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Palestinians Rejects Trump's Middle East Peace Plan; Palestinian President Forced to Withdraw Proposal; Ehud Olmert, Former Israeli Prime Minister, is Interviewed About Palestine and Trump's Peace Plan; Husam Zomlot, Head of Palestinian Mission to the U.K., is Interviewed About Trump's Peace Plan; Millennials Voting on 2020 Election; Charlotte Alter, National Correspondent, TIME, is Interviewed About Younger Generation Voting; Interview With Author Charlotte Alter; Interview With Author Yuval Levin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 11, 2020 - 13:00:00 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)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Trump's deal of the century for the Middle East, rejected by the Palestinians at the United Nations. I'll speak to their ambassador and to
the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who also rejects this plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we're scared of change. I think we're scared of adding more people to the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Spotlight on younger voters. Will millennials decide the Democratic nominee and transform America?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUVAL LEVIN, AUTHOR: We've lost confidence in the institutions of our common life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, how to stem this tie? Author and conservative intellectual, Yuval Levin, tells our Hari Sreenivasan, how to rebuild.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
With the New Hampshire primary now, Democrats are one step closer to deciding who will face President Trump in November in an election that will
redefine the direction America takes at home and abroad.
Now, the Trump administration's transactional foreign policy could be summed up as kind of my way or the highway. Case in point, the president's
Middle East peace plan. Donald Trump claims it is a win-win for both sides, the ultimate deal. But much of the rest of the world says it heavily favors
one side, Israel, and violates decades of international laws and norms on the issue. The Palestinians have flatly rejected it, as their President
Mahmoud Abbas told the U.N. today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): This is an Israeli American preemptive plan in order to put an end to the
question of Palestine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And at the last minute, Abbas was forced to withdraw his proposal for a security council resolution against Trump's plan. This comes
under pressure from the U.S. and Israel.
Israel's former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, also rejects Trump's deal. In 2008 he and the Palestinian Authority president negotiated their own peace
plan. And he's joining me from New York to explain his position.
So, welcome to the program, Prime Minister Olmert.
EHUD OLMERT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: I just need to ask you first and foremost, it is quite extraordinary that you would come all the way to New York to speak
essentially on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and rejecting this plan from your key ally and you're also under a lot of pressure at home for
making this trip. Why was it so important to you?
OLMERT: Well, there's a little mistake here, which I have to correct I think to put things in the right place. I didn't come to speak on behalf of
the Palestinian Authority nor did I come especially because of the (INAUDIBLE) in the Palestinian Authority is making. I'm not part of it. I
was not connected in any way --
AMANPOUR: Right. OK.
OLMERT: -- to the Palestinian position. I'm here on a visit and it was suggested that I meet with a person that I negotiated with 12 years ago and
10 years ago in a very, very serious way, and we were very close to reaching an agreement.
I definitely didn't come to wage a campaign against Trump or against the Israeli government, for that matter. I'm not here -- I think it would be
very inappropriate for me to come here and to have any complain against the president or to fight against the Israeli government.
AMANPOUR: OK, Mr. Prime minister. Now, that we've got that out of the way -- fine.
OLMERT: All right.
AMANPOUR: Now, that we've got that out of the way, the actual fact is that you are going to be speaking to Mahmoud Abbas with whom you did negotiate
and the government at Israel has actually tried urged you not to come and do this. So, tell us why it's so important.
OLMERT: The government of Israel didn't -- the government of Israel criticized me.
AMANPOUR: The ambassador did.
OLMERT: But I'm in an opposition to the Israeli prime minister. So, it's part now of the political campaign in Israel, they say many things. I don't
want to refer to it, certainly not when I'm here. The main thing is very simple. There is a plan which was presented by President Trump. I had a
different plan. It's not new. Everyone knows it. You know all the details of it because we discussed it here on this program many times, which was
But I'm not the prime minister now. And unfortunately, the plan that I presented then, unfortunately, at the last minute, was not accepted by --
was not rejected, but was not accepted by the Palestinians. And therefore, we didn't conclude it.
Now, there is a plan by the president. I know, of course, the position of the Palestinian Authority and I know the position of many Israelis. But
there is one thing which is important and which I think is something that we have to look at.
The plan of President Trump talks about a two-state solution. If indeed a two-state solution is a basic commitment of the plan of President Trump,
then there is something that can be pursued here, because this is the ultimate goal that led me, that guided me and that guided my negotiations
with President Abbas. So, I'm going to speak shortly with President Abbas and we will -- I'll share with him my observations and what is the most
important thing, which has actually convinced me that I should speak with President Abbas, is that there is only one partner for peace.
Now, the peace plan which was presented by President Trump, which is the deal of a century, as he presents it, needs a partner in the Palestinian
side. Who will be the partner? There is only one that I know based on my experience, I'm dealing with these issues for tens of years, there is only
one partner which, I think, is prepared to make peace with Israel.
Unfortunately for the time being, not exactly according to our expectations, there are differences. It has to be sorted out in a direct
manner in negotiations, but there is only one partner, and I want to recognize the important position of President Mahmoud Abbas as the only
partner for peace. Because if we want to implement the deal of a century, we need to have a partner and there is no other than Mahmoud Abbas.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, before I get to the heart and soul of what you negotiated with him, I want to ask you what you think of this plan that was
presented. In other words, what will you say to Mahmoud Abbas? I presume you'll say, take this as a starting position, engage, negotiate with the
United States, and what will you tell him about where he might be able to negotiate?
