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Donald Trump Suggests Delaying U.S. Presidential Election; Three Former Presidents Pay Final Respect for John Lewis; Barack Obama Delivers Moving Eulogy; Interview With Yo-Yo Ma and Maya Soetoro; Interview With World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo; Interview With Senior Biden Adviser Tony Blinken. Aired 2:20-3:20p ET
Aired July 30, 2020 - 14:20 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.
Another Trump shock, suggests delaying U.S. election, and orders U.S. troops withdrawn from defending democracy in Europe. I ask key Biden
adviser and former national security officer, Tony Blinken, what happens when America is missing in action.
Plus, as trade tensions and the pandemic wreak havoc on the world economy, I talk to the outgoing WTO president, Roberto Azevedo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMIN OF THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: The more these tools we have, they're like putting brakes on a
car. You put brakes in a car, you could drive fast. Without brakes, you're not going to drive very fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: 150,000 deaths and counting. Former Medicare chief, Andy Slavitt, tells our Hari Sreenivasan what it takes to put an end to
American's disastrous handling of the coronavirus outbreaks.
Plus, as Former President Obama eulogizes John Lewis, the hero of nonviolence and democracy, I speak to his sister and cofounder of the Peace
Studio, Maya Soetoro, and cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, about healing through music.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, working from home in London.
Three former presidents, but not the current officeholder, paid their final respects to an American national treasure and a global champion of
equality, justice and moral leadership. As Congressman John Lewis is laid to rest in Atlanta, Georgia, where he served for more than three decades.
Here are some of he's last words, which he asked to be published on the day of his funeral, saying that the national uprising for justice after the
killing of George Floyd gave him hope finally. Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I
call good trouble, he said, necessary trouble. Now, it is your turn to let freedom ring. He addressed the young generation.
At his inauguration in 2009, America's first black president, Barack Obama, signed a commemorative photograph for him with the words, because of you,
John. And today, he delivered a moving eulogy. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Imagine the courage of two people Malia's age, younger than my oldest daughter, on their own, to challenge an
entire infrastructure of oppression. John was only 20 years old, but he pushed all 20 of those years to the center of the table, betting
everything, all of it, that his example could challenge centuries of convention and generations of brutal violence and countless daily
indignities suffered by African-Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And the president went on to urge everyone in the name of John Lewis to vote in November. All of this in a time of COVID and uprisings for
racial justice that has many Americans asking, what is it we still stand for? It is also what members of the American-led alliance abroad are
asking, as President Trump orders the withdrawal of some 12,000 troops from Germany, where they stand as defenders of democracy and freedom on the
Compounding a sense of alarm, President Trump even twitted a suggestion today that the November election be delayed until "people can properly
securely and securely vote." President Obama, as I said, alluded to that during his eulogy and he got a standing ovation. He said, those in power
are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting by closing polling locations.
Our first guest is Tony Blinken, former policy adviser to the presidential candidate, Joe Biden. He has served as a former deputy secretary of state
for Barack Obama. And he's joining us now from Washington, D.C.
Tony Blinken, welcome back to our program.
What a day. What a day. I wonder if you are able to process, a day that began with the current president casting doubt on the election, and the
president you served rousingly urging people to go out and vote in November.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SENIOR FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER, JOE BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT: Well, you're right, Christiane, it started with a real low with President
Trump. But, right now, we have this incredible high. I just listened to Former President Obama. You know, John Lewis really was the soul of our
nation. He experienced us at our worst. He summoned us to our best. And it's an incredibly powerful legacy. And President Obama paid wonderful
tribute to it today, but not as something backward-looking, as something forward-looking, to use, to be inspired by the life that John Lewis led, to
march forward, to carry on. So, I found it inspiring.
And the low was certainly what President Trump tweeted this morning. But look, we know what's going on here. You know, back in April, Vice President
Biden said it was only a matter of time until President Trump floated the idea of delaying the election, even though it's not in his power to do so.
And at the time the Trump campaign said that Vice President Biden was being irresponsible, launching a conspiracy theory. It turns out that Joe Biden
knows their boss better than they do.
Because what President Trump is always trying to do is deflect and distract. And what he doesn't want us talking about today is another
dramatic increase in unemployment claims and the worst-ever quarterly drop in GDP in our country's history, on his watch, because he failed to act to
get this COVID crisis under control. The vice president -- Biden said today, what's happening to Americans is not an act of God, it's a failure
of President Trump's leadership.
AMANPOUR: Tony Blinken, do you think that this suggestion, this tweet, which was actually accompanied by a load of question marks earlier today,
this floating of this idea of delaying the vote, is this something that the Biden administration or rather the Biden campaign can do about it? We have
already seen senior Republicans not follow President Trump on this. They have not, as they often do, rush to, you know, confirm or affirm some of
BLINKEN: Well, Christiane, really, again, I think this is about the president trying to deflect and distract, to take our eye off of, for
example, the service for John Lewis today, and the starkest possible contrast between his leadership and that the of the John Lewis or Barack
Obama. And as important to take our attention away from the terrible numbers that came out on the economy, because of the COVID crisis and
because of his failure of leadership. So, that's what this is about.
