Return to Transcripts main page
Iran at a Crossroads; Voting Rights Under Threat; Crisis in Lebanon; Interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin and Julia Sweig; Interview with Governor John Bel Edwards. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 4, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
TRACY NAGGEAR, MOTHER OF BLAST VICTIM: They killed our daughter. They almost killed us. They destroyed our house.
AMANPOUR: Survivors of Beirut's port explosion condemn authorities and line up to leave a failing state.
I will speak to Georges Kettaneh, head of the Lebanese Red Cross and to journalist Robin Wright about Iran's influence and what its new president
means for the United States.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do believe that fighting for the right to vote is as American as apple pie.
AMANPOUR: Access to the ballot is once again under threat in America on the 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
I break down the danger to democracy with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and author Julia Sweig.
Plus: His state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Now Louisiana Governor John Edwards tells Walter Isaacson about his plan to
get the COVID crisis under control.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Rage and reflection across Beirut today one year since the deadly port explosion. It was one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history sparked
by dangerous chemicals sitting neglected for years. More than 200 people were killed, thousands were injured, and countless more still bear the
invisible wounds, inflamed by the lack of accountability and unanswered questions.
Today, fed-up residents clashed with Lebanese security forces, and President Biden announced $100 million in additional aid. And he called out
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No amount of outside assistance will ever be enough if Lebanon's own leaders do not commit to do the hard,
but necessary work of reforming the economy and combating corruption. It's essential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's a vital part of the world, even for the United States.
And correspondent Ben Wedeman now brings us the very human story of that terrible day.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nurse Pamela Zeinoun was on the phone with her mother. At eight minutes past 6:00
in the evening, Beirut's nightmare began.
Pamela, in the ward for premature babies, didn't hesitate.
PAMELA ZEINOUN, NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT NURSE: I was very focused to save the babies.
WEDEMAN: With three babies in her arms, she walked for an hour-and-a-half to find an incubator. While Pamela was walking, the injured flocked to her
severely damaged hospital, the Saint George, where the explosion had killed four nurses.
On that awful evening, more than 6,000 people were wounded, more than 200 killed. A city that over the decades has been through wars, car bombs and
terrorism had never seen anything on this scale.
A year later, and most of the rubble has been cleared. Some of the damage has been repaired. Yet deep scars remain.
ZEINOUN: I know a lot of my colleagues, they are still on medications. They are still having a very hard time sleeping or eating, or they still
are remembering what happened. So it's really tough.
WEDEMAN: Paul and Tracy Naggear lost their 3-year-old daughter, Alexandra (ph), in the blast. Like many here, they blame the disaster on Lebanon's
NAGGEAR: Yes, last year, after the class, we decided to leave, which is a normal decision. You know, they killed our daughter. They almost killed us.
They destroyed our house.
WEDEMAN: They're still here. Paul was recently elected to the Order of Engineers and has become a vocal advocate for change and accountability,
accountability that, until now, remains elusive.
Ileus Maloof (ph) lost his 32-year-old son George (ph), who was in the port when the blast happened. He regularly joins vigils with other relatives of
the dead demanding justice.
"Every day, his mother cries and cries," Ileus tells me. "She asks, why doesn't George come over for coffee? Why doesn't he come over for the
The port blast is just one catastrophe visited upon Lebanon, which, in the last two years, has seen unrest, political paralysis, financial and
economic collapse, the COVID pandemic.
KIANA SAIDAH, PORT EXPLOSION SURVIVOR: All of this, when the explosion happened, was full of rubble.
WEDEMAN: Hani (ph) and Kiana have come back to their old flat overlooking the port.
SAIDAH: Hani, most of the injuries were on his right side, and he crouched here like this. So that's you can still see all of his blood.
WEDEMAN: Both were wounded by flying glass, scarred and traumatized. Hani and Kiana are leaving Lebanon.
SAIDAH: If we would see an immediate future, then we wouldn't leave.
WEDEMAN: Lebanon's future is dark, the jarring images of a year ago seared into the memories of everyone who lived through it. The nightmare isn't
AMANPOUR: Ben Wedeman reporting there on the tragedy a year ago and the brain drain now.
Georges Kettaneh has been secretary-general of the Lebanese Red Cross for eight years. And he's joining me from Beirut.
Georges Kettaneh, welcome.
I mean, it must be awful for you to see even today, on the anniversary, what's happening in the streets, to hear about the lack of accountability,
the brain drain. The Red Cross has been on the front line for decades, and you have been leader for the last couple of decades.
GEORGES KETTANEH, SECRETARY-GENERAL, LEBANESE RED CROSS: Yes.
AMANPOUR: How are you feeling today about what is -- what seems to be a failing state now?
KETTANEH: As Lebanese Red Cross and according to the fundamental principles of Red Cross at present, we are trying to give a hope, with the
support of the movement of Red Cross at present to continue supporting the community.
And this is our challenge, how we can give hope to the vulnerable people. When we start responding one year ago, and it was a tragedy, a disaster, we
did not know what happened. What's going on? And we evacuate at night only -- I'm not talking second day only -- 2, 600 treated (INAUDIBLE) and,
between them, some COVID cases from ICU.
