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Interview With Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba; Interview With Representative Justin J. Pearson (D-TN); Interview With Representative Gloria Johnson (D-TN); Interview With "The Wisdom Of The Bullfrog" Author And Retired U.S. Navy Four-Star Admiral William McRaven. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 25, 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's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Let's finish this job. I know we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Biden makes his case for reelection and I ask Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba about America's crucial role
defending democracy in their fight against Russia. And --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JUSTIN J. PEARSON (D-TN): I think we had a get me with the president and also, Vice President Kamala Harris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- expelled from the State House, then invited to the White House. I speak to two of the so-called Tennessee three lawmakers about
their Oval Office chat, gun laws and democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN, AUTHOR, "THE WISDOM OF THE BULLFROG" AND RETIRED U.S. NAVY FOUR-STAR ADMIRAL: Learn from your mistakes, listen better next
time, you know, and try not to make the same mistake again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- leadership lessons from a top Navy SEAL. Retired Admiral William McRaven talks to Walter Isaacson about overseeing the bin Laden
raid and his new book, "The Wisdom of the Bullfrog."
And finally --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY BELAFONTE, SINGER, ACTIVIST AND ACTOR: It's said I'm on my way. Won't be back on many a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: We remember the legendary entertainer, chart topper and civil rights legend Harry Belafonte, who has died at 96.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
President Biden has finally said it out loud that he is officially running for reelection. It is the first step on a long campaign road, one that
could lead to a rematch with the Former President Donald Trump, who Biden says is a danger and remains so to the rule of law.
Biden sees himself as a champion of global democracy. And so far, American voters have endorsed that position. The world also watched as he
immediately through the weight of the United States behind defending Ukraine when Russia launched its second invasion last year. As long as it
takes, a phrase Biden often utters.
But behind closed doors, there are reports that the administration is concerned about what can be accomplished in any spring counter offensive.
Meanwhile, the Russians keep hammering away. News today that a missile struck a museum in Kharkiv, killing two and injuring several more.
President Zelenskyy says, the terrorist country is doing everything to destroy Ukraine completely.
I've been speaking about the challenges ahead with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. He joined me from Kyiv.
Foreign Minister Kuleba, welcome back to our program.
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: It's good to be with you again.
AMANPOUR: I want to start by asking you, I'm sitting here in the United States, the president, Biden, has just today announced that he will run
again for reelection. He has been the most vociferous and, you know, in terms of materiel supporter of Ukraine's defense. And yet, some of these,
you know, words we're hearing is, do they really believe that Ukraine can win? Are they really going to be able to keep up this commitment? What are
your feelings right now?
KULEBA: We are confident that President Biden wants Ukraine to win. Especially after the successful experience of Ukrainian counter offensives
last year. So, they're always various opinions. There are always those who want to cast doubt in Ukraine's capacity to win, but we are in a regular
contact with our U.S. colleagues.
And, you know, people shouldn't be asking, do we believe or do we do not believe in Ukraine's victory, people should be helping Ukraine to win. And
this is what the United States are doing by providing us with necessary support.
AMANPOUR: Except for the fact that I think you believe that it's not quite enough and in the right time. You know, so much has been made of the so-
called spring counter offensive or offensive that you are going to launch. What is the status? Do you have what it takes? Can you do what you did last
year as you correctly referred to?
KULEBA: We will certainly achieve good results. And my only comment would be to see this counter offensive not as one decisive battle but as a series
of events and battles. The overall goal of which will be full restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity.
And yes, I can be very honest with you. While we do appreciate everything that has already been pledged and delivered, this is not yet enough. And
especially, there are many nuances when you fight the war, you know. And for example, we do receive on a steady -- on steady ground artillery
ammunition from the United States and other countries, artillery ammunition of 156 caliber, but we received very few. The number is critically low.
Artillery rounds with maximum range of 30 kilometers, and these rounds are critically important to destroy Russian defensive lines and to counter --
to conduct counter battery fire, which is to destroy Russian harvesters (ph) firing at us.
This is a big issue. It sounded -- it may sound technical, but this is a very big issue. We need not just artillery ammunition, but we need some
very specific type of ammunition. And this is something that we expect -- we would be very grateful for the United States if they could correct these
supplies in the respective way.
And there are tens of stories of that kind that I can share with you, but that will consume too much of our time.
AMANPOUR: Well, I know. And you've actually tweeted about the E.U., your other major partner. The inability of the E.U. to implement its own
decision on the joint procurement of ammunition for Ukraine is frustrating. This is a test of whether the E.U. has strategic autonomy in making new
crucial security decisions. For Ukraine, the cost of inaction is measured in human lives.
What are you questioning there? What does that mean strategic autonomy?
KULEBA: Well, this is the concept that some people in Europe entertain for many years, that Europe has to become more strategically independent from
other partners and players in the world. And my message was very simple, I said, guys, if you are serious about this concept, then you have to prove
it on a daily basis that you can make important decisions without drowning into endless bureaucratic discussions.
