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Interview with Former Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA); Interview with Former Firearms Industry Executive and "Gunfight" Author Ryan Busse; Interview with Senior Counsel and Brady: United Against Gun Violence Director of Racial Justice Kelly Sampson; Interview with "Road to Surrender" Author Evan Thomas. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired May 19, 2023 - 13:00 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)
FMR. GOV. JERRY BROWN (D-CA): I think we're barreling towards a hot war, not just a cold war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Less hawk, more talk. As Biden and G7 allies meet in Japan, California's former governor, Jerry Brown, tells me, why U.S.-China policy
needs to cool down and avoid catastrophe.
Also, ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The weapons that the suspect utilize was an AR-15.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- guns not drugs in our Americas top public health concern. We drill down into the bloody truth about the weapons terrorizing the United
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EVAN THOMAS, AUTHOR, "ROAD TO SURRENDER": The bomb was aimed at the heart of Hiroshima, but Truman just didn't want to believe what he was about to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: -- a moment that change the world, historian Evan Thomas, author of "Road to Surrender," talks to Walter Isaacson about the shockwaves
nearly 80 years after dropping the atomic bomb.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
It's hard to keep track of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, these days, as he crisscrosses the globe nonstop on a blitz to shore up
military and economic support for what could be a defining counteroffensive at home.
Today, it was the Arab League Summit in Saudi Arabia. Next up, Japan, where Ukraine is top of the agenda at the G7 Summit. The big news there,
President Biden has agreed to support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter jets.
But, for President Biden and friends, there is another country looming large on the doorstep, and that's China. The dilemma, how to develop a
unified response to its increasing assertiveness and how to engage.
Former Governor Jerry Brown founded the California-China Climate Institute at Berkeley University, and he tells me it is tricky doing business with
Beijing, but he worries that Washington hawks might be going down a dangerous path of no return.
Governor Brown, welcome back to our program.
FMR. GOV. JERRY BROWN (D-CA): Thank you. Glad to be here.
AMANPOUR: You've spent a lot of time considering U.S.-China relations on a number of issues, obviously, and you have said recently that you're very
concerned about the United States barreling down a road towards a full- blown cold war. Tell me exactly what you mean by that, and what are the consequences?
BROWN: Well, I think we're barreling towards a hot war, not just a cold war, whether that's in a year or two or three years, the forces are being
set in motion of deep, pervasive hostility, and it makes no sense.
Yes, China is very different, the communist party is different than our Democratic Republican Party operation. Nevertheless, the imperatives of
planetary danger, global danger, the economy, nuclear proliferation, climate change, the advances in artificial intelligence, the threats, bio
threats, all these things mean that the U.S. and China must collaborate. It doesn't mean that they're not very different. And the level of negativity
coming out of Washington, and then, of course, reciprocating and stimulated in China is alarming, and it's escalating.
We have to call a reverse in this trajectory of a very negative relationship. It wasn't true few years ago, it doesn't have to be true now.
It's very dangerous. I think the people of Washington are acting in a way that is very unconscious of the dangers that they are helping to co-create.
AMANPOUR: And as this G7 summit is occurring, pretty much on China's doorstep, the doomsday clock, which, you know, always has been an indicator
of how close one is to the maximum disaster, is showing, right now. You know, an unprecedented 90 seconds to midnight.
So, just using that image as a focus, what would you do to rollback this tension and try to reset relations with this huge superpower?
BROWN: It's real simple. Not simple in execution, but simple in concept and to begin. The president of China and the president of the United States
have to talk, not through zoom, but in person. Not for an hour, but for several days. The difficulties and differences are so great that they have
to be explored and work through a sufficient amount of time, and it can't be done by lesser folk.
In China, President Xi is the -- he is the top. He calls the shots and he only wants to talk to President Biden. Of course, they had to bring in
their close confidants, but they have to initiate a discussion. It's -- Obama and Xi met down in Palm Springs for over two days. Nothing like that
has happened, and yet everything has gotten worse. This is very dangerous.
I really think people in Washington don't realize the risk. Yes, the communist party is a problem, but hot war is a thousand times worse as will
be climate change in the next 20 to 30 years, as will be artificial intelligence, as will be nuclear blunder that is building up, as well.
So, yes, the doomsday clock is a minute and a half before doomsday. So, it's time for Biden, his assistance, the Congress, as well as China and
their people, to get together. Not that they're going to agree, not kumbaya, just hard at it, talk. Like Nixon and Brezhnev, like Nixon and Mao
Tse-tung. It can be done. It has to been done. And if it isn't done very soon, the world will suffer grievously.
AMANPOUR: It's really interesting that you bring up Nixon, obviously, no political ally or friend of yours, and yet you do pay tribute to the type
of diplomacy in the hardest and most difficult cases, which right now, seems to be impossible. As you said, there are hawks all over the place,
including the Democratic Party, who seem to be pushing this Democratic president down this road.
So, everybody seems to not "want to be soft on China." And this is what you have said, the notion that we can scare China and push them around or
contain them and suppress their growth and development is utter folly. But it does seem to be wide spread.
