well-known journalist, Anand Giridharadas, who's, himself, written a
book called "The Persuaders" precisely about this issue about getting the message out.
And he's basic thesis is that on many, many issues the Republicans do actually have a better messaging operation. A much more successful one than
the Democrats. And he said that they pro-democracy movement, which President Biden says that the Democrats are and should be standing for,
could do it and needs to do the following. This is what he said to me last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, AUTHOR, "THE PERSUADERS": A, they command attention in a way that the far-right is often much better at doing. They command
attention. They provoke. And you have certain figures in the left like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who I why write about in the book,
who is very good at this and shows a way to do it. They make meaning, which is to say when voters are bewildered by change, by globalization, by racial
change, by economic change, trade change, they talk you through it. A lot of people on the pro-democracy side are not very good at that kind of
The far-right is very good at offering belonging, a home, a sense of kind of transcendence in the movement. The communal almost quasi-religious
element of belonging to things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Senator, do you agree with that?
WHITEHOUSE: All of it. All of it. And I'd go one step further. I would say that because the Republican Party has a very powerful backing in a very
small group of corporate and billionaire interests, they are capable of investing in long-term planning.
They are capable of investing in a lot of intensive propaganda. They are capable of investing in very sophisticated marketing. Where Democrats are,
sort of, a cat herd of different well-meaning interest groups that don't plot very well together. And so, there is a huge power imbalance between
the two of us. And it's really notable. And your correspondent is exactly right.
AMANPOUR: Yes, that was journalist Anand Giridharadas with his new book, "The Persuaders". But look, even President Obama, has said -- and he just
said on a podcast this week, and I'm going to play a little soundbite from what he said. He's basically saying that the -- in his view, over wokeness,
the cancel culture, this kind of issue is basically, as he put it, a buzz kill. And he thinks that it should be balanced much more with what most
Americas, you know, need -- basically, the tools they need to get through these very difficult times and to get through. This is what he said on the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, sometimes, people just want to not feel as if they are walking on eggshells. And they want some
acknowledgment that life is messy. And that all of us, in any given moment can -- you know, say things the wrong way, you know. Make mistakes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And furthermore, you know, James Carville, obviously the very well-known Democratic strategist. He's also said, it's obviously very well
meaning and important. Woke has brought to justice. Issues that were, you know, unjustifiable. And it's really important. But he said, you know, does
it actually win election? So, again, do you agree with that? And what can Democrats do at this crucial moment about it?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, you know, I think that a lot of this is -- to go back to your previous section. The fact that a lot of this manufactured, the fact
that they can grab attention. A lot of what the Republican propaganda machine has done is to ascribe views to Democrats that are very, very
rarely held by actual Democrats.
So, defund the police, right? Supposedly Democrats want to defund the police. There's not a vote in the Senate on the Democratic side to defund
the police. But they've been able to push that out as a leading definition of what Democrats are about even though it's virtually nonexistent.
The concern about, you know, critical race theory in schools, it is actually not taught in schools. It is college level and law school level
stuff. They invent it, they put it out there. And that's where we get back to this powered imbalance of a propaganda machine that is very, very well
honed and very, very well powerful -- very powerful and very effective against us. And we're still kind of a cacophony of different well-meaning
In the military, you talk about, you know, counterbattery fire when you're being bombarded. You shoot back at the artillery sources that are
bombarding you. We don't have, as Democrats, that capability to deal with the propaganda bombardment of the Republicans. And I think we have a tool
at our disposal, which is to expose what they're are up to and who's behind it.
And that connects back to my book "The Scheme" because the people behind the capture of the court are also behind this propaganda operation and
behind the dark money that floats the Republican Party these days.
AMANPOUR: I mean, the obvious question is, well, how do you do it? Do you take their tactics? What do you do?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, the advantage we have, you -- we could mirror their tactics and pitch America further into the foul swamp of dark money and
lies. And increasingly loud megaphones screaming at voters who aren't told who's on the other side of the megaphone. We could do that. But that would
be wrong and bad for the country.
The alternative is to share with voters what we know about it. To make transparency, not just a virtue, but an operating principle. To put a
spotlight on who is behind this stuff. To empower the researchers who are digging out the truth about this and to expose the scheme.
AMANPOUR: So, let me get just my final question back to the Supreme Court. And this is really about Ginni Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court
Justice Clarence Thomas. As you all know, she's a very well-known activist. She pressed the White House to overturn the 2020 election, as well as other
state legislatures. She also attended the pro-Trump rally, you know, just before the attack on the Capitol.
