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COVID Cases Spike in Greece; Turkey and Greece Conflict Over Mediterranean; Interview With Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek Prime Minister; E.U. Will Impose Sanctions on Belarus and Calls for New Elections; Interview With Igor Leshchenya, Belarusian Ambassador to Slovakia; Democrats Making Their Case for a Change in Government; Decency and Strong Leadership During COVID Crisis; Interview With Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez; Interview With Former White House Ebola Response Coordinator Ron Klain. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 19, 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 Democrats put leadership over the coronavirus top of their convention, I talk to party chair, Tom Perez.
Then, Greece took an early lead controlling the virus in Europe but it faces a new spike. The country's prime minister joins me.
And standing up for democracy in Belarus, I speak to the top diplomat who switched sides from Lukashenko to the protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON KLAIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR: If we don't have this disease under control, which we don't, and if we don't have a national
strategy to fight it, which we don't, then what's going to happen at colleges and universities is the same thing happening everywhere else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Our Walter Isaacson talks to Ron Klain, President Obama's former Ebola Czar and Joe Biden's former chief of staff.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Now, in America, they have recorded their lowest daily number of COVID cases since June, but the number of deaths is still holding steady at
around a 1,000 cases per day. Meanwhile, at their national convention, the Democrats continue to make their case for a change for government, citing
the need for decency and strong leadership during this crisis. And I'll speak to the party chairman in a moment.
But first to Europe where some countries look at the United States with a mixture of pity but mostly alarm. Greece took an early and successful
stance on combatting the virus with less than 250 deaths. But now, after opening up its vital tourism industry, cases have spiked again, and it
comes at a time of heightened tensions, with Turkey over oil exploration in the Mediterranean, and reports on a crackdown on migrants seeking refuge in
With me now to discuss all of this is the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He's joining us from Athens.
Prime minister, welcome back to the program.
KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, GREEK PRIME MINISTER: Christiane, thank you very much for having me on your program once again.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because you can see how the response to COVID is causing a huge uproar in the United States, and it's probably, you
know, the result of some of President Trump's dropping in the polls. What's happening with you? We first talked to you months ago and you've kind of
got it under control, but now you've got spikes with more than 7,000 cases. Are you going to have to go into lockdown again?
MITSOTAKIS: No, we'll not go into lockdown, Christiane. A spike is probably too aggressive a term to use. We've had an increases in daily
cases, are hovering around 200 per day, and we did expect an increase in cases as we opened up our economy and as we opened up the tourism.
I do need to point out that Greece still retains a very aggressive but also smart testing regime for people who actually come to Greece. So, we have a
sophisticated algorithm that allows us to selectively test people who come into Greece. But it is only normal as you open up your economy, as people
relax during the summer, that you will see cases increase. And we know exactly, you know, what happened, wherever you had, you know, sort of
intense entertainment, after-hours nightlife, that's where we saw clusters of cases.
So, we've put in some additional measures, which are the basic measures that we all know work, which is, you know, masking, social distancing, but,
of course, also protecting our elderly with a special care for our nursing homes, and we do hope that we will keep the cases hovering around a number
where we can easily manage them, because if they stay where they are, I'm not particularly concerned about the pressure on our health care system.
But, of course, the challenge is to also keep the economy as open as possible. We're trying to salvage whatever we can from our tourist season.
Greece is still, you know, a very safe destination for people to come and visit, and they will experience just a slightly different summer from the
one that they would have experienced in a different era. In some places, you know, nightclubs and bars will close at 12:00, but apart from that, the
tourist experience remains the same.
AMANPOUR: OK. Because so many of your neighboring countries are trying to deal with the situation as well, and everybody was putting so much hope in
the tourist season to jump-start sort of a dormant economy the past several months.
I want to ask you how the tensions with Turkey, which also has a tourist season, how the tensions over -- I guess it's a dispute over claims to oil,
claims to the territorial -- to waters over there, how that's affecting, you know, your coronavirus reaction and all the rest of it. What is going
on between you and Turkey?
MITSOTAKIS: Well, they're two separate issues, Christiane. What we've experienced over the past year, at least, since I -- since this government
came into par was an increased level of provocation by Turkey on various fronts. So, what we saw essentially happening last week is not a one-off
event. The recent disagreement with Turkey regarding the delimitation of our maritime results. And what we've told Turkey very openly is that we
should discuss as civilized neighbors, and if we can't resolve this issue, the two of us, we can always take it to the international court and have
the international court decide on our behalf.
But what we cannot tolerate is unilateral activity by Turkey claiming what we consider to be a Greek exclusive economic zone, and for Turkey to
challenge this premise by sending not just an exploration ship but also a significant number of military vessels to the area. What these risks is a
rapid escalation of tensions. We've had an incident last week where essentially two ships collided, and this is not exactly what we want to see
in the area. We'll, of course, always defend our sovereign rights, but we are never the ones who are actually seeking any escalation.
