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Over 6,000 Deaths from Coronavirus in U.S.; Lowering Infection Rates by Simple Washing Your Hands; Dr. Atul Gawande, Surgeon, Brigham and Women's Hospital, is Interviewed About COVID-19 and How to Lower Infection Rate; More Than 100,000 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases in New York; Stopping the Spread of Misinformation and Dangerous Post in Social Medias; Nick Clegg, VP for Global Affairs and Communications, Facebook, is Interviewed About Suppressing Misinformation in Social Medias; How Coronavirus Shape the Legacies of World Leaders Today; Interview With World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley; Interview With Jon Meacham. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 3, 2020 - 14:00 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.
As the battle to contain coronavirus struggles with the shortage of protective gear, simple, effective steps still count. The acclaimed
American surgeon and author, Atul Gawande, who pioneered hand washing in hospitals joins me.
Then, I ask Facebook communications chief and former deputy British prime minister, Nick Clegg, about miss information spreading faster than the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON MEACHAM, AUTHOR, "THE HOPE OF GLORY": Presidents of the United States who get in trouble are the one who don't level with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Leadership in times of crisis. Presidential historian, Jon Meacham, puts it in perspective with our Walter Isaacson.
Plus, I speak to the head of the World Food Program, David Beasley, about his recovery from COVID-19.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
This was the week that saw coronavirus infections top the 1 million mark worldwide and it was the week that saw the economic devastation caused by
trying to cure this virus. In the United States, over 6,000 people have lost their lives and the shortage of supplies is taking a heavy toll. While
President Trump is warning a very painful weeks ahead. Dr. Anthony Fauci on the White House Task Force is now calling for all states to issue stay at
Here in the U.K., the stark reality of this crisis takes hold as Prince Charles virtually opens a new 4,000-bed emergency hospital in a converted
London conference center. The heir to the throne is recovering after he himself was infected with COVID-19.
From the death toll to the unemployment numbers to medical shortages, important debates are now taking place as governments try to figure out
strategies. But our first guest has some simple advice and that is keep washing your hands. Indeed, Dr. Atul Gawande's own research showed that
hospitals could lower infection rates by simply reminding doctors to constantly wash their hands. He is a surgeon at Brigham and Women's
Hospital in Boston and staff writer at "the New Yorker". And he's joining me from home in Massachusetts.
Dr. Gawande, welcome to the program.
DR. ATUL GAWANDE, SURGEON, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Thank you. Glad to be here.
AMANPOUR: Let's just start with some of the numbers. I know you're in Boston but we have had the single biggest jump in overnight deaths in New
York, over the last 24 hours. And as you know, both the governor and the mayor of New York City saying that this weekend, Sunday, will be D-Day if
they don't get the supplies that they need for their health care workers. What do you think that exactly means? What does D-Day mean and what's the
fallout of that if they don't get what they need?
GAWANDE: Well, what we are seeing, New York is earliest hit with the largest numbers where they are -- the admissions to the hospitals,
especially into the ICUs are exceeding their capacity and they just -- they're hitting the point that they will no longer be able to keep up. And
we've seen that happen, we saw it in Wuhan early and then we saw it in Italy. We saw it in Spain. Now, it is happening in New York and it is going
to happen -- you know, continuing West into other places and we have seen it happening in the U.K.
This is critical. It's basics. And you know, you said I pioneered hand washing in the hospital. I didn't pioneer it. I will give credit to
(INAUDIBLE) in 1847. But I've been in a champion of the basics. And what we're talking about here are a few critical things that have been shown
from early in the course of this infection that when the action is taken you can solve for it but there are some basic supplies that when they run
out, that's trouble.
AMANPOUR: You know, it is extraordinary to hear you say there are, for those front-line health care workers, some basic precautions that they can
take. But what happens when they don't have the special masks? What happens when they don't have the protective gear? You know, you say what's going to
happen in New York when they, you know, run out is going to happen all over the country. What does that look like? They are going to die? Patients are
going to die? What do you foresee?
GAWANDE: Well, there are a couple of things. One is, it's a fork in the road, right. In Italy, the hospitals became a source of infection. Where in
other places like in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, the hospitals were a protected space where they were able to take care of people and not
transmit the infection.
I actually think that we're -- we know what worked and here are the basics. Number one, you mentioned hand washing, and that's critical. We cannot
forget that component but that is not going to be enough. Second in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, it was that every worker had masks like
these. This is a simple surgical mask. This is not the complicated harder to get particle respirators, particle filtering respirators called N95s.
For every day work, you know, we've instituted at my hospital here in Boston, Brigham and Women's Hospital, very early on that all of us would
wear masks just like they did in Asia. And the combination of that, hand washing, separating the respiratory patients, those who have respiratory
issues, into separate wards, separate clinics, separate teams made a huge difference. And then, finally, making sure that we are keeping six feet
away from one another just like everybody else is doing when they're at home. And that combination meant that there were no transmissions of
infections in places like South Korea, Singapore when you're able to follow those basics.
