tv Amanpour Company PBS December 7, 2018 4:00pm-5:01pm PST
hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & company." here's what's coming up. >> no man dies to himself. >> as president bush 1 is laid to rest, one of the senate's true moderates heads home in defeat. did compromise kill claire mccaskill's senate campaign? and ashley judd, award-winning activist and me too champion whose roles live up to her ideals. also, children trapped in poverty. "los angeles times" reporter steve lopez on his reporting and the surprising reader response.
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welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christiane amanpour in london. in saying farewell to george h.w. bush the american political world is no just mourning the man, but to a large extent, the loss of the spirit of moderate compromise that bush exemplified. missouri senator claire mccaskill was herself part of what seems to be a dying breed -- moderates of either party willing to do the horse trading to make the policy and passing legislation for the people. but seeking that middle ground may have cost her her job. mccaskill is a democrat defending her seat in a state where donald trump won by almost 20%. she was the top target of conservative dark money and slammed in negative ads. and donald trump, himself, campaigned heavily for her opponent. meanwhile, mccaskill was taking friendly fire from the left wing
of her own party for failing to meet so-called ideological purity tests. despite the blue wave, despite the surge of support for women candidates, claire mccaskill is iet on the sidelines.t keep e to that end, senator claire mccaskill joins me now from washington. welcome to our program, senator. >> thank you, it's great to be with you. >> i mean, is it sad? i feel a little awful sort of you know writing your obituary as we speak and portraying you as your bags packed and your tail between your legs and heading home. >> my tail is not between my legs, i hate losing, i'm a very competitive person, but i am really cheerful. and in fact, it's bugging all my colleagues. they go, you're not supposed to be this happy. but this place has gotten really tough. and i feel like there are other things i can do to contribute, so i feel very fortunate that i've been able to serve but i'm also excited about the next chapter. >> well, we did say -- you said,
yourself, you're not going to stay quietly on the sidelines. what is your next chapter? will it be in political life? >> i do not believe i will ever run for office again. but there are other ways that i can let this mouth of mine that's gotten me in trouble many times, do its work and now i'm not constrained by the discipline i felt i had to embrace in order to get things done. you can't really engage in kind of hot rhetoric, political rhetoric, if you're still trying to find that common ground and accomplish things. i will not have that responsibility. so now i can, i can be a little bit more unhinged, so to speak. >> we look forward to an unhinged senator mccaskill, or former senator mccaskill. but let's just pick up what you just said. you can't be totally frank if you're trying to be in the -- the moderate, the middle, the common ground which is necessary to actually pass legislation and
make policy. i mean, how much of that was your undoing in this particular midterm re-election campaign? >> well, honestly, we had record turnout of democrats in missouri. the problem really didn't turn out to be that my party didn't support me because i wasn't pure enough. the problem really was the enthusiasm that really ramped up after the kavanaugh hearings and after so many visits by the president. my opponent jumped on the back of donald trump, grabbed him around the neck really hard and did not let go. and donald trump carried him across the finish line by really hitting some buttons and of course the spectacle around the kavanaugh confirmation and what he did by manipulating i think the public impression about the caravan, also contributed to a level of enthusiasm that was very high on the republican
side, that frankly wasn't there three or four months ago. so let's just talk about kavanaugh. you did vote against him. when were you campaigning, you didn't really bring up the hot button social issues that seem to have really had america gripped by the -- by whatever one might say. abortion and the others and what might happen under a supreme court with him now as a associate justice. you talked about campaign finance, was that wise? do you think you should have highlighted the things many, many women are concerned about? k. >> my -- frankly the issue that was really more difficult was i had been in office a long time. and regardless of how you felt, one way or the other about kavanaugh, it wasn't pretty. it was not the senate at its finest moment. it was chaos, and it was not dignified.