So, my message to Turkey is very simple, stop the provocations and let's start talking as civilized neighbors. We have just concluded a very
important agreement with Egypt where we essentially debilitated our maritime zones. This is an agreement that could serve as a blueprint for
other agreements in the region. But obviously, this cannot happen if we are engaged in sabre rattling and if we have to face, you know, every now and
then half of the Turkish fleet sailing in the Aegean or the Easter Mediterranean. That is not the way to conduct foreign policy and -- you
know, if we at least want to support international law and promote good neighborly relations.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to ask you what you hope to get in terms of support from the E.U. and from the United States, but in the meantime, Turkey's
response is this, we reject the claim that Turkey's exploration is illegal. Turkey merely defends its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots, under
international law against infringements by others. Greece is out of its depth in the Eastern Mediterranean. We favor dialogue but will defend our
rights at all costs.
So, you said you want dialogue, they're saying they want dialogue. Under all this sort of, I guess, talk and claims of sovereignty in those areas,
is there room to actually have dialogue?
MITSOTAKIS: Yes, there is room to have dialogue as long as we don't engage in any unilateral activity. What Turkey is doing is essentially behaving in
a manner that is not in accordance with international law. If Turkey considers these areas to be disputed, we can consider to be part of the
Greek exclusive economic zone, they should sit down and discuss about it. This is what we always proposed. What we cannot accept is a fait accompli
as a result of Turkish provocation.
And frankly, Christiane, this is not just my opinion because I don't think this is just a disagreement between two neighbors. I think this is a
challenge for Europe. It's a challenge for the world. I think that's why you see, you know, the French Navy at sea, that's why you see the E.U.
supporting both Greece and Turkey and condemning, you know, unilateral actions by -- supporting Greece and Cyprus condemning unilateral actions
against Turkey, and this is why you also see the United States essentially sending a very clear signal that the only way to resolve these conflicts is
by adhering to international law.
So, my feeling is that Turkey is extremely isolated in pursuing these policies, and again, this is a behavior that doesn't just threaten the
sovereign rights of Greece and Cyprus, it threatens the overall stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, hence, it is an issue of great concern for
Europe as a whole. It is also an issue of concern for NATO.
We are NATO allies, but Turkey doesn't behave in a matter conducive to what you would expect from an ally country. So, I've raised this issue with the
secretary general. I will raise it again within NATO. I think what we should refrain from in this context is unilateral activity that raises the
level of tension. But I need to repeat, Greece has never ever escalated first.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Sorry, I just wanted to ask you, because you have said the risk of an accident lies in wait when so many military forces gather in a
limited area. We know that your foreign minister is meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week. The E.U. is talking about how to deal with
this. What exactly do you want the U.S. to do or the E.U. to do? Are you looking for sanctions? Are you looking for the U.S. to intervene? Again, as
you say, you're all NATO allies.
MITSOTAKIS: Look, the U.S. has its own discussion going on regarding sanctions vis-a-vis Turkey. One should remind your audience that Turkey is
a NATO member, but at the same time it has purchased a very advanced Russian anti-aircraft system which jeopardizes, essentially, NATO air
assets. As far as the E.U. is concerned, we've been very, very specific. The E.U. has committed towards producing by the end of this month an option
paper describing a variety of sanctions that could be contemplated against Turkey should it continue down that path.
So, yes, if Turkey continues down that path, I think sanctions will be the only instrument that we will have to deter Turkey from further pursuing
these types of policies. Again, I really wish this wouldn't be the case. I really wish that Greece could be a bridge in helping Turkey reaching out
towards Europe and establish a more constructive relationship. This is exactly what I proposed to President Erdogan when I first met him last
September. But unfortunately, it has gone downhill since.
There is always room for Turkey to change its approach, but it should know that should it continue down that path, there will be consequences, and it
will jeopardize the overall nature of its relationship with Europe, because these types of challenges simply cannot remain unanswered. Not just by
Greece or Cyprus, but Europe as a whole.
AMANPOUR: Meantime, Prime Minister, I have to ask you about a report that was in the "New York Times" about allegations that you, your government,
has basically, secretly expelled more than a thousand refugees by taking them basically asylum seekers in about 31 separate explosions, sailing
people to the edge of Greek waters, abandoning them in unsafe life rafts which, as you know, is illegal under both international European law. Can
you tell me on the record, has this happened?
MITSOTAKIS: No, it has not. And I want to be very clear, Christiane, we've addressed this issue also last time we spoke. Greece has every right, as
every sovereign state, to defend its borders. We have a very tough but very fair border management policy. And these types of reports are also an
insult to our Coast Guard. Greek Coast Guard has saved literally tens of thousands of refugees and migrants at sea. And our islands have always
provided shelter to those in greater needs.
But I should remind you that at the beginning of March, Turkey decided to weaponize the whole migration problem, and it threatened Europe and it
threatened Greece to send tens of thousands of desperate people across the Greek border. At the time we said, no, this is not going to happen. We
defended our border. There were similar reports. All of these reports originated from the same source. You know, all the reports essentially
originate from Turkey. So, I would argue that some of these reporters who do these types of exploratory journalism should be more careful in checking
their sources. Again, I want to make it very clear.
