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U.N. Top Court Orders Myanmar To Protect Rohingya Community; Aung San Suu Kyi Brought to International Court of Justice; Thant Myint-U, Author, "The Hidden History of Burma," is Interviewed About Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi; Democratic Primary in Texas; Jeremy Wallace, Political Reporter, Houston Chronicles, is Interviewed About Texas; Changing Texas Voting Patterns; Interview With Actor Steve Coogan and Director Michael Winterbottom. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 28, 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)
THANT MYINT-U, AUTHOR, "THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF BURMA": He's likely or our party is likely to win elections again this here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A pivotal year for the ones revered democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi. Historian and author, Thant Myint-U, on the hidden history of Burma.
Then, Democrats in Texas are getting ready for Super Tuesday. Come November, will this red state turn purple? The Houston Chronicles, Jeremy
Wallace, games it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can describe it as the unacceptable face of capitalism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've done nothing wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The blockbuster comedy shining a light on inequality in the fashion industry. Actor and comedian, Steve Coogan, and director, Michael
Winterbottom, on their new film "Greed".
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
2020 is not only a big election year in the United States, but also in Myanmar or Burma. Not long ago, the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was
the hero of Burmese democracy and also a global icon, having won her country's first free elections in 2015. But now, her fall from grace is
proving as dramatic as her rise to power.
In December she was called before the International Court of Justice in The Hague accused of government sponsored genocide against Rohingya Muslims.
She denied those charges. Thousands of Rohingyas were killed in 2017 during a deadly army crackdown and more than 700,000 fled to neighboring
Bangladesh. In January this year, the U.N.'s top court ordered Myanmar to take measures to protect its Rohingya community.
Historian, Thant Myint-U, knows the country like few others. He was born in New York to Burmese parents and his grandfather was the first non-European
secretary general of the United Nations in 1961. His new book "The Hidden History of Burma" charts the country's troubled and unfinished road from
dictatorship to democracy and also, Aung San Suu Kyi's role along that way.
Thant, welcome to the program.
THANT MYINT-U, AUTHOR, "THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF BURMA": Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So, your book, as we said, is called "The Hidden History of Burma". So, let's just address the elephant in the room. There's so much
sort of dispute as to whether to call it Myanmar as the new regime, called it the Military Junta or Burma, which is the old, some people thought was
the colonial term. Why have you called it Burma?
MYINT-U: Well, first, it's not really a colonial term. I mean, it was a term that was used by the British during colonial rule but it was the
English name of the country since probably the 1600s. The Military Junta back in the late 1980s made the change. So, a lot of people objected to
that because it was a decision made by the military.
I guess for me it's partly because I think Burma sounds better in English, people are more familiar with it, and it's kind of a link to the past. I
think if you change the name of these places also you lose a certain connection to all of that history. Also, I think the military made that
change partly to kind of emphasize an ethno-nationalist kind of vision of the country, and that's something I don't really like in many ways. But I
guess at the end of the day, it's because I like the name Burma better than Myanmar.
AMANPOUR: So, ethno-nationalist approach. I mean, obviously, it's so strange, because over the last, let's say, 10 years, maybe a little longer,
since Aung San Suu Kyi was in jail and then lionizes this sort of democracy and freedom icon, and then in 2010 she came out, the storyline has gone all
the way up to really worshipping this woman and thinking, wow, Burma is so cool because it can, you know, adjust and accept that this woman ran for
election. And now, he's a global pariah who's even appeared before the International Court of Justice.
So, let's just start. Were we all wrong or did nobody know that she might have this very nationalistic view of politics?
MYINT-U: You know, I think she was always a nationalist leader. Her father was a nationalist leader in the 1940s. He is the one who led the country to
independence, he formed the Burmese army. And I think for her, a goal has always been to bring the army that her father created back under elected
I think the problem is that Burma or Myanmar isn't just one story, it's a few different stories. And if we look at it through that kind of democracy
Aung San Suu Kyi lens, the story, in a way, is not so bad. I mean, we had free and fair elections in 2015. She came to power. I think she is trying,
in a way, to change the constitutions so the army comes under elected government. We're likely to have another relatively free and fair election
later this year.
I think the problem is that there are two other stories, and one of those stories is a story of ethnic conflict and identity related conflicts and
the other is the story of the economy of Burma. And we can maybe talk more about that later.
But that's really a story of poverty, inequality, explosive inequality that is actually fueling a lot of the problems today.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that's really interesting. On the one hand, there has been massive strides made toward democracy and sort of bringing Burma back
into the community of nations. On the other hand, we've had this terrible Rohingya crisis. This is the minority Muslims in this majority Buddhist
state. And she has not sided on the side of human rights, according to the interntional -- I mean, people, fellow Nobel laureates have said that she
should have her Nobel withdrawn.
You have written that, you know, you describe her growing status over the years as sort of messianic, something of a legend. And you said, she -- as
you say, she was the daughter of the assassinated independence hero, Aung San, photogenic, charismatic, Oxford educated and recent you turned from a
life abroad. She seemed the perfect antidote to years of austerity and isolationism.
MYINT-U: Yes, exactly. So, I think back in the 1990s when everyone was thinking that democracy was around the corner everywhere in the world, but
where Asia was rising as well, I think Burma provided this really good example of an Asian country that was also fighting for democracy or seemed
to be fighting for democracy and she became the perfect icon for that.
But I think what people missed even in the 1990s was that this was a country that was already then 60 years in armed conflict between the
Burmese army and now 20 different ethnic armed organizations, as we call it, 20 different ethnic based insurgencies in the country. So, all of this
recent brutality takes place within the context of 70 years of one of the most brutal civil conflicts anywhere in the world.
