Return to Transcripts main page


Second Presidential Democratic Debate; Best Suited Democrat to Take on Trump on 2020 Election; Joe Biden, Still Frontrunner for Democrats; Will Jawando, Former Obama White House Official, and Mark McKinnon, Creator and Host, "The Circus", are Interviewed About the Democratic Presidential Debate; Trump Administration Put Javad Zarif on Sanction List; Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group, is Interviewed About Iran; Turkey, Becoming Increasingly Islamist and Authoritarian; Elif Shafak, Author, "10 minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World," is Interviewed About Turkey; Turkey's Truth In A State Of Authoritarianism; Kristen Arnett's "Mostly Dead Things". Aired 1-2p ET

Aired August 1, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.


FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. We have to let him know who we are.


AMANPOUR: Which Democrat is best suited to take on Donald Trump? Smart analysis from strategist, Mark McKinnon, and Obama alum, William Jawando.

Plus --


JOHN BOLTON, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We consider Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, an illegitimate spokesman for Iran.


AMANPOUR: America sanctions the top diplomat. Is the White House slamming the door on negotiations?

And telling Turkey's truth in an age of authoritarianism. I'll speak to the novelist, Elif Shafak.

Also --


KRISTEN ARNETT, AUTHOR, "MOSTLY DEAD THINGS": My "Elevator Pitch," the first book, is lesbian taxidermist who takes over her family's taxidermy

shop after her father kills himself.


AMANPOUR: Grief and family and yes, dead animals. Our Alicia Menendez speaks with the now best-selling novelist, Kristen Arnett, about her new

book, "Mostly Dead Things."

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Two nights of high-stakes debates, and are we any closer to knowing who will challenge Donald Trump next year? Democrats spent more time -- more

than five hours this week trying to hash out their differences. Front and center, Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is still the clear frontrunner

by quite a long shot. In an exchange with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, the party's central tensions were on


In this case, it was about immigration.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NYC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I guaranty you, if you're debating Donald Trump, he's not going to let you off the hook. So,

did you say those deportations were a good idea or did you go to the president and say, "This is a mistake, we shouldn't do it," which one?

BIDEN: I was vice president. I am not the president. I keep my recommendations in private. Unlike you, I suspect you would go ahead and

say whatever was said privately with him. That is not what I do. What I do say to you is, he moved to fundamentally change the system. That's what

he did. That's what he did. But much more has to be done. Much more has to be done.

DE BLASIO: I still don't hear an answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Booker, please respond.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, a couple of things. First of all, Mr. Vice President, you can't have it both ways. You invoke

President Obama more than anyone else in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient and then dodge it when it's not.


AMANPOUR: So, Will Jawando served as associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration and he is now a

member of the Montgomery Maryland County Council. And he's joining me from Washington. And Mark McKinnon is a Republican political strategist most

famous for his work with George W. Bush and John McCain. And he is joining me from Denver.

Gentlemen, welcome to the program.



AMANPOUR: So, OK. Let's ask, because everybody asked these questions. On the horse race aspect of it, do we know whether anybody distinguished

themselves in this second round of debates now in Detroit, the first being in Miami last month, did anybody break out in a significant way, Will, as a


JAWANDO: Well, I think you saw a couple things between the two nights, from Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, you saw a strong vision

from where they think the country should go, you know, Medicare for All. I don't think anyone in the last two election cycles has had more influence

on the Democratic party than Bernie Sanders.

Now, the baseline is are you for Medicare for All, are you for free college, and those are ideas that he brought to the forefront, even though

they've been around for a while. So, I think those two are winners from both nights because what Democrats want -- first, they want to beat Donald

Trump. Second, they want to have a proactive vision for the country, and I think those two really put that out there.

Now, that being said, because Democrats first want to beat Donald Trump, there is still a large contingent that thinks Vice President Joe Biden, my

former colleague and boss, is the one to do it. And so, that's why I think you see him doing well in the polls. So, I also think he is right in there

along with Harris and Booker and others, but I think the problem with last night's debate was that everyone was arguing, they were really in the

swamp, got down low and they weren't given that big vision. That's what you saw from Warren and Sanders the first night.

AMANPOUR: The big vision. All right. From your perspective as political strategist for previous presidents and you continue to give your advice,

what do you think as a Republican in what you're seeing right now on the Democratic stage, Mark?

MCKINNON: Well, I agree with the big takeaway which is that, you know, the Democrats spent a lot of time arguing about policies from 20 years ago and

not enough time arguing about policies for 20 years from now. I think we learned a lot about the candidates. I thought the debates were good. I

thought they were informative. I thought they substantive [13:05:00].

I think that the main take away for me for the debates is that Joe Biden survived, although, I would say just barely, but survived is enough for

now, and that Elizabeth Warren really thrived. I think that she is the candidate with the most momentum right now. She is the one where the heat

in the Democratic Party is right now.

I think if you're for the policies of Sanders and Warren, why not pick Warren, because there is so much heat being generated in the Democratic

primary toward diversity and women. She is just like a sunnier version of Bernie who always seem so angry and mad. So, those are the main takeaway.

So, I think we are clear about where the nomination might be headed in the Democratic side. I think we have a top tier of Warren, Sanders, Biden,

Harris and maybe Booker and Buttigieg kind of sneaking up there. The question is from watching these debates, are they any closer to a strategy

and a message to beating Donald Trump? And that, I think, is less clear.

AMANPOUR: So, let me just follow up because, you know, you've given fulsome praise to Elizabeth Warren and I just wonder if there is a little

bit of Republican strategy there, and that would be the one President Trump would like to go up against because he will just brand her a socialist.