I'll add one more thing, which is you do need those heavier duty, bigger deal masks, the N95s, in supply for people who are undergoing surgery. You
need the anesthesiologist to be protected when they're putting a tube into the airway and other people who are sick.
I'll say that the breakthrough thing that's happened just even today is that a technology out of a group called Batel in Columbus, we got delivered
a machine that just uses hydrogen peroxide as a mist to reuse those M95 respirators, it can refurbish and enable 80,000 of those respirator masks
for the people in the highest risk situations to be able to protected. I think that kind of innovation is going to keep us ahead of the game here.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's really important news. Really, really important news. Because, again, it is a fairly simple intervention so that you can
reuse infected gear. So, it's really, really important.
The other thing that's important is Dr. Fauci, I mean, who is, let's face it, a world expert here and on the Presidential Task Force saying
basically, why isn't there a nationwide stay at home order? Mandated nationwide stay at home order. Do you agree with that? Should there be?
GAWANDE: 100 percent. I've been calling for this for some time now as have many public health experts. There's a lesson out of Italy. Why did things
go differently in Italy than in Asia? And there were a few things, partial measures don't work. They did a lockdown in just the north, around
Lombardy, and then people fled to other parts of the country and it spread the virus elsewhere.
If you don't take the national approach, it does not work. And we're seeing that happening, the places that have been late to this are seeing much,
much higher rates coming in the next two to three weeks including levels that are like 500 to 700 to 800 percent higher volumes of cases than their
ICUs can handle. On the other hand, you have places like Ohio that acted at the very, very beginning, even before they had significant rates of cases,
and they're going to get through this in next two, three weeks without ever exceeding their hospital capacity.
I'm worried about the U.K. You are -- you have one of the highest death rate rises in death rates of any other country in the world. And in the
U.K. and some other parts of Europe, that same pattern holds. Partial measures do not work.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, it is clear. And one of the things you say is that the hopeful part of all of this is that there is the playbook. You see it,
you've seen what other countries have done, you have had experience in the past, not with this virus, but with other deadly viruses. I just want to
ask you, because you mentioned Singapore a couple of times. Just now, the prime minister there has talked about starting another month shutdown of
nonessential businesses, most schooling because they have 1,000 new cases having got it under control but they're seeing nationals come back to
Singapore and bring it with them, probably from here or from wherever else it might be, here in London.
So, just talk about that because, you know, everybody was happy or relieved that Wuhan and South Korea and Singapore were seeing some resilience and
GAWANDE: Yes. No question about it. First, the playbook is pretty simple. You have to close the nonessential businesses. You have to do travel
restrictions. You have to ask people to shelter at home. And it takes about four weeks after -- in Wuhan, it took four weeks after the lockdown to see
you hit the peak of the death rates and have it drop.
Now, you have places coming out the other side and their challenge is the rest of the world is getting infected and bringing infection back into
their societies. They have to quarantine everybody coming in to their countries and they have to have methods to be able to make sure you really
are able to track and test those people, and that's what they're learning about now.
They -- they are acting again early to keep the playbook in place. We all hope we get to the other side where we're able to dial the pieces off. And
I think what we're going to find is as we re-enter the world, we will have a little bit of this back and forth as we learn where does the virus start
cropping up again and then we have to dial back.
But we do see -- like South Korea will be opening schools next week and seeing whether they're able to start returning to some degree of normalcy.
AMANPOUR: I was going to ask how you are because you are a front-line surgeon, you've been in the hospital today. I know you conducted surgery
today. But we hear so much, obviously, about all the medical workers who are so stressed all over the world. And just hear this quote from an
intensive care physician in Seattle, you know, everyone is worried about not having sufficient ventilators. I'm worried about not having sufficient
compassion and not having sufficient people. Do you see that a lot, Dr. Gawande?
GAWANDE: There's a lot of concern that all of us have. And, you know, I feel that we're prepared as best we can be. It's frustrating that the
supplies are not assured to be there. In Boston, we have had, you know, a few days ahead of New York and I think we're still about 10 days away from
our peak and we feel prepared. We have really worked to put in the model that is there in Asia.
Other places are -- may not have the same level of resource that is we are lucky to have here. We will see. We have projections that in our community
we will exceed our capacity for ventilators by about 300 percent. One of our solutions is, you know, we have shut down all operations except for the
very, very necessary ones, all my cases were canceled today except for one patient with cancer that couldn't wait. And then otherwise, we'll turn the
operating rooms into intensive care units since we have the ventilators down in the ICUs. We have ways we will -- we've opened a field hospital in
the Lowell convention center. More that we'll be doing. And that's going to happen across the U.K., across the rest of the United States.
In Europe, you know, we are thinking, in my public health side, about what happens in Sub-Saharan Africa where this kind of shutdown needs to happen
if they're going to be staying ahead.
AMANPOUR: Obviously, this brings up a whole load of questions about the U.S. health care system. We have talked endlessly how is it that the health
care system in the richest country in the world is clearly unable to keep up with this kind of situation.
