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Importance of Leadership and Alliances in a Chaotic World; "Call Sign Chaos," a Book by James Mattis; James Mattis, Former U.S. Defense Secretary, is Interviewed About Importance of Leadership and Alliances. Boris Johnson No Longer Has Majority; More MPs Threatening to Vote a No- Deal Brexit; John Redwood, British Conservative MP, and Margaret MacMillan, Historian, Professor Emeritus, Oxford University, are Interviewed About Boris Johnson and Brexit. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 3, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: The nations with allies thrive. Nations without allies wither.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: General Jim Mattis joins me. Former U.S. defense secretary gives me his take on leadership, the current security challenges and
working in the Trump administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There will be no further pointless delay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The U.K.'s Brexit battle fuels a constitutional crisis. I dig into that with British lawmaker and staunch Brexiteer, John Redwood, and
esteemed historian, Margaret MacMillan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: I think -- yes. I've been, in a way, an outsider all my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Award-winning author, Salman Rushdie, tells our Walter Isaacson about his new novel and the personal tragedies that inspire his work.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in New York, where summer has reached its end and the world gets back to work, bringing
constitutional chaos to the British Parliament and a laundry list of challenges for the United States Congress where it reconvenes next week.
Hurricane Dorian batters the Bahamas and brushes up to the U.S. Coast. New U.S.-China tariffs and a trade war that continues to heat up. Relations
with Iran that continue to deteriorate as the president, Hassan Rouhani, rolls out bilateral talks. And in Brazil that continue in the Amazon
rainforest threatening one of the world's most important ecosystems and our lungs. That's to name just a few.
In a chaotic world, these multilateral challenges put into stark focus the importance of leadership and alliances. Something my first guest tonight
has spent his whole life doing and seeing up close.
General Jim Mattis is regarded as one of the world most formidable warriors and strategic thinkers of our time. He served as the President Trump's
secretary of defense until late last year when he resigned over the Trump's Syria policy.
His book "Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead" seems right for these challenging times. And he joined me here in the studio to talked about
General Mattis, welcome to the program.
MATTIS: It's good to be here. Finally.
AMANPOUR: Finally. Right now, we face a huge number of head winds, as you might put it. There's the Iran crisis, there's Afghanistan, there's Syria,
over which you resigned, there's a huge hurricane that may hit the United States any time soon.
AMANPOUR: Leadership is really something that people are focusing on, and many are finding it wanting, both here in the United States and across the
pond in Great Britain, where we have an assault on the constitutional system there right now for political reasons.
Your book and the op-eds you have been writing have suggested that institutions are at risk, and you have also said that you believe that this
increasing tribalism, as you've put it, is really tearing democracy apart and threatening the fabric of our societies.
MATTIS: Across the Western democracies, both the executive leadership and then strategic is at risk because we don't have the clarity of what it is
we stand for. And this isn't just about America, it's not about one administration, it's not about U.K. and America, it's the Western
democracies that concern me.
AMANPOUR: Did you ever think defending democracies, defending your country, and let's face it, through the Cold War years as well and through
the years of Islamic terrorism, did you think the democracy within our lands would be at risk from within, which they are right now?
MATTIS: Well, over the last, I'd say, 15, 20 years, we've seen this increasing, what many people call tribalism. And basically, you can sum
that up with contempt for other people's views and saying, "I disagree with you. And by the way, you're wrong about everything."
I think in the past, we have elections and yes, they're pretty raucous and they're pretty rough and tumble and sometimes they're not civil, but
welcome to democracy. But in the old days, the old days being when I didn't have this colored hair, in the old days when the election was over,
we buried the hatchet and we got down to governing.
It's like today, all we stay in is locked in this election cycle and we're constantly finding reasons not to cooperate. And no democracy can survive
that sort of a style. It just won't work.
AMANPOUR: Let me go straight to the heart of the reason, the public reason that you resigned. It was -- and you've published your resignation letter
in your book. It was over Syria.
AMANPOUR: And I know that you blamed President Obama for losing Iraq.
MATTIS: Well --
AMANPOUR: Did you believe that President Trump was losing Syria and you didn't want to be any part of it?
MATTIS: I thought that we needed [13:05:00] to maintain an influence in Syria but I laid this out in the letter explaining why I believed I needed
to leave the administration, because I believe strongly in allies. I think that's our unique strength.
When this town was hit on 9/11 back in 2001, within 60 days, I was fighting in Afghanistan. And joining me there were troops from Canada and the
United Kingdom, Norway and Germany, Turkey and Jordan, New Zealand and Australia. Now, none of their cities had been attacked. They were there
because we were there, because we had been attacked, our values had been attacked. And I think that's what we have to look at. What are the shared
values inside our own country? We don't talk about those right now. We only talk about what we don't share. What are the shares values among the
AMANPOUR: The president has said ISIS has been defeated. Are you concerned that, in fact? it's coming back?
MATTIS: It's not the sort of thing that you defeat even if you take away the geography they once owed. It's an idea that has got to be defeated.
And that's stronger, much more difficult, it will take longer.
AMANPOUR: General Mattis, you resigned over Syria, you've made your letter public. But there are many, many things that President Trump said and did
over the years that potentially rose to the level of unacceptability in the public sphere. Let's just play some of his soundbites.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. I have great confidence in my intelligence people,
but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. It's working out very nicely and we're going to have
a very, very strict ban and we're going to have extreme vetting which we should have had in this country for many years. I was really tough and so
was he and we go back and forth and then we fell in love. OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters and they're great letters. We fell in love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Secretary Mattis, President Trump opining on a whole load of issues, the last one, we fell in love, talking about the North Korean
leader. There are many, many reasons, potentially, for somebody such as yourself to resign. Why not over any of these?
