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Interview With "Joe Biden: American Dreamer" Author And The New Yorker" Staff Writer Evan Osnos; Interview With "Beg To Differ" Podcast Host And The Bulwark Policy Editor Mona Charen; Interview With Author And Women's Rights Activist Gabriela Jauregui; Interview With The Wall Street Journal Reporter Melissa Korn; Interview With Blind Boys Of Alabama Member Jimmy Carter; Interview With Blind Boys Of Alabama Member Ricky McKinnie. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 08, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up. An opening for President Biden at the G20. With
China and Russia's leaders opting out, I ask author Evan Osnos and "The Bulwark's" Mona Charen what should be top of his agenda as he faces
political headwinds back home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARLENE MORAN, PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT (through translator): Abortion being legal and tapping a legal context that supports our decisions represents a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: -- victory for women's rights on two fronts in Mexico, as abortion is decriminalized and the country's presidential race is set
between two female candidates. I'm joined by Mexican author and activist, Gabriela Jauregui.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: -- the Blind Boys of Alabama. Members of the five-time Grammy winning group, Jimmy Carter and Ricky McKinnie, tell me about their new
album, "Echoes of the South."
Also, ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA KOM, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: A huge portion of it still comes back to the students being on the hook for these sorts of things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: -- college spending, where does it go and who puts the bill? Walter Isaacson speaks to education reporter Melissa Korn about her
investigation for "The Wall Street Journal."
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
It's a high-stakes weekend ahead for world leaders arriving in India for the G20 summit. They appear divided over issues like Russia's war in
Ukraine with no joint statement agreed upon at any of the group's key meetings this year so far.
For President Joe Biden, it's an opportunity to showcase the United States take on the global world order. In the absence of Russian president
Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. It's a pitch that not only matters for America's standing abroad but also for Biden's own ratings at
home, which new CNN polling shows are struggling, even within his own camp. 67 percent of Democratic voters say that the party should nominate a
different candidate from next year's election.
Joining me to discuss all this is author Evan Osnos in Maryland who profiled President Biden in his book, "Joe Biden, American Dreamer," and
Monda Charen, policy editor for "The Bulwark" and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast who joins the show from Arlington, Virginia. Welcome both
Evan, let's start with you. So, as we have the president touching down in India, what does he have to accomplish going into this G20 summit? What
would he like to accomplish?
EVAN OSNOS, AUTHOR, "JOE BIDEN: AMERICAN DREAMER" AND STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER": You know, in some ways, this trip is about putting his money
where his mouth is. You know, he has been talking about the importance of global cooperation, really from the beginning. It was part of his pitch
against -- when he ran against Donald Trump in 2020, saying, you know, the United States needs to be a big player in the world. It needs to fortify
its relationships with other with other key partners and the allies.
So, you are likely to see him, number one, giving a big embrace to some degree of India, which, after all, is the world's largest democracy. And
it's -- on some level, look, this is a reminder that countries can have differences and still have key relationships. India is a big customer for
Russian energy and weapons. There are things that the U.S. and India don't agree on, but fundamentally, Biden is saying, we are here and we want you
to be a part of these big international institutions, things like the World Bank, the IMF and the unsubtle object of some of these comments, it's China
OSNOS: China has been doling out money around the world and developing countries, and they want to say, no, the United States is still here for
GOLODRYGA: And as noted, Mona, China's -- Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be in attendance. This the first time he's not attending a G20
summit. Last year, he attended virtually. The United States, President Biden and the White House today saying that they are disappointed in
conveying that President Mod -- Prime Minister Modi also is disappointed in China's absence. But to use word you're familiar with, is the United States
smart now to view India as a potential bulwark against China and India, obviously, a growing country economically, surpassing China in population?
That having been said, we've had many Indian experts who say, just hold your horses a bit here because India is not going to step in and take sides
MONA CHAREN, HOST, "BEG TO DIFFER" PODCAST AND, POLICY EDITOR, THE BULWARK: Right. Well, India is clearly straddling here. They have been buying up
Russian oil, as Evan mentioned. They have been in intention with China over their border and over a recently released map that showed Chinese ownership
of territory that India claims. And yet, their relations with us have been a little bit strained, partly because the Biden administration, though it's
been courting India, has also expressed some dismay about their domestic human rights record.
So, there is this little dance going on at the G20 with all of the major players. But here is the thing, Biden is very fortunate in that the at this
G20, neither Russia nor China is in evidence. And both of those countries, who are bidding for world leadership and so forth are really hitting some
severe turbulence right now.
Russia, of course, is feeling the effects of sanctions. It has been -- you know, is bogged down in a war in Ukraine that has costed both financially.
And in terms of international prestige, China is now having some severe economic reverses with the unemployment rate among youths so high that they
decided to stop publishing statistics.
