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Governing an Ungovernable State; Congresswoman Called to Action on Guns; Imagine a World

Aired May 2, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the special weekend edition of our program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And this week it seemed like so much news came out of Los Angeles where we happened to be broadcasting from. As we went to air on Tuesday, the National Basketball Association was delivering its verdict on the racist rant of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. They banned him for life.

And we got the first exclusive reaction from Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti.


ERIC GARCETTI, LOS ANGELES MAYOR: Those are exactly the sorts of strong statements we need to stand up against these hateful comments. And again, my sentiments tonight are with those players. And I think this is taking hopefully a burden off their shoulders so they can concentrate on what they do well. They've worked their entire life to be in this point in the playoffs. This city is behind them.

And thank you to the NBA for standing up behind this city and for what's right.


AMANPOUR: But of course the multiracial makeup and tensions of L.A. and the fate of its major sporting franchises are not the only issues facing this city or this state. California covers an area almost the size of France. If it were a nation state it would have the world's eighth largest economy, turning over $2 trillion larger than both Russia or Italy.

It's at the very heart of the global tech revolution, of course, not to mention the cultural exports that have rocked the world throughout the ages. California was also ground zero for the housing collapse that sparked the global recession of 2008.

But the last three years have produced an amazing turnaround and Governor Jerry Brown, the man who engineering it, joined me for an exclusive interview this week about just how he got this state out of its turmoil -- and at what cost.


AMANPOUR: Governor Jerry Brown, welcome to our program.


AMANPOUR: You, to mix all the metaphors, are the turnaround kid in the comeback state. It wasn't so long ago that California was being uttered in the same breath as Spain and Greece during the worst of the economic recession overseas. And now it's turned around.

How did you plug and now have a surplus, a $26 billion deficit, is it just the economy or did you do something special?

BROWN: Well, it is the economy. But we did something special. We cut programs, programs dear to liberals, programs dear to conservatives and builders, the university, child care, a host of very good programs we had to reduce because the money wasn't there. And we faced the music. We took our medicine.

In addition to that, I asked the people of California to vote in a voter referendum called an initiative to raise the income tax on the highest earners and to raise the sales tax a quarter of a cent on everyone else. And that passed with a very strong majority.

And so between the cuts, the taxes and the inherent vibrancy and recovery of the California economy, we are now in a surplus position whereas before, as you indicate, we were being compared with failed states.

AMANPOUR: Governor, with all the success that you've had, there's also obviously the sad story. You have cut unemployment but it's still high at over 8 percent. You talk about some of the dear beloved programs that you've had to cut, even into education. And California has the highest poverty rate in this nation, not to mention a massive inequality gap between the rich and the poor.

Where -- at what point does one have to stop that kind of hemorrhaging?

BROWN: Well, at the point that we can best handle it, which is now. This growing inequality is occurring in China, certainly occurring in Russia, in Europe, throughout the United States and in California. We still have incredible opportunity and economic dynamism.

But we have welcomed millions of people to our shores. They are now part of our community. We are extending a type of state immigration rights which are not still coming from Washington. We have a long way to go.

But we now are putting $10 billion into our schools. And under a formula that gives the most money to those school districts with kids who come from families that don't speaking English, and that's millions of families.

And secondly, from the lowest income families. So we're -- we've raised the minimum wage to $10. So we're doing a lot.

But the gap is growing because technology and the global economy plus the etiology of the market as it is now understood is producing relentlessly greater and greater inequality. And we'll do our part.

But they have to do the same thing in Washington, in Europe. These G20 people meet but they don't talk about inequality. And it's about time they do.

AMANPOUR: So what about the failed state of Washington, D.C., the dysfunctional state of affairs in Congress between a Congress and the White House? They can't even get a budget together. Is there any lesson from California for the wider country?

Or did you benefit from having a Democratic majority everywhere you looked?

BROWN: That's the point. We not only have a majority of my party, but we got majority rule in terms of our budget, both the spending and the cuts. That's a majority. We don't have a 60 percent rule. And we're not a house divided. We know that a house divided really can't make it for too long.

But beyond all that, there is almost willful inability on the part of the extreme elements there in Congress to come together. So I think it's very disquieting. We see problems in Europe, in Asia, in the world economy. But I think one of the biggest problems is the growing dysfunctionality and therefore the impairment of the leadership role of the United States.

And on the course they're on now in Washington, these two political parties are not coming together in the way that will arrest the decline that seems ominous to me.

AMANPOUR: This is such an important state with such a massive economy compared to whole countries abroad. And yet we know Hispanics will be a majority population in this country; the language will be the dominant language in this country. And yet Hispanics are falling between the cracks when it comes to education, even here in California and around the Southwest. I mean, really lamentable.

How is it going to be possible to make sure that this new majority is going to have the tools to enact their numbers and their responsibilities?

BROWN: Well, first of all, the Latino community is growing in numbers at are our universities. Secondly, by raising the minimum wages where a lot of Hispanic people are, that will contribute to family stability. So ensuring the health care, the educational opportunity, the minimum wage, we've now given the right to drive a car, even though people are not documented.

