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Netanyahu's Party, Likud, Overtakes, Gantz's Party; Israelis and Palestinians' Peace, Far Away as Ever; Jared Kushner's Peace Plan; Danny Danon, Permanent Israeli Representative to the U.N., is Interviewed About Jared Kushner's Peace Plan; Diana Buttu, Former Legal Adviser, Palestine Liberation Organization, is Interviewed about About Jared Kushner's Peace Plan. Unelected President Changed the Course of History; Jared Cohen, Author, "Accidental Presidents," is Interviewed About His New Book. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 3, 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)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER: I hope the people of Israel continue to allow me to lead them for many years to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Days away from a momentous election in Israel and maybe finally Jared Kushner's peace plan, I speak with the country's U.N. ambassador,
Danny Danon, and to Palestinian human rights lawyer, Diana Buttu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED COHEN, AUTHOR, "ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENTS": Don't you all understand how crazy it is to put this man just one heartbeat from the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Lessons from history, the Former State Department Advisor, Jared Cohen speaks with Walter (ph) Isaacson about America's accidental
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY SIENFELD, ACTOR: But you have changed sex for America.
RUTH WESTHEIMER, SEX THERAPIST: I do.
SIENFELD: You have changed sex. It's not the same thing anymore.
WESTHEIMER: I think I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Seinfeld is right, Ruth Westheimer known as Dr. Ruth did change sex for America. The 90-year-old petit powerhouse joins me here in our
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York.
Israel is one of the few countries in the world that really loves Donald Trump. So much so that ahead of next week's election there, Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign ads and rhetoric have been practically running on the American president's coattails. Yet, Netanyahu has
dominated Israel's politics for a decade. And if reelected, would become the longest serving leader in the country's history.
He's facing his toughest challenge yet in Retired General Benny Gantz and his blue and white party. And Netanyahu who is facing possible criminal
indictment, which would be another first for a sitting prime minister. But according to a poll just released, Netanyahu's Likud Party has overtaken
his rival after weeks of training behind.
Meanwhile, peace between Israelis and Palestinians looks to be as far away as ever, that's despite the fact that Jared Kushner, the president's
adviser and son-in-law, reportedly says that his long-awaited plan would be released after Israel's election.
But U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, refused to endorse a two-state solution when questioned on Capitol Hill and he couldn't say when the U.S.
plan would be delivered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NITA LOWEY, U.S. HOUSE DEMOCRAT: When do we or when should we expect the Jared Kushner peace plan that has been talked about and work about on and
someone similar to Mr. Price who's worked on this issue for my whole career, I hope we don't have to wait another 20 years, could you tell us
when we will see the Jared Kushner peace plan?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, ma'am. I think we can say in less than 20 years.
LOWEY: How about being more precise.
POMPOE: I just prefer not to be more precise. I'm very hopeful that we will present our vision before too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, let's ask my guest. Danny Danon is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations and joining me here now in the studio in New York.
Welcome to the program.
DANNY DANON, PERMANENT ISRAELI REPRESENTATIVE TO THE U.N.: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: You're welcome. So, it is a legitimate question, Congress wants to know, we all want to know, your region wants to know. When do you think
this peace plan will be delivered? You must have been talking to Mr. Kushner and the administration.
DANON: We know that the plan is completed. The administration worked a lot on this plan, intensive visits to the region by Mr. Kushner and Mr.
Greenblatt. And we believe that after the elections, they would make it public. We would see the content of the plan.
We haven't seen the plan. We discussed it with our colleagues in Washington, our colleagues here in the U.N. We are openminded, but we will
wait. It's only a few weeks. We have elections in a week. So, in a few weeks, we will see the plan.
AMANPOUR: Can I get a better answer from you than Representative Lowey did from the Secretary of State? Is it April 10th, the day after the
elections? Is it May? Is it June? What do you think? What do you know?
DANON: It's coming. It's coming right after the elections. It's a matter of weeks. I wouldn't say days because, you know, we have to count the
votes. But I would say a few weeks right after the election we will see the plan and it will be exciting to see the work of the administration.
AMANPOUR: So, there's obviously been, you know, leaks and guessing about what it might be. I mean, there's a whole sort of plan that some people
are talking about with all sorts of different parts, like a Rubik's Cube of the regional powers in economic and land transfers and all sorts of things
like that. Is that, to your understanding, that it will involve very intricate swaps of money, for land, for jobs, for economic?
DANON: We do understand it's going to be a regional plan. So, it will not involve only the Israelis and the Palestinians, it would include the
neighboring countries, which we welcome. We believe that in any future agreement, we welcome the involvement of Jordan, Egypt, some of the Gulf
countries, economical support to the Palestinians. So, we are openminded. But I'm a little bit pessimistic when I hear with Palestinians. The thing,
we don't want to look at the plan.
AMANPOUR: I was going to say, you say you have all the regionals but not Palestinians.
DANON: Don't even send it to us. We don't accept the U.S. as mediators. We don't accept these Israeli's as partners. So, it would be very hard
with all the support of the regional players if you don't have the Palestinians on board --
DANON: -- it would very hard to move forward.
AMANPOUR: Well -- so, the first question on that is, will it be implemented nonetheless or do you obviously have to have the Palestinians
as the other party to a peace accord?
DANON: You cannot implement without the Palestinians.
DANON: You can maybe do other things in the region, we can work with other countries on other projects, but you cannot do anything without the
And this week, we celebrated the anniversary of the peace treaty with Egypt, 40 years since the day --
AMANPOUR: Camp David.