AMANPOUR: So, we'll get to that. But, again, to her because she is the person who optimizes Burma on the international stage. You said, and in
your book, you cite an academic essay that she wrote, Aung San Suu Kyi wrote in the 1980s in which she described, at the time, Indian and Chinese
immigrants acquiring,, as you put it, a -- or as she put it, a stranglehold on the Burmese economy and striking at the very roots of Burmese manhood
and racial purity. I mean, we missed that one.
MYINT-U: But this is very much what a lot of Burmese people think. So, you know, Burmese politics or modern Burmese politics basically began 100 years
ago, right after World War I. This was a time when Burma was not just part of the British Empire but was a province of British India. Millions of
people from India immigrated to Burma at a time when the population was about 13 million. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrated as well.
So, the Burmese, at the time when their politics was born, found themselves not just at the bottom of an oppressive colonial racial hierarchy but also
the bottom of this economic system that they saw as very exploitative.
So, at the heart of the Burmese political DNA is a sense of Burma as a small country that might be overwhelmed at any time by people from India
and China. I'm not saying that's right, but that is very much people's self-identity and the source of Burmese nationalism is as a small that
could be overwhelmed at any time.
AMANPOUR: There are 135 ethnic groups and minorities that are recognized by the Burmese constitution, right?
MYINT-U: This is a problem. I mean, it's that officially --
AMANPOUR: But not the Rohingyas, by the way.
MYINT-U: They're not in there. And there's 135 officially recognized ethnic groups that are seen as indigenous to the country. And part of the
legacy of colonialism I talk about in my book is basically this idea that there are indigenous people to this land and then there are people who are
alien to this land. And so, the British, obviously, were seen as an alien people and people who came from India were seen as alien.
And the problem is that the border, then people fall between the cracks as well. So, this idea of an indigenous versus alien people who have come in
is, again, at the heart of kind of Burmese thinking of themselves.
AMANPOUR: It's so incredible because we don't really think of it that way. And I'll fast forward to, you know, 2019 and 2020. I mean, the unthinkable
almost happened. Aung San Suu Kyi went before, essentially, an International Criminal Court, the ICJ. And this was a case brought by
Gambia to, you know, complain that genocide was taking place in Burma against the Muslim minority known as the Rohingyas.
She seemed to be defending the state and saying no, don't think that it is that. Listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUNG SAN SUU KYI, MYANMAR STATE COUNSELLOR: Mr. President, it cannot be ruled out that disproportionate force was used by members of the Defense
Services in some cases in disregard of international humanitarian law or that they did not distinguish clearly enough between ARSA fighters and
There may also have been failures to prevent civilians from looting or destroying property after fighting in abandoned villages. But these are
determinations to be made in the due course of the criminal justice process, not by any individual in the Myanmar government.
Please bear in mind, this complex situation and the challenge to sovereignty and security in our country, when you're assessing the intent
of those who attempted to deal with the rebellion. Surely, under the circumstances, genocidal intent cannot be the only hypothesis.
AMANPOUR: What do you think is going to happen? I mean, the court then ruled that the government had to do everything it could to make sure that
genocide doesn't take place in the future and to try to rectify the genocide that has already taken place. What does that mean for politics
inside Burma right now? What do you expect from Aung San Suu Kyi going forward?
MYINT-U: You know, I think on the one hand, the ICJ case has focused a lot of tension inside the country on what happened in the Northern Rakhine
state in 2016, 2017. And I think because Aung San Suu Kyi herself said to the court that war crimes likely took place. I think that's the first
admission by the government of the scale of human rights abuses that happened, especially in 2017.
So, hopefully, that will open up a new kind of discussion. Because a lot of people in the country have always denied that any kind of severe human
rights abuses took place and the narrative has been not just different but kind of diametrically opposed to the narrative in the story that we see
outside of the country.
But at the same time, what's happened with her appearance at the ICJ has been an enormous boost to her popularity at home --
MYINT-U: -- and an enormous boost to a kind of Burmese nationalism because people believe -- I think a lot of people believe whatever the case is, I
mean, whatever the truth is, and I think a lot of people now are much more willing to accept that civilians were killed and people were forced to
leave, that it doesn't amount to genocide and that she was doing the right thing in defending, not just the army, but defending the country.
AMANPOUR: That's really interesting to hear. You and I first met in the former Yugoslavia in Bosnia where genocide was taking place at the time, it
was called ethnic cleansing. So, you're very familiar with what genocide looks like. Do you think its genocide in the Rakhine State in Burma?
MYINT-U: I think in terms of the legal definition -- I mean, the court will rule in a matter of months or year. So, I think it's undeniable that
terrible things, atrocities happened to civilians and that people were forced to cross.
I'm reluctant to say anything that would -- I think and this is the big problem for me, I mean, that would inadvertently lead to the kind of
punitive measures that we've seen against Burma in the past, like economic sanctions, which then wind up just hurting millions of ordinary poor
people. But I think the problem --
AMANPOUR: You're concerned about the sanctions? Yes.
MYINT-U: I'm concerned about the sanctions. And the second thing, maybe even more, and to be honest, is that, you know, we were in Bosnia together.
So, we saw ethnic cleansing happen. We've seen genocide, ethnic cleansing, severe human rights abuses in other parts of the world. I think the big
problem with Myanmar or Burma the past 20 years is this constant effort by people to put that situation into an existing box.
And the situation in Burma is so -- not just so complicated, but unique in many ways and so urgent. And I think, you know, there is a real possibility
that things could even get much worse over the coming years. And I think we really have to understand and analyze Burma on its own terms.
AMANPOUR: You know, the West has sort of taken a step back and China has come back into the fray. How important is now the relationship between
Burma and China? And what does that mean for the future of Burma?
MYINT-U: I mean, it's incredibly important. I mean, we always talk in every country about how the impact of -- what the impact of the rise of
China is going to be. But there's probably no country in the world that's going to be more impacted by the rise of China than Burma. I mean, China is
the big country next door, the border is completely open.
