Read Full Transcript EXPAND
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
A new era in human space travel dawns. But here on earth, still stymied by a viral pandemic. I speak to Arizona Republican senator, Martha McSally, as
she bets her political future on President Trump.
Also, ahead, Mike Bloomberg donates $10 million to boost testing and tracing in New York. I’m joined by his close aide and former campaign
manager, Kevin Sheekey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT RIDLEY, AUTHOR, “HOW INNOVATION WORKS: AND WHY IT FLOURISHES IN FREEDOM”: What I think we need in the case of vaccines is a lot more
platforms for how to develop vaccines faster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How innovation works. Best-selling author, Matt Ridley, speaks to our Walter Isaacson about his new book and what it tells us about the
obstacle to vaccine development.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I’m Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.
Humanity stands on the very edge of another major chapter in space exploration. SpaceX from Elon Musk is trying to make history by becoming
the first private company to launch humans into orbit. This exciting scientific milestone perhaps only amplifies the tragedy down here on earth
where the world is still being challenged by a virus.
America’s coronavirus death toll is nearing 100,000 with more than a dozen states reporting an uptick in new cases. Minorities continue to bear the
brunt of these deaths and also of acts of police brutality on the street. This shocking video captures another unarmed black man dying after a white
policeman pinned him down pushing his knee into George Floyd’s neck while Floyd screams that he can’t breathe for several minutes. All four
Minneapolis officers involved have been fired and authorities are investigating the case.
Now, these issues are playing into the presidential race as my first guest knows all too well. Martha McSally is a junior senator in the critical
swing state of Arizona. She’s facing a tough re-election battle in November running against former astronaut and gun control campaigner, Mark Kelly.
She’s got a new book out too about her time as American first female fighter pilot to see active duty. It is called “Dare to Fly.” Senator
McSally is joining me now from Tucson, Arizona.
Senator, welcome to the program.
A lot to cover really and a lot of really important issues. But first let me ask you from your perspective not just as a senator but in the air
force, what do you make of this attempt to make history by, you know, a private company, a private platform taking astronauts to space?
SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): Well, America needs some hope right now. The world needs hope. But in America, dealing with this pandemic, I know that
the weather is still pending but I think this could be an amazing day. I know the country is watching. We have not had our astronauts go up in
American rocket in almost 10 years. We’ve been relying on the Russians.
And so, this is a great example of a public-private partnership coming together and putting Americans back in American rockets to be able to get
to the space station. Right now, Americans just really need some hope. And this just, I think, embodies what the spirit of America and what America
really needs in the middle of this virus.
AMANPOUR: You know, as you say that, it really does actually just bring something to mind that I want to ask you. I mean, clearly if that can
happen in space and it is a really, you know, difficult complicated operation, something like that could have happened on the ground trying to
find the right resources, the right equipment, the right testing capacity for the pandemic that’s stymieing the country, killing people and
obviously, you know, putting a tank, tanking the economy. Are you not a little bit disappointed with the lack of speed in that direction?
MCSALLY: Well, Christiane, think about it. We’re in this warp speed project for this virus that we didn’t even know existed. It was covered up
by China, it came to American just a few months ago. And now, we’re on track with, I think, 19 different projects of American innovation racing to
get a vaccine for this virus we knew nothing about.
Actually, that will be record time. And when you look at the testing capacity, look, the government first tried to control it and centralize it.
They came up with their own test. It was faulty. They wanted all the samples centralized and brought to them and that wasn’t working. And so,
again, it was the private sector in a public-private partnership that has stepped in the gap for this new virus to be able to provide the variety of
Now, we need more testing for sure but we’ve ramped up the capability, thank God for the private sector to provide that for just an antibody
testing and for the diagnostic testing, and research institutions in Arizona, we have the University of Arizona who came up with their own
testing and their own antibody testing and it’s now being used across Arizona for first responders.
So, it is this kind of partnerships, the whole society coming together that I think is the best of America. And people can criticize it. I know they
will. But this is an unprecedented challenge that we have not seen in a century, certainly not in my lifetime and everybody’s doing the best they
AMANPOUR: We’ll get down to that a little bit later in our interview. But first I want to ask you also because, of course, it plays and it will play
very, very heavily into the election. You know, I’m going to ask you a pretty brutal question because it’s one that’s been raised in the press and
amongst political analysts.
Which numbers do you think are going to be most relevant on November, whatever the date is of the presidential election, the numbers of dead,
which are right now nearing 100,000 which are, you know, quite heavy or the numbers of unemployed and the numbers on the economy? What do you think is
going to be, particularly for the president and you’re very closely aligned with him, what is the most important factor?
MCSALLY: Well, Christiane, every single American who has lost their life is a tragedy, every family who has lost their loved one and mourning them
is a tragedy. We are doing everything we can to protect the vulnerable and to save as many lives as possible, support our frontline health care
workers. And we have asked people — we have the strongest economy we have seen in my lifetime and we ask people to not work in order to ensure we
could save lives and ensure our health care system wasn’t overwhelmed.
And so, now, it is not an either/or, there’s false choices. As Americans, I really believe we can continue to protect the vulnerable. We know more
about this virus now. Make sure our health care heroes have everything they need. Invest in these cures and treatments and the vaccines while allowing
people to safely return to work.
There’s a lot of calamity that we are seeing my neighborhood from people who were living paycheck to paycheck, providing for their families and
there’s implications of them being out of work, with no paycheck, health implications, mental health implications. So, we’re all in this together
and I think we can do both.
