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Don Lemon Tonight
Vladimir Putin Makes His Next Step; Ukrainian Navy Sunk Russian Ship; President Biden Visit U.S. Troops In Poland; Tyler Jacob Reunited With His Family; Vladimir Putin Upset That He Is Being Cancelled; Leadership Tested In Times Of Crisis. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 25, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Stay with CNN for the latest from Ukraine. The news continuous. I want to turn things over now to DON LEMON TONIGHT. Don?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Anderson, I've been glued to your program especially watching your conversations on Vladimir Putin and this absurd attempt to try to connect what he is -- what he is doing to Ukraine or with how the world is galvanize against him to cancel culture. It is just, it's just bizarre, and anyone who claims cancel culture should probably take a look at that because they may not want to do it anymore considering someone like Putin is now claiming that in this ungodly war against Ukraine.
COOPER: Yes, it certainly seems a bizarre turn for the leader of a warring nation right now to be talking about J.K. Rowling, but I don't know.
LEMON: Yes. Yes. But here we are. But here we are. Anderson, have a good weekend.
LEMON: I'll see you soon. Take care. Thank you.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
And I am here in western Ukraine in Lviv, and our breaking news tonight, a top Russian general claims what he calls the first stage of Russia's military plan is completed, and Russia will now focus on, quote, "the liberation of Donbas in eastern Ukraine." Russian forces digging in to defensive positions on the outskirts of Kyiv and no longer trying to move on the ground towards the capital. That is according to a senior U.S. defense official.
They're still attacking the city from the air like this assault today on the biggest oil depot near Kyiv. Take a look at your screen now. Vladimir Putin wanted to take Kyiv quickly. He did not. Ukraine stopped him. Now is he moving the goal posts? That's the question.
That as President Joe Biden will meet with refugees in Poland and give a major address tomorrow. He talked to U.S. troops today and he had a message for the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The question is we're going to prevail. Our democracy is going to prevail and the values we share or autocracies is going to be prevail. And that's really what's at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And we have some new video tonight of the moments after one of the worst Russian attacks of this war. The attack last week on that theater in Mariupol where hundreds of people were taking shelter. You see survivors trying to make their way down the stairs. They're covered with rubble, holes in the wall. Officials say 600 people survived, 300 were killed. Those who died mostly on the upper floors.
And you remember, this is the same theater that had the word children spelled out in Russian outside in letters literally visible from the sky. The U.N. says it has what it calls increasing information corroborating the existence of mass graves in Mariupol. They estimate one of the graves holds the remains of about 200 people.
In the Kherson region a Russian general killed in fighting, that is according to the Ukrainian army. Six Russian generals are believed to have been killed since the invasion began. And as Ukrainians take back territory from Russian forces Kherson may not be as solidly in Russian control as it was.
A senior U.S. defense official saying there are reports of resistance in areas that had been under Russian control and going onto say, quote, "we would argue that it's actually contested territory again."
Let's bring in now CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. He is live for us in Kyiv, Phil Mattingly is in Warsaw.
Good evening to both of you, gentlemen or if you're here, good morning to you.
Tonight Russia, Fred, is claiming that the first phase of the war is over. The focus will shift to eastern Ukraine. What is the reaction there in the capital city?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the folks in the capital city and also a lot of Ukrainian leaders think that this whole notion that the Russians never really wanted to enter Kyiv and were basically just trying to press the Ukrainian military so they couldn't amass there in the east Ukraine near Donbas, they think that that's absolutely laughable.
They obviously believe very much so that the Russians tried to enter Kyiv. In fact, there were columns of Russian military vehicles that were very close to entering Kyiv especially in the early stages of the war, and then you'll remember that very long column of vehicles that was coming towards the capital city that was then attacked by Ukrainian forces. Also the Russians moving in from two regions trying to go and encircle
the city from the northwest and from the northeast and stop on both occasions. The Ukrainians are saying, look, the Russians tried to take the city, they tried to enter the city and they were repelled by a Ukrainian force that was of course was outgunned, but they just simply believe that they were smarter than the Russians in all this and also were fighting harder than the Russians as well.
