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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Professor, do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
ANITA HILL, PROFESSOR, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY: I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Anita Hill, her allegations against now Justice Clarence Thomas was a preview three decades ago of the #MeToo era, but she tells me this
battle is not yet over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NOAH FELDMAN, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: That’s the textbook definition of abuse of power.
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AMANPOUR: As the president faces a damning week of impeachment testimony, our Walter Isaacson sits down with Harvard law professor, Noah Feldman, on
how the constitution is faring in the age of Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARYLIN BOOTH, TRANSLATOR, “CELESTIAL BODIES”: It was the epitome of the greatest sort of love, a sublime and self-emulating love that could not be
shattered by anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: “Celestial Bodies.” My conversation with the author and translator of the first Arabic novel to win the Man Booker Prize.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour in New York.
Before #MeToo, there was Anita Hill. Nearly three decades ago, the law professor made the life-changing decision to testify against then supreme
court nominee, Clarence Thomas, for sexual harassment. Her testimony gripped the nation. And a warning, this clip is sexually explicit and some
viewers might find it disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: His conversations were very vivid. He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with
animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials, depicting individuals with large penises or large
breasts involved in various sex acts.
On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess. Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with him at all and
particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not want to talk about these subjects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That was 28 years ago, and Thomas denied it all along, and he was confirmed in a very close vote. But all these years later, it is Anita
Hill who’s remained the icon and whose story is more relevant than ever, and her experience was impossible to ignore last year when Supreme Court
Nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced his own allegations of abuse from a former classmate, Christine Blasey Ford. He, too, was confirmed.
Hill calls this a public crisis, and she’s demanding that all presidential candidates come up with a plan to address it. I delved into this with her
at CNN’s CNN event in downtown New York.
Anita Hill, welcome.
HILL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Good to have you here. You did become a national figure in 1991, that’s nearly 30 years ago, because of what you dared to come forward
to say. Nearly 30 years later, Christine Blasey Ford came forward and dared to put herself on the line for what she believed was her right. Both
Supreme Court justices were nonetheless confirmed, the nominees. What do you think will happen when the next, and if the next such Anita Hill or
Christine Ford comes forward?
HILL: I’m hopeful. But as you can see from last year, it’s hard to predict, it’s hard to know. I think there were people who thought that the
Kavanaugh hearing would be quite different. And I think it’s important for us to clear up the fact that we’re not just talking about the outcome,
we’re talking about the process and the ability for people who come forward to be heard, to be treated fairly, to have their claims fully investigated
and all of the information laid out for not only the decision-makers to see, but in the case of Supreme Court nominees and hearings in front of the
judiciary committee, for the American public to see.
And that I think is what really prompted this really profound disappointment in what happened in the Kavanaugh hearings.
AMANPOUR: So, we’re talking about accountability and equality in this age. And I wonder whether you had any flashbacks or what you thought when you
realized that when you came before the Senate judiciary committee, you weren’t allowed, or they did not call other witnesses who apparently
weren’t even your friends, they were just people who wanted to come forward.
When you were told that you would go first, I believe, in terms of testimony, but then that didn’t happen, how do you feel when you looked
at the latest, you know, last year, those hearings, compared to what you went through, on those particular issues?
HILL: I can only say that it was just disappointing. I tend to be a hopeful person, so I try to build up my hope that, yes, things can be
different this time. We know more now than we did 30 years ago. We know and understand these issues and we understand sexual assault. We don’t
blame the victims automatically. We listen to the facts, and we know about the reality in terms of the numbers.
And so, I was trying to be very hopeful. We’ve just got a long way to go. And as disappointed as I was, at this point, you know, I’ve gone through
the various stages of anger and anguish and disappointment. And now, I just feel there is a profound urgency.
This a moment, especially with the Kavanaugh hearing having come on the heels of the #MeToo movement, there was momentum and this sense of
reckoning that things were going to change. People were energized around it.
And even though the stories that we’d heard through the #MeToo postings, they were just horrific, but they were something that we all needed to know
in order to be able to move forward and to have real accountability and to understand the role that gender violence plays in creating inequality that
is primarily gender-based.
And so, we are now, I think, having to get beyond Kavanaugh, not simply just look at this hearing as this sort of setback, but look at this as this
opportunity for us to realize now how much work there is to be done, and that’s where I am right now. I’m about the work to be done.
And am I angry? There’s probably a little bit of anger there left. But I just want to get it on. And the thing is, you know, people say, how do you
feel? Well, one of the things I have learned is that it’s important to be able to feel and think at the same time, and that is what we are now
expecting that we’re going to do. It’s especially what a younger generation of people expect.
They feel you — those of us who are in colleges and campuses, they feel very strongly, but they want people to be able to think and help us get out
of this mess so that we can move forward.
AMANPOUR: Well —
HILL: And they don’t have to be burdened with it for another generation.
AMANPOUR: Well, we happen to be in a presidential election year. And you remember, it is part of American electoral history that after the battle of
the Clarence Thomas hearings and what you were put through, it became the signal year for women to run for office, and it was the class of ’92, I
think it’s referred to, more women than ever ran and more women than ever were elected.