AMANPOUR: Prime minister, the "New York Times."
AMANPOUR: I know you've read the article, but the "New York Times" has cited three independent watchdogs and two academic researchers as well as,
as you correctly say, the Turkish Coast Guard.
MITSOTAKIS: Yes. So, we've answered to the "New York Times," and again, we are always on the watch, and if there is ever, Christiane, an incident of
behavior that is not in line with what we have told our coast guard to do, it will be investigated. But again, it is sort of strange that the finger
is pointed at Greece when we know exactly what has been happening over the past months and how migrants and refugees, desperate people were
essentially weaponized by Turkey.
And it is also very, very, very clear to me, and this was actually stated in the answer that we sent to the "New York Times," that all these people
who seek asylum in Greece come from a country that is safe for them. They're not in any danger in Turkey. For them, Turkey is a safe
destination. So, I do need to point out that when it comes to Turkey managing information, we've been victims of a significant misinformation
But, again, if there is any incident that needs to be, you know, explored, if there is any exaggeration at any given point, I'm going to be the first
man to look into it. Greece is a country that respects the rule of law. We have granted asylum to tens of thousands of people. A lot of them will find
their way into Greek society, they will be properly integrated. We are working with Europe on a new migration and refugee pact. We want Europeans
to be partners of this effort. We don't want to be left alone managing this problem.
We've actually been the first country to organize returns to countries of origin with IOM, the International Organization for Migration. So, we have
a comprehensive migration and refugee strategy which, yes, at its premise, has the need to protect both our land and our sea borders.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Mitsotakis, thank you so much for joining us.
And now, we turn to Belarus where President Alexander Lukashenko still clings to power after claiming victory in elections that were widely
condemned as fraudulent. After the brutal crackdown on protesters there, the E.U. says that it will impose sanctions on those responsible for
"violence, repression and election fraud," and its call for new elections.
Lukashenko says no to new elections, unless, "you kill me." But his support appears to be slipping away. One of Lukashenko's his senior diplomats have
defected to the democracy activists. He is ambassador to Slovakia, Igor Leshchenya. And he's joining me now from Bratislava.
Ambassador, welcome to the program.
I wonder if you can tell me at what point you decide to do break with your government and -- from a high position and turn towards those who were
seeking democracy in your country.
IGOR LESHCHENYA, BELARUSIAN AMBASSADOR TO SLOVAKIA: I followed the news, I followed the medias, I followed the very terrible videos of tortures and
the use of force against demonstrators. It was really sound horrible. The matter is that one of the features of national character of Belarusians.
That was why all society will show, and of course I will show also.
And of course, some more or less (INAUDIBLE) motivation was added. In one of the (INAUDIBLE) bruises with the classmate of my daughter (INAUDIBLE)
who never goes least in trouble. So, it was over -- of my personal, my civic perception of the events and personal reasons.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, Ambassador, you are, you know, a single, high-level ambassador to do this. What do you think is going to happen?
Lukashenko does not look like he's ready to call a new election, certainly not ready to step down. He says, over my dead body. What's going to happen
next in Belarus? What are you expecting next?
LESHCHENYA: As for reaction Mr. Lukashenko, unfortunately, I have a gloomy processes (ph). He lives in his predigma (ph), all style predigma (ph). He
is (INAUDIBLE). Belarusians, the unfaithful children who may change the decision. But there is one very important, led me to say, crucial provision
for better development in Belarus.
Yesterday, if I do not mistake, there was proclaimed about the creation of so-called condemnation council. But now, I do not think that they are
representatives of the people. Now, they may be a secretariat of the people. There is one more issue, I'm sorry, they're connected. The matter
is, is that I am the only, more or less, high-ranking official not only abroad but inside the country who made an open statement.
Do you know why? Of course, the government officials, government in place, they are very cautious. And do you know when they will undertake their
decision? It is important to push the government officials to join the moment. They will make a decision when it will be see, when they will
proved that there is a very strict connection between peaceful manifestation, peaceful marches between the strikes committee, between
civic society and between -- I'm sorry, and with some definite leaders of this society.
Now, I do not see this strong chain. There is evidence that mainly strikes in the factories, proved. I see it's now long, for one or two days, proved
the government to make step behind, to stop using force. It is next to impossible to wait for weeks of manifestation. Each of the demonstrators is
a human being. He's unable to walk along the streets with national flags during the weeks or months. I think this is the goal. And when this link
will be created, the link between manifestaters (ph), between workers and their strike committees, between civil societies. And --
AMANPOUR: I need to ask you a question.
AMANPOUR: I need to ask you a question. Do you think that President Putin would intervene for Lukashenko? Are you concerned about what Russia might
LESHCHENYA: Intervene, very interesting word. 24 years ago, Russia's high- ranking officials acted, like me, the aiders between the former parliament and president. Some attempts of creation, maybe. But very often I was asked
about use of force. I do not think that we should wait for some military intervention. I do not think that we should wait something like events in
Crimea or (INAUDIBLE).
