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Interview with "Kissinger" Author and Amanpour and Co. Co-Host Walter Isaacson; Interview with PBS Firing Line Host and CNN Political Commentator Margaret Hoover; Interview with CNN Senior Political Analyst and Anchor John Avlon; Interview with Al Jazeera English Correspondent Youmna El Sayed. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 30, 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 SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
A divisive giant of diplomacy dies at the age of 100. We reflect on Henry Kissinger's life and legacy with his biographer, Walter Isaacson.
And with the Iowa caucuses just weeks away, I discuss the political mood in America with commentators Margaret Hoover and John Avlon.
Then, the truce between Israel and Hamas is extended for one more day. A journalist living in Gaza explains what it's like to report on the war
while fighting for survival. She joins Michel Martin.
Hello and welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Henry Kissinger, one of the most famous American secretaries of state died on Wednesday at the age of 100. From his pivotal role in Vietnam to holding
secret diplomatic talks with communist China, Kissinger wielded great diplomatic power. Here's what the current secretary of state, Antony
Blinken, had to say about him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Secretary Kissinger really set the standard for everyone who followed in this job. Few people were better
students of history, even fewer people did more to shape history than Henry Kissinger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: His influence was evident as world leaders offer their condolences. Russian President Vladimir Putin called him a wise and
visionary statesman who made it possible to achieve detente and international tensions and reach important Soviet American agreements.
And in the Middle East, the Israeli president praised him for laying what he called the foundations for Israel's peace agreement with Egypt after the
1973 Yom Kippur War. But he was also reviled by many for his role in the bombing of Cambodia and the rise of repressive regimes in Latin America.
A close adviser to President Nixon, here's the moment Kissinger was introduced as the new secretary of state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, U.S. PRESIDENT: I know all of you will want to hear from the new secretary of state, and as we work for a world at peace with
justice, compassion, and humanity. We know that America, in fulfilling man's deepest aspiration fulfills what is best within it. Thank you very
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Historian and journalist Walter Isaacson knows Henry Kissinger's life story inside and out, writing what he some call the
definitive biography, and he joins me now. Walter, we are so fortunate to have you join us to talk about Henry Kissinger.
And let's start there with the image that we saw with President Nixon, one of the United States most controversial presidents. And Henry Kissinger,
one of the most controversial diplomats in U.S. history. On the surface, these two men couldn't be more opposite. And yet, they somehow worked
together in a synergy that few U.S. presidents were able to create with their advisers. Can you talk about how you explain that?
WALTER ISAACSON, AUTHOR, "KISSINGER": You know, they reinforced in some ways the dark and conspiratorial minds that they both had. They were indeed
totally different. Richard Nixon made all sorts of antisemitic remarks. Kissinger grew up Jewish in Germany and got out just before the Holocaust.
And yet, they both had a sense of power.
They were both very manipulative, and I think, because Kissinger worked for Nelson Rockefeller before. Had Kissinger ended up being an aide to a
President Nelson Rockefeller, I don't think he would have been as secretive and manipulative. But he and Nixon both reinforced each other's dark side.
GOLODRYGA: And they both were attracted to power.
GOLODRYGA: Let's also talk --
ISAACSON: And they understood power. I mean, they understood balance as a power, which was a thing that made them effective at times. The figuring
out of a triangular balance between Russia and China and the U.S. So, that sense of power balance they got, it was -- they did get the sense of
American moral value that should underpin our foreign policy.
GOLODRYGA: And you hear it in the introductions, as we've been discussing here at CNN all day, his legacy, revered and reviled. You know, we've had
several decades. The man lived to be 100, and yet, it's still very, very complicating to describe him, right, even in one sentence. And you talk
about the juxtaposition and the differing views among some of the world's most influential leaders. Even on the passing -- news of his passing, Tony
Blair and his eulogy to Henry Kissinger said that he was motivated by genuine love of the free world and need to protect it.
Now, compare that to what President Obama said to "The Atlantic" in 2016, we'll put up the graphic here. "We dropped more ordinance on Cambodia and
Laos than on Europe in World War II, and yet, ultimately, Nixon withdrew, Kissinger went to Paris, and all we left behind was chaos, slaughter, and
authoritarian governments that finally, over time, have emerged from that hell. When I go to visit those countries, I'm going to try to figure out
how we can, today, help them remove bombs that are still blowing off the legs of little kids. In what way did that strategy promote our interests?"
Now, between these two descriptions and thoughts on Henry Kissinger, which one do you view, as his biographer, more closely aligned with the man
ISAACSON: I think in the end, it'll be a more problematic legacy, because he did think that great power diplomacy could affect this civil war,
whether it was East Timor or Chile or Vietnam, Cambodian and Laos, he saw it all in the context of a great power struggle, as if he were his -- one
of his heroes, Bismarck or Metternich, one of the European foreign ministers, you know, in the 1800.