MATTIS: Christiane, if you go into the military you swear an oath to uphold the constitution. The elected commander in chief is the elected
commander in chief. But if we're going to protect this democracy, even in its most raucous moments, even when there are fundamental issues going on,
you don't want the Defense Department coming in saying, we're not going to defend the country today. The thousands of young troops, they do not get a
chance to say, I'm going to quit today.
So, what you do is, you protect the institution, you protect the country, you stand up for the constitution. But what you don't do is get engaged in
the political fray, the day by day, especially right now when it's so corrosive, you don't get involved in that and wonder why the country is now
vulnerable because you've allowed the troops to be distracted.
Abraham Lincoln, in 1865, early 1865, the war is still going on, the country is tired of it, there's just been an election. I don't think the
votes are even all counted yet because it takes months to get the full count. He sends a one sentenced letter, telegram actually, to General
Ulysses Grant. He says, let nothing that is happening -- I'm paraphrasing here, that nothing that has happened in the political realm disrupt, delay
your military operations.
In other words, keep your head focused on defending the country, I'll take care of the politics. That is the tradition from Abraham Lincoln to now
that the U.S. military stands by.
And by the way, all those young men and women who raise their right hand, all volunteers in rally to the flag and give you and I and all the rest of
us here a blank check, payable with their own lives, to uphold the constitution, they're the people you stay focused on when you're dealing
with the defense of the country. I've spent 45 years in uniform or as secretary of defense and that's where I stand.
AMANPOUR: You talked about right after 9/11 you were within days fighting in Afghanistan with a huge coalition.
AMANPOUR: Right now, as you know, the United States is involved in talks with the Taliban who the United States Coalition defeated back in 2001 and
defeated al-Qaeda as well and sent them packing. They have remained a very, very strong force and they seemed to be calling the shots right now,
AMANPOUR: And the United States is talking about the president withdrawing all U.S. troops. What is your military [13:10:00] analysis of whether all
U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan and do you believe it will become again a terrorist hotbed?
MATTIS: You know, I prefer having parted from the administration over matters of policy, of disagreement, and I laid those out in the letter. I
think that -- what I now occupy are what I call the cheap seats. I'm not responsible, so I can sit on the outside. And frankly, it frustrates me
sometimes to see people speak so authoritatively when they don't know the back-channel things going on and when they have no responsibility for the
So, the French call it devoir de reserve, Christiane, where you have a duty to be quiet. This president, the secretary of state, the secretary of
defense, they have big responsibilities right now, and I don't believe that I add anything to it by representing contrary views or something like this.
There will come a time when it's right for me to talk about strategy and policy.
AMANPOUR: When might that happen?
MATTIS: I will know it when I see it.
AMANPOUR: But will it be before the next election?
MATTIS: I can't say that.
AMANPOUR: But you talk about duty. You're a military man. Duty and honor are very important in your life and in your career. Do you believe it's
your duty to speak about what you know from the inside before the next election?
MATTIS: Duty and honor, absolutely are important and you don't surrender your oath to support and defend the constitution when you leave active
duty. But that said, I don't think right now for a person steeped in the military tradition, in the Defense Department, that I should be speaking up
on things that are political assessments. Why do I --
AMANPOUR: Except for --
MATTIS: Well --
AMANPOUR: I'm asking you a military assessment. I asked you about --
AMANPOUR: -- the military assessment of what's on the battlefield in Afghanistan, something you know really well from fighting and then from
being secretary of defense.
MATTIS: I may speak about the military, strategic, even policy at some point. I just owe a time when I don't walk out and start talking about it.
I laid out why I left. Now, it's time for those responsible, who have got grave responsibilities, Christiane, this is not a simple war right now.
AMANPOUR: Yes, it is.
MATTIS: And we need to --
AMANPOUR: America's longest war.
MATTIS: You're right. Absolutely.
AMANPOUR: But here's the thing, Mr. Secretary, we are in a state where we have just discussed the damage being done to our democracies, the damage
being done to our alliances, the damage being done to global strategic American led norms since World War II. And many are asking because many
had so much and have so much respect for you, at what point does somebody like yourself decide that patriotism is about your country and not just
about yourself or about the military code?
AMANPOUR: At what point do you owe it to the people of the United States of America to talk the truth about what's happening, let's say, in the
battlefield, what's happening in decision making as far as you know it?
MATTIS: Well, Christiane, I'm not trying to frustrate you here. I think I have led a somewhat patriotic life over decades of service to the country
and to the values we stand for. But it is a long-standing tradition, 200 years of tradition, more than 200 that military people do not pass
political assessments on.
Look at what happened where the U.S. Congress, House and Senate, Republican and Democrats, 87 percent vote for the defense budget and it was a record-
breaking budget that President Trump proposed to rebuild the military. That shows why we need to keep the defense of our country apolitical. You
do not want it to become another issue about politicizing a security relationship with another country.
Once you politicize it, then (INAUDIBLE) the door, people start choosing sides based on politics. The defense of the country does not rest on
politics. That is not a partisan issue. That's a nonpartisan issue. I should not take political assessments, nor did Secretary Carter, my
predecessor, about politicians. I'm not going to do that.
AMANPOUR: About the military, I just want to know what you think about the possible resurgence of a terrorist threat in Afghanistan.