DANON: Camp David when Menachem Begin signed the treaty with President Sadat and it was an amazing moment. We are waiting for the Palestinians
DANON: To emerge, to come to Jerusalem, to say, "Enough with the bloodshed, enough with the walls, let's talk peace."
AMANPOUR: Well, to that end, I'm really glad you mentioned it because at that time, there was an American president who was taken by the whole world
as an honest broker and there was Palestinian engagement and there was a gift from Israel and from the Palestinians and -- rather from Egypt and
from Israel, land swaps and all the rest of it. It was a real negotiation, it wasn't just a surrender.
So, what I want to ask you is this, how do you expect -- how does Israel expect the Palestinians to feel like there is a place for them in an honest
peace negotiation when the president has done everything he can to enable Israel, from the very beginning, campaign promises to move the embassy, he
did, despite the international consensus?
Just last week, he tweets that he is totally OK with Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, again, against the international consensus. In fact,
when they tried in Ronald Reagan's term, he cut off aid. I mean, he was pretty furious when Israel tried to take hold of the Golan Heights, cutting
off aid for Palestinian refugees. I mean, what is there for the Palestinians to feel that they can bring to the table or that there's going
to be a fair peace deal offered?
DANON: (INAUDIBLE) is actually exposing the realities of the Palestinians. It's a reality check. The Golan Heights is not going anywhere. To whom
exactly, we should give it back to the Assad regime, to the Iranians, to ISIS, we know it's a place for stability today in the region. So, we
welcome this decision.
Same with the embassy, we all know the Jerusalem will stay the capital of Israel. You can argue about East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem, (INAUDIBLE),
one united Jerusalem. But I have heard other countries acknowledge the same, we can move our embassies to some part of Jerusalem. So, the
president was bold, was brave and took that strong decision.
So, I think the Palestinians will understand that we would continue to be there. It's about time that they would face reality, recognize Israel as a
Jewish democracy, recognize our presence and speak with us directly about the future.
AMANPOUR: I certainly understand from your perspective and from your government's perspective, although it's kind of different from the
perspective of previous Israeli governments and their view of a two-state solution with Jerusalem share.
I guess I want to ask you this, will you stop at the Golan Heights or will Israel feel that what many of the Prime Minister Netanyahu's 28 coalition
members and lawmakers in his party, et cetara, what they want is actually an annexation of parts of the West Bank, either the whole of the West Bank,
but they're saying Area C, which is currently also occupied by Israel? Is that the next step on this agenda?
DANON: So, first, we would wait to see the plan of the president. We will respect it and we will try to work with him about that. If you ask me
about the future, we will wait for the new government. My position, that we should not support unilateral actions. We tried it in the past. We did
it with the Gaza.
And I want to remind everybody, we pulled out, Prime Minister Sharon pulled out Gaza completely 14 years ago and Hamas took over. So, it's not always
the best thing to do is to take unilateral actions. I think we should have a dialogue, even if it means that we will have to wait until somebody else
will step in, we'll become (INAUDIBLE) of the Palestinians will recognize us and will speak with us.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you say that but President Mahmoud Abbas does recognize you, does believe in being a peace partner, things have been, you know,
quite disrupted over the last several months. But most Israelis, including, you know, fairly Conservative Israeli, of former prime ministers
believe that he is the only partner for peace because otherwise, who do you have, Hamas?
But anyway, let's move on. Do you believe -- are you also sort of -- you know, sort of, I don't know, going squishy on the two-state solution just
as Secretary of State Pompeo couldn't say that that was still the American position?
DANON: I believe that we should enter the room and negotiate. And what the Palestinians wants, they want to know exactly what's going to the
outcome before entering the negotiating room. It doesn't work that way. If you want to negotiate, come. Like the prime minister said, it --
AMANPOUR: It has been the central part of international consensus for -- since Oslo. So, do you still believe --
DANON: Prime Minister Netanyahu --
AMANPOUR: -- in the two-state solution?
DANON: -- stated very clearly, that he's willing to negotiate everything. That was a strong statement for the prime minister. He said, "I'm willing
to negotiate everything. But let's sit down and negotiate, in Ramallah, in Washington, in Tel Aviv," it's not happening, Abbas, he doesn't lead the
Palestinians to peace. He's inciting, he's paying salaries to convicted terrorists.
7 percent, Christian, from the budget of the Palestinians --
AMANPOUR: Well, we'll get that perspective.
DANON: -- goes to families --
AMANPOUR: I know that you always say that.
DANON: -- of murders.
AMANPOUR: We'll get that perspective --
DANON: That's horrible.
AMANPOUR: -- from our Palestinian guest and we'll ask her about that. But Mahmoud Abbas, my mistake, Mahmoud Abbas is the only partner that you have
on the Palestinian side.
Can I ask you another bigger question? And this goes to the heart of Prime Minister Netanyahu. I mean, what are we meant to think when he goes into
an alliance with an openly anti-Arab racist party called Jewish Power, what is the world meant to think? What are the Palestinians meant to think?
What are your Arab partners meant to think? Even APAC who stands shoulder to shoulder with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud government and
Israel condemned this move, why does he have to do something like that?
DANON: So, we should look at the exact fact. We are strong democracy. We allow everybody to (INAUDIBLE) our parliament, radicals from left to right.
AMANPOUR: Yes. But he doesn't have to go into accommodation with them. That's the question I have for you.
DANON: So, they're not part of the liquid (ph) party, they are running by themselves. And by the way, when I was in the Knesset for many years and I
heard Arab MKs speaking against Israel, supporting Hezbollah, supporting Hamas, I was furious but we respected their democracy.
So, the same way, we allow radicals from the --
AMANPOUR: But is that a decent --
DANON: -- other side.