And in the end, it caused a whole lot of civilian casualties that are tenfold the number that we're seeing in the Middle East, a hundred-fold the
number, and also, genocides, whether it was Laos, Cambodia, the bombings there, things that have been forgotten, like East Pakistan and Timor, all
of these places go up in flames because Kissinger tried to put it into a framework of the superpower Cold War struggle.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. He was massively criticized for his actions in Cambodia bombing to eradicate the Vietcong forces there. He told the military to
strike "anything that flies or anything that moves." He's been accused of genocide breaking international laws. Tens of thousands of civilians
Did he ever seem to express regret for his past actions, even if they were well intentioned in his mind, at least, to you?
ISAACSON: I think he expressed the sense that they had gotten it wrong. Clearly, if you look at Cambodia, that's the worst. They did this, you
know, secret invasion and then, the secret bombing of Cambodia, it was called, because. Kissinger operated great secrecy. But it was those secrets
of the Cambodians, they were being bombed. I think, you know, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed.
And nowadays, we look at what's happening in Gaza and other things, and we worry about civilian casualties, that was not on his radar screen. And when
you come out of that, you end up with the genocides and chaos in Laos, Cambodia, all of Southeast Asia. So, he knew it didn't work.
I think he would argue that he was well intentioned, that it was to try to get us out of the Vietnam War. But certainly, somebody with his brilliant
mind knows that it ended up being a really bad strategy.
GOLODRYGA: His legacy also looms large in Latin America, in Chile and in particular, he was criticized for viewing some countries as disposable,
dispensable and others not so, and being compared to chess pieces on a chess board.
Listen to what he said to Christiane Amanpour on the issue specifically of his policy and U.S. involvement with regards to Chile.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: What do you feel about America's position on Chile 40 years ago, particularly since you've
talked really well about human rights and democracy in Latin America?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I can't get into that today. But if you look into it, you will find, we did not know Pinochet, we
did not organize that coup. But we were not unhappy that, again, it was overthrown. But we did not organize it, and we had no connection with
Pinochet when he overthrew it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: That sounds very defensive, Walter.
ISAACSON: Yes. I mean, I think, and technically he's right, the coup that overthrows Allende and -- you know, and the rise of General Pache Pinochet
was something that was not directly organized by the U.S., but it was the Kissinger Nixon foreign policy to undermine a leader in Chile that they
thought was getting to -- was going to get too closely aligned with Russia.
And he saw, as I said, everything as part of this great power game. And it just ended up hurting -- you know, he talks about human rights a lot, and
in his book on "Diplomacy," it's a magisterial book, but every time he talks about human rights or American values, there's a comma, and then the
word but, and then it's but we have to protect our interests, or we had to fight the Cold War, and I don't think he got that balance right.
GOLODRYGA: One relationship that he is crediting with opening, and that -- is China, and he orchestrated the U.S. opening with China in secret in the
early '70s, allowing for President Nixon, ultimately, to make his trip to China in 1972, even as tensions have once again turned much darker and
heightened between the U.S. and China, he was just welcomed with open arms just a few months ago, just to give our viewers a sense of how the Chinese
and the Communist Party there does view him and his legacy in helping establish China to a superpower that it is today.
How do you view his legacy vis-a-vis China in particular?
ISAACSON: I think the opening to China was actually a brilliant move, and when we talk about all the chaos that ensued because of Kissinger's great
power diplomacy, you also have to look at the bigger picture on the big side, which is being able -- and he did this even in a speech I think for
Rockefeller, before Nixon gets elected, that you can have a subtle balance and play Russia off against China, but we need an opening to China.
And so, he sacrifices, you know, East Pakistan and other things in order to have this opening to China, and I think he was actually right that we
should balance a competition with China, but an ability to work with them. And that's why, somewhat amazingly, at age 100, just a few months ago, he
flies to Beijing and is met with -- by President Xi Jinping, and he would say, we don't have to be in a life-or-death struggle with China now, we
have to manage that great power relationship.
GOLODRYGA: And it's fascinating that people, however they viewed him, right or wrong, still turn to him for his thoughts on everything between
U.S., China and Taiwan to the Russia Ukraine war. And it seems that the one area where he seems to be a bit more humble than he typically is, is on the
subject of nuclear proliferation.
And I'm wondering if you can weigh in on that and how that applies to a rather surprising view that he had just a few months ago on where Ukraine
should stand in Europe.
ISAACSON: You know, if you go way back to his doctoral dissertations and his writings at Harvard as an academic and working with the Council on
Foreign Relations in New York, he comes up with the ideas of limited nuclear wars and he goes through that. And then, he realizes that he's got
that wrong, that a limited nuclear war couldn't work.
And so, one has to give him credit for when he's doing this balance between China and Russia, playing them off against each other and trying to have a
relationship with China and detente with Russia. He does some of the most important strategic arm's agreements with Russia.
And -- but in turn, he realizes that we have to be -- or he thinks we have to be sensitive to the balance of power issues for Russia, and that's why
he feels that the Ukraine issue should be settled rather than ongoing and trying to unseat Putin.
