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Interview With Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz; Interview With Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA). Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 9, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Europeans might rest a bit easier tonight, as E.U. leaders broke through a major hurdle, moving a budget deal with COVID stimulus funds a step closer
to reality. In a moment, we will hear from the Austrian chancellor about getting relief to his own citizens before they are left out on the street.
But, in the United States, Americans desperate for help are looking to their leaders, and not seeing much.
Here are the Senate majority and minority leaders discussing COVID relief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Compromise is within reach. We know where we agree. We can do this. Let me say it again. We can do this, and we need to
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): For some reason, in the midst of this generational crisis, Republican Leader McConnell does not seem inclined to
compromise, to actually get something done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, amid all the politicking, what actually is going to happen for the people who need it the most?
We're going to talk right now to the California Congresswoman Katie Porter, who has made a name for herself as a fierce advocate for the everyday
American, using her legal chops and trusty whiteboard.
Porter has doggedly questioned the powerful. Many of those moments, of course, have gone rival -- viral, rather.
AMANPOUR: And she is joining me now from Irvine, California.
Congresswoman Porter, I don't know. Rival, viral, I must have been having some different thoughts out there.
But tell me something. Are you any closer? Is there actually room for a deal, as Mitch McConnell says, or, as is being said in Washington right
now, actually, there's no closer -- that you're no closer to actually coming to a deal?
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): What's really important for people to understand is that Democrats and Republicans have a lot of agreement here.
The problem is one particular Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell. And, so, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans House Democrats, House Republicans
agree on the need to fund small business loans, on the need to support hospitals and essential workers and get help to families who desperately
Senator McConnell is the sole holdout.
AMANPOUR: Can we just -- just tell us, for clarity, what is actually not on offer, but what you're trying to bring to the table? It's a big stimulus
bill with COVID relief.
How much is involved here, and where would it go to?
PORTER: Well, Democrats and Republicans have agreed on to do about $900 billion in assistance right now.
And I think it's really important that we start to refer to this as what it is, which is survival payments, disaster relief, in light of the COVID
situation. This isn't stimulus in any sense that we think our economy or the American people are suddenly going to be all better.
This is really about survival, about dealing with the consequences of the uncontrolled pandemic that we find ourselves in.
So, the sticking point here isn't the number, the dollar figure. I think everybody can agree that we can do some now and some later. The sticking
point here is that Mitch McConnell is trying to pass -- to change the law, so that corporations could literally kill their employees and face no
liability for their reckless actions.
AMANPOUR: Congresswoman, I just want to play a couple of sound bites from some of these people who are very, very afraid of what's going to happen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pandemic wasn't my fault. Being laid off wasn't my fault. I'm not ashamed that I have to rely on the system that I have
paid into for years.
It's just frustrating that it's not equipped for what we're dealing with right now.
SHAYLYNN WEBB, FACING EVICTION: It's just really overwhelming and scary, because we don't know what's going to happen in there. They could say we
got to move out in a week. And we don't know.
CLAIRE BABINEAUX-FONTENOT, CEO, FEEDING AMERICA: America is right in the middle of a food crisis, absolutely, no question. And what I want your
audience to keep in mind is, for every one of those cars, there are tens of millions of people who don't make it to that line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, what -- I mean, look, you're a congresswoman. You represent people in your area, in your district.
What are the worse-off going to face? We heard a little bit in those sound bites, but paint a picture for us, if this doesn't happen. And there's
apparently only a few days, just over a week, for this congressional session.
PORTER: Well, let's be clear. People have already been struggling and suffering. We have lines hundreds of cars in food bank lines right here in
Orange County. I have been loading food into cars.
We should have passed a bill to help people months ago. And House Democrats put forward a bill back in July, because it was needed then. And so that --
yes, there are some programs expiring at the end of the year, like expanded unemployment insurance, protections from evictions. It's really important
that we don't allow those to expire, that we don't force people to be worried right through the Christmas holiday about losing housing, about not
having money to pay for food.
But COVID isn't going to go away in the next two weeks or in the next month or in the next two months. So, we need to pass a bill that's big enough to
actually provide help to get us through this pandemic until we can begin to have widespread, safe and effective vaccination.
AMANPOUR: OK, so you have just called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And let me just -- let me just ask you to explain to us, because
he's saying that there is a way forward.
He weighed in yesterday, trying to break the impasse, he said, and proposes taking both state and local aid and liability protections off the table for
further consideration and moving ahead on everything else.
You have called this basically corruption in real time. Why do you use that kind of word?