AMANPOUR: -- partnership for your prime minister?
DANON: And I want to remind you that --
AMANPOUR: No, no seriously. Is it a decent partnership?
DANON: The prime minister is not to involve that party. He is not inviting them to join his coalition. And we would wait. In a week, we
would form a government. I don't know what the results. But the way he took that he would win the elections, it would form another government.
And in the last 13 years, he never put this party -- or those individuals as part of his government.
AMANPOUR: And finally, I guess, what we also said and what he's going to be facing is this possible criminal indictment on all these charges. That
will be a first, it hasn't happened to a sitting Israeli prime minister. Are we going to see -- I mean, what will happen if he's indicted? What's
the mechanism afterwards? Does he continue as prime minister? Does he stand trial? Does he go to jail? Is he -- what happens?
DANON: So, first, I hope he would not be indicted. I've been a friend of the prime minister (INAUDIBLE). We have rule of law, and the prime
minister, like every other citizen, he's not indicted yet, you have to go through a hearing before that in term general. It will take a few months.
And then that (INAUDIBLE) we decide whether to indict him or not.
If he's being indicted, according to the law he can state the prime minister. Maybe his coalition member would not allow it or the public
would not allow it, but according to the law, we never tried it.
AMANPOUR: So, that's interesting you say.
DANON: According to the law, he can stay the prime minister while he is being indicted.
AMANPOUR: But you say maybe his coalition won't, maybe the public won't. What does that mean?
DANON: Well, we haven't had history dealing with such scenario and I hope it will not be the case also with the prime minister. But if you look at
the law, it says specifically that the prime minister can stay I power while he's being indicted.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes. I understand. But you're the one who just raised the possibility that he might have to bear the consequences.
DANON: So, now, in the campaign, you know, people who are against the prime minister, they raise that scenario, what will happen if he will be
indicted, how can he govern while he's going to court. It is part of the debate. And I think that people in Israel will have to go the next Tuesday
and choose and vote and decide what they think about that. And that's the strength of our democracy.
In the U.N., I speak with many of my colleagues, they know the results of the election in their countries before, we do not. We are the only
democracy in the Middle East that it is real. People are voting and we govern according to the results.
AMANPOUR: There is a lot to look out for next week.
DANON: Absolutely. It's exciting.
AMANPOUR: U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon, thank you very much indeed.
DANON: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
DANON: Thank you.
DANON: So, let's hear now from the Palestinian side. Diana Buttu is a human rights lawyer and she joins me from Haifa on the West Bank. Diana?
Can you hear me?
DIANA BUTTU, FORMER LEGAL ADVISER, PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: You just heard --
BUTTU: Yes, I can.
AMANPOUR: -- Ambassador Danny Danon talk about a whole number of questions and issues that are on the table. I guess, let me ask you what you think
are the likelihood, first and foremost, of being able to come to the table under the, you know, long-awaited Jarrad Kushner peace plan.
BUTTU: Well, to begin with, I actually don't think there really is a plan. I think what we're seeing right now is the implementation of Trump's wishes
and Trump's desires, which are in effect Netanyahu's wishes and Netanyahu's desires.
We've seen everything from the declaration that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, the movement of the embassy, paring down in terms of refugees,
cutting off aid to Unrwa. We've seen that they've shut down the office of the PLO in the United States. And we've even seen that the United States
is supporting the annexation of the Golan Heights. These are all items that are -- have been on Israel's wish list for quite some time.
And what the Trump administration is doing is handing this over to the Netanyahu administration. So, I actually don't see that we're -- that
there's anything that is going to be left for there to be any discussion about given (INAUDIBLE) has been done already.
AMANPOUR: Diana, I put this to the ambassador, but it's really to put to you, do the Palestinians -- does the leadership and the people believe that
these two situations, the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem, the approval of Israel's unilateral annexation of the Golan Heights despise
international law, do you all feel that the next inevitable step will be the U.S. approving the annexation of parts of the West Bank, parts of Area
C, as it's known?
BUTTU: Most definitely. And we've already seen that since the Trump declaration that happened last week that a number of Israeli politicians
have come forward and said that this is the next natural step. And in fact, have been bragging about how -- what a great recognition this is and
how the changing of international law is working in their favor. So, this is obviously a deep concern.
But it shouldn't just be of concern to Palestinians, this should be of concern to everybody around the world. This attempt to violate and to
acknowledge or to make legal what is otherwise illegal is going down the path of changing the world's order. Next thing we know that it will be
allowed for Crimea to annexed, we will then see that settlements will be allowed to be legal.
And what it does is that it changes international order, and this is why it's so dangerous. And this is why Palestinians have been saying outright,
this isn't an honest broker, this is somebody who is in -- is shoulder to shoulder, working with Israel, being President Trump.
AMANPOUR: Can I just read to that end one of the longtime experienced Arab negotiators was the former Jordanian foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, and
he actually has recently told "The Financial Times," "While no one in the Arab world expected the U.S. to be an honest broker, they still expected
the U.S. to lead a process that would at least result in the end of the occupation and a viable Palestinian State. Now, all of that seems out of
the door. The U.S. has lost all respect in the Arab world. Nobody in the Arab world is going to accept this, nobody." I mean, that is quite
strident from a quite mild-mannered experienced world diplomat. But is that what you're feeling, not just from the Palestinians but from Arab
neighbors as well?
BUTTU: Yes, most definitely. You know, this is -- all the Palestinians have been demanding for the past 50 years is that they want their freedom
and only their freedom. And yet, when we see that administration after administration is not only not giving us our freedom but rewarding Israel
for violating international law, it says a lot about where the U.S. is and what the U.S. vision is for this region.
