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Interview With Center For A New American Security Senior Fellow Andrea Kendall-Taylor; Interview With The New Yorker Staff Writer Susan Glasser; Interview With "Table For Two" Author Amor Towles; Interview With Actress Meryl Streep; Interview With Actor Tom Hanks. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 24, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


LLOYD AUSTI, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We'll continue to push to ensure that Ukraine owns its skies and can defend its citizens.


GOLODRYGA: Reassuring words from the U.S. defense secretary, even as President Zelenskyy blames the West for tying Ukraine's hands.

Security expert Andrea Kendall-Taylor weighs the risks of taking the fight into Russia.

Then --


MOHAMED IBRAHIM, ENGINEER: We are humans, not animals, like some people say.


GOLODRYGA: -- daily life inside Gaza's Ruins.

And --


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Biden has been a catastrophe. So, I will be voting for Trump.


GOLODRYGA: -- will the last anti-Trump Republican please turn off the lights.

Political analyst Susan Glasser tracks the rush to unify around the leader Nikki Haley herself once called Toxic and unhinged.

Also --


AMOR TOWLES, AUTHOR: I'm glad that I did not have to go through what Dostoevsky had to do in order to write, you know, a bestselling book.


GOLODRYGA: -- novelist Amor Towles talks to Walter Isaacson about not overcoming adversity for his art.

And later --


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: A free press is one of the pillars of our democracy. I think that's a pretty patriotic message to put out.


GOLODRYGA: -- from Christiane's archives, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep defend the sanctity of a free press.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

A wave of Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian City of Kharkiv, killing at least seven people, mostly women, all civilians, working at a printing

plant in the heart of the city. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blames western hesitation for weakening Ukraine, placing restrictions on where and

how Kyiv can use NATO weapons.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is a shortage of air defense systems that are actually available in the world.

This is the lack of long-range capabilities for our warriors and the complete inability to destroy the very source of Russian terror near our

borders, including the missile launchers that actually hit Ukraine and the lives of our people.


GOLODRYGA: Meantime, "The New York Times" reports that a debate is raging inside the White House now over letting Ukraine shoot U.S. weapons into

Russia. After a sobering visit there, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wants to change U.S. policy.

And earlier this month, after a visit by Foreign Minister David Cameron, Britain gave Kyiv the go ahead to target Russia with its weapons.

So, is the White House wise to heed President Biden's mandate to "avoid World War 3"? Let's bring in Andrea Kendall-Taylor, senior fellow and

director of the Center for a New American Security and a former U.S. deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. Andrea, thank you so

much for joining us. It's great to see you.

So, let me follow up on that question and the interesting reporting out of "The New York Times" about some disagreements within the White House about

whether U.S. policy should change and amend to allow Ukraine to use U.S. provided and NATO western provided weapons to target infrastructure, to

target sites inside of Russia proper.

We saw them do that once again this week using ATACMs comes against Crimea, but in reference to Russia proper, that is currently against U.S. policy.

Should that change in your view?

ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Yes, I think it absolutely needs to change. The United States expressed

policy is to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression. And this restriction on using U.S. weapons to strike into Russia directly undermines

Ukraine's ability to do that.

And I think if you look at a very specific example of the Russian offensive around Kharkiv, which your coverage just referenced, that attack, that

offensive did not come as a surprise to Ukraine and its backers. Ukraine watched as tens of thousands of Russian troops and equipment amassed on the

border there with Russia and they just had to sit and watch because of the U.S. restriction.

So, I do think it's time. I don't think the policy makes sense anymore. And if we're really serious about helping to Ukraine, enabling Ukraine to

defend itself, we have to remove those restrictions.


GOLODRYGA: Let me play sound from you that we've obtained from a howitzer crew commander in Ukraine who expressed his own frustration, obviously,

seconding what we've heard from President Zelenskyy and others and now from U.S officials as well in generals about this restriction and allowing U.S.

equipment and weapons to be used inside of Russia. Let's play this sound for you.


IVAN LIASHKO, HOWITZER CREW COMMANDER (through translator): The fact that allies don't want us to fire at the aggressor's territory, I think it is

unacceptable. It's absolutely unacceptable for me. It's not us who came to them, it's them who came to us.

Multiple rocket launch systems, guns, howitzers, fire at us from the other side of the border. If we don't fire at the Russian territory, there is no

way we can inflict damage on them. We can only hit their infantry.


GOLODRYGA: That gives you a sense of the frustration. We've talked a lot about the morale issues plaguing the Ukrainian military now over two years

into the war and the heavy toll it's had on them as we've been waiting desperately as Ukraine has been waiting for this additional $60 billion in

supplemental additional aid.

I'm curious. If we do see a policy change from this administration, do you think that it should be or would be announced in the sense that wouldn't

that ruin the surprise from the Russian standpoint if we got public change in policy from the White House at this point?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: Well, I think if it were not announced and Ukraine was free to strike those targets, you would see, I think, a short window of

opportunity where they could hold at risk and certainly damage or destroy some of the missile launchers and other capabilities that the Ukrainian

officer just talked about.

But we also know that Ukraine does -- sorry that Russia does adapt to Russia -- to Ukraine's tactics. And so, I think that that window of

opportunity would close relatively soon. Announce it or not announce it, I think the most important thing is that that restriction changes because it

no longer makes sense.