And so, this is a moment for Biden to step forward and say, look, you know -- because people are worried about the United States, especially, you
know, our -- whether we are continue -- want to be a world leader and there's a lot of worry about what might happen in 2024. But right now, in
2023, Biden is in a position to step forward and say, we are the only ones who have emerged from COVID and from the recent turmoil with our economy in
decent shape and with our alliances in good shape.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. We should note the president, after his trip to India, the G20, will be visiting Vietnam, also a country the United States is hoping
to use again as a bulwark perhaps against China and at least alternative to --
CHAREN: Right. Exactly.
GOLODRYGA: -- have many of its inventory and products built there and not relying so much on China as it had in the past. And this leads us to our
next question, Evan, about this idea of what decoupling may or may not look like between the United States and China.
The president continues -- President Biden continues to say that he would like to navigate a competition and not anything further than that, and he
does not want to have conflict with the country. It's a fine balance for the country and for this administration in a fine line for it to walk.
This administration is continuing Trump era tariffs, it's imposed new export controls and restrictions. And just, for example, this week,
Republicans are calling for further restrictions after it became known that some chips inside of Huawei's phones may have broken current trade
restrictions with the country. How is this administration, President Biden, handling this relationship? Because it's the one issue where you're seeing
agreement among Republicans and Democrats vis-a-vis with China.
OSNOS: Yes, it is. It's mentally interesting and complex, honestly, Bianna, because I was in Beijing just a couple weeks ago and I can tell you
that in China they are trying very hard to figure out how far does this unraveling go, ultimately. And what I've concluded based on my contacts on
this side and in talking to people in Beijing, is what we are seeing right now is essentially a political and psychological decoupling, but it is
ultimately not an economic decoupling.
You see within these specific sectors and technology is at the center of it, areas in which the United States is erecting barriers around what it
will and will not sell and what it will invest in. And frankly, China has been doing that for years in the name of national security. But the bigger
change is this idea of the parting of the paths between these two giant countries.
And what you're sitting at the G20 is a pretty vivid demonstration of that. China is essentially staying home partly because they have a very full
domestic play, as I saw and I'll be describing it as a piece in "The New Yorker" in a couple weeks. But, you know, that is a major preoccupying fact
for Xi Jinping. But the larger fact is, he's looking at the G20 and he says, this looks like a year in which this is actually more of an American
show than the Chinese show, and I think I'm going to go elsewhere.
GOLODRYGA: Mona, let's talk about the elephant in the room and the sort of headwinds that President Biden is bringing with him and faces as he's
meeting with global leaders and that is this week's devastating polls, both in "The Wall Street Journal" and our own CNN polling. From "The Wall Street
Journal," 73 percent of voters say they feel Biden is too old to seek a second term. Same practical result from CNN, 73 percent says they're
seriously concerned that Biden's age may negatively affect his current level of physical and mental competence.
On paper, you could say he has accomplished quite a lot both domestically when it comes to his signature legislation, the United States, compared to
other world economies is fairing far better. It looks like we may avoid a recession. He's kept NATO's alliance intact vis-a-vis the war in Ukraine
and really positioned himself towards investing himself in Asia and America's presence there.
That having been said, how does this administration, how should it respond to these types of devastating figures?
CHAREN: Well, look, the fact is the president has a lot to boast about on foreign policy. He has done a credible job, although I would argue that he
could have been quicker about delivering arms to Ukraine and still can.
But that much having been said, you know, voters are notoriously unwilling to give presidents credit for foreign policy successes. You know, we had
George H.W. Bush preside over a winning war in the Gulf and then enjoy something like 93 percent support right after the successful conclusion of
that war and going oin to be defeated two years later.
So, foreign policy only gets you so far with the electorate. And one of the things that is dogging President Biden is that inflation has been, you
know, persistently high. It is -- the rate is trending down, but that has not yet caught up with what people are paying for groceries at the
supermarket. So, the prices are still way up compared to 2020 or certainly 2019. And inflation is very punishing for presidents. The voters are never
happy about it. And then, of course, there is concern about his age.
So, what can he do about it? Well, he can try to be a little bit more present. A lot of voters feel that he is not really inhabiting the office,
that he, you know, does not communicate with people enough. They're -- you know, it's inarguable that the previous occupant of the Oval Office was way
too much in our feeds and in our brains. But arguably, this president has been too little and he needs to reassure people that he is in charge, that
he is not senile and that he's not too feeble to serve another term.
GOLODRYGA: Evan, you know this man quite well. How does the Joe Biden that you know react to this type of poll numbers? He has historically been
underestimated. He sort of used that as his kryptonite to quote another journalist. We know that polls haven't been accurate, to say the least, the
past few years. What is his response, in your view, to these figures?
OSNOS: You know, he has sort of has two elements, there's the heart and the head. You know, the head, the rational part of him knows this is rough
sledding. I mean, as a politician, as a member of the -- as the occupant of the White House you don't want to see polls like this. And I think there's
frustration on his part that he says, look at what we've done on domestic legislation, whether it's climate, infrastructure, domestic manufacturing,
all these things that he thinks will ultimately pay dividends to this country. Americans don't feel it for the precise the reasons that we've
just been talking about.