PORTER: Well, because what he's proposing to do is to fail to meet the need of the American people.
When we hear him saying, well, take state and local off the table, let's understand what state and local relief means. It means that workers
continue to get paychecks. It means that we stave off widespread layoffs in our school system of essential public health workers, of first responders.
It means that the state local governments won't have resources to continue to fund those food banks and to provide assistance for people. The fact
that he is holding up disagreement over wanting to pass a corporate -- quote -- "liability shield," this is really a license to kill that he's
trying to push forward here.
He's holding up the entire package over this. There is no -- he should drop this effort at trying to shield big corporations. The legal standard
already is very protective of businesses. And, in fact, as of today, there are more election lawsuits brought by Trump about the presidential election
than there are medical malpractice or personal injury COVID lawsuits in the country.
This is not a real problem that he's trying to solve. It's a giveaway to big corporations who fund his campaign.
AMANPOUR: And so, on the other -- on the other side of the coin, you have obviously heard people complain that perhaps the speaker of the House, your
leader, Nancy Pelosi, may be holding to too tough a line.
I mean, for instance, Congress, a while ago passed something like a $3 trillion relief bill, and that's now being whittled away, whittled away,
and it's now -- what you have just described on the table is less than a trillion.
Do you think, in retrospect, that your party should have agreed to what would have been a bigger number a while back?
PORTER: Well, the problem is that Senator Mitch McConnell has been the resistant person around this -- giving what corporate -- what his big
corporate donors want from the beginning.
So, I want to really emphasize to people the number, the dollar figure of relief is not the sticking point here. Everybody understands that we could
do some of this now and fund some of this later. We all understand the consequence.
You offer $5, someone says they want $10, you compromise on the halfway number, $7.50. This is -- the problem here is that he wants to protect big
businesses who knowingly and recklessly endanger patients, customers or employees.
And that is immoral to allow businesses to knowingly put their workers in - - at risk of death and to give them liability protections from engaging in reasonable safe practices.
AMANPOUR: So, now there's another thing on offer from the executive. So, you have got Steve Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, who's come to Congress
proposing a bill that -- even larger than the one being negotiated, but it includes state and local funding, which you want, and direct checks for
Is that a starter? Presumably, that has the president's approval?
PORTER: Secretary Mnuchin is correct to be pushing forward on state and local relief and direct help, disaster relief payments to families. Again,
I think stimulus is absolutely the wrong word to use here.
These are checks to help people pay their rent and put food on the table and pay for necessities. So, I'm heartened that that is where Secretary
Mnuchin is. But the president needs to make clear and we all need to bring pressure to bear on the Senate Republicans, particularly Mitch McConnell,
that we need to pass help for American families, and we need to do it now.
Frankly, we needed to do it six months ago. And he's been -- he's been resistant and been the sticking point on this, at least since the spring
AMANPOUR: And so we know also that there are different sectors which are hurt and affected differently. We know that African-Americans, people of
color are having the hardest time. We also know that women, on top of all of that, are having a doubly hard time.
You yourself are a single mother. You know how juggling all these everyday issues, you know how difficult it is. What is it that singles out women,
that makes women take such a huge burden since the pandemic began? And is there anything that can be done or anything that's being thought about
being done for women and the breadwinners, women breadwinners?
PORTER: We absolutely need to make more investment in child care. And we need to recognize the fact that women are exiting the work force is not
sort of a natural consequence. It's a consequence of policy. It's a consequence of the wage gap, the gender equality -- gender -- a lack of
gender equality in paychecks and in opportunities for women.
If we had more support for working parents, then we would not find ourselves having women exiting the work force in record numbers. And when
women exit the work force, it's not just a problem for them or for their family. It's a problem for our entire economy, because our global
competitors, whether they're in Europe or Asia, are all countries that do more to support working parents than we do here in the United States.
So, and -- so, COVID is really just highlighting the existence of longstanding problems that our country has struggled to address, like the
gender pay gap.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, because president-elect Joe Biden has named quite a few women to the big major departments, particularly when it comes
to finances and economics, obviously, Janet Yellen, former Fed, he's nominated as secretary of Treasury, Cecilia Rouse, head of the Council of
Economic Advisers, Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget. Obviously, there's some controversy there, according to your
politics over there.
But do you think having more women -- I know you just touched on this -- but in the United States, having more women in positions of financial
direction will help at all?
PORTER: Absolutely. Representation matters.
