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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: This is 2020. Enough is enough. The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A moment to change America. How will the nation face it? Long- time activist and civil rights veteran, Mary Frances Berry, joins us.
Plus, democracy, racism and a health crisis, all pandemics that get the black community the worst. How to fix the system failure. Former governor
of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, joins us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN (RET.), FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Using force against peaceful protesters is a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: America’s former top military brass, Admiral Mike Mullen, talks to our Walter Isaacson about why he could no longer stay silent.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
Now that George Floyd has been laid to rest, the moral reckoning is under way and the real work begins. The demand for justice reaches a crescendo on
the streets while public opinion shifts across the land. And in the holds of power, George Floyd’s brother Philonise told America’s elected leaders
about the banality of the evil and violence that casually snuffed out his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: He didn’t fight back. He listened to all the officers. The man who took his life, who suffocated him
for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he still called him sir as he begged for his life. George wasn’t hurting anyone that day. He didn’t deserve to die
over $20. I’m asking you is that what a black man is worth? $20?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Philonise had come to Washington after laying his brother to rest at a funeral which was broadcast across America and around the world.
This moment falls amidst all systems failing America’s black community. The coronavirus pandemic rises and even spikes in 19 states, and blacks are
disproportionately affected when it comes to infections and deaths and also the loss of their jobs.
When it comes to voting, yesterday’s chaotic primary in Georgia provides yet another window into the issues facing minority voters. There, they had
to wait for hours in line. Available ballots weren’t there for them.
So, at this important moment in history, I’m joined by Mary Frances Berry, a lifelong activist, an academic, and she was once former chairwoman of the
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Welcome to the program, Mary Frances Berry.
I just want to ask you first what you — you have written and you have lived a life of protest and resistance and resolution and solutions to many
of the ills. What you have written about is prolonged protest. Tell me how that fits in what we’re seeing now on the streets and how protest can shape
politics as we go forward in this moment.
MARY FRANCES BERRY, FORMER CHAIR, U.S. COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS: Well, what I’ve discovered and acted on and written about is that protest has to
be persistent. What I worry about at this moment — and most of the campaigns that I’ve been involved in and written about took a time to bear
What I worry about at this moment is that once the mourning for the particular, Mr. Floyd, takes — is over, and at some point it will be, and
depending on what course the virus takes and depending on what the imperatives of electoral politics are and campaigning and all that sort of
thing, how long will the protests last?
There has been an inclination on the part of officials to — once they pass some police reform measures, which will probably be insufficient in my
view, they will go on to something else and say that, if you want more done, then go out and vote and, you know, campaign and all that. Voting is
important. But you must have protests. It’s an essential ingredient of politics and it must be a longer duration than a week or two weeks or a
month. And the virus may not permit it, depending on whether it gets out of hand again.
AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you about that, because clearly, I think everybody understands that if it wasn’t for the protest, this reaction
across the United States, across the world probably wouldn’t have unfolded either.
AMANPOUR: And that you see right now, whether it’s some Republicans, certainly the Democrats in Congress, you see across states where its
elected leaders in, you know, cities and towns across America who are saying the right thing, a lot of them, and wanting to push the ball
forward. What — how do you get the message and who do you need to get the message to to keep up that pressure?
BERRY: Well, I think the Black Lives Matter people who have been talking in public have said that they understand the need to do that. You see,
every time we’ve had a disturbance after some black person has been killed or something happened or what, racial unrest and disturbance, we’ve had a
report. And the report, whether it was current commission or other kinds of reports after Martin Luther King was assassinated and so on, usually tells
us the things we need to do.
One is to reform the police, which we’re talking about right now, because this whole thing was so graphic and so stark. And the other is that we
should pass programs, social programs, for poor people and do something about inequality in the country. In addition, if we don’t want the same
thing to keep happening over and over and over again, that part of the message has, unfortunately, usually been lost. Although the police reform
message has been out.
This time we talk about defunding the police, which is shorthand for taking some of the money from the police budget to do some of the things that the
reports all tell us we must do. I don’t know about that message, because it can be compromised in its iteration with all sides arguing that you’re
attacking the police or not attacking the police.
But the point is that if we don’t do the hard things, if we don’t do them and do them right, not that police reform isn’t difficult, but it’s much
harder to do something about inequality, then we will be back here again over and over and over again, and I’ve seen this movie several times
AMANPOUR: So, I’m going to ask you another question about the inequality piece of this, because it obviously is fundamental and then I want to ask
you for the movie that you’ve seen before so that you can give me your historical take on it, because that’s important.