It is not within the president's power to delay the election. And it was gratifying, of course, to hear senior Republicans make that clear.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about foreign policy? Which is one of the things I wanted to talk about. And I pointed out that not only, you know, is this
situation going on inside America, about outside, here, in Europe, people are looking on with alarm at a very real threat, and the order now from
President Trump to remove some 12,000 U.S. troops that have been defending democracy and freedom in Europe, move them from Germany.
Tell me why you think that's happening and would a Biden administration reverse that move?
BLINKEN: So, Christiane, this move is foolish, it's spiteful, and it's a strategic loser. It weakens NATO, it helps Vladimir Putin, and it harms
Germany, our most important ally in Europe. And it's being done because President Trump doesn't like Angela Merkel and is trying to find ways to
take a dig at her.
And now, we have the secretary of defense, Secretary Esper, desperately trying to come up with some kind of ex post facto rationale for what is the
president's vindictive and itchy Twitter finger. And you know when the president first announced this, some weeks ago, he caught his own Defense
Department and our allies, including Germany, by surprise. So, this makes no sense. It only makes us weaker, it only harms NATO, it only harms or
allies and does nothing good for us.
AMANPOUR: And, again, interestingly bipartisan condemnation and criticism of it in Congress. And it also would cost billions of dollars to execute,
and it wouldn't happen anytime soon, apparently, and even the "Wall Street Journal," which is a traditional ally of conservative presidents has said,
the editorial board now, importantly, about why this is happening, instead he, President Trump, appears to be undermining America's military position
out of the pique, moving U.S. forces to punish Germany, though many will go to countries which also aren't pulling their weight.
Oh, and in the middle of an election campaign, he's undermining the case, which he supported with action over three years, that he is tougher than
Democrats on Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump's erratic foreign policy impulses remain the greatest risk of a second term."
Were you surprised to read that in the Republican-sympathetic "Wall Street Journal" editorial pages?
BLINKEN: Well, it was gratifying to read it, because I think it's exactly right.
But we see Republicans across the board who have deep dismay at the president's conduct of our foreign policy, and, increasingly, they're
expressing it. So I think this was of a piece with that, and we're hearing it left, right and center.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because we have been reporting over the last couple of weeks on the very, very intricate task force plans that came out
of meetings between Biden staffers and -- or Biden officials, and also Bernie Sanders officials.
And there was a whole raft of them on all sorts of issues, from the economy, to health, immigration, et cetera, nothing on foreign policy. And
I wonder why, and especially given the moment -- you have talked about the economy -- the huge fraught friction between the United States and China,
upon which so much of the economy depends.
BLINKEN: Well, a few things.
First of all, we have spent a lot of time reaching out in the Biden campaign to all the other campaigns and candidates who are running in the
Democratic primaries, including Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, as well as Mayor Pete and others.
And so there's been a very vigorous, robust dialogue, including on foreign policy. And I think our party platform, which is coming out, reflects that
there is a tremendous amount of unity and common purpose to that foreign policy.
And it starts, arguably, with one of the most important issues that we have to face, which is the challenge coming from China.
AMANPOUR: Well, how do you plan to deal with that?
Because what we're seeing now, and you probably know more about this than I do, but we're hearing and we're reading that hawks in the current
administration, and maybe even hawks in Beijing, are pushing both sides into very, very extreme corners, both the United States and China, that may
last beyond this administration, and that may be very difficult to change and to put back, like on all sort of aspects of the relationship.
Is that -- I know that China's actions come under bipartisan criticism in the United States. Many people in the United States are concerned about the
strength and the intellectual theft and all the rest of it that comes from China.
How do you envision the relationship going forward in a potential Biden administration?
BLINKEN: Well, Christiane, we're in a serious competition with China. We have to engage it. We have to face it. And we can do very, very well, if we
start from a position of strength.
The problem is this. Right now, by virtually every key metric, China's strategic position is stronger, and ours is weaker, as a result of
President Trump's failed leadership.
Think about this. President Trump has helped China advance its key strategic goals. Weakening American alliances? Check. Leaving a vacuum in
the world for China to try to fill? Check. Abandoning our own values and giving Beijing a green light to trample on human rights and democracy in
Xinjiang or in Hong Kong? Check.
And maybe, worst of all, debasing our own democracy every day by attacking its institutions, its people, its values, and so reducing its appeal.
That's what I like to call checkmate.
So, I think, when we think about how to engage China and the competition that it poses and the challenge that it poses, we really have to start with
us, because, in many ways, it's about us, the competitiveness of our economy and our workers, the strength of our democracy and political
system, the vitality of our alliances and partnerships, and the projection of our own values, all of which President Trump has done so much to
undermine, but all of which are actually under our control.
