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Interview With Former U.S. Ambassador To Ukraine William Taylor; Interview With "Words And Music" Author Stephen Rubin; Interview With "The Bill Of Obligations" Author And Council On Foreign Relations President Richard Haass. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 24, 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 is what's coming up.
President Zelenskyy purges his own officials in a major crackdown on corruption, just as his country looks set to score some German made tanks
from Poland. I discuss all the latest with the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor.
And, a chilling report from China on the quite rounding up of citizens who protested the state zero-COVID policy. Then, from John Grisham to Hillary
Mantel, we meet the book publisher behind some of the world's best writers, Stephen Rubin. Plus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD HAASS, AUTHOR, "THE BILL OF OBLIGATIONS" AND PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: We are losing any sense of balance, of obligations, to
help one another and to make this country successful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass spoke to Walter Isaacson about re-envisioning American citizenship in order to save
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, may be the world's most famous wartime leader. But his ability to mobilize his country in the fight of its
life was not what got him elected. His pledge to fight corruption did. Well, Zelenskyy is walking that walk now, today purging his own government
in a growing scandal linked to the unlawful procurement of wartime supplies.
Historical corruption, of course, is a primary reason that Ukraine had not been admitted to the E.U. The major government shakeup in Kyiv is also
happening as the U.S. now says it is finalizing plans to send U.S. made Abrams tanks to Ukraine, that is according to three U.S. officials. Joining
me now from Washington is the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor.
So, Ambassador Taylor, it's quite an exciting day, if you want to talk about movement and news. First and foremost, what do you make of all this
drip, drip, drip on the tanks? Will they or won't they? And now, it appears even, you know, a senior state department official, Wendy Sherman, is
saying that you will see relatively soon this tank issue being resolved.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR UKRAINE: Christiane, this has been, as you say, this has been a long-time discussion and there have been
concerns in various parts, of both the United States government as well as European governments, but there is a strong pressure, a strong need, a
strong sense that providing these tanks is really important for the Ukrainians to be able to take the offensive to push the Russians out of
their country. They need the tanks to supplement and compliment the long- range artillery and the heavy artillery that the western allies, NATO allies, the United States and others, have been providing.
The artillery is there. They've got the infantry. They've got the infantry fighting vehicles. These so-called Bradleys that we've been hearing about.
Now, they need the tanks. And this discussion has been going back and forth between the Germans and the Pols and the Americans. And I am so glad to
hear that the -- that finally the United States is going to lead again with providing these heavy tanks to Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador, it has been said, and military experts say, that actually the Abrams may not be what's required for the battlefield. But it
looks to me, and you're the diplomat, that there's a bit of, sort of, chicken and egg going on between Europeans led by Germany -- or other
Germany, and the United States. Who goes first? Is that what all of this boils down to? Because even U.S. officials have pointed out Germany's,
obviously, historic association with tanks rumbling around Europe.
TAYLOR: Well, you are exactly right. There is that history. But the U.S. tanks, these Abrams, M1A1 tanks are very capable. They're very
sophisticated. They burned jet fuel, Christiane. So, they are difficult to maintain and the supply lines are troubling, but that can be overcome. And
again, those are very capable tanks as are the German Leopards.
Now, the good thing about the German Leopards, two good things. One is, there is a lot of them and they are not just in Germany, they are in
Poland, they are in Spain.
They're in a lot of countries in Europe who have bought the German Leopards. And number two, they run on diesel. They run on diesel fuel,
which is easier to supply, much more available on the battlefield.
So, that's the reason that we've been focused so much on the Leopards. But you are right, there has been this discussion between the Germans and the
Pols and the Americans, most recently just last week in Ramstein, about how to provide the support we need to give to the Ukrainians so that they can
win. So, that they can push the Russians out of their country. Ukraine can win if we provide these weapons. And now, there's been this breakthrough.
AMANPOUR: So, on this program last night, we spoke to Senior U.S. Official John Kirby of the National Security Council. And he said to us that
decisions haven't been made. Obviously, things are moving in that direction on the tanks. And we also spoke to a very senior Polish official advising
the president on these issues.
And as you know, the Pols are very, very gung-ho, along with Finland, along with the Baltic States, and they absolutely want to send all of this heavy
armor to Ukraine because they believe, like you do, that a victory can happen if Ukraine is properly armed up. America doesn't seem to believe
that. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley, has said that it's not in the cards for this year.
TAYLOR: Well, General Milley has been various views about various things over the past several months. I mean, he famously was talking -- maybe a
little outside of his lane about negotiations. And it turns out that the U.S. government is strongly opposed in negotiations now. The U.S.
government is strongly supportive of a -- of offensive by the Ukrainians in the south, or wherever.
General Zaluzhnyi, the Ukrainian General Milley, Chairman, knows what he's doing. He's been very good, Christiane, on how -- on deploying his forces.
And he is, undoubtedly, preparing this counteroffensive, and that will be - - that could be decisive. It could be decisive this year no matter what General Milley says.