But the other question being asked is, what about this very harsh cure, the lockdown, the economic impact? We see these incredible graphs, we see
these, you know, amazing statistics about jobless in the U.S., here, this week. And we also know that the side effects of pushing millions and
millions of people into poverty could be even more death.
So, I want to ask you to talk about that. But also, what if -- because you do a lot of thinking about this. What if there's a resurgence after this
wave is controlled? What if there's another epidemic, another time down the line? Is closing economies the only way to do this or have we learned
GAWANDE: So far, there is no way around this. There is only through it. The ways that people have gotten by closing -- avoiding the lockdown has
been mainly that they've been able to act early, test early, have those steps in place and begin to suppress and contain it.
But, you know, we still have -- you know, against a virus, that's still just these basics that you have to keep people from transmitting from one
to the next to the next to the next person. There is hope in that, though. I mean, we do know how to walk our way through this. I agree that the
damage to the economy from acting so late is horrendous. I think we are going to learn from this.
Where pandemic preparation, we have talked about it again and again, and yet, we do not get prepared. Our health system not having universal
coverage for people puts us at risk that people won't show up for testing when they need it and are going to be afraid of the bills and everything
else that comes along with it. That's a unique problem in the United States.
But worldwide, we have many places didn't act early. It's telling that the places that acted early have the trauma of SARS and then of MERS infections
that made them prepared to realize you have got to do this. There's no way around it. You walk through it. But then you also move quickly to mobilize
like the world is doing in -- as it never done before to identify treatments, to get vaccines moving and to make sure that testing happens.
AMANPOUR: There's so many lessons to be learned and let's hope they are learned. Dr. Atul Gawande, thank you for joining us.
Now, as we've said, coronavirus is having the most devastating impact in New York in the United States and that state is by far worst hit with more
than 100,000 confirmed cases. Mayor Bill de Blasio is warning, as I said, that New York City is days away from D-Day if it doesn't get more supplies
and personnel. Here's a peek at the front lines at Mount Sinai Hospital.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MATTHEW BAI, MOUNT SINA QUEENS HOSPITAL: This is our A.D. You can see all the rooms are filled. Usually, these halls are very neat and empty. And
now, you can see there's patients everywhere because of this. Makes it very hard to work and we're trying our best to treat everyone that we can all
these patients here. Even though we're overflowing, we're trying our best to still provide them care, which we are doing. The patients have an oxygen
tanks that they need.
I don't know if you can see the marks of wearing the PPE all day and my nose is a little red from the mask the mask, but that's what we're doing to
protect ourselves. It's been a tough day. The A.D. has been really full and everyone's trying their best to get room and the treatment that they need.
I mean, I'm tired. I want to say that -- I mean, the things that I see in the E.R. are scary. I'm a little scared myself.
DR. UMESH GIDWANI, MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL: It's been a long day. My cap is askew. One patient expired. It's very hard to lose a patient that you have
been fighting for. The day's coming an end, at least the 12-hour shift of the day shift is coming to an end. Soon I'm going to change back into my
street clothes and have a quick shower. Hopefully, scrub the coronavirus off my body if not off my soul.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Tested like they have never been tested before. It really is devastating. And with most of us staying at home and not able to see our
friends and family, it is boom times for social media networks like Facebook which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. But the same old question
keeps coming up, what are they doing about misinformation? How do you stop the spread of false and dangerous posts when it comes to a global pandemic
where lives are at stake?
Nick Clegg is the former deputy British prime minister and he's now a vice president of global affairs and communication for Facebook. And he's
joining me from Menlo Park in California.
Welcome to the program, Nick Clegg.
Let me ask you because, you know, Facebook has taken a huge number of slings and arrows over information, data, as you very, very well know over
the last years. What have you put in place to help those who we just saw, the doctors, the people who need it the most, the researchers, everybody
who needs the most information they can possibly get right now?
NICK CLEGG, VP FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, FACEBOOK: So, the most important thing we are trying to do is to give users of Facebook,
Instagram, WhatsApp and then so on as much reliable and credible information from the experts about this pandemic.
So, for instance, we have created a coronavirus information center, which you will see at the top of the newsfeed and about a billion people through
that information center and more and counting have seen some of that reliable information from the World Health Organization and other experts.
100 million of that billion have already then clicked through to find more detail.
And we are doing innovative things. So, for instance, health ministries around the world, Pakistan just started to doing this, I think, yesterday,
are using WhatsApp to communicate with people in their countries with very specific information about what they should do to keep themselves safe.
W.H.O. has a bot which is available on WhatsApp, so you can receive information directly from the W.H.O. And about around 100 million people,
and again, it increases every day, have been receiving messages from health ministries and other experts through that WhatsApp route as well. So,
that's one thing we do.