And I'm optimistic that it will change. I think what we have seen from the Biden administration is their willingness to adapt to Ukraine's changing

needs on the battlefield. Many would argue that we're adapting far too slowly, and that's definitely a reasonable criticism.

But we do adapt as Ukraine's needs change. And so, I do think now it is very clear with what's happening in Kharkiv that we're really in a

different phase of this conflict. And it's time for us to make a change in our policy.

GOLODRYGA: You mentioned the adaptation and that it works both ways, that we're seeing adaptation from the Russian side as well. There's just been an

announcement of a new defense secretary minister appointed. And there's an alarming report in "The New York Times" now about Starlink being disrupted

as well by the Russians.

Ukrainians have been quite successful and nimble using drones to their advantage over the past several months, especially as they've been waiting

in this interim period for more advanced weaponry. How alarming is that, that we're finally seeing Russia being able to penetrate that adaptivity

that they've had and their internet access?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: Well, I think just very broadly speaking, we're at a critical point in the war where we are seeing Russia not only adapt, but

also exploit some of these restrictions and some of the vulnerabilities that we see in Ukraine.

So, you mentioned, Bianna, the delay and aid getting to Ukraine, which has meant that they've had a significant shortage and things like ammunition

and air defenses. We see Ukraine continuing to struggle with their manpower issues, and they've been relatively slow at building up some of their

defensive lines, building fortifications, dragon's teeth, other barriers to slow Russia's advance. They've been able to take advantage of that,

particularly around Kharkiv, but also other points of the front, such that they are making progress.

So, the story of the war, the story of things like Starlink is that Russia is very quick to exploit these openings, exploit these opportunities. And

so, it really is incumbent on the United States and Europe to continue to sustain the aid to Ukraine so that they can hold these defensive lines with

the goal then of reconstituting new units that we can equip and train so that they can reapply pressure in the future.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, we know there's been a manpower shortage. Russia has -- I mean, Ukraine has lowered its draft eligibility age from now 27 to 25. They

finally began releasing prisoners from prison now to serve in the military as well. That's a first for Ukraine.

How dire is the situation as you've been noting in the Kharkiv area? Because the assessment appears to be that Russia's strategy is to spread

their military resources increasingly, including their personnel and manpower thin along that area.


KENDALL-TAYLOR: I think that's the Russian strategy. So, number one, I think Putin has said himself that they're looking to create a buffer zone

between Ukraine and Russia. So, remember that Kharkiv is just about 30 kilometers or 12 miles from the border with Russia. And Ukraine has had

some success firing its own weapons into parts of Russia. So, Putin's looking to create that buffer zone.

But I think even more importantly, is what you just said, which is they're hoping that by holding at risk car key, which is second -- the second most

populous city, Ukraine's second largest city, that Ukraine will have to redeploy, divert some of its forces from other parts of the frontline,

creating potential vulnerabilities that Russia could then exploit.

So, again, this is -- I think most people would agree that I think this is the most difficult period that Ukraine has seen in over a year.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and the provocations from the Russian side continue. Estonia is accusing Russian border guards of removing navigation buoys from

the Estonian side of the river that's separating the two countries. That's sparking a lot of concern among E.U. members and NATO members as well.

And of course, we have a looming U.S. election here in November and there's already talk, as you are well aware, of how to best prepare Ukraine to be

in the most secure position possible if, in fact, there is a second Trump presidency because we know Former President Trump has said that, from day

one, if he wins, that this war would end in one day.

Do you think that enough measures are being put into place or at least considered now to make sure Ukraine's in the best position possible if that

does come and Ukraine does or is forced to the negotiating table by the end of the year?

KENDALL-TAYLOR: Well, two quick points. One on your point about what's happening in Estonia with the buoys. I mean, I think there's a broader

point that Putin is emboldened. So emboldened, not just on the battlefield in Ukraine, but emboldened in this broader confrontation with the West. And

we've seen a significant uptick in these hybrid tactics targeting different European countries, France and Germany and Estonia, sabotage, arson, GPS


So, we have to understand, I think that's the backdrop that we have to think about how do we fortify Ukraine because Putin is emboldened, not just

there, but in Europe more broadly. And so, the Europeans are quite worried, and rightly so, about the sustainability of U.S. assistance. And so, they

are thinking, how can we quote "Trump proof" the NATO alliance, for example? Should we shift some of the capabilities or the duties that the

United States conducts in the Randstein format and other things in terms of coordinating aid for Ukraine? Should that move from a sole U.S.

responsibility to a NATO responsibility?


KENDALL-TAYLOR: So, these conversations are ongoing because there's a lot of anxiety and it's undermining the credibility and -- of the United States

as a reliable partner, not just in Europe, but really across the globe.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And here in the U.S. as well. That's a given. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, thank you so much for joining the show.

Well, turning to Gaza now, like in Ukraine, the images of neighborhoods demolished and lives destroyed can be overwhelming. Correspondent Paula

Hancocks reports on the day-to-day struggle of life amidst the devastation.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Living in a city of ruins is barely living. The daily search for water and food in Gaza's second-

largest city of Khan Younis is relentless. This young man says life is horrible.

Isan (PH) shows us what's left of his home, a twisted shell of concrete with tarpaulin for walls. The bathroom he says is half destroyed, the

living room half destroyed. And I'm now sleeping in the kitchen with my family, with my children.

Ominous cracks slice through the ceiling, which bulges precariously over the family below.

As you can see, he says, the ceiling is cracked and could fall at any time. God knows, we could be dead or alive in the morning.