First of all, as you know, it has been declared by the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians that racism is a public
health issue. Police brutality as well. Psychological and physical trauma that black communities experience really leads to chronic stress, illness,
financial burden on the community and on the health care system.
But I want to ask you about how to equalize the economic playing field, the opportunities. Because as you also know, you know, when the power structure
is asked to level the playing field, they then sort of cry foul. They say, oh, no, this is a backlash against us. They don’t want to see their
historic privilege being leveled. And I wonder how that movement can happen, how you can structurally change which will inevitably — or maybe
not, I want to know your opinion on this — will lead to some of that privilege going out of white pockets and into black and minority pockets.
How does that happen?
BERRY: If the people who have been protesting who are a diverse group racially, white people, black people, people of all races out there, not
just black people. If those people who are well-meaning and are serious about what they are doing, if they continue to lean on public officials and
say things — it doesn’t take an exorbitant amount of resources or attention — that we want to do something about the jobs gap, where, right
now, the economy is suffering for everyone, but routinely it suffers for black folk and including young black people in our communities, who are
perennially out of jobs.
Do something about infrastructure. You know, hire them. Give them some kind of a leg up with these programs. Do something about the K through 12
education system which is profoundly unequal by everyone’s account. Do something about health care and make it affordable or give to for free to
people who can’t access it.
If you sit down and think about the wealth gap and you think about the resource gap and you think about those things, there are possibilities if
we can get the same coalition that’s talking about police reform and talking about how awful it was what happened to George Floyd, if they can
push their legislators to do something more. That’s all I’m asking for.
AMANPOUR: And public opinion, as I said, is really shifting in that direction. A vast majority of the American people sympathize with the
protests against what happened to George Floyd, and they don’t sympathize with the way, you know, some of the police response has been, as you know.
So, it is an important moment here that pollster says pretty unprecedented in American opinion, the way it has shifted so fast.
But so, I want to ask you because we’ve seen —
BERRY: Christiane, if I may interrupt you.
BERRY: I think that it is important to say that people say they want police reform, but we know when we’ve gotten police reforms before, they
haven’t been implemented, OK?
BERRY: And that the police have gone on with the same way they’ve been before. And also, what I’m talking about is harder than making different
rules about what the police should do and ought to do. They are the on-the- surface problem. Underneath, you have all these other problems, race discrimination and inequality and poverty and all the rest of it which
perpetuated, will continue to put us all on edge.
George Floyd was a working-class type man. He wasn’t Martin Luther King or Emmett Till or any of these people who are historic figures in the Civil
Rights Movement, he was an ordinary black guy. If black guys like him can’t have opportunity so that they’re not, if he indeed had a forged $20 bill or
whatever it was, I don’t know if he did or not, but if he did, if he’s in those economic circumstances, we want a society in which ordinary black
guys can have jobs, where they can work, where they won’t be discriminated against, and in addition, they won’t have to suffer police abuse.
So, I’m talking about that whole picture which may be pie in the sky and may never happen, but that’s what I want to see this movement bring to us.
AMANPOUR: OK. So, that’s really upsetting to hear you say, it may never happen, because it’s obvious to everybody how unbelievably unjust and
unfair this is. Anybody with a soul, a heart, eyes, ears, who has not just been living these last two weeks but historically.
So, I want to ask you, because you raise a very significant point, obviously, you do, and that is that even, you know, since the time of
Martin Luther King, who you mentioned, you know, his fundamental message also was about economic opportunity. And we’ve seen Charles Blow of the
“New York Times” write an op-ed basically saying, you know, white people, please don’t fail us again.
AMANPOUR: Referring to the summer of freedom when hundreds of white people, well meaning, went down to the south, helped protest, helped, you
know, move along the Civil Rights Act, et cetera. And then when it came to expanding that to the north, they were basically nowhere to be seen. So,
this is what Martin Luther King wrote after that period of time. He said, in 1967, I’m convinced that many of the very people who supported us in the
struggle in the south are not willing to go all the way now. I came to see this in a very difficult and painful way in Chicago, the last year where I
lived and worked. Some of the people who came quickly to march with us in Selma and Birmingham weren’t active around Chicago.
So, I guess my question to you is — OK. That’s a historical fact. How important is it for Black Lives Matter and the black community on the
street and the supporters they have to also have, you know, a huge tipping point of the power structure on their side, white privilege on their side?