I think that what we need to do is we need to step back and we need to start implementing international law. People like Netanyahu should not be
rewarded with more and more land, they should actually be sanctioned, and this is why the growing boycott divestment and sanctions campaign is
picking up so swiftly, because people are seeing that Israel is getting all of the carrots and Palestinians are getting the sticks, and this isn't the
way that the international system should be working.
AMANPOUR: Diana, can I just put to you what Ambassador Danon said to me. As you know, Prime Minister Netanyahu whose rhetoric and his government's
rhetoric is that we don't have a partner of peace, that Mahmoud Abbas does not represent the Palestinians or the furthermore, he gives tens of
billions or millions of dollars to what they call terrorists.
How do you answer that and how much of that should worry you and should worry that leadership? Should there be a change in how the budgets and
those kinds of funds are allocated, if that is the case?
BUTTU: Well, I think it's first important to step back and look at who Prime Minister Netanyahu is and what his position has been. Since he's
taken office, he has allowed the Israeli settlement industry to soar, there have been more settlements that have been put up in his time than in any
other time that preceded him. He's a man who has never believed in Palestinian freedom.
And as you heard from Mr. Danon and other people who are -- who have been part of the Likud Party and who are currently part of the Likud Party, they
cannot even utter the words Palestinian freedom or much less Palestinian State. So, we're talking about people who are ideologically opposed to
And this is what the problem is, is that we keep putting up on a pedestal these individuals rather than isolating them and ostracizing them. We
should be focusing on Israel and its continued occupation and its continued denial of freedom rather than focusing on who the Palestinian leadership
is. I'm not a fan of this leadership, but it's for us to be choosing it's not for Israel to be choosing our leaders.
AMANPOUR: And just briefly, to answer that question that they always say and that is where these funds from the Palestinian authority are being
BUTTU: In terms of their funds of the Palestinian authority, I'm not part of the Palestinian government so I can't speak definitively to this. What
I can say from the research that I've done on this is that the vast majority of my money that they claim is being allocated to families is
actually not, a lot of it is going to pay the legal fees of individuals and a lot of money is going into actually subsidize the Israeli prison system.
I don't know the specifics about the budget itself. So, I can't really speak definitively to that since I'm not part of the government.
AMANPOUR: And I guess finally, you said you're not a fan of this Palestinian leadership. And you, I think, are not a fan of the two-state
solution. So, where do you think this is headed now? I mean, you are a human rights lawyer, you do a lot of work on this issue politically and in
terms of human rights. Where is this headed? I mean, are all the places or the pieces in place for a one-state solution?
BUTTU: It most certainly -- the pieces are most certainly in place for a one-state solution. The big issue that we need to start addressing is this
ideology of Jewish supremacy, that people like Danon and people like Netanyahu and begin to address that. And I think that once the world
begins to recognize that the two-state solution is not only dead but it doesn't really make sense and start putting into place measures to have one
person, one vote where everybody is equal irrespective of religion. I think that this is going to be the much better, much more workable solution
rather than simply trying to cut off parts of Palestinian territory, throw a little bit of land the way of Palestinians and say, "This is all you get
because you were kicked out of your homeland in 1948." I think this is the way that we should be working towards one person, one vote, one state.
AMANPOUR: It's going to be really interesting to see how this particular aspect plays out after these upcoming elections in Israel. Diana Buttu,
thank you so much for joining me.
Still to come on the program, perhaps some much needed relief with the woman who's been trying for decades to get America to open up about sex.
Stick around for my conversation with the famous Dr. Ruth.
But first, when an American president dies, the implications reverberate around the world. But what's it like for a vice president to suddenly take
over that top job. Jared Cohen is best known as a former advisor to Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.
His new book, "Accidental Presidents," looks at the importance of leadership in times of political turmoil. And he joined our Walter
Isaacson for a conversation about how unelected presidents have changed the course of history.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Jared, welcome to the show.
JARED COHEN, AUTHOR, "ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENTS": Thank you, Walter.
ISAACSON: We're in a really weird period in this country with the Trump, the Mueller report, all these things happening. You have a new book out
called, "The Accident Presidents." Have we seen things like this before?
COHEN: Well, I think it's telling that -- when I mention to people, "I have a book called 'The Accidental Presidents,'" the first thing they say
is, "Is it a current events book?"
ISAACSON: Yes. Sure.
COHEN: And I say that, "No, it's about the eight times in history a U.S. president has died in office and how the abrupt transfer of power changes
history." And the honest truth is, as Americans, we have much more experience and history with navigating what seem at the time like
constitutional crises, navigating what seem at the time a lot of confusion, polarization, questions about what's going to happen to the president, and
we don't reflect enough on those a experiences and learn from them and see how it informs today's moment.
ISAACSON: How did this book come about?
COHEN: My parents bought me a book called "The Buck Stops Here," it's one of those rhyming history books for kids and it was supposed to be a cute
little historical lesson for me, maybe I had memorized the presidents and I zeroed in on death and assassination.
So, my poor parents had to have eight conversations about," Mom, Dad, what is death? What does it mean when somebody is assassinated? What happens
to them?" As I got older that evolved into an interest in collecting memorabilia around these transitions and I always said to myself, "At some
point, I'm going to write a book about this."
And each of the stories of the accidental presidents are told in different places. But what I really wanted to do was to put them together. And I
wanted to put them together because I think that the story of the eight accidental presidents is one of the best-case studies for showing us that
the constitution is a living document.
There is a total randomness and allowing things to be left to chance associated with how we muddled through all this. Andrew Johnson was a
complete catastrophe and you had some who were mixed. But by and large, we ended up navigating this pretty well despite the constitution being
completely vague about what we do with a vacancy.