And we see this in research in virtually every field. We know, for example, that female physicians or doctors communicate differently with patients and
listen differently to their patients. We know it's true in boardrooms that, when boardrooms have gender equity, the companies are likely to take less
risk and make more profit.
The same thing is true in government. Gender equality doesn't just benefit women. It benefits everyone, because it produces better governance. And I'm
particularly excited about having Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary.
It's really a historic appointment, not only to have her perspective as a woman, but also to have her perspective as someone who's focused on labor
economics, on the work that people do to contribute to our GDP.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you how you are enduring the latest COVID lockdowns in your state?
I don't know whether your area is under the regional tiers that have to do a severe lockdown. But, clearly, it's reared its very ugly head, and
California is being hit very hard by COVID right now.
We are under a limited stay-at-home order. And I appreciate our governor, Governor Newsom, looking out for people and trying to direct us to protect
our own health, the health of those around us, and the well-being of those medical workers.
We have hospitals in this country that have zero -- in this state and in this country that have zero available intensive care unit beds. And so it's
really, really important that we all do what we can to try to prevent the spread of COVID. It is not under control in this country. And we are -- we
are still continuing to see cases climb.
AMANPOUR: You know, I just want to do sort of a hard turn, because this administration has really, as you know, cut out so much regulation when it
comes to climate, when it comes to air, water.
And your state has endured so much in the brushfires and all of that terrible damage. And, obviously, your state also has been a big pioneer in
trying to mitigate climate change. President-elect Biden has really made that a priority for -- to the point of appointing a climate czar, former
secretary of state, with a Cabinet-level position.
How do you think that is going to help your state? And do you think that people will start accepting the need for action on climate change?
PORTER: Absolutely, I think it's going to help. And I think that no one state, no one country can solve the global phenomenon of climate change.
We need allies and partnerships. We need strategic agreements. So, obviously, step one is making sure that the United States returns to the
Paris accord and honors its commitment. But it's also about recognizing that the transformation from fossil fuel energy to green energy provides
tremendous opportunity for economic growth, global competition, the creation of new jobs.
And so this is something that we should be embracing and leaning into. If we want to win the manufacturing jobs of the next decade or next century,
we need to make sure that we're able to do that manufacturing in a clean and green way.
AMANPOUR: And, just finally, you have seen the administration trying their hardest to cement a lot of the deregulation and a lot of the issues around
climate that they have been rolling back.
How difficult will that be for the president-elect, for the next administration to reverse?
PORTER: Well, I think there is going to be a lot of work for the next administration to reverse some of those policies.
Some of them were passed -- President Trump's wrapping up his fourth year as president, so some of the harm has already been done and will be hard to
reverse. But I feel very good about the member -- the people that president-elect Joe Biden is tasking with working on climate and
And I'm excited about starting the next Congress and being able to work from my position on the Oversight Committee to hold polluters accountable.
AMANPOUR: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you so much for joining us from California tonight.
And we have just mentioned the European Union looks set to pass a budget deal, including much needed cash for COVID relief. But another deal, this
one between Brexit Britain and the E.U. on trade, is looking far less likely.
The time is ticking before the E.U. and the U.K. are officially finally divorced on September -- December 31. And if the two parties cannot strike
a deal, we could see a major disruption in the flow of goods, plus huge economic costs for all sides.
One of the E.U. countries impacted by all of this is Austria, and its chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, was the youngest leader democratically elected.
And he joined me from Vienna to talk E.U. COVID relief, Brexit and joining forces with French President Macron to stamp out Islamic extremism.
AMANPOUR: Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, welcome to the program.
SEBASTIAN KURZ, AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR: Thank you very much for inviting me.
AMANPOUR: So, we have been talking about the stimulus bills in the United States. And, obviously, Europe has been waiting for its budget and its
And it appears that Poland and Hungary have now removed their objections, and this can go ahead, some 2.2 trillion euros.
What do you make of where we are now in Europe for a stimulus bill? And when can we expect to hear it actually happen?
KURZ: Well, I think what is positive is that we took enormous decisions on the European level in the last few months, and everything is prepared, not
only the budget, but also the recovery fund.
But, as you mentioned, there are some debates still open with Hungary and Poland. And I hope that the German presidency will be able to find a
solution. Rule of law, freedom of speech and democracy are extremely important pillars of the E.U., and these pillars should not be negotiable.
AMANPOUR: So, that's really interesting. You're really putting down your marker. Those are very, very central to the E.U. project.
What do you make of Poland and Hungary trying to use those as obstructions?
KURZ: Well, we are unhappy about that, as you can imagine, and it brings us in a difficult situation.
