Return to Transcripts main page
Trump's State of the Union, A Double-Edged Sword; Interview with Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, Scott Jennings and Former Special Adviser to President Obama, Van Jones; El Paso, One of the Safest Communities in the Country; Interview with U.S. House Democrat, Veronica Escobar; Why America Should Break Up. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 6, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Members of Congress, the state of our union is strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Trump tout's unity only to fall back on the divisions that will define the 2020 presidential race. I'll hear from both sides of
Plus, as yet another government shutdown looms just nine days from now, it's deja vu all over again with the president still standing by his wall.
Texas congresswoman, Veronica Escobar, on why the president has the border all wrong.
And with all this division across the United States, should the country just call it quits and break up? Comedian Colin Quinn on the role of humor
in our fractious time.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Just over a week before the American government is once again set to shut down, the president's State of the Union was a double-edged sword. On the
one hand, parrying a call for bipartisan cooperation, while on the other hand, offering no real signs of compromise on the ideological divides that
stifle Washington and much of the nation.
There were those supportive chants of USA from the president's Republican cohorts while a large block of Democrats often sat in disapproving silence.
Much of the president's rhetoric was largely signposted ahead of time, tough on trade, immigration and ending foreign wars.
But beneath it all, was this about the next presidential election? Playing the long game with some insights into how he hopes to frame the narrative
and his future Democratic opponent. While for the short-term, talking up the economy and lambasting the Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that could stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous
If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, let's discuss for and against the motion with Van Jones, the former White House adviser to President Obama, and Scott Jennings, former
assistant to President George W. Bush.
Gentlemen, welcome to the program.
Let me first ask you, Scott Jennings, your take away from last night, was it convincing, was it strong, was it coherent?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I think it was a good speech. There were a couple of moments that he could
have done without, in my opinion. I don't think the talk about the caravan works for him at a policy or a political level and I thought the line about
war with North Korea was misplaced and probably didn't belong in the final draft.
However, everything else, I think, would sound reasonable and the snap polling that was conducted after the speech show that most people responded
positively to what he had to say. I think he threw some knives out there to some groups that he really needs to talk to, principally, the
independent voters who don't really love either party. He cast himself as above that political fray. He castigated both parties and their leaders
for failing to solve problems.
Overall, I think Conservatives and Republicans are happy. If he can stick with this kind of a message, I think it really sets up nicely for him if
you consider that was the kickoff to his campaign.
AMANPOUR: Well, Van Jones, what do you think? Was this, as we positive at the beginning, a kickoff to the 2020 campaign and do you think the
Democrats, your party, came out thinking that this was good for them or like Scott says the Republicans and Conservatives felt that they came away
with a lot of red meat?
VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Look, it was a mixed bag and that was -- part of their frustration of the speech is that there's
been this buildup, this is going to be a unifying speech and there were parts of that that were very unifying. There were -- you know, I was
brought to tears when he had Miss Alice Johnson stand up and she -- you know, who -- somebody who he had personally freed from prison and other
things like that.
But then, also, the rhetoric against the immigrant community was so harsh that for a progressive like myself it really just drowns out everything
else. I had to wake up this morning and go back to the speech because it - - he is so tough on the immigrant community and it's causing real problems for real people, you know, having immigrants being spat on in stores and
children being -- you know, being a bully.
And so, I think that his rhetoric as well as his policies on immigration are so awful that it makes it hard for liberals and progressives to hear
anything else he says.
AMANPOUR: So, let's sort of take it step by step then. You know, on the idea of bipartisanship and trying to, at least, in some parts of the
speech, talk about bipartisanship and, you know, unity, let's just play this soundbite from the president then we'll get you both to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK. So, you know, that sounds really good, that's what, presumably, a lot of people want to hear. But the only problem, Scott, is
that before all of that, we understood from the off the record conversations he had had with the T.V. anchors, as is traditional before a
State of the Union. he had used an epithet to describe Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, SOB, I think.
So, before I play the Schumer soundbite, how does this work, Scott, for your party? How can you, as the president says, get beyond revenge?
JENNINGS: Well, the president, I think, is looking at a divided Congress right now that has so far shown no interest in working with him at all. It
strikes me that what he's worried about is that their only interest is in politics, ending this presidency as early as possible, making him as
irrelevant as possible, that's what he thinks is happening.
And what he wants to set up is a messaging war here where they look intransigent and he looks like the person that's willing to compromise. He
wants to look like the person that wants to bring people together versus the obstructionists.
Now, this could work for him at a political level if the Democrats refuse to work with him on every single issue. And so, I think it would behoove
the Democrats to find a couple of places where they can show they can work with the other party to govern, but that's what the president is trying to
set up here is that he wants to work with folks and the Democrats don't.
AMANPOUR: So, Van, I can see you busy shaking your head but I do want to play Chuck Schumer response, which goes to a lot of what Scott saying and
perhaps what you're going to say too. So, let's do that and then, Van, we'll get you to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER: You know, you can't talk about committee and working together and give a speech that is so divisive,
that just doesn't fly. So, in the areas where he tried to reach out, you know, drug prices, transportation, infrastructure, there was no meat, there
was no enthusiasm, all the enthusiasm was for the divisive parts like immigration, abortion and things like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Van, so, this section (ph) describing the tone off, but admitting that there are areas where the policies could actually work
together. Is that a basis full some bipartisan policy making going forward?