Then, of course, you also have to work hard -- we have to work hard to identify and suppress misinformation about the virus. So, anything we find,
and it is a constant battle to find the misinformation that might be circulating. But when we find it, if it poses any real-world harm, in other
words, if that information could lead people to being more vulnerable to -- of being infected by the virus and otherwise, would be the case, we remove
And then for things which are just misleading but are not, in that sense, sort of dangerous, we will try to refer it to around 55 independent fact
checkers we work with around the world who operate in over 40 languages which will then identify whether something is misleading or inaccurate. It
will then be downgraded on your newsfeed so it's much harder to see and a filter put over it, identifying it as having been to be wanting by fact
checkers. So, those are the kind of things that we do in all of those fronts to make sure that our platforms are a force for good at this very
AMANPOUR: Because many have said that, frankly, the platforms have been a force for bad in many situations, propagating lies and conspiracy theories.
I mean, in the past, you've talked about Pakistan. We know about India and Myanmar and these places where, you know, some really very difficult issues
have been exacerbated by lies and misuse on Facebook, not to mention, as we all know, you know, data harvesting and the whole, you know, election
interference of 2016.
So, you are facing a really important moment right now. So, I'm trying to figure out why is it that Facebook can do the measures that you're
describing right now, which are pretty intense, and not do it in the other issues? What is the difference between intervening now for good and not in
the past for like politics or lies or any other such thing?
CLEGG: I think the first and perhaps most important thing to say is that we're able to do the things now because we've learned from the mistakes of
the past. So, you know, since 2016, the U.S. presidential election, when not only Facebook but no one was aware at that time that there were
attempts, Russian attempts to interfere with the elections, there's been a complete transformation the way in which Facebook tries to protect
elections from foreign interference.
There have been around 200 elections since 2016. Just in recent months, you have European elections, British elections, elections in India and Brazil.
And we now employ an army of around 35,000 people who help us to keep our platform safe. We deploy industry to leading machine learning tools to
identify sort of nefarious attempts to interfere with elections or manipulate people on our platform.
So, I think, in a way, having learned from those mistakes in the past now investing -- I'm talking about billions of dollars to correct those
previous mistakes that allows us to use those same tools that we use increasingly effectively to, say, protect elections from foreign
interference to keep the platforms as safe as we can at this time.
I have to stress however I'm not going to pretend to you that we are always going to get this 100 percent right. Just the sheer volume of information
that is now being conveyed on our platforms by billions of people around the world and because, as you said in your introduction, that's happening
at a much more intense level because people want to, of course, keep close to family and friends and they're finding our apps a great way to do that,
it does, of course, mean that we're never going to find 100 percent of the bad things. But we do try to sort of mitigate that as much as possible so
we can amplify the good things.
And I would say that on the whole, people have been using Facebook services for really good purposes, whether it's -- and I was reading today of a
Belgian priest who now, you know, communicates his weekly services on Facebook Live and is getting a bigger audience than he did in his church or
whether it's musical concerts live being streamed live or teachers reaching out to pupils on our platforms. Or I was reading today about Facebook group
which is getting nurses in the United States to be -- to help them find RVs as well as camper vans so that they can keep themselves isolated and safe.
On the whole, I think the use of our services for good outweighs the use of the services for bad.
AMANPOUR: I mean, you must be relieved though to see that Facebook is suddenly occupying a place that it was made for, for communication, for
getting together and as you say, it's very, very vitally needed right now.
But I want to ask you very quickly, you know, what you make of still the echo chamber. You know, whether it's Facebook or any other news, you know,
certain Americans or from whatever country getting their news from, you know, their own echo chambers and some of them just completely and utterly
false, talking about all the, you know, exploiting and price gauging of masks and other equipment, you know, false medical, you know, advice on
what drugs or solutions to drink.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it is still very bad in terms of polarizing people's access to truth.
CLEGG: Look, I think echo chambers would exist whether Facebook exists or not. I mean, you know, people like particular cable news outlets or
particular newspapers or particular point of view. And in fact, quite a lot of academic research has suggested that because, at least on Facebook, if
you have a diversity of friends and contacts who share information with you, you'll tend to consume quite a mix and an array of different points of
But I think in terms of some of the specific issues you raise about, I don't know, advertisements, advertising false cures or very -- products
like filters, masks that we want to make sure are principally allocated to health workers, we really try to kind of clamp down on that. And so, we
don't allow ads for goods which are, you know, in short supply like masks to be played out on our platform.
We do, I should stress, rely on users to point out where they think things are happening on our platform that we haven't spotted or that our automated
systems haven't spotted. So, encouraging users to, you know, show us what they see is a component in all of this.
AMANPOUR: All right. So, before you went to Facebook, our last encounter is when you were deputy prime minister. And I wonder what you make of the
government's handling, the British government's handling. You just heard Dr. Atul Gawande, you know, say the obvious, that Britain is in a really
bad state right now, with the levels of death, with completely failure over testing, availability and all the rest of it. And I wonder what you -- how
you assess the government's handling of this crisis.
And also, just reflect on when you were deputy prime minister after austerity, there was massive draconian deep cuts into the national health
service that, you know, weakened it before this crisis and now, we see the results of it and these terrible, you know, plaintiff pleas from all the
front-line health workers.