It is dangerous and it is unsanitary. And yet, better than the alternative. He says he has been unable to secure a tent for his family.

Others have found shelter in a bombed school. Around 100 families live here. Mohamed was an engineer in Gaza City. He has been forced to move his

family almost half a dozen times so far by the Israeli military, most recently from Rafah. He points to his seven months old son, saying, he

needs to be allowed to live.


MOHAMED IBRAHIM, ENGINEER: Do you think he is Hamas? Does he have a Kalashnikov, or RPG, have something to make a war with Israeli soldiers?

HANCOCKS (voice-over): His only hope he says he shares with all Gazans that the war will end.

IBRAHIM: We are humans, not animals, like some people say. Israelis and people say. We're not animals. We are humans. We have rights.

HANCOCKS (VOICE-OVER): This is where the Israeli military says the displaced should move to, Al-Mawasi, calling it a "humanitarian zone." As

waste piles high alongside makeshift shelters, aid groups call it unfit for human habitation.

The Israeli military response to the Hamas October 7th attacks continues to be overwhelming for those trying to survive in Gaza. Israel insists it

needs to destroy Hamas and find the remaining hostages. Local officials estimate 80 percent of buildings in Khan Younis have been destroyed and yet

amid the dusty wasteland, a makeshift market has sprung up.

Everything is destroyed, this vendor says. This is a ghost town. People living on top of dead bodies still under the rubble.


GOLODRYGA: That was Paul Hancock's reporting. Well, back here in the United States, there's now a break in the criminal hush money trial of Donald

Trump. Closing arguments begin Tuesday.

Even as the trial grinds on, the presumptive Republican nominee manages to stand astride his party like a colossus. This week, Nikki Haley, perhaps

the last, best hope of once mainstream Republicans, pledged her allegiance to the MAGA cause. Veteran political analyst Susan Glasser wrote about

Haley's announcement and a torrent of recent Trump provocations in an article in "The New Yorker" called "There is literally nothing Trump can

say that will stop Republicans from voting for him."

And Susan Glasser joins the program now. Susan, I think perhaps those same words could have been uttered for Haley for a while now. Do you think that

it was ultimately Nikki Haley, despite everything she said about him and the threat that he posed to the United States and the world announcing that

she would, in fact, support him, that ultimately solidified that view?

Susan GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: It is a remarkable moment, I think, in the Republican Party. And it's hard, right, because we've become

inured to it after so many years of this phenomenon of sort of watching Republicans flip flop on Donald Trump, they come out like Nikki Haley did

with very scathing criticism of Trump. It was just in February that she said he was literally unhinged and unfit for office.

And when she suspended her campaign back then, she refused to endorse Trump. Now, a couple of months have passed, Donald Trump doesn't look like

he's a lot more hinged than he did back in February. There's been no noticeable effort to assuage the concerns of Haley or the millions of

Republican primary voters who voted for Haley and not for Donald Trump. And yet, nonetheless, she announced that she was going to vote for Trump in


I think it really tells you a lot about the Republican Party today really being Donald Trump's Republican Party.

GOLODRYGA: Now, it wasn't a full-throated endorsement. Let me quote what she said. She said, Trump has not been perfect on these policies. I have

made that clear many, many times, but Biden has been a catastrophe. So, I will be voting for Trump.

Again, as you said quite a change from toxic and unhinged is how she described him just a few months ago. Let's put together -- let's play for

our viewers an actual video of previous sound from not so long ago of Nikki Haley voicing her views on Donald Trump at the time.


NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How much more losing do we have to do before we realize maybe Donald Trump is the


After New Hampshire, when I got 43 percent of the vote, he was unhinged.

The president should have moral clarity. And he's just toxic.

There is no way that the American people are going to vote for a convicted criminal.

It is literally impossible that we will win an election if Donald Trump is the nominee.


GOLODRYGA: So, Susan, what do you think the calculus was for someone like Nikki Haley, who's still young, who could have sat this out, not

necessarily announcing her endorsement for Joe Biden, she could have sat this out and said, listen, let's re-evaluate in four years. And if Donald

Trump had actually won or lost, regardless, she could have said, I told you so, and it would have been a refresh start for the Republican Party.

Now, Donald Trump today said that there may be room for her, some space for her in his campaign or administration and there's talk now of perhaps Tom

Cotton being his running mate. Tim Scott's name has been thrown around, but does it really even matter, if we're to stick to your premise of the

article that you wrote, as to, does anyone bring anything to Donald Trump at this point other than Donald Trump promoting himself?


GLASSER: Well, Donald Trump would like you to believe that only Donald Trump is the one that matters. And I think that is -- his view actually

pretty much of the election and of a future administration if you were to serve in it.

You know, what's remarkable about Trump as a phenomenon is that it reveals what's in other people as well as him, and for many Republicans, it's shown

that the principles that they very loudly proclaimed are not in fact core principles for them. Nikki Haley, in saying that she couldn't vote for

Trump -- sorry, that she would vote for Trump because Biden was "a catastrophe," that's the template that we've seen followed by many other

public critics of Trump just in the last couple of months.

You had Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. who literally blamed Donald Trump for unleashing the mob at the Capitol on January 6th.

Nonetheless, he said that he would be voting for Donald Trump. You had the same thing with the governor of New Hampshire, also a very public critic of

Donald Trump. You know, and on and on the list goes.

