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Candidates Tackle Foreign Policy in First Debate; The Clinton-Trump Debate in Context; The History of American Presidential Debates; Victory for the Vulnerable. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired September 27, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:10] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, the first face-off as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton went head to head in that televised
What is the rest of the world to make of their jibes about terrorism, ISIS, Russia, NATO and even fitness for office?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I said she doesn't have the stamina, and I don't believe she does have the stamina. To be
president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a
release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional
committee, he can talk to me about stamina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A foreign policy perspective with the former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer. Plus, a look back at the history of
U.S. presidential debates with award-winning write Jill Lepore.
Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Now the first debate between Hillary Clinton and
Donald Trump has been officially declared the most watched debate in American history with 18 million people tuning in.
But it wasn't just Americans watching last night. Alarm clocks were being set from Berlin to Beijing, from Africa maybe all the way to Antarctica.
Because around the world, people wanted to get up and get the a clue about who came off most presidential and what that will mean for them.
Clinton and Trump sparred over dozens of topics. On the foreign policy front, they clashed over NATO, trade, Iraq and ISIS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: She's telling us how to fight ISIS. Just go to her Web site. She tells you how to fight ISIS on her Web site. I don't think General Douglas
MacArthur would like that too much.
HOLT: The next segment, we're continuing the subject of...
CLINTON: Well, at least I have a plan to fight ISIS.
TRUMP: No, no, you're telling the enemy everything you want to do.
CLINTON: No, we're not. No, we're not.
TRUMP: See, you're telling the enemy everything you want to do. No wonder you've been fighting -- no wonder you've been fighting ISIS your entire
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Now, before the debate, the polls had tightened so much that American allies and adversaries are contemplating an idea they once thought
was outlandish, that Donald Trump might win.
His foreign policy views often, though, take a sharp turn from previous American president including Republicans.
So what are D.C.-based diplomats telling their presidents and prime ministers, their kings and queens back home about a future U.S.
Joining me here is Sir Christopher Meyer. He's the former British ambassador to the United States. Welcome.
SIR CHRISTOPHER MEYER, FORMER BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: You were one of those millions around the world presumably who set your alarm clock to watch this.
AMANPOUR: And what would you be saying if you were still sitting in Washington, D.C.? What would your report back to headquarters be?
MEYER: In a nutshell, we have always thought up to now that this man is temperamentally unfit to be president of the United States, and he said
nothing during the debate to dispel that image.
AMANPOUR: What particular nothing? Because, look, let's face it, you have worked for both Labour prime ministers and Tory prime ministers. You are a
career Foreign Service official. So presumably politics and ideology doesn't weigh in here.
MEYER: Well, the first thing I would say is that he is significantly ignorant on key elements of foreign policy with which he should by now
reasonably familiar. And we saw that over a whole host of subjects during the hour and a half. He is epically challenged to an enormous degree.
AMANPOUR: What do you mean by that?
MEYER: I mean, he showed himself to be a last night -- a bigot, a racist, he didn't tell the truth. And we didn't even get on to his dubious
business dealings with Putin's Russia and elsewhere in the world.
AMANPOUR: Well, you mention Russia, because that --
MEYER: (INAUDIBLE), you cannot be president of the United States.
AMANPOUR: So then what will people -- because this is really very serious beyond Trump-Clinton. What will leaders around the world, what will
colleagues of yours, you know, whether they are from the Middle East, whether they are from Asia, whether they are from Latin America, what will
they be telling their leaders how to prepare for a potential Trump presidency? Because as I said, the polls are very, very close.
MEYER: Well, I think ambassadors in Washington have a devil of a task because part of the problem in the run-up to a presidential election is to
find people who are close to the candidate who have the voice of the candidate with whom you can then start making contact because you know that
they're going to be in the administration if the candidate wins. And they're already at that stage to try to influence their thinking.
For example, 2000, George W. Bush versus Al Gore. Bush largely unknown factor. Much underestimated. But he had already at this stage appointed
people around him to advise him on foreign policy.
So the mass ranks of ambassadors in Washington, D.C. could go and see this people and start talking substance. As far as I know, there is nobody,
nobody, close to Trump who can do that.
AMANPOUR: And that also is very interesting because I've heard many diplomats ask who are the key foreign policy advisers. And, as we know,
you know, huge section of the Republican National Security and Foreign Policy sort of intelligentsia, if you like, all of those who are known to
the world and worked with many, many different administrations. Many of them are not working for him. But I --
MEYER: Walked away, apparently.