And I want to be clear, I appreciate everything the E.U. has done, but as I said in my tweet, we pay with live of people for discussions which cannot
come -- cannot be brought to a logical end. And I do not question the willingness of E.U. member states to reach this consensus, it just that it
takes too much time, and that what why -- that is the problem that I want to -- that they addressed in this tweet, but also in my address to the
Foreign Affairs Council of the E.U. foreign ministers.
AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, I've spoken to you many times. You've done many interviews, putting your country's case to myself and to many, many
other news organizations. And I feel that I'm hearing from you a slight, not just frustration, but you know, just slight questioning, maybe a little
low energy in terms of your faith in what might come to support you, and I'm wondering whether you agree with the various different views of what
might happen in the next few months.
There are those who are saying that unless Ukraine's counter offensive shows the kind of results that it did last year, it may cause some of your
allies and backers now to require, you know -- maybe to speed up the timeline to go towards negotiations. How do you react to that?
KULEBA: Well, perhaps I need another coffee to make my voice sound more energetic. But I would like to completely disagree with those who claim
that this is the final battle, that this is the moment that if Ukraine does not show appropriate results, then we have to seek other ways of start of
putting this conflict to an end.
This is completely wrong. It's completely misleading. It's a -- this logic is a betrayal of all of the victims of this war and all of the effort that
was made by the people of Ukraine and by our generous partners to help us defend our country.
If we drown in discussions of alternative scenarios, this will be the best gift for Putin. But as I said, it will also be a betrayal of everything
that has been done to get to this point.
AMANPOUR: So, Putin's narrative appears to be gaining some traction in the usual corners and with the usual suspects, but now, increasingly people
like President Lula of Brazil are coming out with very strong talk about how -- you know, that he wants to build a coalition for peace, that he's
pretty much almost repeating the Russian narrative for why this war is underway. He's talking about China being a reliable interlocutor for
somehow ending this war. What do you say to the leader of a democratic country like Brazil?
KULEBA: We welcome every peace effort, whenever it comes from -- wherever it comes from. Given that, first, this peace effort does not imply that
Ukraine has to cede part of its territory to Russia in exchange for the end of war, because it never worked and it never -- it will never work.
And second, that this conflict does not get frozen. So, any peace plan that does not lead to freezing the conflict or Ukraine ceding territory to
Russia. we are ready to discuss. And we are ready to discuss that. And if President Lula wants to invest his capital in building a coalition or a
group of countries who are ready to pursue peace with full respect to these two principles, which I just mentioned, we are ready to talk with them.
But when he mentioned -- when he said something that goes beyond the -- these principles that I mentioned, we immediately publicly reacted. We
don't have problems with that. Because what is at stake here is the territorial integrity of our country and the secure future, safe future of
our people. And we will be fighting for it as long as we can.
AMANPOUR: And, Foreign Minister, you've just written a lengthy article about, again, why you believe Ukraine should be part of NATO sooner rather
than later or at some point, maybe even now, you've also tweeted and talked about how you want to make sure that Ukraine's partnership with the E.U.
isn't slowed down. Is this also part of your, I don't know, second-year strategy?
KULEBA: Well, membership in NATO -- Ukraine's membership in NATO cannot stop the war, but it will help to prevent wars in Europe -- in the Euro
Atlantic area in the future. This is the issue that is at stake here.
As long as Ukraine is left outside of NATO, being the closest friends, the most respected ally, this -- in the special partner, whatever, this -- the
alternative surrogate four-month will be. As long as Ukraine remains outside of NATO, there will be a risk of repeated Russian aggression
against Ukraine. And this is why it is strategically wise to exclude, to eliminate this risk from the international agenda.
KULEBA: Because whatever the price of keeping peace is, the price of restoring peace is always higher.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just then back this up what you're saying with just quoting from your article. Peace and stability in Europe requires accepting
the inevitable, that Ukraine will become a NATO member, and sooner rather than later. It is time for the alliance to stop making excuses and start
the process that leads to Ukraine's eventual accession, showing Putin that he has already failed and forcing him to temper his ambitions.
So, I'm kind of, you know, repeating what you've just said. But you say, political will has been lacking.
KULEBA: Yes. You know, I -- in 2008, allies agreed in Budapest -- in Bucharest, sorry, in Romania, that Ukraine will be a member of NATO. And
since then, NATO just repeats these words as mantra, reiterating its open door policy.
Since then, we have heard many arguments, many excuses why Ukraine shouldn't be NATO. And history proves all of these arguments wrong and
misleading. So, it's finally time to recognize the reality and make it happen. And anyone who says it's impossible, I would like to quote -- took
to refer to the case of Finland. Finland is a member of NATO, a year ago, like slightly more than a year ago, it was impossible to imagine that this
But now, when there was a political will to get Finland onboard, here they are, and we're happy for them. They're good friends. So, everything is
possible when there is political will. Everything else is secondary. The primary thing is political will. And yes, I can establish the fact that, as
of now, that political will in the alliance is lacking.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, finally, about the situation in which you find yourself. Budapest played a huge role in the history of Ukraine, and
it was about giving up your nuclear weapons, that was back in the '90s, and your territorial integrity and your sovereignty and independence would be
guaranteed by the United States and Russia.