CLEGG: I think the pressure's on health services are great, whether, you know, almost regardless of how much funding has gone into health services
in recent times. I think as your previous guest suggested, the key thing in all of this, the key variable is being how soon shelter at home and
lockdown provisions have been introduced, and that's been the key, key difference from one country to the other.
I mean, look, I have my own personal views but I'm here on your show on behalf of Facebook. So, I'm certainly not going to pass any political
comment on what the government in the United Kingdom or, indeed, any other government is doing. What we are here at Facebook to do is to work with
governments, support them where we can, crucially support the W.H.O. and the international health authorities, because what we can do through
Facebook is reach a lot of users with the right kind of information at the right time and in the right way.
AMANPOUR: In one word, though, as a policy person yourself, don't you believe that this whole thing is exposed the shortcomings in health
services and maybe one of the lessons coming out of this is to beef up, you know, national money and resources into this vital, vital public good?
CLEGG: I think, to be honest, there's a slight tendency for people in the middle of terrible crisis, and this is an unprecedented crisis, certainly,
I think since the Second World War, I can't think of anything analogous to this, to reach to, you know, their favorite solutions and to sort of
confirm their own views about what should or shouldn't happen more generally.
Clearly, once the world has got through this, we will need to look as a world at re-architecting completely how nations cooperate together and do
we have the international institutions. The W.H.O. is doing an extraordinarily effective job, but do we need something much, much more
authoritative and muscular and properly resourced at the international level? And do we have the sort of early alert systems so that societies can
react more promptly and more quickly to the early signs of a pandemic than has clearly been the case on this occasion?
AMANPOUR: Right. Nick Clegg, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me. Vice president of global communications for Facebook.
Now, how they tackle coronavirus will shape the legacies of today's leaders. How are they stacking up, though, against presidents and prime
ministers of yesteryear? We get some perspective with our next guest, the Pulitzer prize-winning historian and presidential biographer, Jon Meacham
in a candid conversation. With our Walter Isaacson, he dissects the performance of President Trump in this crisis and they discuss sacrifice,
and Meacham's latest book "The Hope of Glory."
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Jon Meacham, welcome to the show.
JON MEACHAM, AUTHOR, "THE HOPE OF GLORY": Thanks, Walter.
ISAACSON: Jon, give us some perspective on the coronavirus crisis. When has our nation been tested this way, and how did we respond?
MEACHAM: Really, we haven't been. It is a unique moment.
The flu pandemic of 1918 has been widely discussed. John Barry, your colleague, has written wonderfully about it.
I think this is more like -- because of the modern era, because of globalization, this is more like a war situation where all of us are
combatants. It is as if we were in London in 1940 during the Battle of Britain.
And to some extent, it's even more insidious because of the infectious nature of the crisis.
ISAACSON: Your biographies are great lessons in leadership. What do we have to learn? Let's start with Franklin Roosevelt.
MEACHAM: The key thing about FDR, I think, is, he was as straightforward as we could be in terms of public leadership. He had a few moments in the
run-up to World War II where he was not.
But if you go back to 1933, when -- some people think 40 percent of the country was unemployed. The number was 25. But it's hard to figure out. He
laid it out, right? He said, we have nothing to fear but fear itself, which is the great line we all remember.
But the line that got the biggest cheer that day was when he said, "I might require executive powers to act as if we had been invaded by a foreign
And the crowd roared. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote that that chilled her to the bone, because she worried that people were ready for a dictator. But he was
straightforward. He said during the war, the news is going to get worse and worse before it gets better and better, and the American people deserve to
have it straight from the shoulder.
He learned some of that from Winston Churchill, who said wonderfully that the British people can face any misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy,
right, Churchill goes, fortitude and buoyancy, as long as they are convinced that those who are in charge of their affairs are not deceiving
them or are not themselves dwelling in a fool's paradise.
Interesting two-prong test, right? We want to make sure they're not deceiving us, they're not lying to us, and they're not dwelling in a fool's
paradise, they're not lying to themselves.
ISAACSON: Expand on that. You talk about candor. You talk about not deceiving us. You talk about living in a fool's paradise.
Where has Trump sort of gone on the wrong side of those leadership...
MEACHAM: Well, he -- I think we look at the history of statements when this first emerged, right?
It's all been -- it's going to be a miracle. It's all going to disappear. We have 15, it's going to go down.
And then the capacity -- to me, what's so fascinating and the other thing that FDR said, famously remember, was, we have to have a spirit of bold,
persistent experimentation. Try a method, and, if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But, above all, try something.
President Trump, if you just watch these press conferences -- which is kind of like a car wreck, you got to watch, right? The endless need, the
insatiable need to justify and rewrite the immediate past to make himself look better is overwhelming.
He won't acknowledge that any mistake was made. And so, therefore, he's always right.