AMANPOUR: OK. I want to get to the strategy on the battlefield in a moment. But following up on what you just said about General Zaluzhnyi, you
know that the defense ministry in Kyiv is under a shakeup. This corruption scandal, these allegations of unlawful procurement of everything from food
to war supplies has gone right up. The deputy defense minister has resigned or been sacked. We've seen a whole load of resignations and sackings from
the presidential cabinet at deputy levels and others.
So, you know these people. You know President Zelenskyy. I don't whether you know Defense Minister Reznikov, but how is this going to affect all
that we are talking about now? The prosecution of this war and the defense of this country?
TAYLOR: Well, Christiane, I do know Mr. Reznikov -- Minister Reznikov, in his previous job and his current job, and we stayed in touch. And we were
in touch over the weekend about exactly this. You are right, that the journalist actually who broke this story are doing their jobs.
Well, the journalists who are very strong and very capable and very dedicated, very professional in Ukraine, a real tribute to the journalism
sector in Ukraine, uncovered what could have been a scandal. What might have been a scandal. They determined that the military had signed a
contract, the ministry of defense had signed a contract with a firm to buy eggs and other things at prices well above what you can go out to the
supermarket and buy eggs for.
So, the Germans did the right thing. And we see that the deputy minister of defense who was responsible for that part of the procurement, that is the
civilian non-weapons part, resigned, or was fired, as you say. And the system is working over this, the important part. The journalists are doing
their job. President Zelenskyy is doing his job of showing no tolerance for corruption. No tolerance.
And it turns out the institutions that have been set up in the Ukrainian government to check, to fight, to defeat corruption are working. There was
a special -- a Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, the old SAPO (ph). There's a special -- there's a prosecutor -- there's a special part of the
government that is the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, NABU, and these organizations are doing their jobs. They are doing their jobs.
The people of Ukraine, Ukrainians, want to win this war. They know they can win this war. But they need American support, they need NATO support.
They also want to be sure that their money, that the taxpayers' money from Ukraine are going into the right places. So, there's a lot of pressure to
push back on corruption and these actions by President Zelenskyy to fire the people who are violating the trust of the Ukrainian people is a
demonstration of that.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you are very passionate and very convinced about this. Let me just ask you, because you also know the history as I mentioned in
the introduction, that one of the things plaguing Ukraine's entrance to the E.U. and other institutions has been historical corruption.
And just in 2021, that's like not even two years ago, a report by Transparency International claims that Ukraine is, "The second most corrupt
country in Europe after Russia". And we can see with our own eyes the corruption in Russia has translated itself on the battlefield, they don't
even have everything that everybody thought they did to prosecute this war. But can Kyiv get on top of it, as you say they're doing that right now, but
really on top of it as it's trying to, you know, wage war at the same time, or defense?
TAYLOR: Christiane, they have to. They know they have to. They have -- their first priority, of course, is to win this war. They know that in
order to win this war and really to win the peace afterwards, they need to have a country that is -- that trusts the government and that trust the
institutions to fight corruption.
I mentioned the journalists who were doing an extraordinarily good job of uncovering corruption. That is not true in Russia. So, the perception,
which is what Transparency International measures, perception of corruption, yes, is high in Ukraine because the journalists are doing their
Most of their corruption in Russia is never turned up because there is no journalism there. But you're -- but the question you ask is the right one.
The Ukrainians want to win this war. Ukrainians want to join the European Union. Both of those things require that they be on top of this corruption
question and defeat it, not just fight it, but defeat corruption.
AMANPOUR: I mean, look, to be fair, there are Russian journalists who are rooting out corruption, but now they are all in jail. So, we understand
what you are saying. It's difficult right now for the body politic to challenge the Kremlin right now.
But I wanted to ask you also in terms of, you know, prosecuting this war, there has been some conversation about the Americans sending officials,
including Wendy Sherman recently, to President Zelenskyy to talk about a potential strategic shift. To stop acting as if, you know, Bakhmut is the
be all and end all of this war. And to think about maybe repositioning armor and infantry and basic, you know, warfighting capacity to liberating
parts of the south, which is very important for them as well.
Where do you stand on this, and does that sound reasonable that the U.S. would have done that kind -- would have given them that kind of advice?
TAYLOR: Christiane, I would be surprised if Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, was giving that kind of military, tactical, strategic advice
to -- I mean, you and I just talked about General Zaluzhnyi, who is the General Milly equivalent in Ukraine. He's brilliant, and he's demonstrated
his brilliance. And the Ukrainian military has demonstrated its competence, bravery, skill.
And so, I would be surprised if Wendy Sherman, or any Americans, we're giving that kind of advice. That said, Christiane, I do believe that the
International Community is supportive of Ukraine's intent to strike the Russians before they can strike. That is the Ukrainians, I'm sure, are
preparing to preempt this Russian offensive that we heard a lot about. And I imagine that Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman was there to demonstrate and
provide evidence for strong of the United States for all of what Ukraine is doing, but in particular for those kinds of efforts.
AMANPOUR: I just want to actually quick -- play a quick soundbite from Wendy Sherman, which has just come into the network, regarding the tank
issue. And she's talking about how Germany might be viewing it, but she's talking about potential resolution. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDY SHERMAN, U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: They have had great concern about having tanks, German tanks, go across Europe again, and I understand
that. Countries around the world on the other hand want to be able to supply Leopard tanks. And because Leopard tanks are manufactured in
Germany, in essence Germany -- German content and technology, Germany has to give permission.