ISAACSON: Tell me how it talks about the living document of the constitution, how we get from a place where we don't even know that John
Tyler is officially the president today, just how we can adapt the constitution.
COHEN: Yes. And it also shows you how long it takes to get the point. So, on many levels, right. So, it took three presidential assassinations
for the U.S. government to kind and Congress to get the point that the Secret Service should probably have a mandate to protect the presidency,
not just fight counterfeiters. It took 8 presidents dying in office, four assassinated, for us to realize that we should probably have a provision
for formalizing the Tyler precedent making it clear legally that the vice president assumes the presidency and becomes the presidency.
But there is also no provision for replacing the vice president of the United States. So, it's not until the 25th Amendment that gives Richard
Nixon the ability to pluck Gerald Ford out of Michigan's 5th and make him vice president that such a thing was possible. So, every one of these
eight accidental presidents leave the vice president vacant.
That's interesting because John Tyler nearly dies as president in an explosion that kills a number of members of the cabinet. Andrew Johnson a
month into his presidency nearly dies from sickness. Teddy Roosevelt was flung from a carriage a year after he assumed the presidency and nearly
died. His body guard was killed, the driver in the carriage with it was killed. Harry Truman was up against an assassination attempt by Puerto
Rican rebels and so forth.
So, the absence of a mechanism for replacing the vice president almost left us exposed to a very serious constitutional crisis.
ISAACSON: The most vibrant example, in some ways, of somebody assuming the reins of power in the presidency and then having a whole agenda that you
didn't expect is Teddy Roosevelt, the Antitrust Movements and things, how did that come about?
COHEN: So, in the case of Teddy Roosevelt, the irony is he had a complete pivot from McKinley's administration of a big business, but it was very
predictable because everybody who understood who Teddy Roosevelt was.
Teddy Roosevelt ends up on the ticket in 1900 because the vice president dies in office. And the party bosses in New York are so tired of Teddy
Roosevelt that they want to exile him to the political equivalent of Elba (ph). And Teddy has his own problems back home where it's not guaranteed
that he's going to win reelection as governor of New York. So, he figures, "I'm young enough. I aspire to bigger things. I'll bide my time here and
I'm Teddy Roosevelt, so nobody's ever going to make me irrelevant."
And, you know, other than one of McKinley's closest advisors, a guy named Mark Hanna, nobody really thought about this. And Hanna used to run around
saying, "Don't you all understand how crazy it is to put this man just one heartbeat from the presidency," and that's the first time that heartbeat
concept gets used.
To me, the one that's most extraordinary is Harry Truman because Truman, you know, as vice president, he meets with Roosevelt twice, he isn't read
into Yalta, he's not briefed on the Manhattan Project, he's not following the happenings of World War II, he's basically out socializing.
In fact, you know, just six days before Roosevelt dies, somebody writes him a letter advocating a policy and he says, "I'm just a political eunuch."
And so, as late as, you know, six days before he ascends to the presidency, he's viewing himself as kind of an irrelevant sidekick and thinks of
himself as kind of an aw-shucks provincial politician from Missouri.
And you look at what that man inherited. And on paper, he should not have been successful. Now, I believe Truman was successful because he was
likeminded with George Marshall and likeminded with Dean Acheson, sort of Europeanness and they all wanted the same thing. So, the success of the
world rested on helping Truman be successful.
But what he inherited and the decisions he had to make in just his first four to nine months was unlike anything that we've seen in history.
ISAACSON: But do you think the Cold War could have taken a different course if Truman hadn't taken the tough stand in Potsdam and others that
Franklin Roosevelt might not have taken?
COHEN: The big question that I raise in the FDR and Truman chapters is around how they interacted with Joseph Stalin And, you know, FDR, there
are varying theories on this but FDR certainly was predisposed and want to believe he could work with Stalin.
There are examples where he questioned that. particularly, towards the end of his life but by all accounts, he believed there was -- he knew Stalin,
he could work with Stalin. He stopped getting advice from the advisers and people with deep expertise on Russia and you could argue he was too close
I think some of this had to do with the fact that, you know, I don't think Roosevelt was in denial about his health. I think Roosevelt knew he was
dying but he wanted to beat the clock, finish the war, maybe become the first secretary general of the U.N. but finish the job while he was still
What impresses me about Truman is the fact that unlike, you know, LBJ, who buys into the argument that Ho Chi Minh is somebody we can maybe get a
better compromise with by over eagerly negotiating and so forth. Truman doesn't buy any of that with Stalin on day one.
And he has no institutional knowledge which would lead him to this conclusion. It's pure instinct. And he's getting all sorts of advice from
people pushing a Roosevelt agenda, people pushing their own agendas.
And for somebody who's following the great FDR to be able to assert themselves so early on without neglecting the legacy of FDR during such an
important moment in history, it's nothing short of extraordinary.
ISAACSON: Is there a common set of mistakes that these accidental presidents have made?
COHEN: To me, the common thread across each of these accidental presidents is it all comes down to the people they surround themselves with. So
they're all confronted with the same problem of inheriting somebody else's advisers.
You get accidental presidents like Millard Fillmore who fire everybody on day one. So Fillmore fires the entire cabinet at arguably the most
polarized moment in American history which is the moment where they're figuring out what to do with all the land that was ceded to the United
States following war with Mexico.
You have John Tyler who probably should have fired some portion of the cabinet early on or he wouldn't have gotten kicked out of his own party.
You get people like LBJ who was -- LBJ was very sensible with the domestic side of his cabinet but he couldn't bring himself to question the
Harvard's, as he called them, the intellectual foreign policy elite and they led him down a very different path.