MATTIS: Would not be in our best interest and it must be prevented.
AMANPOUR: No. But do you think it's possible now?
MATTIS: Oh, certainly is possible.
AMANPOUR: Let's get to some personal stuff from your book. Some of the quotes are pretty amazing. My command challenge was to convey to my troops
a seemingly contradictory message, be polite, be professional but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
MATTIS: We were in a very rough neighborhood.
AMANPOUR: This was in Iraq?
MATTIS: This was in Iraq. This was during the uprising. Al-Qaeda was gaining strength and it's hard [13:15:00] to take young Americans who are
brought up really with a high degree of trust of each other, of everyone they meet, it's amazing to me how open Americans. If I look like I'm lost
getting to your studio today, I won't stand 10 seconds on a New York street corner without five people approaching me asking to help guide me where I
needed to go. It's just the way we're brought up.
I had to take 18, 19-year-old infantrymen, soldiers, young soldiers, that's how they get their name, and say, "You've got to be ready now for some real
treacherous people." So, we go into that Sunni triangle and, for example, I had 29 sailors and marines around me, my gunners, my communicators, my
aides, drivers this sort of thing, in my little four or five vehicles. And over four months, 17 of the 29 are killed or wounded around me.
When you have that level of violence going on, when we're fighting in places like Felucca, you have got to steel your troops through a very, very
tough time. But at the same time -- I borrow almost all my good quotes from others, by the way, Christiane. I borrowed from the physician's oath,
first, do no harm. If an order to kill a terrorist you have to shoot across a crowded marketplace, don't take the chance on hitting a woman or
child. Hunt him down another day and get him, but don't take a chance.
So, you're always trying to moderate the violence. Because remember, every battlefield is also a humanitarian field. And if you forget that, you
cease to carry America's footprint into the war, American values into the war. And you don't want young men coming home who don't want to look in
the mirror over what they did.
AMANPOUR: What gives you nightmares? What keeps you up at night right now?
MATTIS: Right now, I think there's probably one issue on the international plain and that is we need to get back to arms control discussions, talks
about nuclear weapons, that sort of thing. But the one that is probably more present in my thinking anymore because I'm now living, you know, here
in the United States, traveling around the United States, is we need to get back to a fundamental friendliness with one another, a fundamental sense of
respect, a reminder that the person we disagree with might actually be right once in a while.
And when we get done having a good raucous discussion and an argument back and forth and being hard on the issues, we're not hard on each other. We
go out and we have a beer or root beer together and we want to know about the other person's family, we want to know about them as human beings.
Because we got a lot more in common and we're a lot better than our politics right now.
AMANPOUR: On that note, General Mattis, thank you very much indeed.
MATTIS: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Well, that probably applies to the U.K. Parliament as well. Not many beers or root beers perhaps going on there as an unprecedented crisis
seems to be developing there. Many fear for Britain's unwritten but ancient constitution. Here's what's happening on the first day back after
The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, no longer has a majority after one of his Conservative members of Parliament defected to the opposition,
and several more of his MPs are threatening to vote to block a no-deal Brexit. All of this because last week Boris Johnson said that he was going
to prorogue, basically suspend Parliament for an unprecedented five weeks in the midst of an unresolved Brexit battle.
Johnson says he needs to do this to lay out his agenda, but his opponents say it's a political play to ram through his vow to lead deal or no-deal.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IAN BLACKFORD, BRITISH SNP MP: By proroguing Parliament, the prime minister is robbing the people of power, robbing them over a say over their
future. In true Trumpian style, the prime minister is acting more like a tinpot dictator than a Democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, for more on this I'm joined by pro-Brexit MP and staunch Boris Johnson supporter, John Redwood, and by the history professor,
First, we go to Mr. Redwood.
So, Mr. Redwood, thank you very much indeed for joining us. Let me ask you because you've seen it play out and so have we around the world as the live
session was broadcast. They seem to be descending into some crisis and many fear for the sanctity of Britain's, yes, unwritten but nonetheless,
you know, ancient constitution. What do you have to say to that?
JOHN REDWOOD, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: I would say we got a (INAUDIBLE) democracy and we're still pursuing a very tired and old set of arguments.
We thought we had resolved all this by holding a referendum of all the United Kingdom voters three years ago. And then Parliament and then
government said to people, "You will make the decision and the future Parliament will get on and implement your choice."
And now, we have a stubborn group of MPs in this Parliament who having stood for election on that ticket have now [13:20:00] torn it all up and
said they want to try and stop Brexit altogether or they want to stop Brexit on the terms that are available.
And so, yes, we're having a very lively set of exchanges. We do, of course, have a constitution written down in many important documents and
not all of them are old. And we're seeing that the rebel side against the government is trying to flex and change our constitution in ways that suit
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let's take this little bit, bit by bit. But first, I want to ask you what you believe is going to be the next step. There's
obviously going to be a big vote. What are we going to see, do you think, will the prime minister call for an election if the vote goes against him
the next vote in Parliament?
REDWOOD: I really can't tell you because as you rightly reported, we now have a very balanced Parliament where no one clearly has a permanent
majority. The government still commands more support than any other grouping within the Parliament, but the government can't always carry its
business. So, it makes it extremely difficult to predict.
What is very clear is that what the government decided to do is far from unusual. We always have three weeks off from Parliament in the second half
of September into October because that's the time when our different political parties have their big conferences and the members of Parliament
want to attend those and not have to come back to Parliament to vote. So, that is quite normal. And then another thing, a new prime minister wishing
to lead a new government wanted to do is hold a Queen speech, that's the occasion in Parliament where the government through the speech from the
crown lays out its program for the year ahead, and that again is something which Boris Johnson quite rightly decided he needed to do.
