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Interview With Former Congressman And Of "American Reboot: An Idealist Guide To Getting Big Things Done" Author Will Hurd (T-TX); Interview With Haaretz Deputy Editor-in-Chief Noa Landau; Interview With U.S. State Department Former Middle East Negotiator And Carnegie Endowment For International Peace Senior Fellow Aaron David Miller; Interview With "Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention" Author Johann Hari. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 03, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And welcome to AMANPOUR, here's what is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I, for one, am excited for 2023. One party ruling in Washington is ending and accountability is coming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But first, Republicans must get their House in order. Former GOP congressman Will Hurd on what a pivot and American leadership will actually
Then, a provocative visit to a sacred site from Israel's extreme right wing new security minister. What will the country's most hardline government
ever mean for it standing with the United States and beyond?
Plus, just a quick note before you check your phone, author Johann Hari on "Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again."
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, back live tonight from London, after what we hope were happy family holidays for
In Washington today, it marks a new year, and new Congress, and a new balance of power. But right off, the bat a new Republican House majority is
stumbling amid a leadership contest that could, at best, be long drawn out, and at worst, cause congressional chaos.
At this moment, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy does not yet have the votes to secure the speaker's gavel. A small contingent of hardline right wingers
are standing in his way. But they are enough to endanger his election, given his parties razor-thin majority. McCarthy has already given into
demands from these holdouts, including a rule that will make it easier to boot him out of office.
My first guest, the former Republican Congressman, Will Hurd, is the author of "American Reboot: An Idealist Guide to Getting Big Things Done," and
he's joining me now from San Antonio, Texas.
Congressman Hurd, welcome. Welcome to our program. You know, your book has a very optimistic title, getting big things done. But as we said, first,
you got to get a Congress that actually works. What do you make of what's happening as we speak? The first round of voting is underway, do you think
Kevin McCarthy will make it?
FMR. REP. WILL HURD (R-TX) AND AUTHOR, OF "AMERICAN REBOOT: AN IDEALIST GUIDE TO GETTING BIG THINGS DONE": Well, I think it's a new year, but the
same old drama. And I think the math is very hard for Kevin McCarthy. Most people think that he is not going to get his -- get this election in the
first ballot. And I don't know how it gets any easier on further ballots.
And unfortunately, this is a time when you saw the nominating speeches, Democrats were almost giddy, when you are watching them on the floor,
because they knew the drama that was going to being -- to be unfolding. And this is a time when Republicans should be united and talking about the
things and setting that we want to accomplish in this new year. Laying out a platform of things. And showing some contrast to the Biden
But unfortunately, it's going to be some drama from a handful of individuals if they're not interested in governing. And this is the
culmination of years of ignoring this party -- this problem within our party.
AMANPOUR: So, let's just break it down a little bit. Are you saying you don't think he'll ever make it or do you think it'll just go to a lot of
ballots? And how many people are standing in his way? Publicly they say at least five are nos.
HURD: Sure, that's correct. Five folks, these are members of what is called the freedom caucus. These are some right-wing folks that are subsect of the
Republican Party. But you saw yesterday, there was a letter -- let me step back. Kevin McCarthy made some concessions to these folks that were an
opposition of his rule on a very arcane legislative procedure called the motion to vacate. Vacate the chair. It's a motion to vacate the chair.
Meaning that an individual can call a vote to remove the speaker of the House. Kevin made a concession around this. But nine Republicans wrote a
letter in response to that. He made those concessions on Sunday. On Monday, there were nine people that responded and said that they were -- they --
that was not enough. And none of those nine were part of the five hard nos. So, just right there, the math says, we have at least 14.
HURD: And that's something that is going to be problematic.
Now, here's what happens, this is one of the few votes -- this is the only vote in Congress where members stand up and have to say a name. And if
someone doesn't get a majority of those that are participating, then it immediately goes into another vote, unless somebody asks for a, you know,
an adjournment. But that also requires a majority of the people present to do that. And we know that the Democrats are probably not going to be
supportive of that.
So, this has a chance of going late. I've heard that after three ballots, there are other names that may circulate, some of the names we've all been
hearing, like Steve Scalise, the number two right now in the House Republican Congress.
But unfortunately, what is this all doing? Instead of talking about how we should be dealing with inflation? How we should be dealing with border
security? how can we deal with China trying to surpass the United States as the global superpower? Instead of talking about those important issues,
those issues that the American voter wanted us to talk about, which is why they voted the way they did in 2022. Instead, we are talking about internal
fighting and that's exactly the opposite of what voters want.
And I can even -- and I can say, that the reason a red wave did not happen in the 2022 election is that voters were concerned about Republican's
ability to govern.
HURD: And we are not showing anything different today on the start of this new Congress.
AMANPOUR: Well, as it's been said, ever since Donald Trump was elected president, Republicans have suffered failures in every electoral cycle.
Whether it was in 2018 midterms, 2020 presidential, and now, not having that big red wave that was predicted. Apparently, that's history defying
failure rate there.
