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tv   Amanpour Company  PBS  December 28, 2018 12:00am-1:01am PST

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♪ >> hello, everyone, and welcome to "amanpour & co." during the christmas holidays, we're dipping into the archive and looking back at some of this year's highlights, so here's what's coming up. an urgent warning from hillary clinton in my exclusive interview at oxford university. and with comedy hit "broad city" and a new memoir in her pocket, i talk love, vulnerability, and the rest with millennial superstar abbi jacobson. and then, historian jill lepore on the roots of political tribalism. can political civility return to rescue our democracies? ♪ ♪ >> uniworld is a proud sponsor
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of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those dreams were on the water -- a river, specifically -- multiple rivers that would one day be home to uniworld river cruises and their floating boutique hotels. today, that dream sets sail in europe, asia, india, egypt, and more. bookings available through your travel agent. for more information, visit >> additional support has been provided by... and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> welcome to the program, everyone. i'm christie amanpour in london. america's role in the world is back in the spotlight
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after the resignation of nikki haley as u.n. ambassador. but after the bitter brett kavanaugh appointment to the supreme court, the spotlight is also on rule of law and democratic institutions at home. the president appeared uninterested in judicial impartiality on the nation's highest court at an unprecedented event at the white house last night. >> on behalf of our nation, i want to apologize to brett and the entire kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been force to endure. those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation. our country, a man or a woman, must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. and with that, i must state that you, sir, under historic
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scrutiny, were proven innocent. >> when donald trump won the 2016 election, his opponent, hillary clinton, called on all americans to give the new president a chance to lead. since then, she has become more and more alarmed at what she calls an attack on america's democratic institutions. clinton is at oxford university to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights, which was negotiated for the united states by her personal hero, eleanor roosevelt. when i spoke with her there, we discussed the crisis in democracy, what kavanaugh means for the rule of law, and for the midterm elections. hillary rodham clinton, welcome to the program. >> thank you very much. >> you're here to talk about the crisis in democracy, not just in the united states but also around the world. let me just take you back to election night 2016 when you said we have to give him a chance, we have to let him prove himself
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and lead, talking about then president-elect trump. now you say you think you were overly hopeful. >> mm-hmm. >> what, precisely about democracy has you worried? >> well, really five things. and i started worrying at his inauguration, both because of what he said in his speech, which i thought was defiant, defensive, dystopian, it wasn't a speed to bring together people who had not supported him. but instead, it was aimed, as i say in my book, "what happened," at, you know, the white-nationalist gut. and then, over the course of now two years, nearly, since the election, we have seen him degrading the rule of law, we have seen him delegitimizing our elections, we have seen him spreading corruption, both him personally, his family business, others in his administration. we have seen him also attacking truth and facts,
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even reason itself. and fundamentally trying to undermine our national unity. so, i was hopeful. i wanted to give him a chance. i think every new president deserves a chance. but every month that's gone by, i've become more and more worried about how he governs and how he treats people. >> well, we've obviously gone through an incredibly divisive confirmation hearing and now appointment to supreme court. i'm going to get to that in a moment. but specifically, because midterms are coming up. >> right. >> i mean, it is an election season in the united states. everybody says elections have consequences. what are your solutions, proposals? how can one get out of this crisis that you identify? >> well, the first step is for democrats to win the house and hopefully the senate in november, in these midterms. that's a tall order. it's looking positive. but one never knows in an election, as i know from personal experience. so, we have to convince people
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that whatever they care about is on the ballot. it doesn't matter. do they care about the climate, do they care about the economy, do they care about healthcare and pre-existing conditions, do they care about our foreign policy, whatever they care about, it is on the ballot. we have seen the unpredictable behavior of this president. and if you want not only to change direction but to hold him and his administration accountable, you have to vote. >> can i ask you what you mean by accountable? i think it's quite important because many people even here, i'm sure they've asked you, "is the president going to get impeached? if the democrats win, will they impeach him?" the minority leader, nancy pelosi, told me last month, that was not was not her goal, to go for impeachment. what do you think? >> well, what i think is there are many ways for a congress to hold a president accountable. some of them, frankly, should have been exercised by the republican majorities in both the house and the senate. the investigation into russia's interference in our election. the senate intelligence committee has tried to work
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in a bipartisan way. the house intelligence committee has been turned into a circus. so, a really focused deliberative effort to not only look at what this administration has done and that's in every area, whether it's in how they're regulating or deregulating the economy or the tax cuts, the ballooning of the deficit and the debt, what they're doing to the environment, education. there is so much to be concerned about. so, the first order of business for democratic house and senate should be to get back to regular order and try to impose discipline and accountability on this administration. the question about impeachment, you know, that will be left to others to decide. i want to stop the degrading of the rule of law, the delegitimizing of elections. one of their priorities should be, let's protect our elections. let's make sure that we have electoral security. let's end the suppression
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of voters. so, there's a big agenda if the democrats take over. >> i want to get rule of law, given what just happened in the kavanaugh hearings and appointment. but first, i want to ask you about women, about -- you have said women's rights to human rights and human rights are women's rights. what do you think the kavanaugh hearings, what kind of impact will they have on the midterms? because at first, the democrats were quite happy that it might galvanize. now the republicans are happy that it will galvanize their base. what do you think is going to happen? >> i think that both sides will be galvanized. it's just a question of who actually takes those feelings and shows up to vote, and it always comes down to that. we have more voters who favor democratic candidates. one of the tragedies of what's happened in our electoral system is the republicans have systematically suppressed voters. probably as many, christiane, as 12 million voters were purged
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by republican governments in states between 2012 and 2016. we have all kinds of questions about the security of our voting machines. so, we know that democrats have to turn out in even bigger numbers in a lot of congressional districts and states to be successful because they're being, you know, pushed back by a headwind that is trying to prevent them or discourage them from voting. but if democrats -- and i not only include democrats, i include republicans who are worried about the direction of this administration, independents who want to see more accountability, if they show up, we should win. >> last night, president trump had a sort of ceremony for now justice kavanaugh at the white house, and he apologized on behalf the american people for the immense amount of pain and harm that he said that the judge had been put through by this system.