You know, inflation has a sort of hangover effect. And even though the numbers are going down, they're still elevated from where they were a few
years ago and it scorches voters. But there's another element, which is that he knows fundamentally his entire life has been about these moments
when people say, this guy is finished, he can't do it, and then somehow, he manages to come back.
When I was writing about him in 2020, remember, you know, he was really dead in the water before that South Carolina primary. I mean, it was just a
campaign that was not going anywhere. And in the end, what happened is the party essentially coalesced around somebody who has a track record, who may
not be the kind of shimmering new object, but is somebody who, in this case, has the key attribute of having beaten Donald J. Trump for the
presidency. And that ultimately is what Democrats are banking that voters will coalesce around that fact.
GOLODRYGA: And I should correct myself, it was Franklin Foer who said that being underestimated was Biden's diesel, not his kryptonite. So, forgive me
Mona, in our final few seconds here, I'd like you to get -- I'd like to get you to respond to this ad that the campaign is putting out this weekend to
air on "60 Minutes" in key battleground states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He entered Ukraine under the cover of night. And in the morning, Joe Biden walks shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the war-
torn streets, standing up for democracy in a place where a tyrant is waging war to take it away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Air raid sirens blared as the two men walked together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the middle of a warzone Joe Biden showed the world what America is made of. That's the quiet strength of a true leader who
doesn't back down to a dictator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Effective ad in your interview, especially noting that you think he could've done more in aiding Ukraine? Put Republican voters aside,
how about undecided voters?
CHAREN: Yes. Look, leaving aside the merits of how he's handled getting the armed shipments to Ukraine, that's an effective ad, I guess. But here
is the problem, there is such a widespread perception among voters, including among Democrats, that Biden is not up to the job.
And so, when that is people's suspicion when there is a significant number of voters who think you maybe be senile at this stage, a package like that
can add that isn't spontaneous and isn't live is only going to go so far. People need to see him in real-time. They need to see him reacting in real-
time, you know, to an interview or to a debate or to, you know, live action things because they are worried that he is more enfeebled than he really
is, in my judgment.
And so, you know, on the other hand, the way his handlers keep coddling him and protecting him from those encounters does raise questions about whether
they think, you know, he will perform well under those conditions.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. It is interesting that according to "The Wall Street Journal" poll only 47 percent of voters think Donald Trump is too old to
vote, and he's just three years younger than Joe Biden.
CHAREN: That's right.
GOLODRYGA: We should not. We'll have to end the conversation there. Mona Charen, Evan Osnos, always great to see you. Thank you.
CHAREN: A pleasure.
OSNOS: My please.
GOLODRYGA: Well, one issue set to feature heavily in next year's U.S. election is abortion. It's the focus of a new digital ad from the Biden
campaign, according to an aide as a Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade continues to reverberate.
But south of the border in Mexico, the courts have moved in the opposite direction. Ruling this week to federally decriminalize abortion. Take a
listen to this reaction from a student in Mexico City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARLENE MORAN, PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT (through translator): Mexico is an incredibly misogynistic country that still has deeply rooted traditional
ideals. Abortion being legal and having a legal context that supports our decisions represents a big change. I hope we will be able to see a change
in mentality in the population so they stop harassing pregnant people who decide to stop their pregnancies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: It comes as the country looks set to get its first female president with both leading parties announcing women candidates for next
year's election. For more on how Mexico got here, women's rights activist Gabriela Jauregui joins me now from Mexico City. Gabrielle, it's good to
So, this decision now builds on an earlier ruling in 2021 by the high court decriminalizing abortion and calling criminalizing abortion
unconstitutional, but only applied to one state. How significant was the ruling this week and what was your reaction when you heard it?
GABRIELLA JAUREGU, AUTHOR AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Hello. Thank you for having me. Well, you know, it was very, very exciting Supreme Court
decision. First of all, it was unanimously ruled. So, that's really interesting. And yes, it came two years later and it sort of grows and
expands on that ruling.
And so, basically now, it says abortion is not a crime. That, you know, calling it a crime is anti-constitutional. So, the court requires Articles
330, 331, 332, 333 and 334 to be removed from the federal penal code, these were the articles that criminalized abortion.
So, as you said, now, this means abortion -- criminalizing abortion is anti-constitutional but they -- also, the ruling uses really interesting
language, it calls it a violation of human rights and insists on abortion as a human right. And so, this is great because what this means, it means,
you know, several things. Firstly, people cannot be prosecuted for seeking an abortion or for giving an abortion or terminating a pregnancy.
And secondly, something that I celebrate is that people who are sentenced or were sentenced because of the criminalization of abortion must now be
absolved. So, that's really two really great things off the bat. Also, medical professionals and individuals cannot be penalized, suspended, their
licenses cannot be revoked if they decide to practice abortions because the court said that would be discriminatory.