But here is the thing, McCarthy says that he's earned it. And by the facts, he has, right? He led the party to at least a slim victory. These guys say,
he's part of the swamp, I'm going to -- these holdouts, I am going to play a soundbite of one of them. And then I want to ask you to react.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): He is part of the problem. He's not part of the solution. I'll be following the will of my constituents, the voters from
Virginia's Fifth District, who hundreds of which have told me over the past couple of years not to support Kevin McCarthy. There is nothing he's done
to earn my vote. There's nothing that indicates to me he's going to change his pattern since he's been in leadership where he is part of a swamp
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Congressman, as you've explained, this is a lot of blah, blah. These are people who have no interest in governing. They're just
grandstanding for themselves, and I've heard that from other Republican strategists. But here's what I don't understand, if Donald Trump is these
people's demigod, and Donald Trump has endorsed McCarthy, what on Earth are they doing?
HURD: Well, it shows that Donald Trump, nobody cares what he thinks anymore, and that his power is swaying. A lot of these individuals early on
the 2016 campaign were anti-Donald Trump. And then, when they saw the handwriting on the wall, they jumped on board. And now they're seeing the
new handwriting on the wall and jumping off board.
And so, that's ultimately, I think you can see how Trump's power is eroding. And as you said, Donald Trump lost the House, the Senate, the
White House. He prevented a red wave from coming over, and he potentially have had a failed speakership bid by Kevin McCarthy on -- you can add that
to this trash heap of garbage that Donald Trump has created.
But ultimately, you have to understand the motivations of these individuals. It's not about governing. It's not about passing legislation.
It's about throwing bombs. And this is the ultimate way to throw a bomb. These are also people that are seeking changes and how the House operates
to give them more power because they have shown an inability to govern and to have ideas that can grow a consensus.
And ultimately, I want to make it clear that if Kevin McCarthy doesn't get this, he is not a martyr. Because part of the problem has been encouraging
this kind of behavior. Part of the problem has been thinking that these folks are be -- going to be willing participants. They don't care, they
only want absolute fealty to their ideas. And other -- and if you don't do that, they're not going to support you.
So, those are mistakes that have been made over the years by Kevin McCarthy. And so, part of this problem has been a creation of his own
accord. He's changed his position on things that could have helped moderate Republicans, or rational, or common sense Republicans get elected in the
He should've gotten more involved in some of these primaries and make sure that we're electing people that want to govern. And ultimately, these bomb
throwers are only caring about a small percentage of their district who get them elected. And that's one of the realities of our primary system here in
the United States.
AMANPOUR: So, we briefly or you briefly touched on the impact it's going to have on Congress. I mean, everybody's talking about this being a pivotal
moment that, you know, you -- and your book talks about a reboot, et cetera. But given this chaos, and given the very small majority the
Republicans have anyway. What do you think is going to be the direction of the next Congress, the House, which sets the legislative agenda, or at
least the speaker does.
HURD: Well -- look, I think this is an example. There's probably more chaos, unfortunately, with such a small margin of victory. And regardless
of who comes out of this triumphant, the leader of this Congress is going to be hobbled by these debates. How are you going to have a conversation
about passing a appropriations bills in order to fund the government and prevent the United States government from defaulting on their debt? How are
you going to be able to pass legislation that has sound fiscal policy to prevent us from going into a recession which many economists are predicting
is going to happen in 2023?
Ultimately, what we need is we need leaders that are willing to solve problems and work together, work across party aisle. And so, with -- you
have leaders of the majority -- of House Republicans that are unwilling to work with Democrats, then you are not going to be and you can't corral all
222 Republicans on your side, then that's going to ultimately be a problem.
And guess what? Republicans are going to get impacted on that in the next election in 2024, because all the problems that, you know, happen and that
we have to deal with over the next two years is going to get blamed on a chaotic house.
AMANPOUR: So, you know, as you've said, you know, there needs to have been some soul searching. That clearly hasn't happened. What do you think is the
ultimate result for your party?
HURD: Well, look, the ultimate result of the party is that the 2022 election was the perfect example. I can even go back to 2020. The lessons
of 2020 was real simple. Don't be a jerk and don't be a socialist. The fact that Democrats in 2020 didn't make the inroads that they expected. The
lesson of 2022 was candidates matter.
The electorate says, we are willing -- this thing called ticket splitters, people that vote for one party in one election, and another party in a
different election, that's a reality. And America says, we want people that are willing to solve problems. We want people that -- we want serious
people solving serious problems.
And unfortunately, there's a number of individuals that haven't figured that out. Now, the opportunity is that Democrats are frustrated. Democratic
voters are frustrated with the direction the country is going in. Since president Biden has been in office, you have seen the number of people that
think the country on the wrong track continue to increase.
However, in order to take advantage of that reality, you have to have a Republican leader that steps in and says, hey, this is about the country
where America -- we are going to, you know, we're going to focus on solving problems for all Americans. That we're going to broaden the appeal of the
party to everyone. We're going to help everyone move up the economic ladder. That's the winning message. Not being able talking to these narrow
group of people and throwing bombs and trying to say crazy things that get clicks on social media and views on cable news.
And so, that's the real opportunity. And we've seen that now in two election cycles. But guess what, Christiane, it is hard to do that. And our
political infrastructure is not built for that. But that's what our country needs in order to make sure the rest of this century stays the American
century. So, I'm hopeful -- it's hard. It's hard. It's going to be difficult to do, but I think that's where the opportunity is.
AMANPOUR: Uh-huh. Well, let me drill down on that. As we've been speaking, the first ballot has been held and McCarthy has not in this first ballot,
won the votes that he needs. So, it's continuing.