And as we look forward in the election, I think there’s going to be a question of who do you trust to get the economy going again? We already
proved that with our policies we have this strong economy. And there’s going to be another question. Who do you trust to take on China? I think
America is waking up to Communist China, their role in the virus. But in — their role to try to replace America as a leader of the world, not as a
good actor, as we’re seeing what they’re doing in Hong Kong.
We can have a whole conversation about that, nut that is going to be a key decision. And my opponent anyway is invested in China. They’re invested in
him. I’m being threatened by Communist China right now because I am standing up to them. You know I’ve never trusted a communist. I’m not going
to ever trust a communist and this is a key question, I think, in the election, presidential and all the way down the ticket.
AMANPOUR: Well, just to pick up on that, never trust a communist, what do you make then of your own secretary of state’s decision today and his
declaration basically that Hong Kong, according to the United States, seems to have lost its autonomous status, is no longer a democracy and that might
lead — probably will lead under the law to removing its special trade status with the United States? I mean, is that helpful to a fledgling, you
know, democracy that’s trying to keep its head above water against the very communists that you don’t trust and don’t like?
MCSALLY: Well, that declaration is actually in accordance with U.S. law. I was a co-sponsor of the bill that we passed last year, the Hong Kong Human
Rights and Democracy Act. So, the State Department has to certify whether Hong Kong still has that broad autonomy, which was in the agreement, as you
know, in 198, for Hong Kong to have starting in 1987 for 50 years.
And what China is doing is continuing to violate the, you know, two system approach, to continuing to violate the freedoms, the judicial system, the
human rights and everything that Hong Kongers are used to and were guaranteed by the agreement and their constitution, the basic law.
And so, this is deeply troubling what China is doing. This national security law continuing to usurp and violate Hong Kong’s freedoms. And this
designation, unfortunately, is appropriate but it’s because of China’s behavior, not because of anything the United States did.
AMANPOUR: Yes. But you admit — I mean, the question really is — yes. Fine.
AMANPOUR: But — fine. But it won’t, as you know. What are you going to do as the United States to defend Hong Kong’s democracy? In other words, I
realize what you’re saying, it’s under the law, but it is a little bit — how do I say it by being polite? It’s a little bit flipped, isn’t it? It is
under threat, it’s democracy under threat.
AMANPOUR: And its biggest ally, the United States, is going to pull back. How are you going to support Hong Kong if you believe so deeply in that
MCSALLY: Well, it is under threat because of the Communist China regime and their activities that are violating their own agreement —
AMANPOUR: Yes. But my question was, what’s the United States going to do? I realize that, Senator. But this is a question for a member of Congress.
What are you going to do about it? How do you defend democracy?
MCSALLY: Well, we are looking at the options, for sure. We’re looking at sanctions. There’s a legislation that’s being introduced, I’m looking at.
I’m going to be a cosponsor of, for sanctions on China. We have other economic levers. We need to work with the international community,
Europeans and other Asian partners to continue to put pressure on China and to support Hong Kong.
But if China comes in with what they’re moving to do and they their lose autonomy, that special status that Hong Kong has cannot be maintained. You
cannot have the communist takeover of Hong Kong and have that special status. And this is all about China’s bad behavior and we have got to do
what we can to support them and hold them accountable.
AMANPOUR: Indeed. And I guess that’s the question I was trying to ask, how do you hold them accountable.
MCSALLY: Support Hong Kongers and hold China accountable, just to be clear.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Of course. And the question is, how do you hold China accountable, especially in this instance where, you know, there’s this war
of words going between the two countries. But let me just ask you this now, because, again, it comes to the election. As I said, you are very close to
President Trump in terms of supporting him. He’s supported you. But you are trailing pretty significantly according to all the polls in your state. And
in face, the Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly, himself, as I said, a former astronaut, indeed a gun control advocate, he is ahead of you there
by it looks like nine points.
Why do you think that you are trailing him given, you know, you’re a key swing state, you are very close to the president? Why do you think that’s
the case right now? And he won it in 2016, of course.
MCSALLY: Well, Christiane, the only poll — yes. The only poll that matters is on election day. I’m doing everything I can in this pandemic in
order to help people. We worked hard to get resources out the door to help small businesses, to help working families, to just help with the economy
and the health care workers.
There’s a lot of time between now and November. Again, I met about $10 million of attack ads dumped on my head over the last year ago. Chuck
Schumer knows that the path to flip the Senate majority goes through Arizona. And we have a saying as fighter pilots, you know you’re over the
target when you getting flak.
So, they have been nonstop attacking me but I get up every day and I’m serving Arizona and making a difference for them and there’s going to be
choices to make coming in November, at the top of the ticket and on down. Who do you trust to get the economy going again? Who do you trust to hold
China accountable? And those choices are going to be clear and more information will get out there. And then when it comes to China, my
opponent is invested in China. China is invested in him. And that’s really not what Arizonans want.
AMANPOUR: Yes. I’m not entirely sure what that means but I want to ask you this. National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Defend Arizona to
Republican committees are spending many millions of dollars for ads to help you. And I do want to actually point out what you just said, you did say
that you’re spending a lot of time helping those victims of coronavirus, and that’s very true. You put a lot of your own money, a lot of your
campaign money towards helping them.
But I just want to know then why you think that — I know you say it’s a long time until November, but even Republican strategists are very
concerned that President Trump — not just you but President Trump risks losing Arizona, key swing state. What do you think has happened? Why is
MCSALLY: Yes. So, just to clarify, you said you’re not really sure what I was talking about with China. Mark Kelly was a co-founder of a company and
he had companies that —
AMANPOUR: No, no, no. I’m actually —
MCSALLY: — are Chinese communist (INAUDIBLE) investing in him. So, just to be clear. This is a very real issue that will come out in the campaign.