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what do you make of that, and what message, including the president's mocking of christine blasey ford for her allegations, what message does that send to women? and remember, women went for president trump in 2016. >> white women. >> white women. >> white women. all women went for me. and look, white women have been voting against democratic presidential candidates for decades now. the white vote has only then won twice in the last 60 years, my husband being one of the two, lyndon johnson being the other. so, it's not a surprise. it's a disappointment but it's not a surprise. what was done last night in the white house was a political rally. it further undermined the image and integrity of the court. and that troubles me greatly, it saddens me, because our judicial system has been viewed as one of the main pillars of our constitutional government.
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so, i don't know how people are going to react to it. i think given our divides, it will pretty much fall predictably between those who are for and those who are against. but the president's been true to form. he has insulted, attacked, demeaned women throughout the campaign, really for many years leading up to the campaign, and he's continued to do that inside the white house. >> kellyanne conway, the presidential adviser, talked about this process, and she said, "it looks very much like a vast left-wing conspiracy." it echoes what you said about when your husband was being perused by the investigation back in the '90s, a vast right-wing conspiracy. first of all, your comment on that mirrored language. and secondly, do you see any way -- even a conservative who i was speaking of yesterday said the only way to repair america is try to get back to some civility and to try to make it that
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even if we have political disagreements, we're not going to war with each other, we're not trying to destroy each other. >> well, certainly, i would love to see us return to civility -- listening to one another, working out our differences. that is not the republican party that exists today, and that is certainly not the administration that we have in power right now. when the republican senate denied the right of president obama to have his nominee for the supreme court, merrick garland, heard -- >> i think you even wrote that they stole a justice from the democratic party. >> well, i think they did. i mean, to keep a supreme court seat open for a year, to deny a distinguished jurist, they could have voted him down. they could have said, "well, for ideological reasons, philosophical reasons, we're not going to vote for him." but no, they stonewalled. and that was such a breach of senate ethics
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and the constitutional responsibility of the senate to advise and consent on nominations, that you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. that's why i believe if we are fortunate enough to win back the house and/or the senate, that's when civility can start again. but until then, the only thing that the republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength. and you heard how the republican members, led by mitch mcconnell, the president, really demeaned the confirmation process, insulted and attacked not only dr. ford but women who were speaking out. you know, look, i remember republican operatives shutting down the voting in florida in 2000.