AMANPOUR: But you talked about the quality of the candidates' matter, and that was the message delivered and even analyzed by your own party after
failing to win a red wave in, you know, in these past midterms.
So, I want to ask you about seating this congressman from New York, George Santos, who as you know, he's caused quite a lot of controversy. He said to
be sworn in today.
Apparently, he fabricated parts of his resume, including work experience and education, a whole lot of other things about campaign funds and this
and that. This is how he's defending himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONGRESSMA-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS, (R-NY): Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did. And I'm sorry. And it shouldn't be done. I'm still the same guy. I'm
not a fraud. I'm not a cartoon character. I'm not some mis -- mythical creature that was invented. I'm no Russian puppet. This will not deter me
from being an effective member of the United States Congress in the 118th session.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, those were a few butted together bits of his defense, and you heard him end up by saying, this won't deter me from being an effective
congressman. Well, right now, American and Brazilian authorities are now investigate him -- investigating. His lawyer denies any illegal acts. And
McCarthy has judged -- has dodged questions about this issue.
What do you make as a former Republican congressman of this kind of character under this kind of suspicion and investigation at this time of
chaos in the party being sworn in even?
HURD: Well, it's an embarrassment to the Republican Party, it's an -- he is an embarrassment to Congress, but ultimately, it's the people of that
district in New York to decide who's going to represent them in Washington, D.C. The bigger problem is the fact that somebody that has this much
baggage thought it was OK and that he can get away with it and run.
And what happened to the other candidates in that Republican primary that should have -- you know, part of elections is for candidates to make sure
voters know everything about who is running. You know, what happened in that primary for folks not to understand that? Where was his Democratic
opponent? Where was the national Dems on this race?
I think they actually ignored this race because of redistricting. But this is something that these things should have come out prior to him getting
elected. But ultimately, it's the will of the people and they're the ones that should decide who represents them. But this individual, he obviously
has problems from this long history of lying about everything in his life.
AMANPOUR: It is a very strange way to start a new majority in Congress and we will see how votes precedes. Congressman Will Hurd, thank you so much
for joining us.
HURD: Always a pleasure and happy new year.
AMANPOUR: Thank you. To you, too.
Now, one of the big issues that faces the United States is of course the Middle East and Israel's new far-right government could threaten its
standing even with allies like Washington. Its new hardline national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir drew condemnation from Palestinians,
international partners, and some prominent Israelis today when he made a defiant visit to a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Here's what Ben-
Gvir said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ITAMAR BEN-GVIR, ISRAELI NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER (through translator): The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel. The
Temple Mount is open for everybody. Muslims come up here, Christians, and Jews. Yes, also Jews. In the government, which I'm a member of, there won't
be racist discrimination and Jews will visit the Temple Mount. We make it clear to Hamas. We don't give in. We don't surrender. We don't blink.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Yes. But the former Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, calls Ben-Gvir, "The most irresponsible man in the Middle East." He says, the
visit was provocative, and he's called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to tell Ben-Gvir, "You don't go up to the Temple Mount because people will die."
Now, under Lapid's own leadership, 150 Palestinians were killed in 2022 by security forces, and some Jewish settlers according to the United Nations.
It's the most number of deaths of Palestinians in almost two decades. 29 Israelis were also killed in Palestinian attacks last year.
Now, as deputy editor-in-chief of Israel's news side Haaretz, Noa Landau, is following this hardline new government very closely. And she is joining
me now from Tel Aviv.
Noa Landau, welcome to the program. Let me first ask you to explain again to the world, why a visit by an Israeli minister to Temple Mount, Haram al-
Sharif is considered so provocative.
NOA LANDAU, DEPUTY EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, HAARETZ: Hi, Christiane.
So, basically since 1967, since Israel took control of the compound, which Jews called Temple Mount and Muslims call it al-Akhtal, Haram al-Sharif,
this -- there is a status quo in which Jews are allowed to visit in small groups, in specific times, as long as they don't publicly pray there. But
with the years, and specifically in recent years, there's been a continuing erosion in that status quo on the part of Israel.
And Itamar Ben-Gvir, the new far-right minister for national security is one of the main leading voices that are actually preaching for the erosion
of that status quo.
AMANPOUR: You know, I can cast my mind back to 2000, I think it was, when then-hardline Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, made the same visit and it did
cause a huge amount of chaos and its aftermath. My question to you now, 22 years later, this was deliberate. This was a line in the sand. This is what
the hardliners have said they want to do, you know, reclaim every inch of Israel for Israel, et cetera, et cetera. Are you surprised that this kind
of challenge has happened so quickly?
LANDAU: No one should be surprised because this is actually -- this is Itamar Ben-Gvir's party official line. They actually said time after time
that they intend to challenge the status quo in Temple Mount al-Aqsa. They said it out in the open. And I'm not surprised at all that they are
actually acting on it.
And I think we should take very seriously also other things that they are promising to do. They want to challenge Israel judiciary. They want to
challenge human rights. They want to challenge -- even the issues that in Israel are considered pretty mainstream like LGBTQ rights, women rights. I
think we should take them very seriously and we shouldn't be surprised if they act on those as well.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I want to drill down on some of that because some people have put all that in a basket and said this new -- you know, hardest line
right wing ever Israeli government threatens Israel's very secular democracy, which has always been, you know, stood up as a shining example
in the Middle East.