So I think you would see us reasserting all of those things in a Biden administration. That's the foundation upon which we can engage China from a
position of strength.
AMANPOUR: Do you think you will be able to turn that so-called ship of state around, after all that's happened in these last four years?
And we have just heard Secretary of State Pompeo testifying, and he's talked many times, about how -- quote -- "the tyranny of this regime" --
he's talking about China -- will not be allowed to stand.
And there's all sorts of talk about a cold war between the United States and China. Given the shortcomings that you talk about regarding China
towards the United States, I mean, is a cold war a good thing between these two superpowers?
BLINKEN: I think it's a very simplistic and, in many ways, misguided image. But here's the problem. Here's what's going on.
President Trump is desperate to show that he is -- quote -- "tough" on China in the context of this election. And so we have seen in a number of
speeches where the rhetoric is getting ratcheted up and up and up.
But all of this can't hide the fact that, when it has mattered most, President Trump has probably been the best president in American history
for China's interests, not ours, in the ways that I described a moment ago in terms of our own strategic position, but also in terms of the thing that
Americans are most focused on now, the coronavirus, because remember this, Christiane.
Previous administrations, and especially the Obama-Biden administration, put in place defenses to help predict and prevent the emergence of
pandemics, people in programs, including in China. President Trump came in and dismantled or defunded virtually all of them.
And then, when the virus emerged, and it was critical for China to live up to its responsibilities to make information available, to give access to
international experts, and it wasn't doing it, instead of calling them to account, President Trump spent the better part of two months praising the
Chinese government's cooperation and transparency.
Why? Because he wanted to downplay the virus himself, and he was desperate to hang on to a trade deal that he negotiated, after his disastrous tariff
war, that the Chinese government had signed in January and he wanted to make sure they would implement.
So, there's a terrible record there. They're trying to compensate for it by this heated rhetoric to look tough on China. But the fact is just the
AMANPOUR: This is going to be such an interesting story to watch going forward.
Antony Blinken, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, trade tensions between the United States and China have rattled the global economy for months. But it is the pandemic that has brought it to
its knees. Numbers released today show the U.S. economy, as we have just spoken about, contracting at an annual rate of nearly 33 percent from April
to June, which is its worst drop on record ever, and the grim reality of millions of Americans and people around the world waiting for signs of
Our next guest is the outgoing director-general of the World Trade organization, Roberto Azevedo. And he is joining me from headquarters in
Mr. Azevedo, welcome to the program.
You have just heard us talking about the big sort of big, big piece of conflict between U.S. and China and the economic figures that have just
been released today. Just your comment on the scale of the U.S. contraction.
ROBERTO AZEVEDO, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION: It's pretty grim, the numbers.
First of all, good evening, everyone, evening here in Geneva.
I am sure that the world is going to be witnessing the greatest contraction in peaceful history since the 1930s. So, that, I think, is a given. The
question is twofold. First, how deep is it going to be now? And the second one is how quickly we can recover.
And those questions are difficult to answer without knowing exactly how we're going to handle the pandemic, how quickly we can bring them into --
But global trade, the global economy is not going to be in a nice position for the next several months.
AMANPOUR: So, Roberto Azevedo, the United States and many were looking and hoping for a V-shaped situation, a V-shaped recovery. But we're even
seeing, in Germany, the European powerhouse, there's been a record drop in its quarterly GDP as well of something much less than the United States,
but about 10 percent.
You have said we don't know what's going to happen because we don't know how the pandemic is going to be managed or whether there's going to be a
second wave worse than we're seeing right now.
You also said, this is the worst since 1933. That just sends people into cataclysms of horror and despair, because we know what happened after 1933,
particularly in Europe.
What do you see politically happening in a painful economy?
AZEVEDO: Well, the bad news is, economically, we are talking about things which look alike, the '30s and now.
But the good side of the story, if we can call it a good side, is that the recovery can be very different. So, in back in the '30s, and then again in
the financial crisis in 2008 and '9, the economy was suffering from problems with its fundamentals.
There were misalignments.The cylinders were not firing. The engine was bad. It was broken. But this is not necessarily the situation now. The engine
was relatively fine. It wasn't great, but it was relatively fine, until you cut the fuel line. Because of the lockdowns and quarantines and all that,
the economy basically stopped in its tracks immediately.
Now, if you reconnect the fuel line, and we resume the economic activities, if we don't let the engine deteriorate, if we don't let things go for too
long, and if we take care of situations like unemployment or stopping or avoiding the bankruptcy of thousands of middle, small-sized enterprises, if
we maintain some of degree of normality, we should be able to recover.