I suspect, if you stay tuned, that all of this will be resolved relatively soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, if you stay tuned everything will be resolved. Well, we don't have to go over it again. I just wanted to play it. You have
described exactly, you know, where you think this should go. But I guess, finally, do you -- well, first of all, the corruption issue that you say,
and we can see as being dealt with, and the journalists are doing their job, as you say. Do you think that might have any effect on maybe some
wobblers in the Republican Party in Congress right now, or are they rock- solid on prosecuting this war? I mean, once in, follow it to the end.
TAYLOR: I think that is where the American people are, Christiane. Once in, follow it to the end. I think the majority of the Congress is there. I
think the majority of both parties, clearly, the majority of the Congress, House and Senate have been very supportive, overwhelmingly supportive of
these assistance packages. There is strong support for Ukraine. We saw it in President Zelenskyy's visit. The standing ovation, the support he got,
the monster support that he got in the Congress, and -- So, I think that's going to continue.
He needs to be tough on corruption. He needs to win this war. He needs our support to win this war. If he does, then he will continue, as you say, to
go down in history as a wartime president that we've seen.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Bill Taylor, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Turning now to China, since the government's U-turn on its strict zero- COVID policy back in December, around 80 percent of the population, 80 percent, has been infected with COVID. The controversial move was sparked
by widespread protests. And now, some residents say they're paying the price for taking to the streets. Correspondent Selina Wang spoke with one
woman who says that her friend vanished, leaving behind a disturbing video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): If you are seeing this video, that means I've already been taken by the police.
These are the chilling words of a young woman in China who took part in this demonstration in Beijing on November 27th. It was one of dozens of
anti zero-COVID protests that erupted in cities across China.
(on camera): They are chanting that they don't want COVID tests. They want freedom.
(voiceover): Police lined the street, but the mood was calm and peaceful. Many were there to mourn the lives lost in China's Urumqi City, where a
deadly fire broke out in a locked down building. This 26-year-old woman, an editor at a publishing house said that is why she and her friends took to
the streets. She said they followed the rules and didn't have any conflict with the police. Soon after filming this, she was arrested. She knew her
time was nearing.
CNN has learned from sources that weeks after the protest, police started rounding up her friends one by one. Most of them also young female
professionals. We tracked down and interviewed one of her friends who has been tirelessly searching for her. We are not revealing her name or any of
the sources we have spoken to because of concerns of retribution from the Chinese state.
Authorities want to intimidate ordinary people, she said. They want to turn people into emotionless machines. We can't even gather together to grieve.
Police swiftly cracked down on the protesters. In some cities, violently pushing and dragging the demonstrators. But the Beijing protesters,
peacefully dispersed. Afterwards, police blanketed protest sites. In some places, authorities checked cell phones for virtual private networks and
tracked down participants with cell phone data.
Soon after China dropped its zero-COVID policy and opened up. In his New Years' Eve addressed, Chinese Leader, Xi Jinping, said it was, "Only
natural for different people to have different concerns, or hold different views on the same issue". But behind the scenes, their loved ones say, the
She's paying a heavy price. We were born into this land, so naturally we would want to make China better. But now I feel there is nothing that we
can do, she says, breaking down into tears.
Authorities have made no official comment about the detentions, and will likely never know how many people have been detained in connection with the
protests. If it's dozens, hundreds, or more. As people across China are celebrating the Lunar New Year with their newfound freedom, the young woman
says the mothers of her and her friends want to know why their daughters were taken from them.
In her final words in the video message, she made this call for help. Don't let us be taken away or convicted arbitrarily. Don't let us disappear from
this world unjustly.
(on camera): CNN has asked Beijing authorities for comment on the young woman you saw there along with the other detentions, but we have not heard
back. We learned she's one of eight people who have been quietly detained after the protests. People who know these women tell us they were confused
as to why they were taken. describing them as young female professionals, working in publishing, journalism and education. Saying they are socially
minded, but not dissidents are organizers.
Experts say, the police may have been suspicious of young politically aware women. Chinese authorities have a well-documented history of targeting
feminists. And at least one of the women detained was questioned during her interrogation about whether she had any involvement in feminist groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Selina Wang reporting there.
Now, we turn to the man behind some of the world's most beloved writers and biggest books. The veteran publisher Stephen Rubin worked with the likes of
Dan Brown, Hillary Mantel, John Grisham. So, what does it take to make a bestseller? Rubin takes us behind the scenes in his new memoir, "Words and
Music: Confessions of An Optimist". From working with giants in literature to his passion for music. And Stephen Rubin is joining me live now from New
Welcome to the program.
STEPHEN RUBIN, AUTHOR, "WORDS AND MUSIC": It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, listen let's start first with the music, because, you know, that is how you started. And I hadn't known that, you know, full
transparency. We know each other. And I wanted to ask you about the incredible divas and divos, if there's such a word, that you met and worked
with. Leontyne Price, for instance, tell me about her. What stood out for you?