BERRY: It is absolutely essential that they have those white people who are going out to help protesting, who are at the protest, who are out on
the streets all around the world and in this country, it is absolutely essential that they do what Martin Luther King said they would not do at
the time that he was speaking, which is why he had the Poor People’s march is one of the things that happened, which is when he was assassinated, OK?
So, he couldn’t lead the Poor People’s march, because he saw that the inequality that dragged black people down and that kept us down since the
end of slavery was, in fact, being perpetuated, and well-meaning people who had been with us when we were talking about passing civil rights laws,
we’re talking about the nasty people, we called them, in the south who were killing people and all that.
But when it came to having to give up something, they thought, or that they were going too far, they weren’t with us. What I’m hoping this time is that
all those people who were with us on this police issue will stay with us on the issue of reducing inequality, and that our movement will continue until
the public begins to see why it’s necessary to take some of the other measures that we’re talking about to improve the lives of black people like
George Floyd and other black people who are ordinary people trying to lead ordinary lives.
AMANPOUR: And finally, you talked about voting being important. So, question to you, obviously, is does Joe Biden have it? Does he have what it
takes to get black Americans to vote for him? We understand he got, you know, a good amount of votes, obviously, from a certain older demographic
but not the younger demographic. And they look back to the ’90s and, you know, the criminal bill, the welfare bill, all of that stuff. What does he
have to do, if anything, to win the trust of the people who basically, as you said, we vote and they do nothing for us?
BERRY: If Joe Biden became the tribune of reducing inequality, doing something about the black — get gap, the jobs gap, the housing gap, the
education gap, all those gaps that are perpetuated in the black community. If he took up the message of the Poor People’s march and all the people
since and he became the leader of that and the vanguard of it, he would have young black folks running out like crazy trying to vote for him.
But it’s not enough to just say, we want to dump Trump, and if you want to get rid of Trump, vote for me. Because people want to know, what is it
you’re going to do? What are you going to do? And if you’re not going to do anything, it’s going to be very hard to get them to come out, in my
AMANPOUR: Mary Frances Berry, thank you very much. And we’re going to continue that part of the conversation with our next guest. Thank you for
So, as America stares down this critical juncture, change will be needed, as we’ve just said, not just in police departments but across all those
issues, particularly economic and also, of course, business executive suites. And my next guest sat at many of those tables.
Deval Patrick was the first African-American black governor of Massachusetts, that was from 2007 to 2015, and he previously served as the
U.S. assistants general of civil rights under President Clinton and he once was also a managing director at the investment firm, Bain Capital.
Recently, he also had a brief presidential run. And Deval Patrick is joining me now from Richmond, Massachusetts.
Welcome to the program, Governor Patrick.
FMR. GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D-MA): Thank you so much, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask you to —
PATRICK: It’s great —
AMANPOUR: — follow up on what Mary Frances Berry was saying, and that is basically the bottom line, isn’t it, try to move this massive rock up the
hill through the processes available. So, we’ve got protest, but then we also have voting. Do you believe, and I know you support him, that Joe
Biden is reading this moment, is able to tap into a very real uprising and a very real demand and can shift some of his background to meet the demands
of today? What does he actually need to do?
PATRICK: Really important questions and ones that I and others have been talking with his team about. In some ways, you know, just — and I say this
as a respective competitor of Joe Biden and as someone who has known and worked with him for decades, in some ways, just as we have exactly the
worst possible leader in office today in the Oval Office, Joe Biden might be just the right one. Because his empathy is, in many respects, his
greatest strength. And that empathy has led him, from time to time, to understand he needs to reexamine views he may have had, positions he may
have taken in the past and meet this moment.
And so, to the point about whether he is the leader we need, I think he is. I think more to the point, though, is what are we going to do, all of us
who vote? Because this cannot be just about voting against the incumbent president or party or for our nominee and the people he gathers around him,
it’s about whether we keep this sustained attention and focus on dealing with systemic issues in policing and beyond, as Mary Berry was saying just
before, and we hold the president, we hold the Senate, we hold the House to account.
AMANPOUR: So, let me just ask you further, then, about Joe Biden’s appeal. As I said to Mary Berry, your generation has supported him, obviously, in
the primaries, but he hasn’t connected yet with the younger generation of black people, black voters. And clearly, they are going to be crucial. If
you want to win this election, clearly their vote matters.
Has he moved far enough in terms of economic policy, health policy and the other issues that really matter? Has he met the sort of progressive demands
that maybe a few months ago didn’t seem like they were the important ones, but now clearly are front and center?