GOLODRYGA: And, Walter, I can't help but think of the conflict now in the Middle East, Israel and Hamas. And that war starting the anniversary just
one day after the 50-year mark of the Yom Kippur War and the huge impact that he played in not only ending that war, but ultimately creating peace
between Israel and Egypt. "The Financial Times" described his performance there as a virtuoso. I think many people would say that those were some of
his strongest achieving moments there.
ISAACSON: You know, the Middle East shuttle missions that come after the 1973 Yom Kippur War are Kissinger at his most intense. He said to one of --
it was an off the record comment that I got in the book where I'm describing these shuttle missions, and he said, I used to think history was
made by great power forces, but now, I realize it's made, when I see it up close, by people.
And he shuttled back and forth, Golda Meir, Sadat, and others in order to lay the foundation for what became the Israeli Egyptian detente and
finally, peace. But he did it with this intense shuttling, day after day, two or three stops a day, playing off -- sometimes being deceitful, playing
off the jealousies and rivalries until he was able to pull the parties together.
GOLODRYGA: Walter, in the interim, since he's left public service, he started advising -- setting up his own Kissinger and Associates company.
What is his legacy as an adviser to private sector companies and to even other countries?
ISAACSON: You know, in physics, there's a concept called the half-life from radiation, which is how much does power diminish over a year, 10
years, 20 years. The amazing thing was that for 50 years after he left office, Kissinger's power and radiation, I can say, didn't reduce as much
as, you know Cyrus Vance or other former secretaries of state. And that's because he was so valued, whether it's a Disney company trying to figure
out how to get into Shanghai, or the American International Group insurance company, or Freeport-McMoRan, he would be a diplomat for hire who would do
He'd open doors by flying with the CEOs to either Russia or China, but he would also be a great strategic thinker, saying, here's exactly what
buttons you got to push and levers you got to pull in order to succeed in business in these countries.
GOLODRYGA: Your biography was published in 2005. I'm just wondering, A, if you thought that you would see Henry Kissinger live to be 100, and if your
views on him subsequently have changed?
ISAACSON: No, my views on him haven't changed. You know, the very beginning of the book, where we -- I talk about his academic work on
Metternich, and the whole idea of Metternich being able to play a subtle game of balancing each people's resentments in order to create webs of both
deceit and power, all the way to the very end, he's had this strong mix of realism, super realism, which is you don't care too much about human rights
and other things, you just care about great power strategic interests. And that was the mark he left.
And I think he was brilliant at balance of power diplomacy, but he did not have a fingertip feel for the values that underlie -- that are the girding
the foundation of America's power in the world. And so, that Nix legacy, you could see it 40 years ago, you could see it this week as we look at his
GOLODRYGA: And, Walter, you're kind, not to correct me, that book was written in 1992, not 2005. We appreciate your --
ISAACSON: You make me feel so much younger. Thank you.
GOLODRYGA: Your insights are so welcome. Thank you so much. We appreciate you joining us today.
ISAACSON: Bianna, great to be with you on our show. Thanks.
GOLODRYGA: Thanks. Well, as we remember Henry Kissinger, whose legacy still reverberates in the U.S. policy today, we also look to the future
with a potential Biden Trump rematch in 2024. So, how did we get here again? Political commentators John Avlon and Margaret Hoover join me now.
It is wonderful to have both of you on today.
So, let's continue our discussion about Henry Kissinger's legacy. And, Margaret, you know, is the host of "Firing Line" on PBS, I'm wondering --
and you've covered him and the show has extensively over the years, I'm wondering how you're planning, along with your producers, to commemorate
and talk about his legacy.
MARGARET HOOVER, HOST, PBS FIRING LINE AND CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what we have done is -- if you -- on all of our social media
channels, there are previous -- I mean, Buckley appeared with William F. Buckley, Jr., who was the host of the original incarnation of "Firing
Line," which aired for 33 years, multiple times on the program, Kissinger appeared with him.
And, you know, it's actually extraordinary because it is -- at multiple times, he appeared during different points in the Vietnam contest, during
different points of his sort of tenure as an esteemed statesman, and part of the sort of really intellectual firmament, foreign policy firmament, in
the United States and frankly, around the world after his Nobel Peace Prize. And also, in reflection of his time.
You remember he was -- he escaped Germany after the Jews. He reflected on antisemitism. He reflected on serving in the American military. Remember,
he served in the army in World War II after immigrating to the United States.
So, we have clips of Henry Kissinger from various points that are all available on our YouTube channel and on our social media channels. And he
was regardless of the fact that, Bianna, we see this, as he's passed, a beginning to be a real nuanced analysis of his legacy, which is something
you didn't see in the previous 10, 15 years, when the man was alive and very much participating in the civic and intellectual firmament of this
And so, it's important, as you look at a legacy in full, that all of these interviews and all of the contributions are considered in context.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And he advised twelve presidents, John. And as we discussed with Walter, really engineered the opening to relations with
China. And among those presidents he advised was even Donald Trump. Once in office, he used him as sort of a back channel to Chinese leadership. Let's
transition to Trump now and talk about a different book, and that of Liz Cheney where she discussed -- see that transition I made there? Try to make
it as smooth as possible.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND ANCHOR: Well done.