And finally, this ruling. So, this is the -- sort of this is all very kind immediate and wonderful sort of what happens immediately, and it's great.
But the ruling also requires Congress -- and this is where it's a little, you know, stickier and more, you know, into the future, it requires
Congress to take all norms criminalizing abortion out of the penal code to follow the court's ruling.
And so, that would eventually also mean that the state penal codes have to be changed, because they have to follow the federal penal code, right?
JAUREGUI: It would be contradictory.
GOLODRYGA: Because it is still illegal in 20 of the 32 Mexican states. But this law now makes it legal to have an abortion in a federally mandated and
a federally hospital. Will this go into to effect immediately?
JAUREGUI: Exactly. What happened was -- so, as soon as -- yes. As soon as Congress is notified, they are required to take it out of the penal code.
So, as soon as Congress takes it out of the federal penal code, it will be effective immediately. And so --
GOLODRYGA: This follows --
JAUREGUI: Sorry. Go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: This follows a larger trend in terms of liberalizing laws on abortion in the region as a whole, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, Guyana.
What do you we think about this movement juxtaposed with what we are seeing in the United States since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade?
JAUREGUI: I think it's a reflection of how politics, you know, are quite polarized in the region. We have some trending towards more progressive,
you know, politics while certain countries tend to -- and this just happened in Argentina, right? There was, you know, the whole victory for
women's rights movements, et cetera. And now, the new president, who is, you know, completely anti-rights and even anti-state, you know,
So, you know, we have this back and forth between, you know, progress -- progressive rulings and movements and then sort of the backlash of very
conservative rulings and/or governments that come into power. So, it's really a back-and-forth I think throughout the continent. And I think, you
know, the previous guests just spoke to it too.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we're hearing anecdotes about American women actually crossing the border down into Mexico for abortions following the ruling
from the Supreme Court. You mentioned the president -- you have a presidential election, another historic first. Either way, it ends up with
a woman leading the country. Talk about these two candidates. And notably, both of them support decriminalizing abortion.
JAUREGUI: It's really interesting because, you know, this -- the news came basically on the same day. So, it was just like, oh, what's going on? A lot
of activity, politically speaking. And yes. So, we will, you know, most likely end up with a woman president, a first for Mexico.
And as -- you know, as the student you had one previously mentioned in a highly misogynistic country, this is going to be very interesting. And I
wonder -- you know, I think we are all hoping that this will move the country forward in a new direction.
One candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum, is the ruling party candidate, Morena. And, you know, I think that there's a lot of concern or, you know, there's
partial excitement but also concern on whether she will toe the party line on certain sort of ambivalence regarding human rights. And on the other
hand -- so that's the concern there and the excitement there.
And then, Xochitl Galvez who is from the party called PAN, which has been traditionally right-wing, very conservative party, very probusiness, anti-
rights, et cetera. So, there's concern there. Will she tow her party line, which would be, you know, anti-rights or will she actually do, you know,
and put in effect all these things that she's claiming to say on her campaign. So, there's a big question there.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. But both women impressive in their own right. Just professionally, Sheinbaum is a physicist by training and Galvez is an
engineer who likes to do stunts like dressing up inflatable dinosaur costumes. I think we have a video or a picture image of that as well.
But it does appear that, at least, given the Morana party's backing and most notably -- and there she is dressed up as an inflatable dinosaur. It
does appear that Sheinbaum has the upper hand as the favorite here because she does have the support of the current president, AMLO. In the final few
seconds we have here, do you think some of the issues most notably femicide? We have seen a decline in the crime rate overall in Mexico but
not when it comes to violence against women. Is this going to be a top priority for both of these women?
JAUREGUI: I really think it should be. I really hope it will be. Not just as women, but just, you know, as leaders, it should be for any future
president. It's truly something that I think is a huge problem for human rights in our country. And also, just, you know, disappearances.
JAUREGUI: I would add to the numbers of femicide. There are huge numbers of disappearances, and that is a huge concern.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we will be following this election closely. Gabriela Jauregui, a lot that we covered today. Thank you so much for joining us. We
JAUREGUI: Thanks for the invitation.
GOLODRYGA: Well, back here in the U.S., public universities are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a day in getting students to foot the
bill. College costs have soared, outpacing the inflation rate while the nation's student loan debt is over $1.7 trillion.
Higher education reporter at "The Wall Street Journal" Melissa Korn investigated the spending of 50 flagship universities. And she joins Walter
Isaacson to discuss her findings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you. And, Melissa Korn, welcome to the show per.
MELISSA KORN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks for having me.
ISAACSON: You have this great piece titled "Colleges are Spending Like There's No Tomorrow." You wrote it in "The Wall Street Journal." Tell me
exactly what's happening. Why are they spending so much money? You're talking mainly about public and state universities.
KORN: Right. We focused our investigation on 50 flagship universities. So, one in each state. They are generally kind of the best known and oldest
public university in each state. And we wanted to see where all that tuition money goes and whatever other revenue they are bringing in.