But I hope that it will be possible to find a solution and to find a compromise. It's not an easy job for the German presidency. But Angela
Merkel is extremely experienced. There is a lot of pressure on Hungary and on Poland. And I hope that there will be a solution in the end.
AMANPOUR: So, you mentioned Chancellor Merkel. I'm sure you yourself and all of your European fellow heads of government are very concerned about
And, as you know, clearly, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is having dinner with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. What do you
think at this point? Do you think there is a deal to be made, or, as some are saying, it looks like Britain may be headed for a no-deal exit?
KURZ: Well, first of all, I think it's important to mention that we are extremely unhappy that the U.K. decided to leave the E.U.
Our goal was always to avoid a no-deal scenario, to avoid a hard Brexit. And I think all responsible negotiators did an extremely good job,
especially Michel Barnier, who was the chief negotiator for the European Union.
There are still some open questions, but I think that Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson will be able to solve these last few open issues. And I
don't think that the U.K. and Boris Johnson really want a no-deal scenario.
AMANPOUR: This is what Boris Johnson told Parliament shortly before taking off before he goes to meet with Madam von der Leyen.
He is talking about the level playing field aspect of this deal. Let's just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: A good deal is still there to be done. And I look forward to discussing it with Commissioner von der Leyen
But I must tell the House that our friends are -- currently our friends in the E.U. are currently insisting that, if they pass a new law in the future
with which we in this country do not compile or don't follow suit, then they want the automatic right, Mr. Speaker, to punish us and to retaliate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, Chancellor, I wonder what you make of that. Essentially, he's saying that he doesn't want the U.K. to be obliged to follow future
E.U. regulations, especially -- essentially what others are doing, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland.
They have to accept those regulations in order to have access to the single market. Is what Boris Johnson saying acceptable?
KURZ: Well, from our point of view, that's not acceptable.
As you can imagine, the level playing field is one of the open issues we still have. And I would say it's probably the most important open issue we
still have. So, I hope that there will be a solution in the end.
I understand the issues of U.K., but I think that our position, as European Union, is also understandable. And, as you mentioned before, the rules are
the same for other countries as well, like Norway or Switzerland.
AMANPOUR: So, I want to turn to a summit you're going to be having this week, I think starting tomorrow, on the issue of terrorism in your country,
obviously also in France.
You're joined up with President Macron to take on terrorism, extremism. And I'm trying to get to the bottom of what it is that you are proposing.
From what I gather, you want to create a new criminal offense called political Islam. Can you explain to me what that means exactly, and what
would be the punishment for it?
KURZ: Well, I think that there are many areas in the European Union where we should cooperate in the fight against terrorism and radical Islam.
It is important that we fight against the structures of ISIS and other terrorist organizations. It is important that we have our borders under
control, as European Union, that we decide who is allowed to come to the European and who is not.
And, of course, we should also fight the idea behind the terror, the Political Islam, the radical ideas. And I'm very happy that this time at
the council meeting we will have these issues on the agenda. Emmanuel Macron, Austria, some other countries made suggestions, and I hope that we
will be able to make decisions on that.
Besides that, of course, we also work on necessary steps in Austria, and there, I think, it is important that we keep foreign terrorist fighters in
custody or under electronic surveillance for longer, because all these foreign terrorist fighters who is live in the European Union are ticking
time bombs. And besides that, I think we have to make it impossible for different groups to mislead our youth and we have to fight against the
ideas of the Political Islam.
AMANPOUR: Last month you suffered a terrorist attack in which four members of your community were killed. A gunman opened fire, and he was then
identified as an ISIS sympathizer. We saw the same situation happen in France. We saw a teacher beheaded. We saw then three people stabbed in a
church, outside a church.
One thing I want to ask you though is this. Your critics and also President Macron's critics are saying that this new idea that you're proposing, to an
extent, it's about domestic politics as well. As you know, your justice department was criticized for releasing this person early, too early, it
seems, and that there were warnings about the danger of in particular person which were not heeded. Talk to me about that.
KURZ: Well, you are absolutely right. There are some open questions, and we have already started an internal investigation in order to find out if
mistakes were made and what we can learn. We don't have the results of this investigation yet, but what is already clear for us is that we will have to
strengthen our domestic intelligence agency and that we also must become better in controlling the foreign terrorist fighters in our country. We
have about 300 people who left Austria in the past to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and many of them returned, and, of course, all of them are
ticking time bombs. They are a threat to our society, and we will try our best to protect our people as well as possible.