OLMERT: Christiane, I'm sorry, I didn't come here to be the adviser of President Abbas and I don't think that it would be appropriate for me to do
it. Certainly, not to do it publicly before I meet with him.
But the main point is this, which is very -- I think very important and very significant. The two-state solution is an essential part of the peace
plan of President Trump. There are many things there which are unacceptable to the Israelis, as well as to the Palestinians. But this one basic
fundamental principle is at the core of this plan.
I think that if, indeed, it is, then there is something where to start and this is something that the Palestinians will have to decide whether they
want to do it or not. I -- it's obvious, and I said it many times, my plan was different and perhaps was much more forthcoming. Some say that it was
the most forthcoming, far-reaching political plan that was presented by Israel to the Palestinians from the beginning of the conflict.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let's just quickly --
OLMERT: Unfortunately --
AMANPOUR: Let's just quickly --
AMANPOUR: -- remember what your plan envisioned. Because you also had maps, you showed maps to -- I think to Mahmoud Abbas because he then in
turn took those maps and showed them to President Trump a couple of years ago when they were still engaging. So just tell the world --
OLMERT: No, no, no. Christiane, I'm sorry that I have to interrupt you.
AMANPOUR: OK. Keep correcting me? All right. So that was the report.
OLMERT: Unfortunately --
OLMERT: The -- I showed Abbas the map.
OLMERT: I say to him -- he asked me, can I take it, and I say, no.
OLMERT: You can take it only if you sign the map.
OLMERT: Because otherwise, one day you'll take it, you'll not come back and in a few years you'll come back and you'll say here, I want to start
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that -- OK.
OLMERT: Take it --
AMANPOUR: So, that's a mistake. I want to know what was in the map that you thought was good and how close you guys came, and the difference
between what was in your proposal and what's been presented now.
OLMERT: Basically, the plan that I presented was based on the territorial aspect, it was based on the 67 borders.
OLMERT: Namely that Israel will withdraw from territories, there will be swaps of territories. By the way, an idea that was first raised by
President George W. Bush in his famous letter to Prime Minister Sharon on the 14th of April 2004.
OLMERT: There were three demographic centers in the West Bank which were to be kept by Israel in exchange for swaps of some parts of the territories
that were part of the State of Israel before 1967. So, the size of the territory will be based on 1967, with slight modifications on both sides.
That was the concept. Also, the concept was that all the villages, the villages -- that there are around Jerusalem, such as Beit Hanina and the
refugee camp in (INAUDIBLE), all this will be part of the Palestinian capital.
Now, I actually heard and read the 181 pages of the peace plan of President Trump and he talks about the undivided Jerusalem, but he talks about East
Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinians, something that I agreed with and I proposed it to Mahmoud Abbas. Also, which was very important is that
I accepted the Arab Peace Initiative, which was raised initially in Saudi Arabia, which was approved by the Arab League of Nations in February of
2002 in Beirut and -- which was reconfirmed in Riyadh in the June of 2007, the framework for further negotiations about the refugee issue.
I didn't accept all the content, but I was prepared to negotiate within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative. And therefore, I think that we were
very advanced in the effort that we made then. I hope that today, and this is the call of what I hope to be able to achieve with President Abbas, is
that the Palestinians will not just refrain from answering to President Trump or reject just outright his ideas, but to try to come up with some
ideas that could advance the process of negotiations.
OLMERT: We need to negotiate. Mahmoud Abbas is the only partner. Israel, I believe in a month's time after the elections, will have a leadership that
will be prepared to sit with him and negotiate and advance peace.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that I presume you mean -- I mean, I don't know, correct me again. But I presume you mean that it would -- it could be the Blue and
White party. I don't know. Do you think they're going to win? Very quickly, because I want to ask you -- I want to put to you what Yair Lapid has said
about Mahmoud Abbas and see if you agree. So, let me just put that to you.
OLMERT: Go ahead, yes.
AMANPOUR: Because you have said that Mahmoud Abbas is somebody you can negotiate with and Israel can negotiate with. Yair Lapid is a little less
complimentary, let's say. This is what he told the Foreign Press Association in Israel just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YAIR LAPID, CO-LEADER, BLUE AND WHITE: Instead of putting something of their own on the table, what we have is a grumpy old man who shouts and
curse all the time. This is not the policy. So, I don't know if this generation or regime -- of the regime is capable of making the quantum leap
they need to make. So, maybe it will have to wait until the post Abu Mazen (ph) era.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Olmert, do you recognize that description and what do you think? Does it have to wait until the post Abu Mazen (ph) era?
OLMERT: No, the big difference between me and all the Israeli political person such as Mr. Lapid who is very bright and upcoming person in Israeli
politics, is that I'm running. We are in the middle of election campaign as there is America right now. Not everything that candidates say in the heat
of the campaign must be taken with the kind of seriousness that you relate to after the elections.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you --
OLMERT: So, you know, they say things which may sound popular for the electorate, but which do not necessarily reflect the realities with which
we have to deal.
AMANPOUR: All right. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, thank you for that perspective. Really important. And now, we're going to turn --
OLMERT: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: -- to the Palestinian leadership. With me now is Husam Zomlot. He is head of the Palestinian Mission here in the U.K. and before that he
was the envoy to Washington, D.C.
Welcome to the program.
HUSAM ZOMLOT, HEAD OF PALESTINIAN MISSION TO THE U.K.: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, you've heard what the former prime minister talked about and he's going to be speaker to your leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, and they
came pretty close in terms of maps, in terms of, you know, some kind of two-state solution that looked real. He also said Abu Mazen (ph), Mahmoud
Abbas, is the only negotiator capable and willing to engage for peace. Would you say that's still the case?