And I asked President Clinton about this when I interviewed him around the Northern Ireland 25th year anniversary. I asked him whether he regretted,
you know, pushing and arranging for Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons to Russia. This is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: That was the right decision at the time. They were the third biggest nuclear power in the world. Brazil had an
active nuclear program. India had an active nuclear program, still does. Pakistan did. But South Africa and Brazil were about to join, and they
totally gave up their programs because of what we were doing.
So, Ukraine played a very positive role there, and we tried, in turn, to guarantee their territorial integrity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: What's your reaction all these years later?
KULEBA: Well, to speak the truth, in 1994, the United States' joint efforts with the Russian Federation to disarm Ukraine and to take -- to
make us give up our nuclear weapons. President Clinton rightly mentions other countries, none of them gave up their nuclear strategies and none of
them got invaded, and we were.
We were given a promise that our territorial integrity would be respected in return for giving up nuclear weapons. But when Russia invaded Ukraine in
2014, the world found no real instrument to stop them from doing it, and Budapest memorandum was largely ignored.
So, to some extent, I mean, you know, I have to say that you took our defense from us. You owe something. And yes, it's also an investment in the
future of the Euro Atlantic security, but it was a big tragedy. And the reason why this tragedy happened is because the United States, at that
time, did not believe in Ukraine. They did not believe that Ukraine would become a reliable partner and friend of the United States, and they still
put their stakes on Russia as a reliable partner. But history proved that was the wrong analysis.
So those who make -- you know, those who hesitate about the prospect of Ukraine's victory today, as they did in 1994, they have to finally believe
AMANPOUR: All right.
KULEBA: Those who hesitate to make a decision on giving -- providing Ukraine with F-16s, for whatever reasons, they have to change their mind.
They have to believe in Ukraine. Ukraine proved that it's a friend. It's a reliable partner. And we can win and we will. It's only a question of time
AMANPOUR: Well, you have said it loud and clear. Foreign Minister Kuleba, thank you very much indeed for joining us.
Making the case for continuing the commitment to defend Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Turning now to the end of an important era here in the United States. One of the last remaining giants of the civil rights movement, Harry Belafonte,
has died at the age of 96, the groundbreaking singer and activist inspired generations around the world in the struggle for nonviolent resistance,
justice and change.
It was that spirit that was on full display in the Tennessee State House when three lawmakers faced expulsion for protesting and advocating gun
control. Two black men, Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, were expelled. And the other, Gloria Johnson, who is white, survived by a single vote.
But after an uproar, the two men were reinstated and the incident caused President Biden to invite all of them to the Oval Office. Two of those
lawmakers are joining me now to talk about this and the road ahead.
Justin J. Pearson and Gloria Johnson, welcome both of you to the program where you are there in Washington.
Look, can I first start by asking, you met with the president in the White House just hours before he dropped his reelection video. Did you have any
sense that this was coming, Justin Pearson?
REP. JUSTIN PEARSON (D-TN): No. We didn't know and didn't talk much about reelection. We talked about the resurrection of a moral movement for
justice to end gun violence in our country, to prevent gun violence from happening and doing all that we can at the federal and also at the state
level to make sure that children go home to their parents after school and that loved one after loved one doesn't have to go to funerals of the people
that they care about because of the proliferation of gun violence.
And we talked about the preservation of our democracy and the principles that we hold so dear and seeing how anti-democratic the Tennessee House
Republican Legislature has been behaving. And now, we're seeing that in other states, with the silencing of duly elected lawmakers of the
problematic nature that has for our government and for our democracy and the reason why we have to continue to build this movement in order to fight
into the future.
AMANPOUR: And, Gloria Johnson, what Justin J. Pearson just said about the antidemocratic nature of your legislature, you yourself, I believe, have
commented on the fact that when this uproar happened and they were expelled and you weren't, despite you'd all been involved in the same protest, you
spoke out about that. I mean, in other words, the idea of racism and -- seemed to be encompassed in what happened to the three of you in the
REP. GLORIA JOHNSON (D-TN): Absolutely. I mean, if -- I've been there for several years. So, I have seen racism, I've heard comments in committee,
I've heard comments on the floor. You know, I've seen it all through. And these two young men have so much to bring to the table and the idea that
their voices are being silenced, and it's these voices are critical to the Tennessee legislature right now. And I think we have to call it what it is,
and it shouldn't be courageous to do what is right.
And as soon as they ask me what the difference was, I said, the color of our skin. Because it was apparent. It was apparent in the questions that
they were asked, it was apparent in the attitude of those who were asking the questions. You know, if you're around in the Tennessee State
Legislature you know what that was about.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you both to reflect then, since we're going into a new election and it's just going to be all about that for the next, you know,
more than a year. The nature of allyship. In other words, you know, white people working together with their black friends and colleagues and all
together to try to move, you know, the ball down the road towards justice.
Do you believe, Justin J. Pearson, after what happened that there's more of a chance of that or not?