and we certainly are not getting an example of dignified from the oval office so the fact that i have been in the public life for so long and the fact that people look upon washington as really a place where nothing good happens, that really was probably more damaging to me. without state missouri, the rural parts of my state and obviously trump's support for my opponent. in the rural -- the divide we have in our country is as much rural and urban as it is democrat and republican. >> so let me just point out then, see whether you agree with what i suggested, which was that part of the outpouring in the press, in the streets, and on the ground and certainly in the cathedrals, for president george h.w. bush was a sort of rosy, misty-eyed memory of a moment when there were gentlemen and gentlewomen in politics, mostly
gentlemen, who hued to the middle ground even in the republican party and were civil. believed in civil discourse, bush's kinder, gentler america, whether it happened or not. he uttered those words. do you agree that that was what was being mourned as much as the passing of a man, the president? >> i do. and that's one of the reasons i want to be careful to not give the impression to think i was defeated because i was a moderate. i believe there's a wide swath of voters in america that don't look through the lens of political party, but look through the lens of what are you getting done? even though the noise is generated by the ends. elections are decided by those folks in the middle. and we had a moderate in arizona, a democrat win in a state that hasn't had a democratic senator for many years. i do believe that our next election cycle, there will be more and more people that go, okay, we're worn out with all this, we're worn out with the tweets, with the food fights between the democrats and
republicans. let's try to get behind someone who can knit this thing together and get back to the days where everyone realizes that compromise was actually part of our founding fathers' most important ideas for this country. >> yet it is blatantly and glaringly absent today and you have tweeted in fact just this week, just yesterday. you tweeted, "so sad that our dinner to say good-bye to senators who are leaving is not bipartisan. if we cannot be together to even recognize those who are leaving, what hope is there for this place? why didn't it happen? two words. mitch mcconnell." i mean, that's pretty bizarre. >> yes, it is. and he made this decision when they took over the majority a few years ago, said that we were no longer going to have this dinner together. he certainly has the power to say, you know, i made a mistake,
let's bring everybody together and do this dinner together. he has not done that, and i think it's a terrible commentary on what this place has come to that we can't even get together to wish -- i mean, bob corker is a good friend of mine. my republican colleague who is retiring. jeff flake and i have worked together on many things. orrin hatch and i are buddies. we don't agree on everything but we're buddies. the notion that we can't all be together and wish each other well on an evening like that, the american people ought to be mad about it and they ought to express that to mitch mcconnell in every way that they can. >> before you're mad about it, you have to understand why. why on earth would you ban a dinner -- i actually don't get it. let's say you were in his shoes. why do you think he would do that in what's the point? >> maybe he had just taken over as leader and wanted to consolidate the members of his caucus around him and thinking maybe not having to be bipartisan in that evening, i don't know. you'd have to ask him.
i don't get it. he's a hyperpolitical guy. he's very skilled. don't get me wrong. mitch mcconnell is hyperfocused and very accomplished. i mean, he's done some amazing things that frankly it's hard to imagine they have gotten away with, like refusing to hold a hearing on a supreme court justice nominated under the constitution. but he is very good at staying focused on what's most important to him and that's making sure that he stays majority floor leader. >> you said hyperfocused, very skilled. in fact, republicans picked up seats. obviously, it was different in the house. i believe you democrats flipped 41 seats. what about 2020, though? you know, clearly the president will run again and presumably unopposed on his side. and nobody quite knows who's going to step up into the spotlight on your side. or already today we heard that duvall patrick has decided not to throw his hat in the ring. and he cited you know the
cruelty of the process. you yourself just said it's become so tough here. what hope then is there for future of the kind of moderate civil politicians that you're calling for? >> i think the american people will have an appetite for that kind of politician in 2020. i'm confident that we have a lot of people that have expressed interest in running for president. and, you know, the field will winnow down. the people that are inspirational. and that can convince america that they can change things and maybe they can bring some stability and consistency back to the oval office. and particularly to foreign policy. i think they will have success. we've got a different map in 2020. we have republicans running in states that donald trump did not win, so that's a reverse of what we had in 2018. i think we'll have a very good year in 2020. i hope that moderates know we
need them in washington and they are a national treasure because that's how we actually get things done is finding a sweet spot, a compromise, in the middle. we don't get much done if we sit on opposite sides of the room and yell at each other. >> you said on this issue that if moderates aren't allowed into the party, your party, that would be a recipe for disaster and you did, we talked about this issue of ideological purity. you did say to npr this demand for purity, this looking down your nose at people who want to compromise, again, is a recipe for disaster. that's clearly happening in your party to an extent. >> well, it is, but primarily by people who run in very blue places. i want everyone to take a deep breath and look at the map. there's an electoral college. we cannot win the presidency on the two coasts. we have to have midwest states. and in the midwest, they want somebody who works hard, they want somebody who is going to tell the truth.