ZOMLOT: Of course, and he's right, President Abbas has been a very principled statesman with a vision all along. He has been very consistent,
all of his political career. He has been always gearing the Palestinian nation and people towards a negotiated two-state solution. He has stood by
his commitments all along, unwavering, despite and regardless of the political zigzagging and circumstances.
And today, President Abbas really appeared before the world and the Security Council, that man, that with that vision, that man with that
commitment, that man that defends not only the people of Palestine and our rights but defends our humanity, our universal values, defends our
And what the Prime Minister Olmert just said is vital, that it has to be based on the 1967 borders, any solution and that we have a partner in
President Abbas and the Palestinians. And this is exactly what the Trump plan has demolished.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's really interesting because you remember, to me, Jared Kushner the day of the unveiling said, you know, this the first maps
that we've seen. It's the first maps that we've shown. I could never find any other maps. And you just heard Prime Minister Olmert say there was
clearly a map that he had, that he shared with Palestinian President Abbas and it looked very different from the map that the Trump administration has
So, all of that, I want to know your reaction to the fact that your president could not even muster the support, having come all the way from
Ramallah on the West Bank to the United Nations to get a draft resolution passed, to even propose it, because of pressure from Israel, pressure from
the United States, of course.
ZOMLOT: I think my president today was really the one who won the day. I believe he won it not only for us, the Palestinians, he won it for the rest
of the world. He won it for our international system. It's not only what he said and what he said was historic. President Abbas --
AMANPOUR: In what way?
ZOMLOT: It's where he said.
AMANPOUR: What way?
ZOMLOT: In the way that there is hope. In the way that we are available for the hope. And that together, we will protect our laws, our rules, our
international system and order and the Security Council is the place to do so, that's number one. Number two, how come all the bully of the Trump
administration, all the blackmail of all states worldwide, America has used its full leverage to literally threaten every state directly, yet we get an
absolute consensus by our people, tens of thousands in the streets today in the West Bank.
Consensus to reject this plan, which has nothing to do with peace. The consensus, unanimous decision by the Arab -- all Arab states, the same
Islamic States, the same European Union, rejection of the plan, the same African Union. And today, the 14 countries of the Security Council came up
with statements very clear rejecting the plan, rejecting these attempts, rejecting the deviation from international resolutions. Only the U.S., next
to Israel, today in front of our president was isolated. So, I don't see this to be -- we would always -- we knew there would not be a resolution,
Christian. I mean, the U.S. would --
AMANPOUR: But you knew that you wanted to proposed one, you want to at least take a (INAUDIBLE), already it had been watered down under pressure.
ZOMLOT: I'll tell you the truth. I'll tell --
AMANPOUR: Couldn't even take in.
ZOMLOT: I'll tell you the truth. The so-called Trump plan, which is not a plan, by the way -- and I read it for the fifth time, I think it's
tantamount to a war crime or crime against humanity. Lawyers will have to study this, will have to study the amount of hatred, racism, segregation if
no engineering in this plan that I think implicates all of those who wrote it.
However, the moment we rejected this plan, Christiane, the moment the President Abbas rejected this plan and with him the entire Palestinian
people, it was enough. What we have been doing since then with the Arab states, with the Islamic world, with the African Union, with the European
Union, and today, the Security Council and the 14 members minus the U.S., was actually to protect ourselves, all of us.
AMANPOUR: You know don't you --
ZOMLOT: Or to protect the international system. So, I think we, the small Palestinians, against all this bully, I really believe have won. Have won
because the message is loud and clear and it has received unanimous support of the international community minus Mr. Trump and Israel.
AMANPOUR: OK. But also, as you know, the special envoy, the permanent representative of Tunisia, it was Tunisia and Indonesia who proposed this.
AMANPOUR: The Tunisian has been fired under severe pressure, according to everything I've been told and that I've been -- you know, what can you tell
me? What happened to the Tunisian?
ZOMLOT: I don't need to tell you. The Tunisian foreign minister just released a statement about the situation. And in that statement, by the
president, they were saying their support to the rights of the Palestinian people is absolutely rock solid.
ZOMLOT: And waterproof that that incident has to do with coordination. And Tunisia remain --
AMANPOUR: And you believe that?
ZOMLOT: I do believe that. I believe what I see. I believe that the resolution of the Arab states was absolutely clear. I believe the 14
members, I believe the foreign minister of Belgium today, I believe that the world wants to protect not only the Palestinians, the world wants to
protect itself. I believe the world --
ZOMLOT: -- want to return.
AMANPOUR: OK. Let's say all of this is true because --
ZOMLOT: (INAUDIBLE) system, the order.
AMANPOUR: -- clearly the rest of the world is having to battle between sympathy and the international law for the Palestinians and the superpower,
the United States, which wields a huge amount of power these days.
So, my question is will President Abbas, after he's spoken to the Prime Minister Olmert or anybody, take this Trump peace plan as a flaw and
negotiate and try to get the best deal they possibly can?
ZOMLOT: What plan?
AMANPOUR: I'm just asking you. Will it come to the table under this circumstance?
ZOMLOT: What plan? This is a so-called plan that was put together by a U.S. team that is directly implicated in the Israeli illegal colonization
for all these years, implicated directly. And all of them come from the real estate slum business, all of them. All of them personally related to
Trump and all of them directly involved in the Israeli illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank, all of them. They put together a plan, they
call it a plan. And in that plan, they demolish everything we have built and invested in for all these years.
To take it as a starting point is all what they want. The real intention of the plan is actually to corner Israel into a destiny that is (INAUDIBLE).