PEARSON: Yes. The only way that we preserve democracy, the only way that we create the future and the vision that all of us wanted to live into and
our beloved community, the only way to do that is by building a multiracial intergenerational movement for justice.
And in the fight that we are in now and to prevent more gun violence, in the fight that we're in now to prevent more school shootings from
happening, we are seeing that coalition form. We've also seen it in the environmental justice and climate justice movement. The only way that
America becomes its best and most full self is through the co- conspiratorship, not just allyship where you care about somebody and then, you can turn your back on them, but rather you walk to the floor of the
house with them, the well, you risk something in order for all of us to be able to create justice. That is the only way that we can grow and be the
country that we're called to be.
And it's what Heather McGhee, in her book, "The Sum of Us," calls the building of the solidarity dividend when white folks and black folks, rich
folks and poor folks, people who choose a social location different from their own to be more proximate to folks who have been oppressed and are
marginalized get together, it disrupts the status quo, it changes the systems, it changes the narrative, and it makes the fight for the future
And the people who want to cling to the status quo, like the Republican Party in Tennessee, they don't know what to do when this type of power
comes, when tens of thousands of young people get together in our state capital to fight in gun violence. And what comes -- what is the fruition of
that work is what justice looks like.
AMANPOUR: And, Gloria, do you feel the same kind of confidence and belief that will happen? And I guess I want to also ask you both whether there was
any talk at the White House of an actual formal investigation by the Justice Department as to whether, you know, the house legislator violated
civil rights laws. The Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, apparently has raised that possibility.
JOHNSON: Well, certainly, you know, it is critical that we bring these voices together and bring these voices to the house floor because the --
you know, the majority of Tennesseans, the super majority has a voice, but we're only 25 percent of the legislature and we are 45 percent of the
electorate in Tennessee because of gerrymandering, all the voices are not coming to the floor and they're silencing the voices that are there, that
are in opposition. And we have got to lift up those voices. We've got to have that multi-generational, multi-racial body, and that's why it's so
critical that these two voices from the two Justin's, our two newest members are just so crucial.
We have so many voters who were young voters, and this -- they're speaking to those voters. They're speaking to everybody. But those voters really
feel that, they understand and they're organized and they're smart, and they are building this movement. And I think that I have hope that we are
going to see action now.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you both then, I just want to drill down a little bit on the actual offense, which is gun violence, that brought you into this
spotlight. And clearly, you're talking about generations, and we know that the vast majority of the American people are for some form of sensible gun
So, just to recap what happened, this month, a young black man was shot for knocking on the wrong door. A young woman was shot for accidentally pulling
into the wrong driveway. Cheerleaders were shot after accidentally entering and then quickly leaving the wrong car and his six-year-old girl and
parents were shot after her basketball rolled into a neighbor's garden.
I mean, for somebody like me this beggars belief, right? I mean, it's just unbelievable that this is happening and so regularly. So, I know that you
all wanted to bring up the possibility of calling, I believe, for a public health emergency around this issue to be declared.
Justin Pearson, did you ask that and what was the response?
PEARSON: So, we have right now an epidemic of gun violence in our country. And every example that you mentioned, whether you're knocking on the wrong
door, driving up into the wrong driveway, the epidemic of gun violence is touching every single person's life in this country, and it is apparent
that we have to do something, one, about the proliferation of weapons, but also, we have to do something about the policies and the legislation that's
making it way too easy and accessible for people to get weapons.
We know that gun violence is a public health emergency in our community, in Memphis, District 86, in Memphis and Millington. We are dealing with story
after story after story of another person being murdered. It was my classmate earlier this year, there's another one of my constituent's
grandson last night. We have a problem and we have to do something about it.
And talking with the president and vice president, they offered all of their support to our efforts to continue to strategize, organize and
coordinate, to build a movement that does go across political parties. It's not a Republican or a Democratic issue, this is an issue to every single
American. And it's not about just to protection of the Second Amendment or not, it's about whether or not we care to protect kids over guns, and all
of us want to ensure that everybody's child is able to come home at night, all of us want to ensure that going to the bank doesn't end up being the
destination where you end up dying.
And so, we have a lot more that we can do. And we are continuing and will continue to work with the administration and also, within our legislature
to create just policies and practices and laws to build this movement for justice and keep people safe.
AMANPOUR: So, Gloria Johnson, I mean, you've been at this for longer than Justin J. Pearson has and you straddled different generations, the two of
you, what hope do you have in your own legislature and others around the country to enact that kind of sensible protective policy for people? The
president, apparently, has exhausted all his executive orders around this. Do you have any realistic hope and expectation?
JOHNSON: I absolutely have hope. I mean, I have brought two red flag laws in the past. They have both died in subcommittee, on a party line vote. I
brought safe storage bills as well. And -- but I feel like now, with this movement of all the young people, the students and the parents and the
grandparents that are showing up by the thousands at our capital every day and the fact that legislators from Kentucky have reached out to us and they
want to coordinate. So, we're getting other states. We're hearing from them. Everybody's interested in working together.