At what point, do you think, because we do know that, for instance, there is talk about Secretary Blinken going, climate czar, John Kerry, the
commerce secretary, Raimondo, the treasury secretary, Yellen, that President Biden is preparing to send them all to reopen some dialogue?
BROWN: Well, that's fine. Unfortunately, the Chinese are listening at this particular moment. I think there is indications that there will be a
breakthrough and conversations will begin. But if we look at what just happened, a balloon. OK, a balloon is serious. We got spy satellites. They
spy by satellites. Why was that the occasion to cancel a visit by the American secretary state to China?
It indicates that it isn't important enough. And yet, I will say, and I've talked a lot of very astute China thinkers, nothing is more important than
talking with China, working through our profound differences. It can be done.
The communist party under Mao Tse-tung was far more dangerous and hostile than the communist party under President Xi Jinping. So, why aren't we
talking? I think there is a miasma in Washington. There is an arrogance, a hubris, that doesn't understand the nation is at threat. This is not a high
school football game. This is a global environment where powerful countries can kill hundreds of millions if they get to the point of a war.
So, that is the number one thing that must be avoided. I don't hear that. This is a time for cooperation, as well as competition. I hear about great
power competition, I don't hear the word great power cooperation. It's an imperative. You know, we learn to cooperate or we will perish, I have no
doubt of that.
AMANPOUR: So, obviously, again, you know, you've said that there are things in China that we find horrendous, not everything we have done has
been perfect, so we ought to have a little humility.
But at the same time, of course, the West is concerned about China maybe supporting Russia more than trying to end Russia's war in Ukraine. Talk to
me a little bit about the notion of making peace and having diplomacy with your enemies or competitors rather than your friends.
BROWN: Well, I distinguish what I call crackpot realism, which is what I see now in Washington, and a planetary realism. We can't treat China as a
separated object that we can change and course and push around and persuade in our own will. We are locked on this planet earth in a very, highly
dependent relationship, on the environment, on weapons, on biological threats, on artificial intelligence, on nuclear weaponry.
We are tied together, and we have to find a way to live together. It's just that simple. There is no option other than utter destruction. And if one
understands that and sees it, then, without minimizing disagreements or differences and values, there will be ways that people can find the
president of China and Biden, president of the United States, can work together, can find areas of cooperation, because we have common interests.
We have common threats, common vulnerabilities, and therefore, they lead to common interest that we should be working on. Instead, all I hear is
competition, conflict, enemy, adversary, it really is short sighted and it's scary.
AMANPOUR: Is it going to get worse in this upcoming presidential campaign as everybody competes to be the strongest and all the rest of it? We
understand that Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, is going to throw his hat in the ring officially, maybe in the next week. He's had a bit of a
contra talk (ph) with your governor in California, Governor Newsom, particular over what he calls and what's being described as the culture
wars and what he calls a woke virus.
Let me play a sound bite, and I want you to react to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's motivating this philosophically is what I call the woke mind virus. It's a form of cultural Marxism that tries to
divide us based on identity politics. It represents an attack on merit and achievement, and it constitutes a war on the truth. Don't tell me that
babies are born racist. Don't tell me that men can get pregnant. That is not true, and I will not accept that as being true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Governor Newsom responded by saying, welcome to the real freedom state, and said, you're going to get smoked by Trump. Is liberalism in a
crisis? And does that -- what matters right now in terms of this, you know, Republican Democratic face off?
BROWN: Well, you can say liberalism is in a crisis. You can say America is in a crisis. And you can say the world is in a crisis. So, what to do about
it? As I listen to that tape that you played, woke virus, Marxist cultural something or other, that's way over, that's hyperbolic nonsense. It's
almost a cartoon of issues that are out there but are to be responded in an adult, thoughtful manner. That was pure demagoguery, playing to the cheap
seats of the Republican primary, and that takes us nowhere.
Yes, there's some crazy stuff going on, but just to invent names and throw them at people, that's not the American way. And unless our two parties can
grow up and work together, and I'm not saying in this case, the Republicans are way over, and they're picking on stuff of that, yes, that someone is
kind of crazy in my mind on the Democratic side, but the response is not too exaggerated and compounded, but to find avenues of collaboration.
We have to do that domestically. We have to do it internationally. If we can't, we are in big, big trouble.
AMANPOUR: Well, it looks like, certainly, domestically, the polls are increasingly opposite, and it doesn't seem to be any -- I mean, just look
at the debt crisis, that may indeed be resolved, the debt ceiling. But, in other terms, especially in campaigning, do you think that President Biden
has a good shot at this next election and who do you think would be the best for him to be pitted against in the general, Donald Trump or Ron
DeSantis or anybody else?
BROWN: I think President Biden has a very good chance if President Trump is the competitor. I do know, from long experience, when your poll ratings
are in the low 40s for not months, but years, that's a very tall mountain to climb. Nevertheless, we're in very unusual times. It looks like Trump is
going to get the nomination. I think Biden can pull it off. I'm not sure. And as far as what other possible candidates there are, I'm not going to
speculate on that.