You know there's four or five hospitals destroyed. And also we tried to help the community in giving cash for 11,000 families. So, we at Lebanese
Red Cross, we tried to complement to help the community, saving lives and protecting the dignity of the community.
This is what we are trying in primary health, in ambulance service, in blood for hospitals also and for these people, and, of course, in relief,
and especially, and as you mentioned in your programs, in mental health, social support and restoring family links.
AMANPOUR: You know, Georges Kettaneh, you are trying to give help. Obviously, that's what the Red Cross does around the world. And you are
trying to give hope.
You saw in our report from Ben Wedeman that hope is in very short supply. I want to ask you about the role of the Red Cross. You know, you have
provided something like 80 percent of the ambulance services in a country where 80 percent of the hospitals and medical centers are private.
This is stuff that the government should be doing, not necessarily the Red Cross. Explain what it takes when the Red Cross suddenly becomes the main
public health sector.
KETTANEH: The Red Cross after civil war was replacing the government, especially the Ministry of Health, through an agreement in ambulance
You call 140, like 911, the Red Cross will respond. And the Red Cross are independent, neutral, impartial to try to be accepted and respected and
trusted by the community.
Also, we're leading in the blood bank, where we have 13 blood banks in the country. And, as I mentioned before about the primary health support and
disaster management and relief and others, the role of the Red Cross in general, and the role of the movement of the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and
supported by the federation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent and ICRC, international community, and our movement of Red Cross,
we are trying always, as I say, to complement and to help the community.
Our role is to give -- to protect this dignity. And, as you mention, when the government or the state will reduce the mission, we will increase our
response. And we try always not to interfere in politics, and not to interfere with any parties.
And this is why we are accepted from the south, Chebaa, to the Qoubaiyat in the north, where we have safer access and neutral, independent, impartial,
supported by our movement of Red Cross and Red Crescent.
I will not forget the Lebanese abroad. I will not forget the companies, the donors, individual donors, who are helping us to maintain support,
especially now. As you mentioned, there is a big problem regarding the health sector, the health sectors and the economic sector and the social
sector, where there is a big tragedy and a big challenge, and like medicines, like the people who want to go to the hospitals they cannot
And, you see, if you realize inflation of dollars, how many pressure the Lebanese pound, how much -- it's so extensive, how much. It costs too much
to the community. The Red Cross is there to try to reduce and to minimize these problems and to give a small hope and to tell them we are with you.
We are neutral. We have to help you. We are here to help you from any country, not only for the blast, from the north, the south, the Beqaa, and
Mount Lebanon and Beirut.
AMANPOUR: Very finally, do you have hope? And how frustrated are you?
KETTANEH: Frankly, it is not easy, when you don't have -- as a human being, as a person in Lebanon I don't have electricity 24 hours.
I don't have access like before, about the school, education. What about the universities? What about others? But we have to give hope to the
community. We want them to stay and to see how we came together, respect the rules, regulation, trying to support anyone who need any support.
You cannot -- we cannot leave them. They will see us as a hope. They will see as the backup to them. And the spirit of the Red Cross, the volunteers
of the Red Cross, they realize how much they are protecting and helping the community.
This is the challenge for us, how we can maintain our volunteers and how we can protect the community to continue in supporting them. We cannot do
everything. We need to be -- to share this support with others. We are not alone.
There is a lot of other NGOs, but Lebanese Red Cross, as national society, is supported by the movement. We want to give hopes. And supported by the
states abroad, by the governments, by the community, by the Lebanese abroad, we can give this hope.
AMANPOUR: OK. Georges Kettaneh, thank you so much for joining us, head of the Lebanese Red Cross. We appreciate it on this day.
Now, the brain drain that we have just been mentioning is not just a problem for Lebanon, but also for Iran. The Islamic Republic wields
enormous influence there through its proxies, Hezbollah. And it now finds itself at its own crossroads.
A new hard-line president takes office tomorrow. Talks to revive the nuclear deal seem to be on life support. And, today, Israel blamed an
Iranian commander for a deadly drone attack on an oil tanker, escalating tensions, of course.
Journalist Robin Wright has covered Iran extensively, as well as Lebanon and much of the region. And she's joining me now from Washington.
Robin, welcome back to the program.
You heard Georges Kettaneh, from his own perspective, talking about being neutral, talking about bringing hope and sustenance to all sides. Tell us,
though, how Lebanon has moved away from kind of consensus politics, with each different identity and religion represented, to now pretty much
Hezbollah being in charge and calling the shots.
ROBIN WRIGHT, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, Hezbollah is obviously one of the most important parties. And, of course, it is the largest militia
outside of the Lebanese army, as it is, in many ways, defining national security because it repeatedly has taken potshots at Israel.
And the one of the tensest front lines in the Middle East is between Lebanon and Israel today. The tragedy of Lebanon -- and I lived there for
five years during the civil war -- is that the politicians who are also the old warlords are still fighting each other in the same way they did in the
1970s and 1980s, only this time through politics.