So, the president --
ISAACSON: In Vietnam.
COHEN: In Vietnam. So the presidents who iterate on their predecessor's cabinet without going to one extreme or the other, meaning keeping all of
them or getting rid of all of them tend to be the ones who fare the best.
ISAACSON: So what are the lessons in the accidental presidents that help us say we were in really turbulent times and now we're in turbulent times
again? What lessons do we have for how we navigate out?
COHEN: Well, I think -- I mean there's -- in terms of the lesson from the book, a starting point would be we should give more thought to how we
choose the vice president of the United States.
You know, when Lyndon Johnson decided to leave the most powerful seat in Congress to run with Kennedy, there was a 20 percent chance that he would
If you look at all the close calls and combine them with the presidents that actually died, today's vice presidents have a 42 percent chance of
becoming president, if all those close calls had actually happened. Those are pretty high statistics.
And yet we still choose vice presidents as political marriages of convenience to win a state, appease a constituency, neither of which happen
consistently. And we don't think about the person who's the sort of the understudy to the highest office in the land as somebody who can actually
lead this country.
So that's a starting point. But I would say the other is, you know, we should anticipate gaps in our system and experiment with solutions along
So the 25th Amendment was the culmination of various experiments with succession laws where first it was the president pro tem followed by the
speaker. Then they got rid of both and it was just the cabinet. Then they restored the president pro tem and the speaker but they flipped the order.
We don't -- we should resist the urge to answer every single question at the moment. Instead, allow ourselves to try different things. Had we
basically tried to comprehensively solve the succession crisis in the Constitution, I'm not sure we would have been better off.
ISAACSON: Which of the moments from your study of history of our country is [13:35:00] most analogous to today?
COHEN: There are so many parallels to the Harding administration that it's astonishing. So Warren Harding, when he ascends to the presidency, he's
the unexpected candidate.
His administration ends up being the most scandal written administration in history. It has all the -- I mean it has teapot dome, there's murders,
there's suicides, tons of corruption, manipulation, et cetera, so it's a very colorful administration.
The Harding women, there's a lot of affairs, including Nan Britton, who he has an illegitimate child within a five by five hat closet of the Oval
Office. Harding, when he's in the Senate, has a love affair with a German spy. So you have all of that.
But it was also an administration that had the wealthiest cabinet in history. People like Andrew Mellon. It was incredibly anti-immigrant and
particularly related to Chinese immigrants.
And you had a lot of cronies and friends on the government payroll in very high positions and ambiguous adviser positions. The difference is Harding
dies enormously popular.
The whole image of Silent Cal -- this was one of the surprising things. With the whole image of Silent Cal is a fabrication.
ISAACSON: Calvin Coolidge, to make clear who takes over.
COHEN: Yes. So Calvin Coolidge is a man who's so boring, his image is, that nobody remembers him. And there's a great story when there was a fire
at the Willard Hotel while he's vice president, he doesn't evacuate and the hotel manager comes up to him and says, "Excuse me, sir. You have to
evacuate." And he says, "I'm the vice president." He goes, "Oh, OK, proceed."
The manager then turns around to him and says, "Wait, the vice president of what?" He says. "The United States." And he says, "Oh, you have to
evacuate. I thought you were the vice president of the hotel."
But Coolidge, the scandals break three months after Coolidge ascends to the presidency and you're very close to the 1924 presidential election. And
so, Coolidge cultivates this image of a man so silent and so boring that he couldn't have had anything to do with the scandals.
In fact, he engages in more radio broadcasts than any president who came before him but just interpersonally he's kind of quiet and shy. And so if
you look at parallels to today's moment, there's something kind of silent Cal-ish about our current number two.
ISAACSON: Michael Pence, yes. Well, it may be nice to get to a time when we have silent and boring and calm leaders again. Jared, thank you for
being with us.
COHEN: Thank you, Walter.
ISAACSON: Appreciate it.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: And nothing boring about what we turn to next from that which divides us to that which unites us. It's something we all have in common,
the human search for love, partnership, and, yes, of course, intimacy.
But all too often we are too timid to talk about it in public, even with our families and friends. Especially when it comes to sex.
Enter Ruth Westheimer, the German-born sex therapist who has been endearing herself to Americans for decades as Dr. Ruth, the woman who uses good humor
and incredible honesty to broach what needs to be broached.
At age 90 now, yes, 90, she is still going strong and also opening up about her own tragic past. She is the subject of a new documentary, "Ask Dr.
Ruth." Here's a clip from the trailer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH WESTHEIMER, SEX THERAPIST: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to believe this woman. She has a deep German accent and she talks about sex. And I think we should do something
WESTHEIMER: In the early '80s, people did not talk about sexuality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a certain list of words you can't say. Well, we said them.
WESTHEIMER: And then, let him insert his [bleep] into the [bleep] from behind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't think it would explode like it did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then, of course, she got her own television shows.
WESTHEIMER: Before I started to do television, the most important thing for me was education. While I was studying, I was a single mother. I got
a position at Planned Parenthood and I loved it. I never compromised, even when it was not popular.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Always bleepable, Dr. Ruth joins me now here in New York. Welcome to the program.
WESTHEIMER: Thank you, Christiane. This is very interesting, not once in my entire career on radio did they bleep me out.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, we live in a different universe now.
WESTHEIMER: I know, I know. I have no problems with it because everybody who listens to you and me knows what those words meant.
AMANPOUR: They do.