AMANPOUR: And do you think the protests will continue?
LESHCHENYA: I think they will continue, but it's impossible for protesters to demonstrate the real (INAUDIBLE). I think civic society has at least one
week, maybe two. After two weeks, everything may come down. That this is why I pin my hopes on establishing this cooperation, this connection.
Because the uniqueness of the situation, we do not have leaders. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is not a leader. She is a symbol and her program was created
for only holding new elections.
We know nothing about the most prominent candidates because they were not registered. If they were not registered, it means that they did not have
possibility to proclaim their programs. It was a mass movements against, and now the main goal is to create this -- to turn this movement into the
movement for Samson (ph), for some common values, for the right of voting.
AMANPOUR: All right.
LESHCHENYA: And by the way, there is a need to preserve all the (INAUDIBLE) in the time of Lukashenko.
AMANPOUR: OK. Ambassador, we're very grateful for you talking to us about what's going on. Everybody is looking at the struggle for democracy, and it
was good to get your perspective. Thank you.
And now, with COVID-19 forcing Joe Biden to deliver his acceptance speech virtually, we get a unique perspective on both the pandemic and Biden
himself with our next guest. Ron Klain was President Obama's Ebola Czar and before that, he was Vice President Biden's chief of staff, and he remains
one of his closest advisers. Here he is now telling our Walter Isaacson how Biden would marshal the nation to defeat the virus and why he is the man
for the top job now.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank, Christiane. And Ron Klaim, welcome to the show.
RON KLAIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thanks, Walter. Thanks for having me.
ISAACSON: You were the Ebola Czar. What thing did you do to get that under control that might be less interest today?
KLAIN: Well, first of all, we really started with a whole of government response, really throwing everything we could at it. In that case, the
disease was largely overseas. We needed to do some preparations here in the U.S., it was an international response that we were part of. But I think
the most important thing we did differently was we put science first. President Obama made it very clear that while I was coordinating the
logistics of the response, trying to get organized, making it happen, that the strategy came from people like Tony Fauci and from Tom Friedman and
Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Nicky Lurie, who ran the preparedness unit at HHS.
We had medical experts determining what the strategy should be, and we took their advice and direction. I think, from the start here, President Trump
has allowed kind of politics and political imperatives to suppress the science. He has denied the threat. That's another big difference, which is
that President Obama was very candid with the American people about the fact we had a big Ebola problem in Africa, we were going to see some cases
in the U.S., we needed to get ready for it, we needed to get our system prepared for it, we needed to screen, we needed to test, we needed to get
hospitals ready, we needed to buy equipment, and we went and did those things.
President Trump's approach from early on has been to deny that there was a problem, saying it was going to go away, say it would go away like a
miracle. We didn't assume Ebola it was going to go away like a miracle. We assumed it would go away when it got hot. We fought that disease every day
in West Africa with preparations in the U.S. to get it under control and eventually extinguish that epidemic.
ISAACSON: What are the biggest failures happening right now in the coronavirus response?
KLAIN: Well, I think the biggest failure, if you had to summarize in a sense, is a lack of a national strategy. And we're facing a global
pandemic, and the president has basically walked off the field and said it's up to each state to sort out. So, we have 50 state testing strategies,
50 tracing strategies, you know, 50 strategies on PPE and protective gear, shutting down and opening up schools, which has left every one of these
states on their own. And that's no way to fight a challenge like this.
We need national leadership, we need national strategy, we need the unique tools that only the federal government can muster to face a challenge like
the one we're facing.
ISAACSON: Bill Gates on this show said that the CDC should be having one website and one strategy to do testing, get testing out and get results
back quickly. Would that be possible?
KLAIN: I think it would be possible. Whether or not it should be the CDC or some other entity in the federal government, there are lots of ways to
structure it. You could have a special agency do it. Vice President Biden, for example, has called for a pandemic testing board that would sit above
all other agencies to organize the strategy.
But Mr. Gates is absolutely right. What we need is a coordinated federal strategy to drive testing and to drive tracing. I mean, testing is just one
part of this, Walter, it's a critical part, no question. But once we have the results, we need to do something with the results. And that involves
what epidemiologists called contact tracing. If you or I test positive, we want to know who we were in contact with, who should be isolated, who we
should make sure they're not spreading the disease to others. That's a lot of hard work.
Vice President Biden has called for 100,000 contact tracers coast to coast to do that work, and that also has to go hand in hand with the testing.
ISAACSON: How would we increase the critical supplies to make it work better? What would you have done?
KLAIN: So, one thing the president could have done as early as March was invoke the Defense Production Act, which is a legal authority the president
has to require the private sector to produce more goods. One of the problems here is, in the absence of the federal government ordering and
paying for all these testing supplies, private companies said, you know, I keep hearing that these new tests will come online, I keep hearing that
we'll get these instant tests, new saliva tests, new antigen tests, and so, I don't want to make all this stuff for the old tests because no one will
buy it, right?