I would say that when my father when ran for governor there was a mayor of San Francisco that they were afraid of, and they wanted Ronald Reagan to be
the opponent. Well, Ronald Reagan was the opponent, and he won by a million votes, beating my father in 1966.
So, I'm very wary of saying who the Republican opponent should be. I think we need the strongest Democratic campaign imaginable.
AMANPOUR: The eldest stateswoman from your state, Senator Dianne Feinstein, is undergoing some medical issues and causing some alarm with
some of her reactions and quotes to the press. It's a very, you know, sensitive issue. What do you think she should do? Do you think she should
BROWN: Look, right now, her votes are crucial. She has the capacity to participate as a senator. She certainly a lot better off than Strom
Thurmond and Orrin Hatch were, and no one gave them trouble. The Republicans will not allow a substitute for Dianne Feinstein on the
committee, even if she were to leave and resign, it's not clear that they're going to allow that person to be on the judiciary committee.
So, there is a real challenge here that is exacerbated by the Republican policies that are very insensitive, and I think completely intolerable. But
Feinstein has what it takes to participate over the next several months. So, yes, it's a serious matter. These tragedies happen. This is not the
first time. We've seen many in the recent decades in the U.S. Senate.
AMANPOUR: Can I go back to another issue of substance regarding China? Essentially, one of the topics that Secretary Blinken had planned to
address before that trip was scrapped was the flow of chemicals from China, which were used in the illegal manufacturing of fentanyl.
We have the stat which says government data out yesterday revealed nearly 110,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States last year,
2022. And of course, back in 2018, you vetoed legislation that would have allowed San Francisco to open the nation's first supervised drug injection
site. What -- where are we now on this? Is that veto still a reasonable one? How should the fentanyl crisis be dealt with?
BROWN: Well, I certainly don't think the fentanyl crisis will be dealt with by the government, providing nice places for people to inject
fentanyl. And if the government doesn't supply the fentanyl itself, then the addicts will have to steal it and -- to get it somehow, to get the
money, because they don't otherwise work, at least most of them.
So, we got a crisis, all right, and it's something we got to work out with China and Mexico, but also in the United States. And right now, the opiates
are permitted in many of the big cities. So, I think the mayors have to take a more enlightened view, strict, but also compassionate in the sense
that treatment is available, shelter is permitted.
The specter of people camping out on the streets of San Francisco is not a good one. And I think it should be a call to wake up and take more serious
action in stopping the opioid crisis. It's not easy. It's happening all over America, in Texas, in New York, in Florida. So, it's a real dilemma of
this modern developed society.
AMANPOUR: Governor Brown, thank you very much indeed.
BROWN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, that operate epidemic here is giving away to gun violence at the top of American's public health concerns. Even some foreign
countries are giving their citizens traveling here a shooting advisory.
On Monday, and 18-year-old with an AR-15 killed three people in New Mexico after a spate of recent killings, like in Missouri, 16-year-old Ralph Yarl
was shot when he went to the wrong house to pick up his brothers. In New York, Kaylin Gilli was killed after her car turned into the wrong driveway.
In Texas, two cheerleaders were shot when they got into the wrong car after practice. And yet, passing any significant gun laws still seems to be an
unachievable task in the United States unlike a host of other nations overseas that have reacted swiftly to mass shootings.
My next guest won't stop trying here in the United States, Ryan Busse is a former insider in the gun industry who now is working for sensible gun
control. While Kelly Sampson is director of Racial Justice at Brady United Against Gun Violence.
Welcome both of you to the program.
Can I just start with Serbia where, in the last month, there were two mass shootings, and at least a dozen people killed, including children? There
have been really big protests against gun violence, including today, and we've got incredible pictures. But it just took two shootings for Serbia to
act swiftly. The United States has done nothing despite of 200 this year.
So, Ryan Busse, from your perspective as a former insider in the gun industry, what is it going to take, and why is this still such an
extraordinarily difficult situation?
RYAN BUSSE, FORMER FIREARMS INDUSTRY EXECUTIVE AND AUTHOR, "GUNFIGHT": Well, thank you for having me on, Christiane. I don't know exactly what
it's going to take. I think that we're not likely to see here, and in many ways, I don't want to see the sort of reactionary over the top actions that
you might see in a country like Serbia.
That being said, a freedom like owning guns, which we have in America, I'm a gun owner still, I hunt and shoot was my boys, I'd like to continue that.
I value the right to self-defense, but I think it's pretty obvious that we cannot maintain that sort of immensely powerful freedom and ignore the need
for immensely powerful responsibilities, either through social norms or legislation at the same time.
And this is part of living in a democracy, where you have to balance freedoms and responsibilities and kind of the messy gray space of
governance. And I think this is case in point for how our governance is really, really broken right now because we cannot rebalance. We have far
too much focus on one and far too little focus on the other, and we've got to figure out a way to fix that.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to delve into the fixing in a moment. But first, to you, Kelly Sampson. Draconian is how Ram Basi (ph) described what some
foreign countries have done. Serbia, and I'll just list a little bit, basically, the president promised general disarmament of the country.
