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The age of alternative facts; Imran Khan claims he's won a controversial election in Pakistan. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 26, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST, AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program. Ahead, an alternative universe in the age of Trump, renowned historian Simon
Schama on truth, lies and 1984.
Plus, is this a turning point for Pakistan, as Imran Khan goes from cricket hero to prime minister in waiting in a contentious election. My
conversation with Shireen Mazari, a member of Khan's PTI Party and Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Truth and lies separate democracies from dictatorships. In the land of the free press, the home of the First Amendment, a war rages on between the
executive and the Fourth Estate.
The latest shots were fired at CNN's Kaitlan Collins. The White House barred her from a major Rose Garden event on Wednesday for presuming to do
her job, the very routine tradition of asking the president questions during an Oval office photo-op.
Journalists immediately stood as one. Fox News says they are in strong solidarity with CNN, calling for a free and unfettered press.
But the White House seems to want its press coverage vetted and has done since the first days of this administration. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, THEN WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration - period - both in person and
around the globe.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: CNN is fake news. I don't take questions from CNN. CNN is fake news. I don't take questions from
Just remember what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that's the contest. And, of course, the last quote, President Trump flat-out rejecting what's out there in black and white did
send many of us back to the pages of George Orwell's 1984 with its infamous subversion of truth.
Remember this exchange between the protagonist Winston and his antagonist O'Brien. "How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes. Two and two
are four. Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes, they're five. Sometimes, they are three. Sometimes, they are all of them at once."
So, are we back to an Orwellian future? Historian Simon Schama joins me to discuss. Are we? back?
SIMON SCHAMA, HISTORIAN: I think there's a real danger of it, Christiane. I mean, when actually, the executive power decides what is real and what is
not, what is truth, what are lies - the extraordinary thing about Orwell's book and his own mood, he was actually - realized he had TB at the time.
He was very ill. It was the last thing he'd do. The book came out in 1949. He died in 1950.
The crucial thing, so soon after the war, was that everybody felt the bad guys, whether they're the Nazis or Stalin, that they essentially made their
badness work through violence, through war, through concentration camps.
Orwell, his life was about the power of words in politics, knew that the destruction of language was at least as powerful as concentration camp
guards and barbed wire.
So, his major point, when he described "newspeak", which is how big brother and that dictatorship achieved that power, was to talk about the narrowing,
the diminishment of language until it could be controlled by government.
AMANPOUR: Well, I wonder whether you equated or heard almost resounding similarity between what President Trump said and the precise words that
Orwell used in 1984. And he said, the party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. President Trump saying don't believe what
you see and read.
"It was their final most essential command," said Orwell. "And if all others accepted the lie, which the party imposed, if all records told the
same tale, then the lie passed into history and became the truth."
SCHAMA: Yes. It's also - very important authority, Marx - as in Chico Marx in "Duck Soup" says who you going to believe? Me or your own eyes,
and say lying eyes. But there is the sense really in which Orwell said something very powerful and the Hannah Arendt who wrote in a very similar
way in 1951 in "The Origins of Totalitarianism".
Said, if the enablers, if a cabinet or a government actually subscribed to the lie, two things happen. One is that they're tied by a feeling of guilt
and shame to keep on repeating the lie until it's legitimate for themselves and makes them feel kind of morally and certainly politically OK.
[14:05:12] And secondly, if the lie is found out, it's, like, oh, the head of the Boy Scouts did not phone me, oh, I did actually tell Don, Jr. what
to say, then people will shrug their shoulders and say all politicians to do do that. Cynicism works in favor of the liar in chief.
AMANPOUR: So, do you think that that is what's happening now because there is this extraordinary sort of moment. I mean, the tape that CNN played,
which to be frank the president was very angry about, the tape between Michael Cohen and himself.
AMANPOUR: And this is probably what led to the banning of Kaitlan Collins from the White House Rose Garden ceremony. So, he was very angry. But it
was a tape, it's out there, words are out there for everybody to see, and yet he's Teflon Don. It doesn't stick.