RUBIN: Well, she was amazing to me because she was the first really true black superstar. And she called race, the monkey on my back. And it was --
it just -- it just colored -- sorry wrong word, it affected every single aspect of her career. And she would become incredibly passionate when she
talked about it and could be very funny also.
AMANPOUR: But how did -- when you say it impacted every part of her career, she, nonetheless, had a massive career actually she writes, and you
write about her, that the career, sort of, dovetailed with the rise of the civil rights movement.
RUBIN: Yes, but she also felt that there was constant pressure on her. I mean, she said, for example, they gave her the opening of the new
Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center. And, you know, they thought it was a great honor for her, and she thought it was a great honor, yes, sure, but
it was also a lot of pressure.
RUBIN: So, she felt the pressure of race all the time. But you know what? What an artist. I mean -- and the most voluptuous voice you've ever heard.
AMANPOUR: What --
RUBIN: So beautiful.
AMANPOUR: What did you learn from writing about her and others, including Luciano Pavarotti, who is somebody you write a lot about in your book. What
did you learned about them that you carried over, I guess, into your publishing life?
RUBIN: Discipline. Discipline. They're -- these artists are tough as nails and very, very disciplined. And I think -- I'm hardly tough as nails, but I
think I'm very disciplined. And I -- you know, the beauty is indeed in the details. And I think I learned that from them, absolutely.
AMANPOUR: Look, you are not afraid to be very, very honest, I might say, dish (ph) in your book. You call out who you think are incompetent and
stupid and appalling. You praise those who you think are geniuses. But you also talk about certain people's evolution, for instance, Luciano
Pavarotti, who you say eventually, despite his brilliance, became a bit of a monster. Talk to me about talent --
RUBIN: He was adorable --
RUBIN: -- he was adorable to start with. I mean, when I knew him, he would -- he was just -- he like a little kid. He would say to me, Stephen,
Stephen, outside maybe fat. Inside is muscles. Muscles. And he was just amazing. But he was also very primitive in the way that he had to find a
bent nail before he went on stage. And he was very, very careful about what roles he wants. He said, Alfredo in Traviata, stupid. Faust even worse.
You know, so he was really careful about the roles. He was a natural musician. We barely could read music. And his coach once told me that he
had to drum the rolls into him. But, oh my God, you listen to that voice is such a joy to be in the middle of it. But eventually, yes, he became a
total monster. Left his wife, the mother of his three daughters. I understand she took him to the cleaners.
And it just was very sad. And then he would go on and he got so fat that he actually couldn't stand for a performance, so he had to sit singing the --
he had to sit singing. It was just so sad.
AMANPOUR: And in between all of that, of course, you had some of the most incredible, you know, the perch and the, as you say, the discipline and the
success as a publisher. But it was very up and down, and it's funny to see or to read how many different publishing houses you were associated with.
But I first want to ask you about paperbacks because, you know, they started -- if I'm not mistaken, somewhere around 1945. But in your career -
RUBIN: That's about right.
AMANPOUR: Yes. In Bantam, they took off. Tell me about how paperbacks were viewed at that time.
RUBIN: Well, they were viewed as trash. I mean, people were so snobby about them. I can't tell you, which is utterly ridiculous, because what
paperbacks did was to bring all of these wonderful writers. I'm talking about, you know, Philip Roth, as well as Louis L'Amour, to a much broader
audience for an affordable price. The attitude among hardcover publishers about paperbacks was absolutely appalling. But you know, it sure did not
hurt the paperbacks.
AMANPOUR: Yes, and of course, they're definitely here to stay. Can I just ask you before I go on to some of these great writers that you discovered.
You are an optimist. It says, "Confessions of An Optimist". About publishing, do you remain an optimist? I mean, are enough people --
RUBIN: I do.
AMANPOUR: -- reading books?
RUBIN: I do.
RUBIN: I do. You know, they -- for years they have been predicting the death of the book, which is a lot of crap, because people love the tactile
experience of reading a book. I love it. I'm sure you love it.
RUBIN: I would much rather read a book than read a book on a device. So yes, I'm -- absolutely. Absolutely. And in fact, sales are better than
ever. You know, the pandemic, people read a lot of books.
AMANPOUR: They really did. Let's go to one of the first big, big authors, Jon Grisham. You were brought "The Firm", I guess it was his first big
book, right? Tell me about that.
RUBIN: Yes, what happened was when I joined Doubeday, the -- he was already there. I did not acquire it. And I read it and I say, oh, my God.
It was such a whirlwind. Such a narrative force. So, we decided that what we will do is, remember, no one ever heard of John Grisham at that point.
We decided we'd market it to lawyers. It seems like the right place to go. And that's how we started it.
We had 25,000 first printing. And I've never seen anything like it. It just took off because of word of mouth, which is still, by the way Christiane,
the best way to sell a book. So, he just took off and took off and took off. And it was the cleanest sale ever because there were no returns
because all we ever did was reprint.