I think, by now, a V-shaped recovery, like you mentioned, Christiane, I'm not so upbeat about that. But a reasonable, robust recovery is possible,
maybe not so quickly, but also not dragging on for many years, like we had before in the '30s and 2008 and '9.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that's interesting.
Your term in office has coincided with President Trump's term in office, and he has long been a critic of the WTO. He said many times that you have
been or the WTO has been overly deferential and overly supportive of China.
There's been all sorts of arguments by the United States about certain judges to the WTO courts and its judging facilities, et cetera. How
challenging has this relationship been over the last four years, but more - - I don't so much mean personally -- to the -- in the furtherance of actual trade?
AZEVEDO: It has been challenging, in the sense that the Trump administration has been more than just making the case, but has been
demanding changes to the system.
And I have to say, some of the claims are accurate. The U.S. administration has been complaining that the rules need to be updated. We fully agree with
that. They have been saying that the dispute settlement mechanism needs to be updated. And there are other members who would agree with that.
Now, the question is, how deep can we go? How fast can we go? And the changes that are being requested by the United States are pretty deep. They
are fundamental. They would change the system completely.
Remind, please, Christiane, that the WTO was made to somehow level the playing field, despite the differences in the economies, right, that there
are different models, different policies. We're trying to level the playing field somewhat.
Now the issue is more whether there could be differences in models, whether there could be differences in policies and economic models and political
models. So, that's pretty fundamental. And that is not something that you can take care overnight.
AMANPOUR: Let me quickly move to Brexit, sitting here in London. We know that the E.U. and the U.K., their talks are pretty much not going anywhere.
And now the E.U. negotiators feel that they have a much stronger hand because of the huge big, big, big coronavirus recovery plan that they all
Where do you stand on what might happen and Britain saying, well, we're going to float off into a WTO world if we don't have an exit deal with
AZEVEDO: Well, this -- as far as the WTO is concerned, it's a pretty simple situation. If there is an agreement, then the two sides continue to
benefit from the preferential arrangement that they have amongst themselves.
If there is no deal, then they will do trade with each other, like every other WTO member does with them. And that simply means, if there is no
deal, there will be a kind of a wall between the two. But the thickness of the wall for goods and products going both ways, the thickness of the wall
will vary from product to product and from sector to sector.
So, for example, where -- for, say, automobiles, automobiles, the rates are significantly high for the E.U. and after the Brexit for both, for the E.U.
and the U.K. And then cars, the wall will be pretty thick.
But there are other agricultural products. The wall will be pretty thick. But other products that today enjoy a lower level of tariffs, maybe the
disruption is not going to be that great, let alone the issue of services and new regulations that would be put in place.
It will be costly, but it will vary. The cost will vary from sector to sector.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this, because we have heard the government here is kind of hoping that the COVID economy contraction might sort of blur
what might be a Brexit-induced economic retraction.
But if you were a betting person, do you think there will be a deal between the U.K. and the E.U., given what you know about the negotiations?
AZEVEDO: It's difficult to tell, if you're not within the four walls of the negotiations, I have to tell you.
I have been negotiating trade deals for decades. And it's often about one or two big issues that they need to figure out. And many of those views are
figured out in the last minute.
So, we are talking still -- we're still several weeks, months away. Many things can happen. If the political will is there, I have no doubt in my
mind that it's possible. If they want to do it, it's possible. But if there is some degree of political desire to make things difficult or to make a
case or to make an example or something like that, then I suppose it will be -- I would not be very optimistic.
AMANPOUR: All right, Roberto Azevedo, outgoing director-general of the WTO, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, from politics and the economy, we turn to music, which has been a comfort for many around the world during this coronavirus lockdown, but
what could it also teach us about peace?
Well, a new project is asking artists what music means to them. Behind this project is President Obama's sister Maya Soetoro, co-founder of The Peace
Studio. And she's joining me now, along with one of the musicians taking pass, the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Thank you both for joining me.
It's really a great time and a great moment to be talking about music. And I just want to ask you both, because I'm sure you heard President Obama
speak at the funeral of John Lewis
Maya Soetoro, he's your half-brother. Just your reaction to the rousing message he gave to people?
MAYA SOETORO, SISTER OF BARACK OBAMA: I think he did a beautiful job.
And, first of all, thank you for having us. Such a pleasure to be here.
One of the key messages that he delivered is that John Lewis believed in young people, people of every age, their capacity to participate, to be
upstanders, and bridge-builders, and collaborative problem solvers.
And he has handed us all a mandate to choose to build peace where it's difficult, to lean into our discomfort, and to do so with whatever tools,
resources and stories that we have at our disposal.
And so I think that that is the key message in The Peace Studio. This is a nonprofit founded to support young creatives and storytellers of all kinds
and their efforts to advance peace.
And we want to see everyone interconnected, not waiting for governmental top-down solutions, participating in a movement that is action-oriented and
pragmatic, to make their communities better through stories and celebration and connection.