They want to trap Israel into one destiny only, apartheid. One destiny only, a perpetual conflict.
AMANPOUR: But clearly, the United States does not want to do that.
ZOMLOT: Ad that's why today's message by President Abbas was absolutely crucial and historic.
AMANPOUR: But clearly, the United States did not want to make Israel an apartheid state.
ZOMLOT: No, no. They do.
AMANPOUR: So, they don't want to do that.
ZOMLOT: No, they do. They do. If I show you the maps, it's apartheid. You know what, it's a house --
AMANPOUR: But they wouldn't see it as that.
ZOMLOT: No, no, no. It's a house arrest formula. They want to put us under our own consent in our houses, surrounded by walls and disconnected
communities. And therefore, we will not get that immediately. According to the plan, we will only get that if we behave in a certain way. The plan
does not mention rights. The plan starts with peace to prosperity as if we are a nation of beggars and in need of money. By the way, they don't know
anything about our history and they don't know how much affluent we are and how much we have been the cartel of civilization.
By the way, we have produced almost every prophet. From prophet-- Abraham of the father of all prophets, (INAUDIBLE) to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, we
are a nation that is very rooted and very rich. And they think that the root of this is bribery and bully, bully to us.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, let me ask you another question.
ZOMLOT: And that's why if it happened to Palestinians, if we allowed it to happen to us, it's just a matter of a question of who is next, and who is
next. That's why President Abbas today did what he did. I think today we did it for humanity, we did it for the world, we did it for you, we did it
for the U.S. values and the Bill of Rights. We did it actually for our lesson after the Second World War, the horrors of the Second World War
because of the Holocaust, the most evil act. We did it because of the never again.
So, today, we found our self, Palestinians, in defense of all that. And I think we wanted to defend the next, we wanted from now to preempt any
possibility of these bodies to actually undermine the rights of nation and bully the rights of nation.
AMANPOUR: I have to ask you a question. Obviously, clearly, you have a lot of sympathy around the world. I'm still not convinced about the Arab
states, I think they want to get rid of this problem. However, I want to ask you something more significant. As you know, there is a Palestinian-
Iraqi writer, Zena Agha, she works for "Palestinian Policy Network." And in the "New York Times" no less last week, she wrote about your leadership.
The real lesson here is the disposability of the Palestinian partner, no matter how acquiescent it might be, the marginalization of the Palestinian
Authority by Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu has demonstrated once and for all that Palestinians have no place in any future plans. Your answer to that?
ZOMLOT: My answer is that this is exactly what the so-called Trump/Kushner plan intends to. It wants to trap Israel into apartheid and segregation and
annexation and perpetual conflict, permanent occupation and it wants to wage psychological warfare against us. They want us to press the self-
destruct. They want us to abandon our own righteous demands and legitimate demands of ending the occupation, establishing our own sovereign state. Our
right for self-determination. That's Woodrow Wilson -- Trump, the U.S. president, Woodrow Wilson, and what we are going to do now is what our
president said in the Security Council.
AMANPOUR: Which is?
ZOMLOT: We will double down on our demand for state sovereignty, independence, freedom, the right of our refugees. We will double down on
our ability to impose our rights on the ground. Maybe this is not the time to have negotiated a two-state solution via U.S.-led process. The U.S. has
discredited itself but it is time for us to double our investment together with all the international community that you have seen today in the
Security Council to actually go ahead in the vision of achieving peace based on the two-state -- on the 1976 borders.
And I believe what Trump did in the end has revealed everything. It revealed how far a U.S. president can go in damaging the U.S. status, the
U.S. leverage. And actually, subcontracting the United States of America to the benefit not of one country, of one man. That is called Netanyahu.
And I believe today, the Palestinians have so much to breathe for, to celebrate and to go ahead in our long journey towards freedom.
AMANPOUR: It was very interesting, very interesting to hear the former prime minister, Olmert, who negotiated with your president speak very
deliberately about the 1967 lines. So, that's an issue that remains alive in some corners. We'll see what happens after the election and in the
Husam Zomlot, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
And now, the New Hampshire primary is a chance to focus on a highly coveted demographic for any party, younger American voters. Nearly 60 percent of
Americans under 30 say they definitely plan to vote in 2020. That is a big percentage and their vision for the future is shaped by the America they
grew up in, different from that of their parents and their grandparents.
This generation tends to be more liberal, driven perhaps by their experience or the financial crisis, student debt, endless wars and the lack
of major action on climate change.
Charlotte Alter is the author of "The Ones We've Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders will Transform America." And she's joining me now
from New Hampshire where she's covering the 2020 campaign for "Time" magazine.
And welcome to the program.
CHARLOTTE ALTER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Thank you so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: So, listen, the figure that's been mooted of 60 percent of millennials saying that they plan to come out and vote is a pretty big
figure. What do you think when you hear that? Is just -- that what people say to pollsters or do you see any evidence that that might actually happen
ALTER: I see tremendous evidence that it might actually happen this time. In the 2018 midterms, millennial turnout nearly doubled from the previous
midterm. And this generation is fired up in a way that I don't think many people have seen, at least since 2008 with Barack Obama. They are getting
out to these big events in the primaries, they're marching, they're organizing and they're really motivated by a sense of desperation about the
future they're inheriting from their parents.
AMANPOUR: Let's ask the $100 million question, if I might. You know, why is it then that -- well, not why is it then, but so many young people are
going for the oldest candidate, Bernie Sanders, you know, on the Democratic side, and not so much for the youngest candidate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who
is doing pretty well? He and Bernie Sanders are doing amazingly well and they represent different spectrums of the Democratic Party.