PATRICK: You know, it’s so interesting. First of all, the speech he gave just the other day in Philadelphia, I think, was an enormously important
speech, and I’m not talking about rhetorically alone, I mean, in terms of its substance and what it forecast in terms of the refreshing of the policy
agenda that he and the party will represent. I think that’s enormously important.
Number two, I think that we have had, in a way — and I say this as an English major in college, in the way the language fails us right now, this
notion of what counts as progressive, what counts as moderate or what have you, every single candidate for the Democratic nomination believed in and
had a plan for universal health care, for example. We had different ways of achieving that, but everybody wants that. And the difference between us and
Republicans today is that we want everyone to have health care, and they do not. And they’ve made that plain.
And so, what I think on that and other issues, our nominee and, I hope, our next president, President Biden, has to do is to welcome in all of the
voices, including, and maybe most especially the voices who aren’t accustomed to being heard or seen and make sure that we are internalizing
their needs and their aspirations as we build to a better future.
And I’ll just add one other point, Christiane. I feel so proud of all of the marchers, the leadership of Black Lives Matter and the many, many
allies who have come to the cause and responded to the just — the nonchalant killing by police of George Floyd. I think there is also an
interesting intersection because we’re at a moment where the struggles that black people have faced for generations in America, we have in common with
an awful lot of other people in America right now, right.
An economic unease and uncertainty about how to be a part of an expanding economy, rising costs, inaccessible costs of health care, of housing, of
college tuition, if that’s your path. The way opioids have come in to fill that void, and frankly, the way our issues, those issues have become issues
or tend to be issues at election time and then disappear in between. And so, it’s going to be on us, all of us, and our allies not just to elect
Democrats, but to hold Democrats accountable for action in the generational interest of our country.
AMANPOUR: You heard what Mary Berry said and I wonder whether it sent a shiver through you as a Democrat and as a supporter of Joe Biden, that
potentially, after this wave of mourning and protest and now that George Floyd has been laid to rest, potentially coronavirus or jobs or whatever it
might be takes over the headlines again, and all of these minds that have been concentrated right now by the street may look elsewhere.
What do you do to keep minds focused? Because you’re talking about epochal change. This isn’t just about playing around at the edges, this is about a
whole new era, a whole new great society, a whole new, I don’t know, basis for America. It’s about changing America. Do you really think that elected
leaders and the people have the stomach to gut this out to the end?
PATRICK: I think — first of all, almost every time I hear Mary Berry speak, it sends a shiver of just pride and respect for her insights. And I
think one of the things she thinks about and I do as well is our famously short attention span in the United States. I think, frankly, that’s
something that our current president understands better than most, and he continues to dangle the next shiny outrage out there which we all then turn
But it’s a phenomenon in this country that every once in a while, America reinvents herself. She reexamines what being an American means, what this
notion of freedom made possible by equality, opportunity and fair play demands of us, not just in government, but also of business, of civil
society of individual citizens. That’s what we have to be about right now. That is what I want the Democratic Party to be about, and that’s what I
want our nominee and the campaign, and more to the point, the administration going forward to be about.
Sometimes that’s going to be a complete redo of it (ph), and sometimes that’s going to be some important reforms of systems. But all of these
issues, the pandemic, the excessive use of force by police, the jobs issues, they are all connected and they must be addressed comprehensively
if we want America to be true to what we say we believe.
AMANPOUR: As you know, some of Joe Biden’s critics call some of his proposals small bore, and you’re talking about a big bore need for action
and motivation and momentum. And in terms of how the people have reacted, you’ve seen all these polls. I mean, public opinion has shifted. You know,
the long-time pollster, Frank Luntz, has tweeted, in my 35 years of polling, I have never seen opinion shift this fast and this deeply. We are
a different country today than just 30 days ago. This is big. And he’s obviously talking about the 74 percent of Americans who support the
protests, the 69 percent who say the killing of George Floyd represents a broader problem within law enforcement, the 61 percent who say they
disapprove of the president’s handling, and the 80 percent of voters, I think I’m getting this right, who say they believe the country is on the
verge of spinning out of control.
Does this kind of — do these numbers concentrate opinion and motivation amongst elected leaders, do you think?
PATRICK: Well, they can. I always — I will say, I’m always nervous about the impact of polls because they don’t substitute for leadership and
vision. You know, we have it within us to make America true to the notion that, you know, the American dream that I have lived coming from welfare on
the south side of Chicago and having the range of opportunities that I had, we have it within us to make that real for many, many more Americans. And,
in fact, it’s become more and more constrained over time, sometimes by design and sometimes by carelessness and neglect.