We're going to do all that we can. But we do need a national turn and that takes the Republicans as well, that we recognize our future, is with so much with our immigrants as well as our native peoples, and together we have to focus on bolstering the human beings and the kids and taking care of our human resource needs and we're not doing that.

I mean, have no doubt about it, in many states, they're making it harder to vote; they're not even providing the health care that is needed. They're not investing in the schools in the way they should. So it's a challenge. But I can say that with all the flaws and problems we have in California, we are taking pioneering steps.

We're going to meet our test of responsibility and that's one of the reasons why I am running for a fourth term because I feel now I've got the experience. I've got the determination. I'm going to do everything I can to make the nation state called California an important player in turning around both inequality and some of our other key issues that are not being handled back in Washington.

AMANPOUR: Governor, California is a fabled state. Los Angeles is a fabled city. And yet statewide some 60 percent of your roads and highways are in lamentable condition. Traffic is obviously terrible. You yourself have taken on the idea of infrastructure very seriously. You want to build a major initiative for a bullet train.

But it's become incredibly unpopular. Given the fact that infrastructure is so prominent and works so well in Europe, first of all, why are people making fun of your bullet train initiative?

And secondly, can you even afford it, given the draconian cuts you've made in other vital services?

BROWN: Well, first of all, there are some people making fun of everything. So that's just the way life is. And we take that.

Secondly, it's not really unpopular. It's -- different surveys show different things, maybe a 45 percent approval. I mean, in many parts of Europe, very few governments ever enjoy 45 percent approvals. So there's - - the money for it was voted, at least $13 billion of it, by the people. We have money from the federal government.

Yes, it takes boldness. But ever since the gold rush, people have been coming to California because it is a place of dreams. And if 16 other countries can build a high-speed rail, California can. And we are. In terms of these roads, yes, we need to have repairs. But remember, we have more Nobel laureates just in the first quarter of 2014, 60 percent of all the venture capital investment in America was invested in California.

This is the place of Google and Apple and Hewlett-Packard, yes, we're going to have some problems. But it's a $2 trillion economy. We're -- if we were a nation state, we'd be the eighth richest in the world. So we're doing a lot of stuff. In fact, I'm personally doing that for the state, doing memoranda of understanding with China, with Israel, with British Columbia, in terms of climate change.

So we solve our problems; we have the successes. We have failures. That's part of life but, boy, California is still an exciting place and to be the governor here, is one that I really cherish and we will chip away at each of these issues that are being brought up. And I think we'll be successful.

AMANPOUR: Let me talk about your personal self.

Do you think you will ever run for president again? You are going to run for an unprecedented fourth term as governor.

After that, what?

BROWN: Well, after that, I'll be 80. So what offices I may seek then, I think I should exercise a bit of restraint and perhaps a touch of wisdom.

AMANPOUR: Governor, people used to, I think, very affectionately, call you Governor Moonbeam. Do you feel that you have put that title aside with all the successes that you've had over the last several years?

BROWN: Well, in some ways, I feel I've earned that moniker because of the creativity, the -- and, yes, the unpredictability, but what we've been able to do -- California is the leader in America in solar energy, in efficient buildings, in the number of electric cars, in venture capital, in climate change actions.

So we do a lot. But if you do a lot, you also have to fail a lot. And we learned in Silicon Valley that those who fail go on to create even greater successes. If you're fearful, well, you may not stumble, but you don't create anything monumental.

So I think a lot's going on here. I feel excited to have the opportunity to serve a fourth term; no one's ever done that. No one will ever do it again because of our term limit law. And I can assure you of this, I will make it the most productive and creative I can. And what label or moniker I will earn after that, I don't know. But I think it's going to be different than anyone I've had to date.

AMANPOUR: On that note, Governor Jerry Brown, thank you so much for joining me from the state capital, Sacramento.

BROWN: Well, thank you, my pleasure and lots of fun.


AMANPOUR: California also has a unique approach to gun laws. It's passed lots of gun safety legislation. And the state had proposed one of the strictest laws on carrying concealed weapons anywhere in the country.

But a federal court here recently ruled that one unconstitutional. News that was celebrated by the National Rifle Association which held its annual convention in the American heartland state of Indiana.

Where does the right to bear arms end and the duty to bar them begin? We'll meet the accidental gun safety advocate whose passion was borne of her own family tragedy . That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

Now California has passed some of the strictest gun control legislation anywhere in the country. But America's gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, swaggered out of its annual convention full of confidence this year after a number of notable victories.

The NRA continues to resist even the kind of sensible gun control that the overwhelming majority of Americans support.

Even after the terrible massacre of children in Newtown 15 months ago and with mass shootings becoming commonplace here, most recently a, quote, "Guns Everywhere" law passed in Georgia, which critics call the most extreme in America. And it allows weapons into schools, churches, libraries, airports and even into alcohol-fueled bars.

One member of Congress has been fighting for change for the past 20 years, ever since a gunman shot and killed her husband along with six others and injured 19 more, including her son, as they were taking the commuter train home from work.

This was Carolyn McCarthy's call to action. But she's retiring now after 18 years in Congress. I asked her whether she thinks she had made even a dent in the extraordinary resistance to regulation and who will carry the torch now.