I just want to put to you what Buttigieg said about what he thinks is a false narrative about the comparisons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND, IN) PRESIDENT CANDIDATE: It's just not true that you would have to choose between the status quo or a total
revolution, there's another way. And that other way happens to be what most Democrats and what most Americans want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: OK. So, your take on that, that, you know, as we know, the progressive wing versus the moderate wing, and he says that's not the
comparison that's at stake there.
ALTER: So, I think the way to look at this is actually no matter which way this goes, this is a generational change election. So, if Pete Buttigieg
runs away with the nomination with the support of moderate, mostly older and middle-aged voters, that's still a generational change election because
he would be the first millennial presidential candidate and he is significantly to the left of moderates who are older than him. I mean, he
still wants universal health care, he's still for more student debt relief, he's still for urgent action on climate change, just not as much as Bernie
Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and some of his progressive opponents are.
If Bernie Sanders runs away with this nomination, which seems, you know, very possible, even likely, it will be because of his enormous support from
millennial voters. And in fact, it's something like two in three millennials support either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
So, they're, you know, very, very tilted towards the progressives in this race. But I also want us to think about why are the Democrats even talking
about climate change the way they're talking about it? Why is student debt suddenly a core issue that every Democratic candidate has to deal with?
It's because millennial organizers and activists have successfully changed the conversation around -- you know, towards the issues that, really, they
care about and that really affect their lives.
AMANPOUR: And those are issues that young people, frankly, all over the world are caring about right now and they're really important,
transformative issues, particularly obviously the climate.
Let me ask you, it is interesting, and maybe the older generation doesn't quite sort of focus -- that, actually, millennials have grown up in a
completely different environment, as I briefly alluded to, than their parents.
They are informed by a whole -- sort of the opposite of hope, if you like. If the boomers were the boomers for a reason, these people have been -- the
youngsters, have been paying for many of the -- I don't know, the institutional failings of the older generation.
So, just put that into a perspective. Describe that.
So, what my book traces is essentially the -- so, millennials, most of them came of age right around 9/11; 9/11 was the first big, major geopolitical
event that most millennials can remember in their lives.
And since 9/11, what we have seen is the erosion of and failure of nearly every major institution that was supposed to keep Americans safe, healthy
and happy. We saw the financial crisis, in which the entire economy melted down just as many millennials were beginning to enter the work force.
We saw education costs go through the roof in a way where the cost of the - - of a college education was transferred from the state, which used to be spending quite a lot of money funding these institutions, onto the student.
And we also saw an utter failure of the entire political establishment to deal with climate change in any significant way. So, I don't -- I
understand why some of these millennial voters that I'm talking to have a real sense of anger and a real sense that the system has totally failed
And many young people I speak to say that Trump is, in a lot of ways, a symptom of this, because the conventional wisdom, informed by 20th century
political thinking, said that somebody like Trump could never win.
So, in some ways, what the 2016 election did for many young people was basically confirm that all of their parents and grandparents and all the
things that they said about what was -- what America was and what was possible to happen in this country was outdated thinking, and that they're
going to create a new set of assumptions and a new model for thinking about American politics.
AMANPOUR: So let's just talk about millennials vis-a-vis the Democratic Party in the Republican Party.
I mean, it is staggering, staggering, where the divide is there. Describe what the percentage is and why they're much fewer for the Republican Party
than for the Democratic Party.
ALTER: So, social scientists and political scientists have found that, essentially, popular presidents attract young people to their party and
unpopular presidents repel them, and that actually those attitudes stay for most of your life. They're pretty sticky.
Most people develop their political attitudes in their early 20s, early to mid-20s. And by the time they're in their early 30s, they have pretty much
figured out where they stand, and they don't tend to move right over time in a way that a lot of people assume that they do.
So, if you look at the millennial lifetime right now, again, millennials -- the oldest millennials were born in 1981, 1980, depending on which count
you're using, so they would have been right around 20 when George W. Bush was elected.
So, in their lifetime, they have seen a Republican president who started to disastrous foreign wars. Right after him, they saw an incredibly popular
president, in Barack Obama, who was the first black president, who not only made history, but also that was such an enormous moment for young people,
because he was really the candidate that was bringing a lot of young people into the political process.
And then, after him, you saw the election of Donald Trump. And Trump was elected overwhelmingly by voters over 65. Older white voters form the core
of his base. And, actually, young voters in that election voted overwhelmingly first for Bernie Sanders in the primary and then for Hillary
Clinton in the general election.
So, the last three presidents that millennials have seen over the course of their -- of the time in their lives when they're making their political
opinions have all shifted them away from the Republican Party and towards the left.
That isn't necessarily a win for the Democrats, although millennials did vote for Democrats in the midterms by 2-1 just a couple years ago, because
there's a lot of skepticism about party institutions in general.
But, actually, Republicans are in really, really deep trouble with this age demographic. And one poll found that only 12 percent of millennials
consider themselves to be very or fairly conservative.
AMANPOUR: OK. So this is--
ALTER: That is an alarming number for--
AMANPOUR: It certainly is.
But this is also a very interesting point, because, as you said, they voted for Bernie, and then they voted for Hillary when she was the nominee.
But, as you have seen, the numbers show that, in the key states which matter, the swing states, the Bernie voters didn't actually vote for
Hillary, and considerable numbers voted for Trump, and that, in many ways, put Trump over the top. It contributed to Trump's win.