Then, you know, he's a very handsome guy. So, we plastered his face all over the ads and everything. He really did not like that. He wanted to be
a, you know, a model kind of thing. But he once just to make me angry, he once insisted on being published with having not had a shave. But it all
worked. I mean, it was just amazing. And what a thrilling ride to be on.
AMANPOUR: And --
RUBIN: Oh, my God. It just got better and better.
AMANPOUR: -- and you said, I think --
RUBIN: And he's still doing it.
AMANPOUR: Yes, and 23 books, I think, you all published together.
RUBIN: I published 23.
AMANPOUR: Yes, 23 books, exactly.
AMANPOUR: And -- but the other big one, which kind of again came out of nowhere, well, explain to me whether it is. It was Dan Brown in "The Da
RUBIN: Well, what happened was that Dan had published three novels that were very, very modest successes. And his editor left his publishing house
and came to us and brought us a proposal for "The Da Vinci Code", which we thought was just great. So, we bought it. We bought two books actually for
-- I can tell you, for $400,000. Just think.
And he gave us 150 pages to start with, which had absolutely nothing to do with the bloodline of Christ. And we read it and said, oh, my God. This is
amazing. So, what I did was I chose 15 people to give it to. And all 15 of them, male, females, old, young, editorial, sales, everything. Every single
one of them fell in love with it. So, we knew. In my mind, that's a microcosm of the world out there, and we knew we had something special.
Then we met him. And, oh my, God. He was so charming. So, we sent him out to meet everybody.
And eventually what happened was that, Barnes and Noble really took a great stance on it and then Borders heard about it and they took a stance at it.
So, for a guy who never sold anything, we shipped 220,000 copies, day one.
RUBIN: And on -- at the end of day one, he sold more copies than his previous three books put together.
AMANPOUR: Well, and the rest is history. Films, you know, Tom Hanks, and the lot.
RUBIN: And the nicest guy in the world.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you something about the person that we both knew, Jackie Onassis. And that's how I first met you. She was an editor at
Doubleday. And there is a story here that I had no idea about. I want to read it. She -- you asked her to, you know, to help on a book by Maya
Angelou. And here's the extract. Surprisingly, she -- Jackie, could also be very insecure. We once were scheduled to have a conference call with the
formidable Maya Angelou, and as we prepared for it, Jackie suddenly demanded that I ask all the tough questions. Why? I responded. She scares
me. Jackie said forthrightly. Maybe you scare her, I said. No way, Jackie said in her signature whispery, campy, unmistakable voice.
Why was Jackie Onassis scared of Maya Angelou?
RUBIN: Well, did you know Maya Angelou? She was pretty --
AMANPOUR: Well, I was going to say, she would terrify me.
RUBIN: Yes, she was terrifying. And Jackie was really, really nervous. But then again, you know, people who had a deal with Jackie were nervous as
well. So, the -- actually, in the interview, nothing ever came of it but it was a perfectly good interview. But Jackie was surprised -- could be
AMANPOUR: Good editor?
RUBIN: She's very modest. She was very modest.
AMANPOUR: Good editor?
RUBIN: Oh, my God, yes. She -- the writers adored her.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask --
RUBIN: If there's one thing where --
RUBIN: One thing where she said to one of her writers, don't tell anyone. I'm going to get you money. It was so --
AMANPOUR: From her, that's funny.
RUBIN: It was so -- I just adored her.
AMANPOUR: You finished the book, literally your last line basically saying, optimism was your loadstar. And of course, it's the, you know, the
subtitle throughout your career. You say, as I look back, it amazes me how many extraordinary opportunities seem to have fallen into my lap. I know I
was pushy, cheeky, even audacious at times, but there was never a master plan, a stratagem. Just optimism. Unpack that.
RUBIN: True. It's true. And you know what else? I -- people have pointed out to me, and they are absolutely right, I could have said confessions of
an enthusiast also, because I'm both an optimist and an enthusiast. And I know that people think I'm silly sometimes. I don't give a daman because
that's who I am and that's who I feel. They feel I'm naive. Trust me, I'm not naive. But I will go the positive route anytime.
AMANPOUR: So finally, finally, which were the ones that got away? Which were the big bestsellers that you said, nuh-huh, they'll never make it?
RUBIN: Oh, I completely blew it on Barbara Walters. You wouldn't believe. I called Mark Chantler (ph), the agent, and I said, you know something? I'm
not even going to give you an offer because it will insult you. He said, please, don't insult me. I was so wrong. I can't tell you. I was going to
offer him $750,000 and he sold it for $6 million. And it was a gigantic hit.
So, I -- you know, I think if you mess up, you mess up big. So, that was a really big one. I also blew it on "The New Yorker" music critic, Alex Ross,
"The Rest Is Noise", one of the great books of music. I chickened out of the auction. So, yes. You know, I have plenty. I have even more than most,
AMANPOUR: Well, I like the "Little House on The Prairie" that you blew past.
RUBIN: Yes, yes. No, I said, who cares about her? I was completely wrong. It won the Pulitzer.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Stephen Rubin, ever the optimist. Thank you very much indeed for joining us.
RUBIN: Thank you, Christiane. Always a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
So, in the spirit of optimism, our next guest is proposing a way to heal internal divisions and safeguard American democracy. A new book, "The Bill
of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens", argues for a reimagining what it means to be an American.