So, I think if you were surprised by this, then on some level, right, just as an observer, you haven't really been paying attention. But Nikki Haley

is a particularly interesting case because she was -- made her announcement about supporting Trump in the middle of a speech at the Hudson Institute in

which she was, once again, seeking to prove her conservative, hawkish credentials as a national security expert in her party.

Well, she was scathing about this sort of Trump in America first view of the world. She believes that Trump and those who support him on foreign

policy are essentially too weak, not supporting American allies, Ukraine and Israe. And, you know, literally, she has publicly said that you can't

be admiring Vladimir Putin and he the leader of the country, and yet, here she is endorsing Trump, who is a great public admirer of Vladimir Putin.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Just yesterday then saying that it was only he that could get Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter, released because

that is something that only Vladimir Putin would do if he were in office and for Donald Trump. Quite disturbing to say the least.

Let me make a bit of a pivot, but it does relate to some of the policies and some of the real-life consequences that we've seen from a Trump

administration. What we could see from a second one, and that is his control over the Supreme Court. We know that he appointed three Supreme

Court justices where we saw Roe v. Wade overturned in the last. term. One of those justices was not appointed by Donald Trump, but just added to the

conservative bench and that is Justice Samuel Alito.

And I want to get your reaction and thoughts about this flag gate controversy that we've seen. Clearly, he and his wife have an affinity for

flags. There had been reports earlier that there had been an upside-down flag of the United States at their home. And that was -- again, he blamed

his wife for this. Actually, both times now, blaming his wife for a flag that seemed to support not only the MAGA movement but to stop the steel

movement following January 6th. And then another flag that was seen at a vacation home in New Jersey that shows an appeal to heaven flag and has a

history dating to the Revolutionary War and come to symbolize Trump's supporters as well.

What do you make of this blatant sort of political endorsement, even if it was his wife? I mean, the fact that this is a Supreme Court justice who's

deciding on issues and cases related directly to January 6th and others, how should we interpret this?

GLASSER: Yes. I think, first of all, it's terrific reporting by Jodi Kantor of "The New York Times." You know, and it's an important story that

recognizes what we can all sort of see in the last few years, which is the real politicization, even much more explicit politicization of the Supreme

Court than we're used to.

And in particular, what you've seen is now a six-three, not just a conservative majority, but arguably a kind of radical shake things up

conservative majority. Alito probably is the leader of that now majority faction in the Supreme Court.

You got to wonder, certainly, they're not expert at P.R., not having had to do very much of it, given their lifetime approved jobs. But, you know, why

give the appearance of any potential conflict of interest, generally speaking? You know, the judicial code, I should point out points to all of

those at lower levels in our system, except for the Supreme Court, in which it's very clear that any displays of partisan affiliation or even fellow

thinking that those are strongly upon. And yet, he is unaccountable to that code.


GOLODRYGA: Yes, and I think in addition to the low approval ratings that Americans have for Congress and elected official in general, I mean, what's

really alarming that we're starting to see, and we've seen over the past few years, the approval rating for the Supreme Court justices also continue

to decline drastically.

Susan Glasser, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us. It's great to see you. Have a great holiday weekend.

GLASSER: Great to be here. Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, next, the power of everyday encounters. Have you ever noticed how some of the briefest exchanges can give birth to life-changing

realities? Well, bestselling novelist Amor Towles certainly did.

His observations inspired his new book, "Table for Two," a collection of short stories and a novella mostly set in the year 2000. And he joins

Walter Isaacson to reflect on this latest work and his career so far.


WALTER ISAACSON, CO-HOST, AMANPOUR AND CO.: Thank you. And Amor Towles, welcome to the show.

TOWLES: Walter, thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

ISAACSON: Your collection now, "Table for Two," has a group of short stories and then a novella to it. It's called "Table for Two," which

confused me at first, but then I realized one theme is there's a whole lot of just two-person, almost like kitchen table, conversations. Is that a

theme of the book?

TOWLES: Yes, it's interesting. When I was -- when I finished the manuscript it had no title, and I was preparing to send it in, and so I needed a

title. And I had just spent rereading the material because I was editing it, as you know, the same thing you do with your work, you read it over and

over and over, and I suddenly recognized that in two stories that there was a mother and daughter who were sitting across the kitchen table having a

serious conversation that has big implications for their lives.

And in the next story, there was a young man who had sort of gotten in trouble with a stranger and then had been invited to the stranger's house,

an older man, where they were having a serious conversation that had implications for their lives. And I thought, oh, that's interesting. But

then I suddenly realized it was in all the stories.

So, they were all written in the course of the last 10 years. Something must have been subconsciously on my mind about how we in our lives can have

a small thing that occurs that ultimately -- that we might have to hash out in face-to-face in ways that could have implications for our lives. And

yes, that turned out to be an underlying theme for the story. And so, that's why I changed the title that it has such.

ISAACSON: In your story, "The line," it's about a character who, I guess, his strength in life is he knows how to stand in line.


ISAACSON: And yet, at the end -- or in the middle, he goes to this mysterious line, which is called the Agency of Expatriate Affairs. He's

doing it for somebody else, I think, in the story, but he ends up becoming an expatriate. What was that about? Was that sort of a Kafka thing of

escape, or is it just a fantasy?