Not only that, the borders aren't even controlled by the Burmese State on the Burmese side. Instead, we have over a dozen different ethnic armed
organizations, hundreds of different militia. There are listed economies there worth tens of billions of dollars. The U.N. estimates that the
methamphetamine industry on the border is worth $60 to $70 billion a year.
China is a source of almost all consumer goods. China is the market for most Burmese exports. China is pushing BRI projects into Burma. China
maintains links with many of these ethnic armed organizations as well. And so, China has a lot of cards. And exactly how they're going to play those
cards over the coming years is going to have a huge impact on the future.
AMANPOUR: In what way, to make Burma most -- less democratic or just sort of an economic outlaw or what?
MYINT-U: I think China doesn't mind what kind of political system Burma has, whether it's democratic or something else. I think China is very keen
that it is Burma's number one friend. I think it wants stability, I think China probably believes that the Burmese can't really get their act
together on their own and so, it has to be the kind of peace broker. But peace broker that produces a peace that's in China's interest. I think
China wants to increase its economic presence in the country.
AMANPOUR: Would that be good for bad for Burma?
MYINT-U: It would be good if Burma had its own vision of where it wants to go. And unless we have an economic agenda that addresses those issues of
inequality towards a fairer society, that also takes into consideration climate change, which is a huge problem in Burma, I don't think we're going
to have the kind of vision in which we can think about how should China or the West of any other country probably fit into the equation.
AMANPOUR: How does climate change affect Burma?
MYINT-U: It's affected it already a lot. I mean, this is a country which where 10 years ago Cyclone Nargis killed 140,000 people in a single night.
Now, we don't know if that's exactly because of climate change but we know with climate change, we'll have extreme weather events like that not just
over 100 years, but every five years or even every year.
We already see changing rainfall patterns, we see an extreme drought in the past several years, we see hundreds of people -- hundreds of thousands of
people migrating out of the central dry zone to other parts of the country, and this mixes up the demographic kind of makeup of the country or places
within the country as well. We'll see rising sea levels. So, Burma will be one of the top four or five countries in the world most negatively impacted
by climate change.
AMANPOUR: So, you come from a very distinguished Burmese family. Your grandfather was the first non-European secretary general. He was the first
secretary general of the U.N. And you write in your book about a dramatic chapter when he died and then the Burmese insisted on his body being taken
back for a state funeral. And you saw something at a very young age that really shaped you. Tell us about that.
MYINT-U: You know, I was -- it was 1974. So, I was eight, almost nine years old. I was living in New York, more or less an ordinary kid living in
-- outside of New York. My grandfather died and my parents brought me back with them to bury his body. But this was then about 12 years into army rule
and there was a lot of discontent that was brewing.
And so, many students and other dissidence took his burial as an opportunity to protest against the government. So, they actually seized his
body, they brought it to the university, and the university became the site of massive demonstrations over the next several days. My family tried to
mediate between the army and the students. But in the end, that wasn't possible and the army attacked the campus, seized the body. Many people
were killed. We still don't know how many. I didn't see that. I wasn't there at the time. But I was around and I remember seeing the big
demonstrations at the time.
AMANPOUR: How did it affect you?
MYINT-U: I always felt that, you know, the military regime in Burma was something that needed to change. And so, in '88 when there were another
round of demonstrations and I was then 22 years old, I very much wanted to be part of any kind of movement or attempt to move the country more toward
AMANPOUR: So, I guess what everybody says about Aung San Suu Kyi, since she's the first democratically elected leader, is that she couldn't really
do anything because, after all, the Military Junta are still in charge. Do you buy that? Because she's so popular. She has the loudest most unique
voice in Burma.
MYINT-U: I mean, I think whatever she says will be listened to by millions of people in the country. So, certainly, she has an enormous influence,
especially over young people, I think. We have 5 million kids or young people who will vote for the first time in elections this year. So, she's
definitely an incredibly influential figure. She's definitely influential outside in the sense that I think if she had said things differently in
2017, that would have had an enormous impact on her image outside.
I think in the country, we have to remember a couple of things. One is that in 2016 and 2017 when this last phase, the most horrific phase of the
Rohingya crisis happened, she and her people were just settling into government at a time when they weren't quite sure if they were being
tricked into something or if there was a possibility of a military takeover just around the corner.
But now, I think they has become the de facto leader of government. She's probably much more secure in that position. She's likely or her party is
likely to win elections again this year. The army is very much dominant in the security sector. They control the police as well. So, whatever happens
in a conflict situation is very much the army's call.
But on almost everything else, economic issues, health, education, foreign policy, the government's own budget, that's very much under her control
through her majority in parliament.
AMANPOUR: Thant Myint-U, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
MYINT-U: Thank you very much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now, to the U.S. elections. After this weekend, South Carolina Primary, Super Tuesday will separate winners from losers in the Democratic
presidential race. Voters in 14 states will go to the polls March 3rd, including delegate rich California and Texas. Right now, all eyes are on
Texas to see whether this red state will turn purple, as demographics shift.
For a look into this crucial battleground, our Walter Isaacson at down with the Houston Chronicles, Jeremy Wallace. He spent the last 20 years
reporting on politics across the United States and he now gives us the lowdown on the lone star state.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: In the '60s and '70s, Texas in some ways was one of the most bipartisan states. Everybody got together especially when
the legislature was in session. Now, like the rest of America, it has become one of the most polarized and bitter states along partisan lines. Do
you see any signs that people want to return to a less bitter politics and do you see Texas leading the way for that?
JEREMY WALLACE, POLITICAL REPORTER, HOUSTON CHRONICLES: I think the voters would be fine with going to a less bitter. But I don't think the
politicians are ready. It's like -- I think there's -- even in Texas, I think people are seeing there's an advantage to being that loud voice and
to putting up the good fight and/or, you know, pushing maybe a more extreme agenda. You get a lot of attention for doing that.