And now, we see that that’s increasing, obviously, plus, there are six female candidates from the Democrats who are standing for election.
Obviously, you think that’s a good thing, but what do you expect them to do, and are you satisfied with what they are speaking about in public as
we’ve heard it so far in all these debates on this issue?
HILL: Well, I could say right now — I know I’m sitting in CNN’s space, but I am not satisfied with the way the media has treated this issue. I’m
not satisfied that no one has asked the question of the candidates, the press doesn’t ask the questions, what will you do to respond to this
information that you have received en masse during the #MeToo movement? Why aren’t there questions in the debates about what the candidates’ plans
will be to address gender-based violence? We know it exists. We’re all horrified at the stories.
And if you look at the numbers, to me, what I see, when you talk about one out of three women and one out of five or six men who have been victims of
sexual assault, we’re talking about a public health crisis. We’re talking about a public safety crisis. We’re talking about the rate of harassment
in the workplace being an economic crisis for women.
When we talk about the fact that 50 women a month are killed in domestic violence instances, we are talking about not only health and safety, we’re
talking about their ability, women’s ability to find spaces to live in and to feel safe. So, why isn’t this seen as a public health crisis?
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, it’s a good question, why isn’t it seen as a public health crisis? And you have spoken about that is what you believe
it is, and the numbers obviously prove it, and that it takes systemic change, that it’s not just a few brave individuals, no matter how
big the #MeToo momentum and the wave is, it’s still individuals versus a system that’s in place to combat it.
But here’s the question. I hope this question will be now amongst debate questions going forward, and no doubt, it will be, but don’t the candidates
themselves have the responsibility to bring it up? Why aren’t they out there, especially the six women who purport to, you know, represent our
interests, represent women’s interests? And women’s interests are human rights, everybody’s interest. They need to be stepping up more. Have you
seen any candidate actually do a good job on this?
AMANPOUR: Well, one of the things that I say about accountability is one of the elements is acknowledging your world and your ability to make
change. And I think that’s something everybody needs to do, and especially for people who are vying to lead this country and lead it in a new
direction. Around these issues, that’s critical. And I do believe the candidates should be coming forward. I understand that one of the
candidates has now issued his positions on where women should be.
AMANPOUR: That’s Pete Buttigieg, who today has unveiled his program for women, yes.
HILL: And I think it is — it’s important that we hear from all of them. But I want to say that part of the problem is that we look for simple,
quick fixes. We look at particular pieces of legislation like those that ban nondisclosure agreements and address arbitration causes that are in
employment contracts. Those are great. Those are great. Those are important.
But as we said, structure, culture supports abuse. And if you’ve read any of the new books that are out about, whether it’s the Weinstein case or the
case of the rapist — or the sexual assault assailant at Stanford, you know that there are structures that support it.
And what I also know is that in the — you know, all of the research says this — what I also know is that cultures and structures are changed
through leadership, and that’s what we need from our elected officials, leaders who will acknowledge the problem, hold themselves accountable for
the role and — their roles in changing it, and then back that up with a plan and action.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because it starts with who’s going to vote, and you’ve just said on college campuses, you’re obviously at Brandeis, but
on college campuses, you know, there’s a real element of serious thought, not just talking about issues, but thinking about where they are, where we
are at this moment.
It’s said that millennials will be the biggest voting group in the 2020 presidential election, overtaking the baby boomers. That’s what I’ve read.
How do you expect that to affect these issues at the ballot box and what are they saying on campus? What do you hear from young people whose vote
will count in 2020?
HILL: Well, that — young people really are one of the reasons that I’m hopeful, because they’re dealing with these issues of sexual violence and
harassment on campus. And they’re also looking at the future, and they’re looking at a generation that’s sort of passed this all on to them. And I
honestly believe that this is an issue that they are going to be energized behind. And again, maybe that goes to my being hopeful.
But listen, I wouldn’t be here today if I weren’t hopeful. I mean, 28 years ago, I was devastated, but I still maintained hope. I had wonderful
support. I had friends. Not everybody was supportive, but that was OK. And I’ve made it to today through being hopeful, and I think young people
are there too, because they do believe that they can do something better than what we have right now.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you about not everybody was supportive, because obviously, that’s something that affects women and is in the back or the
forefront of women’s minds, or anybody, young boys who are abused as well, anybody who comes forward and says that somebody in power has abused them.
They think a million times before they come forward because it might destroy their lives.
You’ve become an icon. How did you cope with the negative side? Obviously, you received a lot of support. But what was it like, I mean,
people disbelieving you, people, you know, who tried to destroy you?
HILL: Let me just back up and say, you know, one of the very first messages that I got in 1991 that had this really profound effect on what my
thinking was around this was from a male sexual abuse survivor, an incest survivor, who said to me that my testimony, and I quote, “had
opened up a whole can of worms.” I didn’t know what that meant.