AMANPOUR: We will get back to the -- we will get back to you with the fundamentals of the Peace project.
I want to ask Yo-Yo Ma, because I was also there covering the inauguration in 2009. I watched you play at President Obama's first inauguration.
YO-YO MA, CELLIST: Yes.
AMANPOUR: And I just wonder whether you -- what you think now, in retrospect, but also after the rousing eulogy he gave, which also-called on
people to vote, and be able to change history in a peaceful way, which is what you both are trying to accomplish with music.
MA: Absolutely, I think building on what Maya just said, I think -- and what John Lewis' life was an example of, and what President Obama just said
in the eulogy, is essentially, the work is not over, and it may never be over. It may take centuries, but John Lewis is going to be part of the
acknowledgement of the work when it's finished.
And, in fact, all of us are going to be part of that, because it's not one person, one government, one institution that can build peace. It takes all
of us, because all of us need to have enough hope in us in order to work as hard as we can to make the world into the place we would like to live in.
AMANPOUR: So, Yo-Yo Ma, I read that you had said one of your heroes was Leonard Bernstein, who he said, when John F. Kennedy was killed -- quote --
"This is our reply to violence, to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."
So, I want to ask you, because you have been spending your quarantine time making or playing comfort music, what do you mean by that? And what has
music meant during this lockdown?
MA: Well, I think this is a moment where so many people, it's as if you were going through a blizzard. We are terrified. We are lonely. We are
worried. And music is like a caress. And it touches your skin. It's visceral, it's palpable.
And since we -- because of COVID, we can't go into hospital rooms, but we can play for individual patients or physicians or nurse practitioners or
health workers. And that's what I have been doing a lot of -- or graduations, for people who want to celebrate.
I think music actually literally moves the air that touches our skin. And that's a degree of comfort that we can give. And that's when I feel, as a
musician, that's where I feel I can practice my craft and hopefully be of some value.
AMANPOUR: And, Maya, explain the value that you felt was needed to be sort of dispersed in the world with I think it's called the 100 Offerings of
Tell me what that is, those offerings of peace through music.
SOETORO: So, it's 100 offerings from emerging creatives from over 20 countries. And they're not just musicians. They're visual, performing,
journalistic, literary, spiritual arts.
And the idea is to generate new works about what peace means to them, how they practice it, how they see it flourishing, even amid the COVID
pandemic, and how it is utilized to heal traumas and injustice and participate in movement building.
The honorable Congressman John Lewis spoke about the need for storytellers to initiate conversations that connect people and that will allow us to
heal across our differences. This is urgent work. He was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and by all of the different ways that people
are choosing to participate now.
So, we need alternative solutions to the challenges that face us. And it's not just a pandemic of COVID-19 that we're confronted with. It's also
loneliness and houselessness and climate change and income inequality and gender inequality.
And so peace building must take up more space than it currently does. And it should be felt as every person's responsibility. And thank you for
participating in strength-based storytelling. When we see, through journalists and storytellers and bloggers and creatives of all kinds, what
is possible, as opposed to what is simply going wrong, I think we become inspired and enlightened and hopeful.
AMANPOUR: Well, look, I want to build on that, what you just said about inspired and hopeful, particularly the next generation.
And John Lewis, in words from the grave that he had penned to be published today, the day of his funeral, spoke about the next generation, in light of
what's happening now with the Black Lives Matter movement. He said it brought him great hope.
And he wrote: "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the
heavy burdens of hate at last, and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So, I say to you, walk with the wind,
brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide."
Those are pretty amazing words to give this generation.
SOETORO: Gorgeous. Gorgeous.
AMANPOUR: And let me ask you, Yo-Yo Ma, because...
MA: I would like to...
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Finish, Maya, and then I will just ask Yo-Yo to talk as well about that, because it's very profound.
SOETORO: It's most definitely profound and restorative, a reminder that we belong to each other, that we can build our beloved community together,
that we need to bring together intergenerational duets, people who are young and old, to showcase positive peace building with courage.
So, please continue, Yo-Yo Ma, with what you were about to say. But I'm grateful for those final words and instructions and the faith that is
present in his words that we can, in fact, build our beloved community.
MA: Maya, if I could build on what you're saying, is, I think what you're doing, what John Lewis has done for all of his life, Christiane, what
you're doing in telling the truth, all of you are giving us inspiration and hope.
I think everybody in this world wants meaningful jobs and realistic hope. And I think John Lewis gives us a model to work toward. And I think Maya is
giving us a way, all of us, each one of us, a way forward, where little things that we do add up.
And so, when we talk about wanting to separate the urgent from the important, often, we just do the urgent, the peace building effort is
actually the important work. And it starts from each one of us. As Mr. Rogers used to say, we're beautiful on the inside and the outside.
The outside is not enough. We have to start from the inside. And John Lewis certainly modeled that all his life. And we have that to be grateful for.