And the country is deadlocked. And it is indeed a failing state. It's one of the great travesties because this was the first nascent democracy. It
was the one place where Christians and Muslims lived side by side, celebrated the religious holidays together.
And, today, it is a country that is almost beyond salvation.
AMANPOUR: So, Robin, let me ask you what you think is going to happen to Lebanon and maybe to Iran, because there are reports that amid escalating
tensions in the region, there has been heavy artillery fire from Lebanon into Israel.
And it's presumably, although I don't know whether it's been named that yet, from the south, where Hezbollah have their positions, that on top of
Israel naming and calling out the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander for unmanned vehicles for that attack on the Mercer Street, the ship, in which
two people were killed a few days ago.
How badly do you think that -- well, how close do you think that we are to an escalation of maybe even military action in that region that can ill
WRIGHT: I think we are at a crossroads in the Middle East, in part because of Iran's tensions with Israel, both directly and through its allies and
proxies like Hezbollah.
There -- we're reaching a point that, over the past year, whether it's the kind of maritime tensions playing out among tankers, the attacks on
tankers, and by both sides, is reaching an unprecedented point. You have also seen the strikes on each other's drones.
There is a sense that Iran has become the hegemon in the region, both because it is a military power, not just because it's close to a nuclear --
kind of nuclear threshold, but because it has the most advanced and largest arsenal of missiles in the region. It has used its drones, its very
sophisticated drones against -- allegedly against an Israeli tanker, that we're at a point that, without a nuclear deal, without something to defuse
these tensions and indicate that diplomacy is an alternative, that the dangers of an escalation across the region are very high.
It may be potshots here and there. It may not be the kind of open conflict we have seen in the past, but this doesn't make it any less dangerous.
AMANPOUR: So, then, let's -- what do you think -- I mean, you have covered it as much as anybody -- of the chances of a nuclear deal?
Clearly, both sides wanted it. The Biden administration wanted to go back into the deal that Trump pulled out of. The Iranians wanted it because of
the sanctions, et cetera. But now it looks like it's definitely hanging by a thread. You have got this hard-line Ebrahim Raisi, who's about to be
sworn in tomorrow.
And you have got the secretary of state in the United States saying the following. Blinken said a few days ago: "Talks on the nuclear deal with
Iran cannot and will not go on indefinitely."
What information do you have about whether this is going to happen or whether Raisi wants it to happen?
WRIGHT: I think there's an increasing pessimism in Washington.
There had been hope that, while the negotiations would be would be tough, that they would reach a point where they could compromise and revive one of
the most important nuclear deals in more than a quarter-century. And after six sessions, the United States proposed in June a package that the
previous government took back to Tehran, and the hard-liners, sensing their emergence and control of foreign policy, as well as domestic policy,
And so the United States, frankly, doesn't know when the next session might be or even if there is a next session. And the danger is, as Blinken
indicated, that the talks, this kind of Twilight Zone of diplomacy, can't continue forever, because, by the end of the year, Iran will have crossed
the threshold of having enough enriched uranium to fuel a weapon.
That doesn't mean it will have a weapon. But it means it's crossed that pivotal threshold that the United States has spent years of trying to
prevent. There's a new crowd in Tehran, as hard-line, the most zealous wing of the hard-line faction now has control of most of the instruments of
power, be it the three branches of government, the intelligence, the military.
And the danger is that they take a much harder position that makes some kind of compromise ever more difficult, maybe even impossible, and that,
where does that leave anybody? And is the only way to defuse this and prevent Iran from getting a bomb some kind of kinetic action, whether it's
by Israel or the United States or a coalition?
And this is a very nasty, nasty alternative, because I think a war with Iran or even some kind of conflict could end up being messier than our
engagements in either Afghanistan or Iraq.
AMANPOUR: Let's just remind everybody that, for a couple of years during the life of that nuclear agreement, it was working certainly for both
sides, that Iran was keeping to its deal.
AMANPOUR: And the Trump administration gambled that they could cause regime collapse or whatever by pulling out of the deal.
And, instead, as you say, it has now, after 14 months after Trump pulled out trying to see whether it could get back into the deal, Iran has upped
its uranium enrichment. Again, this is very bad news for those who wanted that arms control agreement.
Do you see Ebrahim Raisi, as a hard-line revolutionary and a human rights violator who's been sanctioned personally by the United States and by other
entities, ushering perhaps a return of the really even worse old days of the Ahmadinejad regime, constantly aggressive, constantly on the offensive,
no sense of trying to be diplomatic or in any sense of having a nuclear arms control deal?
WRIGHT: Potentially worse than the Ahmadinejad era.
This is a man who has no political experience, no economic or foreign policy experience. He has said very little, beyond that he wants to return
to the deal. He wants the sanctions lifted. But the question is, of course, under what terms?
And the danger is that he is influenced by others who are in the military, in the intelligence community, in his own new foreign policy team who do
have some experience and want to present tougher demands on the United States that are unacceptable to Washington and potentially even the other
partners in the nuclear deal.