So, I think as more groups come on board and we build this movement, both in Tennessee and nationwide, I have great hope that we're going to get
something done now. I truly do so.
AMANPOUR: So, look, I want to ask you about, again, the generation gap and President Biden's reelection. You know, he said, as part of his video,
declaring again that there is more work to be done, and we've got to get it done. I'm paraphrasing.
But a new AP poll, just out, says that only 26 percent of Americans want Joe Biden to run again and only 47 percent of Democrats want him to run.
That's fewer than half. A real generation gap amongst Democrats.
Look at these figures, and we have a graph. You know, less than 40 percent of younger Democrats, the ages of 18 to 44, want him to run again, despite
the majority approving of his performance. So, you have this sort of, you know, counterintuitive sort of moment where people approve of what he's
done. But yet, less than enthusiastic about him running again. Take it away, both of you, make the case for why that's happening and why you think
he's running to win.
JOHNSON: I think it's early. You know, for a lot -- it's early. As you get into the campaign you see polls change. Polls can change quickly. So, I
don't put a lot of faith in polls, early polls like this. So, that's -- you know, let's let everything get moving first and see where we go from there.
PEARSON: Look, we're not political correspondents. We are public servants of the people we represent in districts in Tennessee, but the reality is we
need to have a president who prioritizes the issue of gun violence prevention. We need to have a president who is willing to say that our
democracy is at stake when Republican legislatures like the one in Tennessee, run by Cameron Sexton and William Lambert is running much more
like a mobocracy than a democracy.
We need to have a president who is willing -- and vice president who's willing to come to Nashville after the two youngest black lawmakers,
Representative Jones and myself, get expelled and call it what it is, a threat to our democracy because we came up against the NRA, because we came
up against the Tennessee Firearms Association, the American Firearms Association.
We have to have a president who is willing to use their voice and to advocate for justice for those who are being made the most marginalized,
those who are being made least in our society and in our country because of the unwillingness of people who are currently in positions of power to do
something and to act for justice and for change.
And so, the hope is that President Biden and Vice President Harris will be able to continue that work and continue to show folks that the issues that
all Americans care about are not just about you having a D or an R behind your name, but it is about us being able to live into a beloved community,
us being able to know the difference between right and wrong and using that moral compass that we have to create the beloved community that each and
every one of us deserves to live in.
AMANPOUR: So, let me put you a final question about the beloved community. As you both know, tomorrow nine other states, as well as your own,
Tennessee, celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. That's an interesting historical fact that keeps going on.
Justin Pearson, you quote -- you said -- as you came out of the Oval Office, you've said this, as I was sitting in the Oval Office, I saw the
bust of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. I saw the bust of Rosa Parks on the bus and Cesar Chavez. And what they did, all these people did because
they acted outside the political paradigm of what was possible and they change political realities.
So, let me end by asking you then to reflect on the loss of a great civil rights hero and an entertainer, of course, Harry Belafonte, who did
precisely that. To both of you, what does his departure mean and his struggle?
PEARSON: You know, that's actually our brothers in this movement, Representative Justin Jones, but I'll definitely give him credit for an
amazing quote and summing up the spirit that we felt.
The reality is Harry Belafonte, one of the most amazing things that I remember, is that he raised $70,000 for the Snake (ph) Organization. And he
and Sidney Poitier, who were extraordinary actors at the time and we're stars, went down to deliver the funds and the KKK chased them in cars, and
they ultimately were saved because some Snake (ph) organizers came and escorted them to safety, right?
That is taking a real risk for the calls of justice. And to lose an icon like that is also for each and every one of us to remember what it takes
sometimes for us to create the future that we need to live into. And so, I know he will be sorely missed, but he has left an amazing legacy for us all
AMANPOUR: And Gloria Johnson?
JOHNSON: Yes. Absolutely. I was just talking with Justin earlier about, you know, I remember my parents had his records and I listened to them all
the time. And we were joking because my mom, she's, he's so good looking.
But, you know, just -- it's amazing. There were so many first with him, what he did in the entertainment industry and then, working alongside Dr.
King and all of the things that he did for civil rights.
JOHNSON: I mean, we need those folks in the celebrity world and in the public to come along and join, because their voices are critical and it
helps get others onboard.
JOHNSON: And so, he will be greatly missed. But I think there are folks coming up that are willing to take the helm there and just learn from
everything he did and continue that work.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. A great inspiration. Gloria Johnson, Justin J. Pearson, thank you both very much for being with us.
PEARSON: Thank you.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, with president Joe Biden jumping into the fray, today, questions about his age and leadership, as we discussed, at home and around
the world takes center stage. From Brussels to Beijing, decisionmakers are gaming out the implications of a second Biden term or a Republican return
In four decades as a Navy SEAL, Admiral William McRaven learned a whole lot about leadership. He's distilled that experience into a new book called
"The Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple but Not Easy."
McRaven speaks with Walter Isaacson about global hotspots and about an often-neglected virtue, humility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Admiral Bill McRaven, welcome to the show.
ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN, AUTHOR, "THE WISDOM OF THE BULLFROG" AND RETIRED U.S. NAVY FOUR-STAR ADMIRAL: Thanks, Walter. Good to be with you.
ISAACSON: You've got this great new leadership book out called "The Wisdom of The Bullfrog." You were once the bullfrog. Tell me about that and what
MCRAVEN: Yes, I was. So, the title, "Bullfrog" is given to the longest serving Navy SEAL on active duty. So, remember, first and foremost, as Navy
SEALs, we are navy frogmen. So, when you're the longest serving navy frogman, they give you the title of the bullfrog. And really, the book is
about just the leadership lessons that I learned in my 37 years, the military and some of the lessons from my time as chancellor at U.T.
ISAACSON: Let me quote from the book, I often hear it's hard to know the right thing to do. And then, you say, no, it's not.
MCRAVEN: No, it's not.
ISAACSON: You know what the right thing to do. It's just hard to do it. Explain what you mean by that in the book.
MCRAVEN: Yes. You know, many times in my career people always have the seemingly moral dilemmas, you know, should I do this or should I do that?
And yet, they always seem to know the answer. The answer is pretty simple, do what is honest, do what is noble, do what is dignified, do what is
respectful, do what you know to be right by your employees, by the rank and file, you know what right looks like, you just need to do it.
And invariably, when people fail to do it, when they failed to do what's right, when they failed to do what is in, you know, the best interest of
the organization and the people that work for them, invariably, they have some sort of follow, they built an organization that's a house of cards
that tumbles at the wrong time.
So, do what's right. You know what it looks like, you know what right is, you just need to do it.
ISAACSON: You oversaw the raid that got Osama bin Laden. Tell me what leadership lessons you learned from that one.
MCRAVEN: You know, fortunately, by the time the raid came along, and of course, I had been in the navy about 34 years at that point in time, and I
had seen a lot. I'd been involved in about 10,000 missions. Missions that I had either commanded, that I've been on or that I had kind of overseen from
afar. And so, I knew what to do in terms of the leadership.
And the leadership, in this case, was to make sure that, you know, we did the mission in a simple fashion, because if you make it too complex, then,
in fact, the risk factor goes up. So, you want to mitigate as much of the risk as possible. You have to inspire the men that are on your team. They
were all men in in this particular case. That wasn't hard to do, because they were going after the most wanted man in the world.
But you always have to do things that are going to, you know, again, take care of the reputation, the sense of duty and honor and country that is
important for any military organization. So, I wanted to make sure that they understood, look, when we got on target, we don't needlessly kill
anybody. You only -- you know, you follow the rules of engagement, you follow the law of armed conflict, you protect yourself and you protect your
organization and your unit, but we want to walk away from this operation with bin Laden either captured or killed and with the dignity of the United
States still intact. We're going to do things right.
ISAACSON: One of the maxims in your book involves an attribute that you don't often hear bold leaders talking about, and I think we really have a
deficit of it in our politics today, and that's humility. And it's a nice little chapter about building the frog float, but I do think that some of
the poison in our politics today comes from the fact that we don't have enough humility to question ourselves or say, well, we were wrong.
ISAACSON: Explain what you would do about that.
MCRAVEN: Well, you know, the one thing I've learned, you know, over my years of leading, Walter, is, you know, it pays to be humble because you
are rarely, you know, the smartest, the strongest, the fastest, you know, the best SEAL in the boat. There's always somebody out there that's better
than you are.
And frankly, what we learned, particularly in combat, is the nature of recognizing that, you know, the enemy -- again, the enemy always has a
vote, the enemy can be better. If you under play the enemy, you're likely to get yourself into trouble. And what we tend to do is, before the rangers
or the SEALs of the green berets go out on a mission, everybody kind of gets together. And even if you're the leader in charge, you're prepared to
listen to the comments about the nature of the plan. Well, is this plan good? What do you think, boss? How should we arrange this?
But the real critique comes after the mission. So, if a mission has not gone well, you know, and I think the army rangers probably do it better
than anybody, they get these young troops back in the room and, you know, metaphorically, they take off their collar devices. So, ranked isn't an
issue. And then, everybody gets to go at each other, you know. Because their lives are on the line. If they fail to listen, if they failed to
improve the next time, somebody could die.
So, I've learned humility many, many times in my career because I've been wrong many, many times. I hope the ledger shows that I was right more than
I was wrong. But it is the nature of leadership is you're going to be wrong. So, learn from your mistakes, listen better next time, you know, and
try not to make the same mistake again.
ISAACSON: The war in Ukraine right now seems to have really hit a stalemate in some ways. I mean, it's back and forth, a lot of people dying
for very few feet of territory. Do you think that the time may have come for a ceasefire where Putin hasn't been able to gain what he needs to gain
and Ukraine should find some way with the United States to get a ceasefire before we have a spring offensive?