And so, the private sector hasn't really ramped up to the extent that it could. The answer should have been back in March, even back in February,
frankly, the president to use his legal authority to say, the federal government will buy the testing supplies, the federal government will buy
the equipment, the federal government will buy the chemicals and pay for the manufacturer so we will have enough of it. The private sector
incentives aren't right by themselves. This is the kind of crisis that requires real intervention by the federal government.
ISAACSON: Down here at Tulane, where I teach, we're bringing students back carefully day after day in waves, testing them, and trying to make it work
with hybrid classes and online.
But the University of North Carolina, which also tried to do it carefully, just had to shut down the campus itself and go totally online.
What's your level of concern as colleges across the country return?
RON KLAIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Well, I think there should be a level of concern about it.
I think that -- again, I think that educational institutions, I know, are trying to do the right thing, trying to balance their educational
priorities with the need of keeping students and faculty and staff safe.
It's going to be a big challenge, because, frankly, colleges and universities, they don't exist separately from our society. They're not a
separate island. And unlike the National Basketball Association, you cannot put them in a bubble completely and isolate them, in the way that the NBA
has successfully isolated itself.
So they're exposed to and vulnerable to the same things that are going wrong with our country as a whole. If we don't have this disease under
control, which we don't, and if we don't have a national strategy to fight it, which we don't, then what's going to happen at colleges and
universities is the same thing that's happening everyplace else, which is, the disease will continue to spread.
We won't have enough procedures, testing, tracing in place to get it under control. And I think that's the challenge that colleges and universities
are facing. They're part of the society. They don't exist separate from.
ISAACSON: New Zealand just locked down parts of Auckland because there were 29 cases discovered.
ISAACSON: Do you think we should try in this country to have such measures where you can quickly try to shut down any outbreak?
KLAIN: Well, I think we need an actual strategy around fighting COVID.
And that strategy -- a number of countries have done it differently, but what they have all done it successfully by having a clear, focused
For example, last week, Vice President Biden called for a national -- nationwide masking mandate to have every one of the states, not just most,
but every one of the states have masking mandatory when we are around other people.
And that's a strategy that's worked in some countries. I think potentially selectively shutting down places where they're seeing flare-ups is a
strategy that has worked in some countries.
Certainly, much more robust testing and tracing regimes have worked in some countries. And, in the meantime, the federal government is providing no
guidance or reversing guidance. We have seen our schools, the Centers for Disease Control at first issue guidelines about how to open schools safely.
Then the political figures and administration said, oh, that's just too rigorous, it's too tough.
The president spent a month saying, basically, that the CDC guideline shouldn't be a barrier to reopening, and then withdrew the CDC guidelines
and had the CDC issue new, much more vague guidelines.
So I don't think it's a question of which of these strategies work. It's about having a strategy that is up to the challenge. And we don't have that
ISAACSON: You were chief of staff to Vice President Biden once and you have been a longtime adviser to him.
Tell me about what it's like to brief him and talk to him about coronavirus.
KLAIN: Well, he's been very engaged right since the start.
All the way back in January, he wrote an op-ed in "USA Today," warning about the potential pandemic, warning that the president wasn't ready for
it. He reiterated those warnings in February, again, when few other political figures were talking about the coronavirus threat, saying that
the Chinese government wasn't being transparent, wasn't allowing our people on the ground in the right places, at a time when President Trump was busy
praising the Chinese government's handling of this.
And throughout this, he's been outspoken, he's been engaged. He gets briefed regularly by leading scientists in the field. Those briefings are
led by Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the FDA, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general of the United States. He has an entire team of
experts that he consults regularly.
I'm sure by Vice President Biden is spending more time getting briefed by experts about COVID than the president is. That's the kind of person he was
when he was in the White House, in terms of getting his intelligence briefings and taking threats like this to the American people very
Look, as the vice president has been very candid about saying, the president can't keep bad things from happening. The president can't say
that nothing bad will ever happen on his or her watch.
But what the president can do is two things, which is to really be fully engaged and respond and to take responsibility when things go wrong. And
President Trump's done neither of those two things. Joe Biden would do both of those things.
ISAACSON: The Trump campaign's latest ads depict Joe Biden as being addled, getting old, no longer mentally totally with it.
You deal with him quite a bit. How would you counter that?
KLAIN: I counter that by saying that, obviously, he's very on top of things. And the American people will see this for themselves. They have
seen this for themselves.
He gave a speech last week where he announced the selection of his running mate, Senator Harris, and everyone in America could watch that speech and
make their own assessment of Vice President Biden's capacity and his sharpness. I think he seemed very capable and very sharp.
He is when we talk to him about issues, whether that's COVID, or the economy, or the racism crisis. The American people will get to see the vice
president again firsthand during the convention and, of course, ultimately, in the fall.
They will see him go one-on-one with President Trump in three debates. And I think they can compare head to head which of these two men has more
capacity and capability to be president of the United States. And I'm very confident how that will come out.
ISAACSON: There's some criticism too of the vice president for what are called the basement tapes, that he seems to be hunkered down, that he's not
Will he be able to get out there more?