JONES: I certainly hope. I see it a little bit differently from Scott and that, you know, Democrats did work with the president in a bipartisan way
on criminal justice reform and you had groups from Freedom Works and America Conservative Union and Koch Industries working with, you know,
cut50, FAM (ph), ACLU and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in some way.
So, you have had bipartisanship on criminal justice, you had bipartisanship on opioids. No, I think you could have bipartisanship on drug prices or on
infrastructure. So, I do think that there is a way forward. I do think -- I agree with Scott, it would be a mistake for Democrats to just sit on
their hands and refuse to cooperate on anything.
But at the same time, I think that what he is doing is a kind of a -- what we call a kind of phony populism where he says he's for the working folks
but then his tax bill helps the rich folks and he's dividing working people based on where they were born and sometimes the color of their skin and
that mishmash of kind of good and bad all together with good stuff marbled in the toxic stuff is something that just makes it hard for people to trust
his intentions and want him to be successful as a president.
And he can say, you know, "Please cut off with the resistant stuff," and I think, you know, we say, "Please cut off with some of these racial dog
whistles and sometimes racial bull horns and we would all be better off."
AMANPOUR: So, it's interesting you say you want to see the president -- you know, nobody wants to see a president fail. And in fact, even the
Democratic response, Stacey Abrams from Georgia, who had run on successfully for governor there, she did this response and she said the
same thing, she wants the president to succeed, she doesn't want to see a president of the United States to fail.
However, this is what President Trump and Stacey Abrams said about the key issue that seems to be plaguing this administration, the opposition and the
showdown over the border wall is about immigration, and here's what they've both said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Tens of thousands of innocent Americans are killed by lethal drugs that cross our border and flood into our cities, including meth, heroin,
cocaine and fentanyl. The savage gang, MS-13 now operates in at least 20 different American States and they almost all come through our southern
STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GEORGIA HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We know bipartisanship could craft a 2first Century immigration plan, but this
administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart. Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders.
President Reagan understood this, President Obama understood this, Americans understand this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: She's, isn't she, Scott? Americans do understand. It's all the polls that show a majority of Americans, you know, don't necessarily
believe the very heated rhetoric. And frankly, the full statistics that come out of this White House.
So, we know that there are a lot of false statistics about what happens at the border, where the drugs come in, where the illegal immigrants come in,
how it -- how this all happens and it's usually at main points of entry, not at the border.
So, given that, how do you see, going forward, two more years on this term and potentially 2020, how do both parties -- and let me ask you, Scott,
first, get -- go forward on this unbelievable issue of immigration?
JENNINGS: Well, I hope they do go forward because we've been stuck for many, many years. Both parties have failed at this over and over and over
again. I think Americans are getting sick and tired of the failure.
I think the president here is looking for a way to be able to tell his people that we've got the barriers that the Border Patrol says we need,
that we are stopping drugs, that we are stopping human trafficking and that we are making sure that violent people aren't getting into the country. I
think the Democrats are looking for more comprehensive fixes on the immigration front as well.
And it strikes me that a deal could be made at this moment because Donald Trump is the only person that could sell the entire Republican Party, his
base, on a comprehensive solution. That's what's been so frustrating about this for people like me who've been wanting an immigration deal for a long
time. If Trump blesses a deal, the Republicans will follow him.
And I feel like the elements of it are there, he's come down from the concrete wall, he now says steel barriers, he mentioned more legal
immigration last night, which was a major departure from his previous statements, it feels like to me he's moving around looking for a way to
find some issues on which to compromise, and I hope I'm right about it, because a big deal helps him and it helps the other party too, the
Democrats, because it will look like everybody's there to solve problems and not just play politics.
AMANPOUR: So, Van, that's really fascinating, the different tone on concrete versus steel, the idea that Scott just said talking out more --
you know, about legal -- is there space, do you think, now as sort of a Nixon goes to China that the Democrats would agree to a proper
comprehensive immigration reform from this president?
JONES: I do. I mean, part of the thing is, I mean, that's what happened in Criminal Justice Reform, it's like, you know, I think of Hillary Clinton
that put forth the same bills, you've probably gotten zero criminal justice votes from Republicans. But, you know, Trump, because he has been tough on
the issue, when he moved, he was able to move his whole party or a big part of his party. So, I think that's possible.
Look, nobody wants more bipartisanship and cooperation than I do. But also, you know, (INAUDIBLE) Trump is out there, pushing for a paid family
leave, that could be an area of compromise.
I mean, one of the big heart breaks of this whole administration is that you do have a moment of real disruption where you've got somebody who's not
a normal Republican, who's not even normal politician, a lot of good things could happen. The problem is that, in some ways, it does feel that he has
a view that his governing coalition is hinged upon this issue of being unreasonably tough and vitriolic on immigration.
And that -- people -- that's a big part of Democratic Party's base, it's a big part of my personal, you know, friendship and family network and when -
- it doesn't matter how many nice things you say about family leave or tax policy or infrastructure or cancer for kids, when you follow that up or
round that off with a wholesale dismissal of 11 million people in this country who go to work every day and who are mostly good people, it is hard
to work together because it's -- that is a tough pill to swallow.