And so -- and I think the politicians, you know, if they could help themselves from, you know, staying away from the cameras for a few moments
and just kind of work with people who live in their communities, totally different conversation. But I think too many people are trying to score
points, you know, they see the TV. You know, they -- you know, if I say the right thing, I'm going to be on Fox News or MSNBC tonight and I'm going to,
you know, be famous. My donations will, you know, crank up, you know.
So, again, I think that's infected every place, not just, you know, Texas. But certainly, you know, Texas, you know, we're seeing that too. There's
still some issues people can get along on, you know, but for the big issues of the day on immigration, on guns, it's like there's still a divide there
where people just want to make a point.
WALLACE: What are the big issues?
WALLACE: Well, oil, fossil fuels, climate change. It's all one big giant, you know, issue right there. Because of Hurricane Harvey and the
devastation that it wrecked on this community, that is obviously like how we address our climate change is going to be a big issue.
ISAACSON: So, people in the Democratic Primary in Texas will vote with climate change being a primary issue in their mind and vote for somebody
who they believe has a serious, but not too extreme --
WALLACE: Yes. Especially in, you know, the Harris County area and places that were hit by the hurricane. You know, that you go, you know, from, you
know, the coast in, you know, Corpus Christi and Rockport --
ISAACSON: In Galveston and --
WALLACE: Yes. It's like those people are paying attention to this issue. It's like climate change is a real, you know, threat to these communities
that are at sea level.
ISAACSON: What about health care?
WALLACE: Huge issue. You know, you can't find a state with more uninsured than Texas. And so, that is -- and I think for any Democrat that can make
the case that more people in Texas will have health insurance or health coverage of some sort, you know, I think that's going to go a long way.
That's a huge issue in, you know, Texas.
ISAACSON: Tell me about guns as an issue. How big of an issue is that and if you're a Democrat, how do you navigate Texans and their guns?
WALLACE: Yes, that's obviously a big issue. This has been an issue that's perplexed Texas Democrats for decades, you know, trying to figure out
what's the right lane to have on this. It's a big issue. You know, it's like, look, you know, it's still a state that, you know, isn't going to
deal with, you know, gun seizures and things like that but there is a place where, you know, moderate Republicans have talked about trying to figure
out a way. You know, the lieutenant governor who is a Republican, a good conservative Republican, Dan Patrick, he talked about we need to do
something about the, you know, stranger-to-stranger gun sales, you know, how do we address that. He got --
ISAACSON: And Congressman Dan Crenshaw and the red flag issue.
WALLACE: Yes. He's, you know, talked about -- you know, there might be a way to do a red flag law that would make it okay. And so, you have
Republican voices who are trying to talk about this issue. When they do, they get a lot of pushback.
ISAACSON: If you look at Biden, Bloomberg, somewhat moderate on some of these issues, although Bloomberg is pretty much in favor of more gun
restrictions and then you look at Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, very strongly in favor of things like that. Do you think in a general election,
it's possible that a Biden or a Bloomberg or a moderate like a Klobuchar or a Buttigieg could win Texas? And do you think it's possible Bernie Sanders
could beat Trump in Texas?
WALLACE: I do think so now on all of those fronts. You know, I -- four years ago, I was a great skeptic until we started to change the -- you
know, see the changes in voter registration and voter performance in Texas. I think it's clear that the right message is going to have a shot at it.
I'm not saying it's probable. But, you know, certainly, you know, I think, you know, the right Democrat at this point -- because again, I think gun
control is a sneaky, difficult issue for both Republicans and Democrats in Texas. There are people in the suburbs who are seeing these guns -- you
know, these mass shootings have started to happen in places that people aren't used to seeing them. And these are in conservative areas, these are
in suburban areas, these are in shopping centers, at churches, at schools in the suburbs. You know, that's what's happened in Texas, just Texas.
And so, it's like that has triggered a different kind of response from Texans who are like, OK, maybe we have to look at how we're doing this. And
so, I think that gun control issue could be kind of the way for a candidate to distinguish themselves, if they can find that right lane. You know, I
don't think -- you know, it's impossible to think that Bloomberg or Biden or even a Bernie Sanders could win Texas with the right message on guns.
But it can't be threatening at the same time.
ISAACSON: How many mass shootings have there been in the past couple of years in Texas?
WALLACE: It's funny, because we've had so many of them, it's hard to count them. But we know like, you know, we had Santa Fe High School, we had, you
know, Southern Springs, we had the shooting in El Paso, we had the madman who was shooting people in Odessa Midland, we had the attempted church
shooting just up -- in -- a couple months ago up in North Texas. And so, there's -- you know, right there, you have five in a very short period of
ISAACSON: And after each one of these, can you or somebody as your finger on the pulse of Texas politics, detect any shift in sentiment about guns?
WALLACE: Yes. You know, there is a change that's going on and there's a lot more pressure. And I think that's why we've seen the conversation
change with the lieutenant governor and with people like Congressman Dan Crenshaw. I think they recognize that like it's getting too common. It's
like there is now a reaction, even from Republicans who are saying there are things that -- if Republicans can look like they're finding some
solutions to the problem, they're going to be in really good shape in election cycle.
But if they let the Democrats make that case for them, they would open a door for the Democrats, you know, to take control on that issue.
ISAACSON: What's happening in Texas in terms of voter registration? It seems to be surging recently?
WALLACE: Yes. It's an amazing phenomenon that I haven't seen before, which is our voter registrations are actually gaining faster than our population.
It doesn't make sense on the surface, of course. But what's happening is that the voter registration groups have done an amazing job of finding the
people who are already in Texas, you know, who could have been registered before and getting them signed up.