And the problem with that is that all of us know at some level that nobody is perfect. We all know. Presidents of the United States who get in trouble
are the ones who don't level with us, right, Johnson in Vietnam, Nixon in damn near everything.
We know -- he you just look at the tape. He was wrong. It's OK. The point is, we have to look forward. We have to move forward. So say you were wrong
and push forward.
And the person who did that better than anybody was John Kennedy. After the Bay of Pigs, he said, in a parliamentary system, I'd have to resign. So
what does he do? He reaches out to Eisenhower, remember?
Ike comes over from Gettysburg. They meet at Camp David. He talks through this. Kennedy was 44 years old, 43 years old at that point. He was trying
to learn how to be president.
And you cut to the Cuban Missile Crisis. We came through that not least because Kennedy had had the capacity to admit he made a mistake and to
learn from it.
ISAACSON: You have written a magisterial book on George H.W. Bush, and you knew him.
What would he be thinking at a time like this and urging us to do?
MEACHAM: He believed so strongly in the basic constitutional system that, at the age of 18, he signed up -- on his 18th birthday, he signed up to go
In the depths of Watergate, he wrote his kids a letter. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee. He wrote them about how important it was
to make the system work.
And so he would be deferring to experts. Bush loved listening to the experts, because -- and he would reach out to mid-levels of the NSC, to the
mid-levels of the CIA. He would ask them to come in, because he knew there was an immense amount of expertise there.
So he would follow the facts, and he would believe ultimately in the system.
ISAACSON: If you go back to the Civil War in 1864, the country was as probably in bad of shape as it is now, even worse.
And yet Abraham Lincoln, who thought he might lose the election, goes ahead with the election of 1864 and makes sure that people understand that, if he
loses, they will transfer power to the person, McClellan, who actually wanted to stop the Civil War and perhaps let the nation be divided.
MEACHAM: I think there's a great case to be made that that moment is the one where we knew finally that America would endure, because it's -- to
imagine a commander in chief of a nation in -- facing an armed insurrection.
Where else in the world would he put his fate in the hands of voters and acknowledge and say that he was going to take it? So, when you're looking
for a moment where, at what point was it pretty clear that this experiment would last, I think 1864 is a good candidate.
ISAACSON: You have written this fascinating book that's just come out about Jesus' words on the cross.
Why, in this Lenten season, as we head towards Good Friday, should we be thinking about what Jesus said on that Friday?
MEACHAM: Well, it's the hinge of history in many ways. as you know. The West is oriented around the Judeo-Christian story, the question of ancient
-- the story of ancient Israel and the outgrowth of Christianity in the -- after the first century.
So, to me, anything that determines how we tell time is intrinsically worth paying attention to. My own view -- I'm an Episcopalian, so we count as
Christians, but only barely. We have to reengage with that story, in order to understand who we are, and in many ways who we ought to be.
ISAACSON: When you reflect on Lent, and what we sacrifice for Lent -- and somebody down here in New Orleans said, we give up things for Lent, but I'm
not ever given up this much.
ISAACSON: Do you think this notion of sacrifice that we're facing now during this Lenten season will cause us to reflect more?
MEACHAM: I hope so.
I -- one of the things we have been discussing in our house is one of the frustrations about the current crisis is, it's so hard outside of -- if
you're not a doctor, outside of sharing your means, it's very hard to go out and help people. There's this great instinct, right?
And it's a great human and American instinct to help the least of these. And because of the nature, the insidious nature of an infectious disease,
it's hard to do.
So, absolutely. To me, the central part of bad drama on Good Friday is when he says, son, behold thy mother, mother, behold thy son. He's saying it to
John, the disciple. He's trying to arrange things. He understands that it's cataclysmic.
And the sense that we are here for each other, and the best we can do to make the earthly kingdom like this ideal kingdom is our profound duty.
ISAACSON: One of the doctrines that you write about in your book "Hope of Glory," is this notion of empathy, this notion of that which you do to the
least of us.
How is that something that you feel President Trump and his movement have perverted?
MEACHAM: Well, we have children in cages at the border, right? We have a rhetoric of members of, Congress should go home, when home is their
district, not their family's country of origin.
Leave aside the religious part. America has always been stronger when we have not been isolationist, when we haven't built walls, when we have
opened our arms and opened our hearts.
And that may sound sentimental and all that, but it's not. It's a simple fact. Our apex of power, would you agree, was probably 1964-'65, right? And
what is -- what characterizes that?
What characterized it was the implications of World War II, which helped fuel the civil rights movement. Slowly, but surely, women were brought more
into the mainstream of American life.
By 1965, President Johnson had signed an immigration act to undo the 1924 restrictive act, a 1924 act which had kept us from receiving refugees from
Nazi Germany in the late 1930s.
There was this moment of openness. And in 1964-'65 -- I think I'm right about this -- that was the highest number Gallup ever found of faith in the
government to do the right thing some or most of the time. It was something like 77 percent. That number is now down around 12 percent.
And so what -- you have to look, what characterized that? Well, what characterized it was, we are, in fact, one nation, indivisible. We are, in
fact, stronger because of our diversity.