But when we talk about sexual harassment, we think about something going on in the workplace, that’s not how survivors saw my testimony. I heard from
people all across the spectrum of abuses, whether it was domestic abuse, sexual assault, rape, incest. I heard from all of those.
Now — and that is the answer to your second part of the question too, how do you survive it, because you listen to the people who are at risk, who
are vulnerable, who are hurting, and you know that you can make a difference. And if you start to believe that you can make a difference in
those lives, if you hear those and you feel the pain that is out there, then you survive the criticism.
It’s not like I had never been criticized before. I grew up in rural Oklahoma, raised by parents who raised 13 children, 12 older than I am.
They had gone through — our family has gone through blatant, undisguised racism, undisguised sexism. So, it’s not like I had been, you know, sort
of living in a glass bubble all of my life. In fact, none of it.
So, the criticism was hard to take, but it was balanced out by the people who were looking to me to help them understand and improve their
situations, and that’s really what motivated me. And I also learned from the criticism. I’ve read some of the criticism. And I know a lot of
people, especially now, off Twitter, and then people do what they need to do. But for me, I needed to hear it, because in some ways, it just
reinforced to me how important it was for change to happen.
AMANPOUR: It’s really interesting that listening deliberately to the criticism in such an incredibly emotional and vulnerable time.
HILL: It’s hard.
HILL: But you can learn from it.
AMANPOUR: But it’s really important that, because very few people have the strength of character to actually do that, and we all should do that in our
daily lives, no matter where we are.
HILL: Well, my mom told me, you know, when I would have sort of these down moments, she said, you know who you are and you know what you’re capable
of. And so, if nothing else helped, that confidence that she had in me, the belief in me, the love that she had, the woman who had known me better
than anyone else throughout my life, that got me through.
But let me tell you this, not everybody has that. Not every survivor has that. Many survivors don’t. They have families who turn against them,
like the caller that I got, the incest survivor. His family turned against him.
And so, we need to understand, we can’t give everybody a fair family, a gracious and supporting family, but we can give them a fair system.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you, because you brought up racism. You’re a black woman sitting here. You said, I think, that perhaps I think your
grandfather’s generation, they were slaves. You have heard President Trump use the word lynching. He has been roundly criticized, even by the “Wall
Street Journal,” who basically said, the editorial board in the united states, the word is electric for its historical context, and you don’t have
to indulge in racial hypersensitivities to appreciate why. No president should use the word in the off-hand and self-indulgent way that Mr. Trump
did in his tweet.
But of course, it takes me and perhaps many people all the way back to 1991, when a black man being voted on for the Supreme Court said that what
was happening to him was a, I believe, high-tech lynching.
AMANPOUR: I wonder whether you can just comment on the use of that word?
HILL: Well, the idea — I mean, without going into entire history because you know — I think it was a tactic, it was a technique, it was an effort
to push back any of the white men on that judiciary committee from objecting to him. It wasn’t sincere, it wasn’t authentic and it wasn’t
real. Here was an individual who had claimed that, you know, racism was a thing of the past.
AMANPOUR: You’re talking about Clarence Thomas?
HILL: Clarence Thomas. So, to invoke that I think was simply a tactic on his part. And I think we have to call that out and we have to be able to
understand it. But one of the reasons that it was so effective was that we didn’t have a similar narrative for the treatment of black
women. We didn’t have the narrative of how of the sexual abuse of black women throughout our history, whether in slavery or in the years after
And so, we didn’t really have a counter. And I was as — you know, as I say, he became the face of the race, and I was sort of taken out of the —
any kind of a racial experience that I had, and that was removed. And that was really hurtful, because throughout my life, I had been really pushing
for racial equality. I had taught about it at schools. I had worked on efforts.
And so, it was hurtful for me to then assume that I had no racial understanding or sympathies. And it also was hurtful because my
grandfather was threatened to be lynched. And so — and I think a lot of people felt that.
One of the greatest things that did come out of that, though, was this poster and ad that was taken out in “The New York Times” by a group called
African-American Women in Defense of Ourselves. And if you haven’t seen it, Google it. It’s online. It was a wonderful testament to our being
able to assert who we are.
Fast-forward in 2018, there was an ad taken on after the Kavanaugh hearing, or during the Kavanaugh hearing, supporting survivors. But this ad was
taken out by a group of men. And so, I think that — you know, again, my hopefulness says that we can turn things around and we can understand what
is important and what is real.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you about that. Quickly, Trump using the word lynching about the impeachment process.
HILL: Oh, that is ludicrous. It is just ludicrous. The idea that a person with this kind of power and authority could co-opt this language on
his own personal behalf is ludicrous and insulting, and we need to call it out for that, but we also have to go back to the reality that this is a
tactic. This is a tactic. It’s a divisive tactic to get people to push back on any kind of challenges.
And so, it’s not really that different from what happened in 1991.
AMANPOUR: Again, on the theme of equality and accountability, you’ve obviously said, and many do, that, you know, gender equality in any walk of
life, particularly in politics and governance and leadership just changes the whole playing field. There’s six, as I said, female candidates right
now for president on the Democratic side. Do you believe that this country is misogynistic still, that it will not vote for a female?