GOLODRYGA: Liz Cheney described Donald Trump as the most dangerous man to ever inhabit the Oval Office. If re-elected -- he's been -- let's give him
credit. He's been pretty transparent about all of his plans, about who he's going to go after, about what he's going to do with the Justice Department,
you name it, and his so-called enemies and detractors.
Given that, why do you think he still is today the front runner for the Republican nomination.
AVLON: I think because he's got a core intense base in the Republican Party, roughly a third of the party that will support him literally no
matter what he does. It's a cult of personality that's been created, a cult of a strong man.
And I'm not going to give him credit for being open about his authoritarian ambitions or impulses. But I do think we need to see cleareyed the stakes
of this election through precisely that prism.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. I mean -- and by credit, I mean, no one can deny not knowing what his policies and plans are if he's mapping all this.
AVLON: Yes. No, I know, I know what you meant, obviously.
AVLON: I mean look. I think that it's just -- it reminds you of the stakes, and we shouldn't drift into the horse race analysis of this
election. And I think, frankly, there's a feeling of even sleepwalking, you know, that Trump's incendiary comments, the policies he's proposing, even
more importantly, kind of become background noise.
And there's a focus on the polls and how's he going to do, you know, vis-a- vis, you know, what hopefully will be a challenging primary just for the good of the Republic. But that is a very dangerous thing. We've been
through a lot in our nearly 250 years as a country, and we've never had a leading presidential candidate of a major party campaign on a, frankly,
authoritarian or autocratic platform.
That's what we're seeing. So, be wide eyed about it. And those are the stakes. And one of the things Liz Cheney does in her book isn't just tell
stories that show how cowardice has made a lot of Republican officials support him in public but criticize him in private, she also makes the
point that now's the time for a broader coalition to be created of Democrats, independents, and Republicans to defend our democracy, to defend
our constitution against this unique threat that Trump represents.
GOLODRYGA: Is that a possibility, Margaret, this coalition that Liz Cheney says is so desperately needed?
HOOVER: Absolutely. I mean, you've seen vestiges of that coalition sort of forming even in the coalition that elected President Biden and the
coalition that turned out in a midterm election and didn't sweep Republicans into the House of Representatives and the vast numbers that
were expected just based on historical trends.
So, I do think -- you know, and even when you look at the polling and you look at segments of the electorate, the suburban voters, the former
Republicans who now self-identify as independents who have left the party.
So, the coalition is there, the question is a broken primary process, frankly, on the Republican side, which is a process that is a closed
partisan primary that has a winner take all process that stacks states that are -- that trend towards the fearless leader, that strength -- that really
played to the strength of Donald Trump earlier so that he is in a better position to lock up the nomination sooner because of the way he's -- he and
his supporters at the Republican National Committee have stacked the states, the primaries and frankly, the entire calendar.
So, can it be done? Yes. Is it likely? It's going to be very, very difficult. And that's actually why it is so important that the Republican
Party actually take this moment to learn the lesson of the 2016 battle, when there were a plurality of Republican voters nominated Donald Trump,
not a majority.
And if you -- if the field were to winnow sooner rather than later, and there were a contest between two candidates, Donald Trump and one other,
there is a real possibility that Donald Trump would not win the Republican nomination, and that would be better for our country, and that would be
better, I believe, for our world.
GOLODRYGA: And, John, it looks like that one other -- at least someone who's having a moment right now is Nikki Haley. She's won the endorsement
of the Koch network. And in their endorsement this week, they said, "In sharp contrast to recent elections that were dominated by negative baggage
of Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, at the top of the ticket, would boost candidates up and down the ballot.
Do you agree? And how big of a deal is this endorsement?
AVLON: Look, I think on the one hand, it's not great as a commentary on our republic and the role of money when, you know, private networks getting
in is an endorsement that is widely sought as opposed to elected officials or civic organizations but it's meaningful and it matters. And it matters
that the -- a lot of the donors are getting off the sidelines. A lot of them have been frankly, you know, not leading but following and putting
their finger in the wind.
Look, as a matter of statistics, if you look at CNN's polling and others, if you -- if Republicans want to put forward the most competitive candidate
against Joe Biden, it's not Donald Trump. It's been Nikki Haley all along. And I think Chris Christie would have a lot of, frankly, cross aisle appeal
as well, particularly among independents, were he to emerge, for example, in New Hampshire, where independents outnumber Democrats or Republicans,
and there's an open primary.
But you know -- so, it is important, not just for the Republican Party, but the republic that someone who is autocratic and represents a -- in his
instincts and represents a rejection of anything resembling conservative values. The policies he's putting forward are about making a more powerful
executive branch to wreak revenge on his enemies. If that doesn't give you moral clarity, you've got no spine, no vision, no sense of history.
So, I think it's good that there's a coalescing around Nikki Haley. I think it's important as an alternative to Donald Trump. I think Chris Christie
also has been a hero in this process for standing up and condemning Trump in clear terms as opposed to a lot of the other candidates who frankly have
tiptoed around him out of fear, which is never the right way to lead.