So, we looked at, you know, accounting for inflation, adjusting for inflation, adjusting for enrollment increases, how much these schools were
really spending and where it was going in terms of construction, shiny new buildings, amenities on campuses, faculty and staff. Salary and benefits
are a huge part of where all those dollars go. And kind of growth in every direction. So, think we saw a lot of increases in programming and hiring
and, you know, every which way, just the sprawl of the university.
ISAACSON: Well, wait, wait, wait. Isn't this a good thing?
KORN: It can be. Growth isn't bad thing, right? We thrive on -- we reward ambition here in this country, right? We like things to get bigger and
better. But often times that has to be done in context of what kind of resources you have to do that growth, right? So, if state funding is
falling but your plans continue to expand, you have to look somewhere else for that money, and we found that the schools were getting more and more in
tuition revenue more than offsetting any losses they had in state appropriations. So, that extra tuition revenue wasn't just filling a hole,
it was being used then to have this expansion, have this 10-year of grand strategic plan of we want to become the best not just in our state, not
just in our region, but in the world.
ISAACSON: Ones that jumped out at me in your piece was that the University of Kentucky upgraded its campus to the tune of $805,000 a day, a day, for
more than a decade. That's almost a million dollars a day. Where did all that money go and why?
KORN: Right. So, that number I definitely did a double take when I came across that off the school's website. And they are really proud of this
number, right? They are investing in their campus, in their operation. So, it went to new homes for the law school and business school and school of
visual arts and it went to a new student center, upgraded facilities, it went to, you know, infrastructure, roads and utilities, things like that.
It went to a ton of new dormitories, which were done in public, private partnerships. So, that takes a bit of the cost away from the university
These are very nice dorms with things like granite countertops and in-unit washer, dryers and full-sized Tempur-Pedic beds, which I certainly, again,
did not have in college. They also spent a lot of money on their healthcare facilities. And, you know, the healthcare operations funded a lot of that.
The school says that less than half of the cost of this was paid for by university funds. However, they also detailed that another 20 plus percent
is covered by bonds, they took out debt. The university pays that debt. And that debt is, in some cases, covered by tuition dollars. So, ultimately, it
all still comes back, not all, but a huge portion of it still comes back to the students being on the hook for these sorts of things.
The school says they did it because they wanted to provide students with an environment that they had become accustomed -- to which they become
accustomed, but they are expecting. You know, these dorms are what families expect. They need to be competing with other universities, public and
private, and this is the way to do it.
ISAACSON: Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the country. I think 20 percent of kids live below the poverty line. What did this affect -- how do
this affect students?
KORN: Yes. Kentucky is, like as you said, one of the poorest states in the country. Yet, their costs for students to attend the flagship university
are in the top half of all flagships. This is an expensive school to go to, even for in-state students. Even after they get scholarships, they are on
the hook for upwards of $18,000 a year. And the school does provide a lot of financial aid, but that increased in aid hasn't kept up necessarily with
the increase in sticker price and published rates. So, attending Kentucky as a Kentucky student is now really out of reach for a lot of students at
ISAACSON: I once wrote a book about the women who did the ENIAC computer in World War II. And one of them, Jean Jennings, went to Northwest Missouri
Community College and studied math. And she did it for $76. Now, a school like that is $14,000 and people -- we're not going to get the -- you know,
people from small towns. She was from Alanthus Grove, Missouri, who become great contributors to our economy. Is that you're driving it?
KORN: Absolutely. I think we wanted to focus on public universities for the story. You know, private schools, it's a great if they are affordable,
but that is not part of their mission. They can charge whatever they want and appeal to whichever students they want. But these public universities
they -- you know, their kind of core is to educate local residents, and if they're chasing after students from out of state, if they're chasing after
high-profile and high-priced faculty and administrators and lazy rivers and climbing walls and all those other amenities that we like to make fun of,
they are losing something in the process.
ISAACSON: Well, let's talk about amenities like great dormitories and climbing walls and that sort of thing. Is that driving the cost? Is that
the main driver here?
KORN: That is not the main driver. I think we can say it is a driver. It is a symptom of the issue here, right? It -- the schools are building is
beautiful, stunning campuses. I mean, I'd like to go on vacation at some of these places. They are building these campuses to appeal to students from
out of state oor full pay students who don't necessarily need financial aid who are from within the state.
So, they are chasing after these wealthier students who they think have a higher expectation of a quality of life and all the bells and whistles of
college -- the college experience, but they're putting that bill on everybody, including those students who maybe don't care as much about the
sorts of things.
ISAACSON: So, tell me what is really driving this? I mean, there's got to be a reason that they have all this money coming in.
KORN: Well, they have all this money coming in because they've chosen to have all this money coming in. They are fundraising like mad. They are
raising tuition, increasing enrollment, and those two things combined increase their tuition revenue. They are taking in more out-of-state
students who tend to pay more than in-state students. They are bringing money in every which way they can to feel this ambition and this growth,
this we want to be the best is a very competitive environment to be attempting.