REDWOOD: And that will afford Parliament plenty of debating time. Three or four weeks are available for debating Brexit if they want to do it all
over again. But your viewers should know that I'm afraid the British Parliament hasn't done anything but talk about Brexit for three years. So,
it's a bit difficult to know what new arguments they want to bring forward.
AMANPOUR: I know that you and your side say that this is all very normal. And, of course, it is legal. As you pointed out, the new prime minister
has that right. However, constitutional historians point out that such a long suspension of some five weeks has not happened since 1930, that's
nearly 100 years ago. It also has not happened in a situation where there's such a massive, as you just described, unresolved political drama
and the biggest constitutional change in some 40 years of British history.
So, it's not that normal. But more to the point, I want to ask you a couple of questions because the prime minister says that he cannot have
this vote to take no-deal off the table because he must have negotiating room with Brussels. However, there seems to be no new British proposals
despite the prime minister's emissaries going to Brussels, no new proposals, no new negotiations, nothing happening in those negotiations.
So, I want to ask you like the MPs did over and over again today, what is your alternative to the things that have held up a deal, for instance, the
back stop? What have you put forth? What can we expect?
REDWOOD: Well, the government has put forward plenty of ideas through their discussions with individual member states and through their
negotiator going to Brussels again and the prime minister sketched some of those again in his remarks today for those MPs who could be bothered to
listen to him.
My side doesn't really believe there is an issue with the Irish border. The Irish border at the moment is a currency border, an excise tax border,
a value added sales tax border. There are different rates and different instances on each side of the border and the goods flow across perfectly
freely and the amounts are adjusted electronically and computer settlement and bank settlement. You don't need to have physical barriers at the
border with people working the sums out when the Lori turns up.
And so, if we need tariff as well, which we might do if we just leave, there would be tariffs on food, for example. Those two could be handled in
the same way that the ATNX (ph) is handled at the moment. So, my side of the argument thinks this is an entirely synthetic issue made up by people
who are determined to prevent the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.
AMANPOUR: But, Mr. Redwood, your side thinks it's synthetic, you keep, you know, saying the same things about project fear. But there are real, sort
of, hard and fast dollar, in sense (ph), facts that have happened since Brexit, the pound has lost 20 percent of its value, since all of this
Brexit referendum rather, investors have taken tens of billions of dollars -- or rather pounds of equities out of the U.K. and there is a shrinking of
the economy. And many are saying that, you know, you're not looking to the long-term and there is a potential huge amount of financial damage ahead.
But I want to ask you this because I know you actually don't agree with that. But these are the --
REDWOOD: They're simply not true. None of those [13:25:00] things are true.
AMANPOUR: Well, it is true that the pound has lost its value.
REDWOOD: The stock market is up quite a lot. The stock market is up quite a lot. Employment is up. The economy has grown since the vote. All the
things they said would happen that were negative, job losses, a recession did not occur just as some of us have predicted.
AMANPOUR: Well, it hasn't actually happened Brexit yet, but the pound has lost its value against the dollar. And the Bank of England is talking
about a possible recession around the corner.
REDWOOD: Yes. But a lot of currencies have gone down against the dollar.
AMANPOUR: OK. Let me ask you this though because this is the point.
REDWOOD: And the doctor dollar has been very strong because you're offering high interest rates than anyone else, and I understand that. But
that's been a general phenomenon of a strong dollar.
AMANPOUR: In 2016, just before the referendum, you wrote something that may now actually be coming back to sort, you know, to roost. You said,
"The reason so many Conservative Euro skeptics have campaigned for a referendum and are now campaigning to leave is that we see Europe as a rare
issue that transcends party politics. To us, it is more important than which party wins the next election or who is the prime minister."
So, people are now asking, is Brexit and leaving deal or no-deal more important than the democratic process and the Parliamentary process? And
is it also more important to you, as some in the Conservative Party have suggested, than the unity of the British government? You know that there's
talk about what might happen to Scotland, another vote of independence. What might happen to Ireland, potential eventual reunification. Are you
still that committed to Brexit at the expense of all else?
REDWOOD: Well, first of all, it's a completely democratic process being thwarted by an undemocratic Parliament, which is the irony of the
situation. Parliament said, "The people must decide. We would what the decided to do." And now, the Parliament is trying to thwart the people.
So, we see, on our side, it being really democratic.
We had a general election after the referendum vote and both the main parties in the country between attracted 82 percent of the votes in that
election, both promised to see through Brexit but then one of them, the Labour Party, has more or less reneged on that promise.
So, as to my prediction, my predictions were accurate. I said that this is an issue which transcends party loyalties and we've seen in the
Conservative Party quite a few Conservative colleagues who have decided to join another party or to leave the Conservative Party over their views on
Brexit. And we've seen in the Labour Party quite a few people defect partly on the European issue and partly over the leadership generally of
But, yes, this is an issue --
AMANPOUR: OK. Let me --
REDWOOD: -- which quite a lot of people think is more important than their party allegiance.
AMANPOUR: And let me ask you then finally because you just brought it up before I turn to Historian Margaret MacMillan. You know, what's happened
is that the prime minister and his allies have threatened to "deselect" Tory MPs, your own party MPs, if they vote against a no-deal Brexit. I
mean, deselect means costing them their job. They won't be allowed to stand for another election. Is that democratic? Many say it smacks of the
word purges and you know where that comes from, from the old Soviet years of the Cold War. Is that democratic, these deselection threats?