GOLODRYGA: Well, listen, one of the issues that's really challenging Joe Biden right now is not just who his opponent will be, but his poll numbers,
which remain persistently low, 37 percent approval, 59 percent disapprove, according to the latest Gallup poll, even though on issues like the economy
from foreign policy, you could give him, you know, accolades for his role in the Russia Ukraine crisis. The U.S. economy has rebounded, especially
when you compare it to other developed nations and European countries, inflation still a problem, but it is going down.
That having been said, the latest issue now is the war in Israel -- among Israel and Hamas.
GOLODRYGA: And you are seeing many in his coalition -- well, you know, some of the more progressive members of his party, at least, having a real
negative view on U.S. policy in this war. And I'm just curious, John, to get your reaction to the poll numbers in general --
GOLODRYGA: -- and how much of a headache is foreign policy right now, specifically with regards to the Mideast?
AVLON: I think it's actually a core strength of President Biden and his administration. I think after Afghanistan, which is when that sort of
withdrawal led independent voters to abandon President Biden and they haven't come back since, he has led admirably the expansion of NATO and the
standing up to Putin in Ukraine.
And make no mistake, if Biden -- if President Trump were to be re-elected, you know, that would be disastrous. Great news for autocrats around the
world, bad news for democracies in countries specific like Ukraine. And also, standing with Israel.
I know it's controversial among some domestic audiences, and there's been a more nuanced view, but the reality is there needs to be moral clarity in a
time of terrorism, that we stand by our allies, we stand against the victims of terrorism and condemn terrorism and not get drift -- dragged
into this moral relativism, particularly with the specter of antisemitism behind it.
And so, I think, yes, they -- you know, I think actually you don't make foreign policy decisions, issues of war and peace around short-term
domestic concerns, you need to keep the broader principles in mind. And just like, you know, Chuck Schumer's speech on the Senate floor yesterday
warning about the dangers of antisemitism, that's something that should draw attention broader coalitions in our country because there's a moral
urgency behind that as well. And I think Biden will look good in the eyes of history and ultimately, not be punished in the election for this,
particularly when his opponent is someone who wants to deport Muslim migrants from this country.
GOLODRYGA: Yes. And, Margaret, listen, it's interesting because when you look at --
AVLON: Filibuster to my bride here, but --
HOOVER: Like, yes, and I will take issue with the fact that it's a core strength for Joe Biden, the foreign policy generally, but go ahead, Bianna,
GOLODRYGA: Well, no. Well, we'll finish that thought then. It -- you don't view it as a --
HOOVER: Yes. I mean, I just want to quickly rebut the sort of the premise that -- I mean, there is another side of that coin, Bianna. Certainly, Joe
Biden has done a wonderful job reuniting Europe around the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Certainly, he's done a very good job of being an advocate for
Israel, again, in the face of absolute evil since October 7th.
HOOVER: But Joe Biden has not had a strong record on foreign policy leading up to that. He was not successful in deterrence when it came to the
invasion of Ukraine. He -- frankly, I mean, it is the overwhelming view of most foreign policy intellectuals on both the left and the right, the
realists and the idealists, that it was the withdrawal from Afghanistan that was so disastrous that perhaps precipitated the invasion of Ukraine
and the sort of the forward leaning assertiveness of Putin because of Biden's actions.
And frankly, the dithering with Iran in the context of potentially renegotiating the Iran deal also laid the framework for emboldening Iran's
proxies around this moment. So, there is -- I just want to rebut the notion that this is a core strength of Joe Biden. There is a very nuanced argument
to be had around foreign policy, but I don't think any of that really directly impacts Republican primary voters as they go to the polls.
These are -- I mean, people are looking at inflation to your point, Bianna, they're looking at the economy, they're looking at, frankly, the southern
border more than they're looking at these larger foreign policy questions.
GOLODRYGA: John, do you disagree? It sounds like you do disagree.
AVLON: I do.
GOLODRYGA: But I'm wondering -- put into the context of what's happening in Congress right now --
GOLODRYGA: -- where you do have Republicans who support aid going to Israel, now holding that back because the president had been hoping to get
aid -- a bill that would send aid and support to both Ukraine and Israel. What do you make of the strategy that Republicans are putting out there
right now, especially given what they say is their unwavering support for Israel?
AVLON: I think it's no strategy at all. I think it's nihilism and it's the triumph of the isolationist wing of the party that Donald Trump represents.
HOOVER: Yes. That's true.
AVLON: You know, what the Biden administration put forward was a balanced plan. Aid for Israel, aid for Ukraine, aid for Taiwan and money for the
HOOVER: If I could just insert, the Republican senators also support it.
AVLON: Yes, they do.
HOOVER: I mean, so there is -- that is --
AVLON: They absolutely do. And that's exactly --
GOLODRYGA: Yes. This is the House.
AVLON: -- because it's a balanced plan. And right now, there are senators on both parties working to resuscitate some version of that right now. And
one of the things we should be doing, frankly, is be focusing on the folks who are working towards solutions and talking about those solutions as
opposed to, you know, see, sort of radioactive squirrels in Congress getting all the attention, I'm talking about George Santos, among others.