they want somebody who wants to get things done. i hope that those values are embraced by our nominee because if not, they're going to have a hard time getting the electoral votes they need to defeat donald trump. >> what do you reckon the democratic strategy should be going forward for the presidential of 2020? it was quite clear that under nancy pelosi's leadership, it was not about attack trump, attack trump. it was about health care for the people. it was about issues that people cared about. do you think that will change now that the house has leadership of all of these committees? do you think it will get much more investigative, attacking, personal, and how should the democrats resist that, if you think they should? >> i think they should. i'm big on oversight. in fact, i've done more oversight in the senate than i've really done of anything else. so i certainly support the
oversight and there needs to be ioritization of the right oversight because if it's all about going after donald trump and his administration, then they become the foil and he loves a foil. he loves somebody to blame besides himself. so i think they need to focus first on integrity of the process here in washington. they need to focus on health care. they need to focus on maybe fixing some roads and bridges. they need to demonstrate that being in the majority is more than just criticizing the other side. if they do that, then i think we're going to be well situated for 2020 as a party. >> can i just -- just, you know, remind people of all the committees you served on, or currently do. the homeland security, government affairs committee. services committee. committee on finance. in there is a little foreign policy. i guess it's a long-winded way of coming to the u.s. relationship with saudi arabia and especially in the way of the khashoggi murder and all the details that are coming out.
you did say in the senate debate just a couple months ago, if it is shown the prince of saudi arabia was involved in ordering the murder of the journalist in a brutal fashion as is has been reported, then everything has to be on the table. you know, more and more evidence seems to be coming out in that regard. your own senate colleagues, republicans, lindsey graham, bob corker, after the briefing said they had no doubt it was ordered by the crown prince. if that does become irrefutable, what do you think the united states should do vis-a-vis the person of the crown prince, and the fact it's an important alliance at the same time? >> well, listen. the alliance is one thing. the conduct of mbs is something else. we can send all kinds of signals that we want to remain friends with the country of saudi a arabia while we condemn this prince. i was a courtroom prosecutor. give me this file. let me get in the courtroom. i'll convict this guy.
the evidence -- circumstantial evidence is a cornerstone of criminal law and when you have the rule of law, which obviously they don't in saudi arabia or he would never think he could get away with something like this on the world stage. so it's very dangerous that he was willing to do this. think about what that means for the consequences of other decisions he might make if he gets away with this without us ever full-throated saying we will not accept an ally that behaves this way. i think we do need to be much more forceful in our response and i'm hoping my republican colleagues will pick this up and do even more in the next congress as we are debating right now a resolution to impose more sanctions on saudi arabia as a result of this conduct. >> let me now pivot to gender politics in the senate, in public life. you know, we've seen this blue
wave, we've seen the 41 seats apparently half of that 41 in the half were won by women. i mean, record numbers of women winning in american national elections like this. and we've seen that it's a year and more since the me too movement took off. i want to just bring up something that's so extraordinary. during the radio interview, again, just recently, you told an anecdote about when you were a young legislator, you went to the state senator and it was really awful. can you remind us what he said to you about how his reaction to how you could pass legislation or get some policy approved? >> when i was a freshman legislator in the missouri house of representatives, i asked the speaker of the house if he had any advice on how i could get my bill out of committee. this was on the dais of the house of representatives, and he looked at me and said, well did you bring your kneepads? so we've come a long way. back in those days i was the only woman attorney in the
missouri general assembly. when it wasn't that long ago that there was a mere one or two women senators in the united states senate. so we are making progress, i'm so proud of all the women that are stepping up. that doesn't mean we need to ignore that there are real issues that apply to both genders, and i think our party has to be careful that we can't become just the party of women. we need to be the party of america and economic success and taking on pharmaceutical drug companies. but it is great to see that women are empowered to see themselves as candidates and to succeed as candidates. and i think we will see more and more of that in the years to come. i think we've finally broken through a barrier of sort with the results we've had this year. >> i'm flabbergasted by that comment. i cannot even believe it. i don't know how you reacted. >> 1983. >> i don't know whether you told him off there and then or whether you were just stunned.
>> i, i -- i was as a young single woman, in very male-dominated, older legislative body. i decided that i would assume it was a joke and laugh it off. and that's why one of my best pieces of armor that i've used in my career is a sense of humor. i'm not sure i handled it correctly because i was worried about the impact on my career, if i was confrontational. i think that's one of the issues that women have had in these circumstances, whether it's the workplace or elective office. and so i'm glad that it is now no longer acceptable and i think men realize this. i think we've now got to move now towards a workplace and a political environment where women are maybe said cruel things to, but it's about their politics and not about their gender. >> it's remarkable, thank you so much senator mccaskill for
joining us. thank you very much and good luck to you. >> uh-huh. thank you. >> and we are going to be taking that up with our next strong woman, ashley judd has a big television role to showcase now. she has joined the cast of "berlin station." she plays the cia agent in charge of the agency's berlin office. it's another in a series of smart and tough women roles for judd. art imitating life for the actress? or does life imitate art? she's also an activist and a me too icon. judd was brave enough to go on the record with her accusations of sexual abuse against producer harvey weinstein. it earned her a spot as a silence breaker. one of "time" magazine's persons of the year in 2017 and as an ambassador for the united nations population fund, judd travels the world with a simple but eloquent message and that is, being a girl is not a crime. ashley judd, welcome to the
program. >> thank you so much for having me. it's lovely to see you again. >> and you, too. i wonder whether you heard the last things that senator mccaskill was just talking to me about. how she was, i mean, it was so rude and sexist and misogynistic and vulgar what she was told as a young first time only woman legislator at that time. how do you reflect on that? especially today, when we've had a massive wave of women who have achieved elected office in these midterms? >> well, unfortunately the remark that was made to senator mccaskill is not extraordinary. in fact, the other night i was the speaker at the national sexual assault center fund-raiser and a gentleman who was seated next to me and happens to be one of the largest contributors to this flagship nationally renowned sexual assault center made a reference to me about oral sex and my pubic hair.