SCHAMA: Yes, I know. What we don't know because - well, maybe we'll find out in November. It won't stick with the cult devotees. We don't know how
many there are. We think there's a quarter, maybe it's a third of the country, who Donald Trump said, I could go out in 5th Avenue and shoot
someone and have no consequences. Maybe that would be the case.
Maybe they're actually more interested in loyalty to the supreme leader than they are in the First Amendment, than they are in truth. The kind of
complicated homework like idea that the imperishable legacy of our Constitution, what the founding fathers gave us, depends at least on there
being a clear line between fact and fiction.
So, there will be a lot of people who don't care about that. The issue for the life of a democracy is whether the majority of citizens repudiate that.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to ask you, though, we're obviously very exercised about this. We are the Fourth Estate. We take our job incredibly
seriously. We seek truth. We have facts first as our motto.
But President Trump is not the first one to go to war with the press. He has a little resume. Bill Clinton called the press, purveyors of hatred
and division. Ronald Reagan, if you remember, famously walking out of the White House, would constantly spar with Sam Donaldson, who would hurl
pointed and loud questions at him.
Lyndon Johnson, his credibility gap, the dishonesty over what was going on in Vietnam. And of course, President Grover Cleveland wouldn't even allow
reporters into the White House. And don't let's forget that there was President Nixon. Let us play the President Nixon soundbite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted reporting in 27 years of public
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, he didn't like the press.
SCHAMA: No. I mean, it goes back to - so far, we haven't if we want to cheer ourselves up. God knows it's hard these days. We are not at the
point of President John Adams, our second president, who passed the Sedition Act making opposition a punishable crime. That's where we are in
Turkey and in other places.
SCHAMA: Russia, absolutely, exactly. We are nowhere near that. And oddly, we feel - those of us, really, us wet libtards feel upset about all
this and feel that actually the presidents and the right wing live in their own echo chamber.
It's very heartening, by the way, that Fox News - very, very heartening. Some of the - best thing that's happened for a while that it did actually
So, we feel that the modern world of social media allows all those people to live in an echo chamber. But it also does not allow the president
really to have so much control or potential control over the press as might have been the case before the dispersal effect of social media.
AMANPOUR: It is interesting that the former president of Fox News, Bill Shine, is now deputy communications director at the White House.
I do actually want to play you a soundbite from Chris Ruddy, who himself is a businessman. He is a very close friend of the president and he often
sort of channels the president for the press, explaining his outbursts, his feelings. Let's have a quick listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS RUDDY, FRIEND OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think it comes out of emotion, which is he's very angry about the press treatment. You guys haven't given
him a moment to breathe ever since he was elected, people on this network, on MSNBC who were calling for his impeachment, I think even before he took
the oath of office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he has a fair point, right?
SCHAMA: No, poor snowflake. What kind of business does he think he's in. So, I think, actually, somebody else said, I think it was probably - it was
probably Press Secretary Huckabee who complained about disrespect. Disrespect is the oxygen of freedom.
Thomas Jefferson who actually - largely responsible for much of the First Amendment complained bitterly about the pollution of newspapers, but he
said, if I had to choose between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I would unhesitatingly choose the latter.
[14:10:03] You expect disrespect to come with the job. That is absolutely the difference between a healthy, robust, electorally alive republic and a
kind of sense that really decorum must rule.
AMANPOUR: You saw when we did our sort of mashup at the beginning, the first soundbite came from Sean Spicer. It was the classic dispute from day
one over the size of crowds.
AMANPOUR: Sean Spicer is now peddling his memoir.
AMANPOUR: And he was on television being interviewed by the BBC's Emily Maitlis and it got a little fiery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMILY MAITLIS, BBC ANCHOR: It was the start of the most corrosive culture. You played with the truth. You led us down a dangerous path. You have
corrupted discourse for the entire world by going along with these lies.