There's an amnesty program for illegal weapons, a moratorium on new weapons permits, review of current gun licenses, and also psychological background
checks. And also, we've seen in the past, how it's happened in Australia, in New Zealand, in the U.K.
Is that too draconian for the United States?
KELLY SAMPSON, SENIOR COUNSEL AND DIRECTOR OF RACIAL JUSTICE, BRADY: UNITED AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: It's not. And I appreciate the question. And
one of the things at Brady that we've been able to do is we work with gun owners and non-gun owners. And one of the things that we've learned is
that, despite the gun industry's skewed version of what the Americans want, Americans want background checks. Americans want the capacity to make sure
that people who are going to misuse guns won't be able to misuse them.
There's a lot of support among the people in the country for background checks, for assault weapons bans. The problem is that there's a small
coterie of individuals who are supposed to represent us but who really are more concerned with representing the gun lobby than our own views.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you then, Ryan Busse, how -- we've heard a lot of reporting about, you know, problems within the biggest organization, the
NRA. You know, and as Kelly says, that there's so much popular support for sensible gun control. How much -- clearly a lot of strength then, despite
the numbers. I mean, something like one in five Americans say they've been threatened by a gun, 44 percent say they know someone who's been shot. How
come the gun lobby, the NRA, for instance, still has that much power then?
BUSSE: Well, and I want to say, I completely agree with Kelly, for instance, on the background checks, right. This is a thing, a policy, that
has polled well above 80 percent for over 25 years, and yet, hasn't passed. And this sort of leads into the answer about the NRA. And is the NRA
weakened from its high point as an organization? Perhaps. Is NRA-ism in the sort of all or nothing-ism that they infected our politics with? I think
And just look at background checks, if you don't believe me. This should pass. It pulls at 85 percent. That means a huge number of Republicans also
support background checks. Yet, it doesn't. Why is that? And I think it's because the NRA forced sort of the central beam of the right side of our
politics, the radicalized right side of our politics, the central beam of that political house is guns -- radicalized gun -- this radicalized gun
And so, you know, you could have asbestos chipping off that beam all day long and have 85 percent of the people agree that is going to give us
cancer, but the right side of the aisle says, don't touch that beam in the house, if we pull it out, the whole thing is going to crumble. And I think
that's what the radical right has made and really formed up by the NRA, that's what they've made guns into for this slice, for this radicalize
slice that Kelly talks about on the right, and it's very dangerous.
It not only threatens our day to day lives, but it threatens our democracy.
AMANPOUR: Well, talking about a democracy then, Kelly, you're the general counsel, the legal counsel, listen to what Ryan Busse says that that amount
of people, I think you said 85 percent, obviously including a lot of Republicans, thinks there need to be certain controls. How does, in a
democracy, then a minority hold sway on something as big as this and as deadly as this?
SAMPSON: Well, part of it just has to do, when you're talking about the federal level, some of it is just -- it's a structural issue, right? And
so, you have the Senate where a small group can hold sway over what the majority wants. Similarly, you have issues around the way the courts are
But that being said, we definitely have seen a change at Brady over the past decade or so where now you're having more and more people animated
(ph) about gun violence and preventing it. And so, we've started to see over the past decade states passing laws. And even last year, the federal
government passed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was the first federal law in over 30 years.
So, things are changing, but I think what we really need is that cultural change at the ground level, where the everyday Americans who care, and they
may say, I'm a Republican and I care. I'm a gun owner, and I care. But as more and more of those people take that care and make it into action, then
we can really push to overcome that small minority.
AMANPOUR: OK. Then again, the question is, how does one do that? Apparently, in COVID, there was a massive increase in the sales and the
purchases of guns. It looks like Americans bought 60 million guns almost during the pandemic, and the ownership rose from about a third of U.S.
households to almost a half.
Ryan, why would that be? And again, I know that you live out there in Montana, you're a proud gun owner, a responsible one, it's for hunting, et
cetera. What happened in the COVID pandemic?
BUSSE: Well, the truth is, and the NRA stumbled onto this 25 years ago, one of the most effective motivators for humans, both politically and in
gun purchases, is the use of fear. And I don't think -- you know, the NRA has been exceptionally good at both creating and then stoking sort of
irrational fears about things.
In COVID, there were lots of -- everybody had all kinds of fears. We didn't know what tomorrow was going to look like. Racial fears were stoked. We had
George Floyd. We had Black Lives Matter. We had -- I mean, none of us are going to remember a more tumultuous time than in and around 2020. And as
you mentioned, just in that one year, just in that 12 months, we had almost 23 million new gun sold in the United States.
And so, when fear is used as a singular sort of irrational motivator to purchase guns, you're going to have a bunch of ugly, dangerous spillover
effects, because it's not a healthy rational decision, and that's what happened.
AMANPOUR: So, let's just also point away a little bit from these mass shootings and get these other terrible statistics that, in fact, the
majority of people who were killed in the United States -- I'm going to remember it, I think it's like 50,000 people are killed not in mass
shootings, but in, you know, handgun, in suicide, in other things like that. That's a whole other epidemic that we don't really see, but that's a
huge number of people.