And this particularly is like diverse communities. They've really like honed in on, you know, Latino communities and black communities and been
really working to bring out these younger voters who maybe in the past wouldn't have thought to register to vote right away, not thinking that
they had the power or the influence maybe.
But, you know, what we've seen over this -- particularly over the last four years, four to six years, is a surge that is really unparalleled. Just here
in Harris County, the biggest county in the state, our population grew about 4 percent since 2014. Our voter registration has grew 14 percent. And
so, that's completely changing the electoral map in Texas alone. And it's changed the dynamic of Republicans and Democrats and really made the
Democrats a lot more competitive because of those registration gains and because of how much more blue Harris County has gotten over the years.
ISAACSON: So, do you think that Democrats will be able to win statewide races any time soon?
WALLACE: Not immediately, but close. We're getting there. It's like what's happening -- you know, you look at the 2018 election cycle when Ted Cruz
was running against Beto O'Rourke, that race was separated by 218,000 votes.
ISAACSON: Which in Texas is a small number?
WALLACE: That -- yes, is -- we've never seen -- we haven't seen a race that tight since the '70s, you know, for the --
ISAACSON: So, to what extent is this voter registration thing a Beto O'Rourke driven phenomenon?
WALLACE: It's interesting. I've looked at it -- I hear that a lot of -- well, Beto O'Rourke, you know, maybe had influence there. But I kind of
think of it the other. I think the voter registration gains, that, you know, the groups on the ground had been making over the last four to five
years really helped fuel the Beto O'Rourke campaign.
We saw a surge in new registrations of voting, not just in the year that he got in there, but even in the weeks before election day. We saw like just
incredible amounts of voter registration for a campaign. There is one county just south of Austin that grew its voter registration by 40 percent.
ISAACSON: Why? What's driving it?
WALLACE: You know, one, like the voter registration groups, like you have to look back at, you now, President Obama's final term in office. A lot of
the people who had been working on his campaign or at least a group of them who had been working on his campaign came to Texas and decided, we've got
to start registering people in this state. Because we were sitting at about 12 million voter registrations from 2002. And by 2012, we were still around
12 million registrations. The state was growing but the voter registrations were flat.
And you're watching places like Arizona and Colorado and Nevada turn more southwestern Democratic, right, where you have, you know, these influences
of Latino populations that are really kind of changing the nature of those places. In Texas, it wasn't happening. And so, they started, you know,
really kind of drilling down on how to register voters here. It's a very complicated system.
The Texas legislature has put a lot of hurdles in the way for people to do voter registrations to whereas groups like the League of Women Voters can't
really register voters here.
ISAACSON: Wait, wait. Explain that to me. Why?
WALLACE: Well, because there -- each county has a separate registration process. And if you don't follow each county's registration process
individually by the letter, you're committing a felony. And so, if you're registering somebody to vote in Montgomery County but you're in Harris
County, and it turned out they're in the neighboring county over, you could be committing a felony.
ISAACSON: Was that done to suppress voter registration?
WALLACE: Certainly, a lot of voter registration groups will tell you that, that they felt it was targeted at the surge of voters, the new people who
were coming into the state or the -- just people who are already here.
And so it helped kind of keep the numbers flat for a long time, until some of that Obama machine, that political machine, decided to really kind of
start investing in, well, how do we register people?
And so they basically had -- in every single county in Texas, they need to have like trained registrars, who go in for days-long training with each
individual county, so they can kind of work on it.
And the thing is, they had the stamina to do it.
ISAACSON: And will that totally push the state to be more Democratic?
WALLACE: In South Texas, deep South Texas, you get to the Rio Grande Valley, it's a very different Democratic politics than it is even in Dallas
And so there's definitely differences. There are conservative Democrats in those areas who are pro-life Hispanic leaders in South Texas. So there is
an underperformance that Democrats have had traditionally in the Rio Grande Valley, and some of it's due to the politics hasn't always matched up.
But in the era of Trump, and the discussions about immigration reform, something's happened, where, like, there's a lot more Democratic
registrations, and particularly with younger Latino voters. It's like they're coming in and they're trying to upset what they have seen happening
So you see a lot of, like, the more conservative Democrats even are facing primary challenges, like they haven't had before, because they look at
people like AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and say, why not me? Why can't we challenge our more conservative Democrats here in Texas?
And I think that's what we're seeing across the board. As we head into Election Day, there are people running -- incumbents who are getting
challenges that they have never seen before and they're having to fight for just even to win the Democratic primary.
ISAACSON: So what are the Republicans doing on voter registration?
WALLACE: Well, they're reacting, for sure.
They have brought in some big guns to start trying to help them sort this thing out. It's like Karl Rove, who was, you know, famous for helping the
Bush family get into power, he's gotten involved also in trying to like work on voter registration gains. They have put a lot more money into it
and been trying to work on creating a volunteer network on the grassroots level to kind of revive it.
They see that as a big part of what's kind of gotten away from Republicans. And so they're making those new investments and, like, again, doing the
voter registration, trying to find the groups that are meeting once a month, like women Republican groups, trying to get them invigorated and
energized and, like, build upon those.
And so you see that they're trying on the ground level to improve their numbers. That, ultimately, they think, will help them battle in the voter
ISAACSON: Trump's hard-line stance on immigration, the border, the border wall, refugees, to what extent does that cut in his favor in Texas? And to
what extent will that hurt him in Texas?
WALLACE: Well, that motivates his base of more issues.
In Texas, even in Texas, Republicans understand that the idea of building a wall in Texas doesn't make a lot of sense to a lot of conservatives,
because anybody who's from Texas and who has seen the border knows you are never going to have a wall stretching from Brownsville to El Paso. It's
There's some terrain in there that there's no way you would ever be able to build it. So, Republicans have kind of an understanding of that, I think,
in large part.
But, even so, the language of having a more secure border and having different ways to secure the border to keep down the illegal immigration
that is coming across, I think that's a big deal for a lot of Democrats and Republicans.