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i remember the swift-boating of john kerry. i remember the things that even the republican party did to john mccain in 2000. i remember what they did to me for 25 years, the falsehoods, the lies, which, unfortunately, people believed because the republicans have put a lot of time, money, and effort in promoting them. so when you're dealing with an ideological party that is driven by the lust for power, that is funded by corporate interest who want a government that does its bidding, it's hard -- you can be civil but you can't overcome what they intend to do unless you win elections. and so, the answer to everything is to get back to a balance, to get back to what is called regular order. they don't even have committee processes. the idea that they wouldn't seek and obtain all of the written record from kavanaugh, that they would not have done
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a full investigation, that is not the way that they treat democrats. and so, unless we win and we say to the people of our country, "look, we need to protect the rule of law. we need to protect processes that are in place in the congress and the government to protect you, to protect what you care about." so, this should go both ways, and that's what i'm hoping for. >> you talked about the papers and the written rhetoric and you talked about the democrats. well, apparently, when elena kagan was being confirmed, democrat handed over all her written paper and stuff she had done for the administration, and there seems to be sort of a question amongst democrats, should we fight dirty and meet them or whoever on the same playing field or should we, as michelle obama said, "when they go low, we go high." rahm emanuel who used to work for your husband, who also worked for president obama, has remembered president clinton saying that, you know, "democrats since the vietnam war
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have been afraid of using power, have been reluctant to, you know, be a bit more ruthless." i mean, what is the answer? especially when president trump says about al franken, who was basically pushed out by your party of senate because of certain allegations, that the democrats folded like a wet rag. are you the wet rag party today? >> look, i think that democrats have a real dilemma. we do believe in making government work. we're not interested in disabling it, cutting taxes so dramatically that it gives you an excuse to raid social security, medicare, and medicaid. we try to have empathy for the situations people find themselves in. that's why support universal healthcare, why we wouldn't deprive people with pre-existing conditions from getting access to healthcare, and the list goes on. so, democrats come to this current political moment, really torn, because
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on the one hand, we don't want to model bad behavior, we don't want to act like there are no limits to what should be done in a legislative or executive branch. but on the other hand, if we don't get smarter -- and i include myself in this, you know, and i did not know the extent to which there was russian interference. i knew there had been some in my election. i didn't understand the pressures from the right-wing, frankly, on jim comey that would cause him to interfere in the election to my detriment. those were things that were almost unimaginable. who, when setting up a presidential campaign, would say, "oh, and don't forget, we have to worry about the russians manipulating the outcome. we have to worry about the fbi director intervening into it. we have to worry about wikileaks, which was wholly owned subsidiary of russian intelligence. i mean, who would have thought that those were
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the challenges we face. so, we do have to get tougher and smarter and stronger. not cross the line into lying, but there's enough truth and facts that should be more widely known about what these republicans stand for, whose bidding they are doing, and where trump really comes from. and at some point, the accumulation of evidence about how trump and his father manipulated their business, how they, in so many ways, broke, you know, at least the spirit if not the letter of tax laws, how he did business with the mafia, how he's indebted to the russians -- at some point, that has to matter. but it won't matter unless democrats keep driving this message about what's really at stake with the presidency of someone who admires dictators, who clearly authoritarian tendencies... you know, one of the reasons i gave this speech today
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about human rights is, i want people not to think of it as some highfalutin diplomatic endeavor that academics study. i want people to underst that human rights are really the freedom that we want to have, the decency we should treat each other with, the respect we should demand for ourselves, the opportunities we should have in democracies. and i want people to realize those are at risk right now. >> you said in your speech that in the years since the end of world war ii, the universal declaration of human rights, the united nations, all of this world order that the united states built and led has done so much good. there's much, much less war, there's less disease, there's all that kind of stuff, more literacy. but you also said that freedom seems to be on the backfoot and freedom seems to be on the wane. that's a really shocking thing to hear. we're sitting in europe. you mentioned the nationalist right-wing governments
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of hungary, poland, which are really assaulting the rule of law. and i'm interested how you compare that, again, with what's happening in your own country where i asked you about the left-wing conspiracy -- you didn't answer it -- but judge kavanaugh in his opening statement the other day talked about a vast left-wing smear campaign. it was very political and very partisan. so, how does the u.s. rule of law in the supreme court with this now political taint to it measure up against actual assaults on independent judiciaries right here in eastern europe and other parts? >> i think this is one of the really important questions that the press as well as political leaders and the public need to unpack and understand. why is it when the world, and particularly the west, is by any measure richer, safer, healthier, stronger, what is giving rise to these yearnings,
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not for greater freedom and for a democracy that really lives up to its name where you don't try to throw voters off the rolls but you want everyone to vote? what is it that is motivating large numbers of people to seek the kind of leadership that will limit freedom, starting with the press, academia, political parties? and why is that so many on the right in the united states and in europe look to putin, a known authoritarian, someone who has journalists and political opponents murdered with impunity? what is going on in the minds of 21st century americans and europeans that would lead them to say, "you know, i just want to have security, stability, and i think we need a strong leader"?