Look, there is a lot of time between now and November. I’ve been focused on serving Arizona. I lost my dad when I was 12 and I look at it like, if this
is the last year of my life, what can I do now in this unprecedented challenge to continue serve and make a difference in Arizona’s lives?
And that’s what I’m doing. In the meantime, I literally have seven different groups attacking me with ridiculous attack ads hammering me on
television and other places. The campaign is ongoing and there will be an important decision when people go to the ballot box as to who they want in
charge. Do you want Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden? Do you want their socialist agenda? Do you want people that are soft on China or do you
want somebody who is willing to stand up to China, hold them accountable and get the economy going again, get people back to work? We have already
proven that our policies work and that’s what you will see in November.
AMANPOUR: So, I wonder what you have learned from, you know, you being out there, sort of on the front lines in your state, as I said, helping those
who are in need right now. What you have heard from them in terms of what they require from leaders. And obviously, I know that people pick this up a
lot but it’s a big issue and it’s the mask issue.
You know, the president didn’t wear one in public. You do, though. You do. You go out and you wear it and you believe that that’s, you know, the right
thing to do in this — you know, with the current advice that’s available. I guess how do you assess and I’m very aware that you have had an
incredible career. You have been out there in combat, you’re the first female combat pilot, your heroics have been incredible on the battlefield.
How do you assess, I guess, leadership when it comes to this virus and something as, you know, small but important as wearing a mask, which you
MCSALLY: Well, when I’m talking to Arizonans, they’re just wanting to get back to work and protect the vulnerable. And look, the president is tested
all the time. He is normally more than six feet away from people. There’s been a lot of focus on this. I’m in a different situation. I’m flying back
and forth on commercial airlines. I mean, I’ve been tested for the antibody test.
But I trust Arizonans to make good choices. And I’m seeing that every day. We are open up in Arizona. I have gotten my hair cut, I’ve gotten a
pedicure, I go to restaurants. Now, my 85-year-old mom, she can’t do the same thing. My friend who is a leukemia survivor, she can’t do the same
thing. And there’s been a lot of modifications to allow these businesses to open. We’ve learned a lot about this virus over the last several months.
We’re learning more about it every single day.
And if we keep up the precautions, washing our hands, don’t touch your face, all those things, we are going to allow people to be able to work
because they’re desperate to get back to work while also protecting the vulnerable. Ensuring there’s testing around nursing homes and assisted
living facilities and hospitals to make sure that the virus doesn’t unwittingly go in there. I think this is one of the cruelest parts of the
virus is people suffering in isolation and in many cases dying alone because their loved ones can’t make it in. So, we’ve got to focus on
protecting them while we allow people to provide for their families. And I think Arizona has really had that right balance. It is not one size fits
all across the world or across the country.
AMANPOUR: So, in your new book “Dare to Fly” you talk about, you know, how you got to be a combat pilot. But interestingly, you didn’t start in that
direction. You wanted to be, I think, a military doctor or a doctor anyway.
MCSALLY: A doctor.
AMANPOUR: How did that happen? How did that change happen?
MCSALLY: Well, I’m the youngest of five kids and I went from being a shy, pudgy motion sick kid, you know, to being the first woman to fly in combat.
For me my life changed when my dad passed when I was 12 and he served in the navy. He started to working when he was eight years old, used the G.I.
Bill and he was driven to make a better life for us kids.
And before he passed away, I got to speak with him and among other things he told me to make him proud. And it wasn’t an easy path but it propelled
me on a path to really treat every day as a gift and to carry on his legacy and then do something that matters with my life. And now, my mom is a
single mom, five kids, you know, trying to raise the family and I didn’t want to saddle her with debt.
So, off I went to the air force academy. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Paying back in service. But when I got there, I found out that just because
I was a girl, I couldn’t be a fighter pilot and it just made me mad and I decided that’s exactly what I want to do. I realized that being a doctor
was more tied with losing my dad. I wanted to save kids from that. But my calling was more to get into a cockpit and to prove them wrong, that girls
can be pilots, too. Fighter pilots too. And I’m blessed to have that opportunity to break through that barrier.
AMANPOUR: And if I’m not mistaken, you hung upside down off training bars in order to get a little bit more height so that you could meet the height
requirement to be in the cockpit. Is that right?
MCSALLY: I did. I had a lot of obstacles. Christiane, I talk about a lot of obstacles in the journey in “Dare to Fly” and I did. I still didn’t
quite make it. My sitting height was OK but I had bureaucrats denying me even though I fit in the cockpits and could function. I eventually was able
to get my clearance. I had some other obstacles there.
I really just I tell the story of an almost 10-year journey, some things totally unfair, it was against the law. Some things I, you know, made some
mistakes and derailed myself. And I think people can relate to that right now having the plans be derailed. And so, even though I’ve had some unique
experiences, I will bring people in to the cockpit of the A-10 Warthog, I’ll have them take off with me in my very first flight where there’s no
two seaters, no simulators, first flight is solo. And I was so afraid I thought I was going to throw up.
But I had to choose to take off afraid and I take the reader with me. And they may not be able to relate to flying in an A-10 but they can certainly
relate to fear, and that’s why I wrote the book. I want to be a wingman to the reader and I wanted to share the unique experiences. But they —
everyone can relate to confronting fear and overcoming fear and I just want to encourage the reader, do things afraid in your own life right now. If
you feel fear is holding you back, push through it. You can take off afraid like I did in the A-10. You can overcome adversity and obstacles. You can
deal with grief and trauma and very difficult times and get up and put one foot in front of the other with hope and faith and people in your life, you
can break through and meet your potential, and that’s what this book is all about.