HILL: Well, the country did vote for a female in the last election. So, I —
AMANPOUR: But the electoral college needs —
HILL: But — yes. So, the electoral college maybe doesn’t reflect the country, and maybe that’s the problem. So, I think that we, in order —
what we don’t often comprehend is to get beyond gender discrimination, to move beyond. We’ve got to deal with a whole lot of other kinds of
discrimination too, because women come in all kinds of forms and shapes and fashions and races and sexualities and sexual identities, and if we can
say, OK, well, I’m not going to discriminate against you on the basis of your gender, but I’m going to discriminate against this woman on the basis
of her race, then we’re never going to get full gender equality. You can’t parse it out.
And so, we’re going to have to deal with a lot of other biased to get to full gender equality. And so — and I say that as someone who has dealt
with the intersection of race and gender. That’s not the only intersection there is, but that is an important one for us to really kind of wrap our
brains around and understand that those overlapping biases can push women back individually and as a group.
AMANPOUR: And finally, have you decided who to endorse and have you forgiven Joe Biden for what happened in 1991?
HILL: I have not decided who to — I never endorse a presidential candidate for one, so this is not new. And have I forgiven Joe Biden? I’m
ready to move on. But I am also ready to hold Joe Biden accountable. Accountability means acknowledging your role in the problem
and the harm that’s caused, acknowledging that you have culpability and are part of it, giving me clear information that you have made a change and
that you’re going to do something to make us all better off around gender discrimination.
I expect that not only from Joe Biden, but I expect that from every candidate, regardless of their gender.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Anita Hill, thank you so much for joining us.
HILL: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: And hers remains such an important voice. And when it comes to accountability and equal opportunity, Congressman Elijah Cummings was a
Today, his body lies in state on Capitol Hill. According to congressional historians, he appears to be the first African-American ever to lie in
state at the U.S. Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “In the Congress, Elijah was considered a north star. He was a leader of towering character
and integrity. He lived the American dream.” The Maryland Democrat died last week, age 68. And President Obama will deliver remarks at his funeral
Capitol Hill has also been home this week to some of the most damning testimony yet in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and
unprecedented action Wednesday as two dozen house Republicans stormed into a secure briefing room, refusing to leave and delaying proceedings for
hours. The group claimed they were unhappy with the level of transparency of the impeachment process, this despite the fact that about a quarter of
those house Republicans sit on committees that give them access to the briefings.
Our next guest is Harvard law professor, Noah Feldman, and he says the impeachment inquiry tests the very limits of the U.S. constitution, telling
our Walter Isaacson that it is ultimately up to the American people to uphold American values.
WALTER ISAACSON: You wrote recently that this constitution of ours can pass a stress test. You said it was — is going to be able to
make it. Are you starting to worry?
NOAH FELDMAN, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: It’s definitely the moment in the stress test, and I think that stress test began the night that Donald
Trump was elected, where you think to yourself, how’s the patient doing right around now? You know, do we need to call any EMTs?
And the reason for that is that so far, the formal constitutional protections have done pretty well. You know, when the president has taken
action that clearly violates the constitution, the lower courts have mostly said so. The president had to retrench a little bit.
The informal norms that are also an important part of our constitutional tradition but aren’t written down in the constitution have not done well at
ISAACSON: Give me an example.
FELDMAN: A good example would be the norm that prosecution and investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI should be non-
partisan. It took us a long time to get to that norm. We didn’t always have that in American history. And after Nixon, we really had to
rehabilitate DOJ and the FBI, but we did.
Now I don’t think almost anybody believes that the prosecutions the DOJ is doing or the investigations they’re involved in are free of partisan
influence. Donald Trump self-consciously set out to break that norm, and he broke it.
ISAACSON: So, this call to the Ukraine in which he’s trying to do things for his political benefit that involve an investigation, is that a
violation of the constitution?
FELDMAN: Yes. To me, the abuse of power is the thing that the constitution says that the president should be impeached for. And you
define abuse of power by the idea that the president’s doing something that’s within his constitutional authority, within his power, like putting
pressure on a foreign government. But he’s doing it not to serve the interests of the United States but to serve his personal interest and the
interest of getting re-elected, and that’s to my mind, very clearly what’s going on in the call, regardless of whether you think there’s a quid pro
quo or not. To me, that’s almost a side show.
What matters is that the president is overtly saying to Ukraine, do these investigations. And the only party who can benefit from those
investigations is Donald Trump.
ISAACSON: So, on its face you think it’s an impeachable offense?
FELDMAN: On its face, for sure. And the fact that the president then went out and said, and you know what, China should also do this, that’s also
impeachable. That’s also openly calling on a foreign state to help the president get re-elected, not to serve the interests of the United States
as a Republican. That’s the textbook definition of abuse of power.
ISAACSON: And his ability to just say these things in broad daylight, like, OK, China, you investigate for my behalf, while he’s negotiating
tariffs, how does that somehow make it seem more just he can get away with it?