>> you've got to be kidding me. >> unfortunately i'm not kidding. i was in that position where i went into fight, flight, or freeze. some of the me too is about is helping to understand fight, flight and freeze are normal for post-traumatic veterans and we understand the brain chemistry and newer biology, we're starting to give survivors the grace and mercy to understand that that's the response and reaction that we have and that's all valid and appropriate because our brains are brilliant. i had a table full of strong, female friends nearby and i said excuse me, i see my friends and i ran over to them. i validated with them that what i had heard was so grossly inappropriate. and then i had the opportunity to process my choices. do i threaten the funding stream for this sexual assault center by saying something to him directly in the moment or do i take some time to reflect on it and circle back later and say, you know, how inappropriate this is in so many ways. and you know, i'm ashley judd and people are still saying stuff like that to me. this is the water in which we
swim and it's a micro-aggression and it's so exciting that me too is not a moment but it's a movement in which we can all come to understand the roles that we play in perpetuating misogyny and chauvinism and inequality. one of the things i hope we have an opportunity to talk about is what the world is going to look like when we achieve equality. i think we talk about the backlash and some people are afraid of what they're losing as a result of smashing the patriarchy. what we need to articulate is the vision of what we're gaining which is healing for our society. it's not about replacing patriarchy with matriarchy. it's about having an egalitarian society where boys and girls and women and men share power, share responsibility, share opportunity. i think it's a vision of healing and that's part of the message that i hope i can carry. >> let's discuss that. it's now is the time to discuss this vision of the future. you put it in a way that sounds completely and utterly logical and most women, many women, would agree with you.
however, i was at a dinner last night where you think women would be proudly talking about feminism and the rest. but no, still feminism is an unknown and scary word, even amongst many women. and what is it about the narrative and about the moment that needs to change? i mean, we're one year-plus past the me too movement and still women, forget some men, women refuse to call themselves feminists and say this is all too much and we want to be flirted with and we want to do this and that. god forbid our boys are targeted which is the whole narrative around the kavanaugh approval process. >> well, as god knows, women have been targeted for a very long time and i understand that we're recalibrating our society and that means change and change can be threatening.
definitely uncertain and chaotic and we just have to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable for a period of time. and you know, as we end impunity for men who behave badly, we also need to have the opportunity to put forward men who behave well and who model what a healthy, inclusive masculinity looks, sounds and feels like. toronto burke articulated to me 12 years ago when she was lying on a mattress on the floor of her apartment. and said i've also been a victim of sexual assault and also a survivor. she developed the faction plan which became the me too movement when the hashtag was launched a year ago. who is going to be her storative justice looks like? that's what i'm excited about. i try not to get caught up in all of the oh my gosh, "baby it's cold outside" isn't being played on the radio anymore. what has the world come to? let's talk about what the world can and should be.
>> you mentioned toronto burke and her fundamental role in all this. just recently she has said she feels numb after the course of the past year. and what's happened to the me too movement. >> survivors of sexual violence are all at once being heard and then vilified. and i've read article after article of wealthy white men who have landed softly with their golden parachute following the disclosure of their terrible behavior. >> so she's really, you know, she's worried about this backlash. . >> yes, and she uses some really key words in her wonderful ted talk about eraseure in the media and us being vilified by people who still hold on to power asymmetrically and it's about power control and come fan. sexual assaults and rape are not about sex.