GOLODRYGA: I wasn't even planning to bring him up in this conversation.
AVLON: Well, I -- and I appreciate that.
GOLODRYGA: Because we're up here.
AVLON: Yes. I appreciate that. And frankly, the gravitational pull is elsewhere too often. So, look, I think that, you know, if you want to ask
the Reagan question in 1980, are you better off now than when you were four years ago? Is America better off now than when we were three years ago? The
answer is objectively yes on every macroeconomic issue.
Is inflation been a major problem for Biden administration and all the MMT folks, you don't hear from anymore, should probably take a note? Yes. But
you know what? The economy is robust despite high interest rates to get inflation down. Manufacturing is coming back. You know, the middle class is
actually getting more powerful vis-a-vis Wall Street.
And if you support a traditional American foreign policy, which has been bipartisan in the past, what Vandenberg said, partisan politics ought to
end at the water's edge, Donald Trump represents an absolute repudiation of that and a welcome into your neighbor's country signed for all autocrats
So, those are the stakes of this election in a very real way. And that should itself make great moral urgency around what Liz Cheney was calling
for, which is a broader coalition.
GOLODRYGA: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, again reminding our viewers who may be a little uncomfortable with how closely you're sitting and talking,
you are married.
HOOVER: We are married.
HOOVER: We are married.
AVLON: This is all --
GOLODRYGA: You make it A-OK.
GOLODRYGA: Thank you so much for joining us.
AVLON: Take care, guys.
HOOVER: Take care.
GOLODRYGA: And just a note, you may remember earlier this week, we discussed that claims that international bodies, including the United
Nations, have been silent on alleged sexual violence committed by Hamas in Israel on October 7th.
Well, today the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez addressed those concerns himself, posting the statement on X, formerly known as Twitter,
"There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on October 7th that must be vigorously investigated and
prosecuted. Gender-based violence must be condemned anytime, anywhere."
Welcome words, even if it's 53 days later.
And now, more on the war between Israel and Hamas. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part
of the Biden administration's efforts to extend the tenuous truce in Gaza.
But adding to the already frayed nerves in the region was a fatal shooting in Jerusalem today. Two Palestinian gunmen who Hamas say were members of
its military wing opened fire at a bus stop, killing three people. Police say the gunmen were killed by soldiers and a civilian.
Meanwhile, living conditions in Gaza continue to deteriorate, as the World Health Organization warns that more people could die from disease than
Youmna ElSayed, an Al Jazeera English correspondent in Gaza and mother of four, has been reporting and experiencing personally these conditions.
Michel Martin spoke with her to discuss what it's like working as a journalist while navigating day to day survival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Bianna. Youmna El Sayed, thank you so much for speaking with us.
YOUMNA ELSAYED, CORRESPONDENT, AL JAZEERA ENGLISH: Thank you, Michel, for hosting me in your show.
MARTIN: So, you've been reporting on the events since October 7th. But back in October, you've written about this, your family received a
disturbing phone call from a private number that warned you to evacuate your home immediately. Would you tell us about that?
EL SAYED: Yes, that's true. My husband received a call from a private number, and he was identified by his full name and he was asked to
evacuate. He told him to take your family and evacuate from your homes otherwise, your life is in danger.
And we live in a residential building where other residents are with us, other neighbors, no one received a call like that. And usually, when we
receive calls from the Israeli army, it was with a number or it was identified. But this call was different. This call identified my husband by
his full name, telling him to take his family and evacuate, otherwise, our lives are in danger.
MARTIN: How do you interpret that phone call? Do you interpret that phone call as a threat?
ELSAYED: Well, in the situation that we are in, OK, just a week before that call, less than a week before that call, Wael Dahdouh, my colleague in
Al Jazeera Arabi -- or Arabic, sorry, his entire family was killed in a bombardment. And they were in Nuseirat refugee camp, that's south of Wadi,
OK, and that's where people are asked to evacuate.
And the fact that we have been witnessing a lot of journalists in Gaza in this war being targeted and killed, over 60 journalists have been already
killed in a matter of 50 days, 50 days of war. We got to the point where we're afraid to put on our press vests because we don't want to be labeled
as journalists because that might put not just my life in danger, but the life of my entire family as well.
MARTIN: So, given that you're saying that you believe that the IDF is targeting you and other journalists. We know that journalists are not being
spared. But how do you know that the IDF is targeting you? Because some might hear what you just said and say that you got a phone call, that it
was a legitimate warning to say that your area was being targeted.
And so, I guess what I'm asking you is how do you know that you're being targeted as opposed to that this was a legitimate warning to say you need
to leave for your own safety? Do you see what I'm asking?
ELSAYED: I totally understand. But what answers that question are -- or this question is facts and figures. Number of journalists that have been
killed, most of them in their homes, most of them have been directly targeted. The family of what is being targeted in their home, the calls
that I got or my family got was totally different from the evacuation calls.
MARTIN: Was the tone threatening?