In our school systems, those people are coming in there, and they're having, like, an influence on the education budgets. The Texas lieutenant
governor, who runs the Texas Senate, talks about this a lot. The extra money that we're paying out to help educate people who may not be in the
country legally yet is a real cost.
And they're having to deal with that in their budgets every year. And so I think there's a -- there is a point where Trump is winning support by
talking about that issue and really keeping his base fired up.
But what's happening in -- like we said, in Harris County, and along I-35 - - I-35 has totally changed the way Texas is. I have kind of started to call it the blue spine of Texas. We're still a red state, but we have a blue
The 22 counties from Laredo to just north of Dallas, those places are voting much more Democratic. And when they hear Trump's rhetoric on the
wall, it turns -- it's turning them somewhere else. They're against that.
When we had Beto O'Rourke running for the U.S. Senate, and you had an anti- Trump sentiment, and you had the voter registration gains, it was like a cocktail of disaster for Republicans. It's not just that--
ISAACSON: Yes, but wait a minute. Beto O'Rourke lost.
WALLACE: He did lose, but up and down along I-35, the Texas legislature flipped 12 seats -- or 10 of the 12 along I-35. In the Texas Senate, two
more seats flipped.
On the congressional level, we had five members of Congress who suddenly went from winning by 20 points the cycle before to all winning by
5 percent or less along I-35.
ISAACSON: Explain to me the I-35 Corridor.
WALLACE: It starts in Laredo, and it goes all -- up through San Antonio and Austin, and heads on into Dallas and Fort Worth. It splits up there.
And it's along those counties that we started to really kind of see the electoral shift happening. In 2014, that stretch was pretty Republican.
John Cornyn ended up winning that stretch from the -- from Laredo to Dallas by I think it was about 300,000 votes that he won it by.
Hillary Clinton, a couple years later, she ended up winning that stretch by 100,000. In this last cycle, Beto O'Rourke won it by over 300,000. So
you're talking just about a 700,000-vote shift in four years.
ISAACSON: But tell me what happened. I know the votes shifted, but why?
WALLACE: Because of the diversity. The diversity is a big part of it.
And the urbanization, the suburban areas have become more Democratic. And so -- and that's -- a lot of that has to do with Trump. Right? Trump has
pushed a lot of suburban women to be more Democratic in their voting tendencies.
And we saw that in the congressional districts, counties like Williamson County, which is just north of Austin, had always been Republican. It
flipped. It was completely blue. Candidates who never thought they were in danger were all of a sudden out of office.
And so it's that diversification. That's a higher-educated area. It's part of Texas that's growing, for sure. But it's also adding voters at a far
faster clip than the rest of the state, even beyond our population increase, right?
And it's like we're actually adding more voters along I-35 than the population grows.
AMANPOUR: The massive inequality gap is a focus for Democratic primary voters.
And now we turn to that painful phenomenon as it plagues the fashion industry. The new film "Greed" tells the story of a disgraced billionaire.
It's a thinly disguised version of the British fashion moguls Sir Philip Green.
He is accused of exploiting cheap South Asian garment workers to rake in billions for himself. "Greed" is a biting satire.
And I sat down with actor and comedian Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom to discuss tackling these tough topics through humor.
AMANPOUR: Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom, welcome to the program.
STEVE COOGAN, ACTOR: Glad to be here.
AMANPOUR: OK. So I saw "Greed," and it's one letter away from green, i.e., Philip Green, the famous High Street rag merchant gone bust, et cetera.
Is this about Philip Green, Stephen Coogan?
COOGAN: I think -- well, Philip Green certainly was an inspiration for it. And a lot of the lines in the film are listed straight his mouth.
But it's not -- it would be wrong to single him out as sort of the target of the film. There are many, many sort of perpetrators of this sort of
exploitive behavior. And Philip Green happens to be the most theatrical of them.
And, in some ways, I probably owe him a debt, because he's unambiguous and unapologetic about his world view and the way he operates. And that helps
us in terms -- it certainly helped us in terms of making the film.
AMANPOUR: So, Michael Winterbottom, let me ask you to fill out at least the premise of the story for our viewers, because not many maybe in America
or around the world will know Philip Green, although he, among other things, owned Topshop. It's a very well-known global brand.
Kate Moss was the face of it for a long, long time. So, perhaps people will know that.
But just give us the premise of the film.
MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM, DIRECTOR, "GREED": Well, the film is a fiction.
It's about a guy called Sir Rich McCreadie that Steve plays, who is a kind of retail fashion tycoon. He's had a huge amount of success. He's a
billionaire. Then one of his brands goes bankrupt.
And so there's a lot of inquiries into his kind of business practices, so he decides to throw a big, lavish party on a Mediterranean island, on a
Greek island, a Roman-themed party, to sort of reestablish his sort of like king of the High Street credentials.
And, fortunately, everything goes wrong.
AMANPOUR: Well, it goes wrong spectacularly.
Well, first and foremost, I was stunned to actually read that the budget for the whole film, "Greed," was less than the real-life budget,
apparently, of Philip Green's 60th birthday. Is that right?
WINTERBOTTOM: I think that's right.
I mean, obviously, billionaires spend a lot on their parties. They have party organizers spending years planning them. They get all of the A-list
celebrities to go to them. They get famous people to put to perform and entertain them.
And that's kind of one of the elements of the film. The idea is that -- especially retail fashion, celebrities and famous people are used to make
clothes look glamorous. When you walk into your local High Streets, you see Kylie Minogue or Kate Moss or Beyonce on big billboards.
And when you buy the dress or the T-shirt, you think you get a little bit of that glamour, a little bit of that empowerment. But really what you're
getting is something made by someone in Sri Lanka or Myanmar or Bangladesh, working for very, very low wages.