AMANPOUR: Now, I want to ask you about how you actually define Political Islam, because as you can imagine, it's a massive spectrum. And here you
have the president of the Islamic religious community in Austria. This is what he says, there is no definition of Political Islam. I would like to
invite all people of prudence and reason to consider that we as a society must distinguish between the peaceful religion of Islam and these
So, my question to you, Chancellor, is what measures do you put in place to distinguish between the peaceful practitioners and those who you rightly
call out who are terrorists, and particularly what safeguards you put in place so that your Muslim community does not feel a sense of collective
threat or collective punishment?
KURZ: I think what you said is an extremely important point. After the terrorist attack in Vienna, it was important for me to say that this is not
a fight between religious groups. This is not a fight between Christians and Muslims. It's not a fight between Austrians and migrants. It is a fight
between all people who believe in our open and free societies and those who want to fight against our societies. And I can assure you that all the
measures we take are not directed against a religious group, are not directed against a religion but against extremism which undermines our
constitution, and I would say this is also the definition of Political Islam. It's the idea of undermining our constitution. It's the misuse of a
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about -- I don't know whether you would agree with me, but some have talked about your own political evolution perhaps. You
know, you used to be in a coalition with the freedom party, and we know that this was a far-right party whose first leader was in fact a former
Nazi and an SS officer and held, you know, pretty despicable views. Now, you are in coalition with a completely different party which is the Green
Party, which is a left-wing party. Can you tell me, explain to me what's going on and where you stand between these two polar opposites?
KURZ: Well, I would say that our position as the parties in the middle, we are a center right party. And in our system, if you don't have an absolute
majority, it is necessary to form coalitions, and I had to work together in the government with the freedom party which worked quite well in many
areas, and I now work together with the Green Party and we also have a good cooperation in most areas. The fight against all forms of anti-Semitism has
always been important for me and also for the country and our government.
AMANPOUR: You've been known to have a very tough anti-immigrant policy. You talked about controlling your borders, and actually an MEP from the
very same Green Party that you are in coalition with said a few years ago about when you closed the borders during that influx a few years ago and
when so many refugees were stuck in Greece, they said -- he said, when kids are born and old people die in the mud of Idomeni, that's in Greece, that's
the political work of Sebastian Kurz, and that's -- these are the guys you're going into coalition with.
KURZ: Well, it is necessary to build coalitions, otherwise our system would not work. And I can assure you that we have a good cooperation with
the Green Party, that we are doing our best in order to fight the pandemic together and that we also try to do necessary reforms in our country, but,
of course, there are areas like migration where the positions are different.
When it comes to the refugee crisis, I would like to also inform you that Austria is among the countries which took the most migrants in the whole
European Union together with Germany and Sweden. There's sometimes the impression that we did not take people in our country, but the truth is
that with Sweden and Germany together, we took the most people among the E.U. member states.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you a question about this because it's so interesting. Two German scientists, physicists of Turkish origin, have come
up with the BioNTech vaccine, the first vaccine that is being injected into people's arms to save pretty much the world from this terrible pandemic.
You got to love this immigration story, right?
KURZ: Yes, of course, and not only Germany but also Austria are very -- both very diverse countries. We have more than 20 percent of our population
who have a migration background. And in many areas, this, of course, is a success story, but when it comes to illegal migration, I think that this is
a question where we have to get better as European Union with our response. It's not the fact that we are against migration, but we want to control it.
AMANPOUR: And one last question, because on COVID and you're imposing new restrictions. Do you think you will have your ski resorts open for this
season? You remember it was ski resorts that were big super spreaders last time around.
KURZ: You are absolutely right, but I think we have to look at it in detail. Outdoor sports like skiing is not problematic itself. For the cable
cars, we have COVID safety plans so that people have to keep distance and wear face masks. Very problematic are apres-ski and social gatherings in
bars, and that is why this will not be allowed this season. So, there will be no apres-ski. But skiing itself, from our point of view, will be
AMANPOUR: All right. No apres-ski. Everybody should take note. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
KURZ: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: And turning now to you someone who has been named to the "Time" 100 list of the world's most influential people. He is Joe Scarborough, a
former Republican congressman from Florida turned cable news star, best known as the co-host of MSNBC's "morning joe." His latest book, "Saving
Freedom," takes a look back at President Truman and the historic forces that moved him to unite the western world against soviet communism. Here he
is speaking to our Walter Isaacson about it and about the future of conservatism in the United States after Trump.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thanks, Christiane. And, Joe Scarborough, welcome to the show.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, AUTHOR, "SAVING FREEDOM": Thank you so much, Walter. It's an honor being here.