ta they're about violence, control, and dominance. so that's why i love the bonobos, who are our closest living relatives, the fabulous species of apes because they're co-dominant, egalitarian. a female is always alpha. males get status through their mothers. -- i think it's so funny because that's my christmas card eep i'm, like, a jesus person. a protestant. i love my feminist social justice preacher who's probably watching right now. it's on my christmas card because i believe that's what we need to aspire. >> okay. i really am really fundamentally interested in how you bring the men on sides and how you don't further alienate them because there are two issues. one, many men are saying that there's too much conflation, that the arc of the crime is so
wide and broad that everyone is being targeted by the same brush, whether they're for real crimes or infractions. and their livelihoods and their lives have been destroyed. first and foremost, how do we shade this? different shades of what's going on. how do we come up with a code of conduct and accountability that's proportionate to what actually has been alleged or taken place? >> it's a very good question and i have just as the question encompass as spectrum of behavior, i have a spectrum of responses. first and foremost, christiane, we need to start young. we need to talk with our young people about consent and we need to talk about microaggressions and standards of behavior such as, if it doesn't feel good, it's not good. if it doesn't feel right, it's wrong. i recently spoke at the international school in an eastern german town and the young people spent two hours with their hands raised. i had to leave so they could go
to lunch. i couldn't satisfy all of their inquiry about me too and time's up and how do i give a girl a compliment, do i have to get consent every step of the way? it's important to go back to professor katherine mckinnon's articulation of the law of sexual harassment. it is unwanted sexual attention. it is sexual joking, it is anything that happens in the workplace that's based on gender and sex. and we also i think need to have a variety of responses. so when i'm at heathrow airport and the guy at security calls me sweethea sweetheart, i have the right to say back to him, i'm a traveler not your sweetheart. and when he touches me i have the right to go to his boss and say that was inappropriate and i felt violated. he corrected the guy, end of story. i got death threats for doing that. so what is out of proportion here? you know, i think that girls and women, i mean, i still earn 8 o cents on every dollar that a white colleague makes. african-american woman makes 63 cents for the dollar made by a
white man and for latina women, it's 54 cents. so we need to constantly bring it back to the reality of the discrimination with which girls and women live so boys and men can understand, this asymmetry that has been intractable and systemic. yes, it's a course correction and yes people are going to feel lost, especially as i said earlier, what we don't have these positive healthy male role models. this is a generation in transition and organizations like a call to men and mentoring violence prevention, they do trainings in schools, they come to corporations. they talk to religious groups. we're making it up as we go and that's a beautiful opportunity, when has a culture and a society had this sort of chance? to say who do we really want to be? i firmly believe that this is our calling to transformation and healing. >> let's get down to the
nitty-gritty of the big ten-ton gorillas in this me too movement and the first one was harvey weinstein, right? >> right. >> and he is now, we read, his legal team is lashing out at women who have been accusing him. already one has been discredited and a case of one has been dropped. you have a legal case against him which is set i understand for 2020 in court. are you still confident as you pursue that? do you feel targeted right now? how is that going for you? the legal pursuit of your case against him? >> i also want to tweak the language. the vocabulary we assign to these situations is really important and you know, i didn't fell harvey. his own behavior and criminal predation has imploded his life. so the responsibility lies with him. and i'm really comfortable with our case. because defamation is a legal interference with economic opportunity. sexual harassment is illegal. our hope is that we can, we can apply existing law or strengthen laws where they may not
necessarily exist yet. so that girls and women can have safe, dignified and fair workplaces. and you know, over 50% of all women say they experience sexual harassment in the workplace. and of women under 34, 74% have never reported it. so i hope to in some small way be of service to people who experience sexual harassment in the workplace. because it does interfere with their economic opportunity and that's money in their pocketbooks, money for health care at home. that's money for education. money for vacations when families can bond and make memories. this is about economic opportunity and i think that the economic argument is one that should appeal to our, you know, capitalist american society. and, you know, i want to point out that what harvey has done is classic darvo with this e-mail that has been leaked. it's denying, attacking, and reversing the victim/offender order. it's a strategy that perpetrators use. i think when we can have that meta-analysis we can go, a perpetrator is just doing what a