MCKINNON: Sure. Well, I think that's the conventional thinking, that she would be easiest just because she's so ideologically progressive. On the

other hand, if you think through this, there is a lot about Warren's message that is a lot like Trump's in the sense that the people she's

appealing to are people who think the system is rigged and that they're getting screwed. She just has a different answer for those problems and a

lot of those people will feel like their griefs haven't been answered over the last four years, and Elizabeth Warren just has a different approach.

AMANPOUR: So, Will, I want to ask you because, you know, even some Republican, you know, real top-ranked Republicans like governors and so,

I've heard, when asked about the Democratic field, you know, even they have grudging respect for Warren who has clearly done her homework and the math

and the planning and the funding of all these things that she's promising.

She comes with a very, very strong, you know, background to all the things that she's saying she wants to do, even if they are very progressive and

blow up the system and start again.

JAWANDO: No. I think that's right. And to Mark's --

MCKINNON: So, that's right.

AMANPOUR: Sorry. Let me ask Will and we'll get back to you, Mark. Go ahead, Will.

JAWANDO: I was going to give you some credit there, Mark. To Mark's point, I think she brings the passion, taps into the populist that the

system is rigged kind of feeling that many Americans are feeling in this economy, the gig economy, where people are rent burdened and struggling,

the constituents I represent in Maryland, people who are really working paycheck to paycheck and having a lot of trouble, she taps into that, which

is what Bernie did, and trumped it to an extent on the negative side, in my view.

But she also comes with a very, very strong policy rationale and statistics-driven plans that down to the cent, you know, when she talks

about $50 million and the next 50 million and one, we take two cents from every dollar after that to pay for child care, for example. And I think

that's what makes it unique and that she's so prepared, but she also taps into that passion.

Senator Sanders tapped into the passion and had general plans, but he wasn't as good on the details, and I think to Mark's point, Senator Warren

also delivers it in a slightly more soft way that is not as angry, even though it's passionate.

So, I do think she's on the rise. I think you'll see her go up in the polls. I don't think it's over, though, because I think still people

question the point whether something that radical can defeat Donald Trump where we are today, and I think that's why you'll see Joe Biden still

remains strong, I think that's why Senator Harris will remain strong. Some of those still good, well-spoken, passionate candidates that might take a

slightly less progressive or leftist view on some of these issues.

AMANPOUR: Right. OK. So, Mark, you know, President Trump essentially has kind of everything going for him, if you take statistics since 1900, the

vast majority of incumbents have won, only about four have lost in their reelection bid. You have the economy going well, at least on a macro

level. I know there are many, many issues with kitchen table economics, et cetera, for ordinary people, but nonetheless, on the big picture, wages,


But you have very strange statistics because, you know, he has very, very low approval ratings. So, high-performing economy that he can boast but

low approval ratings. How is that going to play out? How is that sustainable? You know, the typical question is, how do these two figures

exist in the same sentence?

MCKINNON: Well, it's an anomaly. And you're right, we've never seen it historically. Generally, president's approval rating [13:10:00] pretty

well matches up with the economic approval of the country. And as you've said and as we know, the economic outlook right now is pretty strong. Now,

whether that remains, we'll see.

But across the board where I've it seen high -- low unemployment, high stock market, lots of things to give Republicans a lot of hope about the

election, but yet, there is that disconnect with the approval of Donald Trump. So, that's where Democrats have the opportunity.

I mean, historically speaking, this should be like a Reagan re-elect in a, you know, 48, 49-state sweep. But it's not, it's in play. So, Democrats

have to be able to figure out how to take advantage of that because otherwise it wouldn't even be close. But that's why I think that a message

that is -- that recognizes those people who are disenfranchised, still, because there is a lot of them, and that's what Warren a message is all


She's saying, you know, the economy may be working but it's not working for most people. It's working only for people at the top. And she can talk

about Trump's -- about the tax cuts and the other things that have benefited only the rich in this country, and that's why that message has a

lot of science.

But on the other hand, as Will said, there is a lot of danger in that. And this is why Republicans like Trump were salivating because fundamentally,

the big part of that message, takeaway, if you're Republican is you're saying, "OK. So, what they're saying is they're going to take away your

private health insurance. They're going to give free insurance not just to everybody in America, but anyone who comes across the border. And, oh, by

the way, we're going to make it easier for people to come across the border to get everything for free that you've been working so hard for."

JAWANDO: Right. I think there's --

AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you because you've talked a lot about Elizabeth Warren and her detail and her policy. But Biden, still, we're

going to put up the little graphic up to remind everybody, as we said is still right now the frontrunner. I mean, at 32 percent according to the

RealClearPolitics, and his closest rival, Bernie Sanders is at 16 percent, with Warren at 15 percent.

But he has been taking some -- well, obviously, everybody ganged up on him last night because he is the frontrunner. And I just want to know from

you, Will, he was your boss, you worked in the White House under him. He's invoking President Obama a lot and trying to use the Obama shield,

according to others like Senator Booker and others, to sort of shield him from his record on, well, civil rights and busing and on criminal justice.

Let's just listen to what Biden said about that.


BIDEN: I find it fascinating. Everybody is talking about how terrible I am on these issues. Barack Obama knew exactly who I was. He had 10

lawyers do a background check and everything about me in civil rights and civil liberties and he chose me and he said it was the best decision he



AMANPOUR: So, what do you think? I mean, both of you. Will, because you're a Democrat and you worked for him and he is the frontrunner. Is

using the Obama shield a good play?