ISAACSON: You know, this is the timeliest of all books, writing a book about Truman coming into power just as Biden comes into power. Why did you
pick to do this book?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, I had had started to write a book about Trump, and it had actually been through three or four drafts of a book on
my experiences with Trump, and then I said, I can't do it. The message that we need to put out there is what type of leader we need right now. And I
thought Harry Truman was the perfect example for so many reasons.
But Truman's not just the anecdote to Donald Trump but to everything that's happened over the past 20 years. I think politicians like myself and people
that followed me, and I think a lot of us in the media have failed time and again to explain to the American people why America needs to be involved in
the world, why NATO is still relevant, why foreign aid is so critical, how we get back so much more than we send out whenever we're engaged in the
world, and that's a lesson. Harry Truman's life, Harry Truman's career I think teaches that lesson better than any other president in the post-war
ISAACSON: Your book, "Saving Freedom," really talked about the creation of the Atlantic Alliance. In some ways, it needs to be revived now. Do you see
lessons from the way we did it the first time?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I do, and I think Joe Biden is following those lessons. You start by having great men and women around you. I remember reading "The
Wise Men" and the I remember the example that Harry Truman set and FDR set by having people like General George Marshall around them, the man who is
the organizer of the allied's victory in World War II. I love what your book said about Averill Harriman. There's no substitute for experience.
Averill Harriman was a great ambassador to the Soviet Union because the first time he visited Russia was in 1899 when Nicholas II was czar. Now,
that's some deep experience.
And I look in Washington and, you know, I get tired of hearing people telling me, you know, how frustrating Washington is, how it's hard work,
how the system doesn't work, how -- you know, at Tom Ricks says in his new book "First Principles," Madisonian democracy, the checks and balances, the
frustrations, that's not a bug. It's a feature and -- that you get through that by doing what Harry Truman did, surround yourself with the best
people, take their advice most of the time and work with people in the other party.
ISAACSON: Truman was a man of the Senate and he really knew how Washington worked. Is that why he ended up being more successful than people thought
SCARBOROUGH: Definitely. I mean, look at three of the most successful presidents of the post-war era, Harry Truman on foreign policy, without a
doubt, LBJ, domestically, what he did in '64 and '65 was a revolution, a civil rights revolution and then Ronald Reagan. You had a guy from Eureka
College and Reagan, LBJ went to, I think, what was it, Southwest Texas Teachers College and Harry Truman graduated from Spalding Commercial
College in Kansas City.
And yet, what LBJ and Truman had in common is that they were creatures of the Senate. They knew how to gain majorities. Ronald Reagan was a
conservative in California who had to deal with a liberal legislature for eight years. And so. they all understood what Bismarck said and that is
that politics is the art of the possible. Something Bill Clinton, the Democrat, in a conservative state figured out in his 12 years as governor
in Arkansas and that's why, you know, he ran us Republicans around in circles throughout most of the '90s.
ISAACSON: Why did compromise become such a bad word and Washington expertise become so devalued?
SCARBOROUGH: I don't know. I think a lot of it actually has to do with social media. I remember when the debate was raging on Obamacare, the
Affordable Care Act back in 2009. I remember having Governor Rendell on stage, and somebody asked, why can't we get anything done? And Rendell
said, well, you know, if -- though Joe and I have very different views about what the federal government should do when it comes to health care, I
have no doubt I can go back in a room and sit down with him and we could figure out -- we could hammer it out and find a middle ground that probably
would end up working better than what we would have come up by ourselves, he said, but the second I walk into that room, somebody would send out an
e-mail, somebody would send out a tweet and pretty soon my office would be overcome with angry callers telling me not to sell out to Republicans. The
same thing, of course, happens on the other side, too.
I am very excited though. I think the 2020 election. There are a lot of things that concerned me like Donald Trump getting 72 million votes, 73
million votes, but the Senate is actually becoming a more moderate place. We saw sort of the hollowing out of the center. Everybody always talked
about on the right wing the Tea Party Republicans were far more conservative. But starting in 2006, Democrats became more liberal as red
state Democrats like Ben Nelson started to leave.
And so, now, we -- I think we're going to have a pretty strong center with Joe Manchin, Mark Kelly, Kyrsten Sinema who usually votes with Joe Manchin,
Governor Hickenlooper. And then you add to that Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, and I know it will surprise a lot of people, but watch Lindsey
Graham. Lindsey can't help but get in the middle of everything. I think Lindsey is going to be a part of, not only this COVID compromise, but a lot
of compromises moving forward.