FELDMAN: I mean, this is a fascinating instance, because of course, Trump didn’t originally do this in public. The call with Zelensky was a private
call. And we know from the whistleblower’s complaint that, actually, after the call happened, the White House made a point of putting that recording
of that call not in the usual computer server where it would have gone, but in a special, more highly restricted, more secret server, because they
didn’t want anybody to know about it.
Once word got out via the whistleblower, then Trump makes his move of saying, well, you know what, you caught me doing it privately, so now I’m
going to do it publicly. It’s kind of like an enormous manifestation of nerve or chutzpah to sort of get out there and say, well, it can’t be wrong
because I’m doing it right in front of you.
And I think that’s very clever, but it’s up to us as citizens to take a look at it and say, it doesn’t make it OK that you did this in front of all
ISAACSON: What are the unwritten norms that worry you the most that are being broken?
FELDMAN: The one that I worry about the most is the criminal vilification of your political opponents. And Donald Trump started doing this already
when he was running for office with the “Lock her up” chants directed at Hillary Clinton.
The very core of a democracy is that the political parties know that they’re going to trade turns in office. You know, we think that voting is
the most important thing in a democracy, but a lot of professional political scientists would tell you, it doesn’t even matter if you vote,
you can almost flip a coin.
What makes it a democracy is that the parties change places. And because they know they’re going to change places, they respect each other’s rights
when they’re out of office.
So, if you’re in a system where the president says, my opponents are criminals, I’m going to investigate them criminally, I’m going to seek to
put them in prison, then when the other side gets into office, they’re going to do the same thing, and then you lose the capacity of both sides to
protect rights and participate in a peaceful change of government.
And that’s the scariest thing to my mind that can happen in democracy. And we’re heading in that general direction, you know? I mean, the current
scandal facing the president is that he was seeking a criminal investigation of the person who was at the time leading the polls to run
ISAACSON: So, is there any law or any constitutional provision that says the president can’t use the justice department for his own political
FELDMAN: Nope. So, there’s nothing written into the constitution that says explicitly that the president can’t go after his political enemies.
Where that comes from, where that norm comes from is our recognition that that would distort the nature of politics. And our hope that if the
president did that, Congress would impeach him and remove him from office because the public would be so outraged by this behavior.
And the moment that the public outrage begins to die down, or the minute that partisanship enables this kind of conduct to go unpunished, the whole
system begins to teeter on its foundations.
ISAACSON: And the main way to save the system is through the impeachment process right now, right?
FELDMAN: Well, that’s what’s written into the constitution. The other main way to save it is through an election.
Even if the president were impeached and not removed or if he were not impeached, if he were voted out of office, that would do something. It
wouldn’t do everything but it would do something to re-establish the idea that you can’t get away with that kind of stuff when you’re the president
of the United States.
So impeachment is supposed to be a last-ditch, you know, solution. Elections are supposed to be the first defense that the republic has for
ISAACSON: The president says he’s not going to cooperate with the impeachment thing. He’s not going to give over documents. They’re not
going to testify, some of the people. So, what happens?
FELDMAN: You’re asking a great question. And the fact that we don’t have a clear answer to that is part of why we have a kind of mini constitutional
crisis going on right now, and it might become bigger than a mini crisis.
The reason it’s only a mini crisis right now is that even though the president said he wouldn’t cooperate, lots of people who work for the
president are still cooperating. They’re still showing up and testifying.
In fact, some of them are quitting and then going and testifying, but others have just shown up. So, for that reason, we’ve staved off the worst
part of the crisis.
But you know, there’s nothing in the constitution that says what you do if the president says, I won’t cooperate, I’m going to take my ball and I’m
going to go home. The only thing Congress could really do then would be to impeach the president for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment
investigation, which they can do, but it sounds a little weak, you know?
You’d rather hear Congress impeaching somebody for facts that they know have actually occurred.
ISAACSON: Do you think that the Democrats in the House and those in favor of an impeachment inquiry would be better off if they actually voted
formally for an impeachment inquiry?
FELDMAN: I think they should do that. I think that the Democrats have a good amount to gain and relatively little to lose by just passing a
resolution that says, OK, this is now a formal impeachment inquiry.
There’s nothing in the constitution that demands that they do that, but they’re giving Donald Trump a kind of fake news, to use his phrase,
justification for refusing to cooperate. I mean, it has no constitutional basis, no legal basis, but it gives him something to say.
And I think, you know, they should stand up and take responsibility for the fact that this is an impeachment inquiry. In any case, if they bring an
impeachment, they are going to have to stand up and be counted, and they are going to have to vote.
So, the idea that they shouldn’t vote on the inquiry too soon seems to me like, you know, too much self-protection.
ISAACSON: And should they be doing more of this in public?
FELDMAN: Yes. And I have great hopes that the inquiry will move to a more public-facing stage. And if it doesn’t, that’s a bad thing.
You know, so far it was justifiable for the Democrats to say, we’re doing a criminal investigation, effectively, and that always starts in private.