Again, Kelly, how is that -- is that just what this country is going to live with?
SAMPSON: Absolutely not. And I would point to Brady has a program called End Family Fire, where we are directly reaching out to gun owners to talk
about things like safe storage, which can help save lives. But to go back to something Ryan was talking about in terms of the fear, there is a lie
under the gun industry has been perfecting and perpetuating for decades where they tell people that the only thing that's going to keep you safe is
not the rule of law, but a gun.
And they downplay the risk of bringing a gun into your home, which is that that gun is more likely to be used against you or someone in a home will
use it against themselves rather than the fantasy they create, which is that, with this gun, you'll be able to take on the stranger danger.
And the suicide issue is an example of the reality of what it looks like when you have a gun in your home, which is that it ends up being a risk to
you and your family. That's not to say that people can't own guns. Well, one of the things at Brady that we've seen is that people need to know the
risk and understand the responsibilities associated with it. And we're not stuck with it. We are working to make sure that if people are going to
bring a gun into their home that they are conscious of the risk, that they practice safe storage, and that they really make a sober and clear decision
about having a weapon.
Because the idea that a gun is going to keep you and your family safe does not line up with the statistics and it doesn't line up with the reality of
what we know about far arms in the home.
AMANPOUR: And again, I mean, come from the U.K., and there are special storage places that hunters or anybody with guns have to have in their
houses, and they're checked regularly. They're locked and checked regularly, you know, by security people, by the police. So, you're saying
that that -- there should be more of that here.
What about these laws? In our introduction to you, we talked about the stand-your-ground laws, essentially, the three instances in which people
were killed being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Is that a law that has any chance of any kind of bipartisan effort that could actually ended
or is it a law that is still very popular amongst the majority of people, Ryan?
BUSSE: Well, I think the stand-your-ground laws are sort of indicative of our out of balance situation right now. If we're going to be a country --
we now have 415 million or so guns in the United States. I think everybody who drives up and down the roads every day sees a lot of vehicles, we have
about 267 million vehicles. So, if you think you have a lot of cars, there's 150 million more guns than cars.
If we're going to have guns like that in our society, and again, I am a gun owner, it cannot be without proper restriction. It cannot be without proper
social norms. It -- and at the same time, we've increased this gun ownership and gun sales, which you mentioned. Many states have actually
reduced the level of permitting of, you know, the requirement to learn safe storage or to require safe storage.
So, our arrows are going in the wrong direction both ways, right? We can't be a democracy that functions with this sort of immense freedom and reduce
regulation at the same time. It's -- we should not be shocked that these things happen, whether it's Ralph Yarl or whether it's a young girl in
north of Albany. It's going to happen. We have to figure out a way to govern ourselves. That's what this is about.
AMANPOUR: And I think that is what is so extraordinary about it, especially as we head into a presidential campaign, the idea of how to
govern ourselves and how to be a society where everybody has their rights, including, as you've written, Kelly, a book called -- I think it's called
"The Right Not to Be Shot."
Again, you argue that that is a constitutional counterweight to gun rights laws like stand-your-ground. But that's not making any inroads, really,
except obviously, as you say, with the general public, but not with the politicians. What more does the public have to do? They've done their
marches, they have the -- you know, they have the vigils, they -- you know, the tragedies of what happened in schools and workplaces and sports places
that get, you know, mowed down like this. That constitutional right seems yet not to be able to punch through the other one of the Second Amendment.
SAMPSON: Yes. And I think there is a tension here. And one of the things that we've seen that kind of keeps us going is that we live in a country
where we have the federal system and then we have the state and the local system. And it's true that the federal system has been quite challenging,
but where we've seen a lot of progress from the public coming out and marching is in the states.
And even just in the past five years or so, so many states like Virginia, places that you wouldn't necessarily think of, have passed gun laws in
response to the popular up swell support. So, to answer your question in terms of what the public needs to do, I mean, I think we kind of have to
put ourselves here for the long haul.
And one of the things I always think about is my own heritage, right? I'm a black woman. And so, I am sitting here today, an attorney, because I am
descendent from people who had all the odds against them. You want to talk about, you know, being written into the constitution as three fifths of a
person, right, but they kept marching, they kept resisting, and they kept demanding change and they got it.
And I think when it comes to gun violence prevention, we're going to need a similar sort of attitude where despite the odds we're going to have to just
keep pushing, because we're making progress, we need more progress, but the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, I think, is one example of the ways in
which we can get things done, but it will take some determination, and it will take us not giving up, not getting discouraged, and continuing to kind
of push on and fight.
And I wish that I could snap my fingers and change this, because people are dying, children are dying, but we can't. We have to keep pushing and
changing. And we're making progress, it's just it needs to happen faster.
AMANPOUR: Let me end by asking Ryan, because Kelly obviously talks about children and the young generations and the future generations. Your own
sons, I read, and I'm absolutely fascinated by it, have -- and let me get this absolutely straight, they have taken up a lawsuit, right, in terms of
their right not to be affected negatively by the climate. And this is happening in Montana.
Do you see any link there, Ryan, between that kind of citizen action and even gun control?