perpetrator does. >> let's point out what the e-mail is. he said i've had one hell of a year, the worst nightmare of my life. you say that's the sort of customary tactic that has been used. >> absolutely. >> can i just ask you, just to go back, i know it's painful, but you obviously were assaulted by him or approached in a way that you fled from. and you say and you're sure that your career was affected because of it. but before that, when you were a little girl, you were also abused. and you didn't know which way to turn and what to do and how to get the adults in your life to step up. tell us a little bit about how difficult this is. >> you know, i'm just -- i am one of many, one in four girls will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18 and one in six boys will be. and of course, those numbers are catastrophically higher for girls and women of color, for the disabled, for folks of
different socioeconomic backgrounds. it's very intersectional. i was molested the first time i remember wednesday i was 7 years old. and i did what i do. i immediately told. i went to some grown-ups, tori and jeff. i said, this is what happened. there's so much that has happened with me too and time's up. they weren't prepared or equipped to respond to me in a way that was healthy. or appropriate and would address my trauma. they literally said to me, he's a nice old man, that's not what he meant. so i tried to tell my uncle. my uncle was my safe guy. we played in the dirt together. had so much fun. i started to lose my voice at that moment. but i still had the resilience, i still had the knowledge in my body that something was wrong and he was listening to an lp record and had on stereo headphones and i sat behind him where he could kind of see men but not really. i was practicing saying out loud what happened and couldn't make the words connect. but here i am all these years later. i told the story about harvey in
"variety" magazine in 2015 and in extraordinary detail, but no one was ready to listen yet. that's what's so beautiful about this opportunity because, you know, as professor keegan at harvard ed says, when we really listen to each other and we witness each other's reality, we are recruited to each other's welfare. that's so much of what me too is about. getting that empathy on board so we can soften our hearts and open our minds. >> just to wrap up a little bit on this issue. at the beginning, certainly the beginning of this year, you talked about the joy you felt at the me too movement. and i wonder whether that joy is still there for you nearly a year later or a year later. and are there still structural issues that have to be addressed? bill cosby is in jail. harvey weinstein is under court proceedings. you know, others have paid penalties, lost their job, may lose their golden handshakes and payouts, et cetera. is there enough of the
structural change? or do you think you're looking for more of that? >> of course, i'm looking for more structural change. i'm looking for more middle and upper class white women to get on board with intersectional feminism. i'm looking as you mentioned for to us destigmatize the word feminist which really just means social, cultural, economic equality for boys and men, that we're all special and we've got this dna blueprint from god inside of us that makes us precious and unique. and i'm very joyful and hopeful. i actually might even cry a little l bit. yes, it's a struggle, but that's the nature and definition of struggle. it's hard work, but i think we're doing god's work. >> well you have been on the forefront of this struggle and many, many people thank you for it. ashley judd, thank you being with us. a little girl once said there's no place like home, but
for many children clicking your heels three times like dorothy did is no remedy for homelessness. steve lopez is a columnist for the "l.a. times" who recently published a four-part series on child poverty in l.a., focusing on the stories from telfar elementary school, where nearly a quarter of the student body is homeless. many live in motels and garages. they have little to eat and nowhere to do homework. they're victims of rising housing costs. we sat down with steve lopez, continuing our ongoing initiative about poverty, jobs and economic opportunity in america called "chasing the dream." >> steve lopez, you did a four-part series on child y?ol.nt months looking at one >> i was curious about how it could be that california could have the fifth largest economy, in the world, not in the nation,
but in the world, yet about 20% of the population living in poverty and when you break those numbers down, it means there are about 2 million children in california living in poverty. and one day i bumped into the superintendent of los angeles unified school district. and he was new on the job and i asked how it was going. and he mentioned that the challenges are many, and asked if i was aware that there are a couple of schools where nearly a quarter of the student body was homeless. so i decided to check that out. and one of those schools is telfair elementary. so i spent several weeks hanging around there, talking to the principals, teachers and families. >> what does it look like if a quarter of the school population is homeless? we're not talking about people panhandling on the streets, it's a different kind of homelessness. >> it is a different kind of homelessness. we're not talking about students, camps and tents outside the front office of the school.