JAWANDO: Well, look, I think he's -- I wouldn't call it using the Obama shield, I think he's using the record that he was a part of as part of the

team. Look, President Obama has a 97 percent approval rating amongst Democrats. If you saw the chair of the DNC come out before the debate, Tom

Perez, he said, "Who misses Barack Obama?" the place exploded in Detroit.

And so, I think you would be a fool not to associate yourself with an administration you were a part of for eight years that did many good

things, and I was proud of, for the country. I think both sides are using are using it though. I think even though you see some other Democrats,

like Senator Booker and Harris and Julian Castro and others, distancing themselves from specific Obama era policies, they have been hesitant to

distance themselves from the president himself.

And so, I think both sides are going try to use it that. Certainly, Joe Biden is going to try to use it. But I wanted to mention one thing that I

think is important about why this election is so different as well. You have this undercurrent, and I'm sure we'll get into this -- not even an

undercurrent, an overcurrent, a tide of racism and bigotry and xenophobia and all the attacks form this president that I think will motivate the

Democratic base, particularly communities of color, to come out in a way that they have never come out before, and that is another reason you see

those low approval ratings for the president in addition to that.

AMANPOUR: Well, can I just point out since you do mention that, and we are going to go right into it, again, the polls show that Vice President Joe

Biden has a very high approval rating amongst African-American voters, Black Democratic voters, anyway. 53 percent approve of Joe Biden, and it's

much, much, much lower for others like Sanders, Harris, you know, Warren and Booker, I mean, even for African-American candidates. So, that is

really interesting. But you do bring up, sadly, the elephant in the room, or not even in the room, the actual overcurrent, as you said, of racism.

So, I want to ask you, Mark McKinnon, how ugly you think this race is going [13:15:00] to get, because I think you've spoken about the president's

attack on those four congresswomen of color, his relentless tweeting on Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Is this a strategy?

We read from the White House that people are shocked and reluctant for this to happen, and they're laughing at people who think it's a presidential

strategy rather than just impulse. What do you think? Because others think its strategy. It worked for him in 2016 and he's doubling down.

MCKINNON: I think that Donald Trump is instinctive and he's compulsive and he hits what's in front of him. There's nothing long-term about this.

This is just who he is. It's in his DNA. It's how he won before. It's how he thinks he'll win again.

But as Will said, a big part of the reason that Donald Trump won is because typical Democratic constituencies didn't turn out in large numbers. And by

doing what he's doing right now, I guaranty you, we are going to see the highest turnout probably of any presidential election in history, certainly

among Democrats. It's going to be high among Republicans as well. That's how Donald Trump does it. He does it by division, he does it by scare

tactics, he does it by fearmongering, he does it by pitting us against them. And in order to get us afraid, he's got to pump up the fear factor

of the them attacking us.

AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's a pretty wild statement you said. You think it's going to be the highest turnout in -- you know, in recent elections

and that Donald Trump may be digging his own, well, you know, political grave. I don't know. I think you said that, regarding African-Americans

and increasing the turnout compared to last time.

Do you see that, Will? I mean, you're in Maryland, which is taking the full brunt in the recent weeks, certainly in the City of Baltimore, from

President Trump's, you know, I think he said rat-infested and all the rest of it.

JAWANDO: Yes. Disgusting and so many things. I do. I see it here. I see it in the cab driver on the way over here. Again, as I said earlier, I

think, number one, is people want to beat Donald Trump, and that's why you're seeing Joe Biden do so well. Those numbers are staggering in the

African-American community. I think it speaks to the high approval ratings of president Obama. So, I think you're going to have high turnout.

And to Mark's point, Donald Trump is not going to tone this down, as much as some Republicans might want him to. He's going to double down and keep

going. And he feeds off of it. I think he said on Twitter last night, the debate needed me on stage. And so, I think you're going to see more of

this, I think it's going to be more ratcheted up, and that is going to lead, I think, to turnout on both sides.

Unfortunately, there is still many people, as we've seen in acts across country, that feel like Donald Trump gives them license to say racist,

xenophobic, anti-Semitic, a whole bunch of negative things that divide us and I think -- but I think the turnout on the Democratic side will be much


AMANPOUR: And I guess finally, because we're just sort of running out of time, but the big "I." you know, impeachment, so much division amongst

Democrats, certainly in Congress about whether to -- whether that's a winning strategy or it's not. There was some talk about it last night.

And let me play it and I'll ask you both.


SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want to make sure that whatever we do doesn't end up with an acquittal by Mitch

McConnell in the Senate, which it surely would, and then President Trump would be running and saying that he had been acquitted by the United States


JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Both are making a mistake by not pursuing impeachment. The Mueller report clearly details that he

deserves it. And what's going to happen in the fall of next year of 2020, if they don't impeach him, is he's going to say, "You see? You see? The

Democrats didn't go after me on impeachment. And you know why? Because I didn't do anything wrong."


AMANPOUR: So, 30 seconds from each of you in response. Mark McKinnon, impeachment. A Democratic strategy?

MCKINNON: Deadlock loser for Democrats. Take impeachment off the table. It's a huge distraction. The American public has moved on. It's not that

they don't care about it, they just don't think it's relevant to their lives and to their futures. And I think the best strategy for Democrats

moving ahead would be to put it in their rearview mirror as quickly as possible.

AMANPOUR: And, Will?

JAWANDO: I have to depart with Mark on this one. I think our democracy is at stake. I think it needs to move forward. Whether or not it's

successful, you can hang that right at the doorstep of Moscow Mitch and say they didn't have the wherewithal to convict, and I think that will help

Democrats in this Senate, which they also need to pick up if we're going to get anything done with the filibuster rules.