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now, some of it is traced to discriminatory feelings, prejudice bias that other people are getting ahead at a greater rate or somehow to their disadvantage of "me." and so, people look and say, well, these cultural changes, whether it's, you know, woman's right to choose or gay marriage or whatever it might be, that somehow, they find threatening. and so, there are cultural forces at work that are now spilling over into political allegiance that is often described as tribalism. so, "yeah, i want my freedom but limit hers. take away her right to choose. oh, and you know what? i shouldn't have to sell a cake or provide a service to a gay person because that impinges on my freedom." and all of a sudden you start to see the atomization and the fragmentation. so, i think these are really important questions. >> so, what happens though if some of these huge cultural issues
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which have the potential to rip, you know, the fabric of society apart even further, comes to the supreme court at a time like this when even other justices have been saying, you know, "we used to have this kind of tacit, sort of balance. there was always one of us who potentially would vote either way." and that's sort of a sum-up of what elena kagan said at princeton. what happens now and are you worried, do you believe that with justice kavanaugh, who by the way attacked the clintons, saying that all of this was revenge for the clintons -- >> yes, i heard that. >> and of course, he was on the ken starr commission, i believe. >> yes, he was. >> what do you think? do your faith in rule of law in the united states supreme court, going forward? >> well, i always have had even when i disagreed with decisions. i'm in a wait-and-see attitude. there will be some important cases before the court. i don't know what private
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assurances kavanaugh may have given to certain senators to win their vote. those senators seem to have heard him say that he's going to follow precedent, that he's not going to overturn roe v. wade. i will wait and see. now, the bigger question, though, is, what does it mean for the rule of law if the supreme court is seen as politically partisan? that is deeply troubling. because then people are going to disregard what the court says. people are going to believe that the court had an outcome that it sought to obtain. now, i know that the right has said for many years, "well, we had activist judges that democrats appointed." i don't argue with that. but i think in many ways the activism was a reaction to social changes. so, was it activist to find
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that there was a right to an education under brown v. board of education and to order the desegregation of schools? probably, but was it sufficiently rooted in the constitution and in the overall understanding of what the united states has held out as a promise to all of its people, regardless of race? i think so. and you could go through case after case. so, in some ways, is the glass half empty? is the glass half full? here's what i'm hoping, christiane. i'm hoping that now that the confirmation battle has ended, kavanaugh has been confirmed and seated on the supreme court, that the awesome responsibility of that position will affect him and, frankly, everybody else up there, whoever they are, whoever they vote with. because we're losing faith
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in all of our institutions. people have a low opinion of the congress, a low opinion of the press, a low opinion of now the church, unfortunately, a low opinion of nearly everything. and if we don't rebuild our institutions, we can't rebuild our checks and balances. and more than any political outcome, i worry about the constitutional crisis that this will present. >> to foreign policy quickly. you mentioned in your speech and in some of your recent writings what's happening in china, for instance. >> yes. >> president trump seems to have a very good relationship with president xi. obviously, the trade issue is a problem right now. but there's also a surveillance state with a massive internment camp that you describe in uyghur land where the chinese muslims live. and you're concerned about maybe putin picking up that philosophy, that technology. explain that a little bit. >> well, i think what china is doing, first, with respect
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to the uyghurs who are muslims who are chinese citizens, they are pursuing a ruthless campaign against them, setting up internment camps, for example. but it's not only about the uyghurs. the chinese are engaged in constructing a surveillance state that will surveil everyone. you don't have to live in western china. you can be in beijing or shanghai or any other part of china where the han chinese live, and you are now going to be subjected to facial recognition, to something they call a social credit score where you get points from your government for doing things your government approves of. and you get, apparently, demerits and maybe even punished for doing things your government doesn't approve of. now, who is making those decisions? there is a very concerted effort by this current chinese government to prevent the internet from influencing
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opinion inside china. now, as they develop these tools, and they're very sophisticated, they're going to sell them. and it won't necessarily just be the russian who are competing to apply such tools. the iranians, the north koreans who already have a police state but can actually impose even greater control through this, other countries that are electing populist or nationalist leaders who are creating authoritarian regimes even if they were first elected. so, it's not going to only affect the chinese people. >> to that end, it appears that you and your husband, president clinton, are going to go on a big city, 13-city wide speaking engagement around the united states. it's just been announced. what is it that you plan to say? what are you going to talk about? >> well, we were asked to do this. apparently, there's some appetite for it.
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but it's going to be both personal, which is something people are very interested in. obviously, i'll talk about my grandchildren. but i think from my perspective, it will be also answering questions about what's happening in our country and the world. both bill and i are deeply concerned. earlier in the interview you quoted what had rahm emanuel said about bill. and, you know, bill had to be incredibly strong, first to get elected, then to get re-elected, and to survive. and it was not easy, by any means, obviously. but he really believes that democrats have to be tougher and have to stand up to the bullying and the intimidation. so, i think he'll have things to say about his own experience and how it applies here. i will certainly have a lot to say about what's going on in the world today based on not only my secretary of state years
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but my travel and my book, "what happened," which came out in paperback, which has an afterword where i talk about these threats to democracy. i don't want it to be too serious because i think a lot of people will be coming just to see us, to show their support, to be part of a gathering of like-minded folks. but i do want to leave some thoughts, as i tried to do in the speech today, about what each of us can do. >> you say that you're going to talk about the difficulties that your husband went through, that you went through. obviously, you're going to be prepared to have questions about that moment in 1998, the impeachment, the allegations of sexual harassment against your own husband. are you prepared to answer those questions? is he prepared to answer them? and how do you see that similar or different from what president trump is being accused of and kavanaugh and others today? >> well, there's a very significant difference. and that is the intense, long-lasting partisan investigation that was conducted in the '90s.