AMANPOUR: So, Scott, clearly, the president needs, you know, to be helped across this hurdle because, again, the majority of the people, the majority
of his party, you know, believe a different way than the minority which still seems to push the president into a corner whenever he tries to come
out and say something reasonable about immigration. Can this president not stare them down?
JENNINGS: Well, I think the president -- there's been a lot of debate about whether the -- you know, the conservative hardliners and the
Republican Party lead the president or does the president lead them. I've been arguing the president leads the party, they will follow him. If the
president comes out and blesses a deal, whatever that deal is, the party will fall in line. Yes, you'll have people carping from the peanut gallery
but the president is the leader of the Republican Party and they will follow him.
I think there's something to be done here. I continue to believe there's a solution for the dreamers as long as the Democrats could find a way to help
Donald Trump get the barriers that he wants, whether you call it a wall or barriers or steel slats or whatever, if they could get the barriers for the
president, I believe he would bend on a couple of issues and we could come out on the other side of this finally with some solutions and the party,
the Republican Party, would follow this president down that road.
AMANPOUR: Any chance of that you think, Van?
JONES: I just don't know. I hope so. I mean, listen, if you're looking for a model, look at who we put up in the gallery, it was, you know,
individual people who had, you know, individual stories, Ms. Alice Johnson, most famously, who we let out of prison.
It is conceivable that there is a strategy by which, you know, we could double down as Democrats on humanizing some of these stories, these heart
break stories. The problem is, you know, you're deporting dreamers who are veterans. I mean, literally people who serve the country are being
deported from the United States under Trump.
He said, happily, off script, he wants more legal immigration, at the same time his -- the workers in the Federal bureaucracy are giving fewer visas,
letting fewer people in under the legal system. And so, there's just something happening there that makes it so hard for people on the
Democratic side to trust that there's a deal there won't be snatched away or change at the last minute, like what's happened a couple of other times,
and that's the problem, is a lack of trust that we could get to a deal and he would stick with it sand he would sign it.
But as -- but what I will say is, when you talk about opioids, when you talk about criminal justice, when you talk about antipoverty and the
opportunity zones, you do have three examples now where this president has led, has helped people together in a bipartisan way, has signed a bill and
those bills are now doing positive things. And so, Democrats can focus, if Democrats choose to, on some positive examples.
AMANPOUR: Well, that seems to be, you know, an extended hand there, Scott. You both have worked for presidents, you know how this works. But -- so,
let me ask you this, and I'm fascinated by what seems to be a growing opposition to any tendency the president might have to declare a national
emergency over this wall. And, you know, Mitch McConnell saying that the Republican Party would not follow him if he did that.
What we hear from Lindsey Graham kind of the opposite, that actually, you know, there could be a civil war in the Republican Party if the president,
you know, doesn't get what he wants on these issues. Give me your analysis of what's going on behind those scenes there.
JENNINGS: Well, first, I think the president wants barriers. The Border Patrol folks have said, "We need more barriers," the president ran on a
wall, it doesn't have to be a concrete wall, he now says, the Border Patrol experts want barriers and he's not going to come down from that. The
Democrats have so far not shown any interest in the barriers that he wants, so that's the problem.
He thinks maybe the national emergency route is the only way he can build a wall or barriers or whatever you call it. The problem is, Republicans, a
lot of conservatives are worried, if you set the precedent that a president can go around Congress with these emergency declarations, a future
democratic president could declare all kinds of emergencies that we wouldn't like on our side of the ball, so you don't want that.
Also, this law allows the Congress to repeal an emergency declaration and then the president, in order to keep it in place, would have to veto it, it
would be a very embarrassing back and forth in which he could lose votes in his party and also it would eat up valuable floor time.
The president mentioned nominations in the Senate last night that are languishing, this was all a privileged motion. So, the Senate would have
to immediately take this up, it eats up all these hours on the floor and that's hours you're not putting the president's judges on the bench or
people in his administration, which I know Senator McConnell is very worried about. So, going down this road sets up a whole host of problems,
that's why it's better.
Look, when Barack Obama was in power, we attack Obama for overreaching on executive authority, we have to be consistent, work with the Congress and
get your solution, don't make shift something here with executive authority that's going to open up a Pandora's box.
AMANPOUR: Van, did see him, the president, sort of staking out the ten poles for the 2020 election? I mean, he said, for instance, you know,
"America will never be a socialist country."
JONES: Sure, and that stuff is all, you know, fair play. I mean, he spoke on abortion, he spoke on socialism, which is now a real conversation in the
United States, you know, he focused on immigration, that seems to be, you know, how he wants to kind of run as being, you know, the Democrats are for
killing babies and for open borders and for this kind of stuff, and he's not. That's -- you know, that's politics and you expect that.
I think the problem that you've got is that -- it's hard to explain. If you're not a United States, it is hard to explain the level of poison, the
level of fear, the level of division, the level of just, you know, distrust that seems to be building up and building up in our society.
And so, I think the president make a decision if he -- does he -- I mean, I called him -- one time I called him the Uniter-in-Chief on the question of
criminal justice reform, and I got a lot of flak from liberals for saying that but I saw him actually doing it. And I had hoped that when he said
that he was going to give a unifying speech, that he was going to make -- do something to show he could be a Uniter-in-Chief on these other issues,
since there is a unifying deal out there on immigration.