You know, the police don’t interview you in public. The prosecutor doesn’t interview you in public. They’re talking to witnesses, finding out what
those witnesses have to say.
Once they get that information, then they should have public hearings. And I think a lot of the witnesses they’ve already had in should be called back
to testify publicly this time so that we don’t have to rely on leaks or secondhand reports.
In the end, this is a public political process, and political not in the partisan sense, ideally, but political in the sense that it is done by the
political branch of government, by Congress. And you know, that’s a branch that’s responsible to the public, so it should be acting in public.
ISAACSON: As a constitutional scholar, do you think Syria and those issues, which are really causing some uproar, should be part of an
impeachment inquiry, or is that totally off limits for an impeachment?
FELDMAN: I would strongly recommend against the president’s policies on Syria, which I disagree with, being part of an impeachment inquiry. You
know, at the constitutional convention, there was some talk about how easy it should be to impeach the president, and there was actually a proposal
put on the table to say, the president should be impeachable for maladministration, you know, doing a bad job of the administration.
And I think there’s a plausible case to be made that what is going on in Syria is maladministration. And James Madison got up and said that’s too
loose a standard. Then you’d basically have a president who serves at the pleasure of the House and the Senate.
So doing a bad job is not grounds for impeachment. Committing a high crime or misdemeanor is grounds for impeachment and the classic high crime or
misdemeanor is the abuse of power.
ISAACSON: What do you think they actually meant by high crimes and misdemeanors?
FELDMAN: Well, the word high meant political. It meant connected to the office that you are in.
So you know, if the president committed a private crime, that might not have actually been considered to be a high crime. A high crime was
something connected to the office itself.
Now, almost certainly, that was not restricted to crimes that are written on the statute books as known crimes, because there was tradition of
impeaching people for something that was not written down explicitly as a legal crime. It certainly includes things that are real crimes, but it’s
not restricted to that.
So, what they meant was something where the president or another, you know, government official genuinely abuses power for self-gain. That’s the most
significant exemplar in their thinking.
And you could think of Richard Nixon in this context of having done exactly that when he probably directed and certainly covered up the break-in of the
Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.
ISAACSON: You wrote a wonderful book on Madison, James Madison.
FELDMAN: Thank you.
ISAACSON: And part of it is his conflict with Hamilton. And Hamilton bereaves in the very strong executive. He doesn’t want easy impeachment.
He almost believes in a monarchy.
Now, we’re in a moment where we need some Madisonians in a way. What would he be thinking now?
FELDMAN: I think he would be thinking two things. First, I gave you a structure to try to fix this, so try to fix it. Try to exercise
impeachment. Try to make it work.
The second thing that I think that Madison would be thinking is that, if we fail in that regard, you can’t completely blame the system, because he
believed that the success of the republic depended on what he called unashamedly, the virtue of the people.
And you know, when he was fighting with Hamilton, and people said well, the publics against you, he thought about that seriously and he said, look, I
have a lot of respect for what the people think. You know, over time, he actually was willing to change some of his views because he realized that
the public didn’t completely agree with him.
But he always said that if the public loses that virtue, there’s nothing you can do to save the republic. And I think we’re in some danger — we’re
not there yet and I hope we never get there, but we’re in some danger of being in a place where some part of the public might actually think that
it’s OK for the president to abuse his power, and it’s very hard to sustain a republic where large parts of the public think that way.
ISAACSON: Do you think there’s part of a global trend that’s almost a backlash to liberal democracy?
FELDMAN: I definitely think that we’re in a historical moment now where lots of countries are saying that liberal democracy is substantially
overrated. And I would say a major part of that has been the enormous success of China, which showed over the course of 30-odd years that you
could grow economically and maintain government legitimacy without constitutional democracy being anywhere on your agenda.
You know, it’s not like China is on its way to constitutional democracy. If anything, it’s pulled back in recent years, even from power-sharing
structures, and it’s drawn back from even the degree of limited freedom of expression that it briefly had. That’s mostly gone now.
And I think that made everybody think all over the world. You know, at the end of the Cold War, a lot of us in the west imagined that capitalism and
liberal democracy had won because communism had lost. In retrospect, it looks like maybe capitalism won because China’s, after all, pretty
capitalist, but it doesn’t look like liberal democracy was actually the reason for western success in the Cold War.
I mean, that’s a devastating thought, but I think many people around the world sort of sat up and noticed that in recent years. And so I think the
rise of populist and some cases autocratic leaders in lots of places in the world who were doing fine as they march slowly in the direction of less
democracy and less freedom is evidence for a real trend.
And I think it’s a real challenge to constitutional democracy. To my mind, the answer is that we can no longer say that constitutional democracy is
good because it will put a chicken in every pot or because it’s the best for facilitating property rights or for driving economic growth, because
it’s not. I mean, we know it’s not the only way to do that.
We have to defend the constitutional democracy on its own terms as being good. We have to take the view in freedom of expression actually makes us
better off as human beings, not that it just makes the system work better, but that it actually enables a basic human capacity to think to believe, to
worship, to express ourselves. It’s essential to being human and which is missing in an autocratic government.