BUSSE: I actually do. And thank you. Yes. I'm very proud of my boys, they're part of -- there are 16 kids here in Montana who, for the first
time ever, will go to -- in the nation -- will go to court to fight for their climate rights, for their -- there is a portion of our constitution,
a beautifully written constitution, 1972, that says every citizen has the right to a clean and healthful environment, and my boys are part of 16 kids
that are fighting for that.
But I think it's very indicative. This class of citizens coming up, my oldest son is 18, my youngest is 15. They have lost patients with us, with
our nation, with inaction on things that are important. And I've warned people many times that if we do not fix this, these kids will fix it and
they have little patience, whether it's on climate, whether it's on reproductive rights, whether it's on gun stuff. And my kids, they hunt and
shoot and own guns and shoot it and, you know, trap and skeet competitions, and yet they have lost patience for being in lockdown drills at school.
They're done with it.
BUSSE: So, yes, I do see a connection.
AMANPOUR: I think that's so hopeful. Both of you have talked about how the younger generation are going to have to fix this and are motivated to do
so. So, thank you both so much for being with us. Thanks a lot for joining us.
BUSSE: Thank you.
SNOW: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Now, Hiroshima, which is the site of the G7 summit, is the most powerful reminder of the total catastrophe of nuclear weapons of 10 bandied
around these days as a legitimate -- often bandied around these days as a legitimate battlefield weapon.
In his new book, Evan Thomas concludes, the United States had no other option than to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. It is controversial as he
tells more to Walter Isaacson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you. And Evan Thomas, welcome back to the show.
EVAN THOMAS, AUTHOR, "ROAD TO SURRENDER": Great to be back.
ISAACSON: Your book, the "Road to Surrender," comes out this weekend, it's about the decisions that led to the dropping of the atom bomb in Hiroshima.
And it is sort of a reminder about why we shouldn't put statesman in that position. Tell me about the G7 meeting in Hiroshima and what it means to
THOMAS: Well, I hope it's a reminder to the statesmen there that they never want to back themselves into the kind of corner we are in August of
1945, when really, there was no choice but to use these terrible weapons.
I know there's a lot of argument over the years, but in my book, I think I made a pretty compelling case that, really, we were stuck, the Japanese
would not surrender to end this terrible, terrible war. We had to use, not one, but two nuclear weapons, and that was a terrible thing for the world
and for the people who had to use them never recovered from it.
And I spent a lot of time in the book talking about the agonies they went through as they face this moral and political dilemma about whether to use
these things when there really was not a good choice.
ISAACSON: Your book's theme is moral ambiguity, you know. And we live in an age of Twitter, and where nothing is morally ambiguous. People leak to
one side or the other. And we're seeing that even in foreign policy today, even with China. Are you worried that we are marching down a path where we
are putting people into a position where it's perhaps more likely that the bomb would be used again?
THOMAS: Yes. We are -- as you say, we live in this world now of kind of moral righteousness. You know, when people have these Twitter debates or
debates on the internet or anywhere, I am right, you are wrong. And not only you're wrong, you are morally inferior to me or to my group, and
that's a bad culture that we are in. And you can see it play out on the world stage.
Putin is kind of crazy moralist. It's a twisted Russian morality, but he's -- you know, I'm moral and the other side is evil. And he is backing
himself into a corner where he may have to act on that to save his own crazy notions of his own morality.
Even more dangerous, I think, is the corner we're getting into with China. China is -- you know, China is building missile fields, as we speak. We
thought the arms race was over. We thought we were out of nuclear age. The Chinese are building, I see them (ph) fields and we are going to be back
into a scary standoff with another nuclear arm power.
I hope that we take lessons from the past about why it's not simple, it's not I'm right, you're wrong, but that statesmen have got to work together
to avoid getting to the brink.
ISAACSON: But we're not even having nuclear arms control talks with the Chinese now. And the Russians have pulled out of most of the nuclear arms
agreements that we talked about. Is that sort of an example of the fact that everybody has gotten onto a righteous high horse and we're not able to
do the normal things that people expected after Hiroshima, preventing this bomb from being used again?
THOMAS: Well, the rhetoric is all high horse. I mean, if you just read what Putin says, or what the Chinese say, it's all kind of agitprop. I
mean, it's way out there in denouncing us as being wicked and evil. Now, you hope they may be talking that way, but behind the scenes there are
diplomats who are having realistic discussions with them.
There's a little bit of a sign of that. I think, Nick Burns -- Ambassador Nicholas Burns was recently in China. And there is actually an opening here
for the world, and that is in Ukraine. If the Chinese could only persuade Russia to stand down, and if the United States, by the same token, could
help Ukraine stand down, we could find a diplomatic ending to a war in which people are otherwise backing themselves into a situation where Putin
could use a nuke.
So, that's -- there's a little glimmer of hope, to me, that statesmen could be wise about this and find a way out. But it really doesn't help if you're
posturing all the time about how you are morally superior to the other side.
ISAACSON: You say that it's possible that Vladimir Putin could use a nuclear weapon. What do you think would drive him to that and what should
we be doing?