KLAIN: Well, he has said that he is going to conduct his campaign in a way that's responsible and that's safe.
And so he has been doing speeches, but obviously in socially distanced settings. He has been visiting places in a very responsible way.
I will tell you what he's not going to do, Walter. He is not going to do events, like President Trump did in Tulsa, where he basically created like
a super-spreader event, where, like, we have seen a bunch of COVID spread as a result of that. He's not going to do things that put people at risk by
virtue of his campaigning.
And so, yes, it is going to be -- I mean, I love campaigns. I love the events. I love the rallies. I love going to them. I love being a staffer at
them. That's not what the fall is going to look like.
Will he travel? Yes, as he has. Will he appear in places? Yes, as he has.
But it is going to be a very different kind of campaign, at least on the Biden side, because we're not going to spread this disease in the interest
of politics. He's going to act responsibly, like anyone should.
ISAACSON: In the convention, for all the way it's being done by Zoom, isn't there something wrong when there's no crowd reactions?
I mean, there's definitely something lost by not being able to do the kind of convention we have. There's something lost by not being able to send our
children to school safely. There's something lost by not being able to watch football games this fall.
There's -- this country has lost a lot because of Donald Trump's mismanagement of the COVID crisis. And, of course, it's lost more than
170,000 lives, most poignantly.
I think, on that list of losses, the absence of cheering crowds in a convention hall is not on the top of the list. But, sure, I would much
rather be in Milwaukee right now in the hall, seeing old friends and seeing people react to it, and having the kinds of amazing experiences that a
political convention is.
This is that. And -- but I think, in that way, it's very fitting of what we're going through as a country. And the kind of convention we're seeing
from the Democrats and that we will see from the Republicans is, sadly, the product of the Trump administration's mismanagement of this crisis.
Now. We're going to make lemonade out of lemons. And I think we are putting on a very strong convention program with the limitations that we have.
ISAACSON: Joe Biden's known very well for being able to walk across the aisle.
What compromises would he make? What would he give up in order to get a new coronavirus relief bill?
KLAIN: Well, I mean, first and foremost, Walter, he would start by sitting down and talking to the leaders in both parties and trying to put this
I mean, you can't pass legislation standing in a sand trap at the Bedminster Country Club. That's not the way you're going to get things
And what I can tell you and what Joe Biden would be doing is to be meeting with the Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, trying to find
a way to get a package passed. And I'm pretty confident that he would get that done.
But we all know what needs to happen here, right? We need to fix the post office and get it funded to resolve that crisis that Trump's created.
And then, on COVID, we know what we need to do. We know that we need to get aid to the people who are hurting. We need to get aid to state and local
governments that are strapped by the consequences of this. We need to make sure that businesses have the tools they need to reopen safely with the
right gear and right protections, right reconfigurations.
We need to make sure our schools have the support they need to be able to teach people, either remotely, where that has to be, or to the extent they
can do in-person instruction, with safety protection for the teachers in the schools.
So, those are the basic things that need to happen. I don't think it's that complicated. But it requires presidential leadership. And the president
simply golfing and tweeting is not going to get that done.
ISAACSON: Do you think the original Payroll Protection Program shortchanged Main Street? And, if so, what would Biden do about that?
KLAIN: Well, first of all, we know that the money didn't go to all the places it should have. We know that some people got who shouldn't have
We know that a lot of businesses, particularly minority-oriented businesses, didn't get -- didn't get their loans approved under that.
So, I think making sure that the aid to business really gets to Main Street, really gets to the people who are hurting is an important thing
that Vice President Biden has emphasized. He's also emphasized something that our businesses really need, particularly smaller businesses that are
struggling to reopen.
They need special aid to help reopen. People who are trying to reopen and put up Plexiglas shields, who are trying to equip their workers with the
right protective gear, they need help to do that. They need both clear guidance about that, and they need financial help to do that. And that's
the kind of help Joe Biden would provide.
I think the thing I hear most often...
AMANPOUR: That was Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Joe Biden, talking about his leadership should he become president.
So now we're going to talk to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, who's joining us from Wisconsin, from Milwaukee,
where the actual convention should have taken place.
Tom Perez, tell me how you think it's going so far. And what is the main message you're trying to pump out there?
TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, it's an unconventional convention.
And at the same time, I think it's a really exciting convention. Our main message is uniting the country. This isn't simply a convention for
Democrats. It's a convention for all Americans.
It's a convention in which they're going to see the stark contrast between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the one hand, and Donald Trump. They have
already seen the diverse quilt that is the Democratic Party, that is America. They have seen leaders who've stepped up, in the absence of
leadership from Donald Trump, whether it's Governor Cuomo, Governor Whitmer.
They have seen everyday Americans who are ordinary people who've done extraordinary things. We have heard from Michelle Obama, who really made a
very cogent case and a compelling case about Donald Trump, frankly, not being the man for the moment. He is unsuited.