Given the fact that the Democrats seem to be united in a desire to beat Trump, do you think that, this time around, if your prediction doesn't come
true, that Bernie Sanders is somehow not the nominee, will this year, his voters, certainly his millennial voters, vote for whoever the Democratic
ALTER: I mean, I think that that's the million-dollar question, and it's ultimately what is underneath this argument that the Bernie Sanders
campaign is making about why Bernie beats Trump.
They argue that Bernie is the only candidate that these Bernie Sanders voters in the key states would go for. I'm not totally convinced that
that's true. I think that many of those third-party voters or non-voters in those swing states may have reconsidered or may have not understood the
impact of their vote in that election when they made it, and now might have had a change of heart.
And I think that it's actually fairly likely that a Democrat, depending on who it is, would be able to get some of those people to support them.
AMANPOUR: All right.
ALTER: But I think that the point stands that there are voters in this country, particularly young disaffected voters, often voters of color, who
are so disappointed with the political process and have felt so failed by every institution, that they are unlikely to show up and just check the box
next to a Democrat.
They need to be convinced that somebody is authentically fighting for them. And that is the argument that Bernie Sanders is making.
And thank you very much, Charlotte Alter. We're going to be discussing exactly that, institutions, with our next guest.
So, thanks very much for being with us.
So, voters of all ages need institutions they can trust, say our next guest, at a time when the contract is broken.
Yuval Levin is a conservative commentator and director of social cultural and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
His new book, "A Time to Rebuild," argues that institutions are the very fabric of society, and he tells our Hari Sreenivasan how these institutions
need rebuilding themselves to remedy bitter divisions.
SREENIVASAN: You're arguing that the roots of today's problems is not just about individuals, but about our faith in institutions collapsing.
YUVAL LEVIN, AUTHOR, "A TIME TO BUILD": Well, when we think about the kind of social crisis that we face now, a crisis that presents itself, in our
politics, in our culture, even in the personal lives of a lot of Americans in the form of isolation and alienation, our natural inclination is to
think about individual well-being.
How's the economy doing? Are people healthy? Are they safe? And on those fronts, things do look fine mostly. There are certainly problems, but they
don't explain the kind of crisis we're living through.
It's really in our sociality, at the interstices of life, the connections between people, where we seem to be having problems. And to think about
that, you have to think about more than individuals, because even when we think about our social lives in America, we tend to imagine American life
as this big open space with lots of individuals, and they're having trouble holding hands or connecting.
And so we say we want to build bridges, we want to break down walls, cast a unifying vision. But what we're missing is that we actually live our social
lives in structures, in ways that shape what we do together.
LEVIN: And if American life is a big, open space, it's not filled with individuals. It's filled with these structures, and they're called
The things we do together take a certain shape. And it is in those shapes that our problems now present themselves. We have lost confidence in the
institutions that structure our common life.
That loss of confidence is very easy to see. It's very widespread. But to really understand it, you have to ask some questions about why we have
confidence in institutions and what it means to lose it.
SREENIVASAN: When you say the word institutions, as you mentioned, this kind of lack of trust that we have, my brain automatically fills in the
blank with institutional corruption, institutional bureaucracy, institutional racism.
SREENIVASAN: The brand of the notion of an institution has slipped significantly in a very short period of time.
LEVIN: Absolutely. And all those things are real, right?
That kind of corruption, which I described in the book as insiderism, a way of using the power of the institution to advance the good of the
individual, that's the kind of corruption that's always been with us. And it's certainly with us now. And it undermines trust in institutions.
There's also a distinct kind of modern 21st century institutional corruption, where the problem is not just that the people within an
institution are using their power in a corrupt way, but that the institutions don't see themselves as shaping and molding those individuals.
Rather, they're understood as just providing a platform for people. The only thing the institution does, it gives you a stage to stand on and be
seen and heard in our culture. And so, if you look, for example, at Congress, Congress is -- we can think of it traditionally as a very
It shapes the way its members work, so that they work together to achieve some common ends. Right now, members of Congress often think of the
institution as just a platform, a way to elevate themselves to get a better time slot on cable news or talk radio, to get a bigger social media
following, to be heard.
They use Congress to become players in the theater of our popular culture, rather than to make laws, to reach compromises, to find some accommodate
that could help our country address its differences, so that, where people might have once used the microphone to try to get power, now people use
power to try to get a microphone.
And I think there's a real confusion about the purposes of our institutions when they all just become stages. We see that in our politics. The
president certainly does this too. He treats himself as a commentator in chief, rather than as a person with institutional responsibility.
But I think you see that in corporate America. You see it in the academy. You see it in American religious life. It's a distinct form of corruption
that's unique to our time, and I think has a huge amount to do with why we have lost trust in institutions, as we have.
SREENIVASAN: How much of the -- let's say, in the context of Congress, how much of the dismantling of institutional power in Congress is the
responsibility of the members themselves--
SREENIVASAN: -- who seem, as you say, if they're -- if this has gone from a formative institution to a performative platform, they have ceded a
tremendous amount of authority and power to legislate, to govern to the executive branch.
LEVIN: I think that's quite right.
When it comes to our politics, this problem is really rooted in a willful dereliction, particularly by the Congress. So, a lot of conservatives --
and I'm a conservative -- like to complain about the courts being too powerful and the administrative state, sometimes the president, being too
All of those, it seems to me, are really functions of Congress being intentionally powerless and turning power over to other institutions,
saying, we don't want the responsibility to do this. We're going to stake out broad goals and leave it to other people to figure out how to achieve
The result of that is that Congress becomes an observer of the system that it is supposed to be guiding and driving. Now, there are also a lot of
other incentives that members deal with. They understand themselves to be playing a part in a broad political, cultural theater, where what their
voters want is to see them angry about the right things.