So, I think we have to proceed. I think the case has been made, and I think it's actually a winner for Democrats.

AMANPOUR: Golly. OK. Well, we'll --

MCKINNON: We had to disagree on something.

AMANPOUR: Yes, you did. Yes, you did. Will Jawando and Mark McKinnon, thank you both very much.

Now, [13:20:00] foreign policy has not been a strong focus of the campaign thus far as Mayor de Blasio protested last night. Take a listen.

DE BLASIO: We didn't talk about Iran. We're on a march to war in Iran right now and we blew right by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, Mayor. The rules, please follow the rules.

DE BLASIO: I respect the rules but we have to talk as much on the war Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor, thank you very much.

DE BLASIO: And the Democratic Party has to stand up for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going on and we're going to talk about another subject. Mayor, thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: Now, to be fair, it was briefly touched on earlier. But this is now coming as tensions seem to be ratcheting up by the day. The Trump

administration has now put the Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, on its sanctions list. Now, he's the diplomat best known for shepherding his

nation through the nuclear deal in those endless months and years of negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement said that, "Iran's foreign ministry is not merely the diplomatic arm of the Islamic Republic but also

a means of advancing many of the supreme leader's destabilizing policies." President Hassan Rouhani of Iran fired back saying the move must mean that

the U.S. is "frightened" by Zarif's diplomatic capabilities. If they're serious by negotiations, who other than the foreign minister can be their


Ali Vaez is Iran project director at the International Crisis Group. And he's joining me now from Washington to tell us are we, Ali Vaez, and

welcome to the program, on a march to war with Iran as Mayor de Blasio was trying to get a word in edgewise on this?

ALI VAEZ, IRAN PROJECT DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: It's great to be with you, Christiane. For sure, we are on a collision course with Iran

and I think we've never been closer to the possibility of stumbling into a conflict with the Iranians.

In fact, in June, we came just minutes away, according to President Trump, from entering into a conflict with Iran. And the problem with this latest

designation of Foreign Minister Zarif by the Trump administration is that it really puts on full display the incoherence of this administration. On

the one hand, the president says all the time he's ready to negotiate with the Iranians without any pre-conditions. On the other hand, his

administration sanctions Iran's diplomat in chief. On the other hand, Secretary Pompeo says Foreign Minister Zarif is powerful enough to be

sanctioned. But on the other hand, he says he's not powerful enough to engage with. And that's precisely this kind of inconsistency, it's

precisely what is pushing us towards a disastrous conflict with Iran.

AMANPOUR: So, let's just take the tweet. He basically says, "Donald Trump has sanctioned Iran's supreme leader who enriched himself at the expense of

the Iranian people. Today, the U.S. designated his chief apologist, Javad Zarif, he is just as complicit in the regime's outlaw behavior as the rest

of harmony Iran's mafia"

So, these are very ratcheted up words, the language is very, very out there. What is the desired effect of this?

VAEZ: Look, I think the desired effect by, at least, the State Department and the National Security Council is to hinder diplomacy with Iran. We

know that although the president is primarily interested in negotiating a better and broader deal with the Iranian government, his advisers, almost

everyone in his National Security team, does not share that objective.

There are people like John Bolton and Secretary Pompeo who have -- had a long track record of pursuing regime change in Iran, pursuing a military

confrontation with Iran, and I think that is the real tension at the core of this administration.

And in fact, President Trump's Iran policy is at war with itself. If the president really wants to engage the Iranians, I doubt that he would be

able to do it with the people around him. And that's maybe why he is starting to look around to Senator Rand Paul or Senator Lindsey Graham or

to French President Emmanuel Macron to help him get out of this situation.

AMANPOUR: So, Ali, you talked about sort of mixed messages. I mean, there are mixed messages also coming from Secretary Pompeo himself, on the one

hand the very, you know, explicit condemnation of Javad Zarif. On the other hand, earlier, he gave an interview to Bloomberg where he said he

actually wants to go to Tehran.

Let's just play this clip.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I would welcome the chance to speak directly with the Iranian people. I've talked about this before, Zarif

gets to come -- or he comes to New York, he drives around in the most wonderful city in America and he speaks to the media, he talks to the

American public. Gets to put Iranian propaganda out into the American airwaves. I'd like a chance to go, not to propaganda but to speak the

truth to the Iranian people about what it is their leadership has done and how it has harmed Iran. I think the reason they won't permit that to

happen is because they know the truth as well.


AMANPOUR: Ali, please unpick at that for us. I mean, you know, Mike Pompeo is the former director of the CIA. The United States does

[13:25:00] not have official relations or recognition with Iran. No American official has been to Iran since the hostage crisis and since the

revolution. Does he really think that he can circumvent the Iranian regime to talk directly from inside Iran to the Iranian people?

VAEZ: Well, you know, Christiane, if he wants to speak to the Iranian people, there is interest from the Iranian press to interview him, there is

-- U.S. has a lot of channels like the "Voice of America" or "Radio-Free Europe" that can communicate to the Iranian people.

I wonder though what he is going to say, because the majority of Iranian people are suffering as a result of the sanctions that this administration

has imposed on Iran. Is going to talk about the misery that he has brought to the Iranian people? And I think, to be honest with you, there is a case

of personal animus and maybe jealousy here because Secretary Pompeo knows that Foreign Minister Zarif is a much more effective communicator and a

much better speaker than he is.