MCRAVEN: Yes, I don't think so. I actually like the strategy that President Zelenskyy is putting into place now. You know, they are holding
the town of Bakhmut. And as you know, you know, from a military strategy standpoint, there's been a lot of debate even amongst Zelenskyy's generals
about the merits of Bakhmut, and probably from a, you know, military strategic standpoint, it doesn't make a lot of sense to hold this small
town that's -- you know, it was about 70,000 people before folks have evacuated. It is a little bit of a crossroads of some rail lines and
important roads. But at the end of the day, I think, Zelenskyy's general said, hey, boss, we need to do a withdrawal from Bakhmut because we're
losing too many people.
But I think Zelenskyy really had the better thought on this, which was, we're going to stand our ground in Bakhmut and we're going to stand our
ground for a number of reasons, because if the Russians succeed in taking Bakhmut, then it improves their morale, it will negatively affect the
Ukrainian morale. It may, in fact, affect the European support and the U.S. support to Ukraine if they feel like the Ukrainians aren't making progress.
So, I like the fact that Zelenskyy has -- is holding -- doing the best you can to hold Bakhmut.
I don't think we're ready for a ceasefire just yet. You know, it needs to get to the point to, you know, kind of allow the Ukrainians to start their
spring offensive to push the Russians as far as they can. And if anybody is going to ask for a ceasefire, it ought to come from Putin first, because
then that's an admittance that they're failing. And if they're failing, then they've really lost.
And I do think the Ukrainians can win this fight. They win it by ensuring that the Russians aren't successful in building this land bridge from
Donbas down to Crimea. And I do think that Ukrainians can hold territory and push the Russians out just a little bit to ensure they don't build that
ISAACSON: We've seen these leaks from the 21-year-old national guardsmen, Jack Teixeira. You've been chancellor of the University of Texas, you know,
21-year-olds really well. You've been a leader of the SEALs. Tell me what was your thought when you saw this leak?
MCRAVEN: Yes, yes. The one thing I would offer is we've got to be careful about overreacting to this. Obviously, the leak is horrible. There was a
lot of sensitive information. But the fact of the matter is we have a lot of great 21-year-olds in the military that are doing exactly the right
thing. We need to rely on these young men and women because we need them in order to, you know, manage the cryptology that we're doing, to manage all
of the classified material that they get handed. We need them to do the hard work.
So, the fact that we've got one 21-year-old who kind of got off the reservation, decided that -- you know, he thought impressing his friends
was more important than protecting U.S. secrets, he needs to be held accountable. But we really need to figure out a way to be able to maintain
the kind of chain of custody, Walter. I mean, this is the thing that is -- has been challenging in the past. So, the chain of custody for a classified
piece of material.
You know, when I started in the military, it was all hard copy. It was paper. So, you physically had to sign. When somebody handed you a secret
document, you signed a routing slip and that meant that now you were in control of that piece of paper. Well, today, because the electronic nature
of the information, it can pass very, very quickly. But if we have a good chain of custody that says, OK, this person read it, this person
transferred it, this person copied it, then you'd have, you know, less likely of a chance that a young 21-year-old than can do something
incredibly irresponsible and put the nation at risk.
ISAACSON: One of the things that there's a consensus on in Washington is to be hawkish about China. And both parties seem to want of the out hawk
each other. Are we going too far and being provocative in China, and should we be trying to find more common ground with them?
MCRAVEN: Absolutely. Yes. So, my position on China probably diverges from a lot of those hawkish folks out there. Because, look, I believe we need to
hold China accountable. We need to hold them accountable for the Uyghurs, we need to hold them accountable for Hong Kong for violating the WTO, for
using the Belt and Road Initiative to kind of leverage small countries.
But at the same time, we need to find common ground with China. And we need to find common ground on trade, we need to find it on climate, on space,
something, so that when things do get tense, we have kind of avenues of conversation.
I was talking to a senior official in the White House not too long ago who said they have more conversations with Russia than they do with China.
Well, that's not good. The fact of that matter is the world needs China. We need Chinese human capital. We need the Chinese economy. We need what China
can offer the world.
Once again, you know, we need to hold them accountable. But I think we can, in fact, maintain a two-track engagement with China. One hold them
accountable. Be strong on defense, so we have a good deterrent capability in the Pacific. But at the same time, build a path for some level of
engagement. Because if we don't have that engagement, we are pushing China further and further into the arms of Russia. And if you have a strong
Chinese and Russian alliance, that's not good for anybody in the world.
ISAACSON: Well, let's talk about that Chinese Russian alliance. I mean, one thing Bismarck told us is that you really can't push your two
adversaries closer to each other than you are with them. What can we do now, since Russia seems to be the great threat in Ukraine, to try to stop
this growing alliance between Russia and China?
MCRAVEN: Well, for one thing, back to the previous comments, we've got to find a way to engage with China, and we need to have some sort of olive
branch that we extend to China in order to, again, begin to separate them a little bit from Russia. They --
ISAACSON: Wait. Let me ask you about that. Give me an olive branch that you would offer if you were in charge?
MCRAVEN: OK. So, right now, climate. I mean, the Chinese understand that climate change is an issue. Let's at least start with something simple that
is -- that I think both countries can agree on. Let's try to fix the climate problem.