ELSAYED: The tone was definitely threatening. When you identify someone with his entire name and tell him that I know you, and you called from a
private number where you usually call other civilians and other residents with a number, and it's usually a recorded message.
So, to get the call in that way, in that same way, that is definitely a threat and not a warning.
MARTIN: So, the family did evacuate. Would you just describe what that was like?
ELSAYED: First of all, I wasn't able to evacuate instantly when I got the call. One of the problems is that the bombardments were very close to my
home itself, not just my area or my neighborhood, they were in my neighborhood. And you probably know what happened in Tel al-Hawa
neighborhood. That's my neighborhood.
So, the -- all the bombardments, all the explosions, all the airstrikes were in that same neighborhood. It was very risky for me to take my
children and to go out.
Second of all, I was asked to take my children and go to the south on foot. That was something that I couldn't really -- it wasn't easy for me to
decide on, and I felt that it was very risky.
Third of all, we've seen civilians take that risk and go to the south on foot and get targeted. And even when they were in their cars, they were
targeted, including United Nations cars. How can I, as a mother, risk my kids to that extent where I know that I'm throwing them under fire? No, I'm
going to stay at home. At least if I die, I'm going to die at home with my kids, right? I'm not going to take them to the street and just risk that I
would lose them right there. And I would not find someone to even carry our bodies back. I thought a hundred times before I took that journey.
MARTIN: You did eventually get out of there. You did eventually evacuate. So, what is life now? You're still working. How are you managing that, both
continuing to report and also trying to take care of your family?
ELSAYED: Let me give you like a picture or let me paint a picture of how our day starts, for example, we wake up in the morning and our struggle for
finding water starts. So, we have to get our containers and go downstairs and start looking for water. So, that's usually my husband my 11-year-old
son, Muhammad (ph). He goes with his dad and they try to fill a container or two so that we are able to wash up.
And then, our second struggle starts with breakfast, finding bread. For a while, before the humanitarian aid started entering in the ceasefire, it
was almost impossible to find bread. It was almost impossible to find, flour. The quantities that are entering are very few compared to the number
of people. And then, the struggle for lunch. It's literally six days rice, plain rice, and one day either pasta or bread.
So, for me as a mother, you know, like, I tell my kids, don't be sad, don't be frustrated. We're just like million others. You guys are just like
thousands of other children. At least you guys get to eat. We're sleeping together in one room, the six of us, and we have two other families with us
in the same apartment where we live, each family with our same struggle. It's really a nation's struggle. It's not just a family or a group of
people and so on.
At least in this ceasefire, they got to, you know, breathe a little bit without being afraid of hearing the constant bombardments, the constant
airstrikes, the constant rockets falling. And the problem with Gaza is that geographically it's very small. It's a tiny territory. Homes are very
tight, a lot of people everywhere, and that's why you can't say that this bombardment, for example, is happening somewhere in the east, and you're in
the west, you can't hear it. No, you just hear it as if it's next door.
MARTIN: Are the children upset when you go to work? Do your children ever ask you, why do you have to go? Do they ever ask you that, and what do you
ELSAYED: They tell me that every day. They tell me, don't go to work. Take it off. Why do you have to go and leave us? But I tell them that I have to.
This is the only time I can do stories about people. I can move freely in and around the southern area because of the ceasefire. So, I have to use
that time wisely.
And because, for example, we don't have electricity, there's no television, there's no internet, so they can't watch me, for example. We got very
little essentials with us when we evacuated to the south. And I knew that they were carrying those bags, so I couldn't put a lot of clothes in it. I
didn't want it to be heavy because I knew that they were going to walk for at least six to seven kilometers. I ended up just getting a little bit of
summer clothes that are very light.
And now, suddenly, the weather gets -- got very colder and it's getting colder day by day and I can't even find clothes for them. I mean, this is
another challenge for me as a mother. I go to the shops. I go to the market every day. I try to get them anything to keep them warm, but I can barely
This is tough. This is something, for example -- this is a detail, for example, that other people wouldn't think about. But for me as a mom, it's
killing me that I know that my five-year-old is not warm because I can't find her clothes. I have the money, but I can't find the product, right?
Other people, they don't have the money nor the product. But now, we're all the same, right?
MARTIN: Well, this is interesting because you're living the story that you're reporting on. This is your life.
ELSAYED: Exactly. I'm living every single detail in the story of others that I'm reporting about. It's just that I don't get to report about my
story or I consider that my story is not important. The important thing that I do is to report about others because this is my duty, this is my
turn in life.
But at the same time, people don't really know that I'm living all the same struggles, the same challenges, the same pain, the same worry, the same
fear, the same everything, helplessness that every single mother and father and child in Gaza are living. And our kids are living the same as well.
MARTIN: We've talked about the danger to journalists in the current moment. The Committee to Protect Journalists, it's an organization that
keeps track of dangers to journalists all over the world, says that the war has led to the deadliest month for journalists since the organization began
collecting this information more than 30 years ago.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 50 Palestinian journalists, four Israeli journalists and three Lebanese journalists have
been killed since October 7th. What -- are there any precautions that you can take now? I know -- I heard you say earlier that you're not even sure
whether to wear your press vest anymore. What have you decided about that?