And what we're seeing and what you will see tonight and tomorrow is again the case for Joe Biden, a person of compassion, a person of empathy, a
person of accomplishment, a person with a bold vision to build back a better America, a person whose first decision was historic in putting
Kamala Harris on the ticket.
And so I think there's been a lot of excitement. I'm hearing so much good feedback about our roll call across America, where people got to see so
much of what makes America great. And we have got two more nights, and we're coming out of this with even more momentum moving forward to send a
very clear message that we need a new direction.
We need a president who understands crisis management, so that we can tackle the pandemic of COVID, the economic collapse and our civil rights
pandemic. And Joe Biden is, indeed, along with Kamala Harris, they are indeed the people for the moment.
AMANPOUR: Tom Perez, obviously, there's been a big show of unity here at, at least the first several nights of the convention.
And what do you think, though, going further, after -- let's say, after the election, in terms of unity, because there's also a lot of talk about still
trying to reconcile the progressive with the more moderate wing of the Democrat Party.
And some of her supporters would have liked to have seen AOC get more time to speak. Just address some of the questions that people have had about
perhaps you should put some more young people, some more progressives, instead of so many Republicans, for instance.
PEREZ: Well, I think we have had everybody. We have had -- look at last night, for instance, the 17 elected officials who were making the case for
What a remarkably talented, diverse set of young leaders who are going to be our future senators and governors and perhaps presidents. We have seen
throughout this, throughout the convention, and you will see it tonight and tomorrow, our diversity in action, our accomplishment in action.
And that is something I'm really proud of.
Joe Biden believes in what Ted Kennedy taught me, which is, politics is about arithmetic. Addition beats subtraction every single day of the week.
And you look at the broad array of support that Vice President Biden and Kamala Harris have, I think that bodes well.
And you asked a question about the unity of the convention. It's not simply unity that occurred a week ago. We had two dozen, roughly, candidates for
president. They all took a -- they all took a very clear pledge: I'm in it to win it. And if I don't win it, I am going to be full-throatedly behind
And we have had that since last April. We are a far cry from where we were four years ago. We have made so much progress. And we all recognize that
our unity is our greatest strength and Donald Trump's worst nightmare.
Now, unity doesn't mean unanimity. And debate doesn't mean division. We will continue to have debate about issues. But we have such a fundamental
agreement on the core values, such as the need for health care for all, the need to make sure that, if you have a preexisting condition, you can keep
your coverage, the need to address these crises by listening to the science, by understanding how we can only build back the economy if we fix
the pandemic, and by building a Cabinet and an America that really looks like an America.
Donald Trump has failed all of these critical tests of leadership.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, beyond the presidential election, which is obviously very important, of course -- I think you all hope to not only
keep the House, but flip the Senate -- what about on the state level?
Republicans have historically been very, very attentive to the state legislatures, and spending a lot of money. They want to keep control.
That's where a lot of policy is made.
How much investment, so to speak, have the -- are you confident or comfortable with the level of investment the Democratic Party has made on
trying to flip a lot of the state legislators and trying to exert the same kind of influence that the Republicans try to do?
PEREZ: It's impossible to overstate the importance of that question. And our mission at the Democratic National Committee is to elect Democrats up
and down the ticket, from the school board to the Oval Office.
And since 2017, we have been focused like a laser on that. We have flipped 400 seats in state legislatures. We have flipped 10 state legislative
chamber since 2017.
In 2018, when we flipped eight governor's residence, the last time that many residences -- governor's residences were flipped from red to blue was
1982. If we can flip 49 seats in 10 legislative chambers, we flip those chambers.
So, for instance, Arizona is a place where we are focused like a laser. And I think Joe Biden can win the state. I think Mark Kelly can win the Senate
seat. And I think that, if we -- and we could win a number of congressional seats as well.
If we flip two seats in the state House of Representatives and three seats in the state Senate, we flip those chambers. And the reason that your
question is so important is that, next year, the folks who are in -- running those state senates and state houses are going to be redistricting
the map for the next 10 years.
And, again, the fact that we have flipped 10 chambers over the last three years and have an opportunity to flip another 10 is going to be
indispensable to our success. If we can flip the House of Representatives in Texas, and we're working really hard to do that, that will fundamentally
alter the redistricting map for the next 10 years, because they have gerrymandered the heck out of that, the Republicans.
And the only thing way for us to counter that is by flipping the House. And that's what we're working on.
AMANPOUR: We will be watching.
Tom Perez, thank you very much for joining us.
Now we turn to CNN political director David Chalian.
David, welcome to the program.
You are a nuts-and-bolts man, a nuts-and-bolts political reporter. You just heard what Tom Perez said, not about the obvious big kahuna, the
presidential election, but what needs to happen on a state level.
How do you assess the Democrats' chances of doing what the Republicans have been so good at, pouring money in and getting control of so much on the
local and state level?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, as party chairman, that is Chairman Perez's job, right? It is -- it can't just be about the
presidential for him, even though that is where so much of the -- so many of the resources, Christiane, as you know, goes in a presidential year, to
that top-of-the-ticket race.