REDWOOD: Well, I haven't seen or heard that in public. They're unattributable briefings along those lines. My view on all this is that it
is usually a very rare event. Someone needs to have the whip taken away from them because of their behavior and their attitudes and it's not
something to be encouraged. I always hope these things can be sorted out by friendly and strong discussion within the party.
AMANPOUR: On that note, MP, John Redwood, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Westminster tonight.
And now, we're going to turn to the eminent historian, Margaret MacMillan. She is professor emeritus at Oxford University and currently at the
University of Toronto.
Margaret MacMillan, thank you so much for joining us.
Look, can you put this into democratic and constitutional context, particularly after what you just heard from John Redwood that this is
standard procedure almost?
MARGARET MACMILLAN, HISTORIAN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: Yes. I think it isn't standard procedure. It seems to me it's a moment of
crisis where Britain and other countries have been through it and Britain has been through it before with really important issues about the future of
the country and the future shape of the country and its relations with other parts of the world are up.
And so, I don't think it's just business as usual. I think what is unfortunate perhaps -- I mean, I think John Redwood's feelings and views
are deeply held. But the tendency, I think, to ascribe to the other side everything wrong. Your earlier guest, General Mattis, was talking about
how we have to reach across and how we have to be prepared to recognize that people who disagree with us may sometimes be right. And it seems to
me that's something that's been lost in the current debate in Britain and has been lost in the last two years.
And democracy's only -- [13:30:00]
[13:30:00] MARGARET MACMILLAN, HISTORY PROFESSOR EMERITUS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: -- disagree with may sometimes be right. And it seems to me
that's something that's being lost in the current debate in Britain and has been lost in the last two years. And democracies only really work when
there's a fundamental willingness to make them work and a fundamental understanding that we may disagree but we're somehow in it together and we
-- and we want in the end to work together.
AMANPOUR: Let me point out what some people are saying. I mean, you know, you've just pointed out that, you know, sometimes you have to reach across
aisles and debate in a civil way. Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party -- obviously she's the Scottish leader, first minister -- has talked
about a smash and grab on democracy and she has warned about lasting damage to the British democracy. Just list to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLA STURGEON, FIRST MINISTER, SCOTLAND: Shutting down parliament in order to force through a no deal Brexit, which will do untold and lasting
damage to the country, against the wishes of M.P.s is not democracy, it's dictatorship. And if M.P.s don't come together next week to stop Boris
Johnson in his tracks, then I think today will go down in history as the day U.K. democracy died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And of course the Labor mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said that Boris Johnson appears to be, quote, running scared, trying to ram
through his do or die Brexit deal by the end of October, even if it means suspending Parliament and -- and limiting debate. What do you say about --
I mean, using the word dictatorship to -- to describe what's happening?
MACMILLAN: Well I think Britain is a long way from dictatorship. I mean, it still has a free press, it still has free and fair elections. But I can
understand the concern. I mean, Nicola Sturgeon is a very experienced politician. She's bound, I think, to -- to use rhetoric and go over
perhaps the top a bit. But I do think it's a concern because I think proroguing parliament is different from having a parliamentary recess. And
-- and a parliamentary recess, which is normal thing that often happens in the autumn when people go off to the political conferences, you have
parliamentary business continuing, bills will continue through committees, they don't suddenly get suspended.
Proroguing Parliament is a much more dramatic measure. And the length, as I think you pointed out earlier, is really something we haven't seen for
quite a while. If parliament reassembles there's going to be very little time before October 31 to discuss the ways and means. And you know, there
are really I think important issues here. I think it is true that those who wish to leave the European Union voted by a very slim majority to leave
two years ago. But what they didn't vote on and -- and what I think now needs to be voted on, either in Parliament or possibly another referendum,
is what the shape of that leaving will be.
I mean, it's like buying a house. You agree to buy a house but then you look at the details of the contract, you look at the mortgage arrangements,
you look at the house, you get it inspected to make sure it's OK. So it's one thing to say yes, let's do this and it's really I think a second and --
and much more important thing to say how do we do it. And I think this idea of leaving on October 31st without having answered that second
question, being, as far I can see, hundreds of miles away from having any answers to it I think is irresponsible.
AMANPOUR: And of course, you know, that seems to be certainly -- or the critics of all this seem to think that that's where that's headed. But I
want to ask you this. I mean, Boris Johnson obviously was not elected by the whole Conservative party, he was not elected by the people by the
nation, he was appointed, as we know, to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May. He has now talked about running an election pitting the Parliament
against the people, where he would be champion of the people. Put that in context as to what's going on in places like Hungary -- excuse me -- what's
going on in places like Hungary and other places where they use the democratic process to thwart democracy.
[13:35:00] MACMILLAN: I find it dangerous and I find again -- language matters. It doesn't -- it's not everything but I think the rhetoric
matters and I think we've seen a lot of overheated rhetoric from all sides in this particular debate in the past two years, but I find worrying is the
idea that you would say -- that any responsible politician would say it's the people against Parliament. Parliament is the medium, it's the
mechanism through which the views of peoples -- and there are many different views in a very large country, very large (inaudible) like the
United Kingdom, in which those views are brought together and -- and some sort of compromise emerges.