And perhaps if you saw the image of the women making your clothes when you went into the shops, you would feel slightly different about them.
COOGAN: Yes, I agree with Michael.
I think the many sort of perpetrators of this of sort of nefarious business practice, but -- and I think what they do is, they use these celebrities
sort of to make people look over here, instead of looking over there, because, if they look over there, they will see people who are being paid
sometimes $3.50 a day to work in these garment factories.
And these are the approved ones. These are the official ones in many of these countries.
AMANPOUR: What was the motivating factor? Was it to kind of out this hypocrisy or this ultra-rich greed, or was it to tell the world exactly how
their fast fashion or any fashion is made, off the backs of mostly girls and women who are not getting paid anything?
WINTERBOTTOM: Yes, for me, it's a satire on the system.
It's not about an individual. Rich McCreadie, he is one individual, but it's the system. The owner of Zara is worth about $60 billion, not because
he's a bad man, because he's so successful.
But the women who make the clothes for him in Bangladesh are being paid sort of about $3.50 a day. It's to highlight the grotesque inequality of
the system. I don't believe anyone thinks it's right that the person who makes money from the clothes is worth $60 billion, but the people making
the clothes are getting paid so little.
And so, for me, the idea of the starting point of Rich McCreadie is an entertaining way of looking at it, but hopefully it makes people think
about the way the system is.
AMANPOUR: Look, let's face it. This obscene inequality around the world, income inequality, is a really central part of today's politics.
Look at Bernie Sanders, who is forging ahead in the Democratic race, and that's the basis of his, you know, campaign and what a lot of young people
are motivated about.
But I bet even they don't realize what abject poverty the seamstresses in these countries that you highlight. I remember that fire in Bangladesh that
really put it to the forefront a few years ago, unlike anything else had.
And that brings me, obviously, to a very, very sensitive and critical issue, because, Michael, you just named and shamed, so to speak. But you
wanted to do that on a card at the end of the film.
And Sony Pictures said, no, you cannot do that. You cannot name the industrialists or the owners of these companies. But you did, and it was
very effective. You did write down the percentages of what they made compared to the owners.
Tell me about that whole argument around the closing credits.
WINTERBOTTOM: It wasn't really about naming and shaming. It was about naming.
I think -- only because I think, when you hear the actual numbers and the specific people involved, it just makes you think about it. It's not -- as
I say, the boss at Zara is not rich because he's an evil man. He's just very successful.
You say H&M. H&M -- Stefan Persson, who owns H&M, is worth about $20 billion, and the women in Myanmar get about -- I think it's about $4 a day
there, in Sri Lanka, four pounds a day.
So the point is, this work is farmed out. It's outsourced. All the factories have to bid. And they all have to bid the cheapest price. We
talked to a lot of factory owners in Sri Lanka who said that, basically, the international brands come and say, if you're making it for a dollar, we
can get it for 95 cents in Bangladesh. We can get it for 90 cents in Myanmar.
They are really worried that the next wave of transfer is going to be to Africa, because they reckon Africa will be even cheaper.
So the big brands are using this -- kind of the globalized system to -- and the fact that they outsource things -- to just constantly drive the prices
And they all talk a very good game. If you get on the Web sites of them, they all talk a good game about the environment and about wanting to
respect workers' rights and health and safety and so on.
So it feels like everyone in the industry would rather the women actually making the clothes were getting paid better. And there's tens of millions
of women making our clothes in these countries. It's 80 percent of the work force is women.
And all it would need really is a bit of regulation in the market. We have had 40 years where we've had like the market is God. You can't regulate the
market. We've just got to allow the market to determine everything.
And I think people like Bernie Sanders show that there's a large number of people now who would like a change. And I think it would be quite easy to
have a change in retail fashion and just agree to sort of some basic standards.
COOGAN: A lot of these big multinational companies often cite if -- that - - we always hear the term regulation is a terrible thing.
But, in actual fact, it's important to protect people. And all these people like, Rich McCreadie and all the other people like that, all they're doing
is following the rules that have been set out in the free market, which is sort of to unfettered and be competitive. And so it's an inherent problem
with the system.
AMANPOUR: So you lead me to the one clip that we're able to use, and it is Rich McCreadie in front of a parliamentary committee talking about taxes.
And he's getting all upset about them talking to him about his finances. Let's just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GREED")
COOGAN: This is an investigation into my tax affairs. I pay what I have to, and no more, because I'm not stupid.
If you want to chase people avoiding tax, why don't you go after the big boys. Look at Apple. Look at Amazon, Starbucks. Why are you chasing me?
ACTOR: Right. It's not them--
COOGAN: I suggest you Google it, Mr. Chairman. There's another company. How much tax do you think Google pay? Not very much.
If you don't believe me, talk to Bono. He's avoided hundreds of millions of tax, while claiming that U2 are based in Holland. It doesn't stop him going
around the world in your nan's sunglasses proclaiming about ending poverty or whatever.
This is him in "The Daily Mail." "You would be stupid not to try and cut your tax bill," says Bono.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Well, there's so many bits to talk about there. We did actually check. And that's actually accurate. Bono did say something like that. It
was written up in "The Daily Mail."
And so you have at least -- you have done that accurately. But two things here--
WINTERBOTTOM: Everything -- everything -- we checked everything. Everything is accurate in the film.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I'm sure, because, otherwise, you would have people on your proverbial butt, so to speak.
AMANPOUR: However, I'm fascinated, because, number one, the language.
So, Richard McCreadie is just -- I mean, just so relentlessly mean. Everything he says to everybody is just really in your face and really
mean. And that has its own sort of humor.
But then the other is that, whether it's Bono, who you talk about here, or you have these cameos from people like Coldplay's Chris Martin. James Blunt
is singing there. And you make some comment about how, oh, he will do anything for $75,000.
You have got Colin Firth doing a cameo. Did they know what they were letting themselves into? Are they satirizing themselves?