And I think part of the reason he's been designated is -- as part of this effort to pushing him out of all the social media platforms that Foreign

Minister Zarif uses to try to push back against this administration's effort to demonize the Iranians. But the language and the lexicon that

Secretary Pompeo and John Bolton use is basically -- it clearly shows that the Trump administration policy, in fact, at its core, is a regime change

policy. This is not a policy aimed at reaching a diplomatic settlement with the Iranians.

AMANPOUR: So, on one hand you say that the policy of the administration is a regime change, but also that President Trump, has indicated, he like to

have negotiations. So, that's a little bit of a mixed message there. But you have said that you feel today the Middle East is in the midst of its

own 1914 pre-World War I moment.

VAEZ: Absolutely. Look, the reality is that the Trump administration has created the situation in the region that has right before inadvertent

conflict. There is just so much friction between Iran and the U.S. and their respected allies in the region, that, even on a good day, incidents

could occur that could quickly escalate into a military confrontation.

At this stage, there is no channel communication between Iran and the U.S., between Iran and Saudi Arabia, between Iran and Israel. And there is no

exit ramp. The Trump administration has failed to provide the Iranians with a face-saving way out of this standoff.

And with a very sharp red line that the president has drawn that if any American is killed, it is quite possible that, given the level of friction,

given the fact that the Iranians have now seen more value in trying to push back against the Trump administration and more value in noncompliance with

the nuclear deal, that they continue to also provoke the administration. And if an American is killed, I think all gloves would be off and we would

be in a situation of a tit-for-tat, at least, between Iran and the U.S. that could quickly escalate into a regional conflagration.

The reality is that the Iranians have, over the years, created a network of proxies and partners throughout the region from Hezbollah and Lebanon, to

Shia militias in Iraq, to the Houthis in Yemen that would -- they would reactivate it in case that Iran comes under attack. And so, you would see

a crisis between Iran and the U.S., quickly putting the entire region on fire in the same way that the assassination of the Austria-Hungarian heir

in Serbia in 1914, put the entire European continent, and in fact, the world on fire.

AMANPOUR: Ali vies, thank you very much indeed.

A serious situation indeed. And we're turning now to Iran's neighbor, Turkey. Supposedly a U.S. ally and, of course, a member of NATO. Once a

bastion of secular moderate rule, Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has become increasingly Islamist and authoritarian.

It is an issue that we've covered often on this program, but sometimes it takes a work of fiction to truly bring light to this reality. The award-

winning novelist, Elif Shafak, has clashed often with the government there because of her bold work. Her latest is "10 minutes 38 Seconds in This

Strange World." And she's joining me now here in London.

Welcome back to the program, Elif.


AMANPOUR: Good to see you. This book is getting a lot of attention. And it is an unusual title. So, clearly, I have to ask you about it. It's

about a young woman called Leila. She was a sex worker. She was, you know, been trafficked into this business. But what is the meaning of the


SHAFAK: I became very interested in these medical studies that show after the moment of death, after the heart has stopped beating, the human brain

can continue to work, remains active for another few minutes.


Particularly in Canada in an intensive care unit, doctors have observed persistent brain activity for about 10 minutes. And I want to add my own

38 seconds to that.

As you've said, the main character is a sex worker. Right away on the first page we know that she has been brutally killed, her body has been

dumped in a garbage can, but she is thinking in the way that the mind is working. And as she remembers her past minute by minute, we travel into

the story of her life but also the story of Turkey and the Middle East, but always told through the eyes of outcasts.

AMANPOUR: So outcast is sort of a theme with you, and particularly women. I mean you're very careful about your writing because you explore so many

of the global issues from a female perspective, often from the down turn perspective, from the perspective of injustice and trying to rectify


We'll get to some of those books in a moment. But what does this story tell us about Turkey today?

SHAFAK: Well, I think in societies where democracy is lost and where we see an increase of populist authoritarianism, an increase of ultra-

nationalism, fundamentalism, we also see an increase in bigotry, intolerance. And in sexual societies, I do believe that sexism also

increases, homophobia also increases.

This is not a coincidence. It goes -- they all go hand in hand. And I believe in sexual societies, it becomes even more difficult to be

different. If you happen to be different for whatever reason, the color of your skin, how you look, how you think, how you speak, for any reason,

whatsoever, if you're regarded as the other, life is much harder.

And I think if writers -- of course, as storytellers, we are interested in stories but I'd be very equally interested in silences and people who have

been silenced.

AMANPOUR: And people have been silenced but also the country in a way has been silenced. I mean the last several years, we know that the community

to protect journalists say Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists.

We know that since the 2016 attempted coup, so many, tens of thousands of members of civil society from judges to teachers to ordinary workers and

others, intellectuals have been put in prison. Where do you see that going? Is that still going in that direction?

Or as we've seen in some of the elections, like for the mayor of Istanbul, there is a little backlash now that's working at the polls.

SHAFAK: Yes, I think that what happened with the local elections is, of course, incredibly important. As you know, on the last day of March, we

had the elections. And in every major city, the opposition had won in Istanbul as well.

But only in Istanbul, the elections had been canceled. There was a rerun and the opposition mayor won again for the second time with an even bigger

margin, which I see as a very progressive step.

But if I may go back to your question, I think the case of Turkey is really important and maybe teaches important lessons for progressive-minded people

everywhere, because we had elections in Turkey and it shows us that elections in itself is not enough to make a country a democracy.

In addition to the ballots books which is very precious, very important but you also need rule of law. You definitely need separation of powers.

Definitely an independent diverse media and freedom of speech, freedom of media, independent academia, women's rights, LGBT rights, minority rights.