AMANPOUR: Well --
JONES: And instead, he didn't do it. And so, we know he's got the potential but we also know he seems to have an angel and a devil on his
shoulder and you just don't know which one's going to grab the mic or grab the veto.
AMANPOUR: Well, it's --
JONES: And that's the problem.
AMANPOUR: If I might just ask you two gentlemen to stand by for a moment because I'm going to go to a newly elected congresswoman from Texas talking
about this issue of immigration and she is Veronica Escobar. And her actually district is very much around the El Paso area. She's joining us
now from Capitol Hill and we're going to talk about this specific border area around where your district is. And I know you have to run to vote in
a moment. So, we're going to just drill down on this.
So, Veronica Escobar, what did you hear in the speech last night and actually, in the conversation that we're having with Scott and Van Jones
about the possibility if all sides could possibly work together on a proper immigration reform and a resolution of this border area?
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR, D-TX: So, first, let me clarify, I am from El Paso, my district is in El Paso, one of the safest communities in the country.
We have been safe since the early 1990s long before a wall was constructed in El Paso.
It was very disturbing and distressing to hear the president last night misrepresent my community, malign my community once again, he incorrectly
said and completely inaccurately said that we were once the most dangerous city in America, that is absolutely false.
It's very difficult to have a whole lot of faith in someone who can lie so easily and without remorse. I believe he owes my community an apology, he
also owes the American public the truth.
The challenge for us right now in this moment is the threat of another shutdown. We cannot be having rational thoughtful sober conversations and
debates while Federal employees are held hostage. And the other frustration for communities like mine is we have seen very significant
amounts of money pour into border security because it was supposed to be what was given in exchange for comprehensive immigration reform.
And so, over the last 15 years, we -- last 20 years, we've seen the size of Border Patrol grow by five times, we have seen the size of ICE in the last
several years grow times three, we have a wall that's been there for about a decade and we were safe before and we have been safe since.
Apprehensions at the border are still at -- significantly lower today than they were over a decade ago. And yet, the conversation about comprehensive
immigration reform gets more and more elusive.
AMANPOUR: So, now, maybe --
ESCOBAR: So --
AMANPOUR: Just let -- sorry to interrupt you, but I want to ask you because the president just said --
ESCOBAR: No problem.
AMANPOUR: -- he's going to come for a rally down to El Paso, right, on Monday. I don't know whether you'll be there as a representative of that
district and if you are there to greet him amongst the officials who will be there. What would you like to tell him? What would you like to show
him about your town? And particularly, in this moment, you -- again, you've heard these two gentlemen who both work for presidents before, talk
about potential areas and this president, being somebody who could bring the Republican Party along with him, if he really, you know, was so
inclined. What would you tell him?
ESCOBAR: Well, so, I absolutely intend on being there Monday night when he is in my community. And he will be receiving a letter from my office
inviting him to get a full complete picture of El Paso. I don't know if he's simply going to be parachuting in for a political rally or if he will
truly make time to see El Paso.
If he's willing to make the time, I would show him a number of things. Number one, I would show him the location where Felipe Alonzo Gomez was
apprehended. If you'll recall Felipe and his father were apprehended in the El Paso sector and Felipe later died in U.S. custody. They were
apprehended along with other undocumented crossers and asylum seekers at a part of our community that has a wall.
The president has said he believes that the wall will stop asylum seekers. I want to show him an example of why it will not. The wall is not actually
on the border, it's several yards away. So, as asylum seekers step foot on American soil they are walking up to border patrol agents asking for asylum
protections. So, number one, I would show him that location
Number two, he's going to get briefings and lots of information from Federal law enforcement as he should. I have received those briefings and
those tours but he also needs to hear from human rights and legal advocates.
Number three, I would like for him to see the El Paso processing center and speak to detainees who, right now as we speak, are being tied down and
force fed through their nose, in what many of us believe is tantamount to torture. I think he should also speak to families who are seeking asylum.
You know, it's very easy to do a dog and pony show and go to a community and basically show or see what really is kind of a predetermined outcome.
It's important that people who come to the border -- and I've invited a number of people to do it, that they see the full and complete picture.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Congresswoman, the president did talk more about legal immigration, saying he'd like to see more of that. And he did, as we've
been discussing, sort of re-describe the so-called wall. I just want to play that little soundbite and see if you agree whether his position may be
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is a smart strategic see through steel barrier, not just a simple concrete wall. It will be deployed in the areas identified by the
border agents as having the greatest need and these agents will tell you where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, he's making, again, a sort of equation between walls and illegal crossings, you can discuss that but we have discussed
that a lot. But in terms of this see through steel wall and slats, do you see a position evolving there? Do you see the beginning of a process
whereby Democrats could work with the president and this administration?
ESCOBAR: You know, the challenge is nobody ever really knows what he's talking about. He -- his thoughts and opinions and what he says, it's all
very fluid. I think it's important that the committee is allowed to do their work and have the discussions that they need to have in order to
But, you know, the president had two years of absolute control where the House and the Senate and the White House were controlled by his party. And
during those two years they didn't get it done. And yet, here, a committee is supposed to get this done in two weeks. I think it's absurd. It's not
going to cure the very issues that he claims to want to cure, the number of asylum seekers coming from Central America and drugs. We know drugs come
to our ports.