And if you look what's going on still in the capital city, it's not like the Russian forces have disappeared. I mean they are still here, they are still very close to the city. They've been back somewhat and they certainly appeared to be on the back foot. But there is still some pretty heavy fighting going on especially if you look at the outskirts of the city in the -- towards the northwest.
And this video you're showing right now, Don, that is really emblematic of all that. That is Irpin. That's a suburb of Kyiv towards the northwest. You can see this drone footage flying across everything destroyed there.
We spoke to the mayor of Irpin over the past couple of days, and he's been telling us that there is still massive shelling going on by the Russians even as the Ukrainians say they are trying to press them and are having some success at pushing them back, Don.
LEMON: And Fred, a U.S. official says that Russian forces have stopped moving toward Kyiv but air attacks, long-range strikes still happening as you said. They're there, they're on the back foot but it is still happening. What does this mean for the residents there?
PLEITGEN: Well, first of all, I would say that that is fairly accurate to the description of what we've been witnessing throughout the course of the day. It certainly seems as though on the ground for the people here it has become a little more calm. I was in the city center today at the Maidan at independence square. There's still a tank barrier setup there and of course check points around the city.
There did seem to be however few more people on the streets, there were coffee shops that were opening, not much yet but there are some people who sort of coming back out. And you can just feel that people believe they have that little bit more room to breathe with the Russians a little farther away from the city.
But then you were -- you were alluding to the fact that the Russians are still using these standoff weapons as the U.S. calls them, longer range weapons. There was of course that attack on the fuel depot that took place just to the south of Kyiv with the Russians say that they conducted with a caliber cruise missile.
And then we did have air raid sirens going off throughout the better part of the day and also surface-to-air missiles being launched or at least what we believe was surface-to-air missiles, those very typical noises that you hear when those were launched. So that seems to be a pretty accurate description. We're on the ground
here. More people are coming out. They do feel a little more confident, but certainly it's a dangerous situation and very much a war footing that the city is on, Don.
LEMON: Phil, you're traveling with president in Poland tonight. We saw him with American troops not far from Ukraine's border. He is putting this fight in clear terms asking whether democracy or autocracies prevail. Tell us more about what we saw today.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, this is the lens through which the president has really framed his presidency from the very beginning, and yet, I don't think he ever imagined there would be such a visceral and searing example of exactly what he was talking about as he is seeing it this moment.
And it was interesting how he have laid this out to the troops that were gathered to listen to him today during his visit, troops from the 82nd Airborne Division deployed as kind of the tip of the spear for U.S. Forces in NATO -- NATO allies inside the country of Poland, and the president making clear that it's not just about Ukraine at this moment. It's so much bigger. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: What you're engaging is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine. We're in a new phase, new generation. We're at an inflection point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And Don, it's just interesting because you realize that the men and women sitting in front of him who were deployed to Poland at this point are mostly preparing for Russia, and what's happening in Eastern Europe right now and the president making the point that this is just a broader moment in time, an inflection point, if you will.
And it's going to be something you're going to hear in detail from the president tomorrow. As you noted, he will be meeting with refugees but he's scheduled to give what aides are calling a significant speech about this moment in time, the urgency, the stakes and why the world, particularly western democracies need to stick together. It's been kind of a through line of the last several days but the president really wants to delve into it and lay it out in detail in the next couple of hours, Don.
LEMON: He seemed to be received well by the troops there, also talking about his son Beau, is very personal for him.
MATTINGLY: Yes, there's no question about it. And look, this is -- if you go back to winning as a senator, if you go back to winning as vice president he would often fly in Afghanistan, as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee when he was vice president. He would often fly into Baghdad as well. He's been to war zones, he visit with troops. And you talk to White House officials they make clear both because of
his son Beau who obviously passed away from brain cancer who served but also, I think just recognizing what it's like for the families back home to anybody deployed whether in a war zone or whether in a NATO country to serve as a kind of deterrence factor, that meeting them and shaking their hands.