Together with all these components, a democracy can survive. What happened in Turkey is one by one, we have lost all those components.

AMANPOUR: And you yourself have been -- have borne the brunt of quite a lot of the state's anger over these things. I think you've said not only

is this kind of authoritarian populism such and such, but it's also anti- intellectual at its heart.

So people like you who are intellectuals and who try to tell the story are doubly targeted. Is that right? What is it that they're afraid of from

their intellectuals?

SHAFAK: Well, I think internal, much has been said about the anti-liberal nature of populist nationalism. And I think that is very true.

And we see this in country after country, definitely in Turkey but also Hungary, Poland, Venezuela, Brazil and unfortunately the list is getting

longer. But maybe less has been said about some other characteristics of populist nationalism.

I think it's essentially anti-pluralistic. It doesn't want to see society as a complex phenomenon. But also at the same time, I think it's anti-

feminist and anti-intellectual.

So in Turkey today, anyone who deals with words, I think every journalist, every writer, poet or academic knows that because of something you say in

an interview, because of a poem, an article, [13:35:00] a book, a novel or maybe a tweet or retweet, you can get into trouble so easily. So words

have become heavy. And I think we need to understand the anti-intellectual nature of populist nationalism.

AMANPOUR: And you face it in court, right? I mean you've written The Gaze which got you into trouble. You've written The Bastard of Istanbul.

You've written books about the genocide which the government and Turkey's government has always denied. And I mean, generally, you shoved yourself

right into that red hot debate. And in court, you talk about your lawyer having to defend the fictional characters in your book.

SHAFAK: Yes, exactly. We have an article 301 in our Constitution which is quite problematic. And it has been used against many intellectuals, many

academics, journalists in particular. And I just sincerely believe journalism has become the most difficult profession in Turkey.

But in 2006, this article has been used against a work of fiction for the first time. I wrote a novel called The Bastard of Istanbul which tells a

story of a Turkish family and an Armenian-American family. And you know what, it fills with memory and amnesia and tells the story through eyes of

women, generations of women.

When the book came out, sentences were taken out of the book and were used as evidence in the courtroom. And in the meantime, there were

ultranationalist groups on the streets, spitting out my pictures, burning E.U. flags because in their eyes, anyone who questions official

historiography must be a stooge of western powers.

So that madness went on for about a year. And at the end of which, my Turkish lawyer in a way had to defend my Armenian fictional characters in

the courtroom.

AMANPOUR: I mean going to your point, Buland Ari (ph) on the Turkish Council of Higher Education, the board there says I would rather trust

ignorant people who haven't attended university, or better yet, not even attended primary school because their minds are pure. I mean how broadly

is that theory taken in Turkey today?

SHAFAK: Well, that series, quite interesting because on the one hand, they romanticize the people but they also divide people into camps because there

is the real people for them and then there's the people they don't want to talk about such as minorities, immigrants, feminists. Anyone can be

labeled as the other people.

And on the other hand, they make this distinction between the elite versus people, but I think usually populists don't have a problem with elitism as

long as they are the new elite. If they can become the new elite, they are fine with that.

So unfortunately, we've seen this in Turkey, the over-romanticization of the people, even university professors saying, I would rather trust

ignorance of people because they're not corrupt or they're not westernized over westernized and I find that's very dangerous.

And as we know today, there are so many cases against particularly academics in Turkey. Academics or scientists petition, they have lost

their jobs, they have their passports confiscated and many of them have been detained or arrested.

AMANPOUR: And it's gone very far west. I mean there is that feeling here in Great Britain. Michael Glove famously in the Brexit campaignsaid people

have had enough of experts. It's clearly something that's in populist nationalist circles in the United States as well.

But I wonder what you think, and we've got an image of your own picture being sort of put on fire. I mean you are in danger there. You don't go


With the new mayor of Istanbul, how wide a net will he cast in terms of reform and trying to roll back this time? Can you see yourself being able

to go back?

SHAFAK: I think Turkey is a fascinating country. It is incredibly complex and I would never identify the government and the people because they're

not the same thing.

And unfortunately, maybe the sad part about a country such as my motherland is the people are usually ahead of their governments. Maybe we don't hear

their voices but there is a robust civil society in Turkey despite everything, despite the crackdown, despite the brain drain which has been


But there's so many progressive minded people in Turkey, democrats, young people, students, women, if you talk to them, you will feel inspired. If

we look at politics, I think it's quite demoralizing.

So I see the election, the local -- the outcome of the local elections as a progressive step and hopefully we will have a proper and liberal

pluralistic democracy in Turkey someday because that's what we need.

AMANPOUR: And you keep fighting for it. You're a Ted Talk sensation, award-winning bestselling author. Thank you, Elif Shafak for coming back


SHAFAK: Thank you for having me.

AMANPOUR: Thanks a lot.

Now, we turn from one female author, Elif, who's making waves to another one. It is not often a debut novel becomes an overnight bestseller but

that is what happened to Kirsten Arnett. Her book "Mostly Dead Things" is a gripping exploration of family, grief, and identity as her characters

come to terms with a [13:40:00] shocking suicide.

If that doesn't grab you, it's also set in a taxidermy shop in Florida. Arnett sat down with our Alicia Menendez to talk about how her own life has

influenced her writing.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, CONTRIBUTOR: Kirsten, thanks so much for joining us.


MENENDEZ: And congratulations on "The New York Times" bestseller list.

ARNETT: Thank you very much. That was unexpected but exciting.

MENENDEZ: Exciting, yes. "Mostly Dead Things," what is it about? How do you describe this book?