WESTHEIMER: You can bleep it out. It's OK.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Maybe it's a conversation though, for another day. It's a good conversation to have because it goes to the very heart of what you're
saying. We shouldn't be too embarrassed or prudish to talk about the most important things. Where do you get the energy to still, you know, go
gangbusters on this?
WESTHEIMER: I'm getting asked that very often and I tell you what, Christiane, that it has to do [13:40:00] with my loving what I'm doing. So
I'm not retiring. I'm rewiring. I'm talking to you.
And I don't get the energy because I also know what not to do. So I get driven, I don't drive anymore. I don't ski anymore. And so I know what
not to do.
But on the other hand, I'm so fortunate that I'm healthy, I'm going to be 91, and I'm healthy and I love what I'm doing. And I love talking to you.
AMANPOUR: Well, I love talking to you about this because I also had a series but, I mean, very different but it's called "Sex and Love Around the
World". And I was absolutely fascinated to talk to people and hear them being so eager to talk back and to explain and ask questions and all the
So I wonder where did you get your desire to discuss and be the expert on this topic?
WESTHEIMER: Right. So I did not know I would be Dr. Ruth. I was an orphan of the Holocaust. I was sent with a Kindertransport to Switzerland,
otherwise, I would not be here. I would be exterminated with one million and a half other children.
And I did -- I knew that I'm doing something in education. I remember my grandmother saying, "You should be a Kindergarten teacher, you are so
short. You fit in those little chairs."
So I became a Kindergarten teacher in Israel, in Palestine, first when I fought in the Haganah. I was badly wounded but that's not why I'm short.
I would have been short anyway.
But I then was fortunate to get to the Sorbonne in Paris and to get a good education in psychology and came to this country on a visit. And I said,
I'm here, let me pick up a master's, New School of Social Research, a master's in sociology.
AMANPOUR: So you are Dr. Ruth.
WESTHEIMER: That's why I'm the doctor, is a real doctor. It's not just something that I made up.
AMANPOUR: And you're a fighter. I hadn't realized about Haganah, how you were really a fighter in the resistance against the British mandate from
WESTHEIMER: Now, I have never killed anybody. However, I was trained as a sniper and I was very badly wounded. On my 20th birthday, June 4, 1948,
cannonball came into the girl's residence in Jerusalem where I lived.
And I did show that in the documentary and wounded me very badly on both legs but that's not why I'm short. I would have been short anyway.
And I was able to get fixed by a surgeon in Jerusalem who came from Germany, was well trained. So I became a super good skier at Black
Diamond. And I can dance. I can still dance a whole night if I find somebody to dance with.
AMANPOUR: Well, we're going to talk about all of this, including a future dancing partner. But let me just remind people and play some clips of some
of your early shows. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm 18 --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm a virgin and I want to wait until I'm married. But I've just gotten started in a career and I want to be stable
in that career before I get married.
WESTHEIMER: Right, right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I don't think that I can really wait that long.
WESTHEIMER: Hold it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't mean to -- yes.
WESTHEIMER: Hold it. Even if the career, let's say, takes 10 years, let's say, where's it written that you can't get married during your career? I
got my doctorate at the age of 40.
Now, I don't talk about my sex life as you can imagine, but I can assure you that I already had two children, so something must have happened,
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have recently become very serious with this man and we may be getting married. And I'm just a little afraid that he might ask
me how many men I have been sexually active with. And I feel embarrassed to tell him the truth because I'm afraid he'll think differently of me. So
do you think I should fib or tell him the truth?
WESTHEIMER: I tell you, from the way I listen to you, I would say to you, do not tell the truth. Do not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, there's some strategic holding back there. Why do you think people opened up to you so much from the beginning?
WESTHEIMER: First of all, I was very well trained. Helen Singer Kaplan was the first sex therapist at Cornell Medical School and I worked with her
for seven years, two years being trained, five years training others so I'm very fortunate.
Also, I'm very Jewish. And in the Jewish tradition, in the Talmud, it says a lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained. Not a joke. I couldn't
tell you a joke but I can hear some question and answer with humor like what I told that woman, keep your mouth shut. Don't tell about your past.
[14:45:00] That's the past. Live right now and make the best of it.
So it's a little bit the combination of being very well trained, psychology from the Sorbonne, Masters in Sociology, Doctorate Columbia University
Teachers College where I'm now teaching and I'm also teaching at Hunter.
So that combination helped. And what helped is that I loved what I'm doing. I love that people, because of the accent, what has happened to me,
like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in my case, could have only happened in New York because New Yorkers were very generous with people with accents. Then, it
went nationwide and even into your Britain.
AMANPOUR: Yes. You know, you talk about the humor and it really is, because that makes it accessible, it makes people feel that they can talk
to you and talk to anybody who listens to them with this kind of empathy that you do.
I mean, but it's been quite -- you know, there's been people who say that you saved them in their most desperate times, even from suicide, they would
be so worried.
WESTHEIMER: That was because, at the time, I spoke up. I don't talk about politics. I leave that up to you, Christiane. I speak up about family
planning, about contraception, and I certainly spoke up about that dreadful disease of aids.
And right now, I have to tell you, Christiane, I'm again worried about that, because people think it's not nothing about it, there's medication.
And I'm worried we're going to have a rise in syphilis, gonorrhea, and aids.
And I'm very concerned, I don't do politics, but I speak up about Planned Parenthood. We have to keep Planned Parenthood alive.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that your sympathy and empathy for -- in the '80s, of course, when the aids epidemic was devastating New York and other places
and gay men were vilified and shunned, do you think your own experience as having been Jewish, having, you know, the story you have and we're going to
talk about a little bit, being a minority, being persecuted.
WESTHEIMER: No question. Because I was saved where one million and a half Jewish children were killed.