WINTERBOTTOM: Yes. Yes.
COOGAN: Yes, they are in a way.
I have to say -- I would say that they deserve to be applauded, because, of course, they're playing themselves as if they're prostituting, Stephen Fry
and Fatboy Slim, Norman Cook, as well, all playing themselves as if they're prostituting themselves for like huge sums of money, when, actually, the
reality is they were paid very little, if nothing, to take part in the film.
So they knew exactly what they were doing. And they -- even though they're sort of having a go at themselves, they saw the overarching message and how
important it was, so they were happy to take part.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you both something?
It's a little bit sad, actually, in retrospect, because you have Caroline Flack, the TV personality playing herself, at the beginning of the film,
where she's handing out this big check to McCreadie's ex-wife.
But, of course, she in the last week or so has committed suicide. And she came -- she had a really hard time with the tabloid press, with her own
I just wondered, since you both -- or certainly you, Steve, have had to -- often out a running battle with the press, whether you want to comment on
that. It's just I found it very poignant that she was in the film.
COOGAN: Yes. Yes.
Well, I'm sort of slightly receipt sent about trying to make capital out of a tragedy.
But I think, obviously, that it raises big issues in terms of -- social media blame the press. The press blame social media. But, actually,
everyone is culpable, including the press.
And it's -- it -- in actual fact, it's -- my own view is that the press have actually -- haven't really altered their behavior very much at all.
The code of -- sort of the code of conduct they are supposed to abide by, their own sort of self-imposed guidelines, are that, if you run a story, it
has to be in the public interest.
And you often wonder, is pillorying and mocking and insulting certain individuals in the entertainment world, is that in the public interest?
And I think the answer is probably not. So, I think it's a time for a lot of introspection.
AMANPOUR: I think so. I agree, actually.
And I just -- I guess it leads me into Alan Partridge, because that's one of your famous characters, this sort of satirical newsperson. And you have
done an amazing series. You're about to do another one, I think, another series.
But, again, what are you saying about the press, since we're on the press? You play a TV anchor,.
COOGAN: Well, I mean, with Alan Partridge, I'm just trying to be funny and sort of -- I don't have sort of an agenda, although comedy, I think, is
quite useful for -- as a sort of Trojan horse for raising issues and dichotomies that we sort of encounter in a way that is safe, if you like.
If people are laughing, then you can talk about very difficult things.
The thing about Alan is, often, he's sort of wrong, he's off message. He's trying to be on message. He's trying to be post-woke. But in actual fact,
most of the time, he gets it slightly wrong.
And, occasionally, with Alan, he can sort of be the person who says the emperor is not wearing any clothes. So, occasionally, he will say things
that most people think is sort of an absolute truism that other people are sort of terrified to say.
So it's quite a useful device.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you, because we're right at the end of the Harvey Weinstein trial.
And I know -- I mean, again, you have done some very serious work. Like, "Philomena" was for his company.
And I think, if I'm not mistaken, you took him to task at one point.
Just tell me about your relationship with him and what you told him.
COOGAN: Well, I never saw any of the things that people have talked about.
What I witnessed wasn't so much sort of any kind of predatory sexual behavior. I saw what I regarded as sort of slightly bullying behavior. And,
yes -- and it was against women.
And, well, I just -- I wrote him an e-mail and spoke to him and just challenged him on the way he spoke to women and said -- I just asked him if
he felt it was all right to speak to women that way, and what kind of charm school -- I think I was sarcastic. What kind of charm school did he go to?
And, yes, he sort of tried to dismiss it and say it was a storm in a teacup, nothing, whatever.
But I -- in fact, the women who -- he was just particularly grotesque in front of some women that I was with, and they actually didn't want me to
say anything. But I just found it offensive or something.
But I did work with him and had a sort of very -- he was quite sort of -- people would always pop me onto him, because he was quite antagonistic to
But -- and -- but he -- and he was very good at his job. But he has this other side, which, of course, is -- we're all witnessing now.
AMANPOUR: Michael, how much of an open secret was Weinstein's behavior?
WINTERBOTTOM: I don't know.
Look, I worked with Harvey a couple of times a long time ago. I know from people who worked at Miramax -- and, again, this is a long time ago -- that
the stories about -- there were a lot of stories within Miramax.
I think people -- I mean, Harvey was an open bully. You didn't have to know -- work with Harvey for more than 10 minutes to see he was a bully. He
loved showing off his bullying in public.
But I know that, within Miramax, definitely, people were aware of lots of stories kind of the kind of stories that have come out since.
So I think people are being -- people were like -- when people sort of pretend to be surprised about stuff, I think anyone who had been working
with him at any period would have been aware of the kind of behavior that was going on.
AMANPOUR: And what's next for you two? Do you have another collaboration coming up?
COOGAN: We will do something else, I'm sure, I'm sure.
I mean, we have done eight movies together.
COOGAN: But I'm doing something else this year, not with Michael. Michael- -
WINTERBOTTOM: I'm just about to go home and a year off.
AMANPOUR: Are you?
COOGAN: But I have got something cooking with him that I want him to do. So, watch this space.
AMANPOUR: Thank you both very much, Steve Coogan, Michael Winterbottom
The film is "Greed."
WINTERBOTTOM: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, we look to a daring work that's drawing attention to a forgotten crisis.
It's pretty hard to ignore this, thousands of life jackets wrapped around pillars of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It's the latest real-life
project from Chinese activist Ai Weiwei.
And these 2,400 life jackets were actually worn by refugees who made the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece. More than 15,000 refugees
have drowned since the migrant crisis began back in 2015.
And this striking display called Safe Passage is on a world tour now, where it's putting an uncomfortable spotlight on the plight of refugees. There
are 70 million displaced people around the world, more than at any other time in recorded history.
And that's it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.