So to portray Parliament as somehow a check on the will of the people I think is very dangerous. And of course the other dangerous thing -- and we
see this in -- in less democratic countries -- is that you will get politicians who will claim to talk for this mysterious body called "the
people" and it's not clearly defined and if you disagree with them, well then of course they say you're not part of the people, you don't count.
And so I find it dangerous rhetoric. And we've seen in other countries that it can produce rather dangerous effects.
AMANPOUR: And so I guess finally, what is the solution, then? We've seen a president of maximum disruption -- self-described -- that's Donald Trump
here in the United States. And it has had an impact on institutions and on the way of conducting business. There are so many norms that are being
busted across the constitutional spectrum, if you like. We're seeing that happen to an extent in Britain -- suspending the parliament, we've just
talked about it might be legal but it's potentially not constitutional. How does one protect these apparently fragile democracies, fragile set of
rules and regulations that have upheld and underpinned our democracies?
MACMILLAN: I think we we're beginning to realize that perhaps they are a bit more fragile than we thought. And perhaps we've been rather complacent
in the advanced democracies, that we've thought we've got it all sorted out. And I think what we've realized in the in the last few years -- and
it's true in -- in the United States and it's certainly true in -- in my own country, Canada, and it's true in the United Kingdom and elsewhere,
that democracies rely, as you said, on conventions and unwritten understandings. And -- and on a sense that you are all basically in the
end wanting to do something for the country.
What I'm hoping at the moment is that enough people are shocked and perhaps appalled by what is happening -- I was very struck by Philip Hammond, the
former chancellor this morning, who said -- and this was -- you know, for someone who was a loyal Tory party member and who tends to not be
hotheaded, for him to say, as he did, that we really need to come together and we really need to try and avert what could be a very dangerous
situation, I'm hoping that enough people will begin to think, look, this has gone too far and we really need to begin to talk across these barriers
and talk to each other and try and restore some of that sense of -- of civility and restore some of those conventions. Because we're realizing
now just how important they are.
AMANPOUR: Margaret MacMillan, thank you so much for joining us. Now, Salman Rushdie is one of the world's most renowned authors. "Midnights
Children" about the partition of India is considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. But it was "The Satanic Verses" that brought
him notoriety. Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called the book blasphemous and put a Fatwa on Rushdie's head, forcing him into hiding for decade, but his
creativity remained undiminished and he's once again found literary success with his latest novel, "Quichotte". It's a modern, very American retelling
of Don Quixote. And today, it's been shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize. And our Walter Isaacson sat down with Rushdie to talk about
WALTER ISAACSON, JOURNALIST, CNN: Salman, thank you so much for being with us.
SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: Thank you.
ISAACSON: So I want to read your own first sentence to you, because to me it so much echoes Cervantes and the original Don Quixote. "There once
lived at a series of temporary addresses across the United States of America a traveling man of Indian, advancing years and retreating mental
powers, who on account of his love for mindless television had spent far too much of his life in the yellow light of tawdry motel rooms, watching an
excess of it and had suffered a peculiar form of brain damage". It sort of reminds me of Cervantes, but you're updating him in a way to say, how would
Cervantes do our society today (ph).
RUSHDIE: It's exactly that. I mean, obviously that sentence is -- is a deliberate echo of the opening of Don Quixote. You know. And -- and I
wanted to say, yes, I'm taking the knight of the Dolorous Countenance and bringing him 400 years into the future and putting him in a hotel room in
the middle of America and try to say who is he now.
ISAACSON: And Cervantes was making fun of the popular culture of his time --
RUSHDIE: Yes. What Cervantes was doing 400 years ago was kind of sending up the junk culture of his time, you know? And -- and saying how all these
chivalrous romances were kind of rotting peoples brains and they -- you know, rot Don Quixote's brain. And -- and I thought if he was around now,
what would his targets be? And who would he go for in the way that he -- you know, and I thought -- and I mean, the answer to that, I thought, was
that we have plenty of junk culture.
ISAACSON: And it was television in some ways --
RUSHDIE: -- it becomes a kind of (ph) reality television, you know? And - - and -- and its wicked sister, the internet. Which in the case of my character kind of deranges him in the way that these -- these earlier
fictions deranged Cervantes's character. And so that was a great starting point for me. And then I thought, OK, but he's got to have a love --
there's got to be a love in it, you know? And -- and I thought in the original novel, Don Quixote, in Cervantes's novel, when he's in love with
this woman who he doesn't know and he never met and -- you know, and he gives her a full -- gives her an invented name, I thought these days if you
were to start chasing a woman you've never met who's just somebody you've seen on TV, people would not necessarily think of that as romantic.
They might think of that as stalking. You know? So -- so there's that double-ness of it, that he's obsessed with this woman that he doesn't know.
But is she (ph) -- but her reaction when he starts writing to her is like, you know, let's call the police.
ISAACSON: One of the things Avante (ph) does, is his author's preface, which is, I think, somewhat unusual, but it sets up the author in
relationship to the character and you do that as well.
RUSHDIE: You know, I've never done it before. I've never written about writing. I think -- there are lots of books that do, but I had never
really written about a writer before. And he just showed up. I wasn't -- it wasn't actually part of the original plan of the book.
Originally I thought I was just going to write about this old duffer chasing this impossible dream. And then this other character who turns out
to be his author, I found appearing, and I thought, is this good or do I need it.
And then the two storylines began to, in a way, talk to each other though, and in part it became a book about how the act of creation transforms a
writers life into a fictional life. And I found that interesting. And I knew that in some way, as the book progressed, I had to bring these stories
closer and closer together until they, in some way, became thee same story.