Now, her husband, Justice Thomas, refuses to recuse himself from election related cases. He was the Supreme Court's lone dissent when it rejected
Trump's efforts to withhold documents from the January 6th Committee.
What do you make -- I mean, that sounds like a massive conflict of interest and yet, it just -- is allowed to happen?
WHITEHOUSE: Correct. And there is another party to all of this and that is the chief justice who has the ability to have investigations take place in
a judicial branch as he showed by investigating -- having the marshal the Alito brief leak -- draft opinion leak. And the question of whether or not
Justice Thomas should recuse himself is a fact question that is based heavily on what he knew and when he knew it about his wife's activities.
And that then bears on his participation in the January 6th hearings, rulings, and in the abortion rulings.
WHITEHOUSE: Finding those facts so that you can make the recusal decision properly is something that the chief justice should be doing. And his
refusal to find those facts is telling and I think very unfortunate.
AMANPOUR: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, earlier, we talked about Ben Macintyre about Colditz and the second world war. Our next guest has focused on an untold part about history as
well. Author Matthew Delmont explores the contributions of black Americans to the war effort in his new book, "Half American: The Epic Story of
African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad". And he speaks to Walter Isaacson about their impact on the war and on civil rights at
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Professor Matthew Delmont, welcome to the show.
MATTHEW DELMONT, AUTHOR, "HALF AMERICAN": Thank you for having me.
ISAACSON: Your wonderful book, "Half American", describes what happened to blacks who are fighting in World War II. This is before Truman desegregates
the military in 1948. Tell me what happened and what that was like.
DELMONT: Well, that meant for black Americans who volunteered or drafted in the military is that they were segregated in the service, in every
aspect of their service. So, one they got to army bases, they were sent to separate barracks, they'd eat to separate dining halls. Use separate
latrines. And then once they deployed, everything was segregated as well. They segregated even the blood that was given to the Red Cross.
This was really discouraging and frustrating for black Americans who volunteered. Because like so many white Americans, they wanted to give
everything they could to help win the war and be in defense of their country. But while they're trying to serve their country, they were
discriminated against. And that was deeply, deeply hurtful to them.
ISAACSON: Well, they were all black units, weren't there?
DELMONT: There were. There were. So, once black Americans were drafted into the army and the navy, they were put into separate units. In the navy,
they could only serve in the messman's (ph) branch where they essentially waited on white officers. In the army, they were largely put into noncombat
roles. But they played a really important role in terms of supply and logistics. These were primarily black units that were led, typically, by
ISAACSON: You say supply and logistics, that's really interesting in your book because I never realized how important that was.
DELMONT: Yes, one of the key things I try to make clear in the book because World War II wasn't just a battle of strategy and will. But it was
battle of supply that Americans and their allies couldn't have won this massive bubble war if they couldn't have moved supplies and troops and
rations and ammunition all across the world. It was really black Americans who were the backbone of that supply and logistic effort.
It wasn't possible to move all these materials without black Americans loading and unloading trucks, driving those trucks, loading and unloading
ships, clearing jungles, building runways. The scale of the logistics was massive. After D-Day, for example, this Red Ball Express truck drivers move
more than 400,000 tons of supplies, ammunition, food, rations all across Europe.
One of the things I write in the book is that we think about the supplies that were transferred across Europe after D-Day, almost all of them past
through the hand of at least one black American. So, without the work of these black supply and logistical forces, American forces couldn't move,
shoot, or eat.
ISAACSON: Because of the segregation, you have in your book some people who tried to enlist and they can't actually join because the army hasn't
quite accommodated enough black units. Tell me what happens to people who tried to enlist and can't get in.
DELMONT: Yes, in the days after Pearl Harbor, there were dozens of stories in black newspapers. You know, black Americans trying to volunteer. That
they wanted to help join the military and defend the country. But they were turned away by army and navy recruiters because at that point, the military
did not have enough black units to accommodate black Americans.
And they were deeply, deeply frustrated by that. They said, what's wrong with my service? What's wrong with me is an American that you won't take me
into the military? There were three black men in Chicago who tried to volunteer for service. And they were turned away by army recruiters there.
And they wrote to "The Chicago Defender", which is the major black newspapers at the time that broadcasted -- printed the story nationally.
And they said that white America needs to wake up and come to their sentences. That if they're going to win this global war, they need to use
the manpower of the entire United States. And that meant including black American in the fight.