AMANPOUR: Yes, they have walked away, in fact. And many in his own party have a lot of questions about his foreign policy bid. But I want to put to
you issues that were raised last night.
Again, one of the most controversial is really about NATO because what Donald Trump has said definitely goes against what Republican and
Democratic presidents, not to mention the whole rest of the NATO alliance, have thought as gospel ever since the Second World War. That America and
the allies will come to the help of each other if, for instance, there was a Soviet, but even if there is a Russian invasion.
Let us see what Trump and Clinton said about this last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I haven't given lots of thought to NATO. But two things.
Number one, the 28 countries of NATO, many of them aren't paying their fair share. Number two -- and that bothers me, because we should be asking --
we're defending them, and they should at least be paying us what they're supposed to be paying by treaty and contract.
And, number two, I said, and very strongly, NATO could be obsolete.
AMANPOUR: So obsolete? It could be obsolete. And this transactional idea of you'll get our umbrella of protection if you pay your fair share. Yes,
MEYER: This is heresy. It kicks away one of the pillars of the transatlantic community, of the Atlantic alliance. Because with all
American presidents -- all my professional career have complained about the Europeans not pulling their weight in NATO. Not paying enough into the
pot. A burden sharing, I think, is a jargon.
This has always been an issue on the two sides of the Atlantic. And President Obama himself a few months ago said the allies need to make a
greater contribution to their defense. And that's all right. That's fair enough.
But when he then goes to the next phase which says that the famous or notorious Article V, which obliges all members to come to the help of
another member who is under attack, and of course this is very relevant when Putin is looming over the Baltic states, for example, all of whom are
NATO members, he is actually driving a dagger, switch that into the heart of the alliance. And this is a matter of dismay for all members of North
Atlantic Treaty Organization.
AMANPOUR: So it is obvious in most of the conversations we have that most people around the world are less comfortable with the idea of a Trump
president and more comfortable with the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency because they know her, right? Is that fair?
MEYER: That is absolutely fair. Hillary is -- I was about to say the devil we know, but Hillary is the person we know. She's been secretary of
state for a full term.
AMANPOUR: And on policy, even though you know her, on policies, for instance what might she do different than the Obama administration to try
to stop Syria. And as we know Syria wasn't even mentioned except for they talk about ISIS. But ISIS is not really Syria. It's the Assad regime and
Russia right now.
MEYER: (INAUDIBLE) for new thinking. Slightly different thinking, different approaches on how you deal with Syria. After all, everything
that we've done so far, and Senator Kerry had rarely seen a secretary of state make a greater effort to try and bring the fighting to a conclusion.
There is plenty of scope for new thinking and new approaches, or slightly different approaches. No one I know in the western world is uncomfortable
with the thought that Hillary Clinton will be president of the United States when we have all these problems to deal with. We can work with her.
[14:10:00] AMANPOUR: And you've talked about problems. It is probably, and it's been written that this is probably the nexus of the most serious
challenges that are buffeting the world all at once -- whether it's war in Syria, whether it's refugee crisis, whether it's climate change, whether
it's the economy, globalization, rise of populism, the threat of Putin to the Baltics and others.
So it's a very, very important time. But just to try to be fair here, he did meet -- Donald Trump did meet the Egyptian president el-Sisi in New
York last week, who said that he, quote, unquote, "Had no doubt that Trump would be a strong president."
The Chinese premiere said at a forum in New York that no matter who was elected, he had no doubt that U.S./China relations would continue a pace.
That's -- I guess the question really is most people say that no matter what, whoever is elected president will be constrained by, you know,
decades of American foreign policy orthodoxy.
Does that give you some comfort?
MEYER: It gives me some comfort. But I think before being entirely comfortable with that idea, I would like to know who his close advisers
will be. Who will be his chief-of-staff? Who will be his national security advisor? Who will be his secretary of state? And who will be his
defense secretary? Once you know who those --
AMANPOUR: But she hasn't said that either yet, has she?
MEYER: No, but you're comfortable with her record. The thing is Hillary has a record, has a record as long as your arm. So this gives people
comfort because she is a familiar quantity.
Donald is unchartered waters, unchartered territory. And that is the problem.
And I can put it in another way. We are actually -- you mentioned all these things that are coming together in a perfect storm. In a sense the
whole post-second world war dispensation, the institution, everything, are unraveling today.
And the question for the world -- here in the United States of America is - - will the next inhabitant, occupant of the Oval Office be an unraveller or a reveller, trying to put all these things back together again. And that
is the worry about Donald trump.
AMANPOUR: And that is the most important point.
MEYER: I think so.