ARNETT: My elevator pitch for this book is a lesbian taxidermist takes over her family's taxidermy shop after her father kills himself.

MENENDEZ: It was found to be a very heavy book and in many ways, it is a very heavy book that deconstructs loss and grief and desire. And it's also

really fun and funny.

ARNETT: Yes. Well, there's this kind of dichotomy. I was having a conversation with somebody about where it's like you experience grief like

not in a silo. So when you're experiencing grief like all these other things are going on too, which includes sometime things being funny.

And then, I don't know, I also think Florida is kind of ripe for that kind of humor, too. So hopefully people find something to laugh at in there.

MENENDEZ: I did. This is fundamentally a story about love, abandonment, grief. What experiences in your own life did you pull from, did you rely

on to create those narratives?

ARNETT: Well, I specifically think I thought a lot about family dynamics. Because growing up, my family was really close and we grew up -- my whole

family lived in Florida.

So I was thinking, too, like what are the dynamics in a family and how did they shift and change, and what things bother us when they change and what

things like should change and don't? So I was thinking a lot about that in my own life.

Most specifically of my own life, I really brought in how I see Florida. I think very specifically the place in there is me and how I wanted readers

to be able to engage with how I look around outside in Central Florida.

Because I feel like Florida is such a -- you're interacting physically with the landscape. The land is always trying to creep and take itself back.

The air is so heavy, it's like pressing on your skin, it's like a physical embrace of being here.

So that stuff is definitely for my own personal experience and trying to see if I could get readers to see through the lens of how I see the state.

So definitely that stuff is very much me.

MENENDEZ: Your book is so much about family dynamics. How old is that playout? What does that family look like in this book?

ARNETT: Yes. And I wanted it to be this -- it's a large family that all live near each other and I want it to be very sprawling.

So I tried to dig into a family that all lives near each other and they're in each other's spaces all the time. So it have Jessa, my protagonist and

she's who you're dealing with and you're looking at things through her lens.

So she -- her relationship with her father who has killed himself, who ran the taxidermy shop, her relationship with her brother Milo who growing up

she was very close with but as adults, they're not estranged but don't have this close relationship.

And he has married Breen who is Jessa's childhood sweetheart. And so there's conflict in how the two of them interact with this love interest

that they share throughout the book.

And then there is also Jessa's mother who when we're looking at her in the past works as this kind of here's my mother and here's how she behaves.

And in the present, she's like behaving in strange ways while processing her own grief about her husband.

MENENDEZ: It's all amazing ways.

ARNETT: Yes. So she's creating a lot of pornographic kind of scenes with the taxidermy around town and in the shop. And that's like very stressful

to Jessa who sees taxidermy about a specific like kind of art that she learned from her father and so to see her mother doing this, so it's very

like strange kind of thing going on but it's also maybe like all of them processing grief in these kind of interesting ways.

MENENDEZ: What sparked your interest in taxidermy specifically?

ARNETT: Yes. Well, growing up in Florida, there is taxidermy around all over the place, anyway. I would say it's one of those things where it's

like I encountered it in Florida and never thought about it. like how there's lizards everywhere in Florida and if you live in Florida, you never

even think about them, it's all over the place.

The taxidermy was always around me and I knew lots of people who went hunting and kept kills and their trophies. Like in our house, we had a

shellacked bath. In my church I grew up in, there were deer mounts on the wall.

But I was writing this short story about a brother, a sister, a taxidermist and a goat and they screw it up really bad. Because it's also at the same

time I was looking at a lot of really bad taxidermy on the Internet just to laugh at [13:45:00] and I got really interested in art in that kind of way.

Like art that people spend a lot of time on because particularly, a taxidermy have to spend a tremendous amount of time crafting it, then and

what that would mean for it to like just go -- to just turn into something so bizarre or something to laugh at.

So then I kind of fell down the rabbit hole of looking at what taxidermy actually entails, the process and procedures of it and just got really

fascinated by all the different types there was, and also who performs taxidermy.

MENENDEZ: Right, because it's a very gendered expression of art as you see it.

ARNETT: Extremely. Many of the people I encountered in my research online and in person was like predominantly men doing taxidermy and specific kinds

of men, very kind of specifically very masculine men or men who hunt their own animals and kills and turn them into trophies.

And so these men I was encountering, specifically in these chat rooms, they would be in these chat rooms talking about tips and tricks, hacks, pun

intended. And the way that they would talk about it was so tender, it was almost this kind of intimacy or way that they treated it like very precious

kind of art.

But I was like, oh, this is allowing them to have access to art in a way that's traditionally for these men viewed as like very feminine, they

wouldn't have access or be able to talk in this language like they're using right now. So I just got really fascinated with it, specifically in my

book as well I have a female protagonist.

MENENDEZ: Right, I was going to say. Hearing you talk about that, it would be easy to imagine the book opens, you have a father teaching his two

children, his daughter and his son, about taxidermy.


MENENDEZ: Later, the daughter finds her father dead in the shop, not giving a lot away.


MENENDEZ: But she's the one who takes over the business. Did you at any point think about having a male protagonist or did you always know that you

wanted it to be a woman who is also a taxidermist?

ARNETT: I always knew that I wanted it to be a woman. I'm also very interested just as an author and as a queer woman about writing

perspectives of queer women.

And I'm also very interested in domestic roles for queer women and what that looks like in a household. Like what does it mean when you grew up in

a very gendered household where roles are defined? So the father does these roles, the mother does these roles --

MENENDEZ: Is that the type of household you grew up in?