ISAACSON: But when you talk about blacks fighting in World War II, we idealize it sometimes. And the iconic case of that is the Tuskegee Airmen.
And in your book, you talk about Benjamin O. Davis. It was more complicated that I think than sometimes we like to look back on it with a gauzy lens.
DELMONT: Yes, one of the things about history is progress is never a straight line. And so, one of the main characters in my book is Benjamin O.
Davis Jr. He graduated from West Point in 1936. And at the time, he was the first black graduate in 20th. Only the fourth black man to ever graduate
from West Point. The army really had no idea what to do with him, because he wanted to be a pilot but at that point, they were not allowing any black
And so, they sent him to teach at a black military school in Tuskegee. It takes several years and significant campaigning by black activists and
black press for the army air corps to finally open its doors to black pilots. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. becomes the first leader of this first
quadrant of Tuskegee Airmen. But even still, once they established that airbase, they still aren't given an opportunity to participate in combat.
They are just flying training missions over and over again in Alabama.
It takes nearly two years for them to get off the ground and get deployed. While they're still in Alabama, at Tuskegee, and it is easy to glorify that
time there. But it was a Jim Crow base in a Jim Crow town in a Jim Crow state. And so, the descriptions of Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and others is that
Tuskegee and its surrounding community was hellish in many ways. That the kind of treatment they received from white officers, white enlisted men,
and from white townspeople was not fitting of black soldiers, not fitting of black airmen.
Once they finally deploy, they're in combat in the Mediterranean. And they do an admirable job fighting Nazi planes. But even after that, one of their
own commanders try and undercut them and say that they actually hadn't succeeded in combat. He wants --
ISAACSON: This is a white commander you're talking about?
DELMONT: It's a -- yes. One of the white commanders. He tries to undercut them and assigned them to coast patrol duty. And so, it's this back and
forth series where the Tuskegee airmen have to -- not only fight Nazi planes in the air, but they sometimes to fight their own white commanders
to prove their worth as pilots.
And it's an inspiring story because they recognize that they have a huge amount of weight on their shoulders. If they don't succeed in combat, it
might be generations before other black Americans were given the opportunity to be pilots.
ISAACSON: I think your title comes from something that a guy named James Gratz Thompson said. Explain to me who he was and what he was talking
DELMONT: The title of the book is "Half American" which comes from a letter that James Gratz Thompson wrote to the "Pittsburgh Courier". James
Thompson was a 26-year-old from Wichita, Kansas. And shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he knows that he and other black Americans are
going to be drafted. So, he writes this letter to the "Pittsburgh Courier" which was the largest and most influential black newspaper in the country.
What James Thompson writes, he asked, should I sacrifice my life to live half-American? Is the America I know, worth defending? And those words just
really stuck with me in the seven years I was working on this book. Should I sacrifice my life to live half-American? What James Thompson was trying
to capture is, what does it mean for black Americans, like him, to be drafted into the military that's segregated? And that he's going to be
discriminated against in the service of his country.
The "Pittsburgh Courier" uses Thompson's letter to launch a Double Victory Campaign which becomes the rallying cry for black Americans during the war.
Black Americans are calling for a victory over fascists abroad, but also victory over racism at home.
And so, for me, I used that title "Half American". To think it speaks volumes to what black Americans are fighting for. They absolutely wanted to
win the military battle. But they also want to make sure when they came home that they were going to be treated fully as Americans, as full
ISAACSON: Explain to me this Double Victory Campaign.
DELMONT: So, the Double Victory Campaign was African-Americans call to have victory over fascism abroad and victory over racism at home. I mean,
actually, if you stop to think about it, it was really profound that they were essentially fighting two wars at the same time. They absolutely wanted
to defeat the axis and Nazi Germany. And they did their part to do that.
And they understood, I think, earlier than white Americans did what a significant threat Adolf Hitler and fascism posed to the world. They looked
at the black newspapers from the 1930s. There's already articles saying the second world war has started in Europe. And drawing comparisons between the
kind of treatment Jews in Europe were receiving at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis and the kind of treatment black Americans received in the Jim
So, black Americans clearly understood the dangers of fascism posed and they wanted to do everything they could to win the military battle. But for
that whole generation of black veterans, they come home and start fighting for civil rights. As one veteran put it, they went from fighting in the
European field (ph) of operations to the southern field (ph) operations.
I think that's important when we think back at that period of World War II that 1945, 1946, the war really kept going for black Americans just because
the military battle was over, there is still a whole another front to the battle taking place in the United States. And black legends (ph) really
helped fuel the civil rights movement in the decades after the war.