So, let's just go through this. The man who we're talking about, National Security Minister Ben-Gvir, he does have a conviction for inciting anti-
Arab racism and supporting terrorism. The finance minister, Smotrich, has described himself as a proud homophobe and thinks Israel should be run
according to Jewish law. He'll also served in the hallowed halls of the defense ministry. And the new government is expected to take steps towards
annexing the West Bank.
You know, Benjamin Netanyahu said this is all hysteria, and we won, and this is just, you know, cold -- you know, whatever's it's called, sour
grapes from those who lost. Again, is there a risk that this democracy could be threatened by these kinds of agenda?
LANDAU: You know, there's debate in Israel's left wing if Israel is a democracy when it's still occupying millions of Palestinians. But for those
in the center-left, I would say, spectrum in Israel who still think that Israel at least aspires to be a liberal democracy, even if there is a
debate if it actually is. At least that it aspires to. Then this is the most challenging government we ever had to that notion. This is the most
extreme, the most far right, the most religious government we had in Israel's history.
So, this is definitely a huge challenge. And the people that you just mentioned, yes, they are now the leading cabinet, taking all major
decisions. And the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu, you know, says publicly that we should, you know, trust him to maintain Israel's democratic liberal
values, that is something that he says by heart. And then on the other hand, in the actual coalition agreements where it's written in black and
white, you see totally other statements.
So, who should we believe? Should we believe Benjamin Netanyahu who says, don't worry, or should we believe the actual agreements that are written
black and white where things that are very frightening right now, you know, our promised in these agreements?
And also, you know, today after Itamar Ben-Gvir's actual intended provocation in Temple Mount al-Aqsa, we also heard some voices from within
the prime minister's office claiming that there will be no harm to the status quo. Why isn't Netanyahu saying this himself? Why are those, you
know, voices from within, sources from within the prime minister's office?
So, there -- I think there is a deliberate attempt to -- so that the messages are pretty vague, so that, you know, on one hand we see actions,
we see agreements. But then on the other hand, we see these promises.
AMANPOUR: You know, to that end, the prime minister -- the Palestinian authority said, Mohammad Shtayyeh said about this visit, this is a
violation against all norms, values, agreements, international laws, and Israel's commitments to the American president. And then of course, we also
heard from Jordan, from the UAE, from Egypt, all of whom have peace deals with Israel that this could really test the boundaries of that
And Jordan's king, Abdullah, a few weeks ago, said the following about these provocations to CNN. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING ABDULLAH II, JORDAN: If people want to get into a conflict with us, we're quite prepared. I always like to believe that let's look at the glass
half full. But we have certain red lines. And if people want to push those red lines, then we will deal with that. But I have to believe that there's
-- a lot of people in Israel also that are concerned as much as we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that was actually a few days ago. Do you think, Noa Landau, that there are enough people in Israel who might push back against what
seems to be unfolding on the ground? And are you concerned that all of this could cause yet another major spasm of violence between both sides?
LANDAU: I am very concerned, very much. But also, I think, it's worth remembering that in the end, in what -- in the U.S. you call the popular
vote, in the end in Israel's popular vote in these elections it was almost a tie. The reason that the far right won these elections is because there
were some parties that didn't pass the threshold, it was almost technical. You had 2 million people voting this pro-Bibi against it, and 2 million
people voting against it.
And in the end, yes, there are still people in Israel who want to see a different Israel. There is a question whether those people, you know, share
all these values, there are definitely in Israel, more people who care more about women and LGBTQ rights than Palestinian rights. It's true.
And also, as you mentioned before, the previous government that wasn't as far right, also, you know, was one of the most violent years in the
occupied territories. So, of course, this is much more complicated. But, yes, I do. I believe that there are Israelis on the ground that hope for a
different future and I hope they will prevail.
AMANPOUR: Noa Landau, deputy editor of Haaretz, thank you so much indeed for joining us from Tel Aviv.
And next, we turn to Aaron David Miller. He was a Middle East analyst for the U.S. State Department, part of the peace negotiating team, and he's a
veteran, as I say, of all these issues.
Welcome back to our program. So, you just heard my conversation with Noa Landau. What concerns you the most, particularly about Israel's
relationship with its main ally, the United States, going forward?
AARON DAVID MILLER, FORMER MIDDLE EAST NEGOTIATOR, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT AND SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Look, I
think there has been a trend in evidence for quite a few years now. I think it's important that we face up to it. The adhesive that has bound the U.S.-
Israeli relationship, aside from domestic political realities, is an intersection and a coincidence of both values and interests, that the
United States and Israel have shared.
And if I -- and as someone who is a firm supporter of the existence of the state of Israel, I am concerned, and now even more concerned, with the
ascent of Benjamin Netanyahu's government, the most extreme right government in the history of the state, that the coincidence of interest in
values that have bound this relationship are under tremendous stress. And I fear that for any number of reasons, that stress is going to reach an
unprecedented level in the years ahead.
Look, when in fact the image of Israel changes, in what I would call the mind of America, then American policy toward Israel is likely to change as
well. I don't predict any imminent collapse of the relationship. We've got a Republican Party that has become, essentially with some exceptions, the
Israel right or wrong party, and a Democratic Party that is essentially divided.