And most of what they do is spend their time proving that they're angry about the right things. So, if you attend a congressional committee hearing
now, it basically consists of a bunch of individuals producing YouTube clips to use later in a campaign.
And they're not -- they're not communicating with each other. They're not negotiating. They're not bargaining. They're performing. And they treat the
Congress as a stage for performance.
The result of that is, of course, a weaker Congress. It's also driven by other forces that push on the institution. Transparency, which has many
good things about it, can also be a downside. It has some costs that we have to think about.
LEVIN: But at the core of this is a willful dereliction of responsibility.
Members could have more power if they wanted to. And the fact is, that's not what they want.
SREENIVASAN: How much of this has to do with the way that the political process have been influenced, for example, by money?
Right now, once you get in there, if you're a member of the House, one of your first jobs is to figure out how you can stay in there, how you can
shore up the funds. And you're being approached by one side of an argument or the other that has powerful lobbies that are coming up to you and say,
hey, I can make this campaign contribution to you if you vote this way.
SREENIVASAN: So, there you are using the platform to perform for potential donors and supporters, instead of perhaps just your voters.
LEVIN: I think money is part of it.
And the political culture around politics is part of it, too. That is, the expectation of voters that performance is what they will get out of their
politicians is a key part of it. Certainly, that's true of donors as well.
I think that also points to another set of institutions around our politics that can protect members from these pressures some, but now don't. And
that's the political parties.
The parties really have a role to play in our politics. And the role is not to drive partisanship, but to channel partisanship, to build broader
coalitions, and play some formative role in shaping the options that confront voters.
Right now, the parties themselves have become just platforms for performance. They're not -- they're not depositories of political
expertise, in the way that they can be and have been. They're just platforms. They just exist to display candidates, to display people who
want to be candidates, and they don't play the role of channeling money, of helping to form coalitions, and to forge platforms and policy agendas.
The parties have an enormously important role to play in protecting politicians from some of the pressures we're talking about. And when they
become weak, partisanship, ironically, becomes strong.
And these pressures just act directly on the politicians and make it impossible for them to function as policy-makers, which--
SREENIVASAN: So, by that definition, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have been weakened just even in the past cycle.
The Republican Party and the Democratic Party now are just walking examples of failures of coordination. They can't operate as private organizations,
which is what they are. They're not just public platforms.
They can't make decisions about who should represent them and who their candidates ought to be. All they can do is act as stages for narcissists,
right, for people who can get attention. And they pride themselves in this. They say, anybody can get on the debate stage, anybody can make it through
That's actually not a good thing. The parties have a role to play. And that role has a part in allowing our politics to emphasize responsibility,
experience, things which aren't -- necessarily will come out of a direct democratic process, but are essential to the functioning of American
A weak Republican Party is how Donald Trump became its candidate. And I think we're now watching a weak Democratic Party too in this race.
SREENIVASAN: As a conservative, what will the impact of Donald Trump be on the institutions that technically he sits on top of?
LEVIN: I think Donald Trump has acted like a kind of acid poured on a lot of our institutions.
He is himself very powerfully disinclined to think in institutional terms. He also doesn't understand himself as having been formed by a set of
institutions to act as president. In fact, he hasn't been formed by those institutions.
Every one of our past presidents has been either a senior military officer or, in most cases, an elected official at some other level of government
before becoming president. And that has shaped their understanding of what the role of the chief executive is.
Donald Trump is the first president who has not been shaped by any of those institutions before rising to the presidency. What he has been shaped by is
running a family business and then basically being a performer, functioning as a kind of -- playing the role of a successful real estate developer in
our popular culture.
And he's approached the presidency as another role to play, as another stage to stand on in a kind of reality show. And that's how he takes --
that's what he takes the job to be. That's what he values about it, as being the highest stage of all.
And so he doesn't think about his job in terms of institutions. And I think that the effect that has had is to cause many other people in our politics
not to think about their jobs in terms of institutions.
And whatever follows this will have to involve some recovery of institutionalism, of a sense of what it is to be an insider in American
politics and why that's valuable. And that has suffered quite a bit in the last few years.
SREENIVASAN: You differentiate in the book how the right views institutions from the left.
You say -- quote -- "The right tends to argue about the role of government in a fairly abstract manner, discussing its boundaries more than how its
institutions should operate within those limits. The left is now increasingly drawn to identity politics, which is a politics both devoid of
and hostile toward institutions."
Why does this matter?
LEVIN: Well, the problem that we have now is that we have an anti- institutional politics on all sides.
And so the question about the role of our institutions isn't even a divisive partisan question. It's simply not there at all. And so, on the
left, you find -- first of all, when the left thinks about American history, it tends to be in terms of vast movements that move our politics,
rather than about institutions and organizations.
When the right thinks about American history, traditionally, it's been about ideas and concepts more than about institutions. Today, frankly, the
American right is hostile to institutions. It's hostile to the institutions that you would think conservatives would be trying to conserve, including
our constitutional system.
The right tends to treat everything as rigged against the public, a kind of populism that ultimately, I think, is hostile to the structure and nature
of our institutions. That means that there is no party of the institutions in our politics now.
And that argument has to be made in and to both parties from the outside. That's part of the purpose of a book like this, is to help surface this
problem in terms of our need for legitimate institutions.
SREENIVASAN: You have a chapter called "Informality Machine," examples of how basically social media is accelerating these things now.