And similarly, we have to say that constitutional democracy is good because it enables people actually to participate in self-government. And you
know, that’s not because participating in self-government always makes you richer. It might not, you know?
Some very smart businessman might run your country and you might get richer than if you were self-governing. Self-governance has to be available in
its own right, and that is definitely how our founding fathers thought about it.
ISAACSON: Why is free speech important?
FELDMAN: To me, freedom of speech is really important for three closely linked reasons. The first is, essentially, that if you want to have self-
government, you want to have real democracy, you have to talk about politics.
Democracy is based on the idea that we discuss, we reason, and we make collective judgments. And if certain viewpoints are ruled out at that
stage, you don’t have a real democracy. You’re not having a real conversation.
The second is that we need to have a discussion that involves something like a free marketplace of ideas, because we’re not really always sure what
is true. I mean, deep in our hearts, we might think we know better than everybody else, but we change our minds over the course of our lives and we
think different things that our parents thought and that our grandparents thought, even sometimes different things than they fought and died for.
And that kind of self-questioning is healthy. And it enables us to consider lots of views to run our country and our lives as what they really
are in real life, namely, an experiment.
We really are experimenting every day, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, in every aspect of our lives, and without the opportunity to express
competing viewpoints, including false ones, you can’t really run that experiment.
And then the last also closely linked reason, I think, has to do with what it is to be human. To me, part of what makes our lives worth living is
that we can express our thoughts, our beliefs, our feelings, our angers, our loves.
That all requires the expression of what is inside us and our relationship to other people is created via those kinds of expressions from us to them
and from them to us. And to me, freedom of speech is the guarantor that we can shape our life relationships in that way.
When you take it away, you can’t. There are certain things that then cannot be said, cannot be argued about, cannot be said that are positive.
And that to me fundamentally reduces our capacity to live well as humans.
ISAACSON: Noah, thank you so much for being here.
FELDMAN: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: Such an important message for our times. But now we’re going to take a break from politics and we’re going to turn to a groundbreaking work
“Celestial Bodies” is a book of firsts. It’s the first novel by an Omani woman to be translated into English and the first work in Arabic to be
awarded the Prestigious Man Booker International Prize.
At its heart is a story about women, following three sisters as they navigate love and marriage while their country, Oman, on the Arabian
Peninsula is undergoing rapid social change. Author Jokha Alharthi and her co-winner and translator, Marilyn Booth, join me in London to discuss the
book’s break-out success.
Ladies, welcome to the program. Jokha there in Muscat, Oman, let me ask you the first question.
You are the first Arab novelist to have written a book man to win the Man Booker International Prize. It’s the first time a book written in Arabic
has won. Just what did that mean to you, not just as a novelist, but highlighting the place of your country and your society in this fashion?
JOKHA ALHARTHI, AUTHOR, CELESTIAL BODIES: It’s a great honor. The Arabic literature is almost 1,700 years old. Being from Oman, for me make it even
Because you know for recent years, the center of culture in Arab world used to be cities like Cairo or Beirut. So Oman came as a surprise in this
matter. I believe it’s a good surprise.
AMANPOUR: Well, my goodness, it certainly had rave reviews from the critics. So let me turn to Marilyn Booth who is your co-winner. You
shared this prize.
How challenging or otherwise was it to interpret a story from Oman? I know you’re obviously a very competent professional interpreter, but it’s not
just about pure translation, is it?
MARILYN BOOTH, TRANSLATOR, CELESTIAL BODIES: It is certainly challenging, because there is a great deal of diversity across the Arab world in
language, in usages, proverbs, understandings as well as the society itself. So, I was helped greatly by Jokha with expressions and so forth
that I was not familiar with.
AMANPOUR: Because you’ve never been — you’ve traveled widely around the Arab world.
BOOTH: I’ve traveled widely and —
AMANPOUR: But not to Oman.
BOOTH: I’ve lived in Egypt and Lebanon, but not to Oman.
AMANPOUR: So, how does somebody like yourself familiarize herself, I guess, with the intimate parts that create this story? I mean, you hadn’t
seen it, smelled it, lived it.
BOOTH: That makes me it harder and it made me nervous to be doing that. But I think with Jokha’s help and one thing that Jokha did when I would ask
her a question would be not necessarily to describe something to me, but to send me a picture. And that was wonderful, and that helped a great deal.
I also read a lot of Omani history and I read works of anthropology and I did quite a bit of research just to put myself in the frame of mind.
AMANPOUR: This is a book about a family in a village in Oman, and it’s really through the perspectives and the eyes mostly of women. And it’s
mostly about three sisters and their experience with marriage and their inner lives as well.
Why did you choose this topic, Jokha? What were you looking to say?
ALHARTHI: I think that I had very good chances, since I was little, to know different types of women who have different views on life. So, I just
wanted to explore that and to see and write about their reactions to these rapid changes in their societies and also in values and in many things that
people for centuries thought it will be there forever, but it’s not.