I think more importantly, you heard that kind of 30,000 foot level from that sound we just played, but more than anything else he was thanking them, he was saying thanks repeatedly and making clear the volunteer military when 99 percent of the country is not doing what they're doing, they're volunteering to be out there. They are owed more debt -- more of debt of gratitude than perhaps anybody else, and I think that's what he was trying to convoy today.
LEMON: All right, Phil and Fred, thank you both very much. I appreciate that. Now I want to bring in CNN military analyst and retired air force colonel Cedric Leighton.
Hello to you, Colonel. Thanks so much for joining us.
A month ago, the U.S. believed that Kyiv could fall in days and now a senior U.S. defense official is saying ground movements towards the capital have stopped. Is this a shift in strategy?
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's at least a shift in tactics, Don. Good evening. It's one of those areas where if you look at everything that goes around Kyiv, there are going to be a lot of different changes, so let's take a little closer look here.
You notice that some of the things that used to be out here and some of the Russian troop replacements have now moved back, and that very fact is indicative of at least Ukrainians gaining ground, gaining traction. You know, this is not over by a long shot, but what the Russians are doing is changing their tactics and could portend at least a shift in strategy, not a complete change in strategy but at least a shift in what their immediate objectives are. I think their long-term objectives are still basically the same, though.
LEMON: Yes. Interesting that a top Russian general today signaling that they're now focusing on, quote, "liberating eastern Ukraine." I mean, is Russia moving the goal post here, changing the definition of exactly what a victory is?
LEIGHTON: Yes, I think they are, Don, because of what they originally had was movements, you know, toward Kyiv. They had movements of course in the south right in this area, and movements in the east and of course we can't forget about Kharkiv, the second city of Ukraine.
So all of these areas were areas of movement for the Russians as they had in essence fronts in each of these areas. And they had -- they were fighting battles in each of these areas. But what really ended up happening is they got stalled out especially at their major objective. Everything that they tried to do in Kyiv which was trying to surround
the city, that did not happen. Kharkiv, also they tried to surround that, that did not happen. I believe that one of their initial goals was to go to the city of Dnipro, that did not happen. In fact, none of the Russian troops replacements are even close to that city.
They can't -- they are threatening it from the air and from with standoff weapons but they're not threatening it with troops on the ground. They did achieve some of their objectives in this area right in the southeast along the Sea of Azov. They were able to do some of that, they were moving here.
But you mention Kherson. And it's pretty clear that that city right now is actually a contested city and it's also where one of the Russian generals was apparently killed. The latest one in a series of Russian generals to have laid down their life in this I think at the moment at least futile battle for Ukraine.
LEMON: What would regaining even parts of Kherson mean for Ukraine?
LEIGHTON: So when you look at that, this is going to be very interesting because if they regain even parts of this, this is where Kherson is, that means that any advance to Odessa, which is the major port city, will be stalled out because they need Kherson in order to go to the west. They and also need Kherson in order to go north.
And notice Mykolaiv, that was also a city that was contested. Now it appears to be almost completely in Ukrainian hands. So with all of that, it's clear that even in the most successful front that the Russians had, the southern front, they are not gaining. They're not moving forward in the direction that they wanted to, so there's a significant change in what they're doing.
So that means that they're concentrating on areas that are in this part -- this part of Ukraine. And this is where they are going to do everything right now. This is -- this is their center of gravity. Not the real center of gravity, but that's the center of all their efforts.
LEMON: Got it. We're getting new satellite images showing that ship that Ukrainian forces sunk yesterday, that the U.S. says Russia has 22 ships in the Black Sea but say they haven't seen a move on Odessa yet. How much of a threat do these ships present?