Its author is the diplomatic and policymaker Richard Haass, who has served under four presidents, Democrat and Republican. He's now president of the
Council on Foreign Relations. And he tells Walter Isaacson why he thinks the greatest threat to America comes from within.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Richard Haass, welcome back to the show.
RICHARD HAASS, AUTHOR, "THE BILL OF OBLIGATIONS" AND PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Good to be with you.
ISAACSON: You and I can remember the old Pogo cartoon, "We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us". And that's what your new book, "The Bill of
Obligations" is sort of about. Is that one of the great threats we face is not from abroad, but from within. Tell me how you came to write this book
as somebody who is such an expert on foreign policy.
HAASS: It wasn't intentional, and it was exactly the thought process you just laid out, Walter. I'd be giving my normal talks about the state of the
world using my favorite word, disarray. I talk about China, or Russia, or North Korea. And then inevitably a question would arise and they would go,
Mr. Haass, what keeps you up at night? And Increasingly, my answer surprise me. I said, it's us.
And I was worried about our internal divisions that were getting in the way of our ability to enact necessary legislation. I worried about civil
disorder on a significant scale in the United States. And I said, if we could somehow reunify, I thought we could meet all the external challenges,
and if we couldn't, I was worried about our future. Hence this book.
ISAACSON: You know, when you talk about reunifying, it's partly a sense of obligation to something larger than ourselves, to our nation. Our nation
was actually premised on rights, as with John Stuart Mill, that's what the bill of rights gives us. But your book makes the argument that it's not
just about rights. They have limitations. Tell me about that.
HAASS: Sure. Look, rights are important, don't get me wrong. And Lincoln's comment about the unfinished work still pertains. We still have a
commitment to -- or need to get it right, so to speak. But rights are not enough, because rights always come into conflict. The right of the mother
against the right of the unborn. Your right to bear arms. Someone else is right for public safety. My right to health. Your right not to wear a mask
or get vaccinated. I can go on and on.
If everyone just focuses on rights, we obviously come into conflict. Absolutes don't lend themselves to compromise. So, I try to think about,
well, what's missing here? And here we are, 240 years into this experiment and what I thought was getting lost for our obligations, first of all,
Walter, to one another. One citizen to another. And then secondly to the country.
Almost in the spirit of JFK, about asking not what our country can do for us, but what we could do for our country. And I thought, in our increasing
focus, or even obsession on rights, we're losing any sense of balance, of obligations to help one another and to make this country successful.
ISAACSON: Well, when you talk about obligations, it's almost a moral sense. Is that something you can codify? It's not like the first 10
amendments, et cetera. But let's go through some of those obligations you talk about. One is to just be informed. That's pretty difficult in this day
and age of social media.
HAASS: It is pretty difficult, but it's also the most basic. It's the premise of the foundation for all else to know what the facts are. Without
a common acceptance of what the facts are, or how do we possibly have serious debate in this country? But you've put your finger on one of the
great contradictions of this era.
Here we are, we're awash in information. The problem is, we're also awash in misinformation and conspiracy theories. And in many cases, people don't
seem to have the skill sets or the ability to discern between, say, facts, opinions, recommendations, predictions. So, one of the things we've got to
do is focus much more on how to build this kind of literacy in America so people can discern what is a fact and what isn't.
And One of the things I recommend is that people in -- to get informed is they don't single source their information. They multi-source it. So, maybe
you listen to several networks, or read several -- more than one newspaper, and do not rely on social media. The key word there is social. Social media
is not necessarily a place where you get informed. It's more of a place where you get reinforcement, but that can't be good if the reinforcement is
not based upon facts.
ISAACSON: Let me talk about the conspiracy theories and the misinformation because you say we want to be informed. You're a part of it and I guess, so
am I, what -- you know, you speak -- called a global elite. You're a president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a type, people go to Davos.
A lot of the conspiracy theories now are deeply involved in saying, we understand that and you don't. That this global elite is trying somehow to
suppress us. How did that happen?
HAASS: It's a good question. It might be simply because inequality has gotten more entrenched in societies. I also think that our public education
system has failed us individually and collectively. The idea that you can graduate from virtually any high school, or even worse, from any two or
four-year college or university in this country, and not be armed with the ability in some ways to navigate this world of misinformation. Not to be a
-- not to have a basic sense of civics, as we used to call it, above the workings of American democracy and what it requires to succeed.
I think it makes us much more vulnerable. I think there's something else also going on than increasingly, Americans are living lives in silos or
bubbles. The academic word for it is sorting, S-O-R-T-I-N-G.
That increasingly, we live very differentiated lives. When you and I came of age, we used to have big conversations about melting pots or mixing
Well, increasingly, we're a country of 333 million people living in separate pots. We go to our own schools. Our own churches. We live in
fairly isolated communities. We watch just one television network whether it's MSNBC or Fox or what have you. As a result, there is less and less
common experience in this country, which is really dangerous when you think about it, because, after all, this was a country founded not on ethnicity.