THOMAS: I think if he feels that he is losing and that he's going to be deposed himself and he has no other choice but to use a nuke, now, I think
it's a horrific choice and I think the Chinese would try to talk him out of it, but it's possible. His rhetoric is a crazy. And he -- you know, he
likes to rattle a nuclear weapon, rattle the nuclear saber. He does it -- they do it all the time. And they're always making references to say, well,
the United States, you know, he says, you did it first. You -- you know, you did Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not us. And so, he's trying to put us to
morally backfoot us.
And, you know, that -- in the real world -- and I hope Putin reads my book, because in the real world, these decisions are difficult. They are not
ideological. We did use those weapons but we used them only after we realized that there was no other choice to use them.
There's a movie coming out called "Oppenheimer." And there is a scene, which they'll probably have in the movie, where after we dropped the atom
bomb, Oppenheimer, the scientist who helped create the atomic bomb, comes into Harry Truman's office, President Truman's office, the Oval Office,
saying, I have blood on my hands. And Truman kicks him out. And says, I don't want to see that crybaby ever again.
Now, Truman was posturing a little bit when he was doing that. But the point is, you know, you have to make these terrible decisions and then you
have to live with them. And my book is about people had to live with terrible decisions. That's -- that is the real world.
ISAACSON: With Biden going to Hiroshima and the "Oppenheimer" movie coming out, we're all reminded of these things again. And one thing that
Oppenheimer said as he was agonizing, after the bomb was used, is that, possibly the use of the bomb would make sure we never used it again. Tell
me about that line of thinking.
THOMAS: Well, Oppenheimer's own scientists were appalled by what they were about to do. And Oppenheimer calmed them down by saying, look, if we use
this thing, it will be so horrific that they we'll never do it again. War will be over.
And, you know, for a long time, it looked like he was wrong about that. I mean, we had a huge arms race. But actually, there was a taboo. The people
who used those weapons were shocked by it. And I wrote a book about President Eisenhower and he was pretty determined never to use those
I fear that with the passage of a half century, more, 70 years now, people forget how terrible they are. They are terrible. And the average ICBM
nuclear warhead is 100 times more powerful than the atom bomb that fell on Hiroshima, 100 times, or 200 times.
It's -- you know, Hiroshima is taken out of Midtown Manhattan. An H bomb is all five boroughs, I mean, it's the whole damn thing. And, you know, we've
-- the nuclear taboo worked for a very long time, partly because statesman did avoid pressing the button, and because there's some arms control, we
need to get back into a world in which we are talking with each other again about arms control and about how incredibly dangerous these things are. But
I fear we forget.
ISAACSON: You say people's memories are fading. Is this going to be a spur to say, oh, yes, let's make sure we get back into arms control and other
THOMAS: You know, the whole reason why statesmen meet is to have these kinds of conversations, off the record conversations, so they're not just
yelling at each other through their spokesmen. So, I sure hope they talk about that, because it has immediate relevance.
Ukraine has got to be resolved before Putin fires off one of these things. And then, right over the horizon. The fate of Taiwan is bringing the United
States and China into a nuclear standoff. If we fight China over Taiwan, there's a very good chance we will use missiles against the Chinese
mainland. And China will want to use missiles against our mainland.
Once countries -- this is not some nice little 19th century sea battle, this is an intercontinental conflict. And that runs the risk of using
nuclear weapons. We've been there in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We need to go back and relive some of that history to remember just how terrible it was,
how -- what a close thing it was. That's another thing that people don't quite realize. We almost used a third bomb.
In my book I write about Harry Truman told the British ambassador they were running out of time and they were going to use a third bomb on Tokyo.
People don't realize that. That's how close it was. There is a coup d'etat attempt in the imperial palace on the last night to try to disrupt that
surrender. People forget all about that, but that's how close it came to us using a third weapon. And they were planning for a sixth, seventh. They
were planning to drop bombs all fall long. We don't want to be in that position.
ISAACSON: Your book has some really great inside reporting about a lot of the major players, General -- Colonel Stimson, who secretary of orbit,
mainly from inside the Japanese imperial court. Tell me what you learned there.
THOMAS: Well, the Japanese were determined to die, you know, after we had dropped two atom bombs on them. There's is a meeting of the supreme war
council, the guys who really run Japan. And the minister of war says, wouldn't it be wonderful to die like cherry blossoms, the whole nation?
There's a deadlock. They don't -- they can't decide.
Finally, the emperor, partly because he's afraid there's atom bomb was about to drop on him, correctly, afraid of it, he puts an end to it. But it
takes another five days, there's a coup attempt. And, you know, these cultures -- cultures can kind of go mad. And the Japanese culture, at that
time, did go mad.