AMANPOUR: And I am struck by his words, because music has been used in wartime and trying to bring all different sides of various very polarizing
political and global debates together, when he said, we have to finally triumph over violence, aggression, and war.
And I think music has often been used to try to bring all different sides together.
Yo-Yo Ma, in a moment, I'm going to ask you to play us out with one of the songs which we will introduce or one of the pieces which we will introduce.
But, first, I want to ask you, Maya, just to reflect also on seeing your brother, the president, Obama, out on the campaign trail again, and also
appearing for the first episode of his wife, first lady Michelle Obama's podcast. You must have listened to it.
Just want to play a little bit, because, again, they're talking about community. They're talking about moving forward and not being cynical about
the process. We will just play a little.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At the end of the day, I think that people are going to be...
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: You think they're going to do the right thing?
B. OBAMA: I think folks are going to do the right thing.
M. OBAMA: You think they're going to vote?
B. OBAMA: You know, I -- you know me. I'm just...
M. OBAMA: You are the eternal optimist. You're the "Yes, we can" man.
B. OBAMA: I'm the "Yes, we can" man. I am the audacity of hope man.
M. OBAMA: Yes. Yes.
What's the alternative? That's the thing.
B. OBAMA: And that's the point.
M. OBAMA: As cynical as I can be in this, in the end, I agree. We don't have an alternative.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Maya, that is a really intimate and beautiful look at community, about voting, about all sorts of civil action, civil duty, but done in a
You comment quickly.
SOETORO: Well, I loved it. I loved the podcast, and I loved my brother's eulogy.
As I said to someone on your staff, that man can talk. But I think that if you listen to the podcast in its entirety, they begin with their stories,
their individual stories, their story of coming together.
And this is where we begin forging our movements and context and culture and community. This is where we need to think about peace as action-
oriented and part of the everyday work to uplift one another.
And we need to listen to ideas from every space, and from young and old and big and small, in order to create that change and to sustain that optimism,
because we don't have a choice.
And I'm really grateful for everyone's participation. Please know that there are so many places where you can enter the stream. Let's do this
AMANPOUR: Well, on that note, in this space, we're going to have Yo-Yo Ma play us out with a 19th century Shaker tune which everybody will know, I
hope. It's called "Simple Gifts," and I know you feel it has particular resonance now.
MA: Absolutely, because that was -- that melody was included in the inaugural music that John Williams wrote for President Obama, and it's
spiritual, it's communal, it's invented -- as in (ph) everything that we do. And ultimately it brings us into the celebration of the cycle of life.
And it just starts with "Simple Gifts."
AMANPOUR: What a treat. That is beautiful.
Yo-Yo Ma, Maya Soetoro, thank you both so much for joining us.
And now we are going to be moving on with that echoing in our ear.
The global pandemic has put a spotlight on the critical role of public health, something our next guest knows all too well. For two years, Andy
Slavitt served under President Obama as Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and recently he helped Senator
Bernie Sanders draft the Masks for All Bill which calls on the U.S. government to deliver free masks to all citizens. Here he is telling our
Hari Sreenivasan that trust is the missing link needed to tackle this pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNNI HOST: Christiane, thanks so much. And Andy, thanks for joining us. Let's start with a little bit of optimism if we can, in
this era. You wrote something recently saying it's not too late, we can still get on top of this - how?
SLAVITT: We should have reason to be optimistic. This virus is not - it's so mysterious at least when it's outside the body that the world hasn't
figured out how to move on with it and move on with their economy and not lose a lot of lives.
Just so, the fact that we haven't done it here in the U.S. yet doesn't mean we can't. And the truth is, most of the gifts that we need - most of the
tools that we need in order to do this, we were born with.
The only way we pass the virus along is to breathe near one another. So if we stop breathing near one another either by wearing masks, or staying home
for several weeks given the incubation period the virus dies because it has no place to go.
That would mean a period of time where we'd have - there would be some extended sacrifice, but it'd be a matter of weeks. But at the end of that
you can imagine we could walk our kids to school, we could vote in person, we could travel again, our economy could open up - we could hire. So I do
think as soon as we choose to, we have an opportunity to move back to closer to normal.
SREENIVASAN: So Andy, you've got this kitchen sick approach, highlight some of the big points for us.
SLAVITT: I think the first thing to do is sell the public on why four to five weeks of sacrifice because that's what we're talking about is in
everybody's best interest and I think I have that dialogue in an honest way that we really haven't had in this country. And to understand what that
would allow us to do on the other end of it.
We would be out of this, what I consider to be 70 percent existence and in to something where we don't have 1,000 people a day dying, we may be at
five or six people a day dying. And we have an economy that, with a couple of exceptions is really robust again.
So we have to have that dialogue and if people believe that that's the right course, and I think that if that's on the table many people might.