AMANPOUR: Take off afraid. It’s quite a dramatic sentence. Senator McSally, thank you very much, indeed, Republican senator from Arizona,
thanks for joining us.
Now, besides killing thousands of people, COVID-19 has also triggered a severe recession and governments around the world are desperate to send
people back to work. Vital to this, of course, is the technology and the manpower to test and track the virus and warn citizens who may be infected
to isolate themselves.
Former New York city mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is donating $10 million to this effort. Kevin Sheekey is a close aide to Bloomberg. He served as his
campaign manager during his presidential run and during his mayoral runs. And he’s joining me now from Washington, Connecticut.
Kevin Sheekey, welcome back to the program.
So, let me —
KEVIN SHEEKEY, GLOBAL HEAD OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS, BLOOMBERG LP: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: — start out, obviously, by asking you how this test and contact trace, you know, system is working. Because clearly that is really what is
needed right now. Is it up and running? Where are we after the 10 million that Mayor Bloomberg has put in?
SHEEKEY: Well, you know, listen. What you just said I wish everyone really knew. You know, your previous guest talked about that we need to do two
things. We need to come back as an economy and we need to keep people safe. And what we have seen around the world is where that has worked,
principally in Asia where this virus started, was the ability to test, to trace and to ultimately quarantine.
You know, my real fear is that the United States is now poised to do this worse than any other industrialized country in the world. But it really
starts with the basic idea that we have learned for hundreds of years, find out who’s sick, find out who else they have been in contact with and
quarantine them until their better so this doesn’t spread.
Unfortunately, this is happening at a national level and every other country in the world. We are, in the United States, constrained by
constitutional limits where we (INAUDIBLE) certain powers to the states. In my view, we’re also constrained by the individual holds in the most
important constitutional office in this country.
So, it’s really being left to governors, county leaders and mayors to put this practice in place until, what you said, we are helping Governor Cuomo
of New York develop the New York State Program. Unfortunately, it’s the largest and first to go, large because of the tragedy and the cases that
have occurred there. But we’re rolling out, as we speak, and we’ve had 60,000 applications for people to become contact tracers in New York state
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you, because Senator McSally was talking in response of a question of the public-private partnership and she said it was working
really well and the private companies are coming forward a lot in America to get all the necessary done right now. How do you assess that? I mean,
you’re a former businessman. Michael Bloomberg is a businessman.
AMANPOUR: How much of the piece is being done from the private sector right now?
SHEEKEY: You know, I really (INAUDIBLE). Just let me say, you know, a few things about the senator. One, she has, you know, an incredible personal
story. I’ve read a little bit about her book and I think you have to respect the life she’s lived and the service that she’s given for this
I will say it’s a very — she is running against Mark Kelly. This is a difficult day in America to run against an American astronaut. We are
putting two back in space. And obviously, her opponent in the general election is a former astronaut. But her idea that, hey, the public sector
has sort of stepped forward, yes, yes. We have stepped forward because there’s no there there in terms of leadership from our federal government.
So, if you wanted to start from the point that — our federal government has essentially failed us. And, hey, good news, people like Mike Bloomberg,
people like Andrew Cuomo, others have rushed in to fill the vacuum, I’m totally fine with that statement. But Andrew Cuomo shouldn’t have to do a
press conference every day. That should be — you know, this network is located in Atlanta, Georgia and has been — and so is the CDC.
There should be a briefing every single day in Atlanta telling us what’s going on and how we’re responding to this, how we need to lead our lives.
What they are doing to develop educational programs to teach people to be contact tracers that can go to work in New York State. Instead, people are
tuning in Albany. And today, across CNN at the National Press Building, where Andrew Cuomo held his daily briefing. He’s filling a vacuum.
Mike Bloomberg through Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the best school of public health in this country, has developed an online
training to teach people. We shouldn’t have had to do that, right? That should be something that this country is prepared for. Every governor this
country should be standing side by side with someone from the CDC, someone from the federal government, to help them through this crisis, and it’s not
AMANPOUR: And of course, the world has taken note of the fact that the globally pre-eminent public health department is the CDC, it’s usually out
front and center in these pandemics and it has been sidelined during this one. So, point taken on that.
But Mike Bloomberg has given a lot of money to, as you say, public health initiatives, Johns Hopkins, et cetera, and also, as we said, some 40
million in total to the current New York effort in the test and track and other issues. Some people are saying, how about a little bit more? I mean,
40 million compared to nearly a billion on a failed presidential race. Do you think given the holes you say in the federal response that maybe some
more of Bloomberg’s money should go into trying to prop up some of these very, very needed technologies right now?
SHEEKEY: Listen. Needless to say, you know, you get that a lot for people of wealth. You know, let’s just talk about Mike Bloomberg, I think he’s
different. Mike Bloomberg has pledged to bounce the check to the undertaker. His pledge is to give away all his wealth before he passes
Yes, we started with a $10.5 million grant to New York State to put it up, but Mike Bloomberg has given over $2 billion to Johns Hopkins to support
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, which is the best school of public health in the country and the leader in this space.
If you type COVID JHU right now, you get the world’s most popular site tracking the global pandemic. And so, I think it is always fair to ask that
some people do more and I think that’s certainly fair. It is impossible to suggest that there is anyone that has done more in this space than Mike
Bloomberg with the possible exception of Bill Gates who just quite frankly was way out in front on anyone in really talking about the need to prepare
for a pandemic and focusing on these sorts of crises.
AMANPOUR: So, unlike my previous guest, you are very keen to see the current occupant in the White House defeated in the November election. To
that end, Mike Bloomberg, he said it to me, he said it to everybody, even if he did not win the nomination, which he didn’t, he would really fund all
that he could to make sure that the Democratic candidate beat President Trump in November.