And here's the thing, we've never heard the president talk about a thoughtful long-term solution to stemming the flow of asylum seekers coming
from Central America. And what is the American role in dealing with the countries in the northern triangle? What is America's responsibility in
The wall -- we've got to understand what the wall is for him. It's a symbol and it's a campaign promise. And he is holding Federal employees
hostage so that he could try to deliver on something that he could not deliver on when he was in complete control of Washington D.C.
AMANPOUR: All right. So you have to go and vote. I'm going to just ask you one last question. I mean you're a new class of newly elected
Congresspeople. You're one of only two, the first two I believe Hispanic Congresspeople to be elected from Texas. And you saw -- we all saw last
night the sea of white on the Democratic side. I mean all these women wearing the color of the suffragettes and many of the men wearing the white
ribbon in their lapels. What does this moment mean to you, not just as a personal victory but as a way to do something for the country, for your
community, and maybe try to break through this poisonous partisanship?
ESCOBAR: It is an absolute privilege to serve a community that I love so deeply in the U.S. Congress. And I feel a tremendous responsibility to
deliver on what my commute -- on the great values that my community demonstrates every single day.
I think that's why diversity is important. I think that's why female leadership, in particular, is important when you have a whole chamber full
of mostly men. Women lead differently. We have a different perspective. And we are fierce advocates for the important values and the beautiful
values of the places that raised us and that we come from.
So I'm -- it's an honor to represent El Paso and it's an incredible honor also to be there with so many amazing, talented women.
AMANPOUR: Well, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight.
ESCOBAR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So let's get back and continue this conversation with Van Jones and Scott Jennings who have been kindly standing by in Washington. The
congresswoman had to go vote. That is her democratic duty and we're delighted to see she's gone off to do that.
But what did you take that, Van, really as a Democrat from her position on what we've all -- what we've just been talking about, the wall, the
potential shutdown, the continued hard politics over this massive policy area that surely needs to be resolved?
JONES: You know, it's a tale of two cities, a tale of two countries. If you are a part of a community that has a big immigration population, the
level of fear and anxiety that people live under is just excruciating. You know people are literally living in terror. Kids are living in terror that
their father, their mother may be taken away at any moment. The number of raids that have been going up.
And again, the hostility, the license, acceptable now hostility toward a Latino and Latina and human beings is crazy. If you -- my -- everybody's
algorithm shows them something different on their smartphones. We live in different worlds.
My smartphone, I'm constantly seeing the videos of people being spat on in Walmart and Target stores are being yelled out, "Get out of my country",
that kind of stuff. And sometimes saying -- invoking Donald Trump's name in that.
So for those of us who are close to this issue, this is a very personal issue. And so I appreciate her trying to explain a lot of the rhetoric of
you have a wall, that's going to be fine. That doesn't even make sense in some of these communities, it doesn't make sense in some of these towns.
It doesn't make sense but it gets thrown around as rhetoric.
So my big hope is that Scott Jennings is right and that Trump is looking for a way out. I do think I missed last night and I think other Democrats
missed last night that his throwaway line was not in the speech saying he actually wants more legal immigration. Well, that is not what the policies
are right now but that does open the door as Scott Jennings said before.
Well, listen, if you really want more legal immigration, that's a very different conversation. It seems like right now you want less of all
immigration and that all immigrants are kind of being demonized. So look, it's a tough time in America right now.
I hope that we can get to some kind of a deal, some memo deal, and then let's move on to possibly do some of the things that we've been talking
about on infrastructure, on drug prices, on medical family leave. There are deals out there to be done but this is the deal that's destroying every
AMANPOUR: Right. So, Scott, I want to turn to you actually just sort of expand this point, demonization versus diversity if you like. Again, in
the response to the president's State of the Union, Stacey Abrams talked about lots of things including voter suppression. She's saying that is the
thing that really has to be tackled in order to level the playing field on all of these issues. Listen to what she said and we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[13:35:00] STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER GEORGIA HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Let's be clear. Voter suppression is real from making it harder to register and
stay on the rolls, to moving and closing polling places, to rejecting lawful ballots. We can no longer ignore these threats to democracy.
This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country. We must
reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a power grab. Americans understand that these are the values
our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risked their lives to defend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So I called her Stacey Abrahams, my mistake there. Scott, she said power grab referring to something that the Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell talked about, the Democrats are just looking to grab power. And obviously, it's close to home for her because the person she ran
against for governor was accused himself of being sort of the lead vote suppressor. So is this going to be a lasting issue? And is she right to
bring this up as a major part of the Democratic platform?
JENNINGS: Well, it's not just her. The Democrats have made their voting bill one of the top issues coming out of the new House Democratic majority.
I don't think it has a chance to pass in the Senate. And I agree with her. I think everybody should have a chance to vote and I think every legal vote
should be counted.
She recently gave an interview though in which she said that she even thinks some people who aren't citizens of the country should be able to
vote in some of our elections. So a lot of us on the Republican side are not quite sure that she is the right spokesperson on that issue when she
has been out saying that people should vote in U.S. elections who aren't even citizens of this country.
In this last midterm, we had a higher turnout for a midterm election than we've had in a hundred years. And I'll bet you anything, we're going to
have a massive spike in turnout in the 2020 election. The fact is in this country right now, there is high engagement. At least, relatively speaking
to previous elections in our democracy.