And what’s been true of the pandemic, I think, is that it has exposed so much of this and called us. So, you know, there was this wonderful speech I
remember hearing some years ago where the speaker talked about how the woke — the question is today whether the woke are going to leave room for the
still waking. And I think what we’ve been seeing in the last 30 days, to your question about the Luntz’s poll and commentary, is that there are more
and more Americans waking up to the fact that we are not yet the country we have committed ourselves to being, and that if we are going to be, that is
going to take all of us leaning in and insisting that we make America prosperous and just for everyone everywhere.
AMANPOUR: All right. Well, on that note, prosperous and just, as you know, President Trump reacted to some of the latest jobs numbers, and he said
this is great. And in fact, he even said, hopefully George Floyd is looking down and saying, this is a great thing that’s happening for our country.
But on closer look, black unemployment rose slightly to 16.8 while white unemployment fell a full two points recently.
So, again, they are being left out of any — you know, the economic recovery and the like. So, this persists and it carries on. And you’ve been
talking about voting.
PATRICK: That’s right.
AMANPOUR: We’ve seen the chaos that happened in Georgia on the primary, long lines in the minority communities. You know, the machines potentially
weren’t working, the ballots weren’t available when they should have been. You know, we saw what happened in Wisconsin.
Talk to us about that, because I presume, as an elected official yourself, you feel that the first step to change, along with the street protests, are
— is elections and voting.
PATRICK: That’s right, and up and down the ballot, by the way.
And, you know, even before COVID-19 compromised all of those systems, there has been a concerted effort, coordinated effort, led by national
Republicans to make access to the ballot and the vote more difficult.
And when you think that, you know, voting is central to a successful democracy, how it is that would be undertaken, motivated by anything other
than the belief among Republicans that they couldn’t win a fair fight.
So, if we’re going to get that change, so that we do have a fair contest of ideas and issues, we’re going to have to overwhelm the polling places and
the ballot boxes in November.
And I have been encouraging everybody within my earshot to make a plan now about how you’re going to vote. If you are going — this is with all of the
proposals around voting by mail still pending, of course, Christiane, or many of them, that you find out now what it takes to vote by mail, to vote
absentee, and make provision for that with enough time, so that you can exercise that ballot.
If you must appear, because that’s what’s required in your jurisdiction, then make a plan for that. Where are you going to go? Where is your polling
place? Is your registration intact? What documentation do you need? What help do you need? You’re constitutionally entitled to whatever help you
need, and plan, so that the efforts to suppress the expression of the will of the people that have been under way for way too long now simply cannot
AMANPOUR: So, finally, I want to ask you, as somebody who has risen through the ranks of elected politics, the private sector and other areas
of endeavor, how have you experienced structural racism in your life and in your career?
PATRICK: You know, it’s — there’s so many stories. I have had so many exchanges with people.
And, as I say, I acknowledge the extraordinary blessings and opportunities that I have had. But there is a phrase my wife has used called the
indignities du jour. I have never, obviously, experienced anything as what we saw George Floyd experience.
But I said to someone the other day, I have just given up going to baseball games and football games, because I’m tired of hearing another drunk fan
shout the N-word and ape at the players on the field.
I can remember I had an opportunity to go on scholarship to a boarding school outside of Boston in 1970, and Boston was in the middle of busing at
the time, and the campus itself was relatively welcoming, but there wasn’t a time I stepped off campus when I wasn’t stopped by the local police or
called a name by kids in the neighborhood.
And God forbid you should get in the middle, as I once did, of agitation on the streets of Boston. And this was by mistake on the streets of Boston
around busing, and was called everything but a child of God.
PATRICK: So, it’s — we have — in some ways, of the — when you add up all these videos we saw in the last couple weeks, the one that may point
more — most deeply to systemic attitudes, as distinct from the very, very serious problem around overuse of force, excessive use of force among
policing, was the Amy Cooper video, because it was plain that she understood — this is the woman in Central Park.
AMANPOUR: Yes, yes.
PATRICK: Yes, that she understood that, just by pretending to be threatened, she could rain hell down on the life of a black man.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Governor…
PATRICK: And you would think a woman who was making decisions about resumes and hiring and so forth, that’s what we are dealing with and what
has to change.
AMANPOUR: Governor, thank you very much.
And it’s so interesting you bring that point up, because we’re going to delve into that tomorrow, so really, really important point.
Thank you very much for joining us.