So, tell me about that. There’s word, you know, in the press and the other that he might, you know, contribute to another $250 million. What is the
plan that Mike Bloomberg himself laid out as he announced his own candidacy to make sure that Democrat wins, as he said, he wants to make sure in
SHEEKEY: Well, I can’t lay out the whole plan. But let’s talk about what Mike Bloomberg did during his campaign and what he’s done since. And
obviously, we have a long way to go in this election. Mike Bloomberg ran $100 million in ads against the president during his campaign in swing
states. Not because he was running in those states but he felt the Democrats had to get, you know, on the field. Donald Trump was aggressively
campaigning for those votes and Mike Bloomberg’s view was Democrats couldn’t afford to wait.
So, Mike Bloomberg has run more ads against the president in states that matters than anyone on the planet. What did he do as soon as he got out, he
said, we have to be in those six states. Repeatedly Mike and I talked about six states where this battle would ultimately be fought. One of them is
Arizona, where your previous guest is from. Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, as well.
And so, Mike has worked with the DNC to fund 533 field positions to work in those states starting April 1st caring through the first week of November
to begin the campaign before July when the nominee and the coordinated campaign (INAUDIBLE) come up and get involved. Mike has also talked about
the importance of data, committed to that before he ran. Obviously built a data operation when he ran and has really talked about how Democrats have
to be better at leveraging data and doing digital ad targeting.
At a minimum, they have to be as good as Donald Trump is today. I can’t understate how good the Republican Party and Donald Trump are in finding
votes, appending the voter file down to the individual and moving messages to them. They are three cycles ahead of where the Democrats were, at least
at the beginning of this year, I think we’re beginning to close that gap.
AMANPOUR: Well, look, that’s a really important thing to say, because it is, apparently, according to all the strategies — and you’re one of them –
– it will be fought more than anything digitally.
Right now, according to the available numbers from the Republicans and the Democrats, the Democrats have about half the campaign money than the
Republicans. Brad Parscale, who’s the head of the Trump campaign, has pledged to spend about a billion.
But where it matters, apparently, according to you all, is online and digitally. And that seems to be another place where President Trump and his
team is way ahead of the game.
And so there’s this issue that potentially Mike Bloomberg’s digital ad spending, as we know, dwarfed his Democratic opponents. He spent some $67
million, creating a digital firm called Hawkfish.
Now, is that going to be helping the Biden campaign? Apparently, Hawkfish has offered its services. Is it going to, and what kind of a — what kind
of optics do you think that would convey?
SHEEKEY: Well, listen, Mike put a group of data engineers and folks who had come out of places like Facebook and Google and others together around
the idea that we have to sort of close that gap I talked about.
Principally, Mike was really focused when he really started that work on moving messages around, closing coal plants, which he’s led in this country
and globally, addressing the issue of commonsense gun control.
Mark Kelly has been a real leader on that issue out of Arizona and other issues. And so the question was, how do you push those progressive issues
that Mike Bloomberg cared very deeply about?
Obviously, he brought those same ideas to his campaign was. Listen, I think Brad, who is President Trump’s campaign manager, should not be
underestimated. This was going to be a digital campaign before coronavirus, clearly ever more since.
We will be reaching voters not by knocking on their doors, but knocking on their Facebook pages, showing up in their social media feeds.
Mike didn’t get — this is a business. Mike has created a good business and is largely moving into the philanthropic world, but really about bringing
tools to the progressive causes that they could put to use.
Ideally, all of those tools will become part of independent expenditures that Mike does and that other people do, perhaps the Democratic Party does.
We’re in conversations now in terms of how to use what we learned in our campaign and share it.
But, listen, Mike still uses all of those learnings for what he continues to work on in terms of coal, in terms of the gun problem in this country
and other issues he’s focused on.
My hope is that what Democrats learn is that they have to get smarter cycle to cycle. We tend to build things and then we put them out, and they have
to get rebuilt every single cycle at the Democratic Party.
SHEEKEY: The Kochs, the Mercers, and certainly the Trumps have figured out a better system, and it’s kept it cycle from cycle, and they have gotten
stronger every time.
In many ways, you feel very much like you’re taking on the Empire. And you have got a small band that’s kind of running around the galaxy trying to
fight this war. I think it’s felt like that for a long time.
Hey, listen, my hope is that the Democrats can build a system that is strong enough to compete, not just in this campaign, but for the long term.
AMANPOUR: OK, so that’s interesting, because we have got some Democratic pushback on the idea of Hawkish, Mike Bloomberg’s digital company, joining,
basically saying it would undermine Biden’s campaign authenticity.
Your — the firm Hawkfish has no real track record of success. And the former chief managing officer of Elizabeth Warren for president joined
Biden. Then she’s tweeted: “Every cycle, there’s a new Silicon Valley savior that’s going to come in and save the day. And every single cycle, it
doesn’t pan out. Somehow, Dems never seem to learn the lesson. I sure hope we don’t let 2020 be another chapter in the perennial tale of us getting
Well, you kind of just said that the Democrats have a problem. They’re three cycles behind.
SHEEKEY: Can you pause on that?
So, what we have is a Democratic strategist saying, Mark Zuckerberg, you know, these folks out in Silicon Valley, Google, they haven’t really
figured out tech, but we, the Democratic Party, has.
Let’s look at the history of Democratic tech.
AMANPOUR: Well, no–
SHEEKEY: It’s having a server in the basement of the DNC, a decade after we have moved to the cloud, and saying, I don’t think that these folks in
Silicon Valley are going to know how to do ad placement.