Its majority is traditionally very strong supporters of the state of Israel and a very vocal an increasingly assertive minority that wants to hold
Israel accountable for what they see at its repression of Palestinians in the West Bank. So, I think, Christiane, we are really entering Tehran
incognito. We've never seen an Israeli government like this before, nor has any administration I have ever worked for. Republican or Democrat, and
there have been six, basically, encountered the coalition that has been formed.
AMANPOUR: Well, and to that point then, you know, they have been on the record, some of these extreme, you know, hardliners who I just mentioned
before as -- I mean, forget the two-state solution that the president of the United States, Joe Biden, has yet again pledged America to -- let me
read his latest quote before asking you the asking question. "The United States will continue to support the two-state solution and to oppose
policies that endanger its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values."
Well, so how much do you take seriously then, the threat and the state of desire of some of these people in big positions right now, in the defense
ministry, the police, et cetera, to annex the West Bank? To say, every inch belongs actually to Israel and -- I mean, what -- where does that lead?
MILLER: Well, the government statement, not the statement of the three extremist ministers, the governments coalition statement basically talks
about, let me quote, "The exclusive and unquestionable right of Israel to the land of Israel." And it specifies the West Bank, well, Judea and
Samaria, to use their terminology, as well as Jerusalem.
So, I think, frankly, whether its de jure annexation, and I think the prime minister of Israel who wants very much to return to the international
stage, prides himself on partly the officership of the Abraham Accords, wants to, he said, as a strategic objective. Bettering -- not only
bettering relations with Saudi Arabia but normalizing them. I think the prime minister will go to great lengths to avoid what you and I would agree
to be de jure annexation.
But let's be clear, the de facto annexation of the West Bank is going to be accelerated. In large part because you have two ministers, Bezalel
Smotrich, who is basically going to be a minister in the ministry of defense with overall responsibility for much of the day-to-day life that
goes on in the West Bank. And Itamar Ben-Gvir, head minister of the national security, who now have the authority to order the border police in
and out of the West Bank. And who believes, not only in the expulsion of Arabs, but in fact, the annexation of the West Bank.
So, I think in that sense, it's not the formal act of annexation. I think what's in train is happening day to day on the ground.
AMANPOUR: And I think what's equally concerning is what Noa Landau basically, you know, reminded us that it's not just this new government,
but the previous one where we saw, you know, an unprecedented non- Palestinians deaths plus attacks inside Israel. You know, under a not far- right hard, you know, hardline government. So, it is a very difficult situation right now. But I want to ask you, what do American Jews, the
American Jewish community and leaders in the United States, where do they stand on these key issues? Democracy that maybe threatened with messing
around with the judiciary. The fact that the two-state solution may go down the drain. Where do American Jews stand on this?
MILLER: Well, you know, I'm a member of that community. And I would hesitate --
MILLER: -- I would hesitate to speak for the five and a half million American Jews. I think if you look at the --
AMANPOUR: Really? There's no consensus in the United States?
MILLER: I think, Christiane -- well, if you look at the very statements of the most significant American Jewish organizations, you ran the gamut of
the federation and conference of presidents who have been hesitant to criticize or, to be one about it, call out the new government.
You've got the American Jewish Committee that is trying to straddle a line between identifying that there are problems but hoping to work with the
Prime Minister of Israel in curtailing them. You've got Peace Now, as well as, J Street and the Israeli policy forum that have been very vocal in
identifying not only is there a problem but in registering their opposition.
So, I think by and large, however, it would seem to me that at least those Jews, half of them who are not even affiliated with any Jew organization or
any synagogue by and large, probably, depending on their age, will still -- the default position is going to be probably to come down. Unless this new
government qualitatively and quantitatively goes beyond anything that we have seen in terms of their actions.
And while I understand that words in the Middle East can kill, it will be actions. Such as the one that Itamar Ben-Gvir took today to visit the Haram
al-Sharif Temple Mount, what the Israelis call Har ha'Bayit, those are the kinds of actions that could provoke and trigger a kind of unrest that we
haven't seen in the Middle East in decades.
So, I again, I think, increasingly -- look, I wouldn't want to be writing, talking points for any Jewish American organization today who wasn't
prepared to acknowledge the reality that you have an Israeli government that is heading in a very dangerous and damaging direction when it comes to
Israel's most important ally, the United States.
As I mentioned before, when the image of Israel in the U.S., not just among evangelical Christians, when the image of Israel in the U.S. begins to
change, then I think it is to some degree changing, then overtime I suspect U.S. policy will follow suit.
AMANPOUR: Very, very quickly just to broaden out the lens, the new Israeli foreign minister, Eli Cohen, has said that Israel will, "Talk less", with
respect to the Russia and Ukraine, you know, war that Russia started. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator said among other things, the idea that
Israel should speak less about Russia's criminal invasion of the Ukraine is a bit unnerving. How do you see that going, very briefly?
MILLER: Well, first of all, Eli Cohen maybe the foreign minister in a year and he is going to swap jobs and Israel Katz will be the foreign minister.
The real power here in foreign policy is going to line with the prime minister and Ron Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to the United
States, who is now minister of strategic affairs.
MILLER: But on the broader point of Ukraine, like, I think that the Israelis will continue to try to navigate the fine line between maintaining
ties with Vladimir Putin as a consequence and their interest in Syria, but will increasingly find it very hard. They are America's only ally in the
Middle East. The only democracy in the Middle East. And the only country who has been affected and whose histories bathed in European blood, partly
as a consequence of Russia's treatment of Jews. And for the Israelis not to come down harder on the side of Ukraine, I think increasingly is going to
undermine Israel's credibility.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much for your perspective on this, Aaron David Miller, born of longtime experience.