SCARBOROUGH: When Harry Truman gets called to the White House by Steve Early, I think it was the press secretary, finds out that Franklin
Roosevelt has died, it's the beginning of one of the most dangerous transitions we've ever had. Explain what he faced.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes. It was a far more dangerous transition than what we're going through right now. I know that's hard to believe. But Harry Truman
was campaigning with Franklin Roosevelt, and Roosevelt knew he was going to die. FDR told Truman, stay off of planes. One of us has to stay alive. As
Truman went into the White House for the first time, one of his friends said, you know, you're going to be president soon, he said, well, it scares
the hell out of me. But, yes, I think you're probably right.
FDR was having chest pains the day he was inaugurated. And yet, despite all of that he was extraordinary -- despite the fact that he was perhaps the
greatest president of the 20th century, he was extraordinarily reckless in what he knew was going to be a transition to a guy that wasn't ready to be
president despite his experience in the Senate. They only had two meetings when they got into the White House, by the time they got into the White
And, of course, the first time he found out about the Manhattan Project, Truman was after his first cabinet meeting when Simpson took him to the
side and said, hey, we've got this thing called the Manhattan Project, and read him in. And yet, Truman was able to not only respond to that
information and help us win the wars in the Atlantic and the Pacific but also, of course, face more incoming, face more crises over the next two or
three years than most presidents have face over eight years, two terms.
ISAACSON: In 1947 after the war had been won, Americans were basically isolationist. Averell Harriman said they just wanted to go to the movies
and drink coke. And yet, Truman then has to give this important speech where he said, no, we must stay engaged in the world. Tell me about that
speech and how you would convince people today that we must stay involved in the world.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I think Joe Biden is going to have to give that speech. It's going to be critical that we re-engage our allies. That's the first
task he's going to have to do. We're going have to re-are engage our allies. We're going to have to figure out how to re-engage Russia in a
balanced, meaningful way. And, of course, the greatest challenge is going to be how we stay engaged with China.
There is pressure on the left and the right for the United States to be confrontational towards China, and I understand that. There have -- we have
defense issue. We obviously have deep concerns over Hong Kong, deep concerns over concentration camps, but we have to stay engaged. We have no
choice. And for Truman, he knew when he was making that speech that he was going to have to pull the American people along, and he sent his people up
to the hill and they went up and they were saying, this is about Greece and this is about Turkey.
Truman all along made a speech, he was clear who it was about, it was about the Soviet Union, but he never mentioned the Soviet Union's name in that
speech and kept it to Greece and kept it to Turkey. One other thing, he was also very realistic about who we were helping in Greece and let Republicans
know and let the American people know that the Greek government, they were no saints. They were right wing authoritarians who had a long way to go
before they reached whatever our ideas of democracy would be. But taken on balance, it was a far better choice than having Stalin come in and support
the Greek communists.
ISAACSON: Unlike Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman fully understood, came to deeply believe how important it is to stop the spread of the Soviet
Union and stop the spread of communism. How could a failed haberdasher from Kansas City, Missouri, have had such a good fingertip feel for what this
was all about?
SCARBOROUGH: That's a great mystery. I think part of it had to do with humility. FDR, again, one of the great president not only of the 20th
century but this country's history had a certain arrogance about it, and he thought that personal diplomacy could make a difference, make a significant
difference. And there he was at Yalta mocking Winston Churchill behind Churchill's back to Stalin and believed that he could work through it with
And Harry Truman, the first night he was in the White House and was looking through notes from Kennan and others grew deeply concerned about the Soviet
Union. And he had -- you're right. He had a great fingertip feel. And when Harriman came to him with concerns and when Acheson came to him with
concerns, he listened to them and understood. And certainly, when General George Marshall shared those concerns, a man that Truman respected above
all others then went to the Soviet Union and came back and reported to Truman that this was the right thing to do, then Truman had the courage of
his convictions to move forward.
ISAACSON: One of the most important things Truman did in my mind was integrating the armed forces and changing on rates a bit. You and I are
both sons of the south.
ISAACSON: We grew up watching populists in the south either play the race card or deciding not to. How does Truman decide not to and how is that
important in our history?
SCARBOROUGH: It's extraordinary. And this what -- I know, it's what you love in history, it's what I love as you read in history and you watch
leaders grow. You take LBJ who mocked Richard Nixon for being too progressive on civil rights in the 1950s. Do what he -- move from where he
was in 1957 to where he was in '64 and '65. It's an extraordinary growth. And it's the same thing with Harry Truman who was the son of parents who
had confederate leanings.