TOWLES: It is Kafka-esque, that story, and a little bit of Gogol, too, because it is somewhat of a fairy tale. It's a little bit of sort of a dark

humor built into it, and it springs from when I was writing "A Gentleman in Moscow." There's a moment in which the character, Mishka, returns from

doing time in prison, and he's cynically viewing Russia in sort of, I think, in the '30s at that point, or the '40s -- '50s, actually, and he's

observing that lines have become a way of life, and sort of making this sort of a dark observation.

And when I was writing that passage, I thought to myself, oh, wouldn't it be interesting if you had somebody who they weren't necessarily good at

anything in life, but they were really good at standing in line and these lines that were all over the Russia? And that's where the short story came


So, when I finished "A Gentleman in Moscow," the first thing I did is I wrote that story. And so, it is sort of about this life of an innocent

open-eyed person, but in a way, a difficult time, who finds expertise in an unusual thing.

ISAACSON: And his expertise standing in line, and we're talking about "Table for Two," is contrasted to that of his wife, who is an extraordinary

activist. I mean, just one of those people we kind of know who just finds a cause and just embraces it. Was that a particular contrast you were trying

to draw?

TOWLES: I think so. And, you know, and that points to a different thing that sort of surfaced in the collection. A friend of mine observed reading

it, Amor, all these are about marriage. And I was like, oh, that's interesting. You're right. A lot of the stories are about husbands and

wives. And I think that that's -- as a writer, I'm always interested when you leave one project and sort of exploring a different area of human life

because it forces me to write in a different way.

And if I look back over my catalog, as it were, "Rules of Civility" is about 25-year-olds in New York. And "A gentleman in Moscow" is about sort

of an aging aristocrat and the friends he makes in the hotel. "The Lincoln Highway" is about 18-year-olds, you know. And I have not really, in those

works, explored marriage.


And so, I think, as I was writing these short stories over the last 10 years, it must have been sort of a subconscious thing of constantly sort of

turning back on this relationship, which is so important in our daily lives, marriage, whether we're children or spouses and to explore the

subtleties of marriage and the difficulties that can arise from it, the endearments that can exist, the bond of both -- when it can be strong and

when it's weak, you know, it's an area of endless inquiry.

ISAACSON: Well, one of the greatest stories in the book is "The Ballad of Timothy Touchett," which I assume is a bit autobiographical. You can push

back if I'm wrong. And every character I've written about in my nonfiction biographies, they've had sort of misfits as childhoods. They were

difficult, whether it was Leonardo growing up, illegitimate and gay and the village of Vinci or all the way up to Elon Musk.

And I want to read you a long passage in your book, if you'll just be patient, because it's a wonderful passage, but it's about the question of

not being a misfit and whether you lose creativity if you aren't a misfit.

You write, what had caused Timothy to delay the start of his novel, he wanting to write a novel, was a fear so dark and disturbing it could barely

be acknowledged, the fear that he had no story to tell. Consider for a moment the lives of Timothy's heroes. Faulkner had come of age in the Jim

Crow South, a time and place with its own idiosyncratic language. Hemingway had been a journalist and driven an ambulance in the First World War before

hunting lines in the African savanna. And Dostoevsky, he went to Siberia. You go on like that.

How could one expect a craft and novel of grace and significance when one's greatest inconvenience had included the mowing of lawns in the spring and

the raking of leaves in the autumn and the shoveling of snow in the winter? Why Timothy parents hadn't even bothered to succumb to alcoholism or


First of all, tell me, do you think having a complex or difficult childhood adds to creativity? And I guess I'll follow up by saying, and how was your


TOWLES: Yes. I mean, I suppose that is sort of an ironically biographical sort of exploration in that passage. Because I had a -- I did not have a

life that was -- of the kind that Faulkner experience in his youth or certainly, you know, Dostoevsky experience in his youth. And as a young

reader, you sort of look at these giants of literature and you're like, oh, my God, what an extraordinary experience they had that they translated into

this work.

And I think, yes, as a young writer, you're in suburbia, you're having -- I'm beginning to doubt my -- you know, oh, my God, what am I going to write

about, you know. Now -- but it is a little tongue in cheek because I do think that we all have the capacity to tell intricate stories. And through

observation, through exploration of our own feelings, through the conversations we have with strangers, we can access humanity at a level

that can allow us to build great narratives regardless of our past.

So, it is sort of a winking sort of picture of myself about anxiety I had as a young man. But I'm kind of over it now. I think I'm kind of -- I'm

glad that I did not have to go through what Dostoevsky had to do in order to write, you know, a bestselling book.

ISAACSON: When you were at the New Orleans Book Festival, you were talking to your friend Michael Lewis on stage. And you were talking about as he had

been being in finance for a long time, being in the Wall Street banking type world. And you, it seems, were saved by Peter Matheson. Tell me that.

TOWLES: Yes. Peter was, you know, a great American, both writer of natural history in essence or on natural topics but also a novelist. He came to

Yale when I was an undergraduate. I got into his seminar. And out of that grew a friendship and a mentorship. But I did have a divergence and I went

and spent 20 years in the investment business and it really pissed him off. Because he's like -- you know, he appropriately was like, I spent this time

with you, mentoring you and encouraging you and here you go off and work on Wall Street, you know, what?

And so, he -- and eventually he said, listen, I think you -- your time in Wall Street, it's going to ruin your career. I think you'll never be an

artist, you know, over dinner one night. And that really -- it was -- it became for me that -- like Jacob Marley, you know, shaking his chains at

Scrooge and, you know, letting him know, you know, what lay ahead if you stayed on the same track.