So, what about the Republican Party and even nonpolitical national institutions like the military? In a stunning rebuke of the elected
commander in chief, as we know, several generals, from former Secretary of Defense James Mattis to ex-Chief of Staff John Kelly, have taken a stance
against how the president has been handling this crisis.
But it was our next guest, Retired Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who started this public conversation with an article titled,
“I Cannot Remain Silent.”
And now he tells Walter Isaacson why.
WALTER ISAACSON: Thank you, Christiane.
And, Admiral Mike Mullen, welcome to the show.
ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Walter. It’s good to be with you.
ISAACSON: When you watched the video and saw what happened in Washington, D.C., when U.S. troops were clearing that space in front of the White
House, what did you think?
MULLEN: Well, I was stunned, like many people. And it was hard for me to find words at that moment to really accurately state how I felt.
It was — when I was very young, my last year at Annapolis, I literally was dating my wife, Deborah, not my wife at the time, but we were in the spring
of ’68. Martin Luther King was killed in April. And Bobby Kennedy was killed the day I graduated.
In that April time frame, we were going out. She was locked down in the streets of D.C. The National Guard was deployed. Tanks were in the street.
The town was burning. And that’s one of the things that immediately flashed back in my head.
And then to fast-forward, obviously, to last Monday, we were borderline on using active-duty troops, treating our own people as the enemy, and that’s
what — that’s what really tripped it for me in terms of coming out publicly.
But I actually thought that we were getting to a point where the country was in jeopardy, which is why I spoke.
ISAACSON: Last week, we saw an officers’ revolt. You were among the first, but there was General Mattis, General Kelly, Admiral McRaven, General Colin
Powell, General Martin Dempsey, who is another former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, like you are, General Michael Hayden, and now even today General
Is there any precedent for this?
MULLEN: Certainly not in recent times that I’m aware of.
There have been other times when they have been — I guess they have been characterized as the revolt of the generals, or the revolt of the admirals.
I know Admiral Burke in the mid-’50s led what was described that way, but certainly not in my time that I’m aware of.
The country’s got huge challenges. COVID has exposed a lot of that. The issue of racism, the disproportionate impact of COVID on the African-
American — minority communities and the African-American community in particular. The disproportionate treatment or ability to get decent health
care, and, obviously, the incredible display, the unbelievable display of a black man being murdered in front of our eyes, which speaks to the whole
issue of the police behavior, brutality, and that that’s got to stop.
There’s a lot going on right now, which we need to address as a country. And this moment speaks to a lot of that. Certainly, involving the military
in this as well is yet again another step and potentially politicizing the military is really, in the end, why I spoke up.
ISAACSON: But this revolt of the four-star officers, is that appropriate? I mean, aren’t military leaders supposed to be subject to civilian command
and the commander the commander in chief?
MULLEN: Yes, it’s a great question, Walt, and it is one that has concerned me for a long time.
I mean, part of the challenge I had personally was, I had spoken against retired military types who had spoken out. Sort of the marker for me was
the Iraq War. And it’s seemingly just grown ever since that time.
So, I’m mindful of that. I’m very guarded about that. And it’s why I haven’t said anything up unto this point. And I have got military — senior
military retireds, including when I was on active-duty, speaking against this, who point out they’re citizens of the United States.
And I think that clearly is true. And as — I never questioned that.
That said, it is the fact that we are military or were military members that gets focused on. And it gets to the — it gets to the point of your
question, which is, the military is — the active-duty military works for the president of the United States. The active-duty military doesn’t vote
It votes — it basically gets told, here’s what we’re going to do, and it carries out lawful orders. And somebody that’s in a very, very tough spot
right now as General Milley, the current chairman, because he’s the one that has to do that, give his advice in private and carry out what the
And I’m sympathetic to that, because I had that job. Only, his job is probably more difficult than anybody’s so far, save his predecessor,
General Joe Dunford, who also worked for President Trump.
ISAACSON: This revolt of the officers, will it matter?
MULLEN: I think I can ask that question or I would ask that question about, will this time matter?
I think it would be very sad if everything that has gone on in recent weeks doesn’t matter. And by matter, I mean essentially move forward on
constructive change on all of these major issues.
I think the answer to whether it matters or not for the military is whether the military is able to keep itself out of the politics, stays out of the
politics, in which case this could — this participation by these — by myself and others could be said to have made a difference.
ISAACSON: Do you think President Trump is listening, and it will have an impact on him?
MULLEN: Whether or not the president’s listening, I’m not sure.