And for a long time I didn't know how to do that, and I'm going to not say how I did it, because it's right at the end of the book. But, I felt, in
the end, I felt pleased with the fact that I had managed, in some way, to unite the two storylines.
ISAACSON: And you say there's a wonderful sentence in the book, "How the boundaries between truth and fantasy get smudged," I think, is your words.
ISAACSON: Was that part of blending these two strands?
RUSHDIE: Yes, it was, you know, and it -- because it's very difficult anymore for -- to be -- to be clear about what is the case. If I say
potato and you say potato, and we -- everybody disagrees with everyone else about the nature of reality right now.
And I wanted to sort of look at that, what does it mean when we can't agree on what's happening. And so, these two storylines, which kind of echo and
mirror each other, but aren't exactly the same each other, became a way of exploring that.
ISAACSON: It's a road novel, so it moves and moves and moves, but as it moves it changes genres to some extent.
[13:45:00] ISAACSON: Tell me how much did you plan it in advance and how much of the character just go off on their own.
RUSHDIE: It's a bit of each, you know. I mean, what I -- what I characteristically do, is I have a sort of structure, I mean, I know that
I've got to get from here to here and I've got to go via these different stops, but then I do allow a lot of it to happen in the act of creation.
Because I've learned that there are things that you come up, just in the moment of writing, that you can't come up with when you're just trying to
plan things. Your mind is working in a different way.
ISAACSON: Give me an example.
RUSHDIE: Well, I mean, for example, the chapter that Quichotte (ph) and his sidekick, Sancho, end up in the imaginary town in New Jersey, in which
people are turning into mastodons.
And that came about because when I was at college I acted in Eugene Ionesco's play Rhinoceros, in which people are turning into rhinoceros',
and in the case of Ionesco's play he's talking about fascism, he's talking about Nazis, he's talking about how your neighbors can suddenly turn into
monsters that you don't recognize. And -- but it's written as comedy, as light comedy.
ISAACSON: So, he is writing, Ionesco, about it, fascism in a way?
ISAACSON: What were you writing about when you were writing that?
RUSHDIE: I was writing about that we, in a way, that we're living in a moment in which this is happening to us, that our neighbors are turning
into things that we don't recognize, and that we can't talk to anymore. And so, it became, to me, like a little allegorical moment about the
ISAACSON: You say in the book too that the author in the book, (inaudible), reveals himself to a subject. Were you trying to reveal
yourself too through the subject?
RUSHDIE: Well, I mean, in certain things though, for example, the subject of old age is quite central to the book. Both Quichotte and his author,
they're both damaged by age in some way. And they're both thinking about the end of the line. And that subject, the subject of facing the end is
something which the -- which the book takes on very centrally.
And I think -- I'm 72 now, I'm not 100, but that -- but it's something you start thinking about. And so, in that sense the book is partly it's me
trying to face up to those things. That you know, just as a writer, when you're this age that the work ahead of you is much short -- is much briefer
period than the work behind you. And it concentrates the mind.
ISAACSON: I don't want to spoil the ending of the book, but there is the sort of bright light and a door something, and that's what you're thinking
about there to some extent, a little bit?
RUSHDIE: Yes, a little bit. I mean, it's a -- I mean, the book, as I say, adopts -- it's not like a mournful book, I think, but --
ISAACSON: It's playful.
RUSHDIE: Yes. I wanted it to have that characteristic of playfulness and speed and likeness.
ISAACSON: And humor.
RUSHDIE: And humor. I mean, one of the things I'm really pleased about, that the early readings -- readers of the book, is that everybody has found
it to be very funny and I'm pleased by that because I wanted it to be funny.
ISAACSON: Your character, or Quichotte, is born in India, born in Bombay, and travels around from England to the United States. That is also true of
RUSHDIE: And it's true also of the -- of his author of the book.
ISAACSON: Author. So, you have three characters, yourself, the author in the book, and Quichotte.
RUSHDIE: Yes. And all three of us come from the same tiny neighborhood in Bombay.
ISAACSON: Was that intentional from the beginning and why?
RUSHDIE: Yes. Well, in a way it was a sort of a -- in a way it was sort of a farewell to childhood, because both the characters in the book and I
have left behind a long time ago, and our lives have become elsewhere.
Mine, for a long time, in Britain and now for 20 years here in America. And similar transitions have happened to the characters in the book. So,
this memory of childhood is a very distant memory, and yes, I think it's like a list visit to that.
ISAACSON: You were born in Bombay as a Muslim, in a Hindu city and country.
ISAACSON: And then go to England and then the United States. You are always have to be aware, of what seemed to me, of an outsider status.
RUSHDIE: Yes. No, and I think -- I think I -- yes, I've been, in a way, an outside all my life, because in a minority in India and then in an
ethnic minority in England and then here as well. So, I think that's not a bad position for a writer.
ISAACSON: Why is that? Writers always seem to be a bit of an outsider. Why is that so good?
RUSHDIE: What I think is you need to be both things. You need to be inside and outside. If you -- you need to be inside the world you're
describing, otherwise you can't feel it. And -- but you also need to be able to step outside it and look at it with a kind of beady eye.
ISAACSON: Watching your career, I've always thought of you, in some ways, as a condiment (ph) inside, I mean were president of PEN, you were a
distinguished when you were in England. But then when I read this book about London and you living there, in a way, it was not your character, you
say you're such an outside, you notice how they discriminate against you.