ISAACSON: You talked about the black newspapers, the "Pittsburgh Courier", the "Amsterdam News", "The Chicago Defender. And you quote from them a lot
in your book.
And one of the themes is a comparison of what the Nazi are doing and Jim Crow Laws, segregation. And there is a wonderful poem, you know, Langston
Hughes poem. I'm going to quote it to you, "You tell me that Hitler is a mighty bad man. I guess he took lessons from the Ku Klux Klan." So, this
comparison, we sometimes compare things too quickly to the Nazis. But this comparison of racial segregation in America and what was happening, the
Nazi were doing is something that pervades the black press at that time.
DELMONT: Absolutely. And the comparison is out. In part because Hitler and the Nazis explicitly pointed to U.S. racial policies to justify their own
treatment of Jewish people in Europe. I mean, what was important for me in this story and to start the story not with Pearl Harbor but to start it in
As early as 1933, black newspapers are already pointing to the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany. And point out what a dire threat this poses not
just to Europe but really to the world. They point out these really explicit connections between desegregation of Jews on train cars in Europe,
the kind of violence due to part (ph) experiencing, the theft of property, and how that very closely parallels the treatment of black Americans in the
Jim Crow South. And so, you see these editorials repeatedly in 1934 and 1935.
And then there is a host of black Americans who go and volunteer to fight in the Spanish Civil War, it started in 1936. Because they understand the
coup by General Franco and his fascist forces against the Democratic -- re- elected republic government in Spain to be a significant danger as well. The headlines in black newspapers are just saying World War II has already
started by 1936.
And so, for black Americans, they've seen dozens and dozens of these stories through the course of 1930s. And so, well before Pearl Harbor ever
happens, black Americas are ready to fight against fascism in Europe.
ISAACSON: One of the fascinating stories in your book is about Medgar Evers, the famous civil rights leader slain in 1960's. But he was on the
Red Ball Express. Young guy, 19 years old, fighting in World War II. And it really, in some ways, helps lead him to being the civil rights leader.
Explain that to us.
DELMONT: So, Medgar Evers is a name hopefully most Americans know. As you noted, he was an extremely important civil rights activists who was
tragically assassinated in 1963. But as a 19-year-old, he's part of a group called Red Ball Express who were black truck drivers who transported
supplies all across Europe after the invasion of Normandy in D-Day. And Evers was part of that invasion.
Evers described his experience in World War II as being eye-opening. While he's in France, he has a chance to meet a French family. And he's there for
about a week. And he said that it was really the first time in his life that a white person had ever treated him as an equal. Had ever treated him
as a full human being.
That changes his perspective on what's possible. When he goes back to Mississippi, he decides to dedicate his life to fighting for civil rights.
On his 21st birthday in 1946, he goes to register to vote with a group of other black veterans in Decatur, Mississippi. Only to be turned away by a
white man with guns. And what he said later was, you know, we black veterans have been on the beach at Normandy. We were trying to fight for
America including Mississippi. But now after what looks like the Germans hadn't killed us. He feared that white Mississippians would.
Evers takes on increasingly important roles in the NAACP. In Mississippi in 1950's, including investigating the killing of Emmett Till. Until he's
tragically assassinated himself in 1963. And so, for me, like Evers story really clearly articulates that Double Victory Campaign that I referenced
earlier. That Evers was absolutely fighting fascism in Europe. And as part of this group of Red Ball Express truck drivers, he was really key to the
supply effort that helped win the war.
But then he dedicated his life and ultimately gave his life to help secure freedom and democracy at home. Because he, like that whole generation of
black veterans, understood that it wasn't enough to just secure human (ph) democracy abroad. It actually had to be true to America as well.
ISAACSON: Some of the people who served, so to speak, did so on the home front. And in your book, you have Thurgood Marshall, a legendary character
who argued the case of Brown V. Board of Education from the Supreme Court, then becomes a Supreme Court justice. But it seems to me in some ways he
gets his training doing some of this on the home front in -- on behalf of blacks serving in the military.
DELMONT: Exactly. During the war, Thurgood Marshall was an extremely important figure. He was the leader of the legal division for NAACP. He's
crisscrossing the country, investigating the kind of treatment that black troops are receiving.
And by in large, the way black troops were treated on this army bases in the south was horrendous. And Thurgood Marshall becomes one of the key
investigators and advocates for these black soldiers. He's taken the case to Washington D.C. Trying to fight the military leaders in the White House.