AMANPOUR: Let’s talk about the nitty gritty of these sisters. There’s Mayya, Asma, and Khawla. And essentially, they all have marriages that
leave them disillusioned to one degree or another.
I want you to read a passage about Khawla. She is married to Nassar, who is a cousin of hers, who she had seen when she was a kid, she always
dreamed of marrying him, right?
And then he went off to Canada. And then he had a girlfriend there, but he still was married to her.
He would come back several times. And basically, every time he left, she was left pregnant and she had several children. And she didn’t really know
about his double life that was going on in Canada.
So I just want to have you read a little bit from her perspective there.
BOOTH: OK. Her painful life was exemplary. It was the epitome of the greatest sort of love, a sublime and self-emulating love that could not be
shattered by anything, not even the cruel harshness of the lover who would no sooner arrive in Oman than he would wrap himself in long telephone
conversations, who hung a photo of his Canadian girlfriend on his car key ring, who bought fancy clothes from Canada for his children but never in
the right sizes because he didn’t even know how old they were.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it’s quite extraordinary, Jokha, to hear Marilyn read that about this sister in your book. How common is that experience, this
disillusion with marriage and with the society’s prescription of how young women or young girls should live?
ALHARTHI: In this matter, I would say that many girls would have, like, romantic picture of marriage. And sometimes it took them, like Khawla,
years to realize that the reality is different and to realize that she could have another life.
And I think that’s what happened with Khawla. She was completely blind with her love to Nassar, and it took her years and children until she could
set herself free.
AMANPOUR: There does seem to be a sort of a tide, a movement of works of international culture sort of really coming to the floor in global
situations like this one, the Man Booker Prize or many others, whether it’s novels, whether it’s art, whatever it might be, sort of trying potentially
to drive a little bit of a chink into what is a monolithic Anglo-Saxon, mostly dominated by America, cultural imperialism, if you like, around the
world. Did that ever strike you?
BOOTH: Well, I think it’s a very important and very good and timely development. I worry a little bit about prize culture, because I think
that can take over too much attention.
One of the things that I hope about getting this prize is that it encourages readers not only to read this novel but to read other works of
Arabic literature. There are many, many things available in translation now.
I think it’s wonderful that there is more attention on world literature, but it’s still true that a very small percentage of the books that get
published in English are translations, and publishers still do not want to put translators’ names on the book cover because they seem to feel that
readers will shy away from translations.
So, I think it is wonderful that there is more receptivity to these works, but I think we also have a long ways to go.
AMANPOUR: You know, Jokha, you started at the beginning by saying you wanted to show how much has changed in Oman over the decades and even over
the centuries. And we know, and it’s actually a focus of your novel, that there was slavery in Oman. There is no longer. But tell me about the
slavery and the slave girl who you focus on in the book.
ALHARTHI: Her name is Zarifa. And for me, it’s interesting character.
Her son told her that there is no slavery anymore. She is free, she can travel, she can leave the household that she used to live in it. But the
thing is that her relationship with her master was complicated.
She wasn’t just a slave. She was his mistress. And actually, she respected him, and he’s the only man who she really loves.
For her, it’s different from her son’s generation. She was happy in different way and strong in an unusual way as well.
AMANPOUR: And I just want to turn to Marilyn for a moment. There’s another woman here that she focuses on who is the mother of these three
sisters, who is not a slave, who is a wife.
She suffers. She feels that she doesn’t have her rights.
She’s reflecting on how her own mother never recovered from the death of her son. If you wouldn’t mind just reading that.
BOOTH: She received the news of his death in silent submission. She died, though no one knew she was dead.
Every day and every night for ten years, she died a little more. She breathed and ate and drank, but she was dead.
She spoke to people and walked among them, dead. Only much later did her body give up its already deceased spirit, its dead spirit no longer forced
to pretend to play at being alive.
AMANPOUR: It is very poignant. Did it strike you, the sort of dissonance between these well-to-do-ish, free-ish people —
AMANPOUR: — suffering so much more — the women —
AMANPOUR: — than the enslaved, Zarifa?
BOOTH: Well, I think yes. I mean I think this is one of the ways in which the book is very subtle and very complex. And I think one of the things
it’s getting at is the question of how complicated families are and how complicated family feeling is, and what does it mean to be part of a family
And I think without it all wanting to minimize the awfulness of slavery, I think it — also we see this complicated household where that is not the
only axis on which people operate. I think also that while this is a story very specifically about Oman, it’s also about patriarchal culture,
patriarchal structures in the family, which of course is not unique to Oman or to the Arab world.
And I think that that is actually one of the things that readers around the world have related to.
AMANPOUR: I think they have. And it’s a remarkable look inside that life on a big level, but also inside individual, intimate lives.
AMANPOUR: Marilyn, thank you so much, indeed. Jokha, thank you so much for joining us from Muscat.
ALHARTHI: Thank you very much for having me.
AMANPOUR:An incredible story about womanhood, loss and the struggle for love. And that is it for our program tonight. Find out what’s coming up on the show by signing up for our daily preview. Visit pbs.org/amanpour. Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” and joins us again tomorrow night.