And, fundamentally, yes, that's an American virtue, yes, it's a secular virtue, but it's also a religious one.
ISAACSON: I have known you, Jon, for almost going on 40 years now.
ISAACSON: It's hard to think we're that old.
And I have never known your political orientation. I have never known whether you felt more of a Republican or a Democrat.
ISAACSON: And yet right now, you said you would favor Joe Biden because he has certain character traits.
Explain to me why you came to that conclusion.
MEACHAM: I think that we are seeing, in the most elemental way, the significance and relevance of a fact-based, enlightenment-driven,
empathetic presidency of the United States.
I wrote the piece about Vice President Biden because it seemed to me that, at a certain point, if you have any claim on people's attention, however
minor, you have a moral obligation to say what you think.
And I believe that, as we read more and more of these reconstructions, as we look at more and more of what we used to call the ticktocks, we will see
that the Trump administration, because of the character of the person at the top, created a reality distortion field that slowed and warped a
response that is going to kill more people than the Vietnam War did.
And in that case, given those stakes, and if there's a choice at hand, I don't mind saying who my choice would be.
ISAACSON: Given the many missteps in the mishandling of this crisis that have led us to where we are today, why hasn't there been more of a hit on
President Trump's approval ratings?
MEACHAM: I think I accept the conventional explanation that you rally around the president in a crisis. President Carter, same thing happened
with the hostage crisis.
I also think it's a reflection of the divided nature of the country. We are living through not only a rare pandemic, but perhaps our first partisan
pandemic. Our partisanship is now part of the air we breathe.
It is -- there's a vanishingly small number of people who are reachable by data, fact and argument. And I think that -- I bet you, by the end of this,
at least at some point, basically, the president's approval ratings on the crisis will end up falling into a very traditional pattern over the last
ISAACSON: I think people would have been appalled a few years ago or a few decades ago to think that even a pandemic would have a partisan response.
Even the facts would be viewed in a partisan way, like how many people might get it would be considered a partisan argument.
How did we get here so that even pandemics are viewed in a partisan way? And how do we get out of this?
MEACHAM: I think what we're living in is the great test of whether the enlightenment lives, right?
The enlightenment was about, you follow reason, data, contrary fact, and you reach conclusions based on reality, not preexisting theological views,
right? I mean, that's the basic definition.
Interestingly, our partisanship has become almost a religion for us, right? We have our own prophets. We have our own martyrs. We have our own holy
books. Some people have written about this. It's a great sociological insight.
And I think, to some extent, I mean, for all the obvious reasons, the media, the partisanization of the media, all that, but there's something in
the human spirit, there's something in the human condition that appreciates certitude and rushes to embracing almost a kind of fundamentalism.
It's easier. If you pick a team and you don't have to think anymore, that's easier than having to think and then figure out which team is closest to
what you think.
It may be -- here's an overly grand point. It may be that the enlightenment era, the Lockean era of thoughtful republican democracy may be the
exception, and not the rule. I mean, maybe we -- maybe the last 300 years or so will end up being a different chapter, as opposed to an ongoing one.
I hope not. But that's not unlike -- that's not impossible.
ISAACSON: Jon Meacham, thank you for being with us this evening.
MEACHAM: Thanks, Walter.
AMANPOUR: Always fascinating when it's a conversation between Jon Meacham and Walter Isaacson.
Now, there is still so much we don't know about the coronavirus, from the effect of the asymptomatic carriers, to patients with no underlying
conditions having to be put on ventilators.
My next guest recently contracted it. And, fortunately, he's recovered.
David Beasley is the head of the World Food Program. And he's a former Republican governor of South Carolina. And he's joining me from there right
David, I am so pleased to see you. We have been tracking your illness with you. And I just want to know how you are right now.
DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: Well, it's -- I'm doing great.
It was a few weeks of some tough go. Every time you and I get together on television, it's always a bad story. But the good news is, I am feeling so
much better. And I'm glad to have it behind me.
AMANPOUR: So, tell -- just so that we can understand, because it's rare to actually talk to those who've had it, how did you know you had got it? How
did it manifest for the past several weeks?
BEASLEY: Well, about five weeks ago -- I travel quite a bit in war zones, in complex areas, and donor capitals around the world.
And so I was traveling throughout the Middle East, and I was meeting with leaders. And I actually did a couple tests just to make sure I was in fact
negative, so I can meet with leaders without any concern, and they were negative.
And then I traveled back to the United States and was still making some trips abroad. And I came back home about three weeks ago today, back to my
home in South Carolina for the first time in many months, and that Friday evening, I started feeling a little bit not quite right.
But I thought it was allergies, because the pollen is out among the (INAUDIBLE) in the South, and which was nothing unusual. And so I was
thinking, ah, it must be that.
And then Saturday, I started having some fever, and Sunday, aches and pains, but not severe. But Monday morning, I was feeling really good. So I
thought, ah, it must have been the allergies.