And really force them to treat black Americans in a way that is equal to other troops who are serving the country.
Thurgood Marshall later on investigates a mutiny case in Port Chicago, in California. And, again, does everything he can to try to make sure that the
military justice system is treating black troops equally. And so, Marshall Green at this time period really does cut his teeth in terms of fighting
for civil rights on behalf of black soldiers.
ISAACSON: One of the things that could've really helped racial justice in this country and pushed us more toward an equal opportunity was when
everybody came home. And you have the G.I. Bill. And it says you can get a mortgage. It says, my dad, he can go to college because he had served. Why
wasn't the G.I. Bill something that helped equalize, helped serve all in our society?
DELMONT: So, the G.I. Bill was one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history. It enabled a hold generation of white
veterans to be able to access longer (ph) mortgages, to be able to go to college, be able to serve businesses. It really helped them move into the
Unfortunately, the way the policy was written, the -- those benefits were distributed at the state level. This was intentional. Southern
segregationist congressmen were key in shaping the G.I. Bill legislation. And they understood that by having it run at the state level that was going
to enable states, particularly those in the south to discriminate against black veterans because they do --
ISAACSON: Although it happens -- I mean, in Long Island where, you know, Levittown ends up being some -- I mean, I just thought -- maybe I'm
defensive here but you look at every suburb in the north. You see what happened with the G.I. Bill, Levittown being one of the examples. And
blacks can't get mortgages.
DELMONT: Exactly, exactly, exactly. The -- so, the construction of the legislation I think it's largely due to southerners but you're exactly
right. That the way it's implemented and the kind of discrimination by veteran's face was a national story. That the ability to get mortgages in
New Jersey and New York was almost impossible for black veterans.
There are stories of black veterans in Chicago trying to get college tuition benefits of being funneled into vocational schools rather than to
colleges. That has an extremely dire impact over the long term on the ability of black veterans and their families to generate wealth. There is a
group of Brandeis (ph) who's been tracking this and they say that over the course of the programs run, the benefits that black veterans received from
the G.I. Bill were only about 40 percent of what white veterans received.
That ended up being about $100,000 over the course of veterans' lives. And you can appreciate what that means in terms of the vast racial wealth gaps
we have in our country. The G.I. Bill and the discrimination that went along with it was one of the main causes of this kind of racial wealth gap
that we have.
ISAACSON: So, tell me about the G.I. Bill Restoration Act. Who's doing that? What would that do? And why is it having so much trouble getting
DELMONT: So, the G.I. Bill Restoration Act is a legislation that was introduced last year by Representative Seth Moulton and James Clayborne in
the House and Senator Raphael Warnock in the Senate. The bill would try to address this racial discrimination in terms of how the G.I. Bill was
implemented. It would provide ongoing benefits to the families of World War II veterans. Enable them to be able to use some of these benefits that
their fathers and grandfathers were denied. The descendants of World War II veterans could use benefits for mortgages or for college education.
It's a really important piece of legislation. I mean, because tri-state knowledge is really kind of fundamental wrong in our nation's history. The
G.I. Bill should have enabled this whole generation of black veterans to enter the middle class but unfortunately, it didn't. This -- the
restoration act would acknowledge that and then try to take a step towards repairing it through financial compensation.
The reason it is having trouble getting passed is that, honestly, a lot of things in Washington D.C. are fractured right now. And I think for too many
-- on the Republican side of the isle, they don't see this is something that is important to their own constituents.
I think what I would say to that is that this is something that's good for the country. That black veterans served not a single party. They had served
the nation. And so, this G.I. Bill Restoration Act is meant to write that wrong. And it's something that is beneficial for the entirety of the
ISAACSON: Professor Matthew Delmont, thank you so much for joining us.
DELMONT: Thanks for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, a rock stars' welcome for the Iranian climber, Elnaz Rekabi, who landed in Tehran early this morning following
concerns for her safety after she competed abroad without a hijab. Crowds swarmed Rekabi as they cheered her arrival. Chanting, Elnaz the hero. In an
interview with state media, she again reiterated that she had competed without a hijab accidentally.
Now, tomorrow, we'll hear from another hero to many Iranians. The mega pop star Googoosh, once called the voice of Iran who was silenced but the
Islamic Republic for over 20 years. She'll share her message of support for the women protesting back home.
That is it for now. Remember you can always catch us online, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and of course on our podcast. And you can find that
at cnn.com/podcast and on all major platforms. Just search AMANPOUR. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.