I have an obligation to help someplace. I didn't know it would be about sex but that I have to stand up to all. I'm only 4'7" and to be counted to
And that has certainly driven me by my saying my parents didn't survive, my grandparents didn't survive, I was an only child, I was in an orphanage in
Switzerland in a Kindertransport from Frankfurt, from Germany to Switzerland. That's the only way I survived.
AMANPOUR: We see you here with your parents. And again, it's so heartbreaking just to know this story and to know that you were 10 the last
time you ever saw them. And you escaped for your life and it was your father who told you to get on this train.
WESTHEIMER: My father was taken by the Nazis in 1938. And he wrote a postcard. I was 10-years-old.
And he wrote a postcard that I have to join the group of Orthodox Jewish Children from Frankfurt to Switzerland so that he can come back to
Frankfurt. I had no choice.
I didn't want to leave. An only child, a grandmother who had nothing else to do but take care of me, another set of grandparents, farmers, in a
village in Wiesenfeld. I had no choice.
What's very interesting, these days, I talk a lot about loneliness and in the documentary, it shows beautifully. And the animation -- I was worried
about animation. I thought they're going to make me look like Pinocchio.
It shows beautifully at the railroad station, it didn't show lots of mothers and grandmothers. It showed my mother and grandmother and me on
AMANPOUR: It was beautifully illustrated, actually.
WESTHEIMER: Beautifully illustrated and the color was a little red, which really kind of made more emphasis about the loneliness.
AMANPOUR: I want to -- because that's really important. Loneliness today is one of the big issues that so many people, particularly after a certain
age, but even young people feel very, very acutely. I want to play another clip from the documentary and it's about your discussing having discovered
that your parents were killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WESTHEIMER: For many years, I really didn't want to see in black and white what happened to my parents. But as difficult as it is for me, I have an
obligation to learn about the fate of my family.
JOEL WESTHEIMER, DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER'S SON: I've thought about, you know, when did my parents tell me about the Holocaust or, like, what -- when did
my mother tell me that she never saw her [13:50:00] parents after she was 10-years-old? And I don't have any recollection of some moment.
MIRIAM WESTHEIMER, DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER'S DAUGHTER: As I grew up, I realized I didn't have grandparents on my mother's side. So I would ask
about that and she would answer the questions but my mother didn't offer information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So it's really interesting, you didn't talk about it like so many war survivors. But I want to ask you because right after this very
poignant moment that we just saw, you discovered, in writing, the date that your father died. And you also saw your mother's entry, but that didn't
have a date. It just said, disappeared.
WESTHEIMER: Oh, you did your homework.
AMANPOUR: Yes, we watched.
WESTHEIMER: I have to tell you something important. I'm on the board of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. And right now, please come with me, we have
an exhibit that's very upsetting but we have to have it on Auschwitz. And we have the freight car that took Jews to go there.
So when I see -- that's the obligation. What you just saw there is yet a shame in Jerusalem and it's true, the Nazis kept dates and they kept papers
and they kept everything like --
AMANPOUR: They were incredible catalogers weren't they, documented everything? Yes.
WESTHEIMER: People will do. Next to my mother, it has the word, Christiane, verschwinden. Verschwinden in German means disappeared.
I don't know where she is. So this documentary and the exhibit right now as we speak at the Museum of Jewish Heritage is really a gravestone for
people like my mother who don't have a grave or the rest of the family and the rest of the people.
AMANPOUR: It's really an important marker, as you say. But I wonder also whether that experience for you, particularly at the age of 10 and you talk
about never having been hugged again, at least as a kid, is that also something that sort of propelled you into wanting to give everybody else a
WESTHEIMER: No question. Not only that, that's why I got married three times, but only the father -- only one was the real marriage, almost 40
But no question that the art of loving and it had something to do with my interpersonal relationships which were so missing and it was missing in the
orphanage that was like not a happy place, but we made the best of it. The other children, we became brothers and sisters. No question that that has
On the other hand, I do have to stand up for those people that you know, Christiane, that are Holocaust deniers and I have to say, look at my story.
And then I have to stand up for those people who have Holocaust fatigue.
They say, stop already talking about it. It's so long ago, it's like the Civil War. Not so. We have to stand up to be counted so that it can never
I would like to invite you to the museum and I'll go with you.
AMANPOUR: I'll come.
WESTHEIMER: And then I want to meet you in London because I'm doing --
AMANPOUR: We're now doing our social calendar. But let me ask you something. These are really important historical things that you're
talking about and we must remember and we mustn't forget and we must be alert.
But I want to ask you about your topic again, to end off. Why is it that people are having less sex, do you think, these days?
What is responsible -- "The Atlantic" Magazine did a huge amount of research. From the late '90s to 2014, the average adult went from having
sex 62 times a year to 54 times a year.
WESTHEIMER: Terrible. Now, I have to tell you something. Part of it has to do with something that I'm very interested in, the art of conversation
is being lost.
And you can't just hop into bed. You really have to have a relationship. And the other thing is what you and I just talked about the loneliness and
some people always thinking there's something better coming down the street.
So I don't know about the statistics if that's what they did. It proves what I'm talking about. People, put your iPhone aside and talk to each
other. And make sure that when you're in a restaurant, the world is not going to fall. Even watch Christiane later. You don't have to watch her
right now on your iPhone.
AMANPOUR: In intimate moments, OK. I hope people are listening to you, Dr. Ruth.
That's all we have time for. That was really wonderful. Thank you so much indeed. Thank you for joining me.
WESTHEIMER: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And that is it for now. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com. And you can follow me on
Instagram and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.