ISAACSON: So, it's like the free market at work. It's kind of inspiring, isn't it?
KORN: It could be. It depends on who's paying the bill for it though.
ISAACSON: Well, who is paying the bill?
KORN: Students and, in many ways, the taxpayers, right? Students are borrowing, their families are borrowing. They are taking in student debt to
attend these schools. And as we see this massive, you know, student loan crisis nationwide, we are seeing this kind of play out to a pretty
ISAACSON: So, you think the real problem here is that we have a student loan crisis that's been caused by this, because students have to pay so
much to get all these new amenities? And now, the Supreme Court said that the Biden program can't go through. Is that at the core of the problem
you're talking about?
KORN: I think that's a big part of the problem. I think the core is ultimately what are these schools want to be and who are they going after
and why, right? Are they being true to that mission of educating local students in an accessible way, right, as affordably as possible, or are
they trying to compete with private universities from across the country who have a different mission?
And I think there's this bit of an identity crisis in higher education and public higher education right now as some of these flagships in particular
try to chase after the same students, the same donors, the same faculty. And in some cases, are losing sight of who they were meant to be.
ISAACSON: So, what should they be cutting back on?
KORN: That is a tough question. And I don't know that there is one answer for every school. It really depends on the institution on what their own
finances are and how far beyond their means they had been spending, right?
So, we have some schools that are in pretty dire financial situations right now, facing massive multibillion-dollar, hundred-million-dollar deficits
because they spend more than they had and outsized Rosie forecasts for the growth and things like that, and they need to make some pretty tough
decisions and, you know, pretty brutal cuts, whether that means you just eliminate entire departments or trim faculty across the board or kind of
rethink what is -- you know, what's bringing in money, what needs to be bringing in money. It really varies by school.
I would say that the first step for a lot of the schools is getting ahead on their budget and figuring out where they're spending their money,
because I think one of the most shocking things from our reporting was how little administrators and trustees know about their own budgets.
ISAACSON: Well, let me take an example of the budget, which wasn't for buildings and grand programs, but it's something people talk about a lot
now, which the increase of administrators. I think the University of Florida had more than 50 employees with titles of director and associate
director or deans of this or deans of that, this is from your article, of course.
And more than 160 deans doing various new things like diversity, equity, inclusion or mental health. Is that part of the problem or is that a good
KORN: I think the expectation of what a university provides has changed a lot over time, even since I was in college in the early 2000s, right? It is
not just you go and you sit in a plane room and you study and you work on your typewriter, right? There's an expectation of high-speed internet of,
in some cases, air conditioning, which, you know, I certainly didn't have and would have loved.
There is an expectation of providing support for students both in terms of academics and in terms of health, and that includes mental health. Where I
think you start to have some question marks is, when is it enough? When is it coddling versus supporting, you know, what is necessary? And -- s
ISAACSON: Well, let's take a specific example. Lots of new deans of diversity, equity, inclusion. Necessary or not necessary?
KORN: Think student population has become a lot more diverse and they're preparing for a workplace in a world that is more diverse. So, making sure
that they are prepared for that is a really important thing.
ISAACSON: And deans of mental health, necessary or not necessary?
KORN: I've written about schools trying really hard to find ways to provide low-cost mental health support services. They're really struggling
at this. Students are having -- there's a major mental health crisis going on in high schools, at colleges, and I think the pandemic only exacerbated
So, spending money on making sure that your students are physically and mentally healthy enough to pursue their studies, that makes sense to me.
I'm also not the one writing the checks though.
ISAACSON: One of the drivers of cost -- maybe I'm talking about LSU and some of the places down here, of course, is sports. Not only football, but
all the team sports, and I've always been somewhat confused. Your article sort of delves into it. Are these things that help the university raise
money or are these things that cost student more fees?
KORN: So, very few Division 1 athletic programs make money for their schools. Very, very few. And they are, you know -- they're considered
auxiliary enterprises. They're supposed to be self-sustaining, but they almost never are. There's really just a couple that the athletic operation
gives money back to the academic side. Rather for most of these, the university itself provides annual subsidies to the athletic program and
students often pay fees that are targeted directly for athletic programs.
So, it could be, you know, to the tune of $15, $30, $50 million a year that the university is paying to help support their athletic program. Now, that
is -- can be a money pit or it that could, as some schools say in defensive of this, it is the front porch of the university, right? It is the way that
the world learns about their school. It is great for morale and for alumni engagement and all sorts of things. And a lot of that may be true, but it
comes at a very high price.
ISAACSON: We just had Drew Faust, former president of Harvard University, and she's talking about public universities, not just private ones, and she
says there's been a major shift in this country in believing that higher education is a public good, that we should all support as taxpayers even if
our kids are not going into institutes of higher education versus being just an individual good that the individual should pay for him or herself.
Do you see that shift? And do you even worry that stories like this might promote that shift so that people would say, well, that's ridiculous,
spending this much, it's not a public good, we don't care if the rest of the population gets educated as well?