what happens is that families each year in los angeles unified are asked to fill out a residency questionnaire. you have to check these boxes, do you have in a motel? do you live in a vehicle? do you live in a shared apartment or home? or do you live in a place of your own? and a shocking number of students in los angeles unified, a couple of years ago was 17,000 checked one of those boxes. and last year, 15,000 plus. and little telfair elementary school which only had about 750 or 760 students, had more than anybody. had about 180 of their students who had checked one of those boxes. and a third of those were living in garages in the neighborhood. >> you mean the garages that are attached to homes? where we would normally park our cars? >> where you would keep your lawn mower and motor oil, yes. no, it's actually become quite an industry in los angeles. it's not entirely new. it's just that in this economy,
the housing costs are still rising way faster than wages are rising. so people are stretched to the limits. and there are all of these creative living arrangements, i spoke to a real estate agent who sold a four-bedroom house to somebody who was going to live in back shanty and rent the three of the bedrooms for $700 a month each and the one bedroom that had a bathroom was going to go for about $950. so you have families living in situations like that all around telfair elementary school. >> these are not low prices, why do people agree to pay some of these prices? you also mentioned they're living if h motels. that's not an economic option. >> no, there are no economic options in los angeles right now. we've had, because of a housing shortage, a skyrocketing of rents of every kind. so it's not incumbent to find somebody living in a garage paying $1,500 a month. now, these are garages that, you
know, they've been converted. some of them have bathrooms. there's running water. some of them have kitchens. so it's kind of like in many cases maybe a studio apartment or a one bedroom. so they're not necessarily horrible living conditions, but when you have families, and you have children in school and there's no quiet place to do the homework and no yard to go outside and play in because the owner's family is out there. puts all of these burdens on these families then those burdens transfer over to the schools because teachers will tell you about students who showed up who maybe didn't have a nutritional hot meal or they didn't get their homework done because they didn't have a quiet place to do it. they're not focused on the lesson plan that day because maybe somebody next door was noisy and they didn't get any sleep. so all of these burdens walk into these classrooms every day
at telfair. >> you focused in on one of the stories, there's video of a family you meet that's living in a motel. and just the act of the getting the children to school on a daily basis is an uncertainty. >> that's right. two months into the current school year, the family had lived in three or four different places this he were in a motel. moved no an apartment that was a two bedroom/one bath that 17 people were living in. that wasn't working out. so they moved back to a motel. but the cheapest motel was six miles from school and the mother doesn't have a car. so it was either public transportation or call a relative or a friend and hope somebody would take the kids to school. and sometimes they showed up and sometimes they didn't. and in that motel room, it's one room. a small room. two beds. there is no kitchen.
there is no desk or place to do your homework. the place is kind of noisy. there's some nefarious activities going on in that motel and all the surrounding motels this is how thousands of children growing up like this in los angeles. >> one of the things that strikes me about that video is the mother's concerns about malnutrition, she's not able to feed her children regularly. >> we didn't have food yesterday. it's hard. like, you know, but it's just -- it hurts me to see them hungry. >> you know, when i was in the motel room, i saw a 7-l eleven pizza box. this was early in the morning. i assumed it was from the night before, which i guess it was. and when the ride was not showing up to take the three kids to school, one of the kids,
the little girl, who was 5 years old, was getting hungry. so she walked over, opened up that 7-eleven pizza box and put a piece of pepperoni pizza into the microwave and that was breakfast. the one thing these kids look forward to, school is kind of an oasis. it's safe. they serve you hot meals. but if you don't get to school, you don't get to take advantage of them. >> so what happens to these children? what are the ripple effects? what are the forces weighing on them by the time they get to class? >> well, you know, teachers talk about how they're a little unfocused. maybe they're tired. maybe they didn't do their homework. maybe they ate something but it wasn't the best food. to prepare you for a day in school. there are those things and then it becomes a little more serious. they find irritability. they find mood disorders. high rates of depression even among elementary school students. the thing that's of even greater concern is all this recent research about adverse childhood
experiences and the more of these that you're exposed to including unstable housing situations and broken families and not enough of an income to get you to school regularly or to put food on the table, you have not just physical and mental challenges and ailments as a child, but they're finding, researchers are, that these are lasting into adulthood. something like twice the normal rate of heart disease if you're exposed to four or more of these adverse childhood experiences. so this is not just a problem in k-5 for these kids. this is something that may be with them for a lifetime. >> it also sounds like the teachers here are the front lines for not just teaching but everything else. you're describing a social worker or team of social workers that would have to grapple with any of these specific challenges individually. but really the only person that's going to have to face
this are 15 or 20 kids in the classroom is that teacher. >> we look at the test scores at schools like telfair. and we sit back in judgment and oh, that school is failing. what i saw was inspirational, and you're right. teachers are social workers, sometimes they're parents. they've got, they wear a lot of different hats. and they're dealing with problems that come in with these kids because of the conditions they're living in. and i should tell you that if you drive just a few miles from telfair elementary, you can see where the lockheed martin plant closed. you can see where the gm auto manufacturing plant closed. where the price-pfister kitchen faucet plant closed. and all of those jobs, which were middle income jobs, were replaced by service economy jobs. so a lot of these families that i'm talking about that are living in motel, some of them in vehicles, some of them in garages, they're not sitting