The dangers, Christiane, are not just that Iran gets closer to a bomb, but that once -- if Iran begins to cross that threshold, that other powers in
the neighborhood, Saudi Arabia and beyond, try, in turn, to get their own weapons, that we would enter an era of the proliferation of a nuclear
weapon, which so many people spent the second half of the 20th century trying to avoid.
The nuclear deal was important, not just defusing tensions between United States and Iran, but in stopping or containing the spread of nuclear
weapons in general.
AMANPOUR: Inside -- again, you're a very keen observer. You have reported a lot on that.
What do you make of the current protests, longstanding protests against this terrible drought, a lack of water?
AMANPOUR: Actually coming out and blaming the supreme leader and calling for water, basically? There's a huge amount of discontent on the streets.
Where do you think that will lead under a new hard-line government, harder- line government?
WRIGHT: Well, Raisi is inaugurated this week amid one of the hottest summers in the last half-century.
More than 300 cities, about a quarter of Iran municipalities, are fighting water is very scarce. The protests have erupted in one of the oil-rich
provinces and then spread to more than six provinces. The government has cracked down, arrested people. Nine people are at least documented to have
This is a problem that Iran can't solve immediately, between the drought and terrible mismanagement of water and natural resources, that this will
play out for some time. The Internet has been cut off in some of these areas. And it's very hard to tell actually what's happening.
It's a hot summer. As you know better than anyone, temperatures rise in August. And this is a hot summer, both politically and physically, for the
AMANPOUR: One of the most difficult parts and challenging parts of the world right now.
Thank you so much, indeed, Robin Wright.
Now, the United States, of course, has long clashed with Iran over a number of issues, including human rights and democracy, of course. And this week
marks the 56th anniversary of America's Voting Rights Act signed by President Johnson.
But that landmark legislation is now under assault. At least 18 states have enacted laws restricting ballot access, according to the Brennan Center For
Justice, leaving democracy hanging in the balance.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin once worked for LBJ and is the author of "No Ordinary Time." Julia Sweig has written a biography of LBJ's secret weapon,
which was his wife. It's called "Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight."
And we welcome both of them to the program.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, let me start by asking you to frame the discussion in the framework that we're all looking at, which is democracy and voting
rights, no matter where it is. But in the United States, on Friday, it will mark 56 years since Johnson ushered in the Voting Rights Act.
Solid for the future, Doris Kearns Goodwin, or hanging by a thread?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's a very worrisome thing.
There's no question that what LBJ said when he signed that act -- and I was actually in the House of Representatives, just as an intern, when that act
was signed. It was so exciting. We knew that something had changed, that the manipulations that were being used by the Southern states were going to
have federal authority to look over them and determine whether or not something was happening.
And there was a sense in which Johnson said the most basic right of all is the right to vote, without which all the other rights are meaningless. This
is not a Negro right, not a white right, not a Northern right, not a Southern right. It's an American right. It's not a moral issue, he said. It
is simply wrong to deny fellow Americans the right to vote.
And how heartbreaking it is to see that, between the Supreme Court decision in Shelby, that all the states are now going back to these voter
suppression laws. It's the most fundamental thing we have to fight for, for today. It's for everybody in this country.
You diminish the right of some, you diminish the right of all. I couldn't care more about any issue than this.
AMANPOUR: And we were just watching pictures of you that day or that time with LBJ. You were such a young woman, 56 years ago, much younger,
obviously. And he was practically bent double listening to you, also one of the rare women.
And you're framed there between the president and Lady Bird.
I want to turn to Julia Sweig, who's just written that amazing biography of Lady Bird Johnson, raising this woman who -- who knew that she was called
Claudia Taylor Johnson? she was always known as Lady Bird, somewhat diminishing, somewhat sort of doll-like, maybe in terms of historical
But nobody knew what a political weapon she was for her husband, the president. Just fill us in a little bit on the spine of your story.
JULIA SWEIG, AUTHOR, "LADY BIRD JOHNSON: HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT": Well, it's wonderful to be here with Doris and with you, Christiane.
And the -- I think Lyndon Johnson knew full well just what a potent and powerful human being she was. And he had a penchant for spotting brilliant
low-ego people. She was one of them, and by the time they got into the White House had become and certainly with the transition after the JFK
assassination his most important adviser in the White House.
The arc of the story that I tell is drawn from Lady Bird Johnson's what I called the other LBJ tapes, her own audio record that she kept the entire
time she was in the White House (AUDIO GAP) assassination of JFK and very public and emotional transition into the White House, and then goes
straight through her role in mapping out the strategy that LBJ followed for a decision made and announced -- announced in March of 1968, that he
wouldn't run a second time.
We cover the gamut of civil rights, Great Society, Vietnam, environmentalism, importantly, which, like her name, Lady Bird, was
concealing a far more substantive environmental vision that she attempted to enact over the course of her time in the White House. It's a partnership
that is at the center--
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes.
And it was a political partnership. We will get to a little bit more of that in a minute, Julia.
SWEIG: Very much so.