AMANPOUR: Congresswoman McCarthy, thank you very much for being with me.

REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D): It's my pleasure to be here with you.

AMANPOUR: The whole world is gripped every time there is a shooting incident in the United States of America. This was your signature work on Capitol Hill. After 20 years, you're retiring. Do you feel you've achieved what you set out to do?

MCCARTHY: I do, in many ways, number one, I think that we have come a long way from where I first started. I will agree that my nemesis has been the National Rifle Association. But I also see now today new voices speaking out. I also know that in the courts of the states that we are winning cases against the NRA. That doesn't make the news.

AMANPOUR: And yet it seems no matter the extent of the coverage, there still is pushback, major pushback in Congress because of the NRA. No law of any type, despite what the people of America said was enacted after Newtown, not a single federal law has been enacted since 1997 on this.

MCCARTHY: People in Congress have come to me, Carolyn, I'd love to be with you. I can't. I can't be with you; this is not what I came to Congress for and my constituents don't understand it.

The message has always been that we're trying to take away everyone's right to own a gun. We're not. Never have been. It's gun violence that gun safety that we're trying to do. And we have had hearings in the last two years and basically we brought NRA members in. We brought people that own guns, hunters, and they thought that everybody went for a background check.

AMANPOUR: But they don't.

MCCARTHY: But they don't.

AMANPOUR: Given the fact that your activism and your ascent to Congress was borne out of your own personal gun tragedy, talk to me a little about what happened to your own family, how it propelled you into Congress.

MCCARTHY: Well, going back to 1993, we just had the 20th anniversary last year, my husband, my son and so many other people were coming back from New York City out onto the island, and unfortunately there was a person on the train that had large amounts of bullets and every one of his bullets hit somebody. And my husband was killed and my son was severely injured, as so many others were.

And I was a fairly quiet person. And I was just angry that this happened. And people started to ask me, can you talk about it? And it was at that time that I said, I have to do something about it.

And I became a voice.

AMANPOUR: What do you think was your greatest achievement on this issue in Congress?

MCCARTHY: After the Virginia Tech shooting, I -- my heart broke. And the victims started to come in to me. And I didn't think I could do it anymore. I really, really didn't. And with that being said, we had a bill for background checks and I just started working like the dickens on both sides of the aisle. And yes, even with the NRA.

And we got that bill passed and we also got it signed by President Bush. So you can get things done. But you need the cooperation of both aisles.

AMANPOUR: It doesn't seem to be that there's any kind of working across the aisle going on in the current Congress. Dysfunction seems to be the modus vivendi right now.

How bad is that?

MCCARTHY: It's pretty bad; actually, it's downright awful mainly because there's so many members on the Republican side and on the Democratic side that have worked together for years. Look at the people that are leaving Congress. I mean, I'm leaving for health reasons. But others are just leaving because they feel they can't do their work.

AMANPOUR: As you contemplate leaving Congress now, what is your message for Congress and for women and men who are coming up through the ranks now?

MCCARTHY: I would say to them that stop saying that Washington doesn't work. It's not working because no one is talking to each other. And if you learn to talk to each other or go on trips to get to know each other. When you're on a plane, going to a foreign country and sitting next to another member who might be totally opposite than you, you find you actually have a lot of things in common.

AMANPOUR: A federal congressperson, you didn't know who they were?

MCCARTHY: Didn't know who they were.

AMANPOUR: Congresswoman McCarthy, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

MCCARTHY: Thank you for having me.


AMANPOUR: As well as gun control, another challenge facing the United States and the world is climate change, with water becoming one of our most precious commodities, particularly here in California.

The state is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in its history, some say the worst in 500 years. In fact, an unquenchable thirst for water has been part of local law ever since the days of the Spanish mission. It was also the subject of one of the most memorable Hollywood films of all time. Return to "Chinatown," when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Los Angeles may be the City of Angels, but it is hot as hell these days. And along with the rest of California, Angelinos are rationing water and taking other measures to counter the devastating impact of one of the worst droughts in memory.

Now imagine a world where a fictional water war made in Hollywood could become a reality.

Back in 1974, the movie "Chinatown," a film noir classic, was set in boomtown L.A., where water was coveted by corrupt politicians and developers alike. An unscrupulous millionaire played by John Huston explained his plan to corner the market to a private detective played by Jack Nicholson.


J.J. "JAKE" GITTES (JACK NICHOLSON): Going to be a lot of irate citizens when they find out that they're paying for water that they're not going to get.

NOAH CROSS (JOHN HUSTON): Oh, that's all taken care of. You see, Mr. Gits , either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.


AMANPOUR: Stealing water may seem like a screenwriter's invention. But in today's California, not to mention around the world, oversight of this dwindling water supply is as murky as a Beverly Hills swimming pool without the robot pool cleaner.

At least 3,000 different agencies -- and the actual number could be even higher -- are charged with providing water to cities and farms from San Francisco to San Diego. A regulatory nightmare that allows some communities to hoard their water while others go begging for drops in the desert.

And that's it for our program tonight. And remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from Los Angeles.