I think, in the totality, if you see — if you measure whether he’s listening by certainly what he tweeted out against Colin Powell, as an
example, in totality, I think it’s being heard. Whether it will make a difference, I’m just not sure.
I think, more than anything else, what he — and the country in ways, but he in particular is tuning into what’s required to get reelected in
November. And so whether this makes a difference in that regard, I’m just not sure.
ISAACSON: In “The Atlantic,” in your op-ed, you wrote this week: “He laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protests in this country. He
gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife. And he risks further politicizing the men and women of the
That’s pretty tough. What were you trying to accomplish? Why did you write that?
MULLEN: Because I believed it, first of all.
And I think that, certainly, feedback — the feedback I have gotten over many, many months now from my friends who are — live overseas — these are
countries that have been friends of ours for a long time — asking questions about who we are and what we stand for, and will we be there for
This is right at the heart of where we are as a country, whether we like it or not. I have felt for a long time, I think the more we isolate, the more
likely it is that we will get into some kind of conflict overseas.
And what’s happened in this chaos that we exist in right now is the opportunity for particularly the Chinese and the Russians to take advantage
of the — what we’re going through specifically, and very much focused on the — what I think the president’s reaction is very much focused on the
constitutional right of protest, in a way.
And, clearly, there are bad guys and gals associated with that. And they need to be ferreted out. But the vast majority of protesters have been
So, fundamentally, fundamentally attacking our constitutional rights as well, and doing in front of the world, you have seen the reaction around
the world, quite frankly, in support of these protests.
So, the giving succor piece is just, quite frankly, feeding it right to Xi Jinping, right to Putin, right to Kim Jong-un, who don’t support any kind
of the democracy that we believe in, and taking advantage of that.
The change in this country has most often occurred because there’s been the peaceful protests which have stood tall in the face of the kinds of
difficulties we’re having and the change that needs to be made.
ISAACSON: In your piece that you wrote, you said also: “I remain confident in the professionalism of the men and women in uniform, but I am less
confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by their commander in chief.”
What should they do if they feel they have been given an unsound order by their commander in chief?
MULLEN: The leadership has to step up.
I mean, that’s obviously the purview of General Milley, but also all of the senior officers. And we all serve when we’re on active duty to carry out
I believe the leadership needs to think through what the possibilities might be and what they might do in advance. It’s very difficult to say no
in the heat of the moment, if you will, when you’re dealing with the president.
So, they — the troops are represented by this leadership and must be led by them. And, obviously, I wouldn’t get to any hypotheticals, per se, but
they must be mindful of sort of the boundary conditions under which they will continue to serve, the leaders, will continue to serve.
ISAACSON: Did they make a mistake when it came to clearing the square in front of the White House?
MULLEN: Wow, that was illegal. The National Guard obviously was involved in that. And they were carrying out — they were carrying out lawful
I thought — I did not — my observation of it and the reporting of it that confirms that they were peaceful. And I think using force against peaceful
protesters is a mistake, absolutely.
ISAACSON: Do you think our domestic police departments, our urban police departments, have become too militarized and that we have sent them too
much military equipment, and we have made that sort of part of a military feel to our civil society?
MULLEN: I think, in the evaluation, there’s a real opportunity here — in the evaluation of the injustice, if you will, and the police brutality,
which is front and center in all this.
We have a real opportunity to answer that question. I have a tremendous admiration for police men and women across our country. They’re very
difficult jobs. We put them into incredibly difficult situations, life-and- death situations.
And we have — one is too many, but we have far too many police men and women who are killed every year in the line of duty. We have to protect
them in that regard. What’s the right balance? The whole issue now of — quote, unquote — “defunding” the police department, I think giving —
providing the right security for our people, in neighbors, mayors, governors, et cetera, is absolutely critical,
How do we answer their needs? And the totality of understanding that and executing it is really key. It’s — visibly, clearly, the police
departments across the country, have much more capable — kind of what I would call combat-capable gear than they used to have.
We need to get that right. And we need to use it right, not overuse it, specifically.
ISAACSON: You have spoken this week to a lot of black members of our military. What are they telling you?
MULLEN: Well, I’m not sure I’d characterize it as a lot. But I certainly have heard from some.
They are — they are worried about — and we have made a lot of progress since the ’60s, if you will, in integrating the military, since the ’40s,
actually, when President Truman signed the order to integrate the military. But we’re not perfect, and we still have a long way to go.
One of the comments that I made publicly over the weekend was that we still don’t have enough black four-stars. And one of the metrics in my life
dealing with minorities is: I look up the chain of command, I don’t see anybody that looks like me. It’s true for women. It’s true for minorities.