LEIGHTON: So they present quite a - quite a threat, Don. Let me just show the image real quick of the ship that was sunk. This is the Orsk, it's an alligator class amphibious ship, and it's right where it -- right where it got hit right near some oil storage tanks. So that is an area that is not usable by the Russian navy -- naval forces.
But when you have a bunch of ships arrayed here in the Black Sea toward Odessa, these are combatant ships. They're surface combatants and amphibious ships. Fifteen surface combatants and the rest are amphibious ships like the ones that was sunk. These do pose a threat.
So, even though there is, you know, an issue for the Russians when it comes to land warfare, they are still dangerous because they're out here in the Black Sea, they're at a point where they could potentially blockade Odessa.
They're also at a point where they could cut off any resupply efforts that could come from a NATO country, and that right there is a NATO country that's Romania. So those are areas that are of concern still to the people in Odessa and the commanders, Ukrainian commanders on the ground there.
LEMON: All right. Great information. Thank you, Colonel. We really appreciate it.
LEIGHTON: You bet, Don. Absolutely.
LEMON: An American taken by Russian soldiers as he tried to flee the war in Ukraine free tonight. His parents and Senator Amy Klobuchar who helped get him out, they all join me next.
LEMON: Breaking news tonight, and it is excellent news really. It's on a story that we first reported here last week. A young American named Tyler Jacob has been freed from Russian detention. He was detained by Russian forces while trying to leave Ukraine and held for 10 days. Tyler Jacob is now been reunited with his wife and his daughter. Back with me tonight is his mom, Tina Hauser. And we're joined by his dad John Quinn and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar who worked to get Tyler released. He is a Minnesota native.
Senator, you have been busy, you have a lot going on in the Senate, and this. So, congratulations on that.
Hello mom and dad. I'm so happy that you both are here. Tina, we had you on and we wished that this turned out and best, and it did. And we're happy for you. You must be relieved. When did you learn that Tyler was safe and free?
TINA HAUSER, TYLER JACOB'S MOTHER: About 5 o'clock this evening when I got a call he had landed and was in a NATO country, so I was ecstatic.
LEMON: I bet you were. You got to facetime him. How did he sound? How did he look? What did he tell you?
HAUSER: He looked really tired, but he looked really good, too. You could hear the relief in his voice and just knowing that he was safe. He was just completely ecstatic about being able to be with his wife and just having that stress go off of him was huge for the -- for him himself.
LEMON: John, I have to ask you what has this whole ordeal been like for you? How are you feeling now that Tyler is free? JOHN QUINN, TYLER JACOB'S FATHER: It's been probably one of the
craziest things I've ever endured. From the time we found out that they were letting him go until the time today we found out that he was in safe hands, it was -- it was a roller coaster. It was up and down. The hurdles that we had to get over to get him to safety, and previous to that not knowing what kind of conditions he was in, it was just -- it was heartbreaking knowing that your son was enduring something that you had no control over. And you don't want that wished upon any parent.
LEMON: Did he talk about his treatment in custody?
QUINN: He did. He said they were treating him very well there. He had no complaints at all about how he was treated. So that was a good thing. I was glad to hear that after the fact.
LEMON: Senator, it's good to see, you know, our elected officials helping out especially in this particular situation. You and your team were very critical in this. How did you track Tyler down and get him to safety?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Well, first this was all about Tina and John. His parents never gave up and never let us give up. And what we did is we actually ended up working with our embassy in Moscow, and I think a lot of people don't know this but we actually have a U.S. ambassador in Moscow, Ambassador Sullivan, who's been there the entire time.
And I talked to him. He'd been to Minnesota. He'd actually been to Winona where Tyler is from for a hockey camp for his daughter. And we had a conversation not just with him, many. He knew all the details and he brought it to the Russians along with other matters that I think we were in the news early in this week.
And in the middle of all of this horrific war, which you're right in the middle of, Don, I want you to stay safe there. I was not too far away on the Polish border a few weeks ago, but you were right there. In the middle of all this the State Department took the time to find this American, and we're just so grateful for what the ambassador did and what Tyler's parents -- I love them. Thank you. I cannot wait to meet Tyler. I think Tina is planning some big reunion with us. So that's going to be great. But it's one moment of joy in a really hard week.