Christiane, I don’t know about you. I opened up and was reading a story online yesterday, and my wife looked over and said, oh, are you buying that
for me? And I’m like, I said, what are you talking about? And she looked at the ads that were alongside the story I was reading.
I was reading a story. Google was smart enough to put in my feed exactly what my wife wanted me to buy for her. Think about that technology.
When Mike Bloomberg talks about digital ad targeting, he’s talking about what the West Coast has really perfected and perfected globally, which is,
how do I put an ad or an idea or a thought–
AMANPOUR: No, I think she’s talking — she’s about talking about the company, not the idea of digital ad targeting, not the–
AMANPOUR: — understand that this going to be fought digitally.
SHEEKEY: Yes, but who is — listen, I think, if there’s someone better at this, we’re not into this effort to create a business. This is not a
The idea is, how can you bring the best minds from people who understand the commercial world to Democratic politics?
SHEEKEY: That is something that we have a history of Democrats of doing very badly.
So, with that in mind, what about the idea of mail-in ballots and how this whole election is going to take place? And we’re already seeing, even in
Pennsylvania, another key swing state, there, they’re concerned even for the primary, which is meant to be held next month, that it’s just —
they’re being overwhelmed by these mail-in ballots.
They might not even be able to count them in time. They worry that maybe by November, in the presidential, they may not be able to complete the
counting within three days of the election.
And there seems to be — in many other areas, there’s sort of a thing going on. The Democrats say President Trump is already laying the groundwork to
potentially undermine the result of the November election, if he doesn’t win.
Just tell me what you foresee in terms of mail-in, in terms of the integrity of the election come November?
SHEEKEY: Well, maybe I’ll depress some of your viewers even further and take a step back.
First of all, to the previous statement, listen, I helped Mike Bloomberg run a campaign for 104 days. Mike Bloomberg isn’t running for president. He
has no aspirations of being president. Our goal is to really try to help Vice President Biden in any way we can.
And that will be ultimately for them to decide, and in addition to some outside efforts. But we want to help get him to where he needs to go.
Listen, on the election — and I’ll get to the mail-in ballots. This election is much closer than people think. And it’s close today. And that’s
a really tough thing to comprehend, given that, in my view, the president has not done anything to protect this country.
We had more deaths and more new contagions in this country than the G8 combined by a factor of two. So think about that. Those are the largest —
eight largest economies in the world. One of them is China, which is vastly larger than us as a country, and we had more people who became sick and
more people that died than all of those countries combined by a factor of two on Sunday.
This president has not protected us. We are home at work. And he’s not putting the systems in to bring us back to work or to protect us going
And this election is razor-thin. It is in those six states I talked about. And it is really a jump ball today. And that’s a very scary thought for
those of us who would like to see regime change in this country.
You get down to the granular of an unknown. We have never tried to push ballots to individuals at home. We don’t know what that’s going to — how
that’s going to affect the voting behavior, or even its ability to tabulate the results.
And so I don’t have an answer to your question about mail-in ballots. What I — what you do point out is this uncertainty that we can’t really measure
because we have never really tried to do it before. And so you have a very narrow election, at least today. We are still many months from that
November election, and an unknown that we can’t calculate.
And so for those that think, hey, listen, the polls are shifting, and this is really Joe Biden’s campaign to lose, I don’t believe that. I think this
is a campaign that people need to be focused on, and that it will be won by the one that wins it, the person that wins it and not someone that sits
AMANPOUR: It’s really fascinating.
Thank you so much for your insight, Kevin Sheekey.
And now the story of the global race for coronavirus vaccine is well-known by now.
Our next guest, Matt Ridley is a British journalist. He’s a member of the House of Lords, and he’s a science writer whose books have sold over a
million copies. His latest work, “How Innovation Works and Why It Flourishes in Freedom,” explores the most effective way of cultivating new
and creative technologies in medicine and all sorts of other fields.
Here’s our Walter Isaacson talking to Ridley about the fascinating history of innovation from Post-it notes to vaccinations.
WALTER ISAACSON: Thanks, Christiane.
And thank you, Matt Ridley. Welcome to the show.
MATT RIDLEY, AUTHOR, “HOW INNOVATION WORKS”: Great to be on the show with you, Walter. Thank you for having me.
ISAACSON: One of your things in your great new book, a book I loved, “How Innovation Works,” says that innovation doesn’t work when it’s imposed from
the top down, when there’s too much top-down control and authority.
Has it been a problem in the coronavirus crisis we’re facing?
RIDLEY: Yes, I think we have we are seeing a lack of innovation generally, the fact that we haven’t been able to speed up vaccine development.
And, to some extent, we’re trying to force things like the tracing apps and other technologies to help us, rather than encouraging them to come from
the sort of ferment of trial-and-error experiment that you have so rightly said in your books, in your book “The Innovators” in particular, is an
important part of this story.
ISAACSON: But can we really afford trial and error when it comes to vaccine development?
RIDLEY: Well, that’s one of the problems, is that there are technologies, like nuclear power, like developing vaccines, where we can’t afford an
error. And that tends to cut technologies off from the process by which they get refined and new processes get invented.
What I think we need in the case of vaccines is a lot more platforms for how to develop vaccines faster. It’s all about trying to work out ways of
speeding it up without making it less safe.
And if you think right back to the origin of vaccination, which I write about in the book, in the 18th century, when the idea came in from the
Ottoman Empire to Europe and America then, it was a very dangerous and weird idea, a huge opposition to it.
And the woman who brought it to Britain was savaged, her reputation was, for trying this strange idea. So, there’s always been risk. In the early
days of the polio vaccine, there were risky and dangerous things done that caused real harm.