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if, you know, the republicans, starting with president trump on down, want a comparison, they should welcome such an investigation themselves. >> hillary clinton, thank you very much indeed for joining me. >> good to talk to you. >> turning now to a completely different lane, one of comedy central's biggest stars, relatable, funny, with a pinch of politics, abbi jacobson is the co-creator, actress, and writer of "broad city," which follows the everyday lives of two new york girls. the comedian recently pressed pause on her real life, too, to take a solo road trip across america, which inspired her new book, a series of self-discovery essays which puts her readers in the passenger seat as she reflects on love, loss, and work. i spoke to abbi jacobson about navigating feminism and comedy in trump town. abbi jacobson, welcome to the program. >> thank you for having me. >> so, "i might regret this."
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what might you regret precisely? >> well, you know, it took me so long to find this title. i think i -- this book of essays is just very vulnerable. i was writing very personally. and, you know, "broad city," in a way, is personal, but i get to kind of hide behind this character the whole time. and this just feels very much -- i'm putting much more of myself out there. i don't think i regret it. but that's the feeling i had while writing it, was a little bit like, "what am i doing?" >> well, it's nerve-racking, isn't it? >> yeah. >> i mean, vulnerability, intimacy, all of that is just plain nerve-racking. >> yeah. >> why did you go there? >> i think i was feeling -- so, i went on this road trip. we had wrapped "broad city," season 4. i was feeling so overwhelmed with work and i was also really heartbroken. i had just basically been dumped a couple months earlier.
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i was very heartbroken, and i needed to get away from anything that i knew as, like, my routine life. and i needed to be in l.a. for work, and so i planned this road trip by myself. and i think it's a mix of me writing in this longer format. i've never really written essays or a longer format other than scripts. and it was a mix of being nervous about that and being nervous about just opening up so much. >> you say about, you know, writing in the book, "i became a writer because being a working actor wasn't really happening. i had no control over my career being just an actor. and as i've said before, i enjoy being in control. so in a bizarre turn of events, i ended up in the driver's seat of my acting experience by creating a part for myself." >> yeah. i entered the world of comedy and was like trying to audition and just could not -- i couldn't get parts on the stage there,
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and i couldn't even get terrible commercials. i wrote about in the book -- >> not even terrible commercials? forget good ones. >> this is so embarrassing. i was, like, so -- [ chuckles ] i remember being upset that i didn't get this commercial for foot-fungus cream. >> foot-fungus cream? >> yeah. because it was so rare for me to even get an audition for a commercial. but i was like, "i can't believe i didn't get this commercial." it just was not working out. and then, ilana and i had been doing improv forever together for like three years, and we had such a clear dynamic that felt different than anything else. >> let us play this little bit of a clip. >> you're in an elevator? why would you go into a big building today of all days? abbi, it's inauguration day! >> i know. i'm sorry, okay? >> it was the last voucher for my laser hair removal. >> abbi, it is about to get "i am legend" up in here. you're gonna need those pubes for warmth. >> no, dude. but i prepaid for the package. what, am i not gonna finish a package?
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i'm sorry. i don't want a mustache for the apocalypse. >> mustaches are going to be currency soon. >> i mean, it's gonna grow back. laser, like, hardly works on me. >> i know. i think it's about, like, the equipment and the settings more importantly. >> okay, okay, okay, it's happening. we are t-minus 60 seconds until [bleep] is inaugurated. >> in this moment of really vitriolic and virulent conversation in public, trump attacking us, potentially we attacking him, how do you feel about matching like with like? i mean, it was very anti-trump with a lot of swear words, very very vicious. what do you feel about being in that mix of that rhetoric? >> it's starting to get a little scary to be so actively anti-trump publicly. but also, as a comedian, i mean, that was this -- we do this, like, bridge content called "hack into broad city" that allows us to do content when we're not airing. so, the inauguration wasn't when we were airing, and so
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that felt like a day that we wanted to comment on. and they're always intended to be funny, but it's also -- i mean, as a comedian, it's like, yeah, funny first, but you can't ignore what's going on in the world. and if our voices lend itself to commenting on something that's important and significant for the time, i mean, that's like my job. >> a lot of what's happening in our political culture actually directly affects the fate and the rights of women. and i want to play this really, really sweet clip, which is when, again, you and ilana are at hillary clinton's campaign headquarters in 2016, obviously before the election, and here it goes. ♪ [ ting! ] [ both gasping ] [ ting! ] >> yeah, yeah. >> holy.