KORN: You know, we did think, my colleagues and I, as we were working on this story, you know, what impact it could have on state legislators, the
holders of the per strings, right? Their state funding has already declined, maybe this will make them more likely to cut further and say, you
guys are wasting our money.
But there's also an accountability element here, right? If a state does continue to provide funding, they may be able to have some oversight of
where that money goes. And we started to see in the past few years some states offer -- you know, provide more funding again to their universities,
to their public institutions but say, were going to give you this only if you hold tuition flat or you invest in this particular area.
So, you know, some of those -- some of that investment can come with an oversight responsibility and an opportunity there to kind of help shape
what kind of schools these become.
ISAACSON: That sounds both good and maybe bad. Meaning, do I want the state legislature here to be telling the chancellors of the university,
here's the way you should do higher education?
KORN: Presumably there's some sort of a conversation going on. It's not a unilateral, you know, you shall put money here. But it's -- you know, the
state is putting money toward it, presumably the state has a say in where it goes, to some extent. A board -- the board of governors, board of
trustees also has an oversight responsibility here, they're fiduciaries of the university. So, they should be keeping a very close eye on where this
money is going and where it should be going.
ISAACSON: And tell me, when you did this piece, you helped the transparency of all this, is that the solution we really should be looking
for, is let all of us understand where these dollars are going and why?
KORN: I think that's a huge part and I think, my colleagues and I, we hope to just rely on some federal data that's out there regarding university
spending. We realized it just wasn't rich enough, it wasn't reliable enough. And this is information that's through the Department of Education.
So, we went and we collected these numbers ourselves.
Looking back 20 years, we pulled audited financial reports for 50 schools, and that was a ton of manual labor, a ton of data entry. And after the
story published, I think we were shocked to see messages from current and former trustees of flagships, from state legislators, from leaders of
higher education commissions in various states saying, hey, do you have the numbers on our school too? We're kind of curious are creditors what they
And, right, to see a trustee of a flagship say, I don't really know where my school's money goes. I should probably look into that, suggested that
transparency and information could be a good first step here.
ISAACSON: Melissa Korn, thank you so much and thanks for your story.
KORN: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Really important words there on the transparency needed when it comes to university spending.
Well, my next guests are credited with sound tracking the American civil rights movement. Gospel group, the Blind Boys of Alabama, have performed
for three U.S. presidents and have been spreading love, as they call it, for more than eight decades, if you can believe it.
But they are showing no signs of stopping. Their new album, "Echoes of the South," is out now. And I spoke to group members to Jimmy Carter and Ricky
McKinnie about it earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Jimmy Carter and Ricky McKinnie, welcome to the program. Congratulations on yet another album. I just have to ask you, Jimmy, after
eight decades, the Blind Boys of Alabama still going strong, back with another album. Where did you get the inspiration for this one?
JIMMY CARTER, MEMBER, BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA: Well, you know, inspiration - - well, let me put it this way. We love what we do, you know. And when you love what you do, that gives you motivation to kind of continue.
GOLODRYGA: The title of the album, "Echoes of the South," it's derived from a radio show where your group first performed in Birmingham, Alabama
on June 10, 1944. And I want to talk about the significance of Alabama and the origins of your band, not only in the name, but how it helps you
musically throughout your career and in just a moment.
But let's play from some of this album here. The new single is "Work Until my Days are Done." Let's listen to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Ricky, what does the song mean to you?
RICKY MCKINNIE, MEMBER, BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA: Well, you know, the band -- I've been singing for a long time. So, it means that, you know, keep on
doing what we're doing until we can't do it no more.
GOLODRYGA: For our viewers at home that don't the back story, the origins of this band, take us back to the 1930s when it all came together.
CARTER: Well, the Blind Boys -- OK. The Blind Boys of Alabama, we went to a school for the blind in a town in Alabama called Talladega. This school
was funded by the State of Alabama. So, every blind child that got an education came to that school. So, that's is how we get together and how we
start and how we met up and started singing together.
And there was a program in Birmingham at that time called Echoes of the South. And it had a quartet we idolized and it was the Golden Gate Quartet.
They were all very on the road. And so, we decided that they were our idol. We idol those guys, the Golden Gate Quartet. And so, we said that if they
could make a living out of it, we could do the same thing. So, that's how the Blind Boys started out.
Now, however, when the Blind Boys started out, we were not known as the Blind Boys, they had a name called the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. Blind
Boys of Alabama came later on out of another story.
GOLODRYGA: Well, the Blind Boys of Alabama is the name we've come to love and cherish for all of these decades. And, Ricky, sadly, you've lost two of
your band members over the past couple of years. Paul Beasley died in March of this year and Benjamin Moore died in May 2022. They recorded on this new
album, and it really is a dedication to them as well. Let's play a clip from your last performance with Paul Beasley just from a few months ago on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: I would imagine it's a bit bittersweet to not have Paul and Benjamin with you here to celebrate the release of this album.