He was racist, Truman, was racist even for his own time through his early life and into his mid-life. And yet, in 1948, for him to make the most
significant civil rights move since reconstruction was an extraordinary moment, the integration of the armed forces was something that really
showed Truman's growth and also showed that he understood the sacrifice that black Americans had made during World War II and that the United
States needed to move forward on race, and no one would have expected that.
And Truman actually paid for that, of course, at the '48 convention from Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats stormed out. So, he not only was facing
Henry Wallace on his left, he was now facing because -- he integrated the armed forces, he was now facing tropical Strom Thurmond on his far right
and, of course, Dewey on the Republican side. So, he paid politically for what he did. But, as always, if Harry Truman believed what he did was
right, he'd fixed himself a sandwich, he'd drink a glass of milk and he'd go to bed feel just fine.
ISAACSON: As somebody who was once a Republican and a conservative and to some extent a populist, what is the future? How does conservatism in
America regain its footing after Trump?
SCARBOROUGH: I don't know. I really don't care about the Republican Party and I never did. I considered myself a small government conservative. Do I
care about -- it doesn't hurt me that the Republican Party has collapsed and I believe are going the way of the Whigs and deserve to go the way of
It does hurt me that the movement of Edwin Burke And Russell Kirk and, yes, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher has sullied itself the way that it has.
I really -- I don't know that there is a conservative movement now. If you -- again, I focus a lot on what Russell Kirk wrote in "The Conservative
Mind" and you look at the fact that conservatism, as defined by Russell Kirk and Bill Buckley, was supposed to be very skeptical of ideologies and
rigid approaches towards politics, and I just don't see -- I don't see conservative movement out there that's worth saving.
And I was very proud to be a conservative, proud to be a Republican, but, my God, I haven't been proud to be either in about 20 years. So, I don't
know what the future is for the Republican Party. I don't know what the future is for the conservative movement. But right now, it's not good
because it looks a lot more like what's happening in Poland and Hungary than what Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk ever talked about.
ISAACSON: What's the most important lesson from Harry Truman, his character and his conduct that Joe Biden could learn?
SCARBOROUGH: I think perseverance, and it's something that Joe Biden has shown time and again. But I just think Harry Truman having the perseverance
to keep moving forward, despite the fact that he was constantly ridiculed, constantly mocked, constantly dismissed as a rube, as a strange little man
from Missouri, as the second Missouri compromise, Truman just kept moving forward and kept striving to be a better senator and a better vice
president and a better president.
And I think Joe Biden -- we all know -- we've all lived through, you know, Joe Biden's campaign and how it ended in 1987. We all lived through the
2008 campaign. We all lived through the first few contests this year. We know that Joe Biden has political perseverance and through tragedies, he
has personal perseverance as well. So, I think he's in a good place to succeed in many of the same ways that Harry Truman did.
ISAACSON: Joe Scarborough, thanks so much for joining us.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Walter. Thank you so much. I greatly appreciate it.
AMANPOUR: And Harry Truman, we just integrated the armed services. Joe Biden building on that legacy by naming a retired army general as the first
African-American secretary of defense.
And finally, tonight my candid conversation with the archbishop of Washington, D.C., Wilton Gregory, who Pope Francis just made the first
African-American cardinal, and he had a wide-ranging discussion that we will air in full later this week. We also talked about Cardinal Gregory's
childhood and what it was like for him as a boy to attend the wake for Emmett Till, the black teenager who was brutally tortured and lynched in
1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I can't get over the fact, I can't get my head around the fact that I'm speaking to somebody who as a very young kid, that's you, were at
the funeral for Emmett Till, and I just want you to tell me what you remember from then and how it affected you and perhaps your spiritual
CARDINAL WILTON GREGORY, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON D.C.: Christiane, I can remember that my grandmother took me to the wake. And as you and most of
the viewers would remember Emmett Till's mother insist that had it be an open casket wake so that people could see the brutality that her son had
endured. And I was probably 8 or -- 7 or 8 years old at the time, and I went with my grandmother along with literally thousands of a can American
Chicagoans to witness the awful brutality that that young man had suffered.
It was something that I shall never forget. We were in a long line, and obviously we just walked past the casket, and I recall seeing the awful
disfigured body of that young man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And you can watch my full interview with Cardinal Gregory later this week. That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our
podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.