SPICER: I'm sorry, Emily. You act as though everything began and ended with that. You're taking no accountability for the many false narratives
and false stories that the media perpetrated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHAMA: Well, there are no such things as alternative facts.
SCHAMA: That's an oxymoron.
AMANPOUR: And false news where the actual real fake news that was peddled by factories in Macedonia.
SCHAMA: The president has a brilliant reptile brain. I mean, as Emily Maitlis said, whenever he sees or hears something he doesn't like, he
describes it as false news.
Sean Spicer's point a bit later on, a bit lame, said, well, my job basically was to represent the president. The issue is whether you
represent his fantasies or whether you represent not just his opinion.
And Trump often when pinned down says either two things. Well, we'll see or he says, well, there are people - as with the birther, there are people
out there who really believe this.
AMANPOUR: So, now, what is the pushback? Look, there are people who believe it. We know that. There are polls that show that many of the base
believe what he says about whatever it is, Russia, trade wars, this and that.
But he does change a lot, like tariffs are great, and now with the EU Commission president, he said we don't want any tariffs. His base is
hurting over tariffs and things. So, it does actually affect politics and it turns sort of things upside down.
What is the mechanism for protecting the truth and getting the truth out there in a way that's not viewed as a political weapon?
SCHAMA: Yes. Well, I think there are two things. One, it may be an impossible thing to ask for. But I actually do think the opposition, in
this case the Democratic Party, need to have kind of somebody who is not the Senate minority leader or the House spokesman of the Democrats because
I think they're regarded as institutionally dull, in some way part of the problem.
We actually need a leader of the opposition. We need a kind of rhetorical tribune, Cicero would have recognized that. It might be someone who
volunteers himself to be an upcoming candidate for the 2020 election or not.
But there needs to be, for example - if you want to say the difference between lies and truth is one of the issues of the upcoming election as
much as healthcare, as much as the treatment of immigrants, as much as a trillion dollar deficit.
Secondly, which is not a matter of words, and we'll see, what is clearly happening in the United States on both the right and the left is an
extraordinary mobilization of engagements. It's happening on the streets. It is happening in churches. It's happening in parent-teachers
association. You can't live in America as I do and not feel this electricity happening.
But the electricity has to deliver votes. And it is whether they can do that that will change everything.
AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating. It's a really important moment in history and thank you for giving us the long perspective, Simon Schama.
So, if any nation has used has used more double-talk to confound its allies and its adversaries, it is modern-day Pakistan. Are they pro or anti-
American? Are they working against terrorism or do Islamic militants secretly serve some of their interests? And will the latest election
herald a new dawn in a key part of the world?
Pakistan's hero cricketer, Imran Khan, has claimed victory in yesterday's hotly contested vote. His path to prime minister would be highly unusual,
leading Pakistan to World Cup triumph in 1992 before transforming into a flamboyant socialite and sex symbol.
In his latest incarnation, Khan styles himself as a pious reformer against corruption and poverty, upending decades of status quo Pakistani politics.
But polling has been heavily marred by accusations of fraud and violence. A bomb attack outside a polling station in Quetta killed at least 31
people, injuring dozens more. Khan inspires mixed feelings.
[14:15:01] And, first, we hear from Shireen Mazari, a member of Khan's PTI Party and the former chief whip, and she is joining me from Islamabad.
So, Ms. Mazari, welcome to the program. Tell us how you think a Prime Minister Imran Khan is going to change Pakistan, change the politics.
SHIREEN MAZARI, MEMBER, PTI CORE COMMITTEE: Well, first, I just want to make a little correction. I think it's not that Pakistan is anti or pro
the US. A lot of double-talk has come from the US. First, let's do more. Then, they say we're an ally, they can't do without us if they want peace
in Afghanistan. So, I think it worked both ways.