around all day. these are working families, but we have an economy that is serving just a few people at the top, and those in the middle and the bottom are struggling. so the telfair story is not just about child poverty. it's about this economy. it's about something broken in california. how can you have a state that has such incredible staggering wealth, hundreds of billionaires, fifth largest economy in the world, and thousands, actually millions, children living in poverty? something's broken. i've not yet met anybody who has any ideas on how to really address that. >> you're pointing to something systemic and generational when some of these children grow up in these situations. they're almost trapped. >> the odds are really against them. and that was another thing that really inspired me about this school, telfair. the teachers believe in them. the teachers believe that each of them can make it under the
right circumstances. they know that they come from you know, living conditions that can be pretty depressing. they want the school to be an uplifting safe, comfortable place, and the person who sets the tone for that is the principal. jose razo grew up just a few blocks from telfair elementary, and when he was a boy, lived with his mother and siblings for a while in a garage. and jose tells the story about that garage not having a bathroom and if you needed to use the restroom, you had to walk outside the garage, go around, go up, knock on the front door of the owner's house and ask permission to use the bathroom. this is the guy who had faith, he had his mother behind him saying your faith and education is going it get you through it. he did well in school. he played in the band in high school. he joined the united states marine corps. he came back, he started as a
teacher's aide then became a teacher then wanted to run a school. and he runs this school with banners, college university banners are hanging from the hallways, from the auditorium. from the first day. it's not are you going to college, kids, which one are you going to go to? on fridays, you don't have to wear your uniform to school if you wear a university t-shirt or sweater. so this is a really sad story, it's tragic, but i found great inspiration in the attitudes and the hard work and the ethic of the principal and his teachers. >> one of the things that your stories also point out is if we just looked at the test scores, we'd miss the nuance you're describing here. we wouldn't see the inspiration. i think one of the people in the story said the test scores are much more a measure of poverty, not necessarily of their potential. >> yeah, think it's a measure of poverty rather than promise. these are smart kids.
and when they have access to the right things, i think there's no limit on what they can accomplish. let's take a look at telfair and what do they have, or what do they not have? given all of this trauma, you'd think they would have a psychiatric social worker. they do not. you think they'd have a nurse. the nurse is only there a couple days a week. you think you'd want to expose them to reading and to, you know, the power of words, the library is usually closed. these are the problems we're seeing at a school, in a district, in a state, that when i was in public school, this is tion.nia was a model for the , schools were well funded. the resources were there and those schools helped drive what became this great powerful economic engine in california. we short shrift our kids today. how can you have a situation
like that in this economy with this level of poverty and not have the tools that the students need to succeed? that part of this is tragic and very discouraging. >> one of the statistics that leapt out to me and other people when we were reading the story, you said 80% of the students at the l.a. unified school district qualify for a free or reduced lunch. that's a staggering -- that's 480,000 kids out of 600,000 that go to the school district. >> i mean, imagine that. imagine that. and yet, we've had these conversations about, gee, what's wrong with the schools? do we need more charters? is the teachers union running things? do we need to crack down on that? let's have another politicized school board election. what i think i discovered in working on the series was that the schools are not the problem, society is. everything else is. we're the problem. we are expecting schools to address the shortcomings in this economy, and they're doing their
best, many of them, sure, they could improve, sure, we need to find new ways to support the schools and help them do better. but we've got much bigger problems than what's going on in the schools. >> as you look at this problem, what have you seen? have you seen anybody tackle this in a successful way? >> you often hear people say that let's not throw more money at this problem, and those tend to be people whose children are not at those schools. i mean, when you don't have a nurse and you don't have a library that you can keep open, yes, money would help. some recent studies have determined that -- that one problem in california, more so than in other states, maybe it's because of the large poor community and large immigrant population, is that once students in california begin school, they do as well as students in other states, but they begin further behind.
and so there is talk about a new focus in california on preschool intervention. on very early childhood education. on a better system of coordinating all of those kinds of services. more parent coaching. i'd like to see school campuses become community centers. this is an idea i got many years ago from new jersey senator bill bradley. he was running for president and i was out on the campaign trail. he asked when he made his campaign stops, in many neighborhoods in america, he said, a public school campus is the only safe oasis and it's a place where you may have the only library and the only gymnasium and the only place with all of these resources. why do we lock the doors at 3:00 p.m.? why don't we keep those open and make those community centers where people with a trade can come and talk about how they got
into that business? where the kids have access to the books in the library. i think we need to rethink what can be done with school campuses and also what can be done to get kids better equipped before kindergarten so that they're ready for school. >> steve lopez. the four-part series is at the "l.a. times." thanks so much. >> thank you. >> that extraordinary report from steve lopez and the "l.a. times" comes as local journalists are breaking critical stories all across the country. reporters like steve, though, are an endangered species, sadly, and they deserve our support. that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching "amanpour & company" on pbs, and join us again tomorrow night. uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & company." when bea tollman found a collection of boutique hotels,
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