And so, on the one hand Peter gave me a gift as a young writer acknowledging or recognizing that I might have talent, but he then gave me

the second gift later in life, which was to say, if you don't pursue your craft, you will end up, I think, disappointed with yourself. And so, I

began to then write on the weekends. And when "Rules of Civility" became a bestseller, I retired from the firm. And so, it was a long road to it, but

it was -- I guess it was the road that I had to take.


ISAACSON: When you're conceiving a novel, or perhaps one of these short stories in "Table for Two," do you start by conceiving the place, you know,

the backdrop, what Eudora Welty would call a sense of place, or do you conceive the characters first, or do you conceive the plot first?

TOWLES: For me, the stories tend to start, whether it's a novel or a short story, with a very simple premise. Like I did -- I was in a hotel, and I

thought, oh -- one year in Geneva, and I thought, what would it be like to be trapped in a hotel for a long period of time? And that was the beginning

of "A Gentleman in Moscow."

And when I have an idea like that, I tend to very quickly -- as I realize, oh, that's an interesting story, I tend to see things very quickly that are

the basics. So, right away there, I was like, oh, it could be in Russia. He could be an aristocrat sentenced to house arrest in a fancy hotel near the

Kremlin. The story can span from the revolution to the Cold War. And all of that I knew in a matter of minutes. But then, it's what you describe, you

start to build out the idea over time.

And I'll spend a couple of years designing a book, where I will try to imagine everything that happens. All the settings, the people in their

backgrounds, their psychology, filling notebooks by hand, as I, in essence, build the world. And it's not in an order. It's not in order. What you're

doing is you are kind of building each element of it side by side.

You get a little bit better sense of the place, better sense of the people, better sense of what happens. And then you kind of start again and advance

and then advance and slowly, you know, build this world. And once I know that world clearly, then I, you know, put up -- build an outline and start

to write the chapter one.

ISAACSON: Your characters are so wildly different. I mean, you talked about the Russian aristocratic man in "A Gentleman in Moscow." But there's a

working-class woman from Brooklyn in one of your stories, a farm boy from Nebraska. How do you get into the heads of such different people?

TOWLES: I'm sort of that school that I was sort of raised in the notion that to master my craft. You would write short stories from as many

different perspectives as possible, taking on different lives. And by doing so, you know -- rather than just writing about my own experiences, let's

say. It was because by writing about different people, it forces me or any young writer to try to imagine what would it be like to be in that

situation? What would be my vocabulary? How would I -- how would be my morals?

What would be -- how would I describe a situation that I stepped into if I was an 18-year-old woman in Berkeley in the '60s versus, you know, a

Viennese violin repairman in the 19th century. They would see the world differently. They would talk about the world differently.

And so, you try to teach yourself through short stories taken from different perspectives how to look at the world slightly different from

another perspective. And then, over time, it starts to become second nature. Now, when I'm creating a novel, all my characters are invented, and

it's a very natural process for me to sort of invent them one by one by one after this sort of decades of training myself to imagine the world in

narrative through the lives of -- eyes of others.

ISAACSON: One of the complex things is -- to me, is how you choose narrators in your story. Sometimes they're omniscient. They know the whole

story. Sometimes they're part of the action. Sometimes they're a little bit like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby and just observing things. How do

you choose narrator styles?

TOWLES: Yes, that's an excellent question, Walter, because I think that -- as I think about short stories, novels, either one, the whole process of

invention deciding who the narrator is the most difficult decision and the most interesting decision that I will make.

Figuring out where it happens, when it happens, what happens, who's in the story, these are all important decisions, but nothing compared to who's

going to tell the story. And it could be, as you say, the omniscient narrator up way up here who knows all, it could be the -- you know,

somebody who is related to the main character. But, you know, it could be a spouse, it could be a stranger who's observing the events, it could be the

main character, his or herself telling it in first person.

And the two -- once I kind of know what's going to happen and where it's going to happen and when it's going to happen, then I actually will start

to go through different alternatives to try to feel where is this story, where does it belong, who should be telling it, and in what tone. And I may

try it in my head or in writing in different ways, until suddenly you say, oh, yes, this is it. This is the person you should tell it.

And here's the sort of an interesting thing, I think, about "Table for Two" that readers can sort of look for or consider, the six stories in New York

are laid out in such a way that you move from the omniscient -- the most omniscient narrator, the person who knows everything and unnamed, and -- in

the first two stories, and then you get some stories where the person is an observer.

It's their spouse who's involved in the circumstance. It's in -- it's their father who's involved in the circumstance. And then you get stories where

it's the individual talking about what's happened to themselves. So, as you read the stories, you are kind of moving from way up here down to closer

and closer proximity. And that's a very -- each of these is a very different type of storytelling.


So, I think the reader will may enjoy going through that experience of how the shift in orientation changes the way that the story unfolds.

ISAACSON: Your story "Eve Goes to Hollywood," it sort of springs out of your "Rules of Civility" novel, Eve, the character. Have you thought of

going back to "A Gentleman in Moscow" or other things and doing that?

TOWLES: I think "A Gentleman in Moscow," it ends in a beautifully definitive way for me. So, it feels very holistic. But "The Lincoln

Highway" is something that I would probably consider returning to. Emmett and Billy and Sally at the end of that story, or at the beginning of

something sort of a great new adventure, as it were, the adventure of adulthood, I guess. And also, you know, going off to California. And I

could imagine being drawn back into to telling that story, probably not in the next couple of years, but maybe a decade from now.