SREENIVASAN: And you say that celebrity is the enemy of institutional integrity.
What do you mean by that?
LEVIN: Yes, social media is almost perfectly suited to exacerbating the kind of problem we're talking about, which is really, ultimately, a problem
of transforming institutions from molds of behavior and character into platforms for performance.
The professions are a good example of this. We can talk about the media, for example. Journalism, the power of journalism, is that it ensconcing
individual within a framework of rules, a system, a pattern of determining what's true and what's false.
And, ultimately, that allows people to trust an individual journalist, out of a sense that what you're hearing has gone through a process that can
reasonably determine what might be true and what might not be true.
When a journalist takes himself or herself out of that process directly onto Twitter, and is just there in an ongoing way, providing both opinion
and arguments, both reporting and assertions in a way that is not subject to that same process that makes it very hard for people to tell if what
you're watching is professional work product or just a person hanging out with his friends, that is a process of deprofessionalizing a professional
And social media encourages this, creates enormous incentives for it, and thereby makes it very hard for institutions to play the roles that they
need to play in our society.
They make it hard for us to know who to trust. That's part of what formality does for us. It lets us tell the difference between someone with
authority and someone without authority.
That can obviously go to excess. And formality easily goes to excess and becomes oppressive. But we need more than none of it. We need some of it to
help us tell the difference between who we can trust and who's just out there trying to mislead us.
SREENIVASAN: You also take a look in a couple of your chapters really about academia and what's happened to college campuses.
How do you find this erosion of the institution playing out, when you see these debates about who is welcome to speak on a campus and who is not?
The challenge on college campuses is that the universities, their educational institutions, certainly, they're formative, right? They shape
their students. But, ultimately, they have to be formative in light of an overall academic ethic that's about teaching and learning and searching for
Increasingly, we find in our universities that they understand themselves as stages in our culture war, right and left, and where they're stages for
activism more than for learning and teaching.
And when conservatives argue about being kept out of the university academic arenas, what they argue for is for their own safe spaces, for
their own free speech. I think that's a misunderstanding of what's missing now in the academy.
Free speech is important. It's an essential prerequisite for academic freedom and the pursuit of truth, but it's not the purpose of the
university. What we need out of the university is an institution that helps us search for truth and distinguish -- distinguish knowledge from
Ultimately, that means you need some kind of standard that lets you tell the difference between Milo Yiannopoulos, say, and Charles Murray, who's a
social scientist who is controversial.
If you have a standard like free speech that can't let you tell the difference, you probably haven't answered the question of what the
university is for. I think we have lost sight of what the university is for.
And it's becoming yet another stage for culture war performance, just as is happening in our politics, as is happening in the media, as is happening in
a lot of our professions, in American religious life, where churches are institutions that are meant to form the souls of those within them, but,
increasingly, they're also just platforms for political performance.
There's a difference between enabling people to express themselves and forming people to become better. And I think our institutions need to see
that difference, because they live on that -- at the edge of that difference. That's what they do.
SREENIVASAN: One of the through lines, whether it's academia, whether it's the press, whether it's Congress, you could say that it's been influenced
by another type of institution, which has probably prospered, which is corporations.
Those are structures. And they have grown more powerful in the past 35 or 40 years than any of the other institutions that you're mentioning.
Well, that's true. And in corporate America, too, I think it's very important to insist on a sense of responsibility that goes beyond the
pursuit of shareholder value, that corporations are crucial institutions in our society. They too have a role to play.
And the question that people within them have to ask is not just, how do I build the brand, let alone how do I build my own personal brand, but the
question is, what role do we have to play in society?
And I think, in order to be in a position to insist on that, to demand that of our corporations, we have to also be demanding that of our other
institutions. We have to see, in general, that people with power, people with authority also have responsibilities.
SREENIVASAN: This institutionalism that you're talking about, or this resurgence or revitalization, would include a commitment to something a
little bit more long-term than the short-sighted win, right, the notion that, even if you disagree with this person, they're going to be around
But if it's on the Internet, and I'm never really going to see you, I can say whatever I want and then walk out.
LEVIN: I think that's part of what it needs that we don't have.
And another part is to be able to think about the future in practical terms. Right now, both parties approach the next election as a do-or-die
question. They always think of our country as an inch away from the abyss. And if we don't win this fight right now, then everything is lost forever.
That's just not true. And we have to be able to think of the political challenges we face as much more of a tug of war than a fight to the death.
We're pushing and pulling. The problems are still going to be here. We're trying to look for ways to mitigate them some.
That's a much more practical way to approach America's problems, but it's also ultimately a more future-oriented way to think about those problems.
Right now, our politics has amazingly little to do with the future. We don't talk about where America is going to be in 2030. We talk about
tomorrow. We talk about what Donald Trump did yesterday. We talk about the next election as if everything depends on it.
2030 is not so far away, right? It's 10 years away. It's as close to us as 2010 was, but we don't imagine it. We don't envision it. We don't build for
it, because our politics just isn't in a mode of thinking about even the medium-term future.
Part of what institutionalism offers us is a turning down of the volume, a lowering of the temperature, that allows us to actually build for the
And I think the country is badly in need of that kind of politics.
SREENIVASAN: Yuval Levin, thanks so much.
LEVIN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, we want to pay tribute to Joseph Shabalala and his musical genius.
Under South Africa's apartheid regime, he founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo, which went on to win five Grammys. Nelson Mandela, who was released from
prison 30 years ago today, called them South Africa's cultural ambassadors. And Paul Simon included them on his smash hit album "Graceland."
And we're going to leave you now with some of that music.
Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.