MILLER: Christiane, happy new year. And think positive but continue to test negative.
AMANPOUR: I will take that under consideration and advisement.
Next, how long can you focus on a thought or anything for that matter without being interrupted by your flashing phone with such a powerful
distraction always inches away? Some people's ability for focus has dwindled to a matter of minutes, according our next guest.
New York Times bestselling author Johann Hari explores the importance of attention and how it has been stolen in this latest book. He joins Hari
Sreenivasan to discuss those findings.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks. Johann Hari, thank you so much for joining us.
First of all, great last name. Second, we just got through this holiday season, and almost everywhere we go, we see people doing this, right? Right
in front of them. And I wonder, it's like we are not really paying attention to the thing that's right in front of us. So, what is it that's
causing this collective inability to focus, this distracted state of being that we find ourselves in?
JOHANN HARI, AUTHOR, "STOLEN FOCUS: WHY YOU CAN'T PAY ATTENTION": So, to understand this, I use my training in the social sciences at Cambridge
University to go on a really big journey all over the world from Moscow to Miami to Melbourne to interview over 200 of the leading experts on
attention and focus and do a really deep dive into their science.
And what I learned really surprised me. Their scientific evidence that 12 factors that can boost your attention or can make your attention worse. And
the evidence is clear, loads of the factors that can make your attention worse have been hugely increasing in recent years and they're really broad.
There are some aspects about technology. it's not all our technology, we can put this right. And many factors I had never even thought of.
You know, the way we eat is profoundly affecting our ability to focus and pay attention. The way we work, is profoundly affecting our ability to
focus and pay attention. The way our kids' schools work, is really affecting our ability to focus and pay attention. The book is called
"Stolen Focus" because your attention didn't collapse. Your attention has been stolen from you by some really big forces. But once we understand
those forces, we can begin to put this right together.
SREENIVASAN: What is the cost here? Because people often have a tendency to say, well, you know, you're saying that this is a problem. Why is it a
HARI: Well, I would say two things. The first thing I would say to everyone watching, think about anything you have ever achieved in your life that you
are proud of. Whether it's starting a business, being a good parent, learning to play the guitar, whatever it is. That thing that you're proud
of required a huge amount of sustained focus and attention.
And the evidence is very clear, when your ability to pay attention breaks down, as it is for most of us right now, your ability to solve your
problems diminishes. Your ability to achieve your goals diminishes. Attention is our superpower. And when you lose it, you suffer in all sorts
But you're totally right, if we think about costs, so one of them became -- one of the 12 that I wrote about in "Stolen Focus" became really clear to
me when I went to MIT to interview one of the leading neuroscientists in the world. An amazing man named Professor Earl Miller.
And he said to me, look, you got to understand one thing about the human brain more than anything else. You can only consciously think about one or
two things at a time, that is it. This is a fundamental limitation of the human brain. But what's happened is we've fallen for a huge delusion. The
average teenager now believe they can follow six of seven folks (ph) of media at the same time and the rest of us are not far behind.
So, what happens is scientists like Professor Miller get people into labs and they get them to think they're doing more than one thing at a time. And
what they discover is always the same, you are juggling very quickly, you are like, what did Hari just ask me? What is this message on WhatsApp? What
did it say on CNN just happened? Oh, my God. Wait. What was your question again, Hari? So, we're constantly juggling.
And that juggling comes with a really big cost. The technical term for it is the switch cost effect. When you try and do more than one thing at a
time, you do all the things you are trying to do much less competently. You remember less of what you do, you make more mistakes, you're much less
creative. So, it feels like a small thing, but it actually comes with a really big cost.
You know, if you're interrupted by something as simple as a text message it takes you, on average, 23 minutes to get back to the level of focus you had
before you were interrupted. But most of us never get 23 minutes without being interrupted. So, as Professor Miller put it to me, we are living in a
perfect storm of cognitive degradation as a result of being constantly interrupted of the many other factors I wrote back in the book.
SREENIVASAN: We have been socialized to think about multitasking as a superpower. We have been taught that, oh, look at this person. They
accomplished this and this at the same time. This person is, sort of, better than us.
SREENIVASAN: But you are saying that that's not necessarily -- we've been, kind of, misguided in those perceptions.
HARI: It's an incredible delusion. You know, Hewlett-Packard the printer company, did a small study backed by a wider body of evidence. They got a
scientist in to study their work which then split them into two groups. And the first group was told, just get on with your task, whatever it is, and
you're not going to be interrupted. The second group is told, get on with their task, whatever it is, but at the same time you got to answer a heavy
load of e-mails and phone calls. So pretty much, how most of us live, right?
HARI: And at the end of it, the scientists did both tested the IQ of both groups. The group that had not been interrupted scored on average 10 IQ
points higher than the other group perhaps. I'll give you a sense of how big that is. If you and me get stoned together now, if we smoked a fat
spliff, our IQs would go down by five points.
So, in the short term, and I'm stretching this is in the short term, being chronically interrupted in the way we are is twice as bad for your
intelligence as getting stoned. You'd be better off sitting at your desk, smoking a spliff and doing one thing at a time than you would sitting at
your desk, not smoking a split then being constantly interrupted.
Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. Obviously, you would be better off neither smoking a spliff nor being interrupted. But one of the
fascinating things about when you look at the science of attention, as a I did in so much depth for the book is so many things that we take for
granted on this question, which is so important. Your attention is your life, right?
What you pay attention to is your life. So, many things we take for granted. The way we raise our kids, The way our offices work are
undermining our ability to focus and pay attention. But once you understand this science, you can begin to fix it all sorts of very practical ways that
I saw being put into practice all over the world.
SREENIVASAN: So, let's talk about -- a little bit about the, kind of -- the practical. What is something that I actually do have control over to try to
HARI: So, for all of the 12 factors that are harming our focus on attention, I think there's two levels of which we got to deal with them. I
think of them as defense and offense. There are loads of things that we can do to defend ourselves and our children, obviously about a lot because of
our kids, to protect them from the forces that are degrading our attention.
I'll give you an example, I own something called a K-safe. I do not have any shares in this company, I promise you, I should have bought some when
it came out. It's a plastic safe. It's got a lid on it. You take off the lid, you put in your phone, you pop on the lid, you turn the dial, push the
button down and it will lock your phone away for anything between five minutes and a whole day.
I went and sat down to watch a film with my partner, and I said, we both put our phones in the phone jail and we'll have my friends around for
dinner. Unless, we both put -- imprison our phones. And you know, it is really stressful for people at first. It was stressful for me. But the
pleasures of focus are so much greater than the pleasures of distraction. Once you get over that hump, it is such a joy to be back in the power of
SREENIVASAN: So, you're also talking about sleep. And obviously, you know, for someone who doesn't get a lot of sleep, I feel like it's underrated.
But what is the connection between how we sleep and how focused we are during the day?
HARI: Yes, this was one of the -- there's a lot of factors that really shocked me like the way we eat, but sleep is one of the ones that really
blew my mind. I went to Harvard Medical School and interviewed Dr. Charles Czeisler, who is arguably the leading sleep expert in the world. And he
explained to me that we sleep about 20 percent less than we did a century ago. Children sleep 85 minutes less than they did in 1945 per day.
And he said to me, even nothing else would change, even if that was the only difference, that alone would be causing a huge attention crisis.
There's lots of reasons why, but one really helped me to understand it, the whole time you're awake, your brain is generating something called
metabolic waste. It's what one scientist called brain cell poop, which helped me to understand it.
And when you go to sleep, your cerebral spinal fluid channels open up and a watery fluid rinses through your brain and takes all of that brain cell
poop down, out of your brain, down into your kidneys, and eventually, out of your body.
If you don't get any hours sleep at night, most of us don't know, you're in an unusual hurry and that metabolic waste remains in your brain. It clogs
up and slows down your brain. It's why your attention will be worse. You know, if you stay awake for 19 hours, which doesn't sound like very much to
me, well, I guess to most people watching, your attention deteriorates as much as if you got legally drunk, right?
So, we are talking about a huge effect, which is happening to, again, almost everyone. So, talking about why that's happened and practical steps
we can take to put that right.
SREENIVASAN: I read your book electronically, and one of the ironies is that you point out that I might have focused better if I read the paper
back, the physical hard copy. Why is that?
HARI: Yes. There's really interesting evidence about this, Anthony Bird (ph), one of the leading experts in the world in Norway and we don't -- the
reason that we don't entirely know, but it seems to be when you read on paper, your eyes, in English, scan left to right. You know, left to right,
left to right, left to right. When you read on the screen, it seems that -- and they do this -- we know this by monitoring people's eyes when they
read, when you read on a screen, you don't read left to right entirely, you read in a Z shape.
So, you read the first line left to right and then, you skim ahead, and then, if you are interested, you go back, right? And that's just -- you
just retain less information from that different way of reading. And there is lots of evidence on this now. There's really good research on it, but
mostly emerging out of Norway where -- so, there is lots of experiments.
What you can do is you get a bunch of kids, you split them into two groups, you give them exactly the same information, or book, some of them are given
it as a physical book, some of them are given it on a screen. And then, you go back to them a week later, a month later, a year later and just ask them
about what they read. And the kids who read it on paper -- and there's different experiments with adults -- remember it much better, absorbed much
more than the people who read it on a screen.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that a lot of people are starting to have some second thoughts about is the impact of the algorithms and social media
and really just this computer that we have in our hands now and how companies and the products that they are designing are squarely aimed at
our attention, which is the one thing that we seem to be giving up.
HARI: I have spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley with people who design the world in which we now live. And it was fascinating to me to see how
sick with guilt and shame they feel. You know, there's a guy called Dr. James Williams (ph), is a wonderful person, it was at the heart of Google.
And one day he spoke at a tech conference where the audience was literally everyone watching the stuff your kids are using today. And he said to them,
if there is anyone here who wants to live in the world that we are creating, please put up your hand. And nobody put up their hand.
And I think we have to understand which aspects of our technology are doing this because it actually made me more optimistic than I was before. The way
big tech want us to think about this debate is, are you pro tech or are you anti tech? And when you hear that, you're like, well, I'm not going to give
up my laptop and my phone. I guess I must be pro tech.
But actually, that is not the debate. The debate is now, are you pro tech or anti tech. The debate is what tech do we want and designed in whose
interests, right? So, the way this is explained to me by people who -- what the heart of the machine is, anyone watching, if you now -- please don't --
but if you open TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, those companies begin to make money out of you immediately in two ways.