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[ laughing loudly ] oh, my god! >> sorry. we are just so excited. >> it's all right. just take your time. >> that pretty much sums it up. >> i mean, i think she ad-libbed "take your time," because we just went on and on. and she was -- i mean, she was such a pleasure, and i wish people kind of got to see how she was with us on set. she was just laughing with us. >> you and ilana have come out and said that she shouldn't run again for president. >> i mean, i adore -- i really love hillary. i think that she has -- was the most experienced person to ever run for president. but i just think that we need some fresh blood in there. we need, like, somebody new to come in. i hope she -- and then this is what i said in that interview down there in d.c., too, i hope she continues to do something. i'm so excited to see what she does next. >> the rights of women and girls are always in play.
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you know, some are saying that there's an unseemly backlash against #metoo, not just from certain male quarters but actually girl-on-girl, so to speak. just went to a comedy show in london, stand-up, and she did this routine called girl on girl. and it was actually about the backlash against women from other women and women being encouraged to almost beat up on each other over this whole #metoo moment. what do you make of it, and how do you process and translate that for yourself and for your millennial female and male audience? >> i mean, i haven't experienced that personally, the -- like, a backlash of women against women. that's just something that exists that people expect women to like be competitive with one another. and, like, a lot of interviews ilana and i used to do, people would just ask us, like, what we fight about or, like, what makes us -- and it's like that's such a bizarre place to go.
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like, why is that your go-to question? but i think it might go into the #metoo movement, too, where i don't know if that's like a narrative that's put upon the movement. >> well, you know, it is actually interesting because we see, certainly with the proliferation of social media and how young girls, teenagers, young teenagers, are on this all the time. and it's not just a kumbaya. there is quite a lot of cat-fighting and unpleasantness between young girls on social media. what do you -- what's going on, and what do you think you'd like to say about that? >> i mean, social media -- i have -- i'm of two minds of social media because it is why i have a career at all. we started on youtube, and we shared -- you know, my whole comedy career began because we shared stuff on social media. but it is -- it is -- like, it brings out the worst in us, and it allows us to be anonymous and full of hate. and, like, i'm so happy that i
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did not grow up with social media. like, i got -- i think i had facebook when i was in college. i was like part of the first round of facebook. i didn't even have a cellphone. i cannot imagine what that must be like to be in high school and to be plugged in. and, like, the bullying that just exists in person is tenfold on social media because you can hide behind that. >> so what will the fifth season bring? we're in the post-election world but, you know, you've got at least another two years of this cycle. what will this next season tell us? >> so, this season, we don't go into feelings about this administration as much as we did in the fourth. it's commented on, you know, every once in a while, like one would in their everyday lives. but it's, you know, it ends. this is the last season, and so there's --
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>> that's it? >> yeah. >> why did you decide to end it? >> we -- it was tough. we thought about it for a long time. and it's really about living in new york in your 20s, and we're playing younger versions of ourselves. and it just felt like the kind of show that shouldn't go on forever and we really want it to be good. and we don't want people -- i don't know. i think you should end when people still love it. >> a lot of people have looked at "broad city" as a real sort of millennial feminist tract. the "wall street journal" came up with this thing, like a sneak -- what was it? >> sneak attack. >> sneak attack. how did you -- what did you get from that? what do you think it meant? >> i love that term, because when we set out to write the show, you know, we never -- we didn't say, "oh, let's make a feminist show." and when that came out, we realized, "oh, this is a sneak attack because it is so feminist." but it's just feminist by us being very true to who we are
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and what we believe in. i think maybe at the time when we started doing the show, you kind of had to be a little sneaky about it. i mean, when we pitched the show, "girls" was on the air, as well, and "new girl," which very different shows. but when we pitched it, it was like -- networks would be like, "we already have a show..." >> about girls. >> yeah, and it's like, "there can only be one." and now i feel like it's way more "let's get more shows like this. >> more shows, more books. abbi jacobson, thank you so much. >> thank you so much. what a pleasure. >> so, as politics in the united states continues to feel increasingly tribal and divisive, many are turning to the past to look for answers. in her new book, "these truths: a history of the united states," author jill lepore explores how american history has influenced some of the most polarizing issues in politics today, such as race, women's rights, and hyperpartisanship. our walter isaacson sits down to see what it would take