RUSHDIE: Yes. Well, there have been periods in the U.K., it goes up and down, racial prejudice and so on, and sometimes it's worse than other
times. Right now, it's thanks to the Brexit nonsense, it's very bad. But --
ISAACSON: Do you think that may be part of the cause of the Brexit nonsense?
RUSHDIE: Yes. Yes. I mean, it's all about -- it's the same as white supremacy. It's all about reinventing a kind of England where there
weren't any inconvenient foreigners. And ignoring the fact that the wealth of England, at that time, was based on looting (ph) the countries of the
ISAACSON: Well, especially India, which is what you talk about when you get to the London part of this book.
RUSHDIE: Yes, exactly. So, I mean, that -- that's, I think, one of the things I wanted to do in this book was to talk a little bit about race.
And because if you're trying to write about two brown people traveling in a Chevy Cruze across America --
ISAACSON: This is Quichotte and his --
RUSHDIE: Quichotte and his Sancho.
ISAACSON: -- and his -- Sancho, his imaginary black and white son.
RUSHDIE: Yes. But, if you're going to do that, it's -- you can't avoid the fact that they're going to run into some hostility along the way,
because that's the America we live in now. And so, I thought, I've got to take that on. And, I mean, it's not the center of the book, but there are
two or three moments in the book when there are some quite racially tense and violent confrontational moments.
ISAACSON: One of the confusing things about the race in the book, is that your characters confuse the small towns they go into, because they're not
ISAACSON: They're not exactly -- and they're like, aren't you -- shouldn't you be wearing a turban type questions they get.
RUSHDIE: Exactly, yes.
ISAACSON: Does that help make it even more complex?
RUSHDIE: Well, I think - yes, I think Indian-Americans occupy an unusual position between - I mean, the classic racial tropes of America are between
black and white. And Indian Americans are somewhere muddled up in the middle of that, you know?
And then I also wanted to do another thing which was sort of more mischievous in a way. I didn't want Indian-Americans to be just victims of
racism, you know? So one of the most significant Indian-American characters of the book is actually a crook. So I thought, you know, "We
have crooks, too."
ISAACSON: Another one of the themes in the book is painkillers, opioids.
RUSHDIE: Oh, yes.
ISAACSON: So were you looking at the opioid crisis here? And what was that metaphor about?
RUSHDIE: Well, in a way, it's about the kind of hidden tragedy of America, you know, and that this problem is so widespread. And yet, it's also, in a
way, sort of invisible. And we all talk about it; we know it's there, but, you know, if you're walking in the street, you don't know who is suffering
I mean, I've had close friends and at least one family member die as a result of opioid addiction. My youngest sister died some years ago. And
it - when - you know, if you looked in her bathroom cabinet, it was like a pharmacy, and she obviously was more - much more deeply addicted than any
of us knew.
ISAACSON: How much do things like that, personal experiences, make their way into your novels?
RUSHDIE: Oh, I mean, that's one of the reasons why I became so obsessed with the subject of these drugs, you know? It was - because it started
with personal experience, you know? It started with losing a sister, which is a big deal. And that has something to do with, also, the way in which,
in this novel, there's two different brother/sister relationships, you know, which are troubled and difficult, you know?
And they don't - in the same way, you know, one of them ends up better than the other. But all of that comes out of the same very personal experience,
you know, of trying to - and trying to turn that into art.
ISAACSON: There's a line in the book, which is, "Now, you understand what unhappiness is."
ISAACSON: What has caused you the most unhappiness?
RUSHDIE: Well, you know, the usual stuff. I mean, there was - there was - there's obvious fact, which is the 10 years of the my life were quite
difficult because of an attack on my work and on me.
ISAACSON: And that was the (inaudible) Iranian Ayatollah because of -
RUSHDIE: Because of the novel of mine.
ISAACSON: The novel, yes - satanic verses. How did you deal with that for 10 years? And how did that affect you?
RUSHDIE: Well, I mean -
ISAACSON: And it was a death threat?
RUSHDIE: Yes, I mean, I'm quite surprised to be in good shape, actually. You know, it was - I mean, it was very difficult, but I think, sometimes,
you learn something about yourself when you're put in a kind of situation of extreme stress. But you learn whether you're able to handle it or not.
ISAACSON: And you had to be in hiding a lot of the time?
RUSHDIE: Yes, I've always worried about that phrase because the thing about maximum security is that it's unbelievably visible.
ISAACSON: I remember you showing up with your security; I said, "Well, yes, that's not in hiding."
RUSHDIE: Yes, because there's like a little - a little army around you. You know, so it feels like the opposite of hiding.
ISAACSON: So what did you learn?
RUSHDIE: Well, I learned, maybe, that I was tougher than I thought, you know, which - I mean, I wouldn't have backed myself to survive that
experience, but I did. And I think what happens is that you - I learned anyway, to value even more - even more, you know, intensely the things that
I valued before, such as - such as the art of literature and the freedom of expression and the right to say things that other people don't like and so
And I just thought, OK. Yes, I mean, it may have been an unpleasant decade, but it was the right fight, you know? It was fighting for the things that
I most believe in against things I most dislike, which are bigotry and fanaticism and censorship and so on. So yes, I came out of it, in a way,
ISAACSON: Salman Rushdie, thank you so much for being with us.
RUSHDIE: Thank you. Thank you.
[13:55:00] AMANPOUR: And a robust defense there of free speech from an author who literally has put has life on the line for it. But that's it
for us, for now. Remember, you can listen to our podcast and see us online at amanpour.com, and you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter. Thank you
for watching, and goodbye from New York.