LEMON: Well, take lots of pictures and share them with us, please. John, I have to ask you when -- when do you expect Tyler and his wife and daughter will be home and reunited with the rest of the family?
QUINN: That's going to take some time. We don't know specifically how much time. But the attorneys have told us that it's going to be some length of time. It's just unspecified at the moment. The best things go along.
LEMON: Senator, President Biden was in Poland today and you mentioned you were there just a couple of weeks ago. The U.S. has pledged $1 billion in humanitarian aid, more sanctions against Russia. But President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants jets and tanks. Should that go to Ukraine, too?
KLOBUCHAR: I think what you're seeing right now is a major ramping up of the weapons, Don, from the 100 switch-- switchblade drones to 800 more Stingers just last week to thousands more Javelins. And having been meeting with the 82nd Airborne just like the president did, I'm sure I know what he saw. And that there's a lot of things that aren't all public that are going on right now in the aid not just from America but military help from our NATO allies.
It's really quite an incredible effort. And I think right now one of the main goals, of course, is the humanitarian aid to the towns that have been hit the hardest. You've seen those refugees flowing over the border, making sure that they have homes, the Polish people and people in neighboring countries have been just incredible.
And I think one of the things that Vladimir Putin did not expect was these crippling sanctions as well as the military aid that is coming into the country. And I think those determinations, I've said many times including on CNN here, I don't think we should give Vladimir Putin a road map to everything we're providing. But clearly, a lot of aid is being provided right now.
LEMON: Tina, I've got to give you the last word. You know, I can't -- what has it been since we talked two weeks or so?
HAUSER: Yes, a little bit.
LEMON: I know this has been an emotional roller coaster. What will -- what will it be like to hug your son again?
HAUSER: It can't be any better than when I heard his voice for the first time. It sounded like angels singing in my ear hearing his voice. It's going to be astronomical the feelings that are going to flow through me when I get to give my son a hug for the first time.
LEMON: It's so nice to be able to report some good news, Tina. I can hear your voice cracking, and thank you. I'm so happy for you, and forget we're on TV right now. I'm so happy. I thought about you so much after that. I told you I'm a mama's boy so I can't -- I just can't imagine what you were dealing with, but I know the strengths of moms and the prayers of moms and how that gets things done. So congratulations to you. I'm really happy for you. John, you as well. Thank you for joining us. And Senator, thank you for all of your work. All of you be safe. OK? Thank you.
HAUSER: Thank you.
QUINN: Thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you. Vladimir Putin wants you to believe that he is a victim of cancel culture instead of a perpetrator of war crimes. We're going to explain why and who he is comparing himself to. That's next. [22:30:00]
LEMON: President Biden in Poland today shoring up the western alliance in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. That as NATO has announced key troop movements to its eastern flank amid worries the conflict could spill over.
So joining me now to discuss is Ian Bremmer, he is the president of the Eurasia Group and the author of the upcoming book "The Power of Crisis."
Ian, I'm so happy that you're here. Let's talk about what -- what's going on. Putin wanted to fracture and weaken NATO, and instead his invasion united the alliance and now is bringing tens of thousands of troops closer to his borders. So, from a western perspective that looks like a failure but do you think he sees it that way?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: I think he does see it that way. At the very least we know how angry he has been with his senior military leadership. And so that means that the news of his performance is getting through to him.
I mean, there's always a danger when you have a leader that's been that isolated, you know, for two years with the pandemic and you see how far away he's sitting not just from Macron when he meets him, but even from his foreign minister you could worry maybe he really doesn't know what's going on.
Now I think at this point the Russian president understands that his plans for becoming Peter the Great and reviving a great Russian empire with removing Zelenskyy from power and taking over most of Ukraine, like that just is not happening. And the outcomes for Russia are going to be worse for him under any circumstance we see going forward.