Not on religion. But we were founded on a common idea, of opportunity. And what worries me is we're losing the commonness that is at the core of this
ISAACSON: One of the other obligations you talk about is the obligation to be able to compromise. I mean, the constitutional convention, Ben Franklin
was the one who tried to pull everyone together on a compromise on quite a few things. And says, you know, compromises may not make great heroes, but
they do make great democracies. Why have we lost that art of compromise, and how can we regain it?
HAASS: Yes, the basic point is entirely right. It's hard to get a lot done if you can't compromise. You know, it's interesting, when Kennedy wrote
"Profiles in Courage", some of the people he singled out were people who -- were prepared to compromise, to get things done. And I think you've got to
be able to discern between what our basics and what are things that you can and should be prepared to compromise.
I think it's gotten more difficult simply, again, because of media. The glare. People focus on not what you get, but often on what you have to --
had to have to give up. I think our politics tend to award the extremes, the endzones, if you will, who again are opposed to compromise. One of the
things, I think, to fix that though is to get more people involved.
We just had a historic midterm election in this country. Less than half the eligible voters voted. The people who tend to vote in things like midterm
elections, despite the stakes, tend to be often people who are more concerned about political extremes. If we could simply increase by a few
million votes, the Americans getting involved, and people were basically going to say, hey, I want to send someone to Washington who is prepared to
compromise, to get things done.
I've learned one thing in my life in Washington, Walter, is that politicians, at the end of the day, they may not always be responsible, but
they are always responsive. And we have to set up a penalty and reward system for politicians where they are encouraged to do the right thing. The
best way to do that is to go out and vote.
ISAACSON: You talk about setting up a reward system for people being civil. People who compromise. And yet we don't see that happening. We don't
see a big trend, even though I feel there is a hunger in the nation right now for civility. A hunger for let's just figure out how to get things
done. What is it about our politics, our media, or whatever, that makes it hard for this type of unification to happen?
HAASS: I think it's the way we fund our politics in part. Parties used to be a moderating mechanism, but now every politician has his or her own
party. And they can get money from sources who are fairly absolute on this or that issue. Social media, A.M. radio, again reinforce absolutes.
To use an old phrase, what we need is in some ways is a silent majority to get involved, almost a radical center. To go there and say, I want people
to go to Washington to get things done. We have so many pressing problems. And I'm not into -- I'm not arguing it from a partisan point of view, but
we obviously have a problem at the border. We obviously have a problem with inflation. We obviously have a problem with our schools, our health care,
inequality. It's a long list.
But these challenges are not being met. So, people, rather than hoping -- one of the reasons I wrote this book, rather than turning away from
politics, I want people to get more involved in politics. To say, hey, let's send people to the Statehouse or to Congress who are prepared to
compromise, to get things done, because this clearly isn't working.
ISAACSON: When I look at your career, you represent a certain type of centrist, moderate, pragmatic, very realist person. You are in the
Republican Party. You were a protegee of Brent Scowcroft, the great national security adviser who worked in the Bush administrations. What
happened to the Republican Party that that strand seems to have disappeared?
HAASS: I don't recognize this Republican Party, I'll be straight with you. The Republican Party used to be a conservative party. Conservatives believe
in institutions. They believe in norms. I don't see a lot of that going on.
Republicans also used to believe in strong national defense. Well, now, we have a powerful isolationist theme or thread in the Republican Party.
Republicans used to believe in getting the government out of the economy, or in many cases now, we see Republicans wanting big government.
So, I think it's a time of great intellectual confusion in the Republican Party. and it's also a time of great populism. I think what we are seeing
is a kind of rejection of compromise of institutions. A lot of the things, you and I, have been talking about, that has gotten rewarded. People who
think more like me have been, essentially, forced out.
In many cases, I worry that people who put the country first are being forced out. I would put somebody like Liz Cheney on that list. I may
disagree with her on many policy issues, but no one can dispute her fundamental commitment to American democracy.
So, this Republican Party, I would argue in many cases, seems to have lost its way. I hope it's something of a phase and that it burns out, and that
at some point the Republicans come back. And the way that is most likely to happen is not that some new political figure is going to emerge, who's
going to leave it there. It's going to be more Republicans and independents bring it there, take it there.
I think that the -- if we have solutions out there to what ails us, they're more likely to come from the bottom up, which in some ways is in the great
tradition of the -- of this country. That we, the people, will get involved.
ISAACSON: You talk about populism, the rise of a sort of an authoritarian populism, almost the denigration of democracy as a concept, but that's not
just happening in America. There is this wave that's happened all over the world in the past 20, 25 years. Tell me why.
HAASS: You're exactly right. If you were measuring democracy, clearly the last decade or two decades there has been, to use the phrase, backsliding.
Democracies have lost altitude, there's slightly fewer of them, and those that exist are less robust, less democratic than they were.
I think it is because some of the economic problems that we are seeing in the world, and we've seen a certain stagnation of incomes. And when people
are angry or unhappy, they often turn on the system that is in power at the time. It's a bit of a throw the bums out sort of thing. Also, democracy is
hard. Democracy is just hard to make it work, to deliver. And people often get seduced, I think, by more authoritarian promises.