Now, fortunately, there are human beings involved. And I write about the Japanese foreign minister, a guy named, Shigenori Togo, nobody's ever heard
of him. He was sentenced as a war criminal to 20 years. But he saved millions of lives, because he was a human being, he read -- he was at
Japanese who read Goethe (ph), he read German philosophers, and he was a humanist. And he saw that we had to surrender that day, they -- the
Japanese had to surrender, and he persuaded the emperor explicitly. He persuaded the emperor ever since. I agree with the foreign minister, and he
But it took that kind of human courage, humanistic courage, from somebody who read history, who was -- he was -- the Japanese foreign minister but
he's anti-Nazi, and he wanted to bring back the Germany of the 19th century, he'd read history and he understood humanity. And fortunately,
they were just enough people like that in the Japanese government to end the war. Otherwise, that damn war would've gone on and on and millions
ISAACSON: And the other great interesting character in your book, or one of the others, is, of course, Henry Stimson, who was also a humanist but a
very much of a realist too, a realist who's trying to balance realism and idealism. Tell me about his conflicts.
THOMAS: You know, that is American foreign policy in a nutshell. We're -- you know, the United States is a humane country. We are not imperialists.
We believe in democracy and human rights. But to make that work, you have to use power. You have to be both a realist and an idealist. That was Henry
Stimson. He's sort of the godfather, forgotten now, but he was the godfather of American foreign policy all through the Cold War. That
combination of trying to do the right thing and trying to spread democracy, but at the same time, realizing that you had to exercise power and not a
back away from hard challenges.
Now, Henry Kissinger understood that. People -- but the guy who started this was a guy named Henry Stimson, and he was 77 years old. He was
agonized by it. He had -- on the day -- and this is in my book, on the day he shows Truman the photographs of the destruction of Hiroshima he has a
heart attack. And a month later, when he's trying to get arms control going, he has another heart attack. He can't sleep. He is agonized. This is
not something he is calm about, this is tearing him up inside because there is a conflict between realism and idealism, it's hard to do both.
ISAACSON: What role did denial, self-denial and misinformation play in the decisions leading up to the dropping of the bomb?
THOMAS: You know, we like to think that when people make a tough decision, they have a very full and considerate debate over it, that's not the way it
really works. There's a lot of denial. People not wanting to know. On the night that Harry Truman gave the decision to drop the atom bomb, he wrote
in his diary, I've instructed the secretary of war to choose a purely military target, so that we kill soldiers and not women and children.
Nonsense. The bomb was aimed the heart of Hiroshima.
But Truman just didn't want to believe what he was about to do. It's human. People just have a hard time facing what they are doing, but he did it. He
did give the order. He may have had some denial in his diary, but he made the tough decision.
ISAACSON: Was he right?
ISAACSON: Your book takes on what was called the revisionist school of history, which among other things said, we were wrong to drop the atom
bomb. We could have won the war without dropping the bomb. We did it maybe to scare Russia off, that we had all sorts of ulterior motives. First of
all, explain to me why that revisionist theory was wrong.
THOMAS: I would like to be for the revisionists. And believe me, the people who dropped the bomb didn't want to drop it, but it assumes that
Japanese would be willing to surrender, if we just said, you can keep your emperor. No, the facts are otherwise. And I know this from reading Japanese
diaries and the record, and I spent a lot of time talking to the grandsons of my --
ISAACSON: And they gave you some of the diaries too, the grandchildren?
THOMAS: Yes, his diary. Yes, right. And it's just obvious from the contemporaneous record, not later, but what was happening at that time,
that the Japanese were not going to surrender. It took two bombs, and it very nearly took a third.
ISAACSON: One of the things that history does, as we revise it, it revises itself, is that it does remind us when it's -- I think it should remind us,
at least, of the moral ambiguities, that we can't be cocksure about everything. To what extent is your book sort of intended in a way to talk
about the importance of understanding moral ambiguity?
THOMAS: 100 percent. It's -- the book is all about moral ambiguity. If we go back and read history, the history I am writing, the history that you've
written, it's full of moral ambiguity. There's -- hard decisions are rarely black and white.
Look at Lincoln and, you know, what was he doing? You know, he did a very difficult thing in freeing the slaves. He was full of moral ambiguity --
not moral ambiguity on the decision to free the slaves but everything surrounding it was incredibly complex. And 51 to 49 decisions, close calls,
that's the real world.
Our country made a virtue of this in our foreign policy. We were neither purely idealistic, not pure power, nor were we purely idealistic, all
lovey-dovey about human rights. It can't be just one or the other. You have to be both. And that's why Henry Stimson could not sleep at night. This is
hard. I'm sure Joe Biden doesn't sleep very well. The people who take this seriously that we elect, we don't -- maybe we don't want them to sleep
well. We want them to stay up. These are hard questions. But let's be realistic about it, let's be honest about what they are going through.
ISAACSON: Evan Thomas, thank you for joining us again.
THOMAS: Thanks, Walter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, what the novelist Salman Rushdie has gone through. He's received the Centenary College Award from PEN America in his
first public appearance since the horrific stabbing last summer that left him blinded in one eye. He dedicated the award to the people who came to
his rescue. And he left the audience with this poignant message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMAN RUSHDIE, NOVELIST: Terrorism must not terrorize us. Violence must not deter us. As the old Marxist used to say, la lutte continue, la luta
continua (ph). the struggle goes on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The struggle goes on, indeed. The wise and courageous Salman Rushdie.
And that is it for our program tonight. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.