AMANPOUR: So interesting. The idea of trying to fix all, it's a huge task for whoever gets into the office.
Sir Christopher Meyer, thank you very much indeed for that unique perspective.
So if Monday night's debate was the most anticipated in recent history, we are going to go back in time next. How does Clinton-Trump compare with
let's say Reagan-Mondale in 1984?
You may remember this zinger that still lives on. President Reagan tackling his own advanced age head-on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political
purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome back.
The first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came 56 years to the very day after the first-ever televised presidential debate. That was
between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960.
And that experience was so devastating for Nixon that it would be another 16 years before presidential candidates would agree to debate again.
My next guest has been writing about this surprising and rich tradition of political face-offs, going back 158 years to the famous Lincoln-Douglas
Jill Lepore, historian and staff writer for "The New Yorker," joins me now from New York.
AMANPOUR: Jill, welcome to the program.
So I guess in context of everything that you've written about. And, you know, we mentioned the Nixon/Kennedy debate, which was so traumatic, how do
you think this one went in a historical context?
[14:15:40] JILL LEPORE, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: I think this one went surprisingly well in a sense that it was genuinely illuminating of the
They performed more or less to expectations within the boundaries of what we would expect of either of them. But it did do the work of acquainting
voters -- that number of voters who for some reason -- they haven't really been paying attention to the election thus far and maybe this scant number
of people on the planet who don't know much about Trump and Clinton. It got them acquainted with them in a meaningful way.
And I think that had a lot to do with the format which was a real change from previous debates.
AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about that because the format, I think, was quite surprising in that there was very little of what you've described as
sort of a press conference by panel. And much more of a, you know, a more retiring moderator, allowing both politicians to put their positions and
LEPORE: Yes. I mean, one thing I think we tend to forget is that the United States actually founded in a debate. You know, the constitutional
convention was a debate with debating rules where delegates got up and decided what kind of a government should we have?
And then the people ratified that constitution in ratifying debate that were held and that were published. So there is a long standing tradition
of debate that's essential to American political traditions. And these general election debates where people from the two parties, sometimes from
a third party, share a stage especially in a polarizing political time are really crucial to kind of advancing a conversation.
What had been so interesting about these televised presidential debates which as you say began in a kind of staggering way in 1960 is that the
technology in some ways gets in the way of what you really want to have in a debate, where you really, ideally in a debate, even kind of Oxford-style
debate, you want clash. You want two people to engage with one another, to face one another, to talk to one another, to counter one another's
arguments, to refute each other's evidence.
And what had happened with Nixon and Kennedy beginning in 1960 is that candidates have gotten used to a new format that television provided which
is the televised conference, where you just talk to the monitor -- like I'm talking to you. You can ask me questions, I can answer questions.
There could be someone else in the room. I could just be -- for all you know, there is and I'm just ignoring them. And that's -- that's awkward
and it's not edifying in a way.
So the commission on presidential debates this time around set new rules to try to encourage --
AMANPOUR: That is good, because -- that's good. So now I want to ask you the following, because obviously, you know, each candidate will have their
battery of advisers, will presumably have done a huge amount of prep work, obviously that was an issue, how much prep work was done by each candidate
But in terms of taking the bait, people wondered and in fact John Kasich advise, he was obviously in the primaries against Donald Trump, advised
Hillary Clinton not to take Trump's bait. That he would continue baiting her.
But in fact it seemed like tables were flipped last night. I want to play what people have described as the baiting part of last night's debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: He started his business with $14 million borrowed from his father.
TRUMP: My father gave me a very small loan in 1975, and I built it into a company that is worth many, many billions of dollars.
CLINTON: You wouldn't pay what the man needed to be paid, what he was charging --
TRUMP: Maybe he didn't do a good job.
CLINTON: Donald supported the invasion of Iraq.
CLINTON: That is absolutely proved over and over again.
CLINTON: He even said, well, you know, if there were nuclear war in the East Asia, well, you know, that's fine, you know. Have a good time, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you know, what did you make of that? Were you surprised that the tables were somewhat turned, and he allowed her to get under his
skin or did he not? What do you think? What was your analysis of that?
LEPORE: I think within the range of possible behavior from Trump, that was a restrained response. She did get under his skin and in the kind of
classical, rhetorical move of showing not telling. She didn't stand up there and say Donald Trump is, you know, will unravel before your very
She showed that he would unravel if she egged him on again and again and again. And he didn't completely unravel. He didn't utterly lose it by any
And certainly people who've watched Trump have seen him lose it in a lot more meaningful sense than he did on live television last night.