I think that's going to continue to happen. And I think it's a good thing people should vote, people should participate, and we should make it easy
for folks to vote. But we should make it easy for folks who should be participating in our election to do it and hard for people to cheat if
that's what they are trying to do.
So I don't have any quarrel with her on participation but I don't think we should be opening up elections to the point where even non-citizens are
JONES: I don't think by the part of the approach cheater caucus. So let's just be clear about that. But what she was talking about was in local
elections for school boards where you do have immigrant families there, is there a way for some of those immigrant families to have a voice in those
very, very local elections. Controversial idea but that's not the same as saying that she wants non-citizens voting in state and federal elections.
I think that's very important.
But by the way, there was massive participation. But in Georgia and in Florida, there's a very strong feeling that in a fair election, if there
had not been suppression, that the election would have swung a different way. So the cheating is not happening from Democrats trying to give
undocumented people the right to vote. The cheating seems to be happening for big Republicans in strong positions of power like the state --
secretary of state making it almost impossible for good people to vote.
So there's a -- this will be a big conversation, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Yes. As both of you said, Scott Jennings, Van Jones, thank you. And it's been really interesting to hear not just your obvious differences
but areas where you both feel that there are some ways that both parties could potentially cooperate. We hope that happens. Thank you both very
And our next guest thinks the State of the Union is so far gone that America needs to break up in his latest solo show Red State Blue State.
Former Saturday Night Live comedian Colin Quinn take stock of both sides of the political divide and he's talking to our Hari Sreenivasan about how to
be funny in today's era of political correctness and why he thinks compromise doesn't work.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CONTRIBUTOR: I'm going to stand up that I'll ask this out but there is a thesis here. What's the thesis to Red State Blue State?
COLIN QUINN, COMEDIAN: The thesis is that we're headed for a civil war and people don't really seem to believe that that could happen again.
SREENIVASAN: And you're not joking about that?
QUINN: I'm not joking.
SREENIVASAN: So how did you come up to this conclusion?
QUINN: Well, I did a show a couple of years ago called "Unconstitutional". It was similar but it's not the country breaking up like ideologically. I
feel like the people that have the most vitriolic personalities are now in -- setting the tone. And not just Trump. Of course, Trump would be the
most obvious example.
SREENIVASAN: Why do you think people are so calcified in their beliefs now?
QUINN: I don't know. I just -- I don't know. It's strange. I don't feel like people are. I feel like the people that you hear from, I feel like
this is like everything else.
So you take any positive thing like the Internet, it was a positive thing. And it becomes the province of the [13:40:00] fastest typists and the
people with the most time in their hands and the most -- the people that want so badly to make sure that you set -- that they set the tone, just
that my mindset, the precious take or whatever the mindset of people that want to control the conversation. This is their day in the sun, you know.
SREENIVASAN: So we don't necessarily care about nuance, we care about speed more.
QUINN: It's not that we don't but once these people set the tone, that's the way it goes. And then things speed up. And then suddenly everybody's
kind of in a fear mode and it's like, OK, you've got to lockdown at some point.
Once war start, every -- you know, you can't just be like, "Hey, guys. Hold on." All right, I'm feeling my people on this side of it, you know.
SREENIVASAN: And you have a clip in your standup about growing up offline. Let's take a look at that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUINN: I was growing up offline. If you want to have a political debate, you have to get dressed and go down the bar. You couldn't do it in your
underwear. You get dressed, get down to the bar, pick up the newspaper, find somebody you knew disagreed with you and be like, "You probably liked
it, don't you?"
Give me the paper. As a matter of fact, I do. What's your problem? And you have a debate but it was people you kind of new, friends, family,
neighbors. It's always -- the bar itself was Facebook and Twitter was all the strangers in the bathroom doing coke together, speaking in short bursts
of paranoid under 280 characters. Like, yes, you following me? Yes. You want to send me a message. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: So the public comments has changed, that the idea of a place to meet, a place to actually --
SREENIVASAN: -- share ideas physically. And the fact that there was a human being connected to those thoughts that might disagree with you, now
it's not the case.
QUINN: Right. And it was somewhat tempered by the human interaction there is not now.
SREENIVASAN: Because you have to go to that bar again and say, OK, I can't be, you know --
QUINN: Right. You have to face everyone in the bar looking at you where they're giving you feedback that no longer exists. So it's like everyone -
- you don't get that look like -- you don't always turn away from me. You read the room. You don't want to read the room online.
QUINN: You just read the people that you like.
SREENIVASAN: Technologies of have come to change our way of communication. What is it about this? Do we have a tendency to take things too far?
QUINN: I mean I feel like everything is taken. I feel like everything that's good, it gets hijacked by people that are either greedy or have
their own psychotic anger issues. And then it becomes -- it always ends up badly. You know I mean?
Look at -- what's his face? Albert Einstein. Ultimately, he was the inventor of the nuclear bomb. That wasn't his intent, right? He started
out good but then it just got in different hands. Then suddenly people were like, "Wait a minute, we have to make sure we use this." It was used
for a good cause to stop Hitler but then it's like anything else and it becomes a thing where everybody wants it, every -- it becomes something
SREENIVASAN: You have another clip that I want to play. It's just about free speech maybe going too far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUINN: Yes, free speech, what did it do? It just gave everybody an opinion. That's what it is. And opinions got ruined by social media
because free speech is an acoustic art. It wasn't meant to go electric. It's meant to be like spoken on a tree stump, on a porch in front of a
general store, something like that.