And yet we’re stuck with a situation where it takes a year, maybe two, to develop a vaccine, which is not that different from what it was 40 or 50
ISAACSON: Tell us a little bit more about that story of Lady Mary Pierrepont, who is in your book.
RIDLEY: Yes, I love this story, because she’s a very feisty woman, a literary star.
She was badly scarred by smallpox, and she lost her brother, and she was terrified that she was going to lose her children to smallpox. There were
terrible epidemics at the time, the early 18th century.
She went to Constantinople as the wife of the British ambassador there, and there, because she was a woman, she was able to mix with women in the
Ottoman court who were practicing vaccination. Didn’t call it vaccination. They called it engrafting, and it is what we would call inoculation now,
because they were actually giving smallpox to kids, but from people who had survived and in various ways doses.
And this was a relatively effective way of saving lives. She came back to Britain. She persuaded everyone from the prince of Wales downward to give
this a go, but not without a lot of difficulty.
Something similar happened in the U.S. A slave brought the idea, from Africa, it seems, and Cotton Mather, the Boston preacher, passed it on to a
doctor called Boylston. He ended up having to hide in a closet for 14 days to prevent the mob killing him for — because he vaccinated 300 people to
save their lives.
So it isn’t easy being an innovator.
ISAACSON: I remember that Ben Franklin was part of that controversy as a young guy, because his newspaper was against vaccinations. And then he lost
a child to smallpox. And Ben Franklin turned around.
It’s one of the things that happens with the scientific method, is, you let new evidence come in. How did you see that type of thing happening?
RIDLEY: Well, I think the arrival of new evidence often changes things.
And it’s quite striking in the history of innovation how you start out in one direction, and then you end up going in a different direction. I’m very
struck by the cases where people discovered things by accident.
Kevlar, Teflon, a Post-it note are all examples of things that people discovered when they were looking for something else. Post-it notes, a very
nice story, they were looking for a permanent glue that would work on paper. They found, instead, a temporary glue that worked on paper.
And they thought, that’s useless. And then Art Fry said, hang on, this is just what I need for keeping my place in my hymn book during choir
ISAACSON: You talk in your book about how innovation works. And you say that it’s sped up so much in the past 30 years, 80 years, except where it
hasn’t sped up, whether it be air travel or vaccinations.
Why in some areas has innovation not sped up at all?
RIDLEY: I think this is a very striking pattern.
I’m struck by the fact that my grandparents lived through incredible changes in transportation. They were born before the motorcar and the
airplane, and they died with men on the moon and supersonic planes in the air.
I, on the other hand, have lived through a period with almost no changes in transportation. 747s are still flying. That’s a 50-year-old design of
airplane. And there’s been no increase in speed of cars, trains or planes much in my lifetime.
There’s been incredible improvements in safety, but not much change in speed. And yet I have lived through extraordinary changes in communication
and computers, which my grandparents didn’t see. And they were born after the telephone and they died with the telephone.
So, I think not all technologies go as fast at any one time. And I’m very intrigued by this. Part of it is regulation and government obstruction of
So, for example, at the moment, the government has made it very easy to be an innovator in the digital world. It doesn’t take much in the way of
permission or money to go out and set up and build a new Web site. It’s much harder to invent new drugs or new vaccines, enormous amount of
But there’s also physical limits. I mean, it seems like, in the case of transport speed, it just doesn’t make sense to burn as much fuel as you
would need to do — to run a supersonic airliner. We tried for a while in the 1970s and eventually gave up.
So, I think it’s a mixture of physical limits, where we hit a sort of diminishing returns issue, and the rules and regs that get in the way of
innovation in one area are diverted into another area.
ISAACSON: Are there physical limits that curtail how fast we could do vaccinations against viruses?
RIDLEY: I think one of the big issues with developing new viruses is, of course, that you need to test them on healthy people, and those healthy
people have to come in contact with the disease.
And we’re already seeing, even in this epidemic, that we’re running out of examples where healthy people will bump into people with the disease. So,
it’s getting harder to test the vaccine.
And this happened with the Ebola vaccine, which was developed towards the end of the Ebola epidemic. And by the time it was developed, there just
weren’t enough Ebola cases around for people to come into contact with them and find out whether or not it was safe, because, before that, you have got
to test it on animals. You have got to test it on people to see that it’s safe.
And then you can test to see whether it’s efficacious. These things take time. And it’s been hard to drive down that time quotient. I was taken by
surprised by how much that hasn’t changed, as it were. I thought we had got faster at developing vaccines.
But it turns out that it is — there are some irreducible problems here. I mean, I write in the book about the two women who developed the whooping
cough vaccine in the 1930s in their spare time, an incredible story, really, and a beautiful story, and they never put a foot wrong, and they
developed a safe and effective vaccine in about four years flat.
We’d be pretty pleased if that was achieved today.
ISAACSON: You are a Tory member of the House of Lords. You have been a supporter of Boris Johnson.
How do you assess his handling of this situation?
RIDLEY: Well, I think all of our political leaders are learning on the job and learning fast and learning how to rely or not rely on scientific
I think the U.K. has made a series of mistakes. So have other countries. But compared with Germany, we made a huge mistake in not doing enough
testing early, not ramping up the quantity of testing available.
Korea, Germany, countries like that made that clear. And the U.S. made the same mistake that we did initially, which was to rely on the government
labs to do all the testing and to see it as a centrally planned, centrally commanded, to keep the quality up, issue.
But the U.S. did — then did a U-turn and said, no, we need the private sector to come in and help us here. And I think the one thing that the
Johnson administration has not got right in the U.K. is recognizing that these are huge logistical challenges, how to do the testing, how to get the
test results, et cetera, et cetera.