But, listen, the environment is obviously very good for Democrats. We saw them make a ton of progress in the 2018 midterms.
Remember, I think, in the Obama years, Christiane, Democrats lost some 900 state legislative seats at the state legislative level. And, in 2018, they
made some progress in making that back up, in addition to winning the majority in the House of Representatives.
So, if, indeed, the environment remains as positive come this November as it is right now for Democrats, you could see them make up more ground
across all levels of government.
AMANPOUR: And what do you make -- I mean, you have been following this a long, long time. What do you make of the convention?
We all know it's different. But, in your sort of opinion, do you think it's succeeding? Is it surprisingly doing well, or what -- how do you reckon?
CHALIAN: Well, certainly, viewers are tuning in, right, all across every kind of device that they have to consume this stuff. So, I'm sure the
Democrats are quite pleased with the viewership that they're getting.
And I think that, once you're past the initial awkwardness of the virtual sensibility of it all, as you said, that it's different, I do think they
are making strides in getting a lot of the key frames, whether it's the anti-Trump frame that Michelle Obama was very high-impact in delivering, or
it's the sort of Biden, the man, learning the character of the man, full of empathy and a decent man who's trying to sort of return to some sense of
normalcy. Jill Biden gave that last night.
I think, tonight, you're going to see Barack Obama, who's going to be delivering his speech live from Philadelphia from the Museum of the
American Revolution, a setting that is, according to aides that our colleague Jeff Zeleny just spoke with and reported, is designed to set the
stakes for this election, that the very democracy is at stake.
And so that's how former President Obama is going to sort of frame his remarks tonight, as he supports the Biden/Harris ticket.
But, as you know, the real success or failure of this is going to come tomorrow night, when Joe Biden accepts the nomination, goes before the
country in the largest audience he's probably had to date in his career, and make the case for why Donald Trump should be fired and the American
people should hire him.
AMANPOUR: It's funny.
You almost put it in the way President Clinton said, that this is a job interview for the biggest job in the country and the biggest job, I guess,
in the world, if you consider America is the only superpower.
Let me ask you about polling. I think all political reporters are gun-shy of saying anything about polling. But where do you see it landing right
now? And is there potentially a sense of complacency? Or do you think the enthusiasm is being sufficiently whipped up, from their perspective, by the
CHALIAN: Well, we see enthusiasm for this election across all the polling that's out there, Christiane, and, by the way, for both Republicans and
Democrats. It's sky-high.
We just had a poll out in the last couple days showing an unprecedented level, since we have been asking about your sort of level of interest in
the election and enthusiasm for it, unprecedented high level. A majority of Americans are extremely enthusiastic about this election at this stage of
That's the highest metric that we have. And we haven't seen it that high going back to 2003 or so, when we have been asking this question. So I do
think -- and that's across the board, Republicans and Democrats.
I do think you're going -- what that portends is potentially a very high turnout election. Now, of course, add in all the complications that may
come with voting in the COVID era, and so many people voting by mail, early, absentee, if it is record turnout, and all of these paper mail
ballots need to be counted, and the local elections officials are not quite equipped to get that count quickly, we should anticipate it may take some
time to actually learn the results of the election.
AMANPOUR: So, that's going to be a whole new thing as well.
Of course, there was time between the election and the final, final result in 2000, went to the Supreme Court eventually.
CHALIAN: Thirty-six days.
AMANPOUR: But the post office, the postmaster general -- yes, painful days -- the postmaster general has said that he's not going to do any of the
reforms or changes that had created such a public uproar, and that the post office and the staff and everything will remain the same, it will be
capable of doing it.
The question really is, do you think enough of the local officials have put in enough, I don't know, kind of channels to be able to deal and to
condition or, rather, tell people that there's -- there might be a wait, there might be a gap, you have to wait potentially this time, and to try to
fend off what President Trump -- well, actually, not even him, but his staff have -- basically, they keep saying, well, we're not going to make a
comment on whether he will leave or not if he loses.
CHALIAN: It's a good question about the local elections officials.
Remember, some of them have had a little bit of practice, because we were still going through the primary season when COVID hit, when the shutdowns
happened, when people started needing to vote differently and doing more so by mail in March and April and May and June, and many primaries got
extended into July.
So, some states have had one round of practice and are putting in different safeguards in place to make sure that their local elections officials can
But we have seen that a lot of states have had a tough time. I mean, New York, it took them six weeks to count their ballots in the primary election
that happened in June. We didn't learn the results until end of July, beginning of August.
So, this is going to be a complicated election season, like we haven't seen before.
AMANPOUR: It's incredible.
Thank you for your insights, David Chalian.
And, finally tonight, a sweet new discovery. Researchers at Oxford University say that honey may be a better treatment for coughs and colds
than conventional medications. A home remedy used around the world of course, honey's healing properties have now been clinically shown to help
upper respiratory tract infections.
Cheap and readily available, it has virtually no side effects either. And scientists claim that the -- quote -- "nectar of the gods" could one day
become a safer and more effective alternative to commonly prescribed antibiotics.
And that is it for now. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.