ISAACSON: You know, reading your novels to me is to my personal best reason that we should all read novels. But tell me in your words, why should we

read novels?

TOWLES: I think that reading novels provide -- one thing they provide is what we were discussing a second. The novel is pretty unique for me in

terms of the arts in that it can place us in the position of another human being. And it can do it so powerfully that we as readers, if something in

the main character that we're really embedded in our story, something funny happens to the character, we laugh out loud while we're reading.

If something tragic happens, we may actually shed tears as we're reading. When the character has a victory, a minor victory, we feel -- you know, and

when they have -- something's being mean is done to them, we feel indignant. You know, we start to see the world to some degree, we can see

the world from the perspective of a character who we've become interested in.

So, the novel really has this relatively unique way. I don't think the film can achieve this. I don't think that, you know, nonfiction achieves this in

the same way, this idea of sort of giving yourself over to the character and seeing the world as it unfolds and -- to them, but taking it very

personally. And that opens the door to this extraordinary dynamic where, obviously, empathy grows out of that, where we suddenly can take the

feelings of others more seriously, our ability to imagine ourselves and experiences that we have not had, which adds to both empathy and adventure

and curiosity unfolds.

And so, I think that, you know, this is really the great power of the novel, is that it can enter -- allow us to enter the world from new angles

to see experiences we have not witnessed ourselves to imagine them in a very personal way, in a way that opens both our heart and our mind.

ISAACSON: Amor Towles, thank you so much for joining us.

TOWLES: Walter. It's great to be here. It's good to see you.


GOLODRYGA: And finally, this year's Cannes Film Festival has seen many female icons in the spotlight, including Hollywood legend Meryl Streep, who

was awarded an honorary Palme d'Or. But besides the glitz and glam, French female film filmmakers are using the event to call out misogyny and sexual

violence in the industry.

Back in 2018, Hollywood had its own reckoning with the MeToo movement. Christiane spoke to Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks around that time about their

film, "The Post," depicting the true story of Washington Post journalist's decision to publish the Pentagon Papers.

Now, at a time when global press freedom is at an all-time low, we want to revisit some of that conversation that is still so relevant today.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, welcome to the program.

MERYL STREEP, ACTRESS: Nice to be with you.

HANKS: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: So, incredible film and really what incredible timing. Steven Spielberg has called it a patriotic film. Would you agree?

HANKS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think anything that gets down to the bottom of an assault on the First Amendment and proves that a free press is

one of the pillars of our democracy, I think that's a pretty patriotic message to put out.

This original script I read was really about the week Katherine Graham became Katherine Graham. And the fold in of all the -- a president that was

trying to thwart the truth, attack and of delegitimizing the press carrying it all the way up to the Supreme Court making its decisions, as well as the

reality of what a woman faced in the boardroom when things were supposed to be meritocracy.

Put that all together and I think it's interesting to hear this movie of -- best in 1971 ends up being a cauldron for 2018 now. And when you can go

back and study our own history and see how it relates to now, you realize this ongoing fight to form a more perfect union is as American as apple



AMANPOUR: And I'm struck by what you say. You know, it's the week that Katharine Graham became Katharine Graham. And she did become one of the

most amazing CEO who believed in quality that that was good for the business and she was brave because she went against her own group of

friends, her own tribe. She was so friendly with Robert McNamara and all the cabinet secretaries.

What -- then you tried to internalize it and, of course, you, as always, do a great job of looking exactly like her and sounding exactly like her, what

were you aiming for in that portrayal?

STREEP: I was aiming really to portray a woman of my mother's generation, who confronted a moment in the '70s when everything changed for women. I

mean, it was a sort of a breakout moment. At the time that this film takes place, it's 1971, that's just a week-and-a-half in that time, but it was

when Kent State was happening, all those -- all the social upheavals.

She was a woman of another generation and she was sort of on the fulcrum of a change. She was one of the few CEOs -- there were no female CEOs of any

industry, any companies at that time. Very, very rare. She was only in that position because she inherited it.

Her father owned the paper. He passed it to her husband when it came time to and she basically was 45 years old when her husband died and the mantle

of "The Post" and 3,000 employees and everything fell to her. She didn't feel totally qualified to be there.

AMANPOUR: And actually, a clip we're going play right now is when Katharine Graham is looking a little bit unsure at a breakfast with you, Tom Hanks,

Benjamin Bradley, the legendary editor of "The Washington Post" and you're not quite sure who is whose boss. Here's the clip.


STREEP: Are you sure we're striking the right tone here, Ben?

HANKS: Oh, we're going to do this again?

STREEP: No, the new style section, sometimes that stiletto party coverage can be a little --

HANKS: I'm handling it. I'm looking for a new editor.

STREEP: Yes. Are you? Because I know I've talked to you about this before. You are losing female readership, you know, and I think you might want to

focus more on what women -

HANKS: Katherine, keep your finger out of my eye.

STREEP: You --


AMANPOUR: Was Ben the sort of driver of events or was Katherine Graham, his boss? I mean, you could see that he was pushing her to this decision.

HANKS: I think the only way that Ben was Katherine's equal was in his desire to do great journalism. He was not the man who made the call. He was

the man that pursued it and got it and then had to present it in this manner of -- so what are you going to do? He knew what the stakes were.