Pakistan will change under Imran Khan because Imran Khan does what he says he will do. He does not indulge in doublespeak. He doesn't say one thing
and do another.
We have proven that in the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which we won for the first time. And Khan set out to do exactly what he had committed,
which was revamped the governance system, especially the police, make it a professional force, remove it from political influence.
His environmental policy has been appreciated across the globe, the billion tree tsunami. So, Imran, for the first time coming into government in a
province, lived up to what he committed to. And that I think will be the big difference.
The second major issue is, he will - our agenda has been anti-corruption and human development and I think that is something that no leader in
Pakistan has focused on.
And the third point that Khan made today in his speech - first speech after being elected as the majority party, when he said we want peace in our
neighborhood, but peace through conflict resolution and dialogue.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, I want to just pick up on a few things. Look, you know, and you've had to fend off these accusations, and so has he, that
there has been a lot of complaints about the vote, the Pakistan Human Rights Commission has called it the dirtiest vote in a long time, that
there were allegations that the military saw in Imran Khan a pliable and convenient candidate for them.
And people are very, very concerned about what that might mean for the future because we know that Nawaz Sharif, the previous prime minister, was
arrested and he was off the playing field and that gave Imran the kind of traction he hadn't had before.
MAZARI: Well, the fact of the matter is the ex-prime minister was found guilty of money laundering and corruption.
Now, if he has broken the law and he has been convicted, then I'm afraid he has to go to prison like any other convict. So, let's get that clear.
The second issue is, if the military had designed and stage-managed the whole election, please look at the figures of the seats that Nawaz Sharif's
party has won, including in Punjab.
What has happened is that the religious parties have lost out in a big way in Pakistan. The old, corrupt, suspected leadership of different parties
has lost out in a big way.
Karachi is a prime example where the PTI has made a lot of gains because the parties in power did not deliver.
Bilawal Bhutto lost and came number three in Lyari, which at one stage was regarded as a People's Party stronghold.
So, people have risen in Pakistan. They've had enough of corruption, of the status quo and that has what is given Imran Khan the support and the
votes that he needs to bring about change in Pakistan.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, address what a lot in the rest of the world worry about, and that is Imran Khan saying he would reject US aid. Imran Khan in
the past has been perceived as being too pro-Taliban. I'd say that as sort of a code, but too wanting to talk to them. He's been very much disputing
- he talks about the blasphemy laws. These are very controversial religious issues here.
MAZARI: He has clarified, A - let's be very clear, the US would like to talk to the Afghan Taliban because they know that, without the Taliban
coming to the dialogue table, they can't have peace, a substantive peace in Afghanistan.
So, what Imran Khan was saying before the US - it took the US many more years, many more deaths in Afghanistan, many more terror attacks, to come
to the conclusion, at the end of the day, that they can't win peace in Afghanistan through war. They have to dialogue with the Taliban and the
unity government in Afghanistan.
[14:20:03] The other issue is, today, Khan, in his first speech, made very clear that he will establish a Pakistan where all minorities, all the
downtrodden are given their due rights according to the constitution of Pakistan.
And the main point for Imran is to have justice and equality for all under the rule of law.
MAZARI: The rich and the powerful cannot be above the law.
AMANPOUR: OK. Well, we will see how the final vote shakes out. Shireen Mazari from Imran Khan's PTI Party, thank you for joining us.
And we are going to turn next to Husain Haqqani, who is, of course, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States and he's joining me from
Husain Haqqani, you heard from the PTI Party member. First and foremost, as a former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, what do you think
relations - where do you think they're headed under an Iman Khan prime ministership?
HUSAIN HAQQANI, FORMER PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO THE US: Christiane, let me begin by saying that Imran Khan has been trying to become Pakistan's prime
minister for 21 years.
Now that the prize is within his reach, I don't want to rain on his parade. But the fact is that Pakistan will not change significantly because all
power, all modes of power are in the hands of the Pakistani military.