Then I think there's a few simple things and we know what they all are. It's universal mask wearing, it's making sure that people have safe space
to isolate so that people isolate at home and they can isolate in hotels if they can't isolate safely at home.
And the one difference from what happened in April is that in April we did what we thought was a shutdown, but in almost every state it was really
what I call a 50 percent shutdown, not what I would describe here as the 80 and 90 percent shutdown.
Meaning we defined about half of the people in the country as essential workers. The lower income people, people who are driving trucks, people who
are bringing food to the market, people who are delivering stuff to our door. And we would do a lot less of that if we really wanted to clamp down
on this virus.
SREENIVASAN: I mean, how do we even get to that place from where we are? I mean, I am talking to you from Florida. The positivity rates are up above
10 percent. I mean, you have roughly close to 10,000 people a day testing positive here. At that point I don't think that Florida or any state has
the ability to contact trace all 10,000 people that are testing positive every day.
SLAVITT: Well, New York did it and New York is where you were in Florida not that long ago. And so the question is how you manage the backside of
the peak. Florida, and Texas, and Arizona, Southern California - the southern states are soon to be peaking if not having peaked already, that's
The question there though is will they have a flat - excuse me, will they have a flattening out where they just don't go down very much and a very
long decline or will it be like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut where their drop was almost as fast as their rise.
And when that happens you have a situation where you have more than enough contact tracing, and testing, and so forth. So it does require active
management and active leadership which is why this is hard because you're asking people to sacrifice and you need leadership both at the federal and
the state level to do this. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't consider it.
SREENIVASAN: Well look, we in this particular state that I won't be in for that much longer, but there isn't (ph) kind of state leadership. I mean, if
it wasn't for a local city ordinance that said when you walk in to a business and even now I can walk in to a business and see people that are
not wearing masks, that don't believe the science about it, they think it's a hoax, they get in to altercations with the grocery store clerk about it.
I mean, it's just - there was a viral video the other day of a couple in, I want to say it was Minnesota were wearing swastika masks on their faces and
saying that this is the Nazi future that we're heading to if you vote for Joe Biden. I mean, everything has kind of - the lack of belief in science,
the politicization - all of it exists. So even if you could message clearly, how do you get through to these pockets of people?
SLAVITT: And the number one pushback I get from this, with being labeled a kitchen sink proposal is we're going to have to wait until Joe Biden's
president or until there's some other political leadership or some mood shift in the country. And my response to that is I don't think it's worth
sparing another - waiting to spare another 50,000 lives.
If President Trump - he's our president right now. My expectation of him is that he cares more about human life than he does about his own political
future. By the way, I think this would be good for his political future if he did this. But my expectation is beyond politics. We should expect all of
our political leaders to put us first. We hire and we pay for them.
And yes, I completely agree with you. We have a cultural - we have a set of cultural challenges in this country that are beyond politics. I don't just
put it on the politicians. Our virtues - our founding virtues and our distrust of government - independence, liberty, freedom - we have a
consumer economy. We have a want it now kind of - all of those things which in other times our virtues are real challenges to us now.
SREENIVASAN: How do you get to a point where everything seems to be looked at through a political lens? Whether it's mask wearing, whether it's what
expert you listen to, what channel you watch? I mean, I kind of come back to this importance of whether you're getting good information to base your
And people have sort of taken that for granted that information should be fair, that all of it is equal, that every opinion is the same and then we
have situations like a couple of days ago where you've got people in white lab coats pushing something that's scientifically not valid and it gets
amplified at the highest levels of government.
SLAVITT: Well look, I think it's taken us a couple of decades to erode what I think is a core missing ingredient in being able to take on this
coronavirus. And it's not cotton swabs, it's not reagents. It's actually trust - it's actually the ability to have trust in information and
institutions that can help lead us. Now, it's no secret that Trump won out of being an anti-institutionalist. And he has succeed in diminishing the
Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.
But understand that it's a complicated decision to understand how a drug trial works and whether a drug is effective. And that is why every American
isn't asked to decide for themselves. That's why we don't look at our favorite politician and say, which drug should I take?
We created a nonpolitical institution called the FDA, their job is to bring in the best scientists and the best research in the world to conduct very
well designed studies and to tell us what is safe and effective. They don't always get it right, but when they don't always get it right the job isn't
to diminish them and to listen to somebody else. I'm not expert in clinical trial studies and what's an effective or safe drug - but neither is
President Trump, neither is his daughter, or his son-in-law, neither is his son, neither is (ph) the people on Twitter, neither is your doctor or any
scientist - or the people that are experts, people we have hired to do this and when they get it wrong they fix it.
So we have to understand that these institutions we have are meant to take politics away from these decisions. We've set these institutions up for
that reason. The president and others - I don't just only blame him, but I put a lot of blame on him, has really eroded faith in these institutions by
making them far more political and then by criticizing and undermining them.