If somebody told you, 15 years ago even, "We have this idea, we're going to give -- everybody's going to be able to give their innermost thoughts to
the whole planet all day every day." You would say oh, my God, please, don't do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: You know this is -- you wrote this material not just as a reaction to the Trump presidency. You've been feeling about -- this way
about America for a while now.
QUINN: Yes. Yes. I mean look, it's a -- I just -- I guess compromise just doesn't really work. I mean this country has always been kind of
divided. As far as ideologically a lot, it has never really gotten along. But you now had to see each other and each other's' face in social media.
So it's really been the last 20 years.
Before that, people were like, "Yes, I heard they act like that here. That's weird." But you would never go there unless you were from there.
Someone would say, "You should see the way it is where I'm from." But now, it's in everyone's face all day and nobody likes it.
And the other thing is I feel like people really believe that they are put on this earth to change other people's behavior and opinions and they're
finding out it's not going to happen. So people are too stupid to realize, I'm not going to change other people.
So we find a way to break this thing civilly or it's going to -- wars probably always start with this kind of stuff where people are just like,
"Well, you got to really start to understand to do things this way." And like no, I'm not doing it.
[13:45:00] And nobody can hear each other because like, "Why wouldn't they want to do things this way? Don't they understand how much better it is
for them?" And people are like, "I don't care. I'm not doing it your way."
SREENIVASAN: Just because it's your way, it's not my way.
QUINN: Just because it's your way, yes.
SREENIVASAN: That's pretty pessimistic.
QUINN: I know. Well, I'm a pessimistic guy. A good comedian should be pessimistic about all things.
SREENIVASAN: Is there a solution here?
QUINN: Well, I mean I would divide the country up. I would chop it up a little bit. I mean look, you know, I don't know. I mean I haven't really
drawn, yes, my plans yet. But I mean city-states is what I say in the show but I mean I just think like look, you look at Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, all
SREENIVASAN: The breakup of the Soviet Republic.
QUINN: Yes. It would basically sit down to brunch with them. Your divorced friends, you go, how is it? They're like, "I have less money but
I'm happier." Yes. But I mean they broke up. Everybody survives.
SREENIVASAN: And so you're saying states in the United States have less in common with each other and perhaps should be separate?
QUINN: Yes. They've -- I mean it's so obvious that people don't want to be around each other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUINN: We started out with 13 colonies. We became 50 states. What's wrong with 13 colonies? Thirteen seems like plenty. We're already bigger
than England and France put together but we got greedy. We couldn't take the hint from God. God put mountain, rangers, rivers like to indicate
those are different countries.
The Grin Tetons, Mississippi, the Rockies, natural borders. Europe. Europe is the same size as us, made a bunch of different countries because
they understood every 700 miles, people have a different personality. Do you think Hungary and Scotland have less in common than Utah and New
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: This experiment is a failure?
QUINN: No. It was just -- it was a great thing. We brought a lot of things around that people -- other people has used. It was great. It was
no more of a failure than monarchy or anything else. It was just -- I mean monarchy is successful too.
I mean I can actually see the benefits in other systems now that I never saw before. Like in monarchy, like if you were born under a good king, it
was just a roll of the dice of how your king was in your lifetime. If you got a bad king or like yes, I just got a crazy king.
SREENIVASAN: So we should be city-states like Sparta in Athens.
QUINN: Sparta in Athens, exactly. There are some people in this country that are not political. Here's the other thing that happened since social
media, everybody has to be political now. So in the old days, 90 percent of people would go how do you feel and be like, "I'm not really that
That's not an acceptable answer anymore. A lot of people just want to be zone out. They like to just go to the gym. They like to watch the food,
you know, just Food Network and just cook and just talk about that. But now it really has to -- everything has to be infused to politics once again
because people are saying, "Well, how do you feel on this subject?"
They're asking -- Taylor Swift has to weigh in. I mean this is -- do you know what I mean? This should not be, and people are like, "It should be
the case." It's like you're not the kind of person I like if that's how you feel. I mean I don't like that autocratic. I don't go for this type
of personality where people like you have to weigh in. It's just too -- it's too oily for my taste right now.
SREENIVASAN: You're pretty moderate. I mean you --
QUINN: Yes, I'm a radical moderate.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. So explain what that means to people.
QUINN: Well, nowadays, being moderate is being radical. Because if you don't go marching in lockstep, if you're not like monochromatically like on
every issue on the left or the right, people really look at you like you can't --
SREENIVASAN: It's a cop out.
SREENIVASAN: You're either one of us or you're one of them.
SREENIVASAN: You're with me or you're with the terrorists.
QUINN: Exactly. And that's how everybody is. So you're dealing with a really simplistic idiotic view of the -- from these two, from both sides.
And it's unbelievable.
SREENIVASAN: How does growing up in Brooklyn affect, impact your work the way you view the world?
QUINN: When I grew up in Brooklyn, it was multiethnic. It was New York at that time. It was different. Now, every place is kind of like this but
everybody's just lumped together all the time. So in some ways, it was really good because it was good for somebody like me because I was a wise -
- so in retrospect, a lot of people are like what is this but I had a big mouth so I kind of -- I shined -- like a peaked at 13 comedically. And
anybody who grew up with me knows is true.