LEMON: You know, Ian, there's this bizarre speech today that Vladimir Putin gave claiming that the west is trying to cancel Russia and then adding this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Children's book author J.K. Rowling was recently canceled because she, the author of books that spread far and wide and hundreds of millions of copies did not please the fans of the so-called gender freedoms.
Today, they are trying to cancel a whole 1,000-year-old country, our people. I'm talking about the increasing discrimination of everything related to Russia, about this trend which is unfolding in the number of western states.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We've heard some absurdities when it comes to people blaming quote, unquote, "cancel culture for their own failures," but what is Putin's point here trying to blame this war and then putting together that which J.K. Rowling and cancel culture. What is up with that?
BREMMER: I mean, you'll forgive me if I don't try to align Putin with Slytherin House here. I'm not going to go fully Harry Potter. But I do think that in the early days Putin was blaming Ukraine for acts of genocide against Russians in the occupied territory of Donbas. Now, that was obviously false.
But now he's increasingly saying no, no, no this isn't just about Ukraine going after Russians in Ukraine. This is actually about the west and the United States trying to destroy Russia.
And you see that across the Russian state media, all of the stories about biological weapons that the Americans are developing with Ukraine on the ground, the desire to destroy the Russian economy, to wipe Russia off the map historically.
So in other words Putin is trying to make this conflict bigger. He's losing in Ukraine and he's trying to make this about Russia versus NATO, which is fine as long as it's purely in the realm of rhetoric. But if it means that Putin is prepared to actually retaliate against NATO with cyber-attacks, with disinformation attacks or God forbid, worse, then we've got a lot bigger problem with Ukraine on our hands.
LEMON: Listen, you're talking strategy and geopolitical, you know, happenings. Cancel culture, Ian? I mean, that's not exactly the level that you're discussing this. You know, I think you're giving -- you're making this strategy a lot smarter on his part than it is, and him just throwing things against the wall to see what sticks, are just being absurd.
BREMMER: I'm not talking about -- I take your point, Don. I'm not talking about one sentence from Putin's speech. I'm talking about what I've been hearing and watching on the Russian media, Russian state television for the last two weeks. There's been a steady drum beat of escalation.
Look, Putin seems increasingly unhinged in the way he is talking about -- about the United States. This is a leader who thought he was going to win. And as you say at the beginning, Don, he's losing on every front. It's not just that the Europeans will have a much stronger defense capability against Putin, but the Ukrainians will be in place with a much stronger nationalism against Putin. And his own economy will be destroyed.
Putin's response doesn't seem like a leader who's prepared to accept reality at all in that regard. That worries -- it would seem sad and pathetic if Russia wasn't the 11th largest economy in the world with the bunch of nuclear weapons, but given the reality of what the power that Russia actually has, I'm a little concerned about it.
LEMON: Yes. And you know, to add more to what you're talking about, we're looking today at perhaps multiple setbacks for Putin's military, for the Russian military operation which has underperformed and sustained massive losses. Do you think Putin might try to identify a small victory in Ukraine, turn it into a big one as, you know, a face saving measure to call this a win for Russia?
BREMMER: They're saying he's underperformed is kind, Don. I mean, they're not even holding onto the one city that they took in Kherson in the south. They have taken a bunch of territory in the south, but they clearly can't take Kyiv, and they're not ordering a general mobilization of troops that would allow them to.
So, I mean, on the negotiations front it's interesting. They're saying actually their initial military plan wasn't to remove Zelenskyy. It wasn't to take Kyiv the capital but instead was actually to secure the former occupied territory of the Donbas. That's what they already had basically taken in 2014. So that's definitely moving the goal posts. It would make negotiations easier to proceed. Let's see if that's where the Russians actually go over the coming week.
LEMON: Ian, I always enjoy speaking with you. Thank you so much.
BREMMER: You too, Don. Be safe.