AMANPOUR: But I want to play, because you refer to these tapes, who really nobody knew about until you brought them out. They were there, but they
weren't sought out.
So, in '64, just ahead of the signing of the voter rights act, she went on a train trip to certain Southern states. And I think it was called, I want
to just say that it was called the Lady Bird Special. And this is a sound bite that is about that. I just want to talk about it in a sec.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LADY BIRD JOHNSON, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: What do I think I and my little trip into the South can do about it? Nothing much, just
sort of to say that, whatever your feelings now, now and for the years to come, the South, to this Democratic candidate for president, and to his
wife, is a respected and valued and beloved part of the country.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Doris, that is an amazing reveal. It's an amazing discovery. It's an amazing piece of the historical archive that's come out now.
You were there. We showed pictures of you, obviously, and the president and the first lady. Tell us, from your perspective, whether it was known then
how politically significant she was, and she wasn't just only about beautification and wild flowers.
GOODWIN: No, it's wonderful looking back at this history through these new tape and Julia's book,
I mean, clearly, what was known then, when she made that whistle-stop tour through the South, she was talking about a new South. It wasn't just a
South she was proud of, but a new South that after the Civil Rights Act was passed would become more a part of the nation. She got a lot of blowback
She got things saying, Lady Bird, blackbird, go home. There were death threats. There were bomb threats. And she kept going to the hearth. And she
won three out of -- I don't know she did, but LBJ won three out of the eight states that she traveled to.
I mean, I saw her, especially after the presidency was over, when I actually lived at the ranch, so I was in that house with her day after day,
I saw the anchor that she was to her husband. There's no question, without her, his life, I think, would have been inconceivable as a political
But what's so exciting about the new history that's opening up, not only from Julia but I think from women, you know, first ladies used to be
mentioned in the 19th century just as Mrs. Harrison or Mrs. Pierce, they weren't even mentioned by their full name. And now, with all women writing
about first ladies, writing about women's history. We're getting -- I'm an old person right now and I'm thrilled at the idea this new kind of
literature is coming out.
It needs documents though. And I think that is why the finding of these secret tapes allows Lady Bird's voice through Julie to be exhibited. I
mean, I heard that voice. I knew the voice. I did not know the extent to which she was involved in all these decisions that I know now. So, I'm very
thrilled to be part of an older person, looking at younger people getting in this field and doing what we need to do all along.
History comes from the ground up. It's not just first ladies. I think what women's involvement in history has brough is the citizen involvement in
history as well. So, it is exciting time to be an historian and watching all this stuff that's going on. I commend Julia.
There as new book written on Nancy Reagan by Karen Tumulty. The same thing. She's come out as a figure in her own right because of the documents that
are there. So, it is great.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to delve a little more into who actually records history with you, Doris. But I want to turn quickly, obviously, about LBJ
and Lady Bird to Julia. So, we've talked a little bit about her civil rights train and what she and her husband obviously believe so much in.
Remind us though, she wrote a nine-page memo, that you touched on, describing why he should run in, I think it was '64, and why he would not
run again, you know, four years later.
And it was an extraordinary prescient memo as a senior advisor. In fact, some of the press used to call her madam vice president, kind of, when
there wasn't actually the vice presidency slot field at the beginning of the Johnson presidency.
SWEIG: Correct. 1964 is a critical year. There was no vice president until, of course, the inauguration in January of 1965 when Humphrey was on
the ticket. In early 1964, just five months into their time in the White House, Lyndon Johnson is looking around and he's got civil rights stuck in
the Senate. He's got escalation in Vietnam and the pressure from Kennedy's war council whom he kept on board to escalate. Robert McNamara, the
secretary of defense, has gone to Vietnam five times already since the beginning of the year and he's coming back to Washington. And LBJ knows,
and Lady Bird understands too, that Vietnam might well derail their very ambitious domestic agenda.
So, he asks her to set forth in a, what I have --
AMANPOUR: We're having a few audio issues. I'm going to go to Doris Kearns Goodwin and we'll sort it out and get back to Julia.
Doris, you know, you mentioned first ladies but I'm interested in your view of who is telling history, whether it is about first ladies or anybody. By
and large, most of history certainly, you know, that I've read in the past and now, is told by men. You are one of the rare major prominent award-
winning presidential historians. But historians, point blank, as a woman.
Tell me about how it would change if there were more people of color, you know, writing the history of what happened in America, not just slavery and
civil rights but in general writing history. What if there were more women, half the population writing history? Do you ever think about that and how
the narrative and story of your country might be different?
GOODWIN: I do think about that. I mean, I think one of the things that's happening right now, not only with the writing of history but with the
teaching of history is that the understanding is the country as a whole is, as I say, changes often come from the ground up.
When I look at my guys that I wrote about who are mostly the presidents, right, it is a top-down history that we used to have when I was in school.
Even when I was writing, except for luckily Franklin and Eleanor. I was able to have Eleanor equal partner because there were documents that
documented her role. First first lady to have a press conference. First first lady to do daily columns. An extraordinary character.