In fact, we just heard talking points given to Ms. Mazari probably by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence. So, in that situation, all that
will change is that Imran Khan will speak a little more about corruption and ending corruption, but then he has already taken many, many people he
previously accused of corruption in the other two major parties and he has already taken them in his party.
I think we will have a lot of rhetoric on everything, including relations with the United States. The fundamental issue of Pakistan acting against
terrorists, not being a terrorist safe haven will not be addressed and, therefore, US-Pakistan relations will continue on their up-down trajectory
that they have for many, many years now.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm really fascinated by this. Why do you think - because those who have hurled these accusations at him of being sort of staged
managed by the military or being their preferred candidate, why would that be? Why would he be in their interest?
HAQQANI: Well, let's start off by acknowledging one thing. Imran Khan has been consistently speaking out against corruption. And corruption is a
real problem in Pakistani politics.
That said, another bigger problem in Pakistan's politics has been the military's constant meddling in politics. We've had four coups since the
country came into being. We've had several ousters of governments. You've covered some of them. And we've had military dictators like Pervez
Musharraf, who were amongst the first to congratulate Khan on his election.
The reason why it's in their interest is the same reason that they supported Nawaz Sharif in 1990 when he started his political career. They
always want somebody who is willing to bat for them.
And Mr. Khan, of course, has a lot of experience of batting in cricket; now, he's willing to bat for the Pakistani military. He will give them a
civilian facade, so that they can go to the international community and say Pakistan has had elections, we have an elected leader, talk to him, while
they continue to wield real power behind the scenes.
And they don't want peace with India without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, which is unrealistic, in my humble opinion. They don't want a
settlement of Afghanistan contrary to their wishes. They want to have a veto over there. They want the Taliban to have a greater share of the
Afghan pie than they deserve on the basis of their numerical strength.
They certainly have been responsible for spoiling Pakistan's relations with three of its four neighbors. And Pakistan is right now facing a major
financial crisis. Imran Khan seems to have no plan for it, how will Pakistan pay its debts. Certainly, not like retrieving money that he says
the corrupt have accumulated.
AMANPOUR: It is the most complex place in the world just about, and yet it is one of the most important parts of the world. We know that certainly in
the post 9/11 world.
And as I was saying to Shireen Mazari, Imran Khan says he wants to reject US aid into Pakistan, exit the war on terror and reduce US influence in
Let's just play a little bit of what he said just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IMRAN KHAN, LEADER, PTI PARTY (through translator): I want a relationship, a good beneficial relationship with America. It's beneficial for
everybody. Unfortunately, they have been one way at the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, he's saying they've been one way at the moment. And actually, President Trump has said they've been one way at the moment, but
from the opposite way. He's basically said, "The US has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years. They've
given us nothing, but lies and deceit back, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan with
little help. No more."
[14:25:14] Now that has been a complaint of successive US leaders.
HAQQANI: It is. And I've written a whole book on the subject going back to the 1950s. Here's the problem. Pakistan inherited from the British Raj
17 percent of British India's resources, but 33 percent of its army.
Pakistan has always presented its army as the lucrative attraction for the United States. We will help you against communism. We will help you fight
the Soviets in Afghanistan.
In the process, the Pakistan Army virtually has become synonymous with Pakistan. And they do not see it in their interests now to do what the
Americans want them to do, hence this pushback that, you know what, this relationship is not beneficial to us just as it's not beneficial to you.
We want a good relationship, but we can't do what you want us to do.
Very frankly, I think that it might be a good thing for Pakistan to try and find out if actually it can do on its own without the large influx of
Pakistan exports only $22 billion worth of goods every year, whereas it imports double that amount. It has to depend on aid. If somebody reduces
dependency on aid, that will be a good thing.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, we hope to talk to Imran Khan. We have invited him and we hope so once the vote is final and all the results are
So, Husain Haqqani, thanks for joining us.
That is it for our program. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.