And logistics is something that the private sector is very good at. I mean, if you look at the supermarkets, they have remained well-stocked throughout
this period. If you look at Amazon, it’s delivering throughout this period. These people know how to do logistics.
And I think we didn’t do enough learning from the private sector. We have tried to do too much of this within the public sector.
ISAACSON: You talk in your book about how to port cities, places with a lot of trade, a lot of diversity of people coming through, tend to be hubs
of innovation. Even mentioned Fibonacci and sort of — and Renaissance Italy, where that was happening.
Tell me about that. Why does that cause innovation to happen?
RIDLEY: Most innovation consists of combining existing technologies in different ways. It doesn’t consist of inventing a completely new technology
out of nothing.
And so that needs to happen through the cross-fertilization of ideas. These people need to come together and have one — bring a technology, bring an
idea from one place and introduce it to another.
Fibonacci is a is a merchant on the North Coast of Africa who learns mathematics the Arabian way, which is actually the Indian way originally,
and he brings that whole system of the decimal system and then, very importantly, the idea that zero is a number, he brings that back to Italy,
where it becomes a crucial part of the double entry bookkeeping system and eventually the commercial system of Italy and then the rest of Europe.
So, it’s a lovely example of how being from Genoa and traveling to North Africa, you pick up ideas that you wouldn’t if you lived in a landlocked
city, for example.
ISAACSON: When you talk about the importance of trade and immigration and port cities and people coming with ideas from all over, does that make you
worry about the current global backlash against trade, against immigration, against globalization?
RIDLEY: Yes, I am worried about the current global backlash against trade and immigration.
I think it is absolutely vital that we keep the benefits of globalization, the ability of an idea in Shanghai to meet an idea from San Francisco and
have a baby idea in London, say. That’s the way the world has worked. And that’s the way the world will work.
And we won’t escape this pandemic if we turn inward and become sort of autarkic and looking in on ourselves.
Just take vaccination. The vaccine that cures this — or that prevents this disease is not going to be invented in every country. It’s going to be
invented in one country, or maybe two or three. The people who don’t live in that country are going to need to know that they can get access to it.
They’re going to be able to say, well, just because I don’t live in the country that invented the vaccine, that shouldn’t stop me from getting it.
Well, it’s exactly the same with every other product. Why should we cut ourselves off from products and services available elsewhere?
The one exception I have to trade being as free as possible is that I think it’s very important that trade is in healthy biological products and not
unhealthy ones. So, the problem of bringing diseases across the ocean, not just human ones, but plant and animal diseases as well, is something we
need to be very concerned about.
And we need to restrict trade in wildlife and in biological systems to make sure that it’s safe.
ISAACSON: The essential theme of your great new book is that innovation requires freedom.
If you had to throw in one ingredient, freedom would be that. Explain what you mean by that.
RIDLEY: Well, again and again, it — whether you’re looking about where it happened, when it happened, how it doesn’t happen as much in empires as in
city states, and how it requires people to be free, innovation relies upon the freedom to experiment, to invest, to change your mind, to change
These are absolutely crucial ingredients that happen everywhere. And, if you look at big companies, which struggle to be innovative often — they —
a bit like big empires, they become anti-innovation as they get bigger and more vested in their existing products.
The way they solve that is by setting one group of thinkers free within a corner of the corporation. This is known as the skunkworks, after the
Lockheed Skunk Works. Google has done this with its X Project.
Other big company — and a Procter & Gamble tried a different approach. They turned outside the company and said, we’re going to harvest
innovations from elsewhere. We’re not going to rely on our own R&D departments.
So, being free to think freely is the one thing that you need, I think, to be good at innovation.
ISAACSON: We hear about China these days leaping ahead of the West on artificial intelligence, even leaping ahead of the West on cancer
treatments using biotechnology.
Do you think that China’s going to hit a bad speed bump because of the lack of lack of freedom ingrained in the system, or may they have a different
way of doing it?
RIDLEY: This is a really interesting question, because there’s no question that China has hit the front of the race for innovation.
It is innovating, not just by catching up with the West, but by doing things afresh for the first time. A lot of the consumer digital stuff that
it’s doing is way ahead of what people are doing in the West.
So — and the same is true in biotechnology and artificial intelligence, as you say. So, there’s no question that China has, while having a centralized
communist regime, become a very innovative economy.
How is that possible if freedom is important? Well, the answer seems to be that, below the level of politics, it is actually quite a free society. So,
if — as long as you don’t annoy the Communist Party, you don’t have as many petty rules and regulations to worry about if you want to set up a new
business trying to do — produce a new product in China.
So, in that sense, there is freedom down in the undergrowth of the Chinese economy, even if not at the top of society.
However, under the development of the regime more recently, it is clear that China is becoming a much more dirigiste and centralized place. And I
feel that that will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, or, rather, as you put it, that China will hit a speed bump at some point.
I don’t see China being the leader of world innovation for a very long time, unless it does free up its politics and its culture, as well as its
technology and business.
ISAACSON: Matt, it was good to see you again. And thank you for joining us.
RIDLEY: It’s been wonderful talking to you.
AMANPOUR: Talking about innovation, of course, we have been talking about the latest space travel.
And you may like to know a few personal details about the SpaceX test pilots.
The two NASA astronauts aboard the Elon Musk Falcon 9 rocket are best pals here on Earth as well. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have attended each
other’s weddings, and they have trained for this mission side by side for five years.
Their wives, Megan McArthur and Karen Nyberg, are also accomplished astronauts, who like to say that NASA is doing a great job at selecting
spouses for them. A bit of fun.
But it’s really a story of friendship, of love, and human ingenuity all in one.
That is it for our program tonight. Remember, you can follow me and the show on Twitter. Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again tomorrow night.