But I think the more women that get involved in writing, the more people of color that get involved in writing, they're all -- we need to have a
history that is all of our country, that tells the story from the beginning up, that sees the troubling parts, that deals with the issues of race, that
deals with the issues of discrimination and that also deals with the progress that has been made. And I think it is a healthy thing that we're
having this debate right now. And that more people will be writing history who are women, who are women, who are people of color, who are people who
have been discriminated against and they can tell their story, and their story is part of our story.
AMANPOUR: So, your guys are Lincoln, FDR, LBJ and?
GOODWIN: Teddy Roosevelt.
AMANPOUR: Teddy Roosevelt. Exactly. OK. So, let's talk about one of the things that FDR did that you write about and that you are concerned about
now that Biden is taking on, and that is the idea of massive infrastructure. Tell me the historical reason for that being so important
and how you think the Biden attempt to pass a big infrastructure bill will turn out, and what it will mean for the American, you know, for the state
of the country and the history of the country.
GOODWIN: I mean, what FDR understood when he first came into the presidency was that the most important thing to get, first, the banking
crisis solved, which is the equivalent of getting the vaccine to the people for Biden. But then the next thing was to get people -- not only jobs, not
only temporary jobs but permanent jobs and that meant rebuilding the infrastructure of the country.
So, we have LaGuardia Airport, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Bonneville Dam, the TVA administration. Rural electrification. I mean, in a certain sense now
when Biden is talking about broadband to rural areas, that is what FDR was doing bringing electricity to rural areas that didn't have it. Knitting the
country together by having bridges and roads and -- you know, even Abraham Lincoln, when he was 23 years old, the first time he ran for office it was
on infrastructure so that poor people could get their goods to market by roads and bridges.
So, I think the infrastructure thing is an extraordinary for the country as a whole. And then I think after that's done, if that's done, then the
voting rights thing is still absolutely essential. If he can get all those things done between the COVID-19, infrastructure and voting rights, it will
be an historic presidency.
AMANPOUR: We've got Julia back. I'm going to ask her a question. You are back Julie. Look, I just want to ask you about --
AMANPOUR: We sort of parked Lady Bird's amazing work on the environment and conservation. You know, we sort of say, oh, she was relegated to
flowers in the public mind, but this was a huge, hugely important role she played, that we can see paying off and we can see the challenge of that
issue right now.
AMANPOUR: OK. Sorry, Doris let me ask you a final question. One of the things I know that you hope, is that a successful infrastructure and a
successful, you know, realignment of what government can bring to the states and to the people might turn those who don't believe in government
anymore back to believing in government. How do you think? And how has that been eroded, certainly since, I guess surely since Reagan when he said that
was one of the worst things you could imagine, you know, having faith in the federal government?
GUTHRIE: I mean, when you think about it. Between the new deal and World War II and really up until the late 60s, something like 80 percent of the
people believed that government would do the right thing most of the time. And then that began to erode with the credibility gap, with Vietnams, then
with Watergate and then with Reagan having said that government was the problem, not the solution.
And now, the question is, if infrastructure were done correctly, if people began to feel that their daily lives were made better because government
had done something that was important for them, would their trust in government begin to grow? Because what is government? Government is us. It
is collective action. It is the belief that we can do things to make our country better. And if those combinations of things, if we get the virus
under control, if indeed we get the infrastructure going so that people's daily lives are better, their community lives are better, their city lives
are better, and we get voting rights, then maybe that will mean that trust in government has increased. Then that is a transformative thing in its own
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And we'll see about that with our next guest. Because obviously it's been such a problem during the COVID, the mistrust of
government and how to, you know, really look after the whole of the United States.
Doris Kearns Goodwin. Julia Sweig, thank you both for joining us.
So, we turn now to Louisiana which is experiencing its worst COVID surge yet with an all-time high in hospitalizations. While the vaccination rate
in Louisiana is among the lowest in the country, it is also now rising. Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has reinstated a mask mandate in an
effort to cure infections. And here he's talking to our Walter Isaacson about wrestling with the COVID crisis and what good government can do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Christiane. And Governor John Bel Edwards, welcome to the show.
GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D- LA): Thank you very much, Walter. It's good to be with you.
ISAACSON: Louisiana is one of the worst hotspots now, more than 2,112 people are in the hospital. Tell us what's the latest.
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, unfortunately, we're not one of the hottest spots. We are the hottest spot. As measured by the seven-day case rate. And
quite frankly, it is not even close. Just the rate of growth in cases, which is fueling the hospitalization, as you mentioned, then that 2,112
that we have admitted inpatients across State of Louisiana dealing with COVID, that is the highest number throughout the pandemic.
And what's really most concerning right now, Walter, is that the percent positivity of our test continues to increase. Today, we're going to
announce the percent positivity here is 15.4 percent. Last week it was 13.2 percent. By the way, it hasn't been that high in over a year. And when it
was higher, it was with 20 percent as many tests being conducted, almost all of which were being done in emergency rooms early in the pandemic last
Well, we're now testing half a million people a month. And we have that kind of positivity. And what we know is the first indicator that you are
reaching the crest of the surge will be when that percent positivity levels off. And then, of course, we need it to go down. And so, even though we
have the worst numbers in the country, the worst numbers we've experienced in the pandemic, there is nothing on the horizon yet to indicate that
things are about to get better. Which is why we have reinstated the mask mandate. To mirror the CDC recommendations for people five and over, and
that includes our K to 12 schools, it includes higher education. And this is for indoor public settings. Because we have to curb transmission.