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to redress this gaping wound and possibly rescue a democracy in distress. >> welcome to the show, jill. thanks for being here. >> thanks so much for having me. >> and on the best seller list with a sprawling, wonderful... >> who knew? >> ...narrative history of the united states. who knew? and your theme is in your title, "these truths," from one of the greatest sentences ever written, the second sentence of the declaration. what are these truths? >> well, these truths in the declaration of independence that are self-evident, political equality, popular sovereignty, and natural rights. and this is a nation that is founded on an idea, those particular three ideas, and unlike other countries that are founded on a common ancestry or a common heritage or a chain of leaders, this is a nation that is founded on those ideas. and so the way the book works is to try to figure out where did those ideas come from. they have a particular history and then to ask, you know, whether the course of american history since the founding
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has belied them. >> well, the -- the idea of equality, of course, is written by the people who write both the declaration and the constitution, but as you point out in your book, if it's madison, you also do billy, his slave. with george washington, you do henry. you weave the slaves in with the people writing the constitution and the declaration. why did you do that, and what does that help teach? >> yeah. so, one of the things i want to call the readers' attention to is the asymmetry of the historical records. we know so much about madison -- he's endlessly fascinating -- we know a lot less about the people that he owned as chattel, as property. and yet we are descended from both of those people, from all of those people. and to have to sort of struggle for racial equality and political equality in our day means having a richer history and a fuller history. so the -- and a more integrated history, right? so, people sort of would study presidential history or political history and then maybe also study the history of
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slavery and emancipation and jim crow and civil rights as if those are kind of separate tales, you know, you could tell them in separate books. but we know in our own day, these things -- you know, black lives matter and obama's presidency and trump's presidency are all part of the same world. so how to restore that sense of the interconnectedness and the causal relationships between those two things was a big commitment that i -- that i made in, again, giving it a shot, trying to lay out a story that -- that holds together. >> and you also weave in women that way. we share a common interest in benjamin franklin and... >> yeah. >> ...the wonderful book you did on his sister jane, right. and tell me how that story wove in and you brought women into the narrative? >> yeah, what i'm trying to -- like, with the history of race, there are these -- there's this sort of segregated history in our textbooks. with women, they're -- they really remain pretty much left out of any account of political history. women tend to sort of appear in 1848 and kind of curtsey and say we would like our rights and then they come back in 1920 and get the right to vote and then they appear
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sort of, you know, protesting the america -- the beauty pageant or whatever, miss america in 1968. and that's kind of it, and it makes no sense. it doesn't explain the world we live in now where partisanship and struggles for women's equality before the law are just explosively in confrontation with one another in our contemporary world. so i started out wanting to be a historian because i wanted to write women's history and i ended up writing political history but trying to write political history that took women seriously as political actors. and one way i tried to do that here is both with, you know, individual characters we might want to know more about like jane franklin is quite -- she's just a compelling person. but also just thinking about all the decades when women didn't have the right to vote and yet influenced american politics outside of electoral politics, through the work of moral suasion and the moral crusade, which becomes just a key feature of the american political style, the moral crusade that's really brought into politics by women working as abolitionists.
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it's fueled by the second great awakening of evangelical christianity in the 1820s and '30s, working for women's rights, working for temperance, later for prohibition. in the 20th century, women's moral crusades have generally moved to the right. mccarthyism can really be understood as a moral crusade really run by women. the pro-life movement, of course, is a moral crusade. you could think of the #metoo movement as a moral crusade, too. women have really consistently been denied equal political power, and the way that women have tended to try to influence politics has taken -- has generally taken other forms that have -- have big consequences for how our republic works. >> you talk about how the women involvement in politics has often been a very conservative thing. in fact, you highlight phyllis schlafly, one of the women who was part of the original, i guess, '70s and '80s -- 1970s, '80s, '90s, the new right movement against abortion and other things.