I'm not just saying it. I peaked at 13. Maybe not a developed material but I was on fire from 11 to like 13-and-a-half. And then --
SREENIVASAN: All went downhill?
QUINN: Yes. But you know at the time, there was a lot of danger, there was a lot of madness, and there was a lot of stuff going on. But in
retrospect, it was like I look back and I'm like, oh, my God, it was magic.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. Has comedy changed since the time when you got involved and how so?
QUINN: Yes, it's changed.
SREENIVASAN: How many years have you been doing this now?
QUINN: Please, 32.
SREENIVASAN: Right. So in 32 years --
[13:50:00] QUINN: Thirty-three.
SREENIVASAN: Thirty-three years of working with ensemble cast, doing standup on your own, what's the biggest difference do you think for a
comedian coming up now that maybe you didn't have either the advantage of or the challenge of?
QUINN: Well, I mean it's -- the -- when I was coming up, you could just get on. So if you went on stage, people were like, "Ooh, a comedian. This
guy is crazy." And they just start laughing over the audacity that you would have to be a comedian. So that was a good age.
People were like -- you know, like already you had like 50 percent of your audience. Now people are like, "Oh, my cousin does this too." So I mean
SREENIVASAN: There's YouTube videos of my cousin now.
SREENIVASAN: They're hilarious.
QUINN: With so many comedians now, it's saturated. And I mean, you know - - so there's -- that's the negative side of it is that there's too many. Once there's too many, even the good ones have a hard time breaking
SREENIVASAN: Do you do like a Jack Welch bottom 10 percent out of the business every year? What should you do about that? Are you getting
better as a comic?
QUINN: I'm getting better as a comic, yes. But when you get older -- I'm just -- from my perspective, I don't like seeing old people in front of my
face any more than anybody else.
SREENIVASAN: Are you a borderline old person?
QUINN: Yes. So it's like well, here's an old person going to talk, you better be funny, you better be really funny. If you're going to have the
nerve to be old and perform, you better be really funny.
SREENIVASAN: Otherwise, you're just an old angry guy.
QUINN: You're just an old guy. No. It's like young people are funny. You see them up there. Like yes, I see them young, you're just laughing at
the idea of somebody young and just seeing that maybe something funny about the energy. So you better -- you have to get funnier when you get old.
SREENIVASAN: Who did you look up to when you were starting?
QUINN: Pryor and Carlin. Those were the big names for my generation.
SREENIVASAN: There are a lot of things Richard Pryor and George Carlin said out loud that would not be possible on a stage today.
QUINN: That's true. That's correct.
SREENIVASAN: What does that do to you as a creator?
QUINN: That's -- I've never heard that said in that exact phrase but that is the saddest thing I've heard in a long time and truest one. Yes,
there's a lot of things that we can't say.
What does it do to you as a creator? I don't know. I mean I guess you try to do what you think is funny still. I mean my work speaks for itself.
My last special was an ethnic special, all about ethnics in New York story. So I mean you still try to do what you think is funny and do it
unapologetically but I'm sure it affects a lot of people badly.
And so in some ways, it keeps you on the straight narrow in a good way, in that you have to really think of what you're trying to say, and you can't
just be sloppy. But in the grand scheme of things, it's not good because there's a lot of people judging comedy.
It's like me talking about the Knicks. So I'm like, you know the problem is that here, it's like I have an opinion, I might even be right once in a
while but I don't really know what I'm talking about the way the Knicks -- they think these things all day. You know what I mean?
So it's like anything else. There's a lot of amateur opinions that aren't necessarily coming from a good place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUINN: The enemy is not out there, it's here. We've met the enemy and he is us. And now we're in danger of a civil war and you don't want to see a
civil war in this country. We had one and we're not built for another civil war. It's the first time in history you're going to see fat
refugees, never a good look.
Flip-Flops and Jorts, coolers trembling towards Canada like a giant cattle drive. Nothing glamorous. Fifty years from now, kids are in history class
reading about the battle of six flags.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: So is this show then more to inform an audience or to warn them?
QUINN: I mean my mother just died. And my mother, she died in November. And I feel like this show -- she wanted me to work with my director, Bobby
Moresco. She said, "I want you to work with him again" because we did a show Irish Wake together and she was loved.
SREENIVASAN: That was a long time ago.
QUINN: It was a long time ago. So she just loved that show and she wanted me to do something. And so this show was really for her. It's just to
scold people and just let everybody know you're wrong, you're wrong, you're all wrong, I'm wrong, we're all guilty.
And it's really like it. I feel like it's a very Irish thing too. There's -- nobody is innocent. Nobody escapes on this one. Let everybody know
they're all, we're all guilty, we're all entrenched in this.
SREENIVASAN: Colin Quinn, thanks so much.
QUINN: Thank you, Hari. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: Quite a lot of pessimism there and indeed a lot of self- deprecating humor from Colin Quinn who says he may have peaked at 13.
Finally, during his State of the Union address, [13:55:00] Donald Trump said that he'll hold a second North Korea summit with Kim Jong-Un in
Vietnam at the end of this month. And we will have more on that tomorrow when the former Defense Secretary William Cohen joins us.
But that is it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.