This delta variant has been a real game changer. And quite frankly, we didn't do a good enough job of getting enough people vaccinated in the time
that we had before this fourth surge really got started in earnest. And we are now paying the price. We're playing catchup as best we can. And the
only good news I can report to you, Walter, is that over the last three weeks, our vaccinations have increased by about 300 percent. And in fact, I
believe that in terms of week over week increase, we are leading the country in that regard right now with respect to new vaccinations. And so,
that is welcome. But we have a very, very long way to go.
ISAACSON: So, the news of this surge has caused people who were hesitant about vaccines to change their minds and say, I want vaccines?
EDWARDS: Yes. And its news of the surge but they actually -- you know, the disease burden in every community across our state is so pronounced right
now that just about everybody knows someone struggling with COVID. Either they're at home sick, they're in the hospital sick, someone who recently
died. I believe that that is getting traction and attention and people who may have been hesitant, meaning they were waiting, they decided not to wait
And some people who, I think, can initially said they were never going to get the vaccine have changed their mind. And so, that's what we're seeing.
We need to keep that going across Louisiana for quite a while. Because quite frankly, only 37 percent of our state is fully vaccinated. About 43
percent have received at least one shot. And if there is other good news about that, Walter, it is this. At least, as of right now, the vaccination
rates in our nursing homes have been very good. And so, we don't have nursing home patients competing for bed space in our hospitals unlike at
the beginning of the pandemic last year.
And if we didn't have those vaccinations in place, we know that we would have just about an impossible task today to take care of people in our
hospitals who need help. And. Walter, this is a point that's lost on a lot of people. It isn't just the COVID patients who need space in the hospital.
It is stroke victims. It is heart attack victims. It is people who have been in motor vehicle accidents and so forth.
And when the hospitals are full, and when we say full, we might have empty beds, what we don't have are the doctors and nurses and respiratory
therapists to actually staff those beds. And that is an increasing challenge that we are trying to help our hospitals with every single day.
I had a call yesterday with the medical directors of every tier one hospital in the state, every region is represented, and they are all having
the same issues. In fact, 46 hospitals, 46 in the State of Louisiana have asked me to find help for them with respect to staffing. That's how acute
things are in Louisiana today.
ISAACSON: You have come from Rural Louisiana. Your mother was a hospital nurse, if I remember correctly. What are you hearing from people about why
they are hesitant to get the vaccination? And what arguments are working?
EDWARDS: Well look, first of all, the reasons run the whole gamut and the sources of misinformation out there are just so plentiful that it is hard
to stay on top of. But many times, it is people who are worried about fertility, or they say they don't know what's in the vaccine or that it is
experimental and so forth or that they trust their own immune system. Believe it or not, you know, we've had a health emergency, public health
emergency here since March of 2020. We still have people who believe COVID isn't real. And, you know --
ISAACSON: Well, wait a minute. Can they believe that now when everybody knows somebody who's had COVID in Louisiana?
EDWARDS: Yes. Well, you know, the ones who get it. Sometimes when they are thrown in the hospital, well, yes, these respiratory symptoms, you have,
all these other things is because you are COVID positive. On occasion, these patients get angry because they say, no, I can't be COVID positive
because COVID isn't real. And -- but --
ISAACSON: But what can we co-about that misinformation?
EDWARDS: Well, it is very difficult. We just -- we continuously try to put out good information and appeal to people. We have people who go to the
hospital and once they realize they are in really bad shape and about to be intubated, they will ask, OK, please go ahead and give me the vaccine that
I have thus far avoided, and they can't receive the vaccine at that point. And even if they did, it would be too late to do them any good.
And so, just working with people. And, you know, we had a very powerful press conference this past Monday. And it was the most powerful that I've
seen. And, Walter, the truth of the matter is that, and I accept this, is that for those people who remain hesitant to get the vaccine, my voice is
likely to make no difference. Because I've been talking about the need to be vaccinated for a very, very long time and I do it every single day.
But having healthcare providers who are in the trenches, who can relate personal stories and personal observations about just how bad this disease
is and what this burden looks like in our state and how it is clogging up our hospitals and causing people to die, and not just exclusively in the
COVID population, but if you have a stroke victim of a small rural hospital who cannot be transferred to a large tier one hospital where they can
receive high standard of care, that outcome is likely to be poorer than it otherwise would be to include death.
And so, having these people tell these stories, and including how many young people are being adversely affected, and that is one of the
differences here with the delta, Walter, people need to understand. About 20 percent of all the cases that we're announcing over the last few weeks
were in people under 18. And they are -- and many young people, even though they are not pre-existing co-morbid health conditions are having a much
tougher time, and they are actually having the classic cases of COVID that involve respiratory problems and not just the multisystem inflammatory
syndrome children, which we saw previously.