But knowing that I meet a lot of people and knowing that I need to be extra careful, I went to the hospital to get checked, tested again. And this
time, it came back positive. And, thankfully, I had quarantined myself, isolated myself.
And now I have been in isolation now for three weeks. And I'm now over it, which is great. But it never got really bad. It would get good for a day or
two. And then I would have like a recycle of a little bit of fever, a little bit of ache, a little bit of sore throat, but it was never severe.
And then I had some chest congestion after about a week. And that gravely concerned us, because then you can get in your -- into the lungs and
pneumonia and problems like that.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes.
BEASLEY: But thank the good lord, I'm doing good. I'm healthy, and back on -- back in the saddle and trying to help people around the world now.
AMANPOUR: Well, yes, and you have a very big job. And, of course, you were still trying to help people around the world, the most needy.
The World Food Program helps, I think it's somewhere around 87 million people around the world. But I just want to ask you first, because you're
in South Carolina, and you have heard Dr. Fauci, who's on the president's task force, say that there should be a mandatory nationwide stay-at-home
And it hasn't happened in South Carolina. Your governor there has called a state of emergency. Some towns and counties have done their own thing, but
there hasn't been one.
Do you think there should be? And we have heard yesterday from the former surgeon general that, in Louisiana and other places in the South, they are
still busy enjoying communal activities.
BEASLEY: Well, everybody's got to make their own decisions.
One thing I have learned, having been a United States governor, I don't want to second-guess the leadership now. They have got enough hard
decisions to make on their own.
And so I will trust them to make those decisions. I have enough on my plate trying to keep 87 million to 95 million people alive, with a downturn in
the economy, and money looking -- looking like we could have some issues.
So, we have got a lot of issues ahead of us, but we're prepared to work through them. And, of course, we're going to be hopeful countries will take
advantage of all the data that we bring to the table, because we are in 80- something countries, and that data can be extremely important for decision- making for leaders around the world.
AMANPOUR: So, what are you able to do right now? Because there is going to be all sorts of, I guess, food insecurity, clearly, right, if this --
already, because of war and refugees and that -- but if this pandemic hits those countries that you service, what are you planning for? What do you
BEASLEY: Well, it's a worst-case scenario.
We're supporting literally between 87 and 95 million people as we speak before COVID hit in a pandemic way. So, you can imagine. I would say 25 or
30 million people would probably be in famine conditions if we weren't on the ground now.
So, first, if there is an economic downturn, which everyone is expecting that there will be, let me put some pretty difficult numbers right to you.
So, about -- out of the 87 to 95 million people that we support every single day, week, month throughout the year, about 27 million of them,
that's lifesaving food.
So if we lose the funding or the access we need, we're talking about 150,000 people dying per day over a six-month period, 150,000 people per
day. That's if we have an economic collapse, downturn in the economies, and we don't receive the monies that we need.
That doesn't even take into consideration what we see to be a spike in hunger rates in countries because of COVID. For example, we're expecting
about -- as we're feeding, assisting about 87 to 95 million, that that could go up to 120 million people just in the next couple of months.
AMANPOUR: All right. You have really laid out the problem there
I'm just going to give you one last chance. If you were governor of South Carolina today, would you tell people to stay at home, don't go to church,
don't meet in pubs and cafes and bars?
BEASLEY: Well, I would tell people, be careful. Isolate yourself. Wash your hands. And if you start getting symptoms, go home.
But let me just say this, Christiane. Thank you for helping us get the message out, because the World Food Program, we're providing equipment,
medical supplies all around the world. We're not just food. We're delivering medical supplies all throughout Africa, millions of pest kits,
millions of professional and personal protection equipment, millions of masks.
We are the supply chain for the humanitarian and the medical system WHO/UNICEF around the world, and our teams are putting themselves, lives on
BEASLEY: And these supply chains are critical over the next few months, because millions could die.
BEASLEY: And we're working through this from country to country to country.
And I want to thank you for helping us get the message out. You remember I told you before, a year ago, that everybody was talking about Brexit,
Brexit, Brexit, Trump, Trump, Trump.
Well, now it's corona, corona, corona and Trump, Trump, Trump. But thank you for helping us get the message out about the people that need our help.
AMANPOUR: Well, I'm glad to do that. And we care very much about all of that as well.
So thank you, Governor, former Governor David Beasley, head of the World Food Program. We're glad you are better and can continue with this really
important work. Thank you.
BEASLEY: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, finally, tonight, let us take a moment to remember the legendary 1970s solo singer Bill Withers, who has died of heart
complications, not because of the virus, according to his family, who announced his death today. He was 81 years old.
The three-time Grammy Award winner brought us iconic ballads, such as "Ain't No Sunshine." In the current coronavirus pandemic, his hit "Lean On
Me" has become a bit of an anthem, as we continue to lean on our key workers in hospitals and supermarkets.
Withers was originally inspired by the community spirit of the West Virginia coal mining town where he grew up.
And, as that's it for our program this week, we leave you with that inspiring piece.
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