I think Ben was confounded by having the greatest job in the world. He loved what he did. He was a pirate and a beast and he was just a cad in so

many ways. He loved his job and he filled up the room in a big way. Everybody knew when Ben Bradley was walking in because of his joy and

expertise that he exuded.

But he was second place behind "The Washington Star" in Washington, D.C. They had the number two or three paper depending on what the week was. And

for "The New York Times", which was one of the big boys, to get the biggest story in the world, he salivated in order to play in that same --

STREEP: He wanted to catch up.

HANKS: He wanted to catch up. And the when the moment -- push came to shove where he had the papers that told the truth and to publish them would be to

run afoul of the Justice Department of the United States of America. Well, unfortunately, that was below his pay grade and fortunately it was in hers.

STREEP: Yes, it was my decision. Yes.

AMANPOUR: It was your decision?


AMANPOUR: Yes. You, Katherine Graham. And, of course, Meryl, I mean, "All the President's Men," barely mentioned, barely registered Katherine Graham.

I mean, she was sort of like, as somebody said, airbrushed out of that history. Do you feel that this film with her as one of the central

characters is part of the reckoning that we're undergoing right now? I mean, is it really about giving her her due?

STREEP: I think people looked up and recognized that they're more aware of who's not at the table and who's left out of history because often the more

colorful personalities like Ben Bradley commandeer the attention, but where the responsibilities lay, where the really hard decision, whose lap that

not sat in, that was her.


And the only reason that Woodward and Bernstein were able to carry through with the Watergate investigation, that they had the confidence that they

would be supported by the whole "Washington Post" organization, including all the television stations and everything, was because of the success of

the Pentagon Papers where they really, in a moment of crisis, they beat down the bad guys and they won.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about the triumph of truth that your movie "The Post" pays homage to in our era of fake news, alternative facts. What you

started there a year ago, supported the free press, supported the committee to protect journalists, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced a

$1 million grant and donation probably because of you to the CPJ. How important is that, do you think, for you both?

STREEP: Well, I mean, I think the press is under siege globally. And we've seen so many journalists jailed in exponentially greater numbers now. Part

of that feels like some kind of permission issued tacitly by the United States that says, you know, might makes right. If you want to shut it down,

shut it down.

And we've had journalists killed, jailed famously. What's the -- Galizia, the woman who brought out the Panama Papers.

AMANPOUR: Oh, yes, in Malta.

STREEP: In Malta. The woman cut in her neck in Russia. You know, the bad guys will always want to shut us down, but --

AMANPOUR: You knew Ben Bradley.

HANKS: I did.

AMANPOUR: Obviously, Nora Ephron has been a great friend of yours. You played a journalist in her play on Broadway.

HANKS: Mike McAlary.

AMANPOUR: What does it mean to you the sanctity, the ability of a free and independent press to operate unhindered?

HANKS: I always go back to what Daniel Monaghan said, you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts. In some

cultures, they take sledgehammers to a printing press and slice the necks of women journalists, who go out and get the truth.

And the end result is you have a state-run here's what our king did today and isn't he a wonderful man and the next thing you know you're living in

Romania under Ceausescu.

And for there to be the true First Amendment, the government can't tell you who to, how to worship God. They can't tell you who not to associate with.

And, finally, a freedom of press and journalists in order to go forward and put the record straight. This is what has made America America.

And to have any sort of guerilla war being placed against people whose job is to go up and find the truth is a threat to us all.

AMANPOUR: So, let's go to another major battle that we're all facing right now. It's obviously the #MeToo battle and it started -- well, actually, it

started with Gretchen Carlson and Fox News and outing the sexual harassment at the very top of the pinnacle of power there. And a year later, coming to

Hollywood with Harvey Weinstein. Where do you think as a woman this movement is going?

STREEP: Well, I think someone said we're building the airplane while we're taking off. At the same time that we're taking off. The #MeToo movement

really started with Tirana Burke, 10 years ago, in response to abuse of young women of color in the south. And she worked and continues to work on

those issues.

This is a very old battle. It's a battle of dominance. Same with the freedom of the press. Who's going to get to be top dog.

AMANPOUR: What is it with Rose McGowan who's accused you of tacitly knowing and not saying and all these years that you worked in some respect for

Harvey Weinstein? You must have known.

STREEP: I'm sure in many ways she wished I knew. What happened to Rose is unbearable. It sticks a knife in everyone's heart that this man was allowed

to continue in the way he worked on people, over the bodies of women. He made a business over the bodies of women. And going forward, we have to

support the survivors, figure out solutions why legislatively it'll never happen again.

For Rose, I think I have nothing but empathy and a hope that she finds a way to heal. I really do.

AMANPOUR: And on the record, you said that you were probably too big for him to try anything like that on you or behave like that around you.

STREEP: Yes. I think the assumption is that I needed him for my career, but I didn't need Harvey. Harvey needed me. But what happened to Rose will

never happen again because there's a network of women now that is pretty formidable.


We all talk to each other. Our business has benefited from the fact that we didn't for years and years and years, and this is making people in the

corporate suites shake in their boots, the agents shake in their boots. It's going to change the face of our industry, because for so many years

we've been undervalued, underpaid and exploited. So, that's over.

AMANPOUR: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, thank you so much.

HANKS: A please.

STREEP: Thanks. Thanks, Christiane.


GOLODRYGA: Such a poignant, powerful conversation that still holds to this day.

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

always catch us online, on our website, and all-over social media.

Thank you so much for watching, and goodbye from New York.