ARNETT: It definitely is. Yes, my family is very Evangelical/Southern Baptist.

And when I was growing up, I would not have ever been allowed to do taxidermy. I wasn't allowed to hunt.

I was allowed to sew, taking sewing classes. So the stuff that my brother did was like very different from what I did. Because it was like these

gendered things. Like you do this, Michael does this, my brother.

And I'm always very interested, too, in kind of seeing like what does it look like when women take over those kinds of things, specifically queer

women taking over things in the household? Like if there's two women in a household, like what does that dynamic look like? When you grow up with

this how normative very gendered roles?

And so in writing the book, I was interested in seeing like whether this is something where she wants to pattern herself after her father, what does

that look like taking on those kind of very gendered roles, like taking over the shop but then also behaving like her father? Like taking over the

mantel of like patriarch of the family, like what does that look as a role for a woman, specifically?

MENENDEZ: Your protagonist, Jessa, said queer woman. You didn't want this though to be a coming out story.

ARNETT: right.


ARNETT: As a reader -- I mean growing up, but even now as a reader, I'm always looking for books where I can see queerness in the everyday.

Because I think that there is definitely room for coming out narratives and they're important, but usually it's like a moment in time for a queer


And sometimes I wonder who the queer narrative of the coming out story is being written for. Like is that being written for a queer audience?

Sometimes no. Sometimes the way it's being written is it's written for a straight audience so they can kind of, like, be in the trauma, because

coming out narratives are usually very traumatic. A And they're -- I don't know, there's just something that I'm interested in as a reader in seeing the day-to-day interests of being gay.

MENENDEZ: And rather than grappling with sexuality which Jessa is really grappling with is vulnerability.


MENENDEZ: You have said softness is a scary thing.


MENENDEZ: What does that mean?

ARNETT: I think -- because at the same time, too, I was thinking a lot about tenderness and vulnerability and the idea of opening [13:50:00]

yourself up to that is a scary thing if you're a person who likes to be in control of emotions and your feelings.

Because also, too, if you've decided that you're not going to be hurt by things, you'll be tough, then it's easier to deal with people. It's not

easier to deal with emotions then it just becomes avoidant.

And I try to explore some of that stuff in the book with Jessa because I was like kind of took the idea of being a control freak to the extreme.

What does it mean when you're literally trying to control not only yourself but everyone around you and their lives and what they're doing and

dictating how they should feel and think?

And also for me, I found that to be like -- because I think things like that are absurd and very funny. So I found her -- she's not joking around

a lot of the time so I found humor for myself in that character in how she is usually not seeing the joke.

And I thought that was very funny, to be that kind of level of control freak where you're like trying to tell everyone in your life how they need

to behave is to me inherently funny. That's hilarious because you can't control people like that.

MENENDEZ: When you sold this novel, you went to celebrate at 7-Eleven.

ARNETT: Yes, I did.

MENENDEZ: You write, I think of that store and consider it my family.


MENENDEZ: Why? How did it come to take that place?

ARNETT: I lived very close to my 7-Eleven. Legitimately, it's down the block. I actually call it the Bermuda Triangle because it's my 7-Eleven,

my sub shop and then the public's. It's across the street so I can just be there for hours and disappear.

But my 7-Eleven, I just found myself going there more and more often to get beer or snacks, but then I made friends with the people that work there and

I just found myself kind of -- I sort of jokingly calling it my neighborhood bar. So I hung out here a lot. It felt very comfortable to


The smell is always the same, how things look, the people coming in and out and what's going on. It became this very comfortable thing, and the more I

found myself there, the more felt like, oh, this is what it feels like to spend time with family, right? That kind of level of comfort or what it

feels like to be home.

MENENDEZ: Which you felt was missing in your own life.

ARNETT: Yes because I mean I don't have that relationship anymore with my family.

MENENDEZ: But that's more of a recent thing for you, right, that separation as an adult separation?

ARNETT: Yes, it is. It happened pretty close to after the election, I would say.

MENENDEZ: Can you tell me what happened?

ARNETT: I had always had struggles with my family and felt like I would behave in ways that made it so it would be easier for them to deal with

things, so I would attend events and just wouldn't talk about things that would make them unhappy or uncomfortable.

And then the longer that dragged on, the more I felt myself feeling trapped or pinned into a corner, because the beliefs that my family have are wildly

different than the ones that I have. And their whole thing with me has been politics shouldn't divide it, like it's just politics, and that's a

thing's that they're always kind of said and after the election I couldn't fit in here for them anymore.

And when I tried to have conversations about why it's not just politics, it's also my life and many other people's lives and that's a big deal, and

they could not have conversations with me in which they would acknowledge that that was something.

They couldn't have conversations with me where they would acknowledge or engage with the fact that I am gay. And so that was like, we're at an

impasse so we can't have a relationship until you're willing to compromise and talk with me about why these things are problematic, and I can't be

around you if you think the way that you think and believe these things and espouse them. And so we came to this crossroads and that's what occurred.

MENENDEZ: You're already writing your next novel.


MENENDEZ: What can you tell us?

ARNETT: I have the messy guts of it, the draft. This one is more -- I would say that this book is more focused on the spirit versus the body,

like less the physical and more the interior. It also more focused on relationships between partners and less focused on relationships with


MENENDEZ: Kristen, thank you so much.

ARNETT: Yes, thank you.

AMANPOUR: And no doubt her fans will be eagerly awaiting that next work.

But that's it for now. Remember, you can listen to our podcast at any time and see us online at And you can follow me on Instagram and


Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.