LEMON: President Biden rallying U.S. troops in Poland today. President Zelenskyy rallying a nation in Ukraine. Doris Kerns Goodwin is here to discuss presidential leadership and whether history is repeating or at least rhyming.
LEMON: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rallying Ukraine to keep up the resistance after a month of fighting the Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): I am grateful to our defenders who showed the occupiers that the sea will not be calm for them even when there is no storm. Because there will be fires and on those Russian ships that departed this week on the famous route from the port or Berdyansk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Joining me now is presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She is the author of the book "Leadership in Turbulent Times."
Doris, hello to you. It's always a pleasure to have you on. I enjoy our conversations so much, so thanks for joining us this evening.
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Me too. Thank you.
LEMON: The world is watching, they're watching -- absolutely. The world is watching two wartime presidents right now, I'm talking about President Biden and President Zelenskyy. And you're seeing echoes of history. Talk to me about that, please. GOODWIN: I think the echoes are really there not just because I've
loved history since I was a little girl. I see in Zelenskyy's ability to have rallied this nation and inspired the country and the world through his words echoes of Winston Churchill after Dunkirk.
I mean, just think of the mysteries of leadership. The words that Churchill provided after the devastating defeat at Dunkirk made the nation feel that somehow it was a rallying cry for the future. I mean, so hypnotic one historian said was, where this power that he used to spell to the people that they went forth into battle armed with his faith and his belief.
And I think that's what Zelenskyy has done as well. He's projected his courage and his own faith in the people, into the people themselves, and then they give it back to him. That's what leadership is about. It's an amazing mystery.
LEMON: Unlike Churchill, though, Doris, do you see Zelenskyy as more of an unlikely hero? As you mentioned a former comedian who played a president on a TV show?
GOODWIN: Well, you know, the funny thing is, Don, is that Churchill wasn't Churchill in 1940. He wasn't this great giant figure that we know now. He had had some defeats of his own in World War I. He'd been out of power for a period of time, and then comes that German attack on Western Europe, and the man met the moment, and he transformed himself and in so doing transformed the people.
So I think that's what we're seeing with Zelenskyy. There's something about him having been an actor and having to portray a role and believing so now in the Ukrainian people and being able to project that role onto those people that is probably fit.
He also understands media in a way that maybe someone else wouldn't have, those videos he puts out when he talks about we're going to have a future again, we're going to rebuild our cities, we're going to sing again. I mean, I just can't believe how people aren't inspired by that, and they are which is incredible.
LEMON: What is interesting to me, Doris, is how -- what this has done, the position that it's put our president in, President Biden in because Biden is now because of this, I believe, a large part because of this played a crucial role in unifying NATO to confront the bold -- the bold faced aggression of President Putin. I mean, he was challenged by President Zelenskyy to be the leader of the world. Has he done that so far?
GOODWIN: You know, the interesting thing is, I think in these weeks up to today when there's a public face of the leadership by calling NATO together, seeing that power of the example, speaking to the troops with empathy and going to the refugees. Before that he's been acting behind the scenes, so I think for weeks and weeks before this to bring compromise step by step, to keep NATO together. And that's what FDR really had to do in 1940 after Dunkirk. He was
facing an isolation to his public. He had limited supplies to send to England. But he was determined to send everything he could to England even though his generals told him if you send our limited supplies, we were only 18th in power then. We had hardly any modern tanks or any modern planes.
But he sent everything he could to England stealthily, and the general said to him if England then falls as they think they will in six months to Germany, and our weapons are found there you will be impeached or hung by a lamppost, but he did it.
And I think that's what President Biden has had to do, slowly move NATO, slowly move us, more and more weapons to get them to Ukraine. One of the things Churchill said was, give us the tools and we will finish the job. And I think that's where we're at right now with Ukraine, as much as we can get there to them, as much as we can do get them there and hopefully they could finish the job. What a great thing that would be.
LEMON: Yes, he met with key allies yesterday, President Biden. He is on a crucial mission in Europe. You say this is the most confident Biden has been, why? Why do you say that?