The only good news is we're seeing the authoritarians struggle -- the authoritarian system struggle even more. Look at China, look at Russia,
look at Iran, and so forth, they don't hold out any real hope. So, what I'm hoping is that people see the flaws in the alternatives. And while
recognizing the flaws in democracy, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
I'd say probably one other, Walter, I don't think we've done a very good job educating people about the historical value of democracy. Democracies
delivered pretty well in our country. If we look at, you know, how we've gotten wealthier most of us, how we've gotten healthier as well, how we've
had the rule of law. It's a pretty good record. Not a perfect record, but a pretty good record. We have been able to change. More Americans have the
right to vote. There is much less discrimination in our society.
Again, democracies make mistakes, but they can fix those mistakes much better than authoritarian systems. I don't think we are very good at
telling our own narrative.
ISAACSON: You talk about how democracy has delivered. It's done very well. And yet in your book, you also say 57 -- only 57 percent of young people
believe democracy is the best system. I mean it's surprising to me that we have entered into a period when people actually think, well, maybe
democracy is not a good idea. Is it partly because we have lost in the ability to deliver things like upward mobility or opportunity?
HAASS: In part, yes. Upward mobility is really important. We never were a country where we talked about equal outcomes, but we have to have real
equal opportunity, and we don't. Let's be honest. I think in some cases there is discrimination against some Americans. In other cases, there's
discrimination in favor, say, of wealthy Americans.
So, there's a real disappointment or alienation. I think some people have lost some of their confidence, that they're going to be better off than
their parents or grandparents. Downward mobility. Pessimism has taken hold. And also, I don't think we do a good job of teaching it. I come back to
this civics thing. The absence of civics. The idea that you can come of age in this country and not know it's basic history, not know how it's helped
the American people, not know how it has changed.
I think we do a real disservice to ourselves. And again, my argument is not to whitewash it. Not to basically say, everything is perfect and always has
been. But I do think we have a positive story to tell, and we have demonstrated the ability to correct our mistakes and I -- by not teaching
it, we are losing the thread. So, many Americans don't see the value of what they have, they either take it for granted or they dismiss it.
ISAACSON: One of the things that struck me about your new book, "The Bill of Obligations", is that it wasn't trying to lecture our leaders or
politicians on what they should be doing. It's almost about, OK, what each one of us be doing. Tell me what do you think each of us, people listening,
people reading this book, should do?
HAASS: Get involved and hold the people we sent to Washington or the Statehouse to account. We should not allow people, or we should not support
people in politics who aren't prepared to put country first. And that ought to be a pretty basic litmus test.
I will tell a personal story, Walter, when I voted this last time in November, I had one of those awkward moments, and they're on the ballot
list, a choice. And I had to choose between an election denier, someone who did not accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, who actually
agreed with most of the policy issues. And this person's opponent, who I disagreed with on almost all the policy issues, but it supported democracy.
It was one of those really interesting moments for me.
And at the end of the day, I pulled the lever and filled in the little spot supporting the person who believed in democracy. And I think that is what
we have to be prepared to do. The -- as individuals, as corporations, or what have you, that we need to put democracy first. That needs to be
something of a litmus test. If we get that, if we can save American democracy, then we are going to have the luxury of as many policy debates
as we want.
ISAACSON: Richard Haass, as always, thank you for joining us.
HAASS: Thank you, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And an interesting choice indeed.
And finally, who's getting closer to an Oscar? Well, the nominees for the 95th Academy Awards have now been announced. The indie sci-fi action hit
"Everything Everywhere All at Once" led them all with 11 nominations total, including Michelle Yeoh for best actress. Closely followed by "The Banshees
of Inisherin" and "All Quiet on The Western Front" with nine nominations each.
On this program, we've interviewed the nominee for best actor, Britain's Bill Nighy, for his performance as a veteran British civil servant in 1950s
London in the film "Living". It was adapted by the Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL NIGHY, ACTOR, "LIVING": It's a very accurate, I think, for trail of that time, the atmosphere and the people involved. Kazuo Ishiguro, the
screenwriter, and Stephen Woolley, the producer, are great film enthusiasts, obviously. And they -- their particular area of interest is
black and white films of the '30s, '40s, and '50s British film. So, this is, to some degree, an homage to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I also spoke with Sarah Polley whose film, "Women Talking", has been nominated for best picture and best adapted screenplay. It tells the
story of a religious colony devastated by sexual violence. The women deciding what they had to do next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH POLLEY, CO-WRTIER/DIRECTOR, "WOMEN TALKING": And I think sadly this film would always be relevant. I mean, it's been referred to as a MeToo
movie, but I don't think it is. I think it's a timeless story. Miriam wrote it before the MeToo Movement. And certainly, looking at what's happening in
Iran or in the United States, or in so many places in the world where women are losing their rights or fighting for their rights, or oppression is so
glaring, this film is in dialogue with that. But also, I think this film is about a way forward, and what do we want to see and what do we want to
build and how do we get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And you can watch those full interviews on our website. And good luck to all at the Oscar ceremony on March 12th.
That's it for now. And if you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now is a QR
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