So, this is a very dire situation and we're just trying to relay it to people as best we can unvarnished but using those people who are in the
hospital to do that, it seems to be having some effect. But quite frankly, I am dismayed by the number of people who remain opposed to vaccine, and
how many people seem to be purposely undermining public confidence in things like vaccinations, in things like mitigation measures such as
ISAACSON: Give me some examples of that. Who is publicly trying to undermine you on vaccinations?
EDWARDS: Well, unfortunately, the attorney general here in Louisiana. And, you know, as if we don't already have religious and health and other
reasons to opt out of a vaccine, he's talking about all the reasons that you can opt out of a vaccine if you want. As if we've been mandating it
right now, which we're not, as a state. And --
ISAACSON: Well, so, you are a Democratic governor, but you've got a very conservative Republican attorney general who is trying to tell people how
to opt out of vaccines. Have you --
EDWARDS: Well, how to opt out of vaccines and masking.
ISAACSON: And have you talked to him? I mean, is there a way that you can reconcile this?
EDWARDS: Well, I don't know how to do that. Quite frankly, I don't believe he's consulting with any public health experts. And what he's doing has no
basis in the law. And so, it is very difficult to deal with him. And there are certain people who are going to listen to that. But what we have to do
is minimize that number.
Look, in person education, for example, in our schools, is so important. The learning lost last year because of COVID and so many people who --
young children who were not in the classroom, and then by the way, the test results came back this week and they were announced. We know that the kids
who spent the most time in the classroom had the least amount of learning loss, and they did much better. We want all of our kids in person in
education, but it has to be a safe environment. And we know that you can't run a school if you are having outbreaks constantly. We've seen that the
in-summer term with respect to camps and other things where the kids were spreading COVID, the staff were getting it and so forth, and they were
And so, we put the mask mandate on for schools so that that can be a safe environment where the kids can learn. But they also have social and
emotional needs to be in the classroom, nutritional needs are satisfied when they go to school and for other reasons as well. And kids under 12
don't even have access to a vaccine today. The vaccination rate for between kids -- kids between 12 and 18 is only about 13 percent. And so, we have to
This is a CDC recommendation. And by the way, we don't want the kids leaving school and going home to mom and dad and grandmother and grandpa
bringing COVID either.
ISAACSON: You said that patients are having -- for non-COVIDs issues, are having trouble getting treatment. Tell me what that has done.
EDWARDS: Well, what it's done is, its caused people to not be able to get a bed in a hospital where they need to be in order to have a surgical
procedure. But when you don't have the staffing available, they are having to postpone anything that isn't an emergency procedure, and whether it is
surgery or medical. And what's not an emergency today can be an emergency next week if it's been delayed and so forth.
And so, this is really having an impact across the State of Louisiana. I know, for example, you know, you talk about my mother being a nurse. My
sister is a nurse as well and she works (INAUDIBLE) the biggest hospital there. She's in her early 60s. She survived breast cancer. She has -- she's
immunocompromises as a result of that but she goes to work. And, in fact, she's having to do extra shifts because that is what's required right now
of the nurses.
I have a niece who went to work on Sunday, Walter. And at a small rural hospital, they needed to transfer out a patient to an ICU. She personally
called 38 hospitals in the state and out of state, could not locate an ICU for that patient. And we cannot pretend that that isn't affecting adversely
the outcomes of these patients. And so, that is how acute the situation is, which is why we need everybody on board to lower the transmission and let's
turn this thing around, again.
And I believe we're going to get there. I'm an optimist, you know, and I'm praying very hard. We're working very hard. But we need people to get on
board. And quite frankly, I appreciate what the president started saying yesterday. If you are not going to lead in a positive direction, at least
get the hell out of the way. And we need people in Louisiana to get out of the way.
ISAACSON: Thank you so much. And good luck with your fight.
EDWARDS: Walter, thank you so much. And we accept help. We accept prayers. And we're going to get through this. The people of Louisiana are good,
decent, resilient people and we're going to get through this. But, boy, I'm looking forward to cresting and starting to come down on this surge.
Because we are literally overwhelmed with the at the moment.
ISAACSON: Well, good luck with it, sir.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, despite the COVID spike in Japan, there have been many gee whiz moments this Tokyo Olympics. Talk about doing a frontside
180, if like me, if you don't know what that means, just look at British skateboarder Sky Brown who went from learning tricks on YouTube to winning
an Olympic bronze medal today. And she's only 13 years old. Britain's youngest ever Olympian who grew up in California said, it was a super sick
With the competitors cheering each other on, it was also a fine show of sportsmanship. And marked a major comeback for young Sky after a serious
life-threatening accident last year. And we might even see this prodigy making more waves on both the skateboarding and surfing podiums in the 2024
games. As Brown says, the girls are ripping it.
By the way, Sky's nine-year-old brother is called Ocean. He's also a surfer/skateboarder and their YouTube channel has racked up 54 million
views so far. Inspiring to say the very least.
And 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.