The first way is obvious, you see ads, everyone knows how that works. The second way is much more important. Everything you do on these apps is
scanned and sorted by their artificial intelligence algorithms to figure out who you are and crucially what will keep you scrolling, they are
learning what you like, they're learning what you tell people in private messages you like.
They are constantly scanning and learning your behavior, and they are doing that for one reason and one reason only, the longer you scroll, the more
money they make. The longer your kids scroll, the more money they make because you see more ads. And every time you and your kids close the app,
that revenue stream disappears. So, all of this AI, all of these algorithms, all of this genius in Silicon Valley when applied to social
media is geared towards one thing and one thing only, figuring out how do we get you and your kids to open the app as often as possible and scroll as
long as possible. That's it. That's their business model.
But the key thing to understand -- and this is the thing when I learned that I thought, it geez, it feels like we are just trapped in the matrix
then. I felt hopeless. But they explained to me, no, on the contrary, this is very optimistic. We can have all the technology we currently have but
have it not designed to work that way.
All of these 12 factors we've got that are harming our attention, we got to have two ways of dealing with it, defense, loads of things we can do as
individuals. But I want to be really honest with people because I don't feel most folks about attention are leveling with people, I am passionately
in favor of these individual changes, they have enriched my life and they will enrich yours.
On their own, they won't solve the problem. Because at the moment, it's like someone is pouring itching powder over us all day and then, leaning
forward and going, hey, buddy, you should learn to meditate, then you wouldn't scratch so much. And you want to go, well, to hell with you. I'll
learn to meditate, that's hugely valuable, but you need to stop pouring this damn itching powder on me.
We have to actually deal with the factors that are doing to us. It's not a coincidence that we are all struggling to pay attention at precisely the
time when we are using technology that is explicitly designed to hack and invade our attention. That is not a coincidence, right? It requires a big
shift in psychology, we need to stop blaming ourselves.
You know, I wrote the book in part because I was struggling to focus and pay attention and I was blaming myself. I was like, there is something
wrong with you, you are weak, you are not good enough. It is not your fault. This is happening to almost everyone. The average American office
worker now focuses on any one task for only three minutes. This is the air we are breathing, but it doesn't have to be this way.
And it requires us to really shift our psychology as well in terms of solutions. We need to stop only asking for small little tiny fixes because
this is a big problem that has to be dealt with in society as well. And together, we have to realize, we -- you know, we are not medieval peasants
begging at the court of King Zuckerberg and King Musk for a few little crumbs of attention from their table. We are the free citizens of
democracies and we own our own minds. And if we learn the science of the forces that are invading our minds, we can take our minds back from them.
It doesn't have to be this way. If we fight for it, we can get it back.
SREENIVASAN: In the book, you talk about kind your own process of sitting down and trying to write this, and you had the privilege of having -- being
able to take some time off, literally, put yourself on an island, get yourself an old-fashioned, you know, flip phone, if you will. But how did
you get into that state, that creative people would call the flow state, athletes would call the zone? How did you get into that? What is something
I can do to get into that flow state on a daily basis?
HARI: Everyone listening and watching will have experienced a flow state even if they don't know the term. A flow state is when you are doing
something and you really get into it. You get into the zone and it's like time falls away, it's like your sense of ego falls away. And when it's
over, you are like, whoa, that went quickly. Wow. I got a lot done there, right?
And different people get into flow doing different things. For some people it's brain surgery, for some people it's bagels, it can be anything, right?
Climbing mountains, whatever it might be. And Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered both that flow states are the most precious
form of attention we have because they are the deepest form of attention.
But also, once you are in a flow state, it's the easiest form of attention you can provide, it's not actually difficult once you get into flow to
carry on doing it. So, obviously, he wanted to figure out, OK, how do we do it? Exactly your question, Hari. And he discovered, there's three things
you can do, it's no guaranty, but will hugely maximize your ability to get it to flow.
The first thing is you have to choose one goal and set aside a significant amount of time to achieve that goal. I want to paint this canvas, I want to
climb that rock, whatever it might be. You have to choose one goal. If you are trying to do two, three, four things at a time, you'll never get into
Secondly, you have to choose a goal that is meaningful to you. If you're trying to get into flow for something you don't care about, it just won't
work. Thirdly -- and this one was bit counterintuitive to me, it will help if you choose something that is at the edge of your abilities but not
So, let's say you are medium talent rock climber, right? You don't want to just try and climb over your garden wall. It's too easy. You won't get into
flow. Equally, you don't want to suddenly climb Mount Everest. That would be too overwhelming, you won't get into flow. You want to find a slightly
higher and harder rock face than the one you climbed last time, right? If you do those three things, narrowed down to one goal, make sure it's a
meaningful goal, push yourself to the edge of your abilities, flow begins at the edge of your comfort zone, you maximize your chances of getting this
kind of deep gusher of attention that exists in all of us.
SREENIVASAN: And the book is called "Stolen Focus." Author Johann Hari, thank you so much for joining us.
HARI: What a pleasure. Thanks for great questions. Thanks so much, Hari. I appreciate it. And it's good to speak to my namesake as well. I'm thrilled.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: Everybody is paying attention now. That is it for us. Thanks for watching. Goodbye, from London.