And while we have made a lot of progress, we have still got a ways to go, particularly at that black four-star level. It doesn’t mean we don’t have
them or haven’t had them, but we don’t — we don’t seemingly are — able to generate opportunities for minority officers and women at the four-star
level. And I think we need to do that.
So, we have — still have to address issues internally to the military. I think our forces notionally, 20, 25 percent — or 20 percent African-
Americans, and we have to be representative.
I felt one of the reasons it’s such an important focus for our military is, we must be representative of our country. Demographically, we need to
represent the country. And if we’re just run by largely white men, over time, we will continue to drift away from our country as a military.
And that’s bad from a democratic — for a Democratic society.
ISAACSON: And what needs to happen now for our society, for our body politic, for our military?
MULLEN: I think we need concerned leaders from every dimension of the problem, if you will, so all ethnicities, all genders, and actually all
One of the things that strikes me about these protests is how many young people are out from all generations. And those young people, while not in
positions of power right now, one, they will be, and two, their message is a really strong message.
And we need to bring together representation from all of those and, probably more than anything else in this country, listen to each other,
stop speaking and listen to why they feel this way. What do they think we should do to take steps to make it better, what has to happen, and bring
that message, in the end, bring that message to Washington, across all these things, certainly the racial injustice, the police brutality, the
incarceration level, the health care system, the education system, the income inequality.
The American dream is disappearing, or has disappeared for too many of our people. So, leaders have to — internally to our country, we have to
address this. And, if we don’t, it will just continue to erode. And we have always been a country that has responded to a crisis.
It almost takes a crisis to make the kind of change we need to make. If this isn’t the crisis, where we have lost now more people to COVID in three
months than we lost in World War I, we have lost 25 percent of the people, numbers wise, that we lost in World War II.
If this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is wrong.
ISAACSON: Admiral Mike Mullen, thank you so much for joining us this evening.
MULLEN: Thanks, Walt. It’s good to see you.
AMANPOUR: A crisis, indeed.
And as worldwide protests against racism continue, statues linked to slavery and imperialism face their own reckoning.
Correspondent Nic Robertson takes a look at how the Floyd killing in America is forcing Britain to wrestle with its colonial past.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Britain lurched around a corner confronting the worst of its colonial, racist past
Sunday. As protesters at a Black Lives Matter march in the port city of Bristol toppled a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston, then
trundled it through the city’s tarmac streets and tossed it into the sea, the same harbor where his slave ships once docked.
MILES CHAMBERS, FIRST POET LAUREATE OF BRISTOL, ENGLAND: It could only have happened that way. It could only have been ripped down. What is that
doing there? It would be like you having somebody that’s abused your family all your life, you know who he is, and I get a statue and I put it in your
ROBERTSON (on camera): Colston and his employer, the Royal Africa Company, dominated the transatlantic slave trade. He helped ship an estimated
hundred thousand people from Africa to the U.S. and the Caribbean. One in five of them died along the way.
(voice-over): Colston, whose name adorns buildings, streets, even schools in the normally restful city, was also a philanthropist. The controversy
over his racist past has been brewing for years.
CHAMBERS: We have politically tried to go around. We have gone to the banks and meetings. We’ve had meetings with the council, meetings with
Colston Hall, radio debates, TV debates. And people were, if I can say, pussyfooting around.
ROBERTSON: Condemnation, with caveats, came quickly.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will not support or indulge those who break the law. If you want to change the urban landscape, you can stand
for election or vote for someone who will.
ROBERTSON: Similar long-simmering frustrations over contentious Confederate statues in America are coming to a head, too.
(on camera): So is this the moment when the U. K. , the United States, and others recognize the pain of the past, that black lives matter, and re-
imagine their countries on new values?
(voice-over): In the fabled university city of Oxford, that’s the pressing question.
ESTER FORTES, PROTESTER: Now is the time to change and do things in a different way. We’re rewriting history. And if we have to take a statue
from there and put it in a museum, so be it.
ROBERTSON: The statue? Cecil Rhodes, a leading colonialist who build his fortune off black labor and bequeathed scholarships here.
JOE O’CALLAHAN, PROTESTER: In this country, there is such an ingrained sort of systemic racism that hasn’t been questioned or looked at or sort of
dealt with for far too long.
ROBERTSON: No sign Oxford plans to grant the protesters their wish, and the conversation about that new future yet to happen, too.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Oxford, England.
AMANPOUR: A conversation that continues.
That’s it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again tomorrow night.