AMANPOUR: So you think he did --
LEPORE: But she did prodded him in a way.
AMANPOUR: You think he did better than expectations?
LEPORE: No, I don't. I think that she has a narrow band of behavior in which she can be deemed acceptable and he has a very wide band of behavior
in which he can be deemed acceptable. So within that he stayed more or less within that band, which I'm not sure that that is by any stretch a
success. I think she was extremely effective at having him reveal himself to the voters.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask --
LEPORE: Which was one of her objectives.
AMANPOUR: And, her, too, how was she revealed to the voters? We can do it in a second.
I want to ask you about, you know, memorable lines.
We played, you know, this amazing comedic line that Ronald Reagan delivered to Walter Mondale about age and turning that on its head. But he really
was the master of zingers that have live down through the ages.
This is a zinger Ronald Reagan delivered in his first debate with Jimmy Carter, and I believe it was on the Medicare issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Reagan, again, typically is against such a proposal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor?
REAGAN: There you go again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, it's short, but it's sweet.
There you go again has been repeated throughout the year since then.
Did anybody deliver any of that last night? Any memorable lines?
LEPORE: No, not memorable in the successful sense. I think one of the most memorable in fact, the line that will haunt Trump from this debate is
the line when he said that it was smart of him to not pay federal income taxes. That indeed were the case, that that was a smart thing for him to
That was an inadvertent admission. Not a successful delivery of a well- rehearsed line. Reagan was, of course, the master of that. He's sort of veteran Hollywood actor. The master of television.
You would have expected Trump, in fact, to have more of those zingers. But I think he was trying to walk a line, and you could see him visibly doing
it on the screen near the end when he had really sort of fallen apart. He was shaking, he was nervous, he was slightly confused and rambling, and he
kind of talked himself through whether or not he should deliver one of his what seemingly prepared zinger about Clinton and her husband's
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about what you expect in the next round. Because, again, the format is changing.
The next one is going to be a town hall event. It's very different.
I want to play this sort of exchange between Barack Obama and John McCain who were vying against each other back in 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ten days ago, John said that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. I do not think that they are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say it directly to him.
Oh, well, John, ten days ago, you said the fundamentals of the economy are sound.
JOHN MCCAIN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you afraid I couldn't hear him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just determined to get you all to talk to each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, isn't that the big challenge. Getting them all to talk to each other.
You think we're on a route, Jill, to see them talking to each other more, will we see more of that going forward in this -- in the next couple?
LEPORE: It's absolutely the case that it's been a priority of the commission on presidential debates that sponsors these things.
They have deliberately changed the rules. They changed them in 2008 to get McCain and Obama to talk to one another and McCain just refused do it.
What's been the case and the reason there was that long gap of 16 years between the first debate in 1960 and then the second in 1976 is the
candidates can just walk away.
And I think that you ask what to expect looking ahead, it's not beyond the pale that Trump would refuse to participate in one or two of the next
remaining debates. Because there is a long tradition of presidents refusing to abide by the rules that the commission sets.
AMANPOUR: I don't think anybody is expecting him not to turn up, though.
Jill Lepore, thank you very much, indeed, for that look back and look forward.
LEPORE: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And when we come back, the issue which was shockingly left out of the first presidential debate any meaningful discussion of the ranging
war in Syria and the devastating crisis for refugees.
We imagine their world with some much needed good news after a break.
[19:26:35] AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where the most vulnerable, the least wanted, do score a victory.
You may remember the story we told you three weeks ago about Alan and Gyan, the disabled siblings who climbed mountains, strapped to donkeys and
abandon their wheelchairs to crossed oceans in small rickety boats getting away from the war that's decimating their home in north-eastern Syria.
The last time we saw Alan, he was in the Ritsona refugee camp in Greece, living in a tent with his family and whiling away his time teaching English
to the children there.
Well, now after almost seven months, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees has helped move Alan, Gyan and their family out of the camp into a hotel
Alan told Amnesty International that he is so grateful to be in there, but he made a plea for all those still languishing at the Ritsona camp.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN MOHAMMAD, SYRIAN REFUGEE: I want to say for all the world, please save them. They are human beings like you. And they deserve all the best.
Please don't forget them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And, of course, what Alan and his family really want is permission to join their father in Germany. To that end, they have also
just had their first meeting with officials to launch their asylum claim.
Perhaps there will be a happy ending for this Syrian family because God knows all those still under heavy bombardment there face a terrifying fate.
That's it for our program tonight.
And coming up next on CNN, the U.S. presidential debate replayed in full.
Thank you for watching, and good-bye from London.