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do you feel that in some ways women's involvement, as you've said, is a conservative force as well as liberal? t absolutely is both. i mean, the women were really involved in the populist movement in the 19th century that is a left movement but also was a nativist movement, has both what we would term liberal and conservative dimensions. it wouldn't -- those labels wouldn't have applied at the time. prohibition is, essentially, a conservative movement. schlafly is a good stand-in for how conservative women have aligned over the course of the 20th century. she enters politics in the 1950s as a mccarthy supporter. she's a -- she's a huge and really influential supporter of barry goldwater in 1964, and even -- and even before. and then she turns her attention to stopping the era after it passes congress and goes to the states for ratification in 1972, in part by conflating equal rights with abortion. and she's just --
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the last dying act of phyllis schlafly was to endorse donald trump in 2016. she went to the republican nominating convention in cleveland. she endorsed him before he spoke at her funeral just before the election. there's a really interesting trajectory there about women and conservativism that i think we've kind of lost sight of. and it -- i wouldn't say that it explains everything in the world, but it's an important piece of an explanation of the second half of the 20th century. >> and it's interesting that you say that liberals have left out some of this conservative strand in women's politics. is your book -- do you consider it ideological at all in your approach to american history, meaning coming from a liberal side or coming from a conservative side? >> so i was actually trying to reject the highly ideological interpretations of american history that we have been kind of stuck with. on the one hand, we have a sort of polarized past, people kind of line up there. i mean, less -- scholars don't do this, politicians do this. there's a kind of conservative version of american history and then there's a liberal version
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of american history. and with this book, i would like to elicit a conversation about whether we can have a shared past, because i don't know how these partisan divisions that make it impossible for us, you know, to formulate a budget, to complete a full supreme court, to pass pretty much any legislation. and i think, most importantly, to think deeply about the need for political reform, we have a lot of conversation in our country about resistance and revolution, and i think there's so much wrong structurally that we really ought to be having reform conversations, as well. and that's the spirit in which i -- i tried to offer this account. not to dilute -- dilute something or be wishy-washy about things, but to just take seriously that this is a set of things that did happen, and here's my interpretation of them. >> now, all of this seems to culminate, both the strands, women rights both on the liberal
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and progressive side, and as you point out so well in the book on the conservative side, in the kavanaugh hearings and the #metoo moment that we're going through -- how do you react to that? how do you see the history leading us to that, and where will it go? >> yeah. i think that's the intersection of two different developments. one is the changing relationship between the public and the supreme court, largely through the nomination process, and the other is women's struggle to gain equal protection of the law, and i think we think about that more squarely when we look at those confrontations. we're thinking about, "well, wow, if all the violence against women and sexual-harassment laws and sexual-assault laws have been passed in the 1970s had been enforced, we wouldn't be here now. we're here because that didn't succeed. many women don't have equal rights and they don't have equal protection. i think that's the visible piece of what's going on now, separate from, like, the partisan piece of it. but the supreme court public
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opinion is a thing that actually kind of distracts me and captures my attention here, because throughout the 19th century, generally, when a president named a new justice, the decision just went to the whole of the senate, which is voted up or down and they almost always voted up. it doesn't even really go to committee. when it started going to committee, the committee maybe had a few deliberations, and they voted up or down and sent it to the senate. the first justice nominee to appear before the senate was in 1925. like, the idea that people are supposed to go and be interrogated before the senate judiciary committee, that's a very recent development in our history, and that was just a weird kind of one-off until 1939 when felix frankfurter was called to answer the charge that he was a communist, and he agreed to go. and the only reason he was asked was because hugo black -- in 1939, he'd been nominated by fdr. after he got through the senate, it was revealed that he had been in the kkk, and the senate thought, "whoa! we should've brought him before the committee and asked him about that." so, it's not until 1955
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that it's even regular that nominees appear, and, since 1987, that that is a television spectacle. that is, of course, the robert bork televised hearings, which is really the last spectacle of the watergate hearings, honestly, i think is the best way to think about bork. but now we have this notion, ever since the merrick garland situation, when mitch mcconnell said the american people will decide our next justice. that's actually not how it's set up. it's not a popularly -- it's not an elected position. it's an appointment for life. it's meant to be insulated from public opinion. so, i think it's quite troubling to imagine that twitter is deciding who will hold the next seat on the supreme court. >> one of the themes in your work -- and einstein once said it -- is that, in american democracy there seems to be gyroscope, just when it's tipping one way it knows how to right itself. do you think we have, in our history, in our dna, and going forward, the mechanisms to right ourselves when we seem to have become so divided?
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>> i do. i do. whether that will happen, i don't know. and i work pretty hard to hold onto that hope. i think a lot about the speech that frederick douglass gave in 1894, shortly before his death, to an audience of schoolchildren in manassas, virginia, black schoolchildren, and he -- think about everything that he had achieved that had been undone, right? he fought for emancipation. fought for abolition and emancipation and equal rights, and by 1894, right, the civil war has been won, the emancipation happened, but jim crow has taken over. the south wins the peace, there's violent segregation and an epidemic of lynching, and he tells these schoolchildren to hope that what is necessary in challenging times and the more challenging the times are is to do the hard work of figuring out where hope lies. >> jill lepore, thank you so much for being with us. >> thanks for having me.
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>> in these bitter times, and especially during this holiday period, it's always instructive to know how americans were able to overcome historic divisions in the past. tune in to tomorrow for the incredible story of how this syrian doctor lobbied president trump to stop a looming assault by the assad regime on the country's last rebel stronghold. >> i am ecstatic. i'm very happy. i think he literally saved the life of hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. >> that is it for our program tonight. thanks for watching this special edition of "amanpour & co." on pbs, and join us again tomorrow night. ♪ >> uniworld is a proud sponsor of "amanpour & co." when bea tollman founded a collection of boutique hotels, she had bigger dreams, and those dreams were on the water -- a river, specifically --
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multiple rivers that would one day be home to uniworld river cruises and their floating boutique hotels. today, that dream sets sail in europe, asia, india, egypt, and more. bookings available through your travel agent. for more information, visit >> additional support has been provided by... and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> you're watching pbs.
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