CARTER: Yes. It was a devastating loss, but, you know, we're trying to go on.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Ricky, your thoughts?
MCKINNIE: Well, my thoughts are like this. I have known Paul Beasley for a long time. We started singing in another group together. I was about 20
years ago. So, I've known Paul about 50 years and it makes you feel some kind of a way to miss that boy. So, he (INAUDIBLE). We imitated but never
duplicated. But just to know that Paul is going to a better place, that's what we believe in.
And Benjamin Moore he became a friend of mine as time went on. But it -- I'm just glad to be able to say that I had an opportunity to meet these two
young men and to record along with them on some records as well on this last CD.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And may their memories be a blessing. Ricky, you may be surprised our viewers and our fans to know that this is the first album
that was fully recorded in Alabama. So, despite the name of your band, this is a first for you. What does that mean for you?
MCKINNIE: Well, you know, it's good to be able to go back home. You know, Alabama is where the group got started. And to go to Muscle Shoals is one
of the places where everybody who really became somebody, because we started at Muscle Shoals.
And to be a gospel, a black blind gospel group and to go back to the state where the group first got started on the Talladega Institute for the blind
is and where all the boys really were from, it makes me feel good to know that people still can appreciate the Blind Boys of Alabama in Alabama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKINNIE: And I just want to say this too. You know, the album is great. It's going to be a big album for the Blind Boys of Alabama. But in March of
next year, they're going to have a book out to tell the story about the Blind Boys of Alabama. It's going to be called " Spirit of the Century,"
this Blind Boys stories.
So, you know, there's a lot of great things that I have been with the Blind Boys and this doesn't start right here, we have a lot of great things that
are going. We're still singing and even though we missed Jimmy Carter being that -- looking by the left now, he's not dead. Just to know that he is
still around makes a difference.
But it's good to be able to come and to let you know that we appreciate you so much for having us here because without people, we wouldn't be doing
what we're doing. But the main thing I want people to know is that the Blind Boys were one of the best singing groups. The Blind Boys, our singing
group, and they started out, like you say, with just a guitar player.
So, we are still singing and we're coming at a time, whenever you hear the Blind Boys, you're going to have a good time. So, I just want to say don't
miss it when the boys are back in town.
GOLODRYGA: The Blind Boys of Alabama aren't going anywhere. As you noted, a book is coming up. I believe the short documentary is being released
about the band as well. So much to celebrate, including the release of this new album. Jimmy, best of luck to you in your retirement.
CARTER: Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: We'll stay in touch. And thank you for --
CARTER: I hope so.
GOLODRYGA: -- all these years of making us so happy listening to your music. We appreciate it.
CARTER: Well, thank you so much. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: At 91 years young, Jimmy Carter says this will be his last album with that band. Wonderful conversation.
And finally, dreams coming true with the U.S. Open. Coco Gauff will play in her first singles final at the tournament after beating Karolina Muchova
from the Czech Republic in two sets. But the drama was not confined to the court as for climate protesters, one of them gluing his feet actually to
the floor, managed to pause the match for 50 minutes.
When playing friendly resumes, 19-year-old Gauff became the youngest American woman to reach her home Grand Slam final since Serena Williams in
1999. Fantastic. Go, Coco Gauff.
And yesterday, our own Christiane Amanpour spoke with Serena's sister Venus. A legend in her own right, of course. And tennis legend Billie Jean
King during an event honoring both with the award by United States Tennis Association. They spoke of the challenges women and African-Americans have
overcome and still faced in the sport. Let's have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: How did you do it? How did you -- in fact, how did you, 50 years ago, when this was not a walk
in the park, you didn't get it given to you, there was no diversity, equity, inclusion and all the rest of it, how did you negotiate and
leverage your status to inform the U.S. Open that they needed to do this?
BILLIE JEAN KING, FOUNDER, WTA: We had our first tour. In 1972, I won the U.S. Open and I won $10,000 and Nastase won $25,000. I'm not happy. We have
so much to do though. You got to understand, we are trying to just have our tour to survive in all of this.
So, anyway, 1972 at the press conference -- at the media conference, I'm sitting there internally thinking, I'm having a hard time with this. And I
finally said to them, you know, we are not coming back next year unless we get equal prize money. And internally, I'm saying, what have I done?
AMANPOUR: I mean, the job is never done. But are you pleased with how many of African-Americans are in tennis? Could there be more, should there be
more? What do you see is that path right now?
VENUS WILLIAMS, FORMER TENNIS CHAMPION: There are a lot of African- Americans, both boys and girls, playing at the grassroots level, at the college level. I mean, obviously there's only so many people who are going
to make it to the pros. A hundred places here at the Open, you know, not many, out of all the billions of people that love -- would love to play
pro, but it's wonderful to see that women are making their lives better through sports. And that transcends color.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Three legends, Billie Jean, Venus, and of course, our own Christiane on stage together.
Well, that is it for now. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.