SREENIVASAN: So if I'm in a small town somewhere, let's say it's generally politically to the right or just doesn't trust the federal government as
much. What's your advice for local authorities who might actually still have some sway in helping their constituents their population - we're
talking down to like the sheriff level. What should they be doing, what should they be thinking about in the next couple months?
SLAVITT: Well so, two things. First of all I think we should regain a little bit of the empathy motion (ph) that we've lost in the country. And
by the way we don't just need to be empathetic to the people who are losing their lives and losing family members to coronavirus. If you're in a small
town and you've started a restaurant, and 20 years of your life went in to it and it closed because of coronavirus or you've lost a job, you deserve
And by the way, coronavirus - that is coronavirus to you. If you live in New York coronavirus may be the sirens (ph) and the people you've lost that
you know (ph). In a small town in South Dakota it's very much the economic hardship. And we ought to understand that that not everybody's coming from
a bad place.
The media will highlight the Nazis walking in to the store in Minnesota, but truly that doesn't represent America. What represents America is a lot
of fear, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of impatience that comes for situations like this. And so the truth is you have to listen to local
officials. You have to acknowledge when they say, look, the economic consequences are worse right now - the only thing I would ask in return
from a local official is that we have to have - they have to have the tools in place to know when the virus (inaudible).
So if they're - they have adequate testing of asymptomatic people and they have the ability to do contact tracing, and if there's an outbreak there
whether it be in a meat plant or somewhere else that within a day or two they're going to know and they can make adjustments.
If they don't have those tools, and this is the danger we're in now with community spread - you just have to kind of assume it's everywhere. When
you've got to wait eight days to get a test result you're completely blind, and so you can't give the break to the small town that deserves it and let
them go on their lives.
So the more of these tools we have, it's like putting brakes on a car. You put brakes on a car and you can drive it faster. Without brakes you're not
going to drive it very fast.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that this has revealed to us is all the different gaps in our existing healthcare system, our safety net, social
stratification, class distinctions - did we have a healthcare system that was ready for this?
SLAVITT: A good system in a crisis has a resilience to mitigate the damage. A bad system exacerbates the damage. And what we have had is a bad
system, and I'll give you a couple of examples. Thirty million people have lost their jobs, people's insurance is tied to their employment for many
people - 5 million people have lost their insurance in the middle of this crisis - that's a bad system. That tells us there's something wrong.
Second thing, we all pay premiums - or many of us pay premiums to insurance companies so that we can get the healthcare we need. When people stop going
to the doctor, doctors started losing money fast, hospitals started losing money fast - we weren't getting the healthcare we needed, but do you know
who did fine?
The insurance companies, made billions, and billions, and billions of extra dollars for doing nothing - that is not what's supposed to happen. That
means we have a broken payment system, that means the middle men or middle women that are standing in the middle are designing and operating the
system, so that's the profit piece.
And then the third thing that I pointed out, and maybe the most challenging and the most important is the inequity in the system. It's how healthcare
is available to you based upon your race, based upon your zip code, based upon your income, based upon a lot of factors that have nothing to do with
your health and so we have this widely disparate set of outcomes.
And so if we're going to take some of the lessons from the pandemic into making our country better, which I hope we do. Don't know if we will, but I
hope we do. We will focus on those three issues, and if it's .
SREENIVASAN: From being the fix-it guy from when healthcare.gov broke, and recognizing, again, a very small scale crisis compared to the one we're
facing now, what are the lessons learned from that that you can apply to this?
SLAVITT: The first thing is you've got to have one thing that matters the most. You're never going to fix anything if you're saying well this is
important but so is this, and so is this, and so is this - so you have to decide. Is getting rid of the pandemic and coronavirus and crushing the
curb (ph) the most important thing? Because if it's not - and you say yes, but also send your kids to school on time, you've got to send them there
September 1st. And also, I need to have my steaks delivered so I want to make sure that the meat plants don't close. Once you do that you've
basically said you're not going to - you're not going to get through the crisis.
Secondly, accountability. You need to have - be willing to say it is more important to me and I will fix this, and I will work to fix this. The
president, I think misunderstands something about the American public. The American public can take bad moves, if it's given straight, and it's given
with solutions the American public will respect you for putting it forward and solving the problem, and saying we're accountable. They may not like
you at that moment, but you will - it will help you get through it.
The president doesn't like to deliver bad news so we get a varying set of ideas, excuses, ignoring the problem when he can't - and there's only two
things that brings him to it one is if the stock market goes down, and the other is if his polls go down. And the public sense that.
And so, some of this, quite honestly isn't very hard. I mean, it has been done all over the world. It's impossible to do perfectly, but if you bring
empathy, accountability, and focus you can do pretty well. You're never going to look back at this and say it wasn't a difficult time, but you can
get a lot of credit for just doing those things.
SREENIVASAN: Andy Slavitt, thanks so much for joining us.
SLAVITT: Thank you.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: And that is it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.