ELSAYED: Honestly, Michel, I wear my gear because I have to wear it when I'm working, because my organization forces me to wear it when I'm working.
And because legally, at least, if something happens to me, I'm wearing my gear, my protective gear, that levels that I'm a journalist, right?
But inside me, I know that it's not protecting me. It might even be putting my life in danger. Adding to that, media offices since the war, 2021, on --
between Israel and Hamas, all media offices in the Gaza Strip, including Al Jazeera and the AP, were destroyed. And when I say all, I mean all, all
agencies, all media offices were completely and deliberately targeted and destroyed.
And this is not just a coincidence. When everything is destroyed that has to do with journalism in that territory, that it's a coincidence. It's a
coincidence if it's one or two or three. And then, just because they were in that building or this building or for whatever reason, whatever
justification, but to completely eliminate or wipe out a certain, I don't know, like, the journalism category from the Gaza Strip, I think that this
is totally on purpose and deliberate.
MARTIN: I do have to say -- and you are as a journalist, understand that I do have to say that the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, explicitly say and
have said that they do not target and are not targeting journalists. I -- that is their public statement about this.
ELSAYED: I believe facts and figures. I believe reality and I believe what I'm living. I believe what I am seeing. And I believe it's not -- like I
can tell you any statement and the numbers and the pictures and the reality shows difference to my story.
MARTIN: So, let me just say that foreign journalists have not been allowed access into Gaza except under very limited circumstances when they have
been embedded with the IDF, and it's a very small number of people under very restrictive circumstances. As a consequence of that, we are relying on
you and our colleagues who live in Gaza to bring us this information.
You and your other colleagues, the number of people watching your reports has exploded, you know, around the world. Why do you think so many people
are now so much more interested, so many more people are interested in your work?
ELSAYED: Because people can see with their own eyes the genocides that are being encountered in the Gaza Strip. They see the numbers of children that
are being killed, and they want to know more about that. They're more interested now about knowing about the Gaza Strip and the people of the
Gaza Strip and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
I think the western people and the western societies are opening their eyes and turning their eyes towards Palestine, towards the Gaza Strip and
towards what is happening here. They believe me, so they follow me. And I think that this all has to do with changing the mind of the western
societies now, the people in the United States, the people in Europe, how people now -- the residents themselves, the civilians, how they deal with
the Palestinian narrative and the Palestinian side of the story.
MARTIN: Do you feel like something has fundamentally changed with this conflict, if it's changed people in any fundamental way that you can see,
that you've -- that you can detect, that you've -- that you have observed?
ELSAYED: This war has the worst toll of trauma, pain, and loss on the people in Gaza. We've been on -- like we've been through other conflicts
and other wars, they were shorter, the casualties were not as many as they are now, the destruction wasn't as devastating as it is now, and what we
are living now is completely different from the suffering that we've ever encountered before in our life.
And definitely, it has changed people a lot. Because people are now thinking, are we going to survive? This is the first question people ask
each other. It's the same thought that we tell our children every single night, instead of kissing them goodnight and wishing them sweet dreams, we
kiss them goodbye, Michel.
When you're a mother, and try to picture that with me, how painful is it? Even if I don't say it to them, inside me, as a mother, I know that I'm
holding them tight and I'm kissing them goodbye because we might just not even wake up, because I might go out to work and not return back, or I
might return and do not find them again.
So, yes, definitely, it has changed the people, it has changed me, it has changed everyone. The trauma that we're living with every single thing that
we have lost, starting with people, our memories, our lives, our homes, yes, we're going to live with that trauma for the rest of our lives.
MARTIN: Thank you, Youmna. Thank you for speaking with us.
ELSAYED: Thank you, Michel, for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Sobering words there from Youmna.
Well next, it's day one of COP28, the U.N.'s annual climate summit. And its president is already claiming to have delivered history. Delegates in Dubai
have formally adopted a damage fund to transfer finances to countries hit hardest by the climate crisis.
The decision received this standing ovation and no objections. It has been a sticking point for years and is a key focus of this year's global
As former White House national climate advisor, Gina McCarthy, told me when we spoke earlier this week. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINA MCCARTHY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISOR: We have to address the loss and damage fund. We have to get significant resources on
the table to actually help the developing world move forward. That is the only way that we're going to be legitimately addressing the real challenge
of climate change where it's most extreme.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: Well, tune in tomorrow for that full interview.
And finally, it's the end of an era. Britain's only two giant pandas are now preparing for the long journey home to China after 12 years in
Edinburgh. Thursday was the last day visitors could see the iconic black and white bears.
China's trademark panda diplomacy began when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger made their historic trip to China in 1972, lifting the U.S. --
gifting the U.S. two pandas. Well, two years later, Britain received their first bears. But no new pandas are moving to the U.K. anytime soon, as
China pulls back from sending its cuddly diplomats overseas.
Edinburgh will miss them dearly. Look at them. They're so cute.
Well, that is it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. And remember, you can
catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.
Thank you so much for watching and goodbye from New York.