GOODWIN: Well, I just was listening to him yesterday at the press conference, and you just had a feeling that he was knowing that 36 years of experience in the Senate foreign relations committee, eight years as vice president and now more than a year of the presidency under his belt that he knows things. He knows those countries. He's been there for dozens of times. He knows the leaders, and I think that confidence was projected in the press conference.
It was as good as I'd heard him for a while, and now he's got to make that confidence and to the NATO partners and to keep going. And he showed the empathy to the troops when he spoke to them. The other, I think maybe this man has met his own as well. t would be good for all of us and good for the world if that so. Certainly, Zelenskyy has, and let's hope that President Biden has as well.
LEMON: Yes. You mentioned meeting with the troops. You met with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division in Poland today. He thanked them for their service. He even sat down for a slice of pizza. In a few hours he's going to meet with Ukrainian refugees. How important is his empathy in terms of a message to the world?
GOODWIN: I think what he's going to be able to do hopefully in meeting with the refugees is to be able to give gratitude to the neighboring countries. They have showed such extraordinary humanity now and generosity, we've got to feel proud of what they've been able to do.
When I see those strollers that the Polish put when the babies would be coming across the border, when they invited them to actually live in their homes. That's what makes you feel that there's something about humanity that's got to fight the brutality of what we're seeing on Putin's side. And I think that empathy that President Biden has had through his -
through his life really, through the adversities that he's had to experience not only the death of his son but early experiences in the death of his wife and his child, that's on display when he talked to the troops and he also gave them that real sense that we're fighting for something larger than just Ukrainians. Democracy that's at stake. And that's what Zelenskyy has been saying all along. And then if that's true, then we've got to get everything we can to them to keep that democracy alive.
LEMON: It seems like your overall theme, Doris, is meeting the moment when opportunity meets preparation. Am I wrong with my assessment of what you're saying about both men and where we are now?
GOODWIN: No, you're absolutely right and you can never really tell. I mean, who would have thought that Abraham Lincoln, you know, a one- term congressman with only four terms in the state legislature could meet the moment of the Civil War. We wouldn't have known about Churchill, as I said, we might not have known about Zelenskyy, and maybe we're finding out about Biden.
But there is something about the experiences of a person and their temperament they have and the qualities they have of humility and empathy and resilience that allows them to meet a moment. And then when they connect to the people, then the people respond.
I mean, in London after Churchill walked the streets at night just staying in the capitol refusing to leave and then there was a story about a shop owner whose windows had been shattered the night before, and he had a big sign, he said, come in, more open than usual. I loved it. More open than usual.
That means that that resilience the leader shows is translated into a thousand different people, hundreds of thousands, they showed the resilience and that's what we've been seeing day after day on CNN, the resilience and the hope that those people in Ukraine are providing and then they give it back to the leader.
LEMON: I know.
GOODWIN: That's the mystical two-way leadership that we're seeing.
LEMON: I almost forgot we're on TV for a moment. I thought I was sitting on my couch I was talking to you. Thank you very much, Doris. I appreciate it. And you have a great weekend. We love having you on again. So, please come back. Thanks.
GOODWIN: Thank you for having me with you.
Kharkiv bombed to ruins but its heart still beating. A cellist bringing back to the shattered streets of his home city, my conversation with him is next. [22:55:00]
LEMON: What you're listening to the haunted -- haunting melodies amid the shattered buildings of Kharkiv. One Ukrainian musician using his art to support his besieged hometown and bringing some beauty to his exhausted neighbors in a city that has seen more than 1,000 buildings and far too many lives destroyed by Russian bombs.
I spoke to cellist Denys Karachevtsev tonight about why he decided to do this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENYS KARACHEVTSEV, CELLIST: It was an idea how could I help my people? How can I be helpful for my country and for my city? And it was my way to do it. I hope that each of us can help in each other in their places. I'm a musician and I want to help my country but this way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: We'll be right back.