OK. We won't probably get very far on that, but at least we can have a conversation. Let's talk about the South China Sea. The concerns about the
Chinese's kind of aggressive activities in the South China Sea. What's happening now is things are beginning to escalate. Of course, we are, you
know, partnering closer with our allies in the Philippines, which is good, but we're going to establish bases in the Philippines. So, now, everybody
is beginning to ratchet up the level of engagement in the South China Sea. Well, let's find a way to kind of lower the heat there. Let's figure out
how we can work together on trade.
I think there's a number of opportunities out there where China would be willing to engage. You know, the fact that matter is, Xi has been, you
know, trying a couple of times of this charm offensive. You know, he's kind of brokered the -- a little bit of the peace agreement there between Iran
and Saudi Arabia. He is, of course, trying to broker a peace agreement in Ukraine. You know, these are opportunities where maybe we can partner with
the Chinese to look at some ways to, again, lower the tensions globally.
ISAACSON: Are you worried about a move on Taiwan and what can we do to prevent that?
MCRAVEN: Well, I am always worried about a move on Taiwan. I do not think that it's imminent. And of course, what we're doing is we are building up
the Taiwanese military, we are partnering with our allies in Japan and South Korea and the Philippines to create -- I think what we're hoping to
create is a deterrent effect by putting more military power, both U.S. military power and allied military power in the region.
Now, once again, we've got to be careful about, you know, pushing too far. When you take a look at the 2023 budget and the 2024 proposed budget, it's
really all about China. You know, we're buying more F-35s, more sub marines, more ships, more things that can counter and near pure competitor.
And I think that's all right. Don't misunderstand me, but we've got to make sure that it doesn't become a self-fulfilling prophecy that we end up, you
know, building up the military and we're looking for the enemy, and the enemy just happens to be China.
I'm all about a deterrent capability. I think that's very important, but we just need to understand that while we are building that deterrent
capability, we need to be working on diplomacy as well. Because the last thing China wants to do and the last thing the United States wants to do is
to go to war with each other.
ISAACSON: You wrote in 2020 that the world's no longer looking up to America, and you endorsed Joe Biden for president at that point. How do you
think he's doing and do you think the world is looking up to America more now in the wake of the Ukraine war?
MCRAVEN: Well, let's take it back even before the Ukraine war. I think the evacuation out of Afghanistan was, I think, as the chairman said, kind of a
political disaster. Now, the fact of matter is once the 82nd Airborne got on the ground and got organized, it was a remarkable feat of military
professionalism to evacuate 132,000 Afghans in two weeks. But any way you cut it, it did not look good in terms of American leadership
Now, having said that, I will tell you that I think the administration has done a pretty good job in Ukraine. When the war first started, I thought
they were a little slow on the uptake, but I think they've gotten their legs out -- gotten their legs underneath them, and I think they've been
doing a pretty, pretty good job.
So, I think the world -- as the world looks at the administration today, particularly in light of Ukraine, I think we have some -- we've regained
ISAACSON: Admiral Bill McRaven, thank you so much for joining us.
MCRAVEN: My pleasure, Walter. Thank you for having me.
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AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, returning to a truly great American, and the sad news that the legendary activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte
has died at the age of 96.
I was lucky enough to know Harry as a friend and a mentor. He was the son of Caribbean immigrants, and he pulled himself out of poverty through music
and education. Later, he threw his monumental success into the cause dearest to his heart. A few years ago, we spoke about his relationship with
Martin Luther King Jr. and the direction of the civil rights movement in America.
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AMANPOUR: We know about your really close relationship with Martin Luther King. Around that time, he came knocking on your door.
HARRY BELAFONTE, SINGER, ACTIVIST AND ACTOR: Yes. He called to find out whether or not he could have a meeting with me because he was coming to New
York. And at the time that he caught, I was just at the ascendancy of my career, just beginning to be going up the ladder. And he knew that I was an
activist. And I knew at the end of our exchange that I was going to be committed to the cause and be in his service.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, Martin Luther King is known for nonviolence. There was so much violence against the black community, and yet, he decided to
resist through nonviolence. Is that what attracted you to him?
BELAFONTE: What attracted me to him was his idea of that he could beat the system and that we should do it through this mechanism called nonviolence.
And that idea was quite alien to me. I mean, I knew about Gandhi, I knew about what he had done, but all the equations suggested to us that you have
to be at least 100 million people and the -- and those who occupied your country should be in the minority. So, it would be easy to be nonviolent
because you could overrun them.
But here in America, we were, what, 10, 12 percent of the population. We were distributed through these pockets of ghetto existence, and I just
really felt that the idea of nonviolence was not a winnable idea. But slowly and surely, I saw in his method and in his technique and in his
strategy that this thing could work. And I became deeply committed to it.
I became deeply committed to the fact that it was the only tool that we had that could really make a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And tomorrow, we're going to bring you a much fuller version of that conversation so that you can all benefit from his wisdom, his
experience and his place in history. May Harry Belafonte, a true hero and a properly great man, rest in peace. And we will leave you now with him
